We were at a birthday party the other day for some friends we made at Future Cult Leader’s school. School rocks like that. We met Monsieur Stoic there so the 4 of us could hang in the pool like a real live family before the group of cool people headed out to the park to enjoy pizza, cake, playground scuffles, and watching the birthday kids open their
peace offerings gifts.
Now that Evil Genius is older I feel comfortable letting her play at the park without being within 20 feet as long as there is no street she can dart out in. Which is ridiculous, because out of the two, Future Cult Leader is most likely to do that. As this was in a quiet parking lot, I hung out with Stoic and the all the other parents at the party. Suddenly, blood curdling screams. I recognized them as Evil Genius’s and as I walked to figure out why World War Three was about to start I saw her surrounded by a bunch of kids, Cult Leader included. As Cult Leader has this thing about not respecting other people’s bodily autonomy I assumed she was forgetting that when her sister is screaming at her it means HOLY HELL STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING OR SHE’S GOING TO BITE YOU.
“Cult Leader, when she’s screaming like that it means she–”
I stopped, as I was close enough to see a quarter sized bruise, red and blue mottled and raised about 1/8 to 1/4 inch next to Genius’s left eye. I grabbed her and speed walked back to the party so I could attempt to calm my hysterical daughter and maybe try to get her some pain relief. You know what 3 year olds hate? Ice packs. They also hate a bunch of not so familiar people crowding around them, which all the other moms were doing because BABY! HURT! MUST FIX IT!
No one but the kids around her at the time know what really happened. Last year at a birthday party Genius tripped on her skirt and fell backwards, head over heels, off a metal slide, smacking her head on the stairs on the way down. After 10 minutes she stopped crying and it was obvious she was fine. This time, the crying didn’t subside easily so Stoic and I decided he would take her to the walk in clinic in the next town over while I stayed with Cult Leader until after the party was over. Then I would take her to his parents’ house and join him.
Then I got a text that they were referring her out to the children’s hospital in Portland for a cat scan.
I decided it wasn’t important to stay so I went to grab my keys…and realized my keys were in the diaper bag. Super Friend, to the rescue! She drove Cult Leader and me to The In-Law’s then dropped me off 22 miles from our hometown so I could hang out with husband and kid in the ER.
Fortunately, they determined she didn’t need a cat scan. Just some ice and TLC. We came home and promptly went to bed, but not until we’d taken a picture of Genius’s face.
Evil Genius, being who she is, asks to be taken to a mirror or see pictures of her face. Anytime we comply she cackles hideously. I’m beginning to think this kid could scare Dick Cheney.
Folks, I give you exhibit B.
Things have been busy in the last 6 months. Hell, thing have been busy in the last year. In fact, the last year has been a difficult one, which is why I’ve been so scare on the posts. It’s hard to write humorously when you’re mired in shit. That doesn’t mean that I’m not finding humor in my life, or that I’m focusing only on the bad times…just that I’m finding it difficult to take some of our everyday situations and turn them into a funny commentary on parenting, relationships, mental illness, atypical neurology, and what raging assholes 3 year olds are. Actually, that last one might not so so hard to write…
In the last year, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, have had to readjust my expectations and my life based on my body and the medications I have to take to prevent irreversible joint damage, started weekly psychiatry appointments for Future Cult Leader to get a handle on her anxiety, ADHD, and daily meltdowns, I’ve struggled with my bipolar disorder, helped my mother after her surgeries (plural, with another one likely coming up) and the after effects of those surgeries (MRSA flare!), dealt with my aging grandmother’s progressing Alzheimer’s disease, hospitalization, moves to different homes and a rehab center for her severely broken shoulder and subsequent surgery, and other minor annoyances that are just part of life that have complicated some of the above events.
On the good side: Future Cult Leader is safely in a healthy weight range, has become a lot easier to handle, Evil Genius has made strides learning how to use the bathroom like a human being (no diapers, holla!), I’ve made some awesomesauce friends, gotten addicted to Words With Friends, had the privilege of officiating the marriage of 2 close friends, have managed a couple times to get my joint pain under control, have strengthened my relationship with Monsieur Stoic (today marks the 6th year anniversary of the day we became a couple), turned 30 (fuck yeah, 30!), have improved my photography skills (maybe eventually I can turn it into a career…who knows?), done a bit of traveling, and I’ve gotten to know my long lost brother who recently moved to Oregon from the Easy Coast to attend Oregon State University. So it hasn’t been all bad.
Tell me, readers…how has your last year been?
Last night and the night before, Future Cult Leader had a hard time sleeping. Sleep deprivation is a no-no in this one. Then, today at school, Future Cult Leader got her hands on something with artificial food dyes and ate it. Artificial food dyes make her bonkers. In fact, under the right conditions they practically negate her medications.
You see that part about the tired? HEY LOOK, IT’S THE RIGHT CONDITIONS.
It’s hard, when you’ve been doing all this extra stuff that moms with typical kids don’t do, to feel like all your effort has been for nothing. And that’s exactly how I felt today. It’s all for nuthin’. Dammit.
I have 2 choices: I can curl into a corner and cry and eat lots of crappy food. (Done.)
I can dance.
But, I’m exhausted. So I’ll do the next best thing: watch a video of me dancing that I’m going to (kind of) show to you. I apologize that it’s just the link. It’s too late to upload it to YouTube and since I’m cheap and use free wordpress.com I don’t have some of the nifty features other blogs have. Then again, those blogs don’t have this video. Ha!
While I was at our favorite national big box store
picking up some new granny panties killing some time on the way to pick up Future Cult Leader from school, I found a mini spiral notebook in one of their dollar bins. As one of Cult Leader’s favorite past times is writing the Great American Novel, I bought one so I can live off her royalties encourage her love of the written word. After I presented it to her, this happened:
“Guess what I have for you?”
“Nope. I have this notebook for you.”
“Is this for me?”
“Yup. All yours!”
“So now I have my very own diarrhea?”
Yeah, baby. Your very own diarrhea.
Monsieur Stoic and I were in the kitchen, discussing how to end world hunger while fixing macaroni and cheese for lunch, when Evil Genius tip toes in. In her arms she is cradling her almost-as-big-as-she-is automatic Nerf dart gun, fully loaded. She is wearing a mischievious grin. Before we can register what is going on, she aims the gun at Stoic (as best as she can, considering she has to cradle it like a baby) and pulls the trigger. Synthetic material flies everywhere as she cackles maniacally, turning her body around so she is spraying the entire kitchen with suppressive styrofoam fire. Stoic jumps for cover so I spring into action, guiding Evil Genius into another position so he is assaulted by velcro tipped missiles. When the dust settles, our 2 1/2 year old daughter is giggling wildly, crowing in triumph. “I got you! I got you, Dad!” I cannot stop laughing. Stoic is shell shocked and appalled. “You little punk, I loaded that for you earlier and you had no interest in shooting!”
Folks, I give you Exhibit A.
Yup. I’ve been MIA.
The last several months have been whirlwind of…well, stuff. School started and since I was trying to be Super Bad Ass Mom Extraordinaire, I signed up to work my flat tuches off for the school. A position on what amounts to a PTO’s board (which sounds more important than it is), taking over an art literacy program, volunteering to work with kids in Future Cult Leader’s classroom, and various other projects meant I was often busy. And, you know, mom stuff: clean the house, hang with the kids and Monsieur Stoic, attempt to have a social life, keep in touch with extended family, hookers and blow, advise the president. You know, business as usual.
Then something happened.
I’ve experienced joint pain for almost a year. It comes and goes, but it kept getting worse. Then it got baaaaaaaad. Like, I couldn’t button and zip my pants bad. I couldn’t hold hands with my husband. I couldn’t squeeze the damn toothpaste tube. And there were times I was so stiff in the morning I felt like I was going to shatter when I walked down the stairs. And tired. ALWAYS tired. So I did what any rational person would do. I imagined myself on the show House MD and decided I was going to die of some obscure disease.
Not really. I called up my doctor who gave me a referral to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist listened to my complaints, checked my x-rays, looked over my body, and told me I have rheumatoid arthritis.
I had already suspected as much, since both my mother and grandmother have RA, but I was kinda hoping for an explanation of the pain in each of the joints that were hurting. I was more or less flattened by the news. RA is some bad, bad shit. It’s not like normal arthritis (osteoarthritis) where the cartilage in your joints break down from wear and tear and injury. It’s an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks the lining of your joints, leading to painful swelling, joint deformity, and erosion of the tissues and bones around your joints. Even the small joints in your ears can be affected. It also affects your organs: skin, eyes, heart, lungs, just to name a few. It also causes extreme fatigue. Osteoarthritis looks like the kid who gets picked last in gym class in comparison to the big, hulking bully who steals your lunch money on the playground that is RA.
The weeks following my diagnosis were dark. I was already struggling with not being able to go at the speed I was used to, which was a blow in and of itself. But finding out that this wasn’t something that would go away with time? Depressing as hell. I was already aware of some of the risks after watching my mother deal with it for the last 10 years, but I wanted to take charge of my disorder. So, I did some research. Let’s face it, worst case scenarios aren’t exactly the greatest pick me up. And then there were the reactions of the people around me. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of supportive and understanding people in my life. But man, the sucky responses can really get to you. I got everything from telling me not worry and changing the subject to making it about them to people avoiding me like the plague. Stoic wouldn’t even talk about it until I picked a fight with him over it.
Within a few days, the medications started fucking with me. After a couple weeks they went from fucking with me to waterboarding me on the rack. Mental and mood changes were listed as side effects and oh yeah, I had those. I got all spun up. Couldn’t sleep (there wasn’t a sleeping pill in the world that could knock me out), couldn’t focus, itching to move around, extremely irritable. And I was worried about everything. That means one of two things:
–my anxiety was my puppet master
–I was headed into a hypomanic state.
My therapist, who is totally my hero, jumped right in and prescribed another anti-psychotic. Which was great and all, except it’s extremely sedating. So on top of the joint pain and fatigue, I was so groggy and slow and felt like a total moron. I was sleeping 10-12 hours a day and had basically abdicated my role as a parent.
That was a few weeks ago. I’m doing better now. My new anti-psychotic dosage was reduced, so while I’m still pretty groggy in the morning I’m at least functional. I’m more at peace with my diagnosis and had a really good visit with my rheumatologist this week. My RA is early and mild, which means that joint damage will be minimized. The medications have already improved my quality of life. Even better, they could still take another month to show me what they can really do. Since they’re working so well right now, we don’t need to think about the heavy hitting drugs that can cause cancer and wipe out my immune system. I have a good prognosis and a good chance for remission.
Despite the good news, sometimes I get really angry because, hi, a couple of chronic mental disorders and now a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease? WTF did I do to deserve all this?! Most days, though, I’m okay with life. It’ll get better. I will get better.
I apologize to my readers (all 30 some of you!) for my absenteeism. Hopefully I don’t have to start sucking up to you for forgiveness.
Another undesirable trait of Monsieur Stoic’s is his habit of forgetting that I? Am not his height. I’m no shortie, standing as I do between 5’6″ and 5’7″. But at 6’4″, Stoic tends to stand a head above a lot of people, and it’s really hard for him to grasp that that 10 inches? Is a HUGE difference.
Going back to the same backyard project: while carrying the ladder from the back yard to the shop, Stoic lifted the ladder over a chair and was stopped short when I pulled on the ladder. “What?”
“I’m not tall enough to lift this ladder over this chair.”
His solution? Another tall person solution. “Then swing it over the table” which was to the right of the chair and in the direction we were trying to take the ladder.
“DUDE. That requires getting it over the chair in the first place! I CAN’T DO THAT.”
And again, later, when we were moving the porch swing….
“We need to move it back that way.” He motioned back about 8 feet, then proceeded to lift the swing near the top of the structure. I simply raised my eyebrow at him. He leaned down to pick it up where I was picking it up, down near the base, where I *actually* had the leverage to lift it.
Oh, and there was that one time we argued over whether or not I would be able to lift our 70 pound LCD TV onto the wall mount 6 feet off the ground. To get my point across, I agreed to give it a shot. Luckily, he stopped just before I dropped the freshly repaired piece of technology on his foot.
All the keys to the doors in the house? On top of the door frame. I can reach, if I stand on my tip toes, strain my shoulder, touch my tongue to my nose, and wiggle my right nipple. And he can’t figure out why I get so annoyed when all the doors are locked.
And, sooner or later, I invariably find all the most useful things in the kitchen on the top shelf. You know, climbing up on the counter was a lot easier when I was a kid. Now that I’m out of shape (it’s that damn bon-bon and soap opera habit of mine) and no longer 16 years old, lifting my foot above my waist AND THEN EXPECTING IT TO DO SOMETHING LIKE PULL MY WEIGHT OFF THE GROUND is more like the start to a bad joke.
I suppose I shouldn’t forget his point of view. After all, he’s been tall for the last 20+ years; plus, he’s spent most of his life doing physical projects with Womb Mate who is less than an inch shorter than him. But, I’ve decided all that is null and void because: he complains that he hates having to bend down to kiss me.
OH SURE, FORGET THE HEIGHT DIFFERENCE WHEN WE’RE LIFTING HEAVY SHIT BUT COMPLAIN ABOUT IT WHEN WE’RE MAKING OUT.
Monsieur Stoic has this terrible habit of forgetting that I am not his brother. See, they’re identical twins. This means I have nearly embarrassed myself a couple of times by almost grabbing my brother in law’s ass because the two of them often dress alike, completely coincidentally, so unless you’re paying super close attention to the tiniest of details it’s easy to confuse them from behind. Or while being bounced between them on a trampoline. But that’s another story.
As it usually is with twins, they have their own form of communication. They may not have the full extent of the twin ESP you hear about, but they can get by using only a couple words at a time and understand each other perfectly. I guess that kind of shorthand comes naturally when you’ve been womb mates. The problems is this: I didn’t share a placenta with my husband. I need more than 2 words to know what it is he wants. We’ve been a couple for 5 years, but that isn’t long enough for me to decipher his cryptic ass messages.
The other day, in order to make the house presentable for the photographer to come get some photos of the house so we can con someone into buying it, we needed to remove an extension ladder that leaned on the balcony off our bedroom. It was a 2 person job to take it out to the shop, so like a good little wife I agreed to give him a hand. “Walk it backward,” he told me. “It’s heavy.” As that was all he said to me, I assumed he wanted me to walk backward with the ladder, facing him, like one would help carry a table or a couch.
Stoic grabbed the ladder, straightened it, and started moving it. The feet started to come off the ground, so I grabbed the ladder at that end and tried to move backward with it. “No, don’t grab it. Walk it backward!”
“No you’re not!”
“DUDE. YES, I AM.”
“No, walk it backward.”
“Like put it upright and make the ladder walk backward?”
“No. Like this.” He proceeded to demonstrate by holding the ladder at a diagonal angle and walking backward while keeping the ladder stationary, moving his hands as though he was on monkey bars. The ladder’s feet never lifted off, and the ladder wound up safely on the ground. Oddly enough, he did this just fine without my help.
“Wait. So you wanted me to guide the ladder down to the ground so we could put it on its side to carry it?”
“So why didn’t you just say that? I’m not your womb mate. I need more than 2 words to know what to do.”
That same day, Future Cult Leader was Losing Her Shit last night in pretty epic form. A few days ago I swore that the next time she threw a fit I would take video to show her later and, okay, to get some validation by showing the video to people and going AND YOU THOUGHT I WAS EXAGGERATING. Since I needed to step back from her, I thrust her writhing body into Stoic’s arms so he could take her to tantrum in her bed where she wouldn’t get hurt or hurt someone else. Five minutes into their time upstairs, I get a text.
I stared at the words, trying to figure out what he meant. So I tapped out “what?” and hit send.
Perhaps it was because I was so rattled by the force of Cult Leader’s fury over a dinner she refused to eat, even though she didn’t actually know what it was, but I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. Was she Losing Her Shit because I had mentioned we could rent a video soon and didn’t run straight to the nearest Red Box to pick one up? Of course, this would be more than adequate to send to Womb Mate, who probably wouldn’t have even needed the second text.
I responded. “Stop speaking in sentence fragments, please.”
He came back with “want to video the tantrum?”
SERIOUSLY. WHAT WAS SO HARD ABOUT THAT.
If you’re a mother, then chances are you know about Caillou. If you’re a mother and have half a brain, then Caillou annoys the ever loving shit out you.
For me, it’s not so much the cartoon itself. That bratty little 4 year old buys me an hour of peace every morning, an hour that I can use to
screw around on the internet get a bunch of chores done around the house. No, what gets me is its effect on Evil Genius.
First thing in the morning: “Dai-yoo? Dai-yoo?”
“Sorry, baby. Caillou is still night-night.”
Right after breakfast: “Dai-yoo? Dai-yoo?”
“Sorry, baby. Not for another hour.”
As soon as 9 AM hits…
And after Caillou hour is over and we turn the TV off…
Snack time: “Dai-yoo?”
Lunch time: “Dai-yoo?”
Before nap: “Dai-yoo?”
After nap: “Dai-yoo?”
Every ten minutes for the rest of the day unless she is occupied: “DAI-YOO, MAMA, PEAS? DAI-YOO?”
WHAT is it about that show? Why does it enthrall her so much? Why is she so obsessed with it? After much study and contemplation, I have my theory.
Caillou is sending out subliminal messages to my daughter. See, she is a clever, clever girl and already has a well-developed mischievous side. Suffocating her mother? She’s tried it! Strangling her sister? Check! Escaping the house when Daddy is in the bathroom? Hell yeah! The kid ain’t not no dummy, and she’s deceptively cute enough to use her powers for the dark side and get away with it. But she knows that in order to conquer all, she’s going to need some assistance.
That’s where Caillou comes in.
Caillou is obviously nothing more than a carefully coded message from the enemy, except instead of being tied to a pigeon’s leg it’s delivered via children’s cartoon. Are you over the age of 5? Nothing to see here! But for the wee ones there are cues in the animation, secret messages in the dialogue. The songs are cute but full of we’re-not-in-this-alone morale boosting. The credits pull it all together into a anarchist’s cook book for toddlers. That’s why Evil Genius is obsessed with it. Each episode covers a different topic and if she misses a day, that’s one more day she’ll have to put off her diabolical plan.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. THIS CHICK IS OFF HER ROCKER. I don’t claim sanity, but hear me out. There’s a reason this child’s pseudonym is Evil Genius. I invite you to come spend some time in my house. Watch what happens when we deny this child of her Caillou. Then you tell me: is this cartoon really as innocent as its creators want you to think?
The Internet Police showed up at my door this morning and gave me a warning about blog neglect. It’s a serious issue, they cautioned me, and not something they take lightly. I need to get my act together, they said, and start treating my blog with the respect it deserves.
So, here I am.
Look. I apologize. I really do. But the dog ate my IP address.
I have had both a serious case of writer’s block and serious case of no free time since I last posted. It’s a deadly combination, almost as bad as having no fashion sense and a low self esteem. When I think I have a great idea, I don’t have an opportunity to sit down and pound it out. When I have the time to sit down and pound it out–crickets. Annoying ones. Anything I could possibly have to say winds up looking like this:
Loud. Words…sticky. Shiny. Sleeeeeeeeeeeep. Pants. River otter! Soapy, slimy steering wheel. Duvet cover. What? Vodka.
I’m hoping things slow down enough soon so I can actually sit down and nurture my creative process. But I worry if that happens, I’ll stop being able to sleep without Ambien. How do the two relate? They don’t. I just wanted to throw it out there that I can fall asleep at least half the time without the use of pharmaceuticals. IT’S A BIG DEAL, FOLKS.
Yeah, that’s right. I can perform a natural biological function. I AM AMAZING.
To sum it up: I suck. I’m going to try not to suck soon. In the mean time, suck on my suckiness.