In cars

We’re getting ready to buy a car, and I feel awkward admitting it, but we’re comfortably enough in the middle class that we can afford to buy the vehicle brand new.  Until I met Scott, a “new” vehicle to me was “less than ten years old with fewer than 100,000 miles on it”. I grew up in a family of used cars, and the only new one we ever owned was obscenely expensive and broke down more frequently than the used ones it supposedly outclassed. 

The first car I recall us having was a 1968 Oldsmobile. I may be wrong about the car’s year, but that’s how I remember it. (I was born in 1976, to give you some perspective. ) It was the kind of gas guzzling vehicle that, today, would be an open invitation to pimping out.  But I’m pretty sure it was just a rust bucket in our hands. The gas gauge was broken, so Mom tried to keep its tank pretty close to full. But we still ran out and had to rely on strangers and friends to rescue us from time to time. She called it the Millennium Falcon, and I loved that car.

Our other car at that time was Dad’s green Dodge truck. Its color was too dark to be properly considered a John Deere green, but entirely too violent to be the color of grass. Instead of anything like a booster seat, I rode around in the truck sitting on top of an old silver toaster oven I called my box.  Hey, at least I had on the seatbelt. Most of the time. Except when I was riding around in the back, often sitting up on the wheel wells.

In case you hadn’t guessed, we were rural.

With the exception of the brand-new disaster, a truck that replaced the Dodge when I was about ten, all of the subsequent cars my parents owned were used. My first car was used. Very used. In was a 1972 Plymouth Valiant given to me by my grandparents. (Again, I was born in 1976.) I hated that car. The heater coil didn’t work, so I froze in the winter, and it would have laughed at the idea of an air conditioner, so I broiled in the summer. I loved the freedom it gave me, though, so I’m not complaining now. Much. I kept waiting for it to die so I could replace it with something functional, and I thought that when the engine block cracked, I was home free. But the mechanic, God love him, told Dad “This car’s a classic. You won’t see another one like it”, and a neighbor with a broken down Dodge Dart (which ran on the same engine) sold us the part we needed. The ball joints in the steering column couldn’t hold up to the strain of actual use, and I guided it by driving very slowly using a combination of controlled weaving and wild-eyed panic that served me well when I got pulled over like I was some drunk.

“Officer, I’m going so slowly because I’m weaving and I’m weaving because the ball joints are out of alignment again.”

I was so glad when the second engine block broke on that thing.

My next car was a deep blue 1987 Toyota Corolla SR5. It was a standard shift with those awesome pop-up headlights that they don’t make any longer.  And I loved it. I loved the stereo, and the fabric upholstery (the Valiant had cracked vinyl and duct-tape seats), and especially the way it shifted gears. So smooth.  When I got into an accident that bent the frame, I was devastated and replaced it with the next best thing, a white 1990 Toyota Corolla SR5. Also standard shift.  That car lasted me through a rear ending and quite a lot of grad school before its engine started giving out.

By that time, I had what I considered a real job, paying me ten dollars an hour as an administrative assistant. And I was living with Scott, who was also in the market for a new vehicle. He convinced me that buying new was more money efficient because there were rarely any added costs outside of scheduled maintenance, which was good for budgeting.  He liked Mazdas. For my part, I wanted to test drive a VW Golf, but the sales ass pissed me off and I decided Mazda was fine.  So we bought matching Mazda Protégés, his in blue, mine in green. A few years ago, we traded his in and bought a Honda CRV, because our family had outgrown the compacts for long travel.

And mine has just now, some eleven years later, reached the end of its useful life.  I really didn’t like it much when it was mine, so I wasn’t sorry to see it become Scott’s “around town” car when we moved to Montgomery. But he was definitely right about the maintenance. We kept up on the routine stuff, and the only cost outside of that came when the A/C went croakers on us right before we moved to Montgomery. The Lexington mechanic who fixed it gets full marks for craftsmanship, because the air in that car is still superb.

So now we’re looking at new vehicles. Test driving them and combating the new car stink that dealerships spray in because they think we like it. It looks like we’re going to have to go with an automatic, which annoys both of us standard lovers. And it looks like we’re going to have to either compromise on space for gas mileage or surrender gas mileage for space, neither of which makes for fun decision making. But it will be another new car. The third to have my name somewhere on its title. And considering my roots, I don’t know whether to find that delightful or appalling.

The Programmable Child

We call Caroline our programmable child. It’s one of the more amusing aspects of her Asperger’s Syndrome, for her as well as everyone else.  Given the right mindset or circumstances, she can be made to repeat a message almost verbatim. It’s fun to set this in motion and watch the reactions. Mostly, I program her with information for her teachers and appropriate responses to social situations. But sometimes, I’ll stick a phrase in her head and wait to see when I hear it back again. And, on rare occasions, and always by accident, others will program her with messages for us, not knowing the power they have unleashed.

When she was very small and had almost no language, I could still get her to echo me to others in my own absence. I’d say “Tell Miss Kristi I’m going to pick you up early today.”

She would echo, “Miss Kristi, I’m going to pick you up early today.”

Whenever I made that particular mistake, it was difficult to change her program. On those days, I’d arrive to pick her up early and see the dawn of understanding in Miss Kristi’s eyes when I let myself into her class. “Oh! Caroline kept saying she was picking me up early, and I couldn’t tell …”. Oops.

On better days, my message would have to go like this. “Caroline, I have a message for Miss Kristi. Are you ready?”

Silence, but she usually looked at me, which for a child who had mastered staring over the left shoulder by the age of 9 months, was a true sign of attentiveness.

“Say, ‘Miss Kristi, my Momma will be picking me up early today.’”

That worked out a little better for everyone.

Even after her words came in, I was able to send her with word-for-word instructions. And by that time, she had less trouble with pronouns, so she could switch “me” into “her” in her renditions of my orders.

But my favorite programming effort has to be the one made by her sitter in Lexington back when I was pregnant with Sam. Caroline really wasn’t sure what the whole pregnancy thing meant. She grasped that there was a baby in my tummy. But when people asked her if she wanted a brother or sister, she smiled sweetly and said odd things, like “macaroni”.  Because “brother” and “sister” were abstract concepts to her, much like “boy” and “girl”. She didn’t know what those things meant, and wouldn’t have grasped the difference even if somebody had shown her that boys had different plumbing. She used to try to get up to go potty with both genders until her teacher developed a category called “Carolines”.

But I digress.  Miss Sheri had (still has) a little brother whom she adored (still adores). So right after we found out Sam was a boy, she programmed Caroline to say, “I want a brother. No sisters allowed. Only brothers.” It was precious, and it got her attention not just because she could suddenly answer a direct question and do so consistently, but also because she was adamant about wanting a brother at an age when most kids request siblings of the same gender. Of course, she still had no idea what brothers were, but she adored Sam to pieces when he joined the family anyway.

The things we tell her nearly always come back. A couple of years ago, we had this exchange:

Me: “Tell Mr. Brent he needs to send me a Paypal invoice for June, sweetie.”

Her (at school): “Mr. Brent, sweetie, Mom needs you to send her a Paypal invoice for June.”

OK, so it’s an imperfect system.

But she remains quite easy to program, and we all have fun with it.  I’m especially fond of dropping  clichés and song lyrics into her head and waiting to see where they surface. She has Sam singing “Knock on Wood” right now, courtesy of the radio’s constant (hyperfast) playing of the Amii Stewart version of the song. (I might add that Caroline has perfect pitch. Sam does not.)  Verses, and especially the chorus, erupt at completely unexpected intervals throughout the day.

A few weeks ago, I gave her some money with the instruction, “Don’t spend it all in one place.” By the way she repeated that back to me, I could tell I’d be hearing it again in the future, completely out of context but still oddly appropriate. It hasn’t happened yet, but I know it’s coming. We’ll be paying at the grocery store or grumbling about the price of gas, and suddenly this little voice will pop out “Don’t spend it all in one place.” It’s coming. Guarantee it. No need to knock on wood.

Picky Eater

 

Caroline is a world class picky eater.  Food is more about texture and temperature for her, and if an item upsets her sense of either, she’ll vomit.  Too hot? Instant gag. Too meaty? Immediate puking.  So we only introduce new foods with extreme caution and feel elated when she sticks to something easy for awhile.

It’s not like she’s the only picky kid on the planet. Or like Scott or I either one was exactly open minded about foods in our own childhoods. But, as with everything, Caroline has her own sense of how to do things right, and the list of things she wont eat far outstrips the list of things she’ll even consider edible.  Right now, she eats plain pasta with Parmesan cheese on it (cold), pretzels, yogurt, most fruits, corn (also cold), cottage cheese, PB&J sandwiches, bagels, cereal bars, some cereals, and a few other things on a rotating basis. Yes, I said cold corn. She eats almost no meat, though she has developed a taste for those nasty little Vienna Sausages and we’ve managed to get her to eat cold smoked sausage by explaining it’s the same thing. I have to smuggle her protein in enriched pastas and smoothies.

Eating out is traumatic, not a good thing for a family who regularly takes ten hour car trips. Scott and I have never been big fast-food eaters, so when we’re home, it isn’t much of a loss. But travelling, we have to either feed her lots of car snacks or revert to the old roadside picnic technique. And I assure you, even with the economy in its current state and childhood obesity such a serious problem, there is nothing harder than a roadside picnic with Caroline. (Besides which, have you seen my children? They’d both blow away in a stiff breeze.)

She eats slowly anyway, stopping every half-bite or so to blurt out something about her day, or her life, or her brother’s day, or his life, or Scott’s and my days and lives. We can’t get into idle mealtime conversations, because she’ll never finish her food between staring at us while we talk and trying to horn into the conversation herself. If we go to restaurants with play equipment, we at least have some version of a carrot to tempt her with. “Caroline, the sooner you finish eating, the more time you’ll have to play.” But where we can glare her back to her seat until she finishes her food in a restaurant, there is no way to stop her from jumping up at a rest stop to dash over and stare down a beetle or stone, shouting “Look at this BUG [or rock] I found! It’s SO cool!”

For awhile, we had something good going on with Burger King. Although the televisions they setup in the kids area caused us some problems (she gets mesmerized by the moving image and can’t tear herself away, even if she hates the show), they were serving macaroni and cheese in their kids meals. I  could get it with apple fries and a milkshake and hope to get her ten miles down the road without hearing a plaintive “I’m very hungry,” from the back seat. (I’ve started answering this with “Hello, Hungry, I’m Jessie. Nice to meet you.”) Although it was a little weird getting them to serve the macaroni cold, (“just don’t put it in the microwave”) she’d devour it, and we didn’t have to stress about travel food for just over a year.

Typically, we’d place our order, and, as there was no button for “don’t cook that”, the person on the cash register would yell back to the chefs “they want one of those macaronis cold”.

From the back, a disembodied voice would respond with some version of “Why do you want us to do that?”

My favorite cashier was the woman who responded “Because the customer said so.”

I’d usually try to explain autism and its impact upon the perception of temperature, but the conversation rarely went far.

Then, BK stopped offering M&C, and with no further reason to endure their stupid televisions, we went back to McDonalds. Of course, half of those have TVs too. And there’s not much any of us will eat there, but they do have those fruit and yogurt parfaits and a fruit and walnut salad that Caroline enjoys. This puts them ahead of Wendy’s, where we have to order her three little mandarin orange tubs and a Frosty. I’ve gotten used to weird looks from the people on the other side of the registers.  And I’m not exactly sure why Caroline’s pickiness is that much different from my own orders of “a plain-hamburger-and-don’t-scrape-off-the-pickles-and-ketchup-just-don’t-put-them-on-there-to-begin-with” as a kid, except that she never orders hot food. But, although the service staff frequently got my orders wrong when I was a kid, I don’t ever recall them giving Mom that look that asked “you’re just testing me, right, to make sure I’m awake over here. Now you’re going to take that back and place your real order, aren’t you?”

But for all that, it could be much worse.  None of Caroline’s dietary issues is life threatening. None will result in an allergic reaction, or even in much hyperactivity. When we went to the Easter Egg hunt the other day, one of the other Moms asked how much candy Caroline could have, and I said, “As much as she wants,” because I knew the sugar would have only a limited impact on her, even while the rest of the kids launched into sugar buzz overkill. She won’t have to spend a week on the toilet if she eats wheat bread, and her beloved corn won’t break her out in a rash. So I can live with her picky eating. Most of the time. But I’d be so grateful if she would learn to finish a meal faster than my grandmother.

I Love You Just The Way You Are

Caroline demanded and braved herself through earrings

 

 Caroline has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism (HFA) that is probably going to be lumped together with other forms of HFA in the next edition of the big-honking-medical-text-where-they-catalog-the-nomenclature-of-such-things (DSM V).  Whatever. Autism is a spectrum anyway, and describing it is difficult.  It would be easy to let this post devolve into a discussion of what does and doesn’t work in treatments, and which classic Asperger’s symptoms Caroline does and does not have, but that would quickly turn into a conversation about autism.  This post isn’t about autism. It’s about Caroline. Who has Asperger’s syndrome.

So to start out with, I will just say three things.

1)      Caroline and Sam have both had ALL of their vaccinations. I don’t buy the whole autism-is-caused-by-vaccination bullshit, and the doctor who tried to “prove” it falsified his studies and has been roundly discredited by the journal that originally published his results.

2)      We are treating the disorder with a variety of therapies, but we haven’t found medicines or diet changes necessary at this time. (Edit: Caroline now takes medication for her ADHD. Sam now takes a fuckton of medication for not-necessarily-autism-related behavioral issues.)

3)      And finally, Caroline was born this way. (Cue Lady Gaga). I have known from the first time she tried to nurse that she probably had autism, though it’s only been recently that I could articulate how I knew that.

I’ll expand a little on that third point. I got the first two out of the way so I wouldn’t have to keep answering them later, but number three is pretty key to understanding who Caroline is and how she behaves. She passed all the newborn tests for hearing, vision, and such. But she could not latch when nursing. Where most new Moms who opted to breastfeed had the lactation consultant come in maybe two or three times until they and their babies caught on, I had that woman in my room for every single one of Caroline’s meals those first two days. And even she had a hell of a time getting her hooked up to the breast.

I blamed my volcano-sized boobs, but, really, the child just couldn’t suckle without a lot of help. There are tricks you can use, like tickling the roof of the baby’s mouth with your nipple, that ought to trigger a sucking reaction. They had only a limited effect on Caroline. If I could have had my way, we’d have bottle fed, because she understood that kind of nipple a little better. (And no, there wasn’t any nipple confusion. She struggled with those, too.) But, as I noted yesterday, I didn’t get a choice in the matter. She also had a weak grip. Most newborns have a surprisingly tight little fist, but Caroline’s hands stayed open when stroked, or, if she did curl her hand around one of our fingers, she did it delicately, gently, like she didn’t want to hurt us. Or like she didn’t know how to grasp harder.

As she grew, she hated tummy time, and she didn’t babble like most babies. The tummy time just made her mad, and she wasn’t without sounds. They were just rare or, as she got bigger, echoes of what we said to her. I tried to explain that I thought she was autistic, but everyone brushed me off, including her doctor at the time. They saw her hitting enough of the milestones and said “Every baby develops differently.”  But then she didn’t sit up until 8 months old. And she didn’t crawl ever.  She just scooted around on her bottom with this one little leg stuck out like an outrigger. (Of course, I did that, too, as a baby, skipping from nothing to scooting to running with no crawl or walk in between.) She didn’t walk until 18 months old, and she was three years old before her conversations made much sense. She had language before then, but it was an odd collection of echoed phrases and words well outside the vocabularies of other kids her age.

She would tell us strange little sentences that ended in an upward lilt. “Caroline, would you like a cookie?” she’d say, or “Caroline want a cookie?” instead of “Can I have a cookie?”. Or, one of my favorites, she’d scoot, and later walk, through the house chanting “duck duck duck duck duck” just under her breath. My husband and I are both train nuts, and she latched onto our adoration of all things rail related very early on (though all TV shows, including train ones, terrified her until around the age of two). Her odd linguistic development meant Caroline didn’t say “I love you” until she was nearly three and a half. Instead, because we all loved trains, and read her train books, and sang her train songs, she used train words to say “love”.  She would gaze at us in adoration and murmur “trestle”.  And I wouldn’t trade one of those “trestles” for an “I love you”. Scott and I knew what she meant, and we loved that she had a unique way to express it.

Her language came in quite suddenly a few months after her third birthday.  It was actually my birthday in 2006, and my Mom and niece, Kaylee were visiting us. Kaylee is a chatterbox, so she was yakking up a storm in the back seat when suddenly there was this explosion of language from the other side of the car, and it was Caroline speaking. She had started occupational therapy not that long before, and she had apparently just then made the idea-to-voice-box connection.

I was so shocked that I backed out of the garage into my mother’s parked car.

I don’t remember what Caroline said, but it was related to what Kaylee was talking about, and, more importantly, we all knew what she meant. And she hasn’t stopped talking since.  Given half a chance, she narrates (sometimes sings) her life to us, one event at a time. (Although she has only recently developed real answers for abstract questions like “How was your day?”) On a trip to the grocery store, we once endured some 30 odd verses of a tune I’ll call “The Publix Song” that went something like this:

We are going to the store

The store is Puuublix

And we are driving in the car

And we just went over the big road

The-sky-is-gray- it-might-rain

And the other big road

And now we are at a stop light

(The store is Puuuublix)…

Seriously – she had a verse for the cart, and the doors, and for every food we picked out, with random emissions of “The store is Puuuublix” interspersed throughout. Finally, when we were all just about to lose our minds, Scott poked a piece of candy in her mouth, and she had to stop singing to chew. The silence was measurable on the way home, as Scott drove and I kept shoving candy at both children.

Besides literally helping her find her voice, therapy did other things for Caroline. It helped her deal with her classmates, and it helped her display her developing skills as her preschool teachers tried to test her.  Before therapy, her little report cards would all say “can but won’t” next to at least four or five skills, because she didn’t understand what was being asked of her, and her teacher couldn’t see why she wouldn’t replicate a skill she had clearly demonstrated the day (or even an hour) before without prompting. Therapy helped her interpret other people’s words and actions.  She no longer clamped her hands over her ears and cowered when in large groups of children, and her teachers (all awesome people) learned quickly how to help her through meltdowns. Her preschool director at Gan Shalom would sit in the hall and cuddle her to calm her. They were that good.

Because she was so loving and outgoing, she never suffered the ostracism that other children in her position often undergo. Autism so often drives children inward, but never my duck. Caroline loves the world, and it’s just impossible not to adore her back.  Aside from “ducks” which is what we call her from the years of listening to “duck duck duck duck duck duck”, her other nicknames are “Sunshine” and “Sweet Girl”, because she greets nearly everyone with a hug and a grin. Those who have only recently met her (and some who know her quite well!)  tell us “I’d have never guessed she was autistic!” because they aren’t used to interacting with those on the high functioning end of the spectrum. And Caroline is definitely high functioning. She’s bright, creative, and sweet.

Her preschool classmates would forgive so much because of that. She would go around stealing all the toys, not precisely snatching them, just gently removing them from her friends’ hands announcing “I have that”, and when the teacher would look around to see the small baffled faces, Caroline would present all of her trophies as if she had just done the room a favor. Or Caroline would see a friend enjoying some computer time, and she would come up behind to watch. Then, after she’d been standing there awhile, she’d sit down to watch. In the same chair as the other child. Who would have to scoot over to make room. Once she had half the chair, Caroline, who had no concept of personal space, would start gently oozing over, moving the other child out of the way until eventually the other child was standing watching Caroline on the computer, not quite sure what had just gone wrong. But Caroline would smile so lovingly that the other child would decide Caroline’s turn must have come up, and nobody stayed mad at her.

She identified (and still identifies) with the world through music, and “The Publix Song” is just one of the little ditties she’s written all by herself. Her first song was something about a blue boat. We found out she had written it when we heard her singing it at home and asked her teacher for the rest of the words, only to find out the teacher wanted to get them from us. Her second song, which she still sometimes sings went:

Ten toes, sticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky fingers

Ten toes sticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky hands.

Hello sticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky fingers.

Goodbye sticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky-ticky hands.

It was a hand washing song, and, since hand washing was a real trigger for her meltdowns, we were grateful when she developed the song to help her get through. For that matter, I navigated her infancy and toddler years by having a song for everything, because the only time she seemed to hear me was when I was singing. (It helped that my own Mom has a song for everything, as well.) Returning to the car from just about anywhere, we would sing:

You have to hold hands in the parking lot,

the parking lot, the parking lot.

You have to hold hands in the parking lot,

even though you’re a toddler

At the end of a bath came (this one was my Mom’s):

 

Bye Bye water

Bye bye water water

Bye bye water,

we’ll see you the next time

to reduce the trauma of draining the tub.

In therapy, in school, and at home, Caroline has never made little-progress. Instead, she rams up against the wall of misunderstanding until it suddenly gives way before her and she makes great-leaps-forward. And most of those leaps have come in the context of songs. Right around the time she figured out how to read out loud, she started shouting all speed limit signs out to me. To hush her, I explained “Speed limit signs tell us how fast we should drive. If we go too slow or too fast, we might get a ticket. And not like a ticket to a museum, but one that says ‘you have to pay the government some money’”.

She thought about this in a silence for a few minutes, then said to me, “So driving the speed limit is like going ‘moderato’, right?”

 Ga-DUNG. “Yes.” Good lord. I knew she loved little Einsteins and the advanced music program at her school, but that was a bit much.

Then, she continued, “Does that mean that ‘adagio’ would be going too slowly and ‘allegro’ would be going too fast?”

 Gulp. “Yes,” I squeaked at her.

Because she’s smart like that, and it flattens me every time she just pops out with one of those profound observations. And it’s always going to be that way with her.  I wouldn’t change her, even if Asperger’s could be “cured”. I understand and respect how families of children and adults suffering from profound autism want a cure, but we’re lucky enough not to be in that boat. Asperger’s has thrown some odd wrenches into Caroline’s life, but it’s very much a part of the sunny little person she is. She’s seven now, and attending a private school geared towards kids with HFA and ADHD. She adores her classmates and teachers, who all love her back. They work with her through tough days and meltdowns and all agree with Scott and I that the world is a better place for her being in it just exactly as she is.

Me, Myself, and I

Since yesterday’s entry was about my son, I ought to make today be about my daughter. However, narcissism has stepped in after all, and I am, instead, introducing my alter egos. I have several, and each serves a distinct purpose in my life.


The Jester Queen

First up is the woman who writes this blog and generally serves as my online personality. Everyone give a big hello to The Jester Queen. The Jester Queen is bluntly honest, sometimes funny, and always entirely too self-aware. The character originated in a short story and Halloween costume, and her name solidified after I got married. (It is a play off of my husband’s last name, Merriman). It really describes me quite well. See, I’ve always been the court jester, though rarely the class clown. Remember, back in the Elizabethan era, the court jester wasn’t just the funnyman. He was also something of a royal heckler, pointing out people’s flaws too loudly and annoying the nobility from a reasonably safe vantage point. He was the one person who could hope to speak truth to the king and get away with it, though there was no guarantee that doing so wouldn’t be a deadly mistake.  I’m like that. Everyplace I work, I wind up in these hopeless crusades because of some perceived injustice. I launch my campaign of Truth, gaining and losing Followers as I go, and ultimately pushing the Powers That Be just One Step Too Far. I’ve never been fired, but I’ve been demoted, transferred, and soundly lectured. I’ve been lucky enough to have amazingly supportive immediate supervisors, and now that I teach English online, I’m trying very hard to just NOT CARE about the injustices that peeve me. But it’s getting harder.


Madame Syntax

And speaking of teaching English, let’s move on to Madame Syntax. If you ever take an English class with me, you’ll get to meet her. I try to keep her firmly in hand when I’m on Facebook or commenting on blogs, because she’s a real pain in the ass. She’s my inner grammarian, who was also in charge of the portion of my brain that did library cataloging. In addition to good grammar, she likes organization, appropriate attribution, and rules.  The Jester Queen considers rules to be flexible guidelines, established in order to create a basis for comparison.  While Madame Syntax grudgingly accepts that all rules must be interpreted, she does not deviate from interpretations that could be derived from the existing instruction. And she also writes sentences like that one. She did my technical writing, and when she gets out of the bag on Facebook, she embarrasses the hell out of me. The other day, she snuck in a post to my alma mater, Chatfield College, correcting “could of” to “could have” before I shut her up.  She’s pretty controlling, but then I’m pretty controlling, so I guess it’s no surprise that my alter egos also like to have their own way. But I get a kick out of creative grammar. I love to watch the way language evolves, and I enjoy learning what things mean. It thrills me to no end to learn that “I’ma” is “I’m going to” or to hear the perfect double negative in an exaggerated statement. But if I let Madame Syntax too far off the leash, she starts correcting everything, including my grammar, even when my grammar “errors” are deliberate.


The Bitch Who Lives In My Head Continue reading

Parenthood (It’s All Greek To Me)

I’d like to imagine that even though the blog is entirely about me, it can be about something besides my self-love.  I thought, therefore, that you might like to meet the family. Today, let me introduce Sam, my three going-on-four-year old son. Let me introduce him, and let me introduce his favorite body part.

Yes, that’s right, folks. Today’s topic will be the almighty penis. The phallus. The wang, the willy, the trouser snake, the pecker, the albino cave dweller. That penis. My son has one and, at the ripe age of three, has already fallen in love with it. He’s also in his Oedipal phase, and believe me, if he could, he’d kick Daddy right out of the house and marry me right now. Just call me Jocasta.

And don’t get me started on his breast fixation.

At first, it was kind of funny in an annoying sort of way.

Now, it’s just annoying.

He walks around with his hand down his pants. He strips naked and runs through the house yelling “Wanker, wanker, wanker”, an unfortunate term I taught him when he was two. Only he pronounces it “wankuw”. He sticks his bare ass up in the air and says “You see my little butt-insky?” Which he pronounces “wittle butt-insky” because his “L’s”, like his “R’s”, haven’t quite come in yet.  He sticks his hand down my shirt at random intervals forcing me to put him down to get myself free.  And, like I said, it used to be funny. Kind of. But now I just want to scream at him. I’ve taken peaceful parenting courses, so I’m supposed to be all about making this a non-issue. I’m actually very good at saying “I can’t hold you when you do that. Mommy’s ninnies are private.” And, “remember, our bottoms are private. Butts are private. Penises are private,” in my best flat-neutral voice.

But what I really want to do is scream I’m going to smack that little butt-insky into next fucking Tuesday, so get that smarmy smile off of your face!

And maybe if the schlong were his only fascination, I wouldn’t be so perpetually peeved about it. But there’s the boob thing. Besides the old hand down the shirt trick, he also tries to sneak up on me getting dressed to say, “I see your ninnies , Mommy.” (youw) Or, “I got your bra for you” (youw bwa foh).  I adore this kid. I seriously do, but this situation is starting to drive me insane.

And then, too, he’s anal retentive. Literally.  He holds poop for days at a time.  As many as five. Then, because he’s held it so long, it hurts like a sonofabitch to get out. So once or twice a week, he trots himself off to a corner and hides. Or climbs to the top of the restaurant playland and goes invisible for about five minutes.  And plays my least favorite game of all, hide-n-go-shit. Used to, he’d make me find him by the smell, then announce, “I’m not wanting to talk to you right now,”  (wight now) as if he had an option on that. These days, he just comes and finds me and says “I need some cleaning up” (cweaning up). So I guess I’m thriving on my peaceful parenting in that regard. He mostly doesn’t know how badly I just want to scream and scream when he’s shit his pants again and he’s started to find me for help when he’s a mess. And he’s started putting it in the potty sometimes, but this requires an active, enthusiastic audience, in the form of me. Daddy won’t Do most of the time.

I should pause here to say my husband is an awesome Daddy. Our daughter is a Daddy’s girl no question.  She never had an Oedipal phase. Possibly a side effect of her Asperger’s Syndrome, I don’t know, but it’s a gift horse none of us will be looking in the mouth any time soon. I am cursed with a long memory, so, even though I was a Mommy’s Girl,  I remember wanting to marry my Dad and my parents earnestly explaining to me why that Wouldn’t Work At All. I think I was probably three at the time. I know  I grew out of it faster than Sam, though. I mean, the kid is almost four, and he’s been like this since before his last birthday.

The kicker, though, was last night. He won’t let Scott wash his hair in the tub, and he wants me to fish him out and wrap him up in a towel and get him dressed. I humor him, because my other option is the “wanker” scenario described above. So, last night, I was carrying him down to his room after his bath. He said, “You don’t want to see my penis.”

“No,” I told him. “Penises are private.”

He beamed at me, his most angelic look, and replied in his singsong voice, “But my peeenis wants to see youuuuu.”

I dumped him on his bed, towel and all, and went outside to find Scott. “Your son has just taken the Oedipus Complex to a new level,” I shouted at him.

I’m pretty sure the whole neighborhood heard.