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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ooooooh! It Felt So Good!

My little sister and I had a date today.
We try to do that every once in a while, just to catch up. I bore her with repeated details of my glamorous life as a mother of two, a wife, and a kindergarten teacher. She recounts dull facts about her new job as an assistant manager for events at a large corporation, where she will be traveling to places like New York and Miami and attending ho hum events like the Grammys.

My point?
We have very little in common.

Except that we were both raised by the same neurotic yet loving Polish-immigrant parents.

The result?
She chews her fingernails and I rock back and forth in public.

She inhales bags of Doritos and weighs less than my two boys put together.
I watch her inhale a bag of Doritos and I gain ten pounds.

But today we did something awesome. Something that we both enjoyed. Something that made us higher than kites on a windy day in the sweet suburbs of Orange County, California.

Today we drove to the local Children’s Hospital with anticipation and parked her unassuming Volvo in a quiet spot. We snuck out of the car and giggled like school kids as we placed twenty California Lotto Scratchers on twenty cars. We attached a note entitled “A Random Act of Kindness” and as we passed each other in the parking lot we felt empowered and good and connected to everyone who drove those cars. We knew the odds of anyone winning millions was small (that’s why we didn’t leave our full names and addresses on the cards….) but we also knew the odds of putting a smile on someone’s face were great. Our note urged our recipients to pass on the good deed by doing something nice for someone else. It was so contagious and euphoric and we have already begun to plan something for next weekend.

Now, I'm not sharing this with you to toot my own horn, or to give you one more example of why I'm so wonderful. I'm sharing this with you so that maybe you'll get off your cute hiney and participate in this movement. It doesn't even have to cost anything. I swear.

Visit www.actsofkindness.org for information on how easy it is to change the world.

One Hug.
One Handshake.
One parking spot.
One compliment.

One lotto ticket……… at a time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yippee For Pee-Pee

There once was a boy named Monchichi
Who didn’t care where he pee-peed
He wore Pull-ups all day
Would poop when he played
And his parents were getting all weepy

His Mommy and Daddy would try
But on the potty Monchichi would cry
They almost gave up
They had had enough
But they wanted a bed that was dry

So Daddy began again
Was so patient, and in the end
Monchichi was brave
Stuck it out till he caved
And the toilet rejoices
Hurray!

Yes.
I just wrote a limerick about my big potty-training boy.
Because in December he had 1 success.

This month, so far, 29.

Blrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp on you Autism.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Evite Etiquette

I used to take my invitations very seriously.
I bought pastel cardstock and matching envelopes.
I wove patterned ribbons through holes in the top and carefully tied symmetrical bows.
I knew my guests loved receiving my homemade party announcements and I
prided myself on my creativity and handiwork.

That is, until I went back to work, and time became a precious commodity. Short of announcing birthday parties from a van with a bullhorn attached to the roof, I was struggling for ideas to maintain some invitation dignity without having to forgo sleep.

Thankfully, I discovered Evite.

These guys are brilliant.
Have you ever tried it?

It’s easy and free and even lets you track your rsvp’s via email. You can send messages to guests and gently remind them to “LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE COMING ALREADY SO I KNOW HOW MUCH BOOZE TO BUY. SHEESH!”

Which brings me to my next point. Everyday, there are some serious Evite fuax pas being committed. This can really piss off a hostess already swamped with “real life,” so please keep in mind the following tips:

1. The hostess can see if you have checked your email and knows that you have read the invitation, then ignored it by failing to rsvp. What the F people? Just say yes or no. It’s not a lifelong commitment. It’s one afternoon. It’s like senior year of high school, with prom only weeks away, and you’re waiting for someone to ask you already. Some people don’t like to wait, okay? It brings up bad memories. *Deep breath*

2. Do not forward the evite to friends and family. I am sure your Aunt Bernice is lovely and that her four great granddaughters have impeccable manners, but they are NOT invited. NO.


3. Uncle Andrew: When your nephew is having a bowling party that costs an arm and a leg, DO NOT put +31 next to your rsvp. It’s not funny when I spend an entire Saturday morning trying to do simple math in order to figure out how suddenly 60 people are coming to the bowling alley, until I am inspired to double check my Evite and realize that you are a giant ass. Just for that, you have to bring two presents: one for monchichi and one for me.


And yes. I just used my blog to call you out.

Just a warning people.

Just a warning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The D Word

Let me start off by saying that my thighs are still shaking.

Ahhhh……got your attention now, don’t I?

You are dirty!

This is a wholesome blog that does not…..…..…screw it.

My mind would go there too.

But this is not that kind of post.
This post is about something not as fun as that.
This post is about going to the Dentist.

Why are my thighs still shaking, you may ask, from a dental appointment? Well, dear reader, the appointment was for Monchichi, who of course, was less than thrilled with having to sit in a dentist chair for thirty minutes. I haven’t met a child yet (and as a kindergarten teacher, I meet many many children) who particularly enjoys visiting the dentist. I am a grown up and I don’t care for it much either.

But add some non-verbal autism to the mix and you’ve got yourself a party.

First off, total cosmic high five to Dr. **** for her rockin attitude and awesome staff. They deserve an award for this afternoon’s production.

We started with me lying on the chair and monchichi lying on top of me, both of us facing the ceiling. That didn’t work.

We moved on to plan B, where I was at the end of the chair and helped sort of hold monchichi down. After he almost took out the hygenist’s eye with that air-sucker-thingy we opted for plan C: I straddled monchichi while they raised the chair until I couldn’t touch the floor anymore.

I think there were four of us, but I started to lose count after I saw the horror in my son’s eyes. It stopped being funny. I felt like I was betraying him. They started shoving all the horrible torture devices that dentists like to use, like a soft-bristled toothbrush, a mirror, and a mouth pillow the size of Texas to keep his mouth wide open. I think at that point, if he were able to, my son would have looked deep into my eyes and said, “Mama, F@#$ you!”

And I wouldn’t freakin blame him.

You have to be prepared for anything when you have a special needs child. Everything is exponentially harder. That’s just life. If you assume things will go smoothly, you are setting yourself up for failure. I always go into a situation thinking we are going to lose a limb, so when we come out with all of our extremities intact, I know it was a complete success.

And you have to cut yourself some slack too. I cried a little today; when they did his exam, when they said he has gingivitis, and when the dentist told me we have to admit him into the hospital and put him under general anesthesia in order to do his cavities and x-rays. For f’s sake, it’s cavities. But all of a sudden it’s become a hospitalization, with risks and side effects. And it’s a reminder of how complicated everything becomes.

Am I whiny enough for you yet?

By the way, I am so glad no one had video footage of what transpired in Suite 108 this afternoon, because I guaranfreakintee you that I would be a YouTube sensation by now. I didn’t know I could bend that way and I am pretty sure the husband will be thrilled to learn that I can.

So to recap:

Dentists are nice people who mean well but wreak a lot of havoc on the lives of decent, tax-paying, law abiding citizens.

Mommies who endure the physical and emotional trauma of holding down their offspring while the dentist yells out things like “E and F are loose and G, H, I, J, K, L, M-Z are decaying” should at least walk out with a t-shirt that states: “I betrayed my son, feed him too much sugar, am more scared of the dentist than he is, and all I got was this t-shirt.”

Laughing gas should be available to both the patient and the responsible party.

Said laughing gas should be sold in local grocery stores.

Dentures don’t seem like such a bad idea.

Kindergarten teachers don’t make nearly the same money a dentist does.

Please pray for me,
because
I have to go.
Monchichi needs to floss.

(*before the drama.....when my son still trusted me)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Daily Checklist

Hot coffee gulped in-between morning chores: Check

Half-assed makeup application: Check

A million kisses before sending Monchichi to school on the bus: Check

Asking Superman to “PUH-lease go and put YOUR sweater and shoes on ALREADY!”: Check

Conveyor belt style lunch assembling for four: Check

Wolfing down fairly healthy breakfast in 2.3 seconds flat: Check

Giving Superman super scary stare because you mean business: Check

Obligatory-rainy-day-indoor-kindergarten-class-teacher-headache: Check

Obligatory-holy-crap-where-did-all-our-money-go-online-banking-session-Check

Delicious elementary meeting potluck (highlight of the day): Check

Worrying about Monchichi: Check

Worrying about Superman: Check

Playing hooky from Children’s Lit class (Shut Up): Check

Daily after school sugar rush by way of whipped cream straight from the can: Check

Daily promise to quit uber-bad habit of squirting whipped cream straight into mouth: Check

After-school whine-fest alternating between Superman and Monchichi: Check

50 loads of laundry waiting for a chance to smell clean at some point in this century: Check

Weight loss reminder from mommy dearest: Check

Video game babysitting so I can blog: Check

Handsome husband coming home: Check

Tired, happy, ready to do it again tomorrow mommy: Check

Monday, February 16, 2009

What a Man What a Man What a Mighty Fine Man

Dearest Husband

I know that you are naturally shy and would probably prefer I keep the following information private, but I have a blog now, and it’s mine, and you don’t know the password, so there. Did you really think that I would let Valentine’s Day come and go and not mention you, and our sweet and sappy love for one another? Please. You know me better then that.

First of all, may I just say, the bouquet far surpassed anything I could have imagined. The roses have glitter on them! You woke up early, drove 30 miles to the L.A. flower district and came home with enough flowers to outfit a small wedding reception. You even remembered your mother-in-law, whose own husband is in distant Singapore on businesss. Dude. 10 points.

We spent the day in an old, shabby-looking bowling alley, because it was close to Polish school, and we bowled until our hips hurt. Yep. You and I. We like it fancy, don’t we honey? I cried because the adult special-needs group next to us made me think of our monchichi and you let the tears roll without passing judgment, comforting me and pointing out the child-like happy faces on the grown men. You went over and fixed their bumper when it got stuck and damn, if that wasn’t sexy as hell.

You planned an elaborate dinner for two, researching days before on the internet, because that is our tradition. You bought herbs you couldn’t pronounce (sorry baby, trying to keep it honest here), and went on a mad search for vanilla bean. You spent four hours in that kitchen, measuring, stirring, cursing, reminding me that for you, love truly is in the details. We ate by candlelight, the pitter patter of feet belonging to curious children our mood music. It was the perfect day. With the perfect man for me.

Not bad for someone I picked up in a seedy bar. Err…, I mean a high end bar and grill, right? (*grin*)


Seven years of marriage has only strengthened our bond. We laugh through adversity and our friendship is effortless. You saved me when I was sinking, stood by me as I tried to fight my way back into living again. You are my biggest fan and you never let me forget it. Of course we fight. Sometimes you seriously piss me off. And I suppose every great once in while, I may do something to irk you as well (or not). But I have never known you to hold a grudge and making up is so much fun, isn’t it?

People are getting divorced left and right honey. I don’t get it. It’s none of my business really, but maybe if they took the time to be more like us, the world would be a picture of pure marital bliss.

I love you baby. You are my rock and roll. My Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookie. My sweet dose of everything.

Muah!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I See You

I see you everywhere

You sit next to me as I get a haircut
Your body squirms as they turn on the blow dryer
Your father rushes over and tells you it’s okay
I want to tell you it’s okay too.

I see you on the playground, walking on your toes
Alone
Not belonging to anyone’s game
Too clumsy to climb the monkey bars
I want to rush to you
Or
Start a conversation with your mother

I see you in the store
Waiting in the checkout line
Hands covering your ears
Body swaying
Trying to find balance
In an unstable world
I want to hug you
And help you feel safe

I see you in my son’s classroom
So different
Yet so the same
Unpredictable
Awesome
Someone else’s heart and soul

There is a connection.
Always. Sometimes it lasts seconds.
Sometimes I cannot get you out of my mind.
We are joined by the things we don’t yet understand
And I can pick you out of thousands,
Though now there are too many to count

We are together in this
and
I pray for your
Parents

as we silently part ways
I give you
A cosmic
High five

Monday, February 9, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! (Nope, Not a Typo)


This past Saturday, our crazy, loud, obnoxious family sat down for some good ol fashioned turkey and my amazing sweet potato casserole (some say it tastes more like cake, but anyhoooo)


Raise your hand if you’re confused.



(Did you do it? Did you actually raise your hand, sitting alone at your computer? I totally would have….)

Anyway, yes, I realize it’s February, and not November, and that most people do not celebrate Thanksgiving this month, but we are not most people. In fact, we laugh in the face of conformity!




(Notice the little plastic pumpkins! We weren't messing around)


We say, Let them eat Turkey!





Well, that and my grandma had all of her children in town, something that has not happened in decades. The Uncle straight from Poland (there are not enough descriptive words in the American and Polish dictionaries combined to effectively give you a glimpse of how insane this man is), the lovable and nutty Aunt from Chicago, and My Mama.






(Not twins, but holy moly, right?)

Add to that the usual commotion around here, plus some cousins from Las Vegas and we had ourselves a reunion.

We ate and sang and pounded our fists on the table. We played eenie meenee minee mo to see who would wash the dishes (my mom; though the guys were smart enough to foresee the future and know that it would be bleak if they didn’t step in and get dishpan hands).

I love that we made this night so special. The reason we got together was not a happy one; post-stroke, this would probably be grandma’s last time with all of her children and it hurts so bad to even write that out. But we were joyful in each other’s presence and my boys had front row seats to a beautiful example of family togetherness and how you don’t have to get plastered to have fun.

Yep. No excuses. The pictures taken were of sober people who were perfectly capable of making rational decisions.





Scary, huh?
(Come on, hum with me........“we are family……”)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Son, the Male

My son is a Male.

I know what you’re thinking.

Duh. He’s your SON.

But, um, what I mean is, he is Male
with all of the Male parts
that he has suddenly taken to um,
exploring.

*sigh*

I knew this day was coming, but I didn’t expect it to be at the freakin age of 5. I thought I had at least another few years of pure blessed ignorance and innocence.

Nope.
Superman is becoming increasingly aware that he has this awesome source of something between his legs,
And I am at a loss
And totally losing my cool

I mean, it’s not like I found a stack of Playboys under his bed.
But someday, most likely, I will.
And if my current lack of coping skills are any indication of how I will react to that situation years from now,
I am going to go into a total state of denial and probably end up comatose.

Which may not be so bad if it means avoiding that whole “deal” altogether.

I remember when the pediatrician looked at me during one of his well baby visits and said, “wow, he is definitely above-average in that department” (probably not verbatim, but, you get the picture). I laughed heartily and thought it was cute that he was so well-endowed at the age of three.

But I am crying now

I am so much more at ease discussing cramps, maxi-pads, and midol
And not so comfortable
Talking about “erections” and “private time”

So what the freaking freak do I do now?
Ignore it?
Hope he forgets he has one?

………….right…………..

Now, before you go thinking that my youngest son is some sort of sexual deviant, let me assure you that this is completely natural behavior for a boy his age. He has a mini lightsaber all his own that comes and goes with no visible explanation. But that does not mean that this mommy knows what to do (nothing) or what to say (“honey, it’s your body, but exploring it is something we do in private”) or how to react (definitely not “OMG!!!!”)

So having boys comes with certain, attachments if you will.

I volunteer to deal with the five year old version.

But the husband gets him at 14.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Somewhere In the Middle

That is where I am

I don’t petition the government
Or write threatening letters to drug companies

I don’t tape record IEP meetings or have a panel of attorneys at my side
I don’t demand that the school district pay for horse therapy or expect hard working teachers to perform miracles

I stay awake at night, counting my blessings
Cursing the autism and epilepsy

I linger at the bus and watch Monchichi get buckled in
Struggling sometimes not to climb aboard and pull him off
Because I am afraid
Because I am selfish
Because I have no control

I walk back inside
At least three times a week
With tears running down my cheeks

I love my job
Surrounded by laughing loud children
Where I can rest for a little while

Even though, I find myself
Making comparisons
Wishing things were different
Dreaming that my best friend was his teacher

I speak kindly and make jokes
And try not to burn any bridges

I put him on diets that don’t work

I pray
but maybe not enough
And sometimes even that doesn’t make me feel better

I apologize too much
Make excuses
And stress out at playgrounds
Trying to keep his feelings from getting hurt

I wonder what they will say when they finally figure this out
And how we will feel when there is a cure

I smell his hair and kiss his cheeks and make him promises I hope I can keep

I am devastated when his younger brother pushes him for the first time (tonight)
I try to hide my fears for the future
their friendship
loyalty between brothers
and whether it will be enough

I go to bed
Hoping I did a good job
Wondering how it’s possible to love him even more than the day before

And I forgive his brother
Because I love him just as much

I am somewhere in the middle
Of pain
And anger
Acceptance
And hope

I am somewhere in the middle
of clarity
confusion
a calm chaos
in the center of a crisis

I am somewhere in the middle

At least for tonight.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Susan Lucci Can Kiss My Kiester

I am sitting at my laptop
Trying to blog


But I can’t

Because out of the corner of my eye
I am staring at a contraption
I purchased in November
And have used three times

When I saw the infomercial
I was at once captivated and energized

I looked at the buff women,
Listened to their testimonials
Nodded my head
And whipped out my Visa

Susan Lucci, so tiny she can’t possibly be real,
made it look so easy.
Her perfect teeth
Her size 0 waist

I actually believed that if I bought this thing, I had a fighting chance to look like her.

A marketing ploy designed exactly for someone as naïve and desperate as myself.

A few days ago, Superman innocently asked

“Mommy, how come you don’t exercise on that thing anymore?”

I bit my tongue, hard, because the only thing that came to mind was

“Because, honey, your mommy is a big fat quitter, and someday, you’ll grow up to be one too!”

Instead, I smiled brightly, popped in the accompanying dvd




And sat on the couch to watch it.


What?

For the money I spent on the damn thing
I should be getting tone just having it in the room with me.








*Handsome, isn't it? Notice the plastic is still partially hanging off of the bottom. This baby has been in this locked position for over two months.*

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pickle Soup

Today is my mom’s birthday.

I am going to be respectful, and not tell you her age.

She prefers it that way.

Today our family is celebrating someone pivotal in all of our lives.

Someone who has shaped this family into the dysfunctional mess that we are today.

But I digress.

I am roughly the same age now that she was, when along with my father, my eight- month old sister and me (adorable at four) my mom fled communist Poland for a chance at a better life for her family. While waiting for our visas, we were sheltered in a house with several other families, each occupying only one room. I made some lasting friendships there (Ohmommy for one) and my mom did her best to keep us afloat and protected. I find myself questioning my own courage when I think of her; would I have left everything I have ever known in order to begin anew, in hopes of a more secure and safe future for my kids? (If I had to stand in five hour long lines for a stick of butter and a stale loaf of bread too, then yep, I would probably entertain the idea of leaving). She dove headfirst into the unknown and carried burdens that only mothers could understand.

I remember when we were finally given the green light and were on our way to live with a sponsor family in Houston, Texas; my mom was sitting next to me and the stewardess came over, mouthful of braces, to ask if we needed anything. You see, in Poland, at that time, there were no braces. My mom’s reaction was swift and natural; she pulled me back and cowered in her seat, muttering under her breath, which decades later I can only loosely translate as “where the @#% are we going and get me off of this crazy train.”

She had an engineering degree back home, and cleaned houses for engineers in America. She would do anything to makes sure we had food on the table and clothes on our backs. She spoke only broken English but would use what few words she had to network and make friends in all the right places. She began to move us up in the world.

She assimilated where she could and refused to culturally give in when she felt it wasn’t right. She became an unofficial Polish Ambassador to anyone who would listen to stories about her beloved country. She woke up everyday missing those lush green fields and broken sidewalks but she never let us see her pain. She went to work, studied English and tried to make peace with frozen t.v dinners (the latter has yet to happen). She was a wife, a mother and an immigrant and when neighbors came by to visit, she offered them pickle soup with her head held high. Everyone loves pickle soup, right?

She overdressed for everything. That’s how we roll in Eastern Europe. You do not go out in yoga pants. Not even to get your mail. She wore scarves and heels to borrow a cup of sugar next door. Full makeup, bouncy hair, the works. She was allergic to anything that was improper, like women out in public with curlers in their hair. It was an offense equivalent to theft or murder. It still is. We wore our Sunday best to the grocery stores and the parks, and when my dad took her out to the movies for the first time, she wore a dress fit for an opera. She came back that night, her face pale and voice shaky: “They wore jeans with holes and ate popcorn!” “At the cinema!” That naïve streak was both a blessing and a burden for my mom. And for our family. She would make social faux pas but was quickly forgiven because she was such a cute and lovable immigrant. She was adopted by coworkers and friends and they tried in vain to teach her the ways of the American Citizen. They fed her fast food, taught her four-letter words and welcomed her into their world. But she would come home every afternoon and cook three course meals for her family, avoiding the McDonald’s down the street like the plague because she refused to feed us anything under a heating lamp.

She embarrassed us to no end in front of friends and classmates. She talked too loudly, with a heavy accent, mispronouncing common words; the glazed stare of our peers made us cringe. My friends always thought she was yelling at us when she spoke, even though it was only about half the time. My sister and I prayed that she would be cooler, less herself. (God, kids are cruel). In high school, she would pull up in her blue diesel Volvo, leopard print pants, lips painted some shade of coral, and she would yell out my name in Polish: “Asia!!” (pronounced Ashya), honking her horn and blocking traffic. Lord only knows how I made the cheer squad that year. She paged my friends when I missed curfew and developed a reputation for being just a tad bit overbearing She didn’t succumb to my selfish wails for more money, less chores, fewer rules. Thinking back to what a wonderful and easygoing teenager I was, I would have shipped myself off to boot camp in a second, but she held on and kept grounding me, trying to mold me into a decent human being. She knew I was going to be a teacher years before I realized money shouldn’t define a career choice, and she yelled at me to write a book already (hold your breath Mama, it’s gonna happen someday).

Today she is more than just a mom. She is a friend and a confidant, someone I can cry with, someone who still drives me to the brink of insanity, someone who pulls my sons’ pants up way too high. She freezes Superman’s favorite dessert so that he can have it anytime he wants, and weeps when she sees Monchichi reach a new milestone. She still mispronounces “vegetable” and “available” and gets pissed when I don’t listen to her “suggestions.” She "reminds" me to suck in my tummy when we take pictures and thinks I waste too much money. She returns Christmas gifts for more “practical” items and leaves the cheese out on the counter for too long. But she would give you the clothes off her back and risk her own health and safety for her grandsons. She is everything a mother should be and so much more. She is controlling, loving, sensitive and predictable.

And I love her dammit.

Sto Lat Mamusiu.


Kocham Cie.