Month: October 2010

No answers, just observations on napping and being on duty

I took a nap this afternoon. It was interrupted twice in quick succession by Link who was asking permission to play a video game and then to play a different video game. I don’t remember the words of my response, but apparently they were sufficiently affirmative that he went away happy. My half-asleep brain pondered the occurrence with a grumpy tone of voice. Does no one respect my need for sleep? The kids will see Dad asleep and tip toe out of the room, but have no compunction at all about waking me from a sound sleep to ask their questions. This is true even when their Dad is around. Our kids have been known to walk out of the room where Howard is in order to wake me up and ask a question.

The simple solution would be for me to lock the door. Faced with a locked door, the kids would go find their Dad to get their problems solved. I don’t lock the door when I lay down for a nap. Half the time I don’t even close the door. To close and lock the door would be a declaration that the next period of time is designated for a nap. Somehow in my mind I’m only sneaking a nap. I still feel on-duty, so I leave the door open so I can still hear and respond to crises. It is silly, because unconscious people are not very watchful. When the kids were little I was clearly on duty and I didn’t sleep unless they were also sleeping or someone else was specifically assigned to watch them. Somewhere the lines got blurred.

After the interruptions I got a solid hour of sleep, so my nap was far from ruined. This is usually the case, which is part of why I’ve never taken steps to train the kids not to wake me. It is important for me to be available to them as much as I can, because sometimes I have to work.

The creation of ephemeral art (also known as pumpkin carving)

The sun shone brightly across the shallow concrete slab that serves as our front porch. The brightness only imparted a mild warmth, just enough to make being outside pleasant in the sixty degree air. Wielding a serrated knife, I surveyed the project at hand. Two forty pound pumpkins had adorned our porch slab for the last month, given us by my uncle who had a bounteous harvest of giant pumpkins. During their sojourn on our porch they had been sat upon, poked, shifted, and photographed. This last being the most frequent occurance as both my daughters felt it was imperative to get a Halloween picture of our mostly-black cat posed nicely in front of (or on top of) the pumpkins. The cat was not thrilled by this project, being much more interested in sitting on the lap of the photographer. Persistence did finally win and the cat and the pumpkins were made to be in the same photograph.

Now it was time for the pumpkins to become something cooler. I ran my hand over the pocked surface, marred by dozens of children discovering that the skin could be pierced without very much effort. The pumpkins had taken up a sideways position, which is common for weighty melons as one side flattens while they grow. I determined a top and a bottom, then began to cut.

When I asked the kids who wanted to carve pumpkins, Kiki and Link declared their indifference. This left the two big pumpkins for the two kids to whom jack-o-lanterns are still very important. I pried the tops open so the kids could peer inside. Rot was beginning to show on the insides, which did not surprise me. One way or another these huge gourds were headed for the compost heap. Much more interesting to arrive there with a face. Lighter too. The kids scooped out pounds of seeds and strings. Complaining about the grossness of the project only briefly before embracing the melon mess. I helped with the scraping, but we did not try to make the insides completely clean, just clear enough for a candle to sit.

I picked up the spoons and carried them inside to trade for the kid-safe pumpkin carving tools, leaving the kids designing faces on paper. Once the designs were transferred, the kids began cutting. I seated myself on the stairs, ready to help when they got tired. They didn’t. Patch carefully cut out the pieces of a classic scary Jack-o-lantern face. He leaned in close, carefully sawing along the lines we’d drawn. Gleek’s design was more fanciful. She drew a cat contemplating peace (as represented by a thought bubble filled with a peace symbol.)
“Everyone is going to love your design.” Gleek said to Patch.
“Thanks.” Patch said, then leaned over to see her working on carving out an ear. “I think most people will like yours.”
Gleek nodded. “Mine is more complicated. Not everybody will get it.”
Both heads bent back to their work.

I closed my eyes and savored the feel of the day. Our family has had Halloweens hectic and calm, warm and snowy, with pumpkin carving and without. It was nice to be an observer of pumpkin carving rather than the motivating force. There is joy in ephemeral art. The kids can let their pumpkins be whatever they wish, because no matter how it looks today, next week it will be withered and flat. The process matters more than the result, so I sat and savored the process.

The pumpkin carvers wound down to a finish just as gray clouds drifted across the sun. It was not a storm, just a sneaky shift from beautiful afternoon into rainy evening. We timed our efforts perfectly. Tonight we will light candles and enjoy our pair of giant jack-o-lanterns.

The various dramas of costuming

Our October costuming began in September when Kiki informed me that she needed a full costume by October 9th when she and her friends planned to attend an Anime convention. So I sacrificed three days on the altar of costuming. The result was worn and much appreciated. Unfortunately the outfit still left Kiki feeling a bit exposed (like wearing pajamas in public) and failed to be stunningly cool. So that costume was shelved and will probably only be worn again if the outfit appeals to Gleek in a few years.

At that point, my costuming energy was all used up, which is not a great state for the beginning of October. However I did realize that had I not sacrificed my time and money, Kiki would have applied her own creativity and probably found a costume she liked much better. So I took a laissez faire approach to costuming. When Link said he wanted to be Master Chief from Halo. I said “Great! Make it yourself or save up the money.” In the end he decided to buy the costume for next year and just wear his Legend of Zelda Link costume for another year.

I expected to be assailed by Gleek and/or Patch at some point during the month. I thought for sure that they would have a grand idea and be begging me to make it. Instead, they raided our copious supply of costume bits and put together their own outfits.

Patch did so methodically. His first conception was a Master Chief outfit and he started with some olive green shin guards and a helmet left over from a costume Link wore several years ago. We wore that for a few days, then added some bright blue knee pads. He discovered the belt from last year’s ninja outfit and used it to hold his toy guns. This outfit was fairly standard for a couple of days, but then he decided to add the shoulder piece from his ninja costume while ditching the guns and the helmet. He was completely satisfied with the result. He wore it all over his regular clothes to both the Halloween Carnival last week and today’s school parties.

Gleek was much more haphazard. She conceived the idea at the beginning of the month as an excuse to wear a flowing red cloak. Her ideas shifted and changed as she discussed the possibility of matching costumes with Bestfriend. When it finally came time to dress for the carnival, she grabbed the cloak and Kiki painted her eyes for her. Kiki did not attend the carnival because she didn’t know what to wear.

This morning was the big costume day at school. Link did not wear a costume at all. Gleek decided she wanted streaks of color in her hair which resulted in globs of red and black hair gel, tangles, tears, and a declaration that this was the worst Halloween ever. We combed through it and made it work. Gleek discovered to her delight that bright red lipgloss can also be applied as fake blood to the corners of her mouth. So she got ever more creepy as her black eyeshadow smeared and the glossy blood trails lengthened.

Kiki found a good costume compromise by dressing goth, which is not at all her usual style. The last minute costuming required me to make a quick run for hairspray so we could do something spiky with her hair, but a 15 minute run to the grocery store is a much more acceptable donation of my time than three days of sewing. Kiki claims she intends to make a Samus suit for next year’s costume. I’ve told her if she wants to do the research and effort, I will support her, but it is her project not mine.

In the end they are all happy with what they put together. All of the costumes had compromises, but since the kids made all the decisions, they were happy with the results. I need to remember this for next year.

Small Good Things

My van brakes no longer make a horrible creaking noise every time I stop. I paid for this particular happiness with a significant pile of money, but we’ll be launching our holiday sales push next week and hopefully that will bring in enough to cover it. (And Howard’s car battery, and Patch’s Xray. Some months are unexpectedly expensive.)

Gleek started a Polynesian dance class. She gets to learn hula as well as Maori and Tahitian dances. She likes it because many of the dances include props that swing or make noise. I like it because it is a studio run in a woman’s garage and is very welcoming to people of any heritage. I don’t expect that Gleek will want to make a career out of Polynesian dance (a career which would be hampered by her Caucasian appearance) I just want her to have a chance to learn skills she enjoys. So far so good.

Link had his first band concert. They played two songs, which we are informed by the band teacher, is pretty impressive considering they’ve only learned 5 notes so far. Link announced proudly once the concert was over “There was only one squeak!” Practice is paying off I guess.

I’m up to 12,000 words on my book project. I’m not using word count as a measure of completion. The book will be however long it needs to be. But watching the number of words increase is satisfying.

Kiki has begun managing her own homework without me. She’s planning her schedule and getting things done without my intervention. This is worlds better than in September when she would melt into a puddle and I would scrape her up and convince her to keep going. “It feels really good.” She said. “It feels…”
“Grown up?” I asked.
“Yeah. Grown up.”
“You know, managing your own things and getting stuff done even when you don’t want to is kind of one of the definitions of being grown up.”
Kiki laughed.

Howard finished scripting for the current Schlock book. He wrestled with scripts all day yesterday and could not get them the way that he wanted. Today he realized what was wrong and they all cascaded into place. I laughed out loud when I read them. I’m looking forward to putting this together as a book.

I made dinner and everyone ate it without complaining.

I found a love seat cover on clearance which will make my front room couch stop being an embarrassing eyesore.

Patch has become very self-sufficient with his reading. He picks his own books and reads them. We had him moved up to chapter books in the home reading program at his request. One of his sadnesses right now is that he does not have very much homework to do. Patch has also been writing stories, some of which I really love. I may ask his permission to post one later.


I wrote this post one week ago today. I was not ready to release it in the wilds of the internet quite yet. I needed time to think and to discuss with Gleek. She thinks I should post it so that it can help other parents who are going through similar things. So here it is:

I don’t want to be here. The knowledge washed across me like a wave when the doctor stepped out for a moment to request a copy of a document. The rational portions of my brain were in charge of this visit. I made the appointment. I filled out the paperwork. I pulled Gleek out of school. Then I listened to the doctor and spoke to the doctor. I asked all the smart questions. I weighed all the variables. I knew this course that I was on was the right one. I felt that rightness deep inside. The calmness and sureness was there, like an underground river deep in my soul. It was the river upon which my boat of logic floated. But I did not want the trip. Not at all.

The doctor and I are ten minutes into our conversation before I ask the question. I need to hear the words.
“So she definitely has ADHD?”
He answers yes and shows me the diagnostic forms which indicate it. Then he talks about tendencies, and possibilities, and why having ADHD can sometimes be a long term life advantage. He hands me piles of copied articles, pamphlets, and resources. I put them in my bag. Most of what he tells me I already know. The papers he has given me will be review, not new information. I’ve known the shape of Gleek’s challenges for a long time. This office visit contains no surprises. I knew what the diagnosis would be. I made this diagnosis for her myself years ago. But somehow, hearing it from a man who specializes in pediatric ADHD and mood disorders opens a small well of grief.
I knew what the answer would be when I asked the question, but I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to be told that she was fine.

I know that both the grief and the desire to be wrong are illogical, but they are there. I must acknowledge and process this grief so that it will not impact any decisions I must make. Why am I sad? The diagnosis changes nothing. Gleek is the same marvelous, strong, challenging person she was before the doctor said the words out loud. I am sad anyway; grieving because her challenges have been quantified; grieving because I am no longer able to pull a cloak of “maybe I’m worried about nothing” across the hard truths. She struggles, not all the time, not in every situation, but often enough that it hurts. The well of sadness has been filled up by all those thousands of small hurts seeping into it.

A diagnosis is a threshold. Sometimes what is on the other side is very much like what came before, other times the act of crossing over changes everything. Until one crosses, it is impossible to be certain which will be the result. Choosing to cross is difficult when things on this side are reasonably good. I have puttered around a long time making do with what I had. Then the calm river came to carry me over. I’ve done diagnosis before. I’ve had it be world changing. I took my non-verbal two and a half year old for developmental testing and embarked upon a decade of speech therapy, developmental research, and meetings with teachers. That same child in third grade was diagnosed with ADD/anxiety and I was transformed from a parent who would not medicate a child into one who does. I went to the doctor for an odd lump on my chin and ended up with multiple surgeries, radiation therapy, and daily thyroid medication. I know deep in my heart that diagnoses change things. All of the changes that have come to me via diagnosis have been ultimately good, but choosing change is still hard, even when I’m pretty sure what shape the change will take.

The doctor threw a ball to Gleek as he asked her questions. He put her through a variety of other little tests with a deftness which speaks long practice in working with high energy, high creativity children. She smiled and engaged with him happily, chattering about whatever lightning quick thought passed through her mind. She charmed both the doctor and the nurses. I was amused that the nurse commented on how active she is, apparently even in an office full of highly active children, she still stands out. I watched Gleek as she waltzed her way through the visit. I could see, though the staff could not, that she was nervous. She hoarded a little pile of candies, pictures, and prizes. The accumulation of small things soothes her. My heart was glad that everyone accepted her barefootedness and desire to touch everything as normal. No one scowled or scolded, even when she climbed atop the counter to perch.

We left the office with seven tootsie rolls, a sucker, a book mark, a pencil, a coloring page, a prescription, and my little well of sadness firmly capped for examination later. I did not take her back to school. Instead we went out for gelato. I just wanted to be with her exactly as she is. I don’t want her to change. She doesn’t want to change. Yet change is inevitable and much of it will be good.

The decision to medicate a child should never be undertaken lightly. I don’t take it lightly, not even after making this decision once before. Not even after seeing how medication removed Link’s chains and let him fly. They are so different these kids of mine and I can not apply blanket solutions. For all of Gleek’s years thus far, I felt strongly that medication was the wrong choice for her. Last Spring she shifted, I shifted, and I began to know that now is the time to see what medication will do. We need to know so we can make long-term decisions. I know the experiment will not do damage. It will not hurt her. Medication gave Link wings. Gleek already has wings, this time I’m hoping for a rudder. There is hope along with the trepidation.

The last step before filling the prescription was for Howard and I to sit down with Gleek and ask how she felt about medicine.
“I want to try.” she said. This is important. In order for medication to work, it must be her tool, not something I impose upon her. In the end my sadness and worries are irrelevant. I must not impose them upon Gleek nor burden her with them. Logic, her decision, and the calm river inside me say that tomorrow morning she will take medicine. So she will and I will observe. Then we will have more information than we have today, just as the diagnosis gave me more information than I had yesterday. This is a good thing.

Purchasing the medication was complicated by a trip to the Emergency Room for Patch, whose arm turned out not to be broken. Howard managed that little adventure, while I fetched the medication. Then I came home and lay on my bed in the solitude of my room. I had a small space to look deep into that well of sadness, to let some of it leak out my eyes. No grand explanations or reasons emerged. In the end I don’t suppose I need to explain it or rationalize it. As I move onward, as I heal, as Gleek grows, as I write, the well will empty out. It is much more empty now than it was this morning. Water drawn from a well of sadness can soothe other thirsty ground if I’m willing to leave the well open rather than capping and hiding it.

It has been a long day, a hard day, but not necessarily a bad one.

A getting things done kind of day

Mondays always feel short, but this one felt even shorter than usual. I think it was the extra trips in the car. Today was one of Kiki’s late days, so that delayed the start of my work day. Then Howard needed a ride to the auto place because the Beetle’s battery died unexpectedly. Then Gleek and Patch needed warmer clothes at school because the weather surprised us. After that there was the retrieving of the car. And the kids get out of school early on Mondays.

In between all of that, I got the accounting and customer support emails done. Things have calmed down considerably on the business front, which means it is about time for us to take stock in advance of holiday promotional efforts. I also put in some writing time, which I feel good about. Hopefully tomorrow can be equally productive and less scattered.

Halloween Carnival after action report

The Halloween carnival went very well, or so I surmise from the kind comments of people who told me “good job.” I don’t feel like I saw very much of it. My focus was on making sure the food table stayed stocked, and then on getting all the decorations, tables, and chairs cleaned away. There were a few minor organizational troubles (Note to self: More ranch dressing, pre-test the microphone, and music for children’s parade) but nothing that impinged on the enjoyment or awareness of those who were in attendance. It was a good event.

And yet, I felt like a failure in the exhausted hours before bedtime. After I slept, I was able to sort out why. I failed to organize a large enough team for the event. I did too many jobs myself and too many gaps were covered by spur-of-the-moment volunteers. I am so grateful to the dozen people who pitched in to help clean up. I am grateful to the people who saw problems and solved them. It is because of them that the event worked. I knew that the event would be full of people willing to volunteer, I depended upon that, but it is better to have a crew of people with assignments to help focus the volunteers. I also depended too much upon my own family. Howard helped me run the event. The kids all helped with the decorations and set up. This meant that when I got home, the house was a wreck, everyone was tired and over stimulated. No one had the time or energy to reassure me that everything went well. All the evidence of success had been cleaned up, what remained was the evidence of all the family tasks I did not do because I was too busy doing carnival.

This morning brought a world of improvement. Howard managed the kids because it was all I could do to drag myself off to church. He even had Link carry all the loose bowls and ladles that I brought home to wash before returning. Howard also rallied the kids and got the house cleaned up. All of this helped me feel immeasurably better. This is important because my brain began to fill with ideas for the Christmas party which is the first Saturday in December just over a month away. Sorting out why I crashed so hard last night means I can plan better for the next party. The first assignment I made was to tell Howard that his only job for the Christmas party is to take care of the house and the kids while I’m busy. That step alone will make a world of difference.

Doing things myself instead of delegating is something I need to work on. It is probably a major reason I run myself ragged more often than I should.

Carnival done now

Note to Universe:

I just finished organizing and event managing a Halloween carnival for 200+ people. I am excused from everything else for the rest of the weekend.


(I doubt it will work, but I can try.)

Silencing the inner critc can be a full time job

I started writing again last week. This feels like something of an odd statement since I’ve been blogging almost daily for years. My archives can attest to how much writing I’ve done in that time. Yet my brain subdivides my writing so that blogging is accounted for differently than writing which is focused on a project. I have sometimes wrestled with that distinction, arguing with myself about how this devalues my blogging in unfair ways. Lately I’ve just accepted that my brain has these two categories and that both kinds of writing have intrinsic value.

The writing I started again last week was project writing. I frequently put down project oriented writing for extended periods of time. This time it was six months. At times I get emotionally tangled about how much idle time my projects receive. This is when I feel like I’m a dilettante and that lack of practice means that I will never be able to make my projects what I want them to be. Most especially it feels like they will never be finished. This insecurity has at times been compounded by the fact that many of my good friends are multiple-book-per-year writers. At this point I am demonstrably not that kind of a writer. Other times (like now) I am much more forgiving of my methods. It is not like my projects lay idle because I was being lazy. I had to put them down because my life was insanely busy. I believe I made the right choices all along, even if those choices mean I’ve been working on one book for almost three years.

I’ve been trying to do some project writing every day. Sometimes it flows, other times it trudges. Sometimes I walk away happy, others I shut my computer grumpily. Always I feel satisfied and good that I worked on it. Now is the time to be working on this and I hope I can get it done before the spaces in my life fill up again. One of the hardest things, and I know I’m just discovering what many a writer has experience before, is the critical voice in my head. It tells me that what I’m doing isn’t any good. It tells me that no one will want to read. Then contrarywise it tells me that if I do sell the book that I will be buried in hurtful criticism. These voices lurk in the oddest corners of thought, waiting to ambush me. I’ve developed a mantra of sorts to consciously silence them. “It doesn’t matter if it isn’t good, I can revise. It doesn’t matter if no one reads it, writing it is still important. I have no control over the criticism, and it is irrelevant. Writing this book is what I need to do.”

It is interesting to note that in addition to my inner critic I also have an inner editor. The critic always spouts discouragement. The editor tips her head an tells me “this isn’t working.” I have to silence the editor as well, not because she’s wrong, but because I can’t make it perfect on the first draft.

So far the process is working. I’m getting to watch the word count grow, which is oddly satisfying. Most of the trouble I’m having right now is that I’m trying to create a book long narrative using individual essays. Some times the needs of the narrative compete with the needs of the essays. Then I have to wrestle with it for awhile. Although on at least one occasion I decided to just leave a problem to be fixed in revision. There will be revisions a plenty and that is when my inner editor will help me fix stuff.

And now that I’ve written an entire blog entry about writing, my inner critic wants me to know that this meta-writing is probably boring to anyone who is not a writer. I silence the critic and write anyway, because that is what a writer does.

Bridging the gaps

This week has been full of communication, inspiration, and prayer. None of the issues are new ones, but somehow this was the week for focusing on them. This was also a week when I received some clear answers to my queries. One of those answers was knowledge that the minor miracles I need are on their way, I just need to be patient and keep doing the work in front of me.

The biggest thing in front of me during the second half of this week is the church Halloween Carnival. As Activities Committee Chair, I am in charge of the event. Fortunately the youth group takes care of providing the carnival games. I am simply in charge of arranging for food, buying prizes, writing announcements, disbursing announcements, setting up the gym, decorating the gym, running a costume contest for grown ups, orchestrating a children’s parade, Then cleaning up after the event. In short, if I don’t do my job the Carnival will fall on its face pitifully.

I don’t have to do all of this solo. I have a committee of people to help. I also have an entire congregation which is accustomed to volunteering. So I passed around sign-up sheets, shanghaied scouts, and gave out a few assignments. People volunteered to bring soups, chili, and desserts. Other people signed up to help with set up and clean up. All that remained to me was purchasing a few odds and ends. Oh, and the decorations. I had no clue what to do about those. Mostly I shoved thoughts of decorations out of my head, figuring if the food was good people would be content.

Then yesterday, out of the blue, a member of a different congregation volunteered to loan me the decorations she used for her ward Halloween party. This is not a woman I have ever met before. She is a friend to the woman who was Activities Chair before me. I made a quick trip to look at the decorations in question and was completely blown away. I stared up at flat cardboard haunted house wall decorations which were taller than me. There were twiggy branches sporting bats. Tombstones, ghosts, a mummy sign, all the trappings of a Halloween carnival, and they were being offered to me.

It was a blessing that arrived unasked. I wrestled with other things early in the week. The decorations arrived when I needed them. I still have a list of things to do before the carnival. I still need to work hard setting up the decorations and later taking them down and returning them. I could still make a mess of the carnival, but the gap I did not know how to fill has been bridged. It gives me faith that other gaps in my life will also be provided with bridges when the time is right.