September 26, 2011

A week (or so) in the life

Here’s what’s going on over here in Texas-land:

I am covered in bug bites. Anna is covered in bug bites. We have them on our arms, legs, feet. Anna has one on her derriere, not really sure how that happened. I cannot go outside for five minutes without getting eaten alive. I bought some fancy bug bite cream that’s supposed to “zap!” the itch and ouch but it’s about as effective as a wet paper towel. That is to say, completely useless. It’s just brutal.

Silvia, Kurt and Jack have not ONE SINGLE BITE. Apparently Anna and I are just special. It must be a brunette thing.

**

Silvia started at her new preschool this morning. It’s a great school, on recommendation from a local friend (thanks, Jenny!). The drop-off was hard, though. She went into frozen lock-down, where she just kind of huddles in on herself, head tucked in and feet planted. I had to lead her to the cubby for her things, lead her to the sink to wash her hands and then lead her to the teacher. I kissed her, gave her a big hug and then put that small, clenched hand into that of a stranger and walked away. She did not cry, though, and I’m proud to say that (mostly) neither did I. I know she’ll settle in a few days, love it and giggle every morning when it’s time to go, but damn. I hate the first day.

**

We have officially reached the land of after-school playdates and I’ve gotta say it’s not my favorite place. The problem isn’t so much that the kids start to beg and whine to go play the moment they get home (which they do) or that other kid’s parents think it’s fine to feed my kids cookies, juice and candy right before dinner (which they have done) or even that apparently we are also expected to provide nourishment to their kids (which we are though I would never tank up someone else’s kid on a bunch of crap and certainly not without the parent’s permission).

No, the hard part is the way the older kids treat Silvia like a puppy: they send her off to fetch water and snacks for them, make her go get the balls when they play and often leave her following them around from a short distance behind, eager but mildly forgotten. It’s standard operating child dynamics; in odd numbered groups, the youngest is usually left out (like a couple of 6 year old’s with a 4 year old shadow). There’s no real benefit to intervening or trying to force the older kids to be more thoughtful— kids are kids. As long as no one is being deliberately hurtful, then you just gotta let it be.

But there are moments it still bugs me and I have put my foot down a time or two. Like when Silvia had been sent running back into the house five times in a row to ask questions and beg for treats. The last time, she said “they” wanted her to ask for popsicles. I gave her one and told her to pass along that if “they” wanted something from me they could very well get up and ask themselves. So there.

**

Transcribing my notebooks hit a bump a week or so ago when I found a section from 2008. 2008 was not so good. While of course I was there and do have a general sense and memory of what went on, the buffer of time, medication and post-breakdown amnesia has taken more than a little edge off those memories. Sort of like post-birth amnesia. You wouldn’t be a very functional person if you walked around constantly fraught with a vivid recollection of labor and delivery, your muscles cramping up reflexively throughout the day. Time has to take the edge off or you’d be regularly ordering an epidural with your lunch.

So re-reading those entries, those notes and scribbles, was heart-breaking. I hated myself SO MUCH. I was so sure that everyone else hated me even more than that. After a page or two of painful reminiscence, I started crying, set the book aside and snuggled into my ever-loving husband’s arms for a bit. It was just… a shock, like getting hit upside the head with a dusty old frying pan you didn’t remember you still had.

It’s been hard to pick the project back up, but I have. They’re just memories, after all. That’s not me anymore. If anything, there’s a certain sense of triumph in that.

**

On a lighter note, I am going to kill and dismember (but not necessarily in that order) anyone who points out to me ONE MORE TIME that Christmas is three months away. Or counts off the actual number of days. Or goes on and on about how they’re almost done with their shopping or started their shopping in January or is hand-crafting each gift individually this year.

You get the idea. SHUT IT. I have not even processed Halloween.

**

Speaking of which… Halloween. Ugh. I have to come up with costumes and candy and try not to EAT all the candy myself and then three days later my sugar-blinded children will become even more hyper-i-fied (it could be a word. It could!) when Anna turns seven and has cake and then the fights over any and all of her presents will ensue.

Because Anna will be seven. My baby is going to be seven. Oh, shit.

**

And that’s pretty much where we’re at right now.

September 20, 2011

The new "normal"... or how I used the "F" word more times in one day than in the entire Pulp Fiction movie

Monday afternoon, I picked up Silvia at preschool. She was napping on her mat so I put Jack down next to her to wake her up. He gets excited, starts patting her and poking her and yelling “Hi!” at her until she has to wake up in self-defense.

While she was hugging me after escaping from Jack, a teacher came over and very casually mentioned that Silvia was moving to a new class on Wednesday. Still gathering up her blanket and things, I was a little confused. The teacher wasn’t her regular one, just someone I’d seen around a couple times.

“Why?”, I asked. Silvia was draped over my lap with Jack pulling her hair.

“Oh, we’re just putting the slow kids over here together,” she said blandly.

I’m pretty sure my expression said what my mouth was too shocked to say, because she quickly followed up with (as if it made it better), “It’s nothing really, she’s just slow and the normal kids need to do their work without having to wait for her, that’s all.”

I grabbed my kids, stood up and asked where the director was. The teacher looked confused and tried to send me in another direction, but I cut her off and walked out. I left three messages for the preschool director to call me ASAP.

That’s right, friends and neighbors. She called my child slow and said she wasn’t “normal”. She said it right in front of Silvia. Because, you know, kids don’t ever hear things grown-ups talk about. They’re not little sponges with ginormous ears, after all. That would just be silly.

The day went downhill at that point, from my head going through various atomic explosions to my eyes fighting back furious, burning tears. Just as I thought I’d managed to get a handle on it and was preparing my biting comments for the upcoming “Oh no you DIDN’T!” phone call, I overheard a terrible thing.

Silvia, playing with two dolls on the floor. One doll said, “Why can’t I go play over there?”. The other doll responded, “Sorry, you can’t play with the normal kids”. Then she had them happily running off to do something else as if nothing had just happened. As if my whole heart hadn’t just broken all over the place in a big mess on the floor.

Kurt and I talked, we tried to think of some other meaning, some way in which it could be explained. I slept on it, or tried to. Mostly I tossed and turned and thought up long choicely-worded things to say to the director when I finally got a hold of her.

This morning, I sat down and typed up a letter outlining what had happened. I was neither accusatory or aggressive, I just stuck to the facts. Your teacher casually called my child slow, said she couldn’t keep up with the “normal” kids. Teacher said this in front of my 4-year-old daughter. My 4-year-old daughter has now assimilated these words into her vocabulary and understanding as applicable to herself. This is totally fucked up. We are never coming back. You all are evil and nasty and I will tell God about you and you will forever suffer for passing judgement on my child. She is so far above you in intelligence that you are but slime creatures with no sentience within her view.

Okay, maybe not those last things.

Unfortunately, righteous indignation has a tendency to fade in the face of real people expressing real shock, apology and remorse. I met with the preschool director and lead teacher today and they were, as they have always been, exceptionally nice women. The director’s eyes were red and her voice shaky as if she had been crying. They couldn’t stop apologizing. They assured me that, regardless of whatever that HORRIBLE BITCHWOMAN teacher had meant, she would be strongly disciplined and corrected and the entire staff would be talked to about what had happened.

“We NEVER speak that way or classify our kids. They’re just little kids, they’re all different and we love them and Silvia is a wonderful child and we can’t say enough how incredibly sorry we are.”

I told them the story about the dolls. They understood. They are mothers, too, after all.

How can you remain a fireball of maternal defensive outrage in the face of that? It’s not the school’s fault. It’s a good school. They just have AN ARROGANT DISGUSTING LOWER ORGANISM TURD a bad teacher within their midst, something they had not realized before. They are dealing with her, too, and she will definitely think thrice before making negative and inappropriate comments about the kids. Putting your job on the line tends to make people pay more attention.

But I am still not taking Silvia back there. There is no way I will let her think, even at the fairly oblivious age of four, that I condone or agree with someone (and an authority figure at that) calling her names, telling her she’s less than normal. I won’t send her back to a place where she’ll see everyday someone who thinks she is somehow not as good as everyone else.

The worst part of this whole thing was that I found myself making explanations for why the comments were so untrue. Silvia is shy in new situations, she doesn’t like to engage with the group immediately, we just went through a huge transition, she misses her family and her home, she needs time to find her new comfort zone. She likes to do things her own way in her own time and there’s never any success with her if you try to MAKE her do something. And so on and so on.

I closed that Pandora's Box before it ever fully opened. She needs no excuse. There is nothing WRONG with my child. If there was, I'd be her champion to my last breath, but there isn’t. She is thoughtful and beautiful and creative and precocious and, most of all, 100% normal. No UNEDUCATED DUMPSTER TRASH OF A PERSON thoughtless teacher gets to treat her that way, put those words in her head, and expect me to let it slide.

I mean, everyone knows basic etiquette, right? It’s not nice to call people names.

September 12, 2011

Transcribing my life

I’ve been a bit stumped lately. I guess you call it writer’s block, but I’d describe it more as an ocean of flotsam surrounding me, with nothing much standing out worth hanging on to. In other words, I’ve got a lotta thoughts, none complete and most not all that interesting.

In order to try and start something (ANYTHING), I’ve decided to go through all my writing notebooks, one by one, all my notes, and scribbles and little pieces of paper and type them all up. Even though I got rid of a large stash about five years back, that’s still a LOT of whatnots, my friends. I’ve got bunches of standard spiral bound notebooks going years back where I’ve thrown down thoughts, half-written articles and ideas, notes from books, snippets of memories and giggles and tears, many many many lists and attempts at setting my life into order. There are also sticky notes, 3x5 cards with mysterious half-thoughts (“The paper clip chain to happiness”) and scads of old grocery lists. I keep all this around, mostly stuffed in a bag and some folders.

For the most part, I wrote it with intention and then never went back to it. In fact the last time I opened one to write, at random, was a few days ago, which reminded me of the chaotic state of things, too. I often just grab a notebook, which ever comes to hand, flip through for empty pages and go. I have a friend who keeps her personal journals this way, too. It’s fascinating and creative and, most of all, confusing as hell.

Sitting down to start this little project, I made myself a promise: I’d type it ALL out, straight through and as fast as possible, without changing or omitting anything, however bizarre or pointless it may seem. This is harder than you would think. I find myself very irritating sometimes.

I’m just at the beginning of this adventure and so far, I can tell you two things. One, I hadn’t realized what an excellent typist I am— I hardly ever look at the screen and yet the typos are few! I’ve come a long way, baby. And that’s only from a third of the way through the first book. Who knows what else lies within!