Sunday, January 29, 2012

When your child goes missing from a sleepover

I think we can all agree - I am paranoid. Uptight. A control freak. We don't do sleepovers much, nor do I like to let other people drive my kids. I have issues. But the kids are growing up, and sleepovers are becoming harder to avoid. Yesterday Lucy's friend from school had invited her over for a playdate, which turned into an invite for a sleepover with two little girls from her class which I reluctantly agreed to. I was feeling very unsure of the whole thing, but Sam said it would be fine, that she would be safe, that kids had sleepovers all the time. So I tried to loosen up. She was going to have fun. She would be fine. I was being ridiculous.

At about 5:30 I texted the mom to check in and see how everything was going. "Having fun!" she responded.

And that was the last we heard from her. I assumed that they would call if Lucy had trouble falling asleep or wanted to come home. I was relieved that I didn't hear from them, actually. That Lucy was having fun and had fallen asleep. She wouldn't have fallen asleep if she was upset or worried. They would have called if there was a problem.

I needed to relax.

I went out with a girlfriend and sang karaoke. I snuggled up on the sofa with Sam and the baby for a late night feeding.

This morning, I went to pick Lucy up.

I had called and texted the parents several times earlier in the morning asking them when I could come get her, and they hadn't responded. With 5 little girls running around, odds were they either couldn't hear their phones, or the girls were carrying them around in purses playing dress up. So I finally just climbed in the car and drove the two miles to their house, hoping the baby might fall asleep on the ride.

It was just before noon, and I was annoyed that they hadn't called to tell me that the girls were awake and fed and ready to go as we had discussed the day before. We had agreed: "Mid-morning, not too early." And now here it was almost noon. This sleepover had gone on way too long, in my opinion. "But maybe," I thought to myself "maybe I misunderstood. Maybe I was supposed to just come over mid-morning and get her at my convenience?" I was embarrassed at the thought that I had been so rude as to just leave my kid there all morning, and frustrated that they hadn't responded to any of my attempts at contact.

As I pulled into the driveway, my frustration turned to fear.
The house was locked up tight, and the car was gone.
I hadn't heard from the parents in 18 hours.

I had no idea where my kid was.

I panicked. Maybe I had missed a call? I backed out of the driveway and raced down the road toward the neighborhood playground, hoping desperately that they would be there.

They weren't.

I called Sam, asked if they had dropped Lucy off yet. He was confused. "I thought you went to get her?"

"I did." I gasped through tears. "She's not there. No one is there. They're not at the playground. I don't know where she is."

"Come home."

I walked in the door trying to compose myself. Sami was making Max a sandwich and I went through my texts from the day before, looking for a hint of where they might be.

"Playdate after ballet."
"I forgot to ask if Lucy could sleepover."
"Is it okay if we go to a beach on the West Side for a while?"

The beach. Maybe they went back to the beach? Why would they go back to the beach without checking in with us first? Sami was already headed for the car. He and Max drove down the mountain to look for Lucy at the beach parks. I sat on the couch and tried to call the other parents who had their kid sleeping over too. No answer at home. No answer on cell. No answer at home, No answer on cell.


It had now been two hours since I started trying to get in touch with the hosts.

Suddenly, my phone rang. It was the mother who was hosting the sleepover. It was confusing. She was vaguely apologetic. They had spent the night at a hotel. They were still on the West Side. They would be home later. Did I want to talk to Lucy?

Yes, of course I did. She was fine, a little confused. She handed the phone back to the mother. They were going to eat lunch and then head home.

Okay. Deep breaths.
A hotel? Coming home later? How did a playdate turn into a weekend at a hotel? I began to pace. Sam told me to go lie down and try to rest. I took a Xanax.

I texted them again a few hours later. No response. An hour after that they called, sounding slightly annoyed that I was calling them again. Did I have a "timeline" I needed her back by? Because they were still on the west side. Now I was scared AND angry. It was like "When Animals Attack" in my living room. Mama Bear was awake, and she was really pissed. I rocked the baby silently, trying to remain calm for him. At 5:30 they texted to say they were heading to our house.

Lucy arrived home at 7pm, 33 hours after I had dropped her off. "They're pretty tired." the dad told Sam with a grin. "They stayed up until past midnight." Sam's eyes were dark with anger when he came back inside.

She was sunburned, her eyes swollen and running. Her nose stuffy. Her hair in dreads. She informed me that she had not had a bath in several days, and she was wearing the clothes I had dropped her off in the day before. My heart sank. Her friend was dropped off with her, wrapped in a blanket, shivering and sleepy. Her eyes were red too. They both looked exhausted. Tremulous with fatigue, they hadn't eaten dinner. I called the friend's mom, and she was akready pulling into my neighborhood, as upset as I was. Sam bundled her daughter out to the car.

Lucy was sitting at the dining room table trying to take a few bites of hamburger before she fell asleep, as the story came out. There had been a party at the hotel room. The grownups had watched a movie, "It was a grown up movie, because it was so late at night there weren't any kid's movies on! People were getting arrested and stuff!" When it had gotten too scary, the girls had gone into a closet to tell stories. "But it was a big closet, mama!" she said cheerfully. "And there were lots of grownup friends there!" She had wanted to call when she discovered that the parents had left her bedding at their house with her blanky in it. When she asked to call me, the parents had gone out to the car to "get their phones" and she said that when they returned, they had forgotten to bring the phone back with them. The kids had been left in the hotel room with the grownup friends.

None of this makes sense.

I dropped her off at a friend's house, 2 miles from home. They were going to go to the beach for a few hours and then have a sleepover. I would pick her up in the morning at their house, not too early.

How had this gone so wrong?

I am livid. I am shaking. I am scared for what she saw, and sad that she spent the night with a bunch of strangers, without her blanky or the cozy bedding we had packed so carefully. Mostly, I am angry at myself. I am angry for having such faith. I am angry for not trusting my (admittedly very paranoid) instincts. I am angry that I put my daughter in the care of people who clearly do not have respect for others.

I am angry that I didn't call and check in at bedtime.

She is here with me now, safe in her warm bed with her blanky and her humidifier and Vicks Vaporub on her feet. And we sure as hell won't be sending her off to any sleepovers again anytime soon. I am writing this mostly because I needed to get it off my chest, but also as a reminder to all of us that having a child sleep over at your house is a huge leap of faith for their parents.

Don't make them regret it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I feel empowered every time I hang my laundry on the line

It all started with a massive electric bill. I was freaking out about our last electric bill, and sat down to assess where I could cut some corners. I started unplugging things, and turning things off, and harrassing the kids (possible subject matter: "Do you really need to be listening to that music? Think of the electricity that stereo is using!" and "No. More. Nightlights.")

I'll admit it freely, I went a little overboard. After Sami got the bathroom lights turned out on him while he was in the shower and had to find his way out of the bathroom by feeling his way along the wall, and that one time I unplugged the refrigerator for a few hours and then forgot about it until all of our frozen food had defrosted, I knew I had to find a strategy that would save us money without A. all of our food going bad, or B. my husband almost breaking his toe in the dark. I had to get really proactive. I had to do some manual labor. I had to unplug some appliances for EVER. Or at least, for long periods of time. Since the dishwasher is simply not an option (I have my priorities) and the refrigerator seemed less a luxury than a necessity, I zeroed in on the laundry.

And so, in what is rapidly devolving into some sort of sick display of domesticity, I have stopped using our clothes dryer and begun hanging our laundry out to dry on the line.

There will be two different responses to this piece of information.

Some of you will want to know if my electricity has been cut off, because why else would I be pinning my underwear up to flap in the breeze for all to see. You are thinking to yourself over the hum of your Rumba and the swishing of your dishwasher: "Dude, if your dryer doesn't work you should drive to the damn laundromat. Who wants crunchy air dried underwear?" I feel ya. Or maybe I'm just feeling the underwear, which is admittedly very crunchy when dried on the line.

Some of you will wonder what took me so long, and did I think that globel warming was just some sort of MYTH? Did I think electricity just grew on TREES? Damn ugly lazy American. Hanging your clothes to dry isn't news - it's the way 90% of the people on the planet dry their clothes. And then you will shake your head in pity slash disgust, and go polish your new wind turbine or feed your worms or sew some more reusable, earth-friendly unbleached organic cotton maxipads or something.

I can see both sides of this story, and all I can say is this:

First of all, you over there on the right? You are absolutely correct - line-dried laundry is all scratchy and hard - and I need to figure out the solution to that right quick because towels that have been dried on the line are NO BUENO. I like my bathtowels soft and fluffy. Along the same lines, crunchy jeans and underwear are an issue for me too. My delicate skin, much like my delicate sensibilities, can be easiily chafed. A few years ago (hell, a few weeks ago) crunchy laundry would even be a deal-breaker. But today, when I was hanging my clothes on the line I found myself humming like Donna fucking REED between a mouthful of clothes pins. Note to self: Tomorrow, wear an apron to hang the laundry. One with pockets for the clothes pins.

And you folks over there on the left. The ones with your vegetable gardens and Priuses and your buckets of baking soda that you use for everything from laundry detergent to toothpaste? I bought a 5 pound bag of baking soda. I am all over this shit. Teach me your ways. Do they have solar powered cars yet? Or does anyone perchance have a bio-diesel car for sale that I can power with used fryer oil? And could you spare some worms?

It's like a drug, this domesticity thing. I can't get enough of it. Last week after I hung the laundry to dry, I went and washed MY WALLS. I have never washed walls in my life. It was strangely fulfilling. I needed more. So, after I hung the clothes today I went back inside and washed the dishes, and then swept and vacuumed. And when I looked at the clock it was 10am.

People, not so long ago 10am was the time I opened one eye, rolled over, and decided whether I had to pee badly enough to get out of bed, or if I should just hold it and keep sleeping. But these days, all I can think about is that the hours from 9-11am are the hours of direct sunlight on my deck. Those are PRIME LAUNDRY DRYING HOURS PEOPLE.

So tomorrow I'll be up bright and early, doing the laundry and then maybe, oh I don't know, maybe I'll beat some rugs and hunt for free-range eggs in my neighborhood and if I have time perhaps I can set up a water catchment system.

Because you would not believe the size of my water bill.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The hitchhiker's guide to why I'm not giving you a ride

Living on an island, there is a phenomenon that is much more prevalent here than in other places I have lived.


It's not just the casual "hey can you give me a lift?" individuals. There are people who come here on vacation, or live here full time, who choose to hitchhike as their method of transportation. It is not always a financial decision, either. Some of these people don't want to be tied down, man. Or they don't want to contribute to destroying the environment.

But mostly they just don't want to pay for gas. And at almost $5 a gallon, I get that. But I don't have the luxury of sitting on the side of the road with somewhere between 1 and three children, 2 carseats, a cooler, a bag of snacks, and some books to pass the time.

Other people do.

You would be amazed at the shit peple will expect you to transport for free. I pass people on the side of the road that look for all the world like they are moving house. And so I have established some guidelines for people looking for a lift. This may help you to understand why it is taking so long for anyone to pick you up.

Dogs. You may not understand this, because I get it - you love your dog. Your dog is like your kid, and goes everywhere with you. But he's not going anywhere with me. A dog will exponentially decrease any chance you have of getting a ride. Lap dogs are actually even less desirable - if that is possible. And I couldn't care less if it's a service animal. That dog should come with a car service.

Surfboards. I guess if I had a pickup it wouldn't be that big a deal, except for my not-unreasonable fear that a stiff breeze could pick up a board and catapult it out of the back and, you know, kill someone. Like in the Lethal Weapon movie. But I don't have a pickup. So, no.

Hula Hoops. Because really? Really? This whole hula hoop phenomenon is bewildering to me, but okay. However, an adult with a hula hoop and no method of transportation = serious issues. I don't want to get involved.

40 oz of Mickey's. Unless you have one for me too. I'm Kidding. No I'm not, Yes I am. I'm conflicted. But still, you might spill it in my car, so no.

Huge Backpack. You could have anything in that bag. But usually it is your filthy stinky laundry. And the occasional cane spider or ants. And also, that backpack means you are a hiker, right? So get to it. You don't need me.

Attitude fucking problem. Yeah. You. The one who glares at me as I drive by.
Fuck You and your eye contact and judgement. Are you seriously trying to make me feel bad for not giving you a ride? Get your own car.

And after all of this, if you drive past someone who seems normal, is just carrying a small bag, has a pleasant expression and continues to walk while waiting for a ride, well. I'll consider it. But I have to weigh the relative threat of BO. Because the very worst time I ever had with a hitch hiker was a lovely young woman who smiled as I approached and held out a friendly hand more like a wave than a request for transport. And then she got in the car and immediately lifted her arms over her head to begin putting her hair in a ponytail and I almost ran off the road.

So really, you probably don't want to ride with me anyway.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Out of Sight - the slow realization that an infant might be blind

He had a blocked tear duct. Maybe. That's what I thought, anyway. Hard to tell. Common in newborns, I was told. God, he was so small. And coming off the drugs he would cry silent tearless cries, mouth open, head twisting to the side, back arched.

I had other things to worry about, like keeping him swaddled and comforted and encouraging him to stay awake long enough to eat. Dealing with the umbilical cord that refused to dry up. Finding clothes that didn't fall off his five pound frame. But then one morning, his left eye started draining yellow goop and was stuck shut. And then the other eye looked a little weird.

And so, in the middle of a winter rain storm, with high winds gusting over the island and the puddles gleaming in the streetlights, I wrapped him up and took him to the emergency room. It was Christmas Eve. He was 8 days old.

Born two weeks early, the blood in his veins coursing with crystal meth and nicotine, he was still 6 days shy of his due date that night. The idea of taking him to the ER with all of it's germs and drama seemed counter-productive, but it couldn't be helped on a holiday weekend. The nurses weighed him, and oohed and aaahed and told him how very beautiful he was, as he farted and grunted and moaned loudly with his mouth agape and his head twisting, as is his way. Eventually as it neared midnight and I worried about getting home to hang the stockings, he slept quietly on the gurney and I lay next to him reading the newspaper. They took samples of the goop on his eyes and sent it off to the lab: "Could be chlamydia", the doctor informed me solemnly. We left for home at 11pm with a tube of erythromycin ointment, just in time for Santa - Baby's first Christmas. They never called back with the test results, and the pediatrician didn't seem concerned at his appointment a few days later.

I dutifully applied the ointment and warm compresses as directed.

He never blinked.

I mean, I would put the ointment on the end of my clean fingertip, and then put my finger in the corner of his eye and begin to draw it across, and he never batted an eye. Never closed his eye in response to having something stuck in it.

He never blinked.

I started paying closer attention. He didn't look at me while he was being fed. He didn't look at me ever. He never closed his eye in response to having it wiped or prodded - I learned to start from the upper eyelid and encourage him to close his eye with gentle pressure, so that I could wipe it clean without touching his eyeball with the cloth.

I held up toys and lights. I danced. I waved my fingers in his face.

He never blinked.

If I spoke he would follow the sound, turning his head to look in my direction. My voice would calm him when he was upset, so I called to him from across the room or crooned as I rocked him in my arms. In bright sunlight he would squint and squirm and turn away, folding himself up into my armpit with his mittened fists pressed on either side of his forehead. He is always near me, squirming his way up under my chin or burying his face into my collarbone.

I keep him close - strapped to my chest, asleep in my arms, snoring softly in the bassinet next to me as I type this, Max and Lucy and Sam leaning over every once in a while to marvel at his sweetly sleeping form.

They say they will send a nurse to assess him. That it is early days. That he is too young to be tested. That his eye muscles may still be immature. That it could be nothing.

But I have to be sure. There is this feeling, this nagging little feeling in my chest. All of those drugs, maybe she was drinking. Maybe it is chlamydia. Maybe it is something else. Something is just not right.

I have to follow up. I have to follow through. I have to wait. We will wait here, together, he and I asleep and awake together, moving through the dark and the light in three hour intervals together.

I will not leave him.

I cannot look away. I cannot blink.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When putting on a clean pair of sweatpants is considered victory.

I used to be a high heel-wearing, tequila-drinking, fishnet-rocking, mohawk-styling derby mama. And the sheer velocity with which I downshifted to parenting a newborn has given me whiplash. The night we got the call from Child Protective Services asking if we could take a placement in the morning, I was on the deck of a sushi bar cracking a third bottle of wine. We finished our sushi, toasted our new arrival and drove home. We got a ladder from the shed and went up to the attic, dragging out garbage bags of baby stuff and doing load after load of laundry. I crawled into bed at 2am, bleary eyed, for a few hours of sleep. Now, it's nothing like giving birth - I will give you that - but I can promise you I was a bit worse for the wear the next morning.

And then, suddenly, I was handed a 2 day old infant.

We have spent the last 4 weeks together, this beautiful child and I.....he asleep on my chest or wiggling in my arms or pooping on my couch, while I have struggled to get my bearings. It's been a while, and frankly there are a lot of things I can't remember about newborns. Because I have not had the benefit of 9 months to read every parenting book cover to cover so that I am fully aware of what to be expecting, I find myself with new questions and challenges every day.

The first thing I need to know is, how long after bringing home a newborn do you stop feeling like you have the flu? New parents, back me up here.... your body clock is all screwed up, you are always tired and disoriented, your eyes ache and your arms feel heavy and your back and neck are sore from sleeping in weird positions. You haven't eaten a regular meal with utensils since the new arrival, and the idea of wearing anything dressier than sweatpants is incredibly unappealing, if not impossible. Driving is ill-advised, but how else are you going to buy more diapers or find wipes that won't cause a rash or see another adult who wants to talk about something - anything - other than feedings and poop?

I wasn't expecting to be quite so tired - it was a total surprise. I always attributed new parent fatigue to birth and breastfeeding, but it turns out that you don't have to possess a functioning uterus to feel like you got hit by a truck while caring for a newborn. As a foster parent, I supposedly came into this role fresh as a daisy, rested and fed and watered and ready - and I am a total mess. I have been in a pair of ratty yoga pants and a tank top for four weeks straight. Embrace the post-partum, that's what I say. Even if you didn't have anything to do with the partum-ing.

But today I am taking control.
I am putting on a clean pair of sweatpants, and making myself a hot meal and eating it with a fork.

That's right. You heard me.
A fork.

I am totally rocking this parenting gig.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Social Media, I am your bitch

Yesterday, I got an invite in the mail from Pinterest.

And while a tiny part of my heart was saying "dammitalltohell" and felt kind of like this:

 a big huge part of me was all "WAHOOOOOOOOO":

And so I said to myself, "Let's do this thing." And I saddled up and bought the ticket and took the ride and ohmygodihaveaproblem. The problem being, I am never going to be able to get anything done.

Between twitter and my beloved facebook and this blog and 3 other blogs and trying to write a book, I spend all day every day in front of my computer talking to myself.

And we haven't even touched on "Words with Friends", which is sweeping the nation despite the fact that it allows you to play words that are not even words but not 'jew' because it's offensive- not even if you can put the 'j' on a triple letter score and combine it with 'be' and 'paw' and a triple word score and get like 70 bilion points using 3 tiles, and where I have no less than 10 games going at any one time. My phone dings constantly, alerting me to the fact that someone else is beating my ass by playing words like 'vanner' an- "DING" hang on, I need to get that. Shit, she put a Z on a triple word score that is like, 63 points - I might as well just resign now. Shitty shit.

Okay, where was I. Oh yes. Apparently, I am supposed to be building my brand and finding my voice and setting my tone and creating a dialogue. That is not happening. I am still at the very beginning stages of figuring out who I want to follow, and whether to retweet or quote, and why the mobile twitter app is so much better than the super-sucky desktop version of twitter, and whether enough people like me, and if I am posting so much it's really more like spamming and if so will people STOP liking me and if people like me why don't they retweet me and maybe it's because they, too, have the shitty desktop version of twitter but even so they could like me on the facebook and then share what I post, but they don't which means they don't *really* like me and THEN WHAT I ASK YOU THEN. WHAT.
(and yes, of course I have issues. Sweet Jesus Mary and Joseph of course I do.)

"DING!" Oh my god I am never going to get anything done ever, hang on I have to just check this and.....fuck me sideways she beat me again?! This is not even fun anymore.

But as I was saying, the thing that blows my mind is that there is more! How could there possibly be more? WHO HAS THE TIME? Even with this - even with ALL OF THIS - I want to pin people? Or things? Or people and their things? Or things people pin? Does this have anything to do with going steady? I have no idea. I don't have the slightest fucking clue.

"DING!" Oh my god this game is horrifying, it completely defies logic. I don't even understand how I could have 4 'i's - how can there be so many, and why do I have ALL OF THEM.

All I do know is that I have spent almost 3 hours on the computer and phone today, and have not gotten a single thing accomplished other than quizzing a lovely but completely ineffectual service rep at Bank of America about why they suck so hard (which actually, now that I think about it, was very empowering) and stalking a friend's facebook page to see if his wife had that baby yet, and cruising with my hand in my pants like the craft porn that it is.

And playing Words With Friends. Of course. Lest we forget.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Trying to wrap up the writer's workshop over the din of a circular saw

You know, two weeks ago when I was safely ensconsed in a boardroom with other writers talking about My Book for 5 days, it actually felt......possible. An attainable goal. I was going to write a book.

And then I came home and the kids were here 24-7 because school was on winter break, and the shed was being built, and to help that process along someone showed up with a compressor to run a nail gun, and the circular saw got set up outside my window, and now I cannot even type my fucking NAME without having to check my notes.

This is ridiculous. I just read an NPR interview where this woman self-published books on Amazon and sold over a million copies, and she said that you have to be willing to make the commitment, and put in the effort, and do the work to write a whole book.

I cannot even commit to finishing a blog post in less than 4 days.

I haven't showered since Thursday.

The baby keeps crying, the kids are always shrieking, and people are standing outside yelling at me through the windows. It's all very unsettling. I want to go back to the boardroom, with it's central air and pitchers of ice water and notable lack of power tools and screaming. I need to get that mojo back.

So I decided to review the reading materials we were given at workshop. And I fell asleep. This is a disaster. I don't understand how anyone can do this. In the spiral bound document I received on the first day of workshop, there were two important topics relative to my current status: "Structure" and "Process"

I have no idea how to even approach writing the book. Where do I begin? How do I begin? What story am I trying to tell? It actually ties in with something we talked a lot about at Camp Mighty. Intention. What is my intent, with writing this book. Is it an exorcism, a purge, or a reflection.....

Strange to see these two events coming together to lead me towards my goal. It makes me feel as though my subconscious wants me to write this book more than I do. Which may be so. My subconscious won't have to deal with my relatives if I publish a memoir. Should I use fake names, approach it as a novel, just call it "inspired by actual events"? Do I want to lay all the cards on the table, or should I just run away.

I need Kenny Rogers to tell me what the hell to do. Because I need to do something.

Outside of my kitchen window the framework is slowly rising up. If you ask the county, it's a storage shed. 10 feet by 12 feet, carefully measured out to avoid the expense and hassle of permitting. Outside of the windows, a row of palm trees - short and stubby, not coconut palms - some other decorative dwarfed palm. A bright red hibiscus shrub. A plumeria tree that may or may not survive whatever blight it is afflicted with.

There will be a sleeping loft and a desk. Rough wooden floors - I specifically did not want finished flooring. Sam wonders aloud if I am channeling the Unabomber, I prefer Thoreau, but it is a matter of opinion, I suppose, until my work is complete. I think sometimes he wonders if I am losing my mind, with this manic compulsion to get things out of my head and onto the page. Who wouldn't want flooring and consistent electricity to write on a computer? I think he's making this too complicated. Solar power and no running water. It will be my refuge. Peaceful unless we turn on the record player, which will sit on a small table with a stack of 33s underneath. We went to the record store in Wailuku last week and sat on the dusty floorboards with a large Coke Icee, the fan whirring overhead, singing along to Amy Winehouse's new album, sorting through the used records choosing the soundtrack for my writing: Carole King, James Taylor, Culture Club. Because why the hell not.

The room - the storage shed - has become a necessity. All too often I am seized with a thought or a memory that I need to get out. It is almost like needing a hit, this compulsion to write. When it comes, I am unable to concentrate on other things until it is released, squeezed out of my system - sometimes more quickly than others. And standing up in the middle of dinner and telling everyone they have to get the hell out of the living room because Mommy has to write RIGHT THIS MINUTE is simply not an option (though god knows, I've tried.) Nothing is organized or planned out. The idea of sitting down and being organized and consistent enough to write a book is daunting. How will I still my mind and focus long enough for that.

Maybe I should take that Adderall my doctor suggested afterall. Adult-onset, post menopausal ADD is real, apparently.
For now, I can live with escaping to my room, shutting the door after asking everyone to just keep their voices down for a minute. Or jotting down quick notes, and settling in for a good writing session later on. Or typing a few words into my phone's memo app to refer to later. Sometimes that is helpful, and sometimes I stare at the words and think "what the HELL was I talking about?" Nothing makes me crazier than thinking of something - story, anecdote, idea or inspiration - and then - by the time I sit down to write - having it disappear into thin air.

That happens a lot these days. I can live with it, but barely.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I don't look like I just had a baby BECAUSE I DIDN'T

Oh hello, RANT ON.

As the biological, adoptive, and foster mother to three lovely children all with different birth mothers, I should be used to nosy strangers, prying questions, and comments that are supposed to be encouraging or admiring, but instead make me want to kick even the sweetest little old lady in the shins. I am talking to you, changing room attendant at Old Navy. Shut up and go back to handing out plastic number tags. There is nothing to see here.

Let me explain.

You know those people who ask women when they are due, and the women AREN'T EVEN PREGNANT?

Bad form, my friends. Very bad form.

Unless the woman in question is holding a positive pregnancy test and jumping up and down with JOY, shut your trap vis a vis pregnancy, and all related topics. For your own well-being, if nothing else. Because when my son was born and I was still 60 pounds over my normal weight, and hadn't slept in weeks, and my hair was sticking up funny and I had 38J boobs - someone asked me when the baby was due and I hit them in the head with a package of newborn diapers.

But we can take this rule even further. The same can be said for a woman holding a brand new infant.

Unless you saw with your own two eyeballs the actual live birth, do not make assumptions about anything. A brand new infant in arms does not mean a uterus in belly. It does not mean anything other than that woman is holding a baby. And the details are none of your damn business, unless she is asking you for child support.

To summarize:
If you see a woman who appears pregnant, shut the fuck up and wait for her to announce her news.
Don't ask her when she is due. Don't say congratulations, or ask who the father is, or if she is having a boy or a girl, or how many other children she has or whether she plans to breastfeed. Because you might not like the answer, and she might not like your invasive questions.

If you see a woman holding a baby, say that the baby is sweet, or cute, or breathtaking if that is the only way to describe it without giggling or gagging.

If you didn't visit her in labor and delivery, or get a message announcing the baby's arrival, or watch her go through her pregnancy and know for a fact that she just gave birth with her own vagina, you don't know where that baby came from. Don't ask her how she lost all the pregnancy weight, or how her delivery was, or how breastfeeding is going, or anything else even vaguely relating to childbirth. Because A. It's none of your goddamned business and B. None of that may apply.

And my very favorite comments are the ones where people tell me that my daughter looks just like me - because while she might bear a slight resemblance, it's purely a coincidence. A lucky one, but still. I have given birth to one baby in my life but I have been a mother to many. Stop worrying about the details.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why I should not be responsible for getting your son circumcised

This blog is, as you know, my version of a journal. I have avoided posting for a few days because I am worked up about something that is very controversial, and as a rule, I don't like to get people all riled up about something I post.


I have a hot button issue flashing in front of me, and it is hard to think about anything else.

One of the biggest challenges of foster parenting is not having any say over the babies' future, or much control over the babies' schedule. Foster parenting is a job. A job with terrible pay, where you do not get time off. And that is okay - it is rewarding and important work. But my time is not my own, and decisions are made that I do not necessarily agree with. I have to be at appointments when I am told to be at appointments - and appointments are not necessarily scheduled at my convenience. His parents have visitation with him twice a week, I have to be at WIC appointments once a month, and  - because Dude is a newborn - we have pediatrician and early-intervention type appointments to make sure he's thriving, and to provide continuity of care when he leaves my custody. Translation: up to 4 days a week, we have somewhere to be at a specific time.

Doctor's appointments are the worst - the waits are long, and the visits are especially fraught with tension - mostly because Dude's mom is there, and she wants him to be circumcised, and it hasn't happened yet.

And this is where it gets tricky. We chose not to circumcise our son. Just thinking about the actual procedure makes me queasy. Listen, I get that it is the parent's choice, and in this situation Dude's parent is choosing to have her son circumcised. But I am struggling with it. As a foster parent, I am proud to care for each child as if they were my own. To use my judgement, to do my best for each of them. And in this particular case, I can't.

And it really makes me uncomfortable.

I did try to be supportive of her choice. I called the clinic for days on end trying to get someone to agree to circumcise him, to no avail. At our next appointment I asked the doctor directly. I knew it was important to the mom, and my job is to support her parenting efforts, and encourage her interest in Dude's well-being. So I did my job. I asked the doctor if Dude could be circumcised. And then I tried not to pass out at the thought of having it done right then and there.

"Getting circumcised" the doctor said sternly, looking at me over her glasses, "is the least of his problems."

I had to disagree. If someone suggested cutting off part of MY genitals, that would be a serious problem.
Just ask this guy: He stands on Venice Beach. Or at least, he did. We met him in 1998, and Sam had his picture taken with him. Right now, I kind of want to call him and ask for some back-up.

I see the doctor's point. Dude has bigger issues (more on that later). And honestly, the issue is not circumcision in and of itself. The issue is that I cannot use my best judgement, because in this case my best judgement is irrelevent, and to some people very controversial.

But what is hardest for me to accept is the idea that I am doing wrong by any of my children - the ones who aren't circumcised, and the ones who will be.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Name Dropper

Maui sees it's fair share of celebrities, and after living here for 10 years I've seen a few. I don't ask for photos, I don't stare. In fact, I try not to even acknowledge that I know who they are, because I figure they are on vacation, not at work - they deserve some time to themselves. But then last night happened. And fuck it all, I gotta tell you what I saw last night.

Put on your helmets and your closed-toe shoes, I'm name dropping.

It all started not-so-innocently enough. I caught wind of a really big party in the works for New Years Eve. My friend manages a restaurant that was going to be ground-zero for some major celebrity action, and as she was describing what (and who) was on the program I got a little jealous. Here I am, unemployed, sitting at home in pajama pants and a sweatshirt covered in spit-up, and she's gonna get all dolled up and get paid to party. That used to be my gig, and man.....I miss it sometimes.

So I told her that next year, I wanted to be her assistant for the evening. I was only sort-of joking.
And then she threw me a curve ball and asked if I wanted to be there to help get everyone seated before dinner, and then stay for the show. "I won't be able to get Sam in....." she hesitated, not wanting to leave him out. "Will he min-"

"NO!' I might have shouted, but I tried to keep my voice calm. "No, no no, he won't mind! Someone has to stay with the kids!"

And that is how I ended up spending a fabulous star-studded New Years Eve trying to keep the crowd from over-handling the celebs.

Unfortunately, I couldn't go with them to the men's room - and that is where the crowd gathered. Sarah titled them "The Pooperazzi" - the people who follow stars to the bathroom and then wait outside for them to come back out, spraying them with flashbulbs, grabbing at their clothes, insisting on photos for their facebook, and generally making asses of themselves.

It was horrifying.

This is probably why Mike Myers came in through the kitchen and limited his fluid intake - so as to avoid the bathroom entirely. Good thinking, dude. Way to plan ahead.

Steven Tyler, on the other hand, went to the men's room at least twice. Poor guy.

I don't know if Clint Eastwood was similarly hassled, I wasn't keeping tabs on his bladder. But I am pretty sure he would freeze people alive WITH HIS ICE COLD STARE. He's still totally got it, man.

Weird Al was hanging with his wife and kid, a sweet little girl Lucy's age. I hope no one bothered them, they were so awesome.

Alice Cooper's daughter was mistaken for Katy Perry, so she got nailed big time coming out of the bathroom. Alice Cooper did not get mistaken for Katy Perry - but I think he came through the kitchen too.

The Doobie Brothers were all over the joint. It was hard to keep track of them.

Tom Arnold was MCing the event, and he and his wife were super sweet. He was getting enough hassle in the dining room that I figure getting groped outside the men's room probably wouldn't faze him. But having a dozen people call you buddy in the space of 10 minutes and then ask for a photo must be really obnoxious. Being friendly and approachable has it's downside.

Honestly, they were all friendly and approachable, each of them sweet as could be and nice to be around. Any attitude problems came from ticketholders, and some moments during the evening were reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Over-indulged assholes making fools of themselves while everyone else just watched in horror.

Alice Cooper, the Doobie Brothers, and Weird Al tore it up - it was cool to watch the performers supporting each other's performances (and funny to watch Mike Meyers sitting through Weird Al's killer show-stopping "Canadian Idiot"). Unfortunately,  I missed the grand finale of everyone onstage singing "Come Together" - a song title that never fails to make me laugh out loud - and I heard that Clint was going to sing Auld Lang Syne, and I never did see Mike Meyers or Steven Tyler perform. I was in my car by 11:15pm, racing home while fireworks exploded overhead, lighting the backroads as I made my way up the mountain. I pulled in the driveway at 11:55pm, ran up the stairs barefoot, threw my purse and shoes on the floor, gathered up Dude, and kissed my husband at the stroke of midnight.

2012, the bar is pretty high. I'm ready. And next year, I'm putting a porta-potty outside the restaurant's back door. The Pooperazzi will never get the best of me again.