Archive for May, 2009

The Latina named La Teena

May 29, 2009

Because of a busy work schedule the last few weeks, I postponed several doctor visits and speech/language testing for Casey until this week.  This meant that Casey had an audiologist appointment, an ENT appointment, speech language testing, and an IEP meeting with the school district all this week.  He was also scheduled for another ear tube surgery, but the ENT allowed us to cancel it and wait until fall to see if he still needs it then.  It was a long week and was trying for the little guy.  The speech language testing itself required Casey to sit and focus and speak – for 2 hours!  These folks are professionals.  They noticed when Casey was getting bored and restless and changed games.  They tried to stay a step ahead and it helped a lot, but in retrospect, this was just too busy of a week for the little guy.

He’s had ear infections since he was a wee one.  He got tubes.  They fell out.  He got tubes again.  He was slow to develop speech.  His tubes fell out again.  Anytime he’s had fluid behind his ear, he’s had slightly impaired hearing and he can’t hear higher frequency sounds.  So this means that his speech, hasn’t developed clearly and frankly, I can’t understand but maybe 40% of what the child says.  When I do understand, he says things like, “Mommy, my train had a malfunction.  Me probably have to fix it.  The train.”  And I think to myself, this kid is brilliant, there’s no way he needs extra help.  But most the time he’s probably uttering equally complicated sentences, it just sounds like gibberish.  And he gets so frustrated when we can’t understand him.  Sometimes he takes me by the hand and shows me what he’s talking about.  He has such great coping skills.  The other day he was trying to tell me something about a “star” and I kept thinking he meant “car” or “jar” and he responded to me, (singing) “you know tintle tintle widdle tar.”  (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)

Hanging out this week at the appointments was actually enjoyable.  He is so fun to watch and you can actually see him think.  He can sit still, stay focused so much longer than Riley can now, much less at the age of 3.  And even as he gets bored with the games they have him play, he’s fun to watch adapt.  It wasn’t good enough at the audiologist to just put a chip in the can when he heard a sound.  After 10 minutes of this, he grabbed a puzzle and put a piece of the puzzle together every time he heard a sound.

So after we endured a long week of appointments related to communication, I gathered up all the documentation from the week to take in to Head Start.  We’re trying to get him in the same pre-school that helped his brother out so much with his ADHD and I needed to supplement his file with the new IEP and the new documentation.

I walked into the office and approached the woman at the front desk and our exchange went like this.

Me:  “I have some supplemental information for my son’s file.”

Her. “Who requested the information?”

Me. “Um.  I’m not sure of her name.  She’s the nurse.”

Her. “Ma’am.  We have a number of nurses.  Can you think of her name?”

Me. “No.  But she’s probably in her 40s.  She’s shorter than I am.  She’s Latina.”

Her. “LaTeena?”

Me.”No.  I mean, she’s Latina.”

She stared at me like I had 7 heads.

Me.  “The Latina Nurse.  You know, Latina.” (In desperation…)  “The Hispanic nurse in her 40s.”

Her.  “Oh no.  Her name isn’t La Teena.  It’s Laura.”

Me. – obvious that I was not going to successfully communicate with this woman.   “Um.  I’m sorry.  Yes.  That’s right.  Laura.”

Her. “I’ll go get her for you.”

The poor woman still had no idea what I was trying to say.  And we’re both full grown adults.  With decent hearing.  And no required speech and language therapy.

How frustrating it must be for Casey.

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When the shit hits the fan…and the vanity…and the floor

May 26, 2009

I really struggled with what to call this post, because the options were endless.  I thought of everything from “A Memorial Day to Remember.”  to “I had a shitty weekend.”

I had a work commitment on Saturday which required that I get up early and work until about 2 PM.  I rushed home after that and got Casey then headed to Moab where my family was convening for the long weekend and where Riley was already playing with cousins.  The 4 hour drive seemed endless as Casey slept and I struggled to keep alert and focused as I drove through sunshine – then pouring rain – then sunshine – then rain like I had never seen it come down before.  I’m talking flash flood rain, and I creeped along the interstate doing about 40 miles per hour.

I arrived in Moab just after a downpour as the sun peaked through and the most gorgeous, vibrant rainbow filled the entire sky.  I felt myself relax.  My work commitments were over, and I planned on having a fabulous weekend of tacos, tequila, and family.

As I pulled into my sister’s driveway, I had but two things on my mind…using the bathroom, and eating dinner.  I had called from town and said I was almost there.  She said Shrimp tacos were being served even as we spoke.  My mouth watered.

I entered the living room and started to beeline to the bathroom when I heard someone say, “I hear water running in the bathroom.”  I glanced into the bathroom to the most gruesome sight I had ever seen.

The toilet was a volcano.  More aptly put, a geyser, and it was forcefully exploding raw sewage.  A little more powerful (though about the same color) as the mud pots of Yellowstone, the sewage erupted with force from the toilet.

My first thought was relief that I hadn’t arrived a minute earlier.  I was sure that I would have been sitting atop ole’ faithful getting a shit-water enema.  Not exactly what I had in mind for my holiday weekend.  I was equally relieved that I hadn’t arrived five minutes earlier.  I would certainly have been blamed for “clogging” the pot – an accusation thrown my way since childhood.  My second thought was, “How am I supposed to go pee with this happening?”  It wasn’t until my third conscious thought that I realized the horror that was now pouring out of the bathroom and into the hallway and living room.  “What in the world is my sister going to do?”

She and her husband jumped into action.  She called the city.  It was Memorial Day Weekend.  She called the on-call number.  She finally got a hold of the on-call guy who had clearly been 5 beers into the game, but said he’d be right down.  Her husband got busy throwing down towels and blankets and rugs and anything he could, and my nephew and I picked up their new couch and carried it to the kitchen.  We picked up anything on the floor, saving most everything we could.  But the sewage kept coming as the toilets (we discovered the master bathroom was having the same problem simultaneously) exploded for a good twenty minutes.  My sister announced that we all had to vacate the premise due to the presence of methane gas.  (Umm.  Duh.)

That’s when my survival instincts kicked in.  I ran to the kitchen and grabbed myself a shrimp taco and proceeded to eat it while standing in ankle high sewage and inhaling the stinky air.  At this point, Riley’s survival instincts must have kicked in too.  He gathered up all the children and himself and climbed atop the trampoline, because “if the flood keeps coming, we’ll be safe here.”

The brown water (and I use that term loosely) was now about 4 inches deep in spots and rising.  It was clear that the 15 of us would not be able to spend the night there.  My dad and I gathered up the 7 children and took them to the park where incidentally I was finally able to use the facilities.  Though the facilities were port a potties, I had never been more thankful.  I called every – and I mean every – hotel, motel, hostel, condo rental, and campsite in 20 miles, only to find that Moab had no.  And I mean NO.  VACANCY.

At this point my dad said we all needed to pile into the cars and drive to Roosevelt, leaving Carrie and Miguel to sort out their house.  It wasn’t hat we weren’t willing to help.  I mean, I’ve had a hepatitis shot and all, but really, I was more of a hindrance.  Chasing two children through a poopy living room isn’t exactly the kind of dig in and scrub assistance they needed.  There was no way I was getting back into a car for 4 hours.  I had been up since 5 in the morning, was busy and stressed out coordinating the work event and post-reception and then drove for 4 hours already.  While driving back to the house to see the progress my sis was able to make, and hopefully to make a plan, Casey chimed in from the back seat, “Casey no want to go to the shit house again.”  I assurred him that he would not have to go in.   I was just about resigned to the upcoming 4 hour drive when my sister’s friend offered up her house.  I quickly agreed to the charity offered by my sister’s friend.  She had naively offered that we could stay at her house for the night.

And the 15 of us did exactly that.

So Sunday morning we all drove back to Roosevelt, and left Carrie and Miguel to strip the carpet, linoleum, and wood flooring from their house.  We spent the day and then drove back to Salt Lake City on Monday.  It wasn’t the Memorial Day Weekend I wanted.  Indeed I feel a little self absorbed even to label it a shitty weekend.  Because it certainly was shittier for my sister.

Happy Belated Birthday

May 25, 2009

This post is over a month late, but I told myself I would post it no matter how much time passed.

It, happens to be Casey’s third birthday.  Which just happened to be a blast.  He celebrated his 3rd as a joint party with his cousin who just turned 1.  And since Kim’s tradition is to bake and frost the tastiest and most adorable cakes ever, I thought I’d start with a pic.

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I know, it looks like Mamma Kim baked a cute little train cake for her 31 year old son, but take a minute, I’m sure you can figure it out.

Casey was exhausted from the festivities and cousins being in town, but he managed to keep it together through pin-the-caboose-on-the-train long enough to get to opening presents.  He even got to ride a train.

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Granted, it was the commuter train, and all we did was ride it up to Ogden then get back on it and ride it back.  But it was much cheaper than the Heber Creeper.

Here are the two final images.  I speak from personal experience when I say that this precious age is gone so fast.  (Even though it seem like yesterday that Riley was only 3, I have to admit, I love 7 too.) For memory sake, here are two favorite pictures of what this little angel looks like at 3. The first one, having fun.  The second one, getting tired.

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Casey, I am honored to be your mommy.

The Buzz

May 20, 2009

I have drunk ants in my house and it is my brother’s fault.

I haven’t written in awhile but before I go on and on about how busy it’s been, I think I should make up some new excuse like how my computer hasn’t been working well lately because of years of spyware and cookies that need deleted and obsolete programs that needed removed. So my techie-nerd-totally smart-and smashing-but already married- brother agreed to help me out.

Two weekends ago while I was discovering that I am WAY TOO OLD for VEGAS, my brother spent his entire Sunday working on my computer. Yesterday, I found a bud light can under my computer desk. A very precise and straight trail of ants led me to the beer can. A TRAIL OF ANTS LED ME TO THE BEER CAN! The ants that traveled all the way from the patio door to the computer just to get a couple of drops of 3.2 beer. Which leads me to ponder – how much alcohol does it take to give an ant a buzz?

I noticed the ants were in a totally straight line on the way to the beer, but were definitely failing the sobriety test on the path around and away from the beer.

And there was one little ant, standing off on its own as if preaching to the other ants “No, don’t do it. Don’t drink from the poison that’s in the can. It is only a deterrent (deter ant) to the work we must do here in our colony. Winter is coming. It’s time to prepare.”

But the other ants ignored the preacher ant’s warnings. And sure enough, the giant arrived and stomped those lazy-beer drinking ants then removed the dripping yeasty joy that led them there to begin with. I The giant stomped the naysayer ant too.

But I felt such comfort. There were hundreds of ants (maybe thousands) and they all appeared (with the exception of the one naysayer ant) to be drinking (or having drunk) the beer. If we count the ants, maybe beer drinkers are in the majority even in this state. Could it be we outnumber the teetotalers a million to one?

Minus the few hundred (or thousand) ants that aren’t with us anymore….

Cheaper than a bar

May 7, 2009

My sisters and my sister-in-law are taking my Mamma to Vegas for Mother’s Day. I’m a little worried about all the pre-menstrual women trying to figure out what to do, what to eat, and how to all get along for 3 days. But if all else fails, I’ll gamble slow and drink fast.

My uncle always said that if you Gamble SLOW and Drink FAST Vegas is cheaper than any bar.

That’s my goal. Gamble slow. Drink Fast. I’ll let you know how effective my strategy was.

Confessions of a lesbian stereotype

May 6, 2009

Someday I think I’ll make a T-shirt that reads, “I’m talking to stupid.”  I’ll wear it under my clothes and when I get stuck in a conversation that’s headed down Dumb Drive, I’ll take off the outer layer and finish the conversation.  Only, the folks I’m talking about probably won’t even know it’s for them.

I’m done with stupid.

Problem is that I used to be the type of person who could tolerate stupid.  In fact, I much preferred stupid to mean.  Now it’s a toss up. I think that both naive and nasty folks contribute to oppression. Especially when the naive folks remain that way intentionally because its more socially acceptable (here) to be naive than nasty.   As an educator, my goal has always been to teach.  As a social justice educator, that sometimes means, having to teach someone not to think the (stupid) things they used to think.  No judgment here. Trust me, I had many of my own (stupid) ideas. But the difference was that at some point what I had been taught about the world and what I saw in the world didn’t match. I experienced cognitive dissonance. And I sought out answers to my world. I unlearned. I relearned. And I loved to teach.

I’m not sure when the shift occurred, but it wasn’t that long ago. It happened since becoming a parent and since moving to Utah.  I think they are both connected.  In Utah, I have to justify my desire for equal rights and protections, my family structure, even my existence a whole lot more than anywhere else I have ever lived.  As a parent, I have had to put more time and energy into my boys than I ever imagined and emotion into protecting them from hurts and mistreatments in life.  This has left me feeling like a defensive, tired, old Mamma Bear.  Instead of embracing the questions that people ask, I have wanted to close myself off from – yep, you got it, – stupid.

Can a person have gay burn out? I don’t feel like I have the energy to be the gay person I want to be anymore. I’m tired of teaching those who don’t want to learn. Won’t even consider a different world view. Can’t allow themselves to even see their privilege much less grapple with it.

Often when at the grocery store or elsewhere around town, people will comment on my son’s strikingly red hair.  They usually ask some version of “Does your husband have red hair?” or, more recently as Riley has gotten older, they’ve addressed him directly, “Did you get your red hair from your daddy?”  I used to be able to offer up the information matter-of-factly, that Riley has a donor and that the donor has red hair, but recently I’ve found myself feeling judged, even before I actually am.  I’ve found myself getting defensive, in preparation for some possible need to be defensive.

And the questions and comments keep coming.  “Who is the real mom?”  Or “But he has to have a dad.”  Or “Are your boys really brothers?” Or, “But they aren’t actually brothers, isn’t it more accurate to say step-brothers?”  Recently, even language has bothered me.  Sometimes people just don’t have the language to talk about our family, and I’ve found myself losing patience even when the intention is not malicious.

Recently, a person at my son’s daycare asked how we’d like to handle Mother’s Day.  I told them that we’d appreciate two cards or gifts, or whatever they’re making at school.  I mentioned that if that wasn’t possible, we’d like the item sent home to acknowledge both of us.  She kept on.  But, “How would you like us to handle Father’s Day?  The children typically spend that week making a project.”

Actually, it has been a longstanding tradition in our family for me to get to celebrate Mother’s Day and for Kim to be honored on Father’s day, and that certainly would have been amenable to both of us. But suddenly I was offended. Was she insinuating that he needed a father? I put on my best patronizing voice and told the woman that Casey doesn’t actually have a father and therefore could make a craft for us, his mothers, or not at all. Noticing that she had struck a nerve, the woman responded that she just wanted to see if he had a special uncle or grandpa or someone he’d want to give the gift too. “He does,” I replied. “But they are not his father either.”

And I was immediately angry and disappointed in myself. This gay burn out allowed me to lash out where possible honest and authentic conversation could have occurred. I’m not sure where this rigid enforcement came from. Really, what we teach in our house is take people where they are at, and to teach by just being us. Historically, we’ve been charming enough to win over a few folks along the way. This certainly does not seem the track with my recent attitude. Accepting the father’s day gift would be fun and creative, and Casey could make the craft along with his classmates. By making a big deal about it, I became THAT lesbian. You know the one? The one who purportedly hates men, tucks chewing tobacco into a wad in my bottom lip, converts children, and earns toaster ovens along the way. The Walking Stereotype Lesbian.

I’ve been on to the grain of truth theory for years now. The fact that there might actually be a little grain of truth in a stereotype that then gets oversimplified and applied to a whole group of people. I never connected the stereotype as being the response of a person to living daily with oppression – sure it’s our very own version of passive-aggressive Utah-nice but you’re going to hell anyway oppression – but it still hurts. There has been something so caustic about living here in Utah and justifying my existence day in and day out, that sometimes that causticity comes out totally unintentionally, in this case, I lashed out in the wrong place. My child has a great daycare, and I have no doubt that I can repair the relationship with the person who was trying to openly, honestly, and directly problem solve, and was met with such bitter resentment.

I know that I am sorry for the resentment.  I responded to her from a place of hurt that was there from questions and accusations that she didn’t even make, questions and accusations that are fired at me every which way every day.  I’m not sure how a burnt out gay gets their gay patience back, but I need to at least try. So today I am committing to welcoming the questions about my life without the jaded, burnt out, lash-out-at-them-before-they-get-a-chance-to-lash-out-at-you mentality.

The other day Riley was asked where he got his red hair, and he responded, “I got my read hair from my donor but I got my big heart from my two moms.  Any questions?”  The woman smiled.  He smiled.  He walked away and told me that he “taught that lady not to assume that I have a dad.”  He was proud.  I was proud too.

If my seven year old can greet the world with such confidence in who he is, isn’t it about time that I do so again?

Parenting: The Joy. The Tears. The Tears. The Tears

May 4, 2009

As a parent I am constantly trying to tune in on my sons’ feelings and fears.  I figure that if I can get ahead of their sugar level, I can offer a snack moments before the impending meltdown, and life will be simpler.  Happier. But after months of noticing and yes, even writing notes on the subject, I have come up with the following incomplete “key” to reading my children.

Casey

If he’s chewing on his Lammy, he’s tired.

If he throws his Lammy, he’s mad.

If he’s hungry, he gets in the fridge and grabs cheese.

If I can understand him, it’s because Kim or Riley is there to translate.

If he’s pulling on his clothes, he needs to pee.

If he’s touching his penis, he’s Casey.  (If he’s consciously touching his penis, he’s awake.  If he’s unconsciously touching his penis, he’s asleep.)

Simple enough, Right?  Wrong.

Riley

If he’s crying, he’s tired.

Or he might be hungry.

Or he might be sad.

Or he might be happy.

Or he might need to pee.

If he’s bouncing, he’s tired.

Or he might be hungry.

Or he might be sad.

Or he might be happy.

Or he might need to pee.

I have not been able to find any correlation between his feelings and his behavior.  I’m not sure what happens to children sometime between when their 3 and 7, but Riley is a complete enigma to me.  Casey is predictable – if a bit – naughty, but Riley…

The other day, I tucked Riley into bed.  He told me he wanted his ears pierced.  I told him he had to save up his own money.  He started crying.  I told him not to worry that we’d work it out and that he could do extra chores and earn a little money.  He informed me that he wasn’t crying because of that, but he was crying because he was worried that getting his ears pierced would hurt.  (sniffle sniffle.)

Yesterday while we were in the car, Riley told me he wanted his ears pierced.  I told him I remembered that from our conversation the other night.  He started crying.  I asked him what was wrong.  He told me that he was sad that people would make fun of him for having pierced ears unless he found some that had a skull on it and if he found earrings that had a skull on it, I probably wouldn’t let him wear it.

Tonight Riley was getting ready for bed.  He told me he wanted his ears pierced.  (This again?)  I told him we would discuss it in the morning.  He started crying.  I asked him what was wrong.  He told me that he’s asked for his ears pierced forever now, and I NEVER LET HIM HAVE THEM PIERCED.

I told him it feels like getting a thousand flu shots.  HE WAILED.

Hell, the kids going to cry anyway, I decided to make it worth it.

too much ugliness

May 1, 2009

There’s been way too much ugliness in my world this week. Bio mom’s trying to take away their (x)partner’s right to see her children – pandemic flu that’s scaring the hell out of Riley -April rains that didn’t get the message that April is past and May is here – dissatisfaction – Utah – the ugly side of Utah keeps rearing its ugly head into our lives this week.  I’m sure I’ll post more in the coming days as I sort out our next steps in the process called our life, but for now, there is just too much ugliness.

So I decided to post some beauty today.  (I know they are so traditionally gendered, but hey,it fits the kid, unlike Riley who might look in drag.)

Anyway, beauty.

Nothing like this child’s eyes to make it all feel okay again.

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