Tuesday, August 4, 2009

moustache waxing and all that.

So Chris Rock had (still has? I never watched much, but I don't think it's on anymore) a show called "Everybody Hates Chris". It's apparently now in syndication, and YTV, one of the channels aimed at kids, has apparently decided that it will be entertaining for younger viewers and decided to air it. A similar decision to when they picked up "Malcolm in the Middle" a few years ago. I will not comment on the reasoning behind this decision. My kids are not the only members of the demographic this channel is aimed at. But they do watch it often enough that it annoys the crap out of me when they air things I find inappropriate.
*Shrug* but Teletoon plays "Futurama" and then "The Simpsons" are everywhere, not to mention "Family Guy" and other shows I have a hairy cow about when my 8yo and 5yo kids watch them.
Back to my original comment. YTV has commercials throughout the day advertising their new run of "Everybody Hates Chris". It's a fairly standard montage of people in his life telling Chris what to do... "Chris.." do this. "Chris.." do that. Then a lady (I think it's the mom?) comes up and hollers "Chris! Look after the kids! I need to get my moustache waxed!"
I think the whole format of the commercial appeals to my kids - they find it funny enough to repeat it incessantly, anyways. But I have now been asked no less than 5 times to explain the concept of moustache waxing to my kids. I still don't think they get it, but I am getting just a little bit creeped out at trying to find new ways to explain what that is, and why they do it, and I'm really, really tired of being asked about whether I do it, need to do it, or have ever done it. (For the record, I don't, I don't need to, and I haven't).
God help me if they ever notice the douching commercials. AAAAaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Things I am thankful for.

Just a few things recently got me to thinking: Even though I find many things to complain about, I am actually incredibly lucky in so many ways.

I am thankful for:

My husband.

Two beautiful, healthy boys.

Enough. Enough food, enough money, enough time, enough laughter.

A nice house.

A good job.

My family and friends.

The fish (at least some!) are still alive and growing! (We currently have 4. Lost two, but the others have now been in our tank for 6 weeks (2 angelfish) and 10 weeks (algae eater and yellow one with black spot by tail) respectively.)

Vehicles that run.

A camper we just bought last month. Have been camping 3 times already.

Summer weather. But also for air conditioning.

The things I have, but friends and acquaintances are struggling with. I care for them, and hurt for them, and sympathize with them, but it also makes me thankful that their burdens are not things that I must struggle with for myself at this time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The power of electricity

So I had a bit of excitement this weekend.

My children, they discovered the power of electricity.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

In short, while I was busy talking to my sister-in-law on the phone my boys were busy getting into mischief. The 8-year-old at some point handed the 5-year-old the brass fastener (see exhibit A) and watched him insert it into exhibit B. Causing exhbit C. There was no blood-curdling scream, no cry of pain. The lights didn't flicker. (Apparently, we are lucky it was brass. It melted through so quickly that it didn't even trip the breaker.)

They skittered past me and into the bathroom to attempt to nurse their own hurts before the oldest came to tell me "He stuck a pin in the outlet." My slow brain still took what in hindsight seemed forever to fully grasp the situation. I hung up the phone with a breezy, "Gotta go. We have an emergency," thinking I would kiss the boo-boo and give a disciplinary talking to.

Instead, I witnessed the youngest's finger and just as I was realizing this was not just a slight blister, the older one said "It's still in the outlet."
"Show me!" I demanded, and grabbed a potholder on the way past. It practically fell out of the socket when I nudged it with said potholder - there wasn't even smoke, but I had a nervous few moments picturing a still-sparking, smoldering, or perhaps flaming sight.
By then, the youngest one is beginning to feel the pain of his electrical burn, and I began to wonder if it would be safe to try and treat it myself, as it was more than just a small blister. The fastener had actually burned a groove down through the end of his finger. I think it was at least 1/8 of an inch deep. So we trooped off to emergency to have him looked at, and they had some burn cream that numbs it and a sterile dressing to put on it. Which stayed on almost until bedtime, and then I put bandaids on it while he slept, and when he woke up and the bandaids came off almost immediately I put more bandaids on, and when those came off, my paranoia had mostly worn off so I said to hell with it and left it uncovered.
Oldest boy got a few tiny blisters trying to remove the fastener from the outlet while it was still hot, but I let him suffer, despite his theatrics - it's callous and cruel, I know they hurt, but they really weren't much compared to the trench in the other one's finger.
I just hope to God they both have learned their lesson. Dammit I thought they were old enough to know better!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Parenting is never easy......

And I may not know for years if I am making the right decision, or the wrong decision.

My oldest son has always been an energetic, enthusiastic, imaginative child. When he began having difficulties in school, I assumed it was "Boys will be boys". Or it was a phase - maybe he would grow out of it? As the difficulties continued, it became more apparent that he continued to struggle, where most of the others had no difficulties. I worked with his teacher on behavioural strategies. We tried rewards, and we tried punishments, but it became more obvious that there was a problem.
We were resistant to the idea of drugs, even though no one pushed them. But as his problems continued, we began to wonder what might happen. We heard stories from parents who had tried them and did not like the results, but we also heard stories of parents who appreciated what it had done, and even more thought-provoking, the parents who did not use them, but wondered if they should have. Even one mother who raised her son without them to be a successful adult, who went on to college, and then he decided for himself that he needed the drugs to help him succeed in college.
I had one mother compare it to putting glasses on a near-sighted kid. And while we still felt that we are in control, I began to wonder if refusing drugs was doing my son a disservice. If maybe they might help him, make it easier for him, make him more confident and let him show the world the brilliance I know he has. When I broached the subject with him, to try and gauge his reaction, he was almost pathetically eager to try it. He wants so badly to succeed.
So tomorrow I am taking him to speak to a doctor, to find out if we can do a trial, and see if there may be a drug that will let him focus, and concentrate, and understand better in school. He is eager, and I am praying that I am doing the right thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I really love those twerps.

My two sons, that is.

Even when they seem to spend nearly the entire weekend fighting (aside from the time they spent making weird noises and giggling hysterically) and even when I am in the middle of PMS so bad that when my cat snuggles past my legs or jumps to my lap to be petted I want to pitch it against the wall (so you can guess how well the juvenile hijinx went over with me).

Still, they are both adorable, and loveable and sweet.

Putting my youngest to bed tonight, he demanded a "monkey hug" where he wraps arms and legs around me and hangs, a feeling that cannot be surpassed. Putting my oldest to bed, he became alarmed at a bruise I have on my arm from a blood test - looks nasty, but never did hurt. I explained where it came from, and why it's nothing to worry about, but he is pretty squeamish about things like that, and I could tell it was bothering him. So I tried to turn his attention to something more cheerful -- I didn't want him to have disturbing dreams. The twerp refused to be diverted, turning my best ideas into humdrum and annoyance. Then I simply told him to think of something fun, and make sure he had good dreams. His face was instantly transformed with a smile that still makes me mushy to think of it.

Then I made the mistake of asking what he was going to dream of. "I want to lead a bunch of soldiers and be a hero in Age of Empires'," (a nintendo DS game he borrowed from his dad). Okay, so it's not puppies and kittens. It's still worth it to see that smile.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Mom, What did you do with our tower?"

A question from my 5-year-old son.

"What tower?"

"The one we were making with the dishes in the sink."

Oh, that one. "I washed them. We need clean dishes to eat off of."

I am not the neatest person in the world, and I know this. I flatter myself that less than 24 hours of frantic effort can actually make my house presentable for guests. I actually have a bit of a hang-up over how much of a neat-freak I'm not.

But I actually do wash the dishes on a fairly regular basis. Even when it destroys the latest creation of a budding architect.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My son, my hopes, my fears, my dreams

I just read the coolest post ever by Mr. Lady, in a blog I recently started following. I aspire to be a mom like that.

I identified with it so much, as my oldest son is in third grade, and started off struggling.
He has struggled on-and-off since the beginning of school. Like any parent, I had high hopes for my son, and found it difficult to believe at first that he could be having any difficulty.

I don't know how much my own background helps or harms my child, either. I excelled at school. I was valedictorian of my graduating class, was always in the top 5 even in grade school (and I flatter myself that I was almost always at THE TOP of even those few). I think it may even extend back to kindergarten, but I do vividly recall shocking my 1st grade teacher with my ability to multiply - she set me at the blackboard and had me do harder and harder calculations to keep me busy, because I finished all of the classroom assignments in minutes - and the only reason I couldn't do division problems for her was that I couldn't remember what the division sign was supposed to look like.
But I was also an extreme social misfit during my school years. I was an extreme outsider, mercilessly tormented, and had very, very few friends, or even friendly acquaintances.

So I don't know if I hoped for a child like me or not. I think I hoped that he would have some of my intelligence, but also hoped that he would have way more social skills than I did. I don't know how much of either of my wishes came true.

It quickly became apparent that he did not inherit all of my academic prowess. He was not a lightning calculator in grade one. He still struggled with basic addition even through grade two. And although he did not appear to be the social outcast that I was, even at that age, my heart broke every time I heard "Nobody likes me!" or "So-and-so is picking on me!" (And I struggled to filter it through my own skewed vision, and check for normal childhood hyperbole). He struggled to stay on task in class, and I got frequent notes about problem behavior and failure to complete assignments. We did homework (what seems like an extreme amount of homework! I don't remember bringing any homework home until grade three, and even then it wasn't daily assignments, just a report or a long-term assignment that we had weeks to work on before it was due!). I even tried adding a bit of extra homework, to help him keep up when he seemed to be falling behind.
We worried about ADHD, and the possibility of him being labelled. And about the dangers of NOT getting him treatment if he really needed it, vs. the dangers of being FORCED to treat him if he didn't really need it.
Luckily, the teacher he has this year is AWESOME. She is so patient with him, and I love that she is always positive and happy about teaching him, and dealing with his problems. Last year, we had a teacher who was willing to work on his problems, but I got the sense that she would do it grimly, out of a sense of obligation. This year, his teacher seems ready to deal with him happily, out of a love of teaching. I tell you, she is a GEM.
When we began to discuss problems with his behavior and attention span, my complaint was that I was dealing with it when it was brought to my attention. When I got notes, it was because it was a particularly bad day, behavior wise, and we definitely let our son know that this was not what we wanted, and made sure not to reward him for it. But unless I got a note, I had to take my son's word for how the day had gone, and we were usually assuming the behavior was acceptable unless we were told otherwise. I asked for a simple smiley face (or frowny face) in his daily agenda so I could reward good behavior and work to correct the bad. When I suggested this in first grade, I was told that it was too much work, and there was no way the teacher could provide daily feedback. When I suggested it to his second grade teacher, she agreed to try it. I could see that it was a lot of work, because we never did quite get daily feedback. We got some indication about 80% of the time, but I worked with what I got.
Part of the reason I love his third-grade teacher is because she took the idea and ran with it. I get not only daily feedback, she gives me a class-by-class breakdown, 8 smileys a day, either happy, sad, or could-be-better faces. And it actually seems to be working - or at least something is. I am so proud of the improvement I have seen. The past few weeks have been almost completely smiley faces, and the improvement in his classwork and the grades we are seeing is wonderful.
With daily feedback, I could set up a reward system, and gradually increase the rewards, along with increased expectations. He just recently earned a game for his DS by getting a total of 56 smiley faces with no frowns, and it really did mean a lot to him that he earned it. It took him over a month, because could-be-better faces did not count at all, and frowny faces meant he lost any progress he had made and had to start over.
I'm still nervous that the bad days might return, but I feel very blessed that he got a teacher this great, and I've got my fingers crossed that he is really starting to discover the motivation and responsibility in himself to continue to grow into the man I always dreamed he will become.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Okay so the fish died.

I think it was probably only days after the last post that all of them croaked at the same time, but it's been a few weeks (I never promised to blog faithfully!) and I don't remember that well.

But all of them died, and we emptied out the fishbowl and left it for a couple of weeks, because we were going away for Easter weekend anyways. And no one would be there to feed them if we got new fish.

So after Easter, we did what any good parents would do (okay, I'm being sarcastic there) - we bought a giant new aquarium (10 gallons) ran it for a day, then went to buy tropical fish. (I think I said that I believe tropical fish are more delicate than the generic goldfish variety. So of course it makes sense to buy that kind, because we've had such good luck with the more durable variety.)

The guy at the pet store didn't want to sell us the fish. He said you should run the tank for a month before you put fish in it. Seriously, who does that? Buy a fishtank, set it up, and leave it empty for a month? He wouldn't even give us any advice on different fish to start with or anything.

So we refused to take no for an answer and bought the fish anyway. The good news is, it's been over a week now, and they still seem to be swimming. I'm not going to get my hopes up until they've been alive for at least a month.

Turns out, if you Google it, that there really is some truth in Petstore-guy's advice. What he didn't mention was the fact that there is a little more to it than just having the aquarium set up for a month. I mean, it doesn't logically make any sense that water that has been sitting for 30 days is any safer for fish than water that has been sitting for over 24 hours. But according to Google, there is this solution you can buy that can help get the bacteria cycle established if you are adding some periodically and monitoring the water conditions - which pet guy never mentioned. Turns out this process ususally takes about a month - odd coincidence!

You need to get the bacteria cycle established and stabilized to deal effectively with the waste the fish create and what happens to any food they don't eat. Otherwise, the wastes and leftover food break down into ammonia, which is bad for fish. But if you don't have the special solution, the other way to 'cycle' the aquarium is to add fish slowly and start with the less delicate kinds - which is also something pet guy didn't help us with. I'm hoping we kind of did it by accident, because we only got 4 fish for an aquarium that will hold 8-12. And I'm checking the ammonia levels often. And the other night I did a crapload of water changes because the ammonia levels seemed to be rising. And the fish are still alive, so that's good - maybe we accidentally got strong and sturdy ones.

Fingers crossed that these fish survive. We went in with good intentions, and at the very least we will learn something from the experience. But I'm hoping the fish survive too.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The fish are still alive.

Well, 2 of them at least. We started just over two weeks ago with a new fishbowl, and 3 fish. My boys wanted tropical fish, but I redirected them to more common goldfish-type varieties. It was a very cheap fishbowl with no airfilter and no heater, and the labels on the tropical fish said they prefer a water temperature over 26 degrees C. As we do not normally keep our home that warm in the winter, I was concerned about my ability to keep the water a comfortable temperature, so we bought some fantails. They all died in less than a week.

The following Sunday (a week ago today) we tried again. So far, so good. Of 3 more that we bought, 2 of them are still alive. This is my small victory for the day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My husband just went to the garage to smoke.

Not a big deal, right?

He's smoked more on than off for nearly 13 years of marriage, and it was not, then such a big deal. Before we got married, I even promised him that it would not be an issue for me, that it would have to be his decision to quit, not mine.

Unfortunately, nearly 13 years have passed, and many things have changed. It kills me that a promise I made whole-heartedly and with every intention of keeping now lies broken. It kills me even more how little it seems to matter to him when it very much matters to me at this point.

My own father, who successfully smoked like a chimney for over 40 years, including the years of my childhood, fought and temporarily defeated lung cancer before my husband and I ever met. He lost one lung, and a good portion of the second, but survived, and was for many years healthier afterward. I did remind my husband of this at the time I made my ill-advised promise, and begged him to remember, and not attempt to put me through such anguish as my mother went through at that time. Then I left him alone, to fight his own demons with nicotine addiction, confident in the rosy glow of early love that everything would be right in the end.

So many things have changed since then.

My father died last year, Father's day 2008, he lost his battle with the lung cancer that had returned. It happened very quickly from my point of view. Although we now suspect that Dad knew it was coming for over a year, I had less than a month from the first "Dad's sick, in the hospital" (and no one said anything about cancer at that time) until the day he drew his last gasping breath. In many ways, it was quick, but still, in some ways it was excruciatingly slow. I spent the last 2 days gathered with my family at his bedside, although I missed the very end by just a few hours. I saw the pain he was in. I saw the creepingly slow withdrawal from life. I saw him trying to speed the process the only way he could, by refusing an real sustenance, any food or drink that might give his treacherous body fuel to prolong the dying process. I will forever be haunted by his last, almost-mindless cries of "Help me!" We could not help, we did not know what kind of help he most craved. I watched my mother as this process both tortured and terrified her. Could my husband believe this is something I wish for myself? What a macabre gift for him to give to me.

Also among the things that have changed in 13 years, the birth of two sons, who I fear will learn this filthy habit from the example of their father, or be sickened by incidental exposure. He stopped smoking after our first son was born. I was so proud of him for that! He was smoke-free for probably 6 months, although I am not certain exactly when he started again. He began making frequent trips to our unfinished basement. At first, I did not question it, did not notice the smoke-smell hanging around there. It began to seem strange, though, that he would spend so much time down there, when there was nothing to do down there. I confronted him, and he admitted that he had been sneaking away to smoke. My response was that if he had to smoke - and apparently he did, or he would not be sneaking down there - I would rather he do it around me than away from me. I told him the sneaking around and lying about it bothered me more than the smoking did. This was completely true at the time. I had grown up around a smoker, he had smoked around me all the time previously in our marriage. The smoking, although not wonderful, was not an irritant to me, but the fact that he lied to me, the fact that he would sneak around behind my back, was a significant wound. I wonder now, though, whether things would be different now if my response had been different then.

He did not even try to quit when our second son was born.

My husband had a heart attack, nearly a year and a half ago now. It was in the middle of a family vacation trip, we were 1 1/2 hours from home when the heart attack struck, and I sat in a strange hospital waiting room with my sons for over an hour convincing myself that they were just being thorough, and we would go on our way and be told it was only a bad case of heartburn. Then they came to tell me that it really had been a heart attack, and my own heart tore itself to bits with fear and hurt and love and terror as I faced the fact that I might lose him. I drove another 2 1/2 hours to get to the big-city hospital where they took him for critical care, and he recovered, slowly, and then came home.
In the end, we were incredibly lucky because the cardiac specialist told him on follow-up that there did not appear to be any permanent damage to the heart, and although one vessel had been completely blocked it was successfully re-opened, and the other vessels, all 40-90% blocked, would be okay with diet, and exercise and lifestyle changes. Then he told my husband that he would live a long and healthy life, if he no longer smoked. If he started smoking again, it was a certainty that he would have another heart attack and he would die.
My husband did extremely well with not smoking. He told me he had to try one smoke when they released him from the hospital, but he couldn't handle it. He stayed smoke-free for the entire period of his recovery, time off work with fractional disability pay. He went back to work, and as nearly as I can tell he started smoking again almost immediately. We discussed why this was bad, for him, for me, for our relationship, for his health and our future. He went back to the doctor, and got a prescription for Champix. It worked well for him. He smoked for the first two weeks he was taking it, and then quit. He was successful for the remainder of the prescription. I don't remember if it was four more weeks or four more months, but he said that the drug took away the reward he was getting from the cigarettes, so it just was not worth it to smoke. We paid for the prescription gladly (his drug plan sucked at the time. They would reimburse 80% of the cost of prescriptions, but we had to pay for them up front first) because it meant he was healthier, was getting better. I was very proud of him for not smoking, I know it was difficult not to. But he went back again. I don't know why he couldn't stay away.

He has changed jobs, they now have an excellent drug plan, 100% coverage on prescriptions after a $500 deductible. We go past the deductible almost immediately anyways, for my diabetes prescriptions, and the drugs he still takes since the heart attack. He went back on Champix to appease me, but has smoked for months despite taking it. It makes me angry, even though it is not us paying for the drug. Why bother if you are not even trying? It is like washing the resource down the drain, and I am fairly certain he has completely subverted any benefit it may ever give him again.

It has been making me angry a lot lately. And maybe I am being stupid to let it bother me, but it does. Please tell me if you think I am being unreasonable. I have asked and asked him to stop, for himself, for me, for our children. The thoughts of what it is doing to him, what the final consequences could be are like a horrible festering infection in my brain. These are things I never want to think about, but I cannot stop thinking about. It is like the rough tooth that your tongue will not stop playing with, even though it has been shredded into painful sores.

He has been lying to me about it again. He smokes out in the garage, and when I ask him why he's going out there, he always tells me 'No, it's not to smoke'. He's always got an excuse. He hides it when I confront him. He's sheepish, and gives me ridiculous explanations, like it's some kind of stupid game. It is very much not funny to me, but I don't think he sees how much it bothers me.

Last week, I found cigarette ashes by the computer. Until that point, he had been smoking only in the garage. It may have been just an accident, an unthinking slip that he did not manage to clean it all up. It struck me like a slap in the face. I look at it as he is pushing me, little steps at a time, and I feel like I am backed very close to a wall right now. It doesn't seem like I have much of a choice. Do I fold like a wet towel and tell him "Do whatever you want. It's okay that you smoke. Smoke as much as you want, wherever you want. I don't care."? But I do care. I care a whole lot. I do not want to sit around and watch while he destroys himself. And I begin to fear that the only other choice is to leave before he destroys himself. Because I do not have the power to stop the destruction. He is the only one with that power, and he cannot or will not use it. And I am left to wonder which of these two horrible choices is less evil. Which will be less destructive for myself, and also for my children.

It seems very stupid and shallow to consider leaving my husband over the fact that he smokes. But it is another of those evil thought-leeches, firmly attached to my brain. I want to firmly expel these thoughts, banish them never to return, before they suck the remaining happiness completely from my life.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What am I doing here?

Why the hell did I start a blog in the first place?

I am not even sure. I have toyed with the idea for some time now, being prevented mostly by my own laziness. (If anyone is even reading this, be warned that I may grow tired and/or disinterested in posting future updates at any time.) The idea of diarizing my thoughts has an innate appeal. People have maintained diaries for hundreds of years, long before the internet even existed. But typing it on the internet has an added appeal of ease of use (this is at least true in my own head) and ease of storage. And while the idea of others reading my intimate thoughts is frightening, it is also strangely attractive. Perhaps I am a repressed exhibitionist? And somehow the idea of strangers I will never meet knowing these thoughts is much less frightening than the idea of sharing them and being judged by the people I do know. Which probably says more about my self esteem than anything about the people I know.

And right now, I am feeling an urge to write these thoughts down in an effort to get them OUT OF MY HEAD. I do not know if the writing will actually expell them, or only lodge them more firmly where they are already stuck. But at this point I have to try something in the interest of my own mental health.

So here I am.