Dirty Dancing, Elementary School Style

7 02 2009

I can’t remember the last time I went to a dance. Much less, a school dance. Much, much less a school dance at which I was stone-cold sober. But hey, I’m open to new experiences. So, resisting the siren song of a bottle of blueberry wine, I slapped on some lipstick and some sparkly earrings and went to a dance last night. A school dance. An elementary school dance. An elementary school Family Dance. With the whole Blister family.
We arrived fashionably late and fashionably dressed. And by fashionably dressed, I mean clothes that didn’t have big holes, paint, grease, smushed peas, marker stains or cat barf on them. And by fashionably late, I mean half an hour late, because that is how long it took to find five complete outfits that did not have big holes, paint, grease, smushed peas, marker stains or cat barf on them. In my infinite coolness, I even hauled out the coloured hairspray left over from Halloween and gave Roo some pink-tinged piggy tails, and Neener some pink streaked bangs. I did not, however, give them real platinum blond streaks in their hair. Or gobs of turquoise eye shadow. Or airbrushed-on belly tattoos. Which apparently makes me infinitely less cool than the parents of some of the other little girls in Neener and Roo’s class.

Now, here’s how I really know I’m getting old: upon entering the gym, it took me two whole seconds to decide that the music was way too loud. Ridiculously loud. Like I said, I can’t remember the last time I went to a dance, and maybe my kids’ auditory sensitivities are rubbing off on me, but since this was supposed to be a family dance, I figured the music would be at least a little shy of deafening. No-sir-ee-bob. Despite the fact that the crowd ranged from grey-haired grannies to bald-headed babies, the music volume seemed more geared toward glassy-eyed club goers whose senses have been sufficiently dulled by jello-shooters and doobies. Still, I decided to be a good sport. So, while Mr. stayed a safe distance away from the speakers with Squiggles securely  strapped to his chest, Neener and Roo and I ventured on to the dance floor to get our groove on.february09-009

I desperately hoped that “DJ Jeff” would skip the Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers kid music crap, and give us brave parental souls a chance to kick it old school. Maybe a little U Can’t Touch This.  Or some Maestro Fresh Wes, since I’m pretty sure I can still let my backbone slide without herniating a disc. Or, in my wildest fantasies, a little somethin’ somethin’ that would allow us tragically hip Gen X ‘rents to show those young whipper snappers what a mosh pit was all about. A safe, controlled, adult supervised mosh pit, of course. I could even get into The Chicken Dance, if nothing else. And indeed, DJ Jeff did skip the Hannah Montanna, the Jonas Brothers, and all that kid music crap. Instead, he went right to the obnoxious, hiphoppish dance music with highly sexualized and utterly inappropriate-for-my-five-year-old-daughters’-ears lyrics. From the booming speakers in the school gym, the Pussy Cat Dolls breathlessly sneered, “Dontcha wish you’re girlfriend was hot like me? Dontcha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me? Doncha wish your girlfriend was wrong like me? Dontcha?”  Then Akon – and a cluster of Grade three and four girls – crooned “I Wanna Make Love Right Now.” And then, the non-Madagascar version of “I Like to Move It” implored “All the girls to move ya body. And when ya move it, move it nice and sweet and sexy!” Yes, let the gyrating begin! Who doesn’t love to see elementary school girls moving their bodies nice and sweet and sexy! How else can they prove that they are hot wrong freaks who want to make love right now! Suddenly, I found myself praying for a little bit of the Jonas Brothers’ Disney-manufactured-purity-ring-wearin’-homeschooled-Jesus-worshippin’-family-friendly goodness.

Then, before I could get myself too twisted up about the evening’s soundtrack, some sadistic bonehead masquerading as a responsible adult organizer of this “Family Dance” started the one thing more dangerous to a crowd of little kids than a mosh pit: a stampede. Yes, someone thought it would be fun to toss a few giant beach balls out into the crowd and on to the dance floor. Which resulted in a swarm of twenty or thirty kids running and charging and quickly shifting directions as they chased the beach balls that bounced and bobbed above their heads. By the grace of my lightening quick kid-picking-up reflexes, Roo was saved from being trampled when a wave of people knocked her down. And by the grace of the dirty looks several parents who’d been hit in the face with beach balls shot at whoever’s stupid idea it was, the fiasco came to an abrupt halt before anyone got hurt. But by then, we’d had enough. Neener, Roo and Squiggles had had just enough fun, and were now teetering on the verge of over-tired meltdowns. And Mr. and I wanted to get out of there before they started passing out jello-shooters and playing that sick pedophiliacal Nickelback song about the innocent-looking, pink-thong wearing, thumb-sucking girl teasing all the sugar daddies on the dance floor. The last thing we needed was to hear that hairy old creep singing the line “You look so much cuter with something in your mouth.”

Now, the last time I checked, I was not a prude. Although admittedly, I have not done a thorough check on my prude status since late 2004. Still, we let our kids listen to some pretty grown up music. They love Garbage and Weezer and Radiohead and R.E.M. And they know all the words – even the ‘curse words’ – to the Joan Jett song Bad Reputation, and they sing it with glee. And they totally dig Motorhead and Ozzy Osborne. But I don’t let my five year old daughters listen to songs about having sex. And I don’t let them wear makeup. And I don’t encourage them to have little “boyfriends”, or to make being pretty or sexy or cute their biggest goals in life. But pop culture sure does. So, the whole family dance experience made me feel like a big gigantic prude. Again. Especially because the only parents there who looked even remotely shocked were Mr. and I. Everyone else just seemed to smile – perhaps slightly uncomfortably – and accept that that’s just the way it is for kids today. It might be the way it is, but I can not bring myself to believe that it is ok. Or that I shouldn’t somehow try to fight against it for the sake of my daughters.

So I’m not sure what to do. Do we boycott the school’s family dances from now on, even though the kids had a pretty good time? Do I join the school association that is responsible for planning the dances, and risk coming off like a puritanical neo-con prude when I suggest that some elements of the last one were rather inappropriate? Or do I just show up at the next Family Dance and politely point out to DJ Jeff that the music is too damn loud and too damn dirty for a bunch of little kids and their parents? Ask him if he’s got any MC Hammer? Or how ’bout some Joan Jett? Or Weezer? Or Ozzy? Yeah, DJ Jeff, play some good ol’ wholesome Ozzy Osbourne. I can show the kids how to rock out to Crazy Train. But I might need a glass of blueberry wine or two first.


Snow Guts, Snow Glory

3 02 2009

This just in: Our city has been gripped by a mysterious, frightening condition known as ‘Winter.’

This also just in: Winter increases the risk of white, fluffy icy-like particles falling from the sky, a phenomenon known as ‘Snow’.

And now, for this late breaking news: Snow poses a clear and present danger to children. And teachers. And all vehicles on all roads. And therefore, due to impending snow-related disaster, there will be no school today.

I got up this morning with the intention of writing a thoughtful, insightful post about some thoughtful, insightful parenting issues. But all that got tossed out the window and into the horrid fluffy whiteness  for the sake of a good old fashioned rant. About effing winter and effing snow, and effing school boards canceling effing school because of a bit of effing snow in the middle of the effing winter.

Last night, in my magnanimous magnificence, I told Mr that he could sleep in this morning. I would single handedly handle getting Neener and Roo ready for school while he got some much deserved extra shut-eye. And I did. Amidst changing poopy diapers and taking care of other assorted school-related administrative details,  I managed to get Neener and Roo mostly adequately fed, dressed, washed, and brushed all on my own. Mr. got up just in time to embark on the toboggan ride to school. Looked like a great day for it. Nice and warm, with some light flurries drifting down from the heavens. He laughed and said, ‘Hey, are you sure there’s school? It is snowing.’ It was funny because our school board has set a precedent lately of canceling school based on weather forecasts that are dubious, at best. Completely fictional, at worst. I laughed as I shuffled them all out the door, eager to spend a few minutes playing Hop Little Bunnies with Squiggles before settling down to work for the morning. Then, I thought, just to be safe, I’d better call the cancellation hotline. It seemed ludicrous. So ludicrous that I laughed at myself as I facetiously dialed the number. But I did it anyway just to make absolute sure. We’ve been caught off guard more than once with this whole Surprise! Snow Day thing. And whaddyaknow. School was, indeed, canceled. Impending weather, the serious sounding voice on the other end of  the cancellation hotline claimed. So I poked my head out into the impending weather, which to me looked an awful lot like a nice, slightly snowy winter morning, and I hollered for Mr. and the kids to come back. They could barely make out the words “God damn school is canceled!” because my shock was manifesting as maniacal laughter. As it so often does.

Which begs the question: When did we become such paranoid pussies? Since when is the possibility of snow, even a few substantial inches, and some slushy driving reason enough to call off school for the entire day? I’m not old enough to pull the ol’ ‘When I was your age I walked 15 miles to school, through four feet of snow year-round, up-hill both ways,’ but I am old enough to pull the ol’ ‘ When I was your age, reasonably sound scientific studies had shown that neither children nor school buses nor education professionals were made of sugar, and therefore if exposed to precipitation, it was generally agreed that they would not dissolve.’  And they only canceled school when it was a blizzard fo’ shizzard. Certainly not because the weather girl on Live at Five said it might start snowing sometime in the next 24-48 hours. Or because – gasp! Horror of horrors! – there was already actual snow falling from the actual sky and landing on the actual ground and possibly, even landing on actual children! Lord help us!

Luckily, our family is not in a position where a school cancellation plunges us into panic, scrambling for childcare, or missing work. We can go with the snow flow. Others are not so lucky. We simply adjusted our plans for the day. Instead of working this morning, I enlisted the kids to help me clean the basement. And instead of playing nine rounds of Hop Little Bunnies with Squiggles, and farting around on facebook all afternoon, we painted Valentines boxes and learned how to make mango lassi and had a beach party and sang Blondie songs together.

This just in: My kids would rather spend the day goofing off with their family than pulling on their effing snowsuits to trek through the effing snow only to sit through another effing day of  effing school in the middle of the effing winter.

And come to think of it, so would I. As long as I can get some sort of guarentee that tomorrow’s not gonna be a snow day too.

All Psyched Up

30 01 2009

If you listen very carefully, you might hear it some time next week. A low, steady, evily amused little twitter. That’s the sound of me snickering as I saunter down to the school with a copy of the report from Roo’s cognitive assessment in hand.

The assessment took three and a half hours. From the other side of a two-way mirror, I watched as the psychologist led Roo through a series of activities and questions, ranging from tedious to even more tedious. I watched as Roo struggled to recreate complicated block patterns. As she kept leaning over to get an upside down glimpse at the psychologist’s notes. As she wandered away from the table to preen in front of  the two-way mirror, making kissy faces and getting her butt waggle on. As she ate a giant bowl of teddybear crackers followed by a giant bowl of gold fish crackers, and declared the hospital “The best place to have a snack!” As she gave the psychologist an interesting definition of the word holiday when asked. “A holiday is a day when you get to play hookey from school. I’m having a holiday today!” Three and a half hours. By the end, Roo was slumping in her seat, twirling her hair into a knotted little nest, and hardly able to hold a pencil. And that was when she was faced with the toughest activities. Lots of printing. Where’s Waldo-esque exercises, and other busy visuals. Spelling. Math. The child amazed me with her tenacity and composure. And the results of all that testing are probably going to shock the shit out of the school.

On overall intelligence and cognitive ability,  Roo scored in the top 10% of kids her age. Math skills typical of a 7 or 8 year old. Spelling and reading? She’s currently functioning at a mid-grade five level. I’m not one to put a great deal of weight into test results, but I can’t help feel a certain sense of validation. Like maybe I’ll be taken more seriously when I tell Roo’s teachers that she is both autistic and gifted, because I have paperwork that backs me up on both accounts. Now I have the ammo I need to make sure that her Individualized Program Plan is not exclusively focused on her weaknesses.  It must also address her strengths, and her need for a more challenging, enriching education. I’m not sure at what point the system officially slaps a gifted label on a kid’s file, but I’m thinking literacy skills that test five grade levels above what’s expected is probably sufficient. Probably.

And as much as I’m savouring the sweet taste of I told you so, something even more important came out of that assessment appointment. The conversation I had with the psychologist. For years, most of our attention has been focussed on Roo. She’s had all the appointments and consultations and diagnosis, and recieved the lion’s share of help, patience, and understanding as a result. Meanwhile, we’ve cobbled together ways of handling Neener’s less obvious but potentially more worrisome issues on our own. But over the past year, we’ve reached a point with Neener – her staggering intelligence, her social confusion, her emotional fragility – that clearly requires more than we alone can provide.  So, I described Neener to the psychologist who did  Roo’s assessment, and asked her for advice on how to get some consults, some assessments, and maybe some help for Neener – and us – too. I basically wanted to know the appropriate entry point into the system for a kid like Neener. Should we see our family doctor, with whom we might be able to get an appointment in a month or two, and hope for a referal? The mental health central intake line, where you’re not much of a priority unless you utter the words “danger to herself or others?” School psychologist? Or more accurately, the lengthy wait-list to see a school psychologist? Or should we just suck in our guts, tighten our belts even tighter, and shell out a few grand for a private psychologist? The doctor listened to my concerns, made some notes, and then said the words every parent with hyper-intelligent, socially challenged, emotionally volatile kids longs to hear: “I’ll put in a referral and see if we can get her fast-tracked in to see someone.” Which means more paperwork, more appointments, more questions. But hopefully, more answers too. The only thing I enjoy more than walking into schools, reports in hand, doing my evil little I told you so snicker is actually having the answers I need to help my kids find their way in the world.

Colouring outside the lines

20 01 2009

I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I was caught off guard. And I despise being caught off guard.

We’ve been anxiously waiting for over a year for Roo’s cognitive assessment, and finally got word that it is to happen at the end of this month. This assessment will yield a pile of doctor-generated paperwork that will result in an even bigger pile of school-generated paperwork, all so that Roo can have appropriate access to what is rightfully hers: a chance to learn and grow in an educational environment that takes into account her strengths and weaknesses.  But before all of that happens, the doctor wants to know more about Roo, socially, emotionally and intellectually. And how is that to be accomplished? Why, with more paperwork, of course. And that is where I was caught off guard. I didn’t expect the answering of questions and the checking of boxes to be so frustrating. So dehumanizing.

First, there were the forms to be filled out by  Roo’s “team” at the school. Now to be fair, the form does ask that they attempt to highlight her weaknesses rather than strengths, as those are the areas where the main recommendations will be made. And boy oh boy, did the “team” take that to heart. The form is littered with  failure to do this and inappropriate that. They note that she does not like to colour. Or stay seated. Or take part in gym class. That she is stubborn. That she displays inappropriate classroom behaviours and anxiety management skills. That she has a tendency to ignore people. That dressing herself in her outdoor winter clothes is problematic. That she is prone to screaming and meltdowns when forced to comply. And that she refuses to print, preferring instead to scribble what she approximates to cursive writing. Which is all pretty much true. Except for the last one. Yes, she refuses to print. But that is probably because she learned how to print two years ago. And those so-called scribbles that she approximates to cursive writing are, in fact, actual cursive writing and it is damn near legible. And no, she is not a co-operative colourer. She doesn’t see the point of colouring in someone else’s drawings when she could be making her own. So, she tends to colour outside of the lines. She doodles, and adds her own details to pictures she is supposed to just colour, like a good little student. Apparently, that is a problem.

As for the rest of  what they filled in on that form – ignorant, insensitive, and overly judgmental language aside – the “team” pretty much got it right. All the things they noted are part and parcel to being an autistic 5 year old with cerebral palsy. So I can’t really blame them for callin’ ’em like they see ’em. What I can blame them for is, after coldly chronicling every issue that Roo has in school, they didn’t give us a little ray of light when they had the chance. Buried in the messy details of her lackings, her shortcomings, her problems, there was one question on that form that asked explicitly about the good stuff: Does this child have any special abilities? And they answered it with one stark word: No. This is a child who has been reading with startling comprehension and fluidity since she was two years old. A child who can spell almost any word she has ever laid eyes on, and even some she has not. A child who correctly identifies notes on a piano by ear, and has taught herself to play several songs. A five year old child who draws things like this…

…has no special skills? Really? The “team” revealed, with a single word on a single question, that they are clearly not paying any attention to who my daughter actually is, and what she is capable of doing. But they sure as hell have been paying attention to who she is not and what she can’t do, as is evidenced by everything else written on that form. Sorry “team”, my confidence in you is pretty much shot. Think Roo is stubborn and problematic? Wait til I march into that school with a knot in my face and a list of demands.

Then, there are the forms I am filling out, many of which amount to ‘Is your child bad? Circle yes or no.’ They ask if my child is defiant, disobedient, immature, impatient, angry, violent. No, I want to holler. None of those words describe my sweet, smart, smiling little girl! But she has trouble following instructions, and she doesn’t always respond to what people say to her. She does things that other kids her age have long since outgrown, and she can’t always control her impulses. And sometimes she screams, and spits, and breaks things, and says she hates everything, and tries to hit and bite and scratch herself and others. So I’m supposed to circle yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. But I don’t. I leave some lines blank. Or I circle yes and no. Or I write sometimes where no sometimes exists. I use the margins of the form to make notes, write explanations, put my child and her life in context. I refuse to squeeze the entirety of Roo’s complex world into a one-word answer, or a check-marked box. Which, I guess, makes me defiant. Disobedient. Non-compliant. Mother fails to follow simple instructions on questionaire, and displays inappropriate form-filling-out skills. Yeah. I never liked colouring inside the lines either.

Keep your enemies close… so you can chop off their arms during show and tell

17 01 2009

In her infinite wisdom, Neener and Roo’s teacher, Ms. D, rearranged the classroom seating after Christmas break. Let’s forget about the fact that Neener and Roo had both taken the exciting leap of making “best friends” at their respective tables. And forget about the fact that unexpected change is not always a cake walk for kids on the autism spectrum. Or for kids with high anxiety. Or both, as the case may be. But let’s, for a moment, remember a mean little imp by the name of Brandee C. And let’s remember her obvious fondness for tormenting Neener. And let’s think about the worst possible mean little imp to seat beside my sensitive little angst-meister. Thaaaat’s right. In an even grander display of her infinite wisdom, Mrs. D put Neener and Brandee side by side.

In an effort to not look like a hyper-protective hover-mother, I resisted my impulse to swoop down to the school and bite the teacher’s face off for springing this kind of thoughtless change on my children, and demand that Brandee be moved to a more appropriate location. Like a reform school for mean little imp girls. Instead, I decided to play it cool. Give it a chance. Who knows, maybe Neener and Brandee could resolve their differences and become BFFs over milk and cookies and long conversations about the Tooth Fairy, and Junie B. Jones books. Maybe they’d learn to get along, and develop a friendship of convenience if nothing else. Maybe Neener could teach Brandee to read, and Brandee could teach Neener how to…make fun of other kids and cackle like a nasty little witch. Or maybe Brandee would target Neener with a smarmy little game of  ‘Wanna play Echo?’ And go out of her way to bond with the other two girls at the table, because it’s way more fun to exclude someone than it is to just hassle them. Or maybe she would snatch things from Neener, and refuse to give them back until Neener erupts in a volcano of angry, frustrated tears, and Ms. D, in her infinite wisdom, has to go figure out what Neener is crying about. And all of a sudden, I’m sharpening my teeth and going into hover-mother swooping mode, and forging the signatures of whoever spawned that mean little imp on applications for reform schools in Mongolia. Or Texas.

When Neener finally opened up about what Brandee was saying and doing, I had no choice. I told her under no uncertain terms that Brandee was a mean little snot, and that she did not have to put up with that kind of crap. I urged her to be brave, to stick up for herself, and to tell me, and Ms. D whenever Brandee started giving her a hard time. Then, last night, in the moments before bed when Neener and I like to cuddle up and talk about what’s on her mind, this conversation happened:

Neener: Mommy, what’s Brandee’s phone number?

Me: I dunno. Why?

Neener: I want to call her and ask her what she’s afraid of. I think she’s afraid of bats.

Me: Baseball or the animal?

Neener: Hmmm. I don’t know. Maybe I can bring them both to school and see which one scares her more.

Me: Pfffffffffffttttt. (Which is the sound of me stuffing a pillow in my mouth in a shoddy effort to hide the evidence of my hysterical laughter.)

Neener (slowly and thoughtfully): I need a sword too. A real sword.

Me: Why?

Neener: To bring to school for show and tell.  Maybe I could show it to Brandee.

Me: Brandee big on swords or something?

Neener (grinning like a Cheshire cat): No. But I’d show it to her. And the next time she teased me, maybe I could chop her arm off, and she’d be all, like “Hey! Where’d my arm go?”

Me: Pppppffffffffffffffffttttttttt.

Part of me was alarmed. These were by far the most aggressive words and thoughts I’ve ever heard Neener express. For all my threats of biting off body parts, and my kickin’-ass-and-takin’- names bravado, I’ve gone out of my way to shield my kids from ideas and images of any sort of violence as much as possible. And another part of me was sad. Sad that she feels so helpless. That she’s trying to figure out how to be brave, how to defend herself, and how to push Brandee’s buttons the way Brandee pushes hers, and that the best she can come up with is flying mammals and/or sports equipment, and bringing medieval weaponry for show and tell. And still another part of me was overjoyed that at least she was not content to wallow in a mire of victimhood, that she was at least thinking of ways to fight fire with…bats. And that she was discussing it with me first.

Maybe Neener’s new found blood-lust is all my fault. Maybe I should not have expressed to her my opinion that Brandee is just not a very nice person. Or maybe I should not be encouraging Neener to talk so honestly and openly about about how she feels. Or encouraging her to stand up for herself. Or maybe, if there is any blame to be laid, it belongs squarely on whoever spawned the evil little imp who started picking on my daughter in the first place. In which case, maybe I should find out Brandee’s phone number. And ask her parents what they’re more afraid of, Mongolia or Texas? I’d hate to forge their signatures on the wrong reform school application.

24 That Felt Like 36

13 01 2009

The following is a completely biased, and quite possibly imaginary account of one very loooong Monday. Mid-January. 2009. I think.

3:12 am – I am yanked from my domestic-blister-turned-international-sensation dream by the sound of a screaming Squiggles. Auto-pilot engages, as I pluck her from her crib, give her a boob, and nestle back into bed hoping I can catch the Mediterranean leg of my world tour. And possibly find out why I am so very famous. And why I’ve hired an over-sized iguana in a kilt to be my manager.

3:14 am – Squiggles rudely reminds me that I am not, in fact, an international sensation. I am her bitch. She pinches my boob, pulls my hair, and renews her scream-a-thon with ample measures of both piss and vinegar.

3:17 am – I decide I’m all tough. So I tell Squiggles, “Fine, if you’re going to scream, you can scream in your crib.” And I make good on it.

3:20 am – Squiggles ramps up her campaign to literally scream her head off. Fearing that she is about one wail away from rotating her noggin 360 degrees and unleashing a stream of projectile pureed peas, I decide I’m not so tough after all.

3:21 am – I hobble downstairs, with a red-faced, rather rabid looking baby in tow.

3:22 am – Rabid baby and I snuggle up on the couch to watch a couple of episodes of In the Night Garden. Rabid baby calms down, and says “Ooooo” every time she sees Iggle Piggle. I fall into a semi-conscious state that resembles sleep. Except sleep actually results in some sort of rested feeling. This just made me snore and drool.

4:08 am – Squiggles, sick of Iggle Piggle, and of my snoring and drooling, resumes screaming.

4:11 am – Resigned to the fact that this day has begun, I put Squiggles on the floor to gnaw on a plastic hay hay (or horse, for those who don’t speak Squig), make myself a pot of tea, and plunk myself in front of the computer.

4:12 am – I fix the internet. You’re welcome.

4:15 am – The question “Should I send the kids to school today?” is answered when I hear a cheery, ethereal voice at the top of the stairs say “Hello! My name is Hungry Hayden, and this is my best friend Roberto!”, followed by  fifteen seconds of coughing and gagging, and then the slow thunk thunk thunk of Roo feet on the stairs.

4:17 am – Ever see the episode of the Simpsons where Homer thinks there’s an alien in the woods, and it turns out to be a spaced-out Mr. Burns with eyes the size of dinner plates and big kooky grin, proclaiming that he brings peace? Well, that was Roo when she reaches the couch. Plus more coughing and gagging.

4: 20 am – Juice box, blueberries and Bindi the Jungle Girl for Roo. A bottle, diaper and squirt of baby tylenol for Squiggles and her nearly emerged new front tooth. A hot cup of tea, and the cold comfort of being the day’s earliest riser of all my facebook friends for me.

5 am – You (and by you I mean me) know it’s going to be a long day when it’s 5 am and you’ve already drained an entire pot of tea.

5:23 am – Mr. comes downstairs with the intention of relieving me from my shift. Until he realizes that it is 5:23, and not 6:23 like he thought. And until I tell him that I’ve actually got it all under control. That I’ve released the need to try and force these kids to sleep, and have decided to accept and embrace this day for what it clearly is: karma biting me on the ass for something. For what, I do not know, but it must have been bad. Mr. tells me that I am a wonderful mother. And also that he suspects I may be drunk, but if that means he can go back to bed, then it’s fine by him.

5:40 am – I fix the internet. Again.

6 am – Squiggles is tired of Bindi, tired of eating dust bunnies, and just plain tired. Boob. Cozy. Sleep. Finally.

6:38 – I emerge from another sleep-like stint on the couch to find Roo and Neener hovering over me with wide eyes and kooky grins.

7 am – Crash. And. Burn. I crawl upstairs and send Mr. down for his shift.

7:02 am – The day is officially declared a “Mental Health Day.” That is, for the sake of our collective sanity, we will not even attempt to drag Neener and Roo to school, through a fresh foot of snow, just so they can sit in a classroom and hear all about the colour orange. And the letter M. And get anatomy lessons from other 5 year olds who think “farts come out of pee pees”. Mr. makes the decision official with a call to the school, although, unlike me, he refuses to adopt a weak, wheezing tone of voice and say that the whole family is” cough, cough, very, cough cough, ill.”

7:58 am – I wake to Mr. giving me a kiss on the cheek. Time for him to drag his sorry butt outside to shovel a foot of snow off of Patricia Dishwasher, and thus time for me to drag my sorry butt out of bed to shovel an actual breakfast into the kids who are not at school.

8:21 am- Squiggles and I do our part for the planet and the economy by recycling the toast that Neener and Roo did not eat for breakfast.

9:00 am – Mr. heads off to his secret meeting about his secret new possible career direction, which, I assure you, is not, I repeat not, remotely related to being a secret agent. Shhhhh. If I told you any more I’d have to kill you.

10 am – Breakfast, take two. Cheesecake is much better received than toast.

10:09 am – Lulled into pleasantness by the creamy goodness of homemade cheesecake, I fix the internet without cursing. Outloud, anyway.

10:15 am – 12:59 pm – Evidence mounts that cheesecake for breakfast increases my kids’ ability to annoy the hell out of me, and sleep deprivation decreases my ability to make words not be all lumpy and weird together so people who are not me can read stuff and not get too discombobulated by the no sense of my nonsense jibba jabba. Insert funny here.

1 pm – Mr. and I try to convince Neener and Roo that they should go to school for the afternoon. No dice.

1:47 – The warm fuzzy effects of the cheesecake clearly having worn off, I fix the effing internet a-effing-gain.

3:15 pm – Neener convinces me to go outside with her to play in the snow.

3:19 pm – I learn that Neener’s idea of “playing” in the snow is her sitting on the toboggan and me pulling her, pretending I’m a sled dog.

3:35 pm – The sled dog shows Neener how to downhill “surf” standing up on a toboggan.

3:37 pm – The sled dog shows Neener the incorrect way to fall from a standing position on a speeding toboggan.

3:39 pm – The sled dog realizes she is every bit as uncoordinated, but not nearly as flexible as she used to be.

3:43 pm – The sled dog is tired, and teaches Neener how to lay down in the middle of the yard and eat mitfuls of snow.

4:02 pm – We go inside after somehow the game we are playing quickly degenerates into no fun, with snow down the backs of jackets, crying, and accusations of teasing and inappropriate laughter. I won’t say who did what, but I will say this: hahahahahahahahaha.

4:40 pm – I realize that I had grossly over estimated the amount of pizza dough I had for supper.

5:30 pm – We sit down to the thinnest crust pizza ever made.

6:15 pm – I get in the bathtub with baby Squiggles, with the intent of having a nice long soak to myself once I scrub the yogurt crusties out of her ears.

6:25 pm – With Squiggles in the towel-lined arms of Mr, I lay back in the bath and close my eyes.

6:27 pm – I open my eyes to see Neener and Roo standing tub-side in their birthday suits, staring at me with wide eyes and big kooky grins.

6:28 pm – I conclude, a few moments too late, that the tub is just not big enough for the three of us.

6:30 pm – I find myself explaining the difference between nipples and “boobies.”

6:34 pm – I evict the children from the tub.

6:36 pm – Mr. launches his Guitar Hero World Tour.

6:38 pm – Squiggles launches another wave of Scream-a-thon.

6:40 pm – Neener and Roo launch Whinestock ’09.

6:45 pm – I launch into high-speed shower mode in order to get out there and bring the World tour, the Scream-a-thon and Whinestock to a grinding halt.

7:11 pm – I launch the wireless modem at the wall to see if that will fix the internet once and for all.

7:30 pm – 9:30 pm – Various children go to bed at various times.

10:40 pm – I conclude that I do not care who gets booted off that international Micheal Flatley hosted dance off show, and I should go to bed.

11:08 pm – After fixing the internet, I am satisfied that Roo’s nagging cough (which had been nagging me to find out what the hell kind of cough it is so I can stop worrying and fall sleep) is not in fact croup. Or walking pneumonia. Or the galloping consumption.

11:40 pm – I am asleep. Finally. And probably about to find out why dream-me is so very famous. Finally!

12:42 am – I am awake. With a screaming Squiggles in my arms. Mr, sensing my subtle frustration by the way I am whacking my head on the headboard and elbowing him in the ribs, offers to take Squiggles downstairs so she can scream and I can sleep.

1:39 am – Instead of dreaming about international superstardom and an entourage of giant tartan wearing lizards, I dream that I am Susan from Desperate Housewives. And I’m being chased by Freddy Kruger. I wake up in sweaty terror to find myself alone in a bed that usually has a husband, a baby and a cat in it with me.

1:40 am – I dart downstairs to find an un-screaming Squiggles awake in her playpen, Mr. in a sleep-like state on the couch, and the cat with big giant eyes and a kooky grin on its face.

1:43 am – Cat on bed. Husband at side. Baby at boob. All is right with the world. I declare this day over, as we all fade into sleep.

3:05 am – On the Polish leg of my world tour, I learn that I am famous for fixing the internet with the sheer force of my cursing. And that my manager is a kilt-wearing iguana because a) there’s no space for a big spiky tail in jeans, and b) the chameleon was just too damn unreliable.

Operation Beefcake

7 01 2009

I’ve got a rather ironic situation on my freakishly cold little hands these days. And not the Alanis Morissette song kind of quasi-cosmic-ironic situations that are not so much ironic as they are inconvenient piss-offs. I mean, a black fly in your Chardonnay? Pfffft. That’s not ironic. That’s just what you get for drinking Chardonnay in the woods. Me, I’ve got actual irony. Serious irony.

You may recall a few months ago that I was a tad perturbed by Baby Squiggles’ size (if you don’t recall, you can read all about it here.) Yes, Squiggy has always been a bit of a beefcake baby, just as her sisters were. As of August, at her 9 month well-baby visit, she tipped the scales at 20 pounds, and was around the 90th percentile in weight and height for her age. And I was worried that she’d outgrow the sleepers I got her for Christmas before fall even rolled around.

Enter irony.

A few weeks ago, at her one year check-up, we faced another perturbing reality: suddenly, it seems,  Squiggles is no longer a beefcake baby. In fact, she has only gained 1 pound since August, and has dropped to the 30th percentile for weight, and around the 50th for height. Which might be perfectly normal for her, as babies do tend to level off in their growth somewhere around age one. That’s what all my trusty books and websites tell me when I go hunting for some information and insight on the subject. Don’t worry, they all say. It’s probably just her growth  leveling out. As long as the rest of her development is otherwise normal, don’t worry. But what if it’s not? What if she’s not following a typical developmental trajectory? What if, at 13 months, she’s still trying to master rolling over? If she’s not crawling? Or interested in bearing much weight on her legs to stand? Or, on the odd occasions I do manage to get her to stand, she stands on her toes? And when she sits, she’s still prone to spontaneously losing her balance and falling backwards? What then? Well, the short answer is worry. And get that baby’s skinny, developmentally delayed butt to a doctor. Which is exactly what’s happening. Our family doctor referred us to a pediatrician, whom we will see at the end of January. She’ll probably order a battery of pokes and prods and diagnostic imaging studies that will test, among other things, my child’s patience, and my maternal fortitude. Again.

In the meantime, I can’t just sit around worrying and wondering about the possibilities. I already know what most of them are, and they range from no-big-deal to the stuff of parental nightmares. Stuff that makes autism and CP (which are my two if-there’s-gotta-be-a-diagnosis-please-let-it-be-one-of-these picks) look like sunshine and lollipops. I also can’t just sit around helplessly waiting for…well…help. Luckily, the OT and PT tricks I learned when Roo was a baby facing very similar development issues have come flooding back to me. I’m working on strengthening Squiggle’s muscle tone in her trunk, which is key to sitting up without falling backwards, not to mention crawling, standing and walking. I’m doing daily exercises with her to help develop  overall gross motor co-ordination. And I’m trying my damnedest to fatten that baby up.

Enter Operation Beefcake.

I will be the first to admit that Squiggle’s new skinny baby status could be all our fault. Actually, I hope it is because that is by far the least unsettling reason for the sudden change in weight-gaining pattern, and by far the easiest thing to fix. Squiggles is an incredibly picky eater when it comes to the taste, texture, temperature and timing of her food, and she rarely if ever yells at us to tell us when she is hungry. So, maybe we just haven’t been agressive enough in stuffing her little face since she started solid foods. Maybe we gave up too quickly when she started refusing her food a third of the way through the bowl. Maybe we let her get away with not finishing her bottles too many times. Maybe I should have been letting her eat cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All my former parenting philosophies and ideals have been tossed out the window. Again. And they’ve been replaced with a new mantra: Do what you’ve gotta do. If that means it takes one hour, four varieties of mouth-opening tricks, and several re-heatings to feed Squiggles one jar of  ultra-pureed baby food, instead of the anticipated fifteen minutes to shovel in a bowl of homemade chicken and sweet potatoes, then so be it. If that means sitting with her and cuddling her while she drinks a bottle, instead of plunking her on the floor and leaving her to her own devices in order to get a jump on the dishes, then so be it. If that means feeding her cheese and toast with jam until they come out her ears on days when that is all she will eat, then so be it. If Operation Beefcake is a success, Squiggles should grow into that sleeper I bought her for Christmas in no time. Who knows, maybe after a month of cheese feasts and therapy exercises, by the time that ped appointment rolls around, we’ll show up with a chubby, toddling Baby Squiggles, and the doctor will laugh us out of the office. And I’ll laugh a little when she tells me I have nothing to worry about. A little too ironic? Yeah, I really do think.