Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Night and Day

I had my first parent-teacher conference with Grace's teacher. Unfortunately, I had to bring Emmy.

 The conference starts with what they call a "student-led conference," which was actually a binder-led conference, where I read the directions and looked in Grace's notebook for her. She's a smart kid, but initiative is not her strong suit. I would ask her the questions I was supposed to ask her, and she would stare at me blankly. 

"Grace, what leadership duties do you have in class?" 

*blink* *blink* 

"Is there something you're supposed to lead?" 


"Do you have a job in the classroom?"

"Ooooh! Yes. I put the pencils away"

She gets this from her father. 

He has Rainman-level abilities to store and retrieve information, but if I do not phrase something in exactly the correct way, he cannot understand me. It has been the root of many an argument in this household. It's gotten better. I have learned that this is the way he functions; he has learned to at least *try* to hear what I was thinking, and not what I actually said. It's been a slow process. 

Did you ever play the old King's Quest games, or any like them? You know, where you're locked in a dungeon and you have to come up with exactly the correct words and sequence of actions to pick the stupid key out of the pile of straw and unlock the door? If you type "lock" instead of "keyhole," too bad! The guard has noticed you trying to escape and now you are dead. This is what it is like to live with Jeremy and Grace. Minus the executions.

While this is happening, Emmy is doing the potty dance. We live one minute away. In the hour before we leave, she knows we are leaving soon and has free access to our fine bathroom. But of course, the moment we get into the school, there is a bladder emergency. How could we possibly have foreseen this? Ms. M, Grace's teacher, recognizes the situation and offers to take her to the bathroom for me. 

Grace and I continue through her binder. Grace meets all her goals. Grace is performing well. Grace burps rainbows. Ms. M comes back with Emmy, looking a bit incredulous. "She was singing the whole time!"

"Yes, it's probably part of a musical from her native planet."

"I thought she was taking a while, so I went in, and there she was, singing away with the water running!"

I imagine there was a complete story structure to go with it, along with some dance moves. This kind of thing no longer surprises me.

We sit down, and immediately Emmy begins to mess with everything. I tell her to sit still, and she gets her legs tangled in the table and chair.

"Grace sits well in class." "Grace listens."

Emmy falls on the floor. I send her to retrieve my keys and our jackets that we left at the other table.

"Grace is polite and compliant." "Grace loves to read."

Emmy spells everything G-Q-U-R-C-X.

"Grace understands easily, but she cries a lot when frustrated."

Emmy is tangled in the chair again.

Everything with Grace is going pretty well. We commiserate over the problem of her looking and sounding so much older than she is, yet still having the emotions of a kindergartner. Emmy begins to writhe in agony from sitting still(ish) for three minutes.

We get up to go, and I say thank you. I pat Emmy on her bobbing head. "You might have this one next year!" I say, and walk off. What a lucky woman Ms. M. is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Remember how I don't sleep, and Ambien changed my life? The Ambien stopped working slowly over the last year. Around the same time, my anxiety went from constant but barely there to constant but much stronger, though not what I would call severe. 
No reason. Life is good, on all different kinds of levels. All of the major stressors that contribute to anxiety have either diminished in the last year or vanished completely. For instance, our house sold, and our kids are getting more likable and less needy. I can say with some confidence that this is probably the best part of my life that I can ever remember. But I am cranky, always on edge. The people I love most bear the brunt of it, of course. That's how these things go. So I don't sleep at night, and I'm always lashing out or keeping myself from lashing out, and there is no reason for it. 

I have never been much of a worrier. I have a constant sense of dread hanging over me, but it's not about anything specific. It's like the tense background music in a horror movie. That is the soundtrack of my brain. I don't lie awake at night worrying about things that actually worry me. It's weird things that keep me awake at night. Sometimes I become convinced that the kids are up and walking around. I often feel a child climbing into bed when there's no one there. I woke up one night and gaped at the wall for a long time because it was rippling like the surface of a lake. 

When worry does keep me awake, it's over stuff that doesn't bother the real me. Like, I will never finish this book before it's due at the library. Or, Grace didn't get a birthday party this year. When will she start killing small animals? Or even, Jeremy has a secret girlfriend. They're not latent worries that surface only at night (then I would lie awake worrying about that stupid thing I said yesterday, and now my best friend will hate me). They are lies my brain cooks up because it hates me and wants me to become crazy. I often imagine it as Krang.

I hate it when people tell me not to worry when I say that I'm a bit anxious. Worry is just one possible symptom. My biggest symptom used to be avoidance or procrastination. If I pretend a responsibility is not there, it doesn't exist. It was easy when we had no kids, and I could get away with writing papers the week or night before they were due. It's harder now to flee responsibility, make up for it in a furious burst of sleep deprivation and coffee, and then go about my regular day again. 

No, now I have to be kind to two souls who believe their wants and needs always trump mine. In college, I got far less sleep, but the bar for functioning was far lower. I could nap between classes, and the only people I had to interact with were my professors. They did not follow me home. I did not have to tenderly clean their faces minutes after they had thrown food on my clean floor. They were not necessarily less irritating or more empathetic, but they could give me Fs. My kids can't give me Fs. Well, they can, but they would be scrawled in Post-Its in three-inch letters and usually backwards, thereby lacking a certain gravity.

Avoidance worked for a long time, and then I had a tiny, helpless person, and that wasn't going to work anymore. I kind of got used to that after being a mom for a few years, but the insomnia got worse. Then the urge to snap at everyone started putting a damper on my hopes and dreams of my kids not becoming serial killers. So Ambien! Ambien to the rescue! I became a new person after a couple weeks of good sleep. Then in the last year it slowly stopped working, and I was back to square one.

I talked to my doctor. She went through all the standard questions with me (Do you exercise? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you have friends? Are you a worthless layabout looking for an easy solution when really your lifestyle is horrible, and you make bad chocies?) and suggested buspirone. I have never heard of it before. She said it was not a heavy hitter, but that people who do respond to it respond well. 

I came home from the pharmacy, took my first dose, and proceeded to be nice to my kids for the rest of the day. I looked it up and read that it's supposed to take 4-6 weeks to begin working. I was sure it was just a placebo effect, but then I continued to not be angry in stupid situations where only a jerk (like me) would be angry. There were also other things I didn't expect, like the ability to remember. My memory hasn't been this sharp since before I had kids. I can memorize piano music again, and I haven't lost my keys even once in the last month and a half. I am able to focus instead of slogging my way through a haze of distraction.

I slept well for a couple of weeks, but I'm not again. Not all the time. However, on days after I haven't slept well, I'm just tired. I don't want to hiss and growl at every little thing. I still enjoy life even when I'm tired. 

Also, part of the reason I don't sleep well is that our mattress is made of horrible, and Jeremy twitches around like a 190-pound rodent. I wonder if there's a drug for that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I love cars

Sometimes I wish we lived back in a time and place when it was uncommon for people to go anywhere except on foot. I mean, dysentery and not being able vote are both less than ideal, but imagine if shopping were situated close enough for walking. No car? No problem! If you've never had gangrene and an amputation.

With the money we have spent fixing our cars in the last six months, we probably could have bought a whole new vehicle (but an old enough vehicle that it would need repairs of its own soon). It's hot enough here lately that our car can't keep up cooling the engine. I ride around with the windows down and the heat on. To complete the picture: we are also missing three hub caps. It's my childhood on repeat. To be fair to me, we have cars with windows that actually roll down, and I don't have to keep a fire extinguisher on the passenger seat to put out the engine when it starts on fire (yes, that is a real thing that happened, and when I was 5 I thought it was TOTALLY NORMAL).

And the alternator on our van just broke. It's like the lottery of awesome. If you are our local mechanic.

On a positive note, we just paid off the last of one of our student loans that was costing us $100/month.

On the other hand, if we hadn't paid that off, fixing both cars would not be a problem at all.

On the other hand, yay for less debt.

If one of my children ever wants to go to college for 8 years, she had better become something where earning lots of money is involved.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bees will buzz! Kids will blow dandelion fuzz!

I love it when I save something as a draft, and it disappears. I have started at least five entries over the last couple of months, decided to come back to them later, and then realized that I just previewed it instead of saving as a draft. I'm smarter than I look.

What has been happening here? Summer! Summertime! That has been happening. You can tell I'm happy because my house isn't as clean as my anxiety usually forces me to keep it. Sorry about the doll tied up in the corner. It's not what it looks like. I don't know what it actually is, but Emmy was cooing lovingly at it yesterday, so I assume it's nothing sinister.

Summer turns me into Olaf, with the singing and everything. The hotter it gets, the happier I am. I like to walk outside and feel like I'm getting smothered in the face by a pillow made of fusion reaction. I like to play in the pool and not freeze to death when I get out. I like for all the grass to die so I don't have to mow it. I love summer. I literally twirled in the parking lot the other day because it was freezing inside church, and when I walked out, all of my molecules came to life with glee. I had to twirl. It was imperative.

But yes, about the cleaning. I mean, we don't live in squalor. But I couldn't care less if the table is messy, unless we're actually eating dinner. And I don't mind pulling clean clothes out of the dryer for a few days instead of my dresser. And if it's not going to infect anyone, who needs to mop the floor constantly?

The only drawback is that the second we have a cloudy day, I'm back to neurotically scrubbing everything. I guess it gives me something to do when twirling isn't an option.

Speaking of which, I'm back to being interested in working out. Most of the winter, it's just a thing that I do that I don't particularly love, but you do it because that's how I stay mentally healthy. I have good weeks and bad, but a lot of it is just doing what I'm supposed to do. I floss so my gums don't wither. I brush so my teeth don't fall out of my head. I work out so I don't hate myself and you and everything.

But now I'm back at it with zeal, and I feel great, and I'm looking for new fun things to do.

This brings me to my next point:

I blame Pinterest. When I first joined Pinterest, I grabbed a couple of these workouts for myself because they looked like something I could easily do at home with an odd minute here and there. And then they multiplied and infested Pinterest like a colony of smug, muscular rabbits.

I do a lot of these things in my various workouts, and my belly is neither flat nor capable of killing things. It does a lot for me. It digests food. It supports me when I sit or stand. It connects my legs to my heart, which I'm pretty happy about. But if I think it will ever look like these pictures, I am just setting myself up for extreme disappointment.

So I stopped pinning them. Maybe I will start making my own text-superimposed-on-belly workout ideas. Perhaps with a taco in one hand and a beer in the other.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let It Go

Okay, so "Let It Go" was not my favorite song in Frozen. For one thing, it sounds like it's written about a step and a half too high for Menzel; she has a fabulously powerful voice, but the vocal strain on the higher notes makes me wince. But for another, it doesn't seem to be about what everyone thinks it's about. THIS IS NOT A HAPPY SONG, folks. This is something that has been driving me crazy.
Elsa's character has lived in stifling isolation for years and years, fearful of her magic and what might happen if she made one wrong move. So, in that sense, it's a step toward happiness; she's no longer living under that immense pressure. But she's not there yet.
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight/ Not a footprint to be seen/ A kingdom of isolation,/ And it looks like I’m the queen.
That sounds more like bitter resignation to me. "I can only be queen if I'm cut off from society."
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside/ Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see/ Be the good girl you always have to be/ Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know/ Well, now they know
This is a good(ish) step. We know that fear of her gift is what makes it so wildly uncontrollable. So she's given up hiding it, but only by running off to a mountain by herself instead of taking on her responsibilities as queen and by breaking the heart of her only remaining family member.
Let it go, let it go/ Can’t hold it back anymore/ Let it go, let it go/ Turn away and slam the door
This reminds me of nothing so much as a rebellious teen fleeing authoritarian parents. It might be good that she's escaped, but that doesn't mean her actions are commendable.
I don’t care/ What they’re going to say/ Let the storm rage on,/ The cold never bothered me anyway
It’s funny how some distance/ Makes everything seem small/ And the fears that once controlled me/ Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do/ To test the limits and break through/ No right, no wrong, no rules for me/ I’m free
This is not freedom. She's free only so long as she's alone. That sounds like another sort of prison to me. I do not believe this is accidental on the songwriters' parts. She's on a trajectory that can't be sustained. There's a reason this is in the middle of the story, not the end. If this were the happy ending, the place where she should end up, the movie would end here. But it's not. She clearly needs people, especially her sister. Without that, how long would it be before bitterness and eventually hatred set in? Perhaps even a desire for vengeance against the people who drove her away?
Let it go, let it go/ I am one with the wind and sky/ Let it go, let it go/ You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand/ And here I'll stay/ Let the storm rage on
My power flurries through the air into the ground/ My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around/ And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast/ I’m never going back,/ The past is in the past
This sounds like denial. She's reveling in her power and telling herself that all the other things--her beloved sister, her kingdom--don't matter. The rest of the movie proves that's not true.
Let it go, let it go/ And I'll rise like the break of dawn/ Let it go, let it go/ That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand/ In the light of day/ Let the storm rage on,/ The cold never bothered me anyway
More denial.
Elsa only becomes free when she turns back and reaches out to her sister in love instead of fear. This song is about false freedom. It's at the midway point for a reason. It's the height of a crisis. It's the beginning for Elsa, but it's certainly not the end.
No, my favorite song is "In Summer." Especially when Emmy traipses around the house singing, "A drink in my hand, my snow up against the burning sand/Prob'ly getting gorgeously tanned in summer." The mental imagery is hilarious.

Friday, April 25, 2014


You know how, when you meet a new person the first time, one of the first questions you ask is, "Are you on Facebook?" With people my age, I never ask it expecting anything other than, "Yeah! I'm on there under Bob Loblaw." So when I asked recently asked a new friend, and she said, "No," I said, "I'll friend you. Look for Naomi Wgermanicsounds." And then, "...Oh. You're not on Facebook? Okay." I am not even lying, I sat there for a few seconds trying to figure out how I would contact her. Like it's 1750, and she lives 500 miles away.

And then I remembered the telephone, and texting. But no. She does not have a cell phone. Just a phone phone. That you speak into. Without being able to see the other person's face, and who knows it could be a demon faced monster replicating my friend's voice. You never know. This is why I distrust the telephone. That and my terrible hearing and inability to understand anyone without the assistance of body language. You just told me something tragic, and I laughed out loud. Oops. Sorry about that. I totally thought your grandma's death was a joke. Let me laugh nervously while changing the subject to something even more awkward.

And then my second thought was, "How will she see how interesting I am?" (Because I TOTALLY am, here in suburban Salt Lake with my two kids and minivan) Some people keep Facebook for family updates, some keep it for deep thoughts (real or imagined), some people keep it to snoop on the old classmates who randomly friended them (I would know nothing about that last one at all), but mostly, I just like to entertain. I like to be known as a funny person.

(And here's a weird aside: It has come to my attention that women aren't supposed to be funny. Evidently, this has been a thing for a long time. It's not just that it's not typically a trait that men find attractive in women; it's that some people seem to think women are unable to be funny. I could buy that, if we were talking about specific types of humor--slapstick, wordplay, situation irony, plain old wittiness--, but I'm pretty sure we're all made to be funny to one varying degree or another, and at least half of the funniest people I know are women. Are they unfamiliar with Tina Fey or Amy Poehler or Allie Brosh? Or maybe they are familiar with these women, and have no sense of humor. Or they have gone all through their lives thinking "funny" actually meant "smelling of meat.")

(Another aside, if you type "funny" over and over again without finding a better word to use, it starts to look like a fake word.)

I used to be a super huge dork. I don't mean that in the fun, endearing way. I mean that in the way that everybody picked on me, and I responded by acting like an *angry monkey/know-it-all jerk. It didn't go great for me in elementary school. Then I went to a new middle school, and still got picked on, but I had learned that freaking out only made it worse, so I grew a sense of humor instead. I was still a super huge dork, but no longer a social outcast. Why? Because I could make at least a few people laugh (and saved the freaking out for my voodoo dolls). And ever since, it's pretty much my only social skill. I rely on it so heavily that I'm always compelled to make a joke out of everything. Yeah, I know it's annoying.

But all that to say, when I meet someone new, if she doesn't get to see how fun I am on Facebook, how will she ever want to be friends with me? There's a period of extreme discomfort between the time I meet someone new and the time I stop saying inappropriate things all the time.

So far, she seems to still like me. But I never know what I'm going to say on the telephone.

*minus the poo flinging

Monday, February 17, 2014


I made it through my early morning without anyone dying by my hand.

Another friend is moving away this summer. That's the hazard of living in Salt Lake. There are so many people who are here only for school, or for a temporary job, or for training, or they come here and realize they hate it (there are annoying things about Utah, but none of them annoy me as fiercely as they seem to annoy others). It's a city full of nomads. I'm bummed about it, but I guess life moves on. It's a great thing for her family, so mostly I'm happy.

On a completely different note, does anyone know how Ambien mixes with Mucinex? Because I have something happening in my face that feels like balloons made of knives, and tonight I just want to sleep instead of jolting awake every time an otherworldly child hovers in the air over my bed, or a flock of spiders rushes down the wall in a wave of horror. My brain is already like a terror circus at night, so I don't need to add drug interactions to the list of events. HOWEVER. My face. Knives. Decisions.

Things that I have seen/obsessed over at night (not dreamed, things I actually see when I'm at least mostly conscious):

- I'm stuck in Minecraft world.
- I have no teeth.
- My child is throwing up (she's really not).
- My child is standing at the end of my bed, whispering (she... usually isn't).
- A child I don't know is standing at the end of my bed, whispering.
- Spiders (in my bed, in my hair, dangling over my face, crawling on the wall).
- Jeremy sits up, snorts, rolls over as wildly as possible (oh wait that happens for real).
- My wall is rippling back and forth like it's a curtain.
- There's an ROUS on my dresser.

I know that reads like an example list of Ambien side effects, but this is me unmedicated, every night. With Ambien, this happens about once or twice a month. Unless I'm sick or getting sick. And then it's a wild ride. I felt like I was in American Horror Story last night, and I think tonight might be even more fun. Maybe I will dream about Mucinex monsters in my room. That might be a welcome change.