October 28, 2009

Don't Eat the Pork

It's flu season.

Scratch that. It's swine flu season. And we got hit.

For those who've been living in a dungeon for the past six or seven months, swine flu is a virulent, highly contagious virus that has laid low entire countries and closed schools across the U.S. Or it did, back in early summer, when people were truly terrified of it. Now, everyone has it, so it's only mildly terrifying and the kids all get to go to school.

It hit my kids last week. Well, my diva and my redhead, anyway. My Aspie apparently has the constitution of a horse and has escaped the scary germs unscathed.

My diva was worst off. She had fevers of 103.5 for three straight days before they dropped. She was sick and out of school for a full week. The little guy got tamiflu from the first sign of fever, barely broke 100, and was better in four days. I love tamiflu.

This is a yucky bug, though. Exhausting. And both formerly sick kids are now totally fried. Crying at the end of the day kind of fried. Crawling into bed with their mom every night kind of fried.

And both little petri dishes decided to pass it along. Or pass something along, anyway. Not sure it's the flu, but both my new au pair and I have been sick, sick, sick. Chills, coughs, the weak and wobblies. Not fun.

What lesson can you take from this?

Don't eat the pork. It's swine flu, right? It must come from pork. Bacon. Sausage. Ham. It's like mad cow disease. Only for pigs.

What's scary is that some people believe that. Not me, though. I've got half a brain and some lovely pork chops in the fridge.

Dinner, anyone?

October 17, 2009

Inner Grossness

Eleven years ago today, I became a mom.

My lovable, sports-obsessed Aspie arrived on Day One of the 1998 World Series, just in time to catch the opening pitch of what would become a Yankees sweep of the San Diego Padres. Smart kid. His dad has him convinced he's a Reds fan, but I know the truth. My boy was born under the pinstripes, and someday he'll remember that.

Being a mom, though, it's not something that happens in an instant. Seems like it should. You push and you push, you bring that little human into the world, and you hold it, warm and squirmy, in your arms. And that's it. Snap. You're a mom.

That is so not how it works.

When my oldest was born, it was this magic thing. He was covered in goop and a little blood, with perfect, slimy little hands and a bright red face with an angry V of blood vessels embossed on his forehead. His wail was tiny and furious and it made me laugh and melt into a puddle all at once. I loved him instantly, goop and all.

And still, I didn't feel like a mom.

I think most women don't get that, actually. You're caught up in the love and the joy and the utter physical exhaustion of childbirth, and you don't realize that there's something missing. But I did. I realized it when, 12 hours after my little fella was born, the doctors figured out that he was sick. They wheeled him off to the NICU in the wee hours of the morning. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to help him. I didn't know how to be his mom.

It's kind of like being a grown-up. That's not something that happens the moment you turn 18. Or 21. Or 30. It happens over time. And then, one day, you wake up and you realize you've done it. You've grown up.

Being a mom is like that.

My mommy epiphany happened when my guy was maybe 18 months old. We'd stopped at McDonald's for dinner and brought home a cheeseburger. Next to spaghetti, McDonald's cheeseburgers were his favorite food. He ate half of his burger and then, oddly, stopped. We kept handing him more. He closed his mouth tight and refused to eat another bite.

And then he started projectile vomiting all over the kitchen.

Poor kid. He was sick, screaming with fear, covered head-to-toe in smelly ick.

And what did I do?

I hugged him. I picked up his stinky, icky little vomiting self and held him close until he stopped throwing up and stopped crying and realized he'd be okay. I had vomit in my hair and all over my clothes. I smelled to high heaven. And I didn't even notice.

I was a mom.

You fight for your kids. And you love them. You love them straight through the bad days and the temper tantrums, the grossness and the ick.

My tiny, angry, beautiful baby is 11 years old today. He asked for a cell phone, a comic book store and "total world domination" for his birthday. (He got a big fat "no" on all three.) And he's embraced his inner grossness as only an 11-year-old boy can. By his request, we celebrated his special day with a radioactive nest of mutant spiders that I carved out of cake, covered in icing and "dirt" made from crushed cookies, then drizzled with pistachio pudding for the nuclear waste and dotted with spiders made from malted milk balls and little chocolate icing legs.

Clearly, I've embraced his grossness too.

But then, I'm his mom. That's what we do.

(Oh crap. I've gone and written another post about vomit. I promise, this is not a theme!)

October 4, 2009

Lots and Lots of Soccer

Today I spent eight and a half hours - yes, you read that right - playing, watching and thinking about soccer.

My little guy kicked us off (ha ha) at 8:30. He's a goofball on the field, but he takes the game very seriously. Which is only just a little odd in a four-year-old.

Then it was my diva's turn. Last year, she was a cheerleader and very, very girly. But in her recent I-want-to-be-a-tomboy phase, it suited her to try soccer instead. She's jumped in with both feet (ha ha ... yes, folks, it's Bad Pun Day here in the Elbow-verse).

We had a short break, some hot dogs for lunch, a quick turn on the Wii, then dashed off to my Aspie's game. He finished at 5:00. Nearly dinner time, and yet not one of my kids was hungry.

This is because, in the New Millennium, soccer is less about the sport than it is about the snacks.

I remember orange slices and big coolers of water when I was a kid. Not that I was an athlete. I figured this out when I'd go to the park looking for a quiet place to read. Instead, I'd find orange rinds in the grass. Not so fun to sit and read in the middle of a pile of orange rinds.

These days, no one is that healthy. Cookies, crackers and "juice drinks" in individually wrapped packages, that's what we give our kids. Lots of sugar and refined starches. Ick. Tasty ick, but ick nevertheless.

My Aspie loves the snacks. He begs the snack mom for handouts at his siblings' games. Bright orange crackers, powdered cheese, juice boxes - well, juice pouches - and all.

Which is how I discovered that he can't open his own juice. He snagged a juice pouch at his brother's game, then brought it to me and said, "Mom, I can't open this. I have a disability."

Um ... what?

I haven't talked to him much about "disabilities" and "special needs." He can see that he's different from other kids, and generally he knows how he's different. But it's the first time he's ever used the word "disability." At all. Ever.

So, with him perched on my lap to watch his sister's game, I started the conversation. Do you know what a disability is? No, but some kid in middle school (oh, yes, we love middle school) told him he had a disability because he has an aide. We talked about how a disability isn't a bad thing, it's just a different thing. I pointed out the ways he needs extra help in school - his medication to help him focus, his new Neo to help him write, his aide to help him calm down and stay organized. And we talked about the things he's great at - that he can spell practically any word he hears and do math in his head and read a 93-page book in about 6 seconds flat. And I told him that everyone has things they need help with and things they don't.

I also finally gave him some names. We talked about ADHD and what it stands for and what it means. I didn't yet give him the Asperger's. That will come, though, now that we've opened the door.

And then I taught him how to open his own damn juice.

Because he's right. His fine motor delays have made it hard for him to learn things like how to tie his shoes or stick a pointy straw into a little plastic pouch full of sugar. But I'll be damned if I let him use it as an excuse.

So, juice. And soccer. Lots and lots of soccer. One gorgeous, sunny day. Three exhausted kids. And thirty minutes of a really wonderful conversation that helped my son learn more about who he is.

Not that his disabilities define him. What I think he's learning is that, in fact, they don't.

P.S. - For those keeping track, the Sleep Plan is so far an utter failure. I'm sleeping less than ever. It has, however, sparked the greatest response in the brief history of my little blog, and soon I'll share the interesting ideas folks have sent me. In the meantime ... well, we're going to try and kick this sleep thing off again on Monday. Wish me luck!