Monthly Archives: September 2013

Different difficulties.

I know. You thought it was going to be all fun and games and enemas around here, but I’ve been thinking about things.

There are a lot of things that are difficult about having a child with special needs, and some of them are probably more obvious than others. I expect some things that are difficult for me are not necessarily difficult for other parents with children with special needs and vice versa. If there’s one fact I know about all of this, it’s there is no formula, no handbook, and no template to tell you how you are going to feel about the various challenges confronting your child and family. 

After writing about Big Boy’s school, it occurred to me that I may have painted a harsh portrait of the place and the parents there. No desserts! Red late passes! Mothers that are lawyers! People that like kale! 

I imagine you understand that his school is sometimes those things, but it is others as well. It offers a rich and stimulating education to my oldest child, a child that is often frightening in his brightness and sometimes exhausting in his incessant curiosity about how the work works. Big Boy LOVES this school. 99% of any issues I have with it are about me.

And, if I’m being honest, they are about me, in part, as James’ mom.


In life, in emotion, in love, and in loyalty, I like to go all out. Go big or go home. Be all in. “Clear eyes, full hearts. . . ,” you know the rest.

I can’t be all in with this school. James can never go to this school. It’s no one’s fault, it is simply the way things are, but I can’t help but feel a distance from the other families that bring their two, three, and sometimes four children to the carpool line. Many of the other parents choose to spend a great deal of time volunteering or socializing with the other parents, and I know this is a case of you get out what you put in. But I just can’t put anything else in.

It is taking all the courage I have just to put on the first available clothes and shoes in the morning and drive my brilliant, gorgeous, precocious son to a school filled with brilliant, gorgeous, precocious children. That is all I can put in right now. I know it is the right thing for him to be there. I love that he loves being there. But I don’t love being there. Not being able to have all my children happily ensconced in the same preschool is not the biggest difficulty or greatest sadness in our life, but it is difficult, for me.

Ironically, and perhaps unfairly to Big Boy, I’ve given my heart to another school. A school where James can go and develop to his fullest potential, whatever that may be. Big Boy and Baby Girl can’t go to this school. James has only been going to school for about a month. But somehow, it feels like the heart of our family is already inextricably knitted into the fabric of this school and its community.  We are going on this journey with them and our entire family is invited, and I can’t express what that means to me. 

Clear eyes, full hearts, Frankie Lemmon. 



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The Monday List: 2 parts college walk of shame + 2 parts high school nerd = one awesome mom

Big Boy goes to a Montessori school. A kind of judge-y, crunchy, no cake on your birthday kind of school. I’ve told you about this. We put him there for some compelling reasons (I’m sure there were some but can’t remember them at this moment) but have always kind of felt that our family was a square peg there.

There are generally two kinds of moms. There are the crunchy moms always trying to out-kale each other, and the lawyer moms in suits.

I used to be a lawyer, but I really, really, really hate suits. Every time I wear a suit, a little piece of me dies. It’s kind of like if you say you don’t believe in fairies, one falls down dead? (Per Peter Pan, at least.) I’m not sure what the sartorial equivalent is of raising the fairy by saying you believe in fairies a whole bunch, but maybe it is every time I wear a fur vest or something shiny and gold a little piece of my soul grows back?

These days I wear suits a lot less, and I’m not really one of those lawyer moms anymore. And kale has never entered my house. I own nothing hemp. I adore real leather and fur. I buy my baked goods. So I sort of struggle with what kind of mom I am supposed to be to fit in there.

Drop-off for Big Boy in the morning can be stressful because it happens between 8:10 and 8:30. This is early for me, and Husband is usually at work by then. In the past, Nanny (yes, we have a nanny. We are very, very lucky to have her. More on this later.) has taken him because I was usually going to work.

Now that James is in school as well, however, the plan is for me to take Big Boy and Nanny to take James to school so I can go to work earlier. This is a great plan. But we all know what they say about plans.

Thus, I give you your Monday list.

Things I was wearing when I walked Big Boy into school on Thursday:

  • My glasses. (Still rocking a pair purchased circa 1998 when I was still on my parents’ vision plan. They are especially attractive as my left eye is twice as weak as the right and so the cute frames I hoped were all Lisa Loeb-looking have one giant lens that hangs out of them.)
  • White men’s UNC T-Shirt, Size Xtra-Large. (This is the official T-shirt spelling of “Extra.” Don’t hate.)
  • Pink flannel Barbie doll boxer shorts, purchased at FAO Schwartz in New York on a Model United Nations trip in 1996.  (On this same trip, which occurred in April, my mother insisted I bring long underwear to wear under my suits. Yes, I’m Southern. And maybe this is why I hate suits so much. Because I started wearing them in high school, not because of the Southern thing.)
  • Gold platform high-heeled wedge sandals.

Notice I said “Things I was wearing when I walked Big Boy into school.” Yes. I walked my son into school in an outfit that was 2-parts high school nerdy me and 2-parts college walk of shame* me.

I walked him inside because if you are late at this school, you have to sign in. After you sign in, they give you (you being the three-year-old child that is late) a giant, red laminated card that you have to give your teacher. I like to think of it as punctuality by shaming. The parents get their shame by having to fill in a form that explains why you are late. Generally, my answer is “I am a terrible person.”

Happy Monday to all. I missed you last week.

*If you don’t know what the walk of shame is, aren’t you precious.


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The Monday List: Things our new house cleaners said the first time they saw our house.

You are aware that my housekeeping skills can gently be construed as “sub-par.”  We did not have anyone helping us clean the house after we moved, because there didn’t seem much point when the house was so terrifyingly hoarders-esque and we were trying to save money.

A couple of weeks ago, Husband finally reached a breaking point and decided he needed to bring in the big guns. I found two women that clean houses for some other families in our neighborhood and they agreed to take on our house. Yes, I realize we are very fortunate to be able to have help in this way.

The kind ladies agreed to clean our house before seeing it, which was clearly a genius move on my part, as this was the only way to convince someone to take the job.

When they walked in to clean for the first time, here are a few of the things they were overheard saying:

“Lordy, Jesus.”

“Dear Sweet Lord.”

“Lord have mercy.”

“You really want us to clean in there?”

“Are you sure you want us to clean in there?”

“Don’t you have a broom?” [Well, we had one. It was hot pink. But you know what happened to that.]

“Good luck, honey.”


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Thank you

Thanks to everyone who expressed concerned about Big Boy. I understand some folks were quite alarmed, which was not my intention with the post. The doctor really did seem to think it was probably nothing.

But now you see my point. When you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of “probably nothing” turning into “something” turning into “Oh God, is our life over? (and I mean this in the absolute prayer sense)” with one child, it is hard to stay calm about things that might be issues with the others.

It seems like it should be the other way. Since we’ve dealt with these really big things, then anything else should seem small and manageable.

For me, however, it feels like we’ve dipped so often into the well of responding to challenges for James over the past few years that there is nothing left in that well if things go wrong with anyone else. I guess that’s something to work on.

So just to clarify, we really hope and think Big Boy is fine. So does his doctor. But we’re following up because it’s the right thing to do.

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“It’s probably nothing, but we should get it checked out.”

These are possibly my least favorite words in the English language. No, that’s wrong. Those are probably “moist,” “conversate” (not really in the English language but that isn’t stopping people), “douche,” and “hard-stop.”

Okay, so maybe it’s one of my least favorite sentences

I am fairly certain the only people ever charged with delivering this sentence are doctors. Doctors are not generally prone to hysterics and are good at staying calm in pressured situations, so listening to this sentence delivered with a calm demeanor doesn’t do much to comfort me. I don’t want to hear that something is probably nothing. I want to hear that it is definitely nothing. That is, I never wanted to know about it in the first place. 

This morning, Big Boy had a check-up and we left with a “It’s probably nothing, but we should get it checked out.” 

The last time someone said this to me, four hours later we were admitted to the children’s ER and my ten-day-old baby was getting a spinal tap, MMR, CT Scan, and intravenous anti-convulsant medication. So yeah. I don’t like hearing those words. 

I’m sure this is probably nothing. I really hope it’s probably nothing. And if it’s something, I dearly hope it’s a fixable something. 

Having a child with special needs makes me feel like I should have a free pass for my other children. It feels as if they should never become sick, never have a bad day, never have any challenges. As if the world should be offsetting James’ challenges by providing exceptional karma and luck to his sweet siblings. 

I’m pretty sure that’s not how things work, but it doesn’t stop me from hoping.

It’s probably nothing.


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Working Girl

Okay, cue the 80s career gal movie montage of flying money. (Baby Boom? Anyone?)

It’s time to talk about being a working mother mom who works outside the home.Image .  

There is so much to say here. Many more posts to come. Let’s just start with what happened last night. 

Big Boy goes to a Montessori school where they don’t really do a typical birthday party with cake. They do a ceremony where the child “goes around the sun” and the parents share photos while the child walks slowly around a lit candle. It’s all vaguely pagan. (This is a school where they celebrate the winter solstice, y’all). 

Because the parents are not supposed to bring cake (too messy and unhealthy), and because Big Boy’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t thought much about his ceremony this morning. Last night, however, he asked me what treat we were bringing for the class. And to be clear, by treat, his school usually means carob squares with spinach hidden inside, or some other similar “dessert.” 

At 8 pm last night, I made a quick survey of the pantry and realized that the cupboard was pretty bare. I offered to go to the store in the morning and get stuff to make brownies, but Big Boy told me they were “too messy” for his class. I offered to make cupcakes, but these were “too unhealthy.” Then I offered to make rice crispie treats, but these were “too sticky.” Basically, no normal baked goods are acceptable for this kind of celebration. 

Big Boy then sighed and said, “Mom, just go to Whole Foods.” Yep. He saw straight through my denial into my true self, which is apparently a mom that brings store-bought baked goods to school for her son’s birthday. 

I never thought I would be that kind of mom. One of my favorite books (and a middling movie starring the winsome Sarah Jessica Parker) is I Don’t Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson. It features a great scene in which the titular “she”– a working mother– “distresses” store-bought baked goods in the middle of the night so she can take them to her children’s school the next day and everyone will think she made them. 

I used to work at a law firm. The entire time I worked there, I took great pride in baking ridiculous things from scratch. Organic, whole wheat carrot cake! You can smell the virtuous motherhood reeking from those words. 

But throw in a third kid? Forget it. I’m going to Whole Foods, and my kids know it. The bakery jig is up. 

Thus, I found myself purchasing $35 worth of chocolate chip cookie icing sandwiches this morning and brought them to school in a pleasing brown paper box. Husband took one look at them and said “I thought this was more of a bran muffin kind of thing.”

Guess what? If I’m going to be the store-bought booked goods mom, I’m at least going to be the delicious store-bought baked goods mom. Life is too short for bran muffins on your birthday. No, let’s try that again. Life is too short for bran muffins. 



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Things I found taped to Big Boy’s box pirate ship when I moved it for the first time in three months

When I say I worry about our family going feral, there is a reason for this. Moving five weeks after Baby Girl was born was, in a word, challenging. We desperately needed more space, as Husband put it, since there was literally a human being sleeping in every room in our old house.  So we moved into a much bigger house, and this meant that Big Boy had a new degree of freedom. My parenting style over the summer was, to put it mildly, laissez faire. 

So, per the photo below, Big Boy made the house his own. This included a large cardboard box that he turned into a pirate ship. (A ship for pirate hoarders? You decide.)

I’m kicking off a new regular feature called The Monday List.  Today, we have Things I found taped to Big Boy’s box pirate ship when I moved it for the first time in three months:

One month-old Starbucks cup full of water (desert water)

One tube of glitter (for the disco pirates?)

One long wooden block (the plank, duh)

An entire roll of green decorative tape

A paper flag with a “D”

A paper flag with a “J”

A spool of green and white ribbon, unspooled

An eight foot long plastic PVC pipe (the mast?)

A paper palm tree (on the end of the PVC pipe)

20 pieces of foreign currency (treasure)

An unrolled ace bandage

Four tongue depressors (perhaps the pirate ship has some kind of medical mission? Pirates-without-Borders?)

I think there’s one seriously happy little boy hiding in there too.


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