Archive for November 2011

For Crying Out Loud

The For Crying Out Loud podcast I did with Lynette Carolla and Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is up here at iTunes. I had a genuinely great time with these gals. I appreciated how seamlessly they wove together mom/life/work/marriage/writing conversation. Too often parenting conversation is compartmentalized and that’s not how we live- it’s not like being a mom happens in a separate universe and all of a sudden everything else becomes a hobby. So check it out- it was a treat talking to them and I hope you enjoy listening.

Also, for fun, here is the Other People podcast I did with The Nervous Breakdown’s Brad Listi a few weeks ago. Brad is a mensch and a great writer and is also a dad. This is more of a writing talk, but there are definitely some parenting nuggets scattered throughout. Other things talked about (according to the Other People website) include: youth, addiction, fearlessness, the difference between dull experience and dull writing, sex work, billionaire psychology, New Jersey, Vietnam, the Prince of Brunei, rehab, therapy, parenthood, beauty college, the Big Apple, LA, transcendental meditation, Weezer, discipline, sobriety, compulsive documentation, Instagram, the vibration of a publicity cycle, bowling, versatility, and acting.


Here is a video of T, who, without even knowing it, is carrying the torch of a tradition his mom established long ago. As a kid, I insisted on doing a performance for the 30 or so guests we had at the house every Thanksgiving, usually wearing a bowler hat and a leotard I decorated myself with glitter paints. And here is my own son rivaling Jerry Lee Lewis with his passionate piano performance of “Island in the Sun.”

I think back on the holidays of my youth with some sadness. Many of the faces I remember around the table have passed away now. And the ones left don’t want much to do with us. So in light of that, the question becomes- how do I establish a sense of ritual and tradition for my own son? To me, ritual is an outward representation of internal values. So Scott and I resolved to spend the day as stress free as possible with our chosen family, in its many manifestations.

First, we cooked pancake breakfast and hung out with Tariku’s Aunties. We napped. Then we went to our dear friends the LaZebniks, who have basically adopted us and generously treated us as members of their big, gregarious family for the past five years.

We stayed for a short time, as groups get overwhelming for T after a while and his brain goes into overdrive. He actually did really well for longer than we had predicted, and then when the macaroni started flying through the air, we made a quick exit.

I had an interesting conversation with T over breakfast about gratitude. It’s a difficult concept to try to explain, even though he’s a kid who naturally says, “Thank you,” without argument. But in this instance, he kept asking,”WHY?” WHY are we thankful? We settled for making a list of the things he’s happy about today, which included bacon, airplanes and his friend Annie.

Best Rock-n-Roll Children’s Book Ever

If you are a rocker kind of parent or if you have a rocker kind of kid, Punk Farm, a story about a group of farm animals that moonlight in a punk band, will make you pogo with glee. Seriously, it’s so good. And Tariku loves to make the sounds of the various instruments. I think we’ve been reading this book for two years and it still hasn’t lost its charm. My favorite part- the liner notes on the inside cover.

Thought I’d finally post abut it, as we’re slam dancing into holiday shopping season and this would make a perfect gift for the little rock star in your life. The sequel, Punk Farm on Tour, is pretty great, too.

Goth Weddings and Patrician Sex Dreams

Back now and settled after the last of the book tour/wedding madness week, which took me from NY to Vegas to Portland to SF- to land back home with a deafening crash.

Saw some theater, lost another Literary Death Match, went to a goth wedding and a burlesque wedding (same corset did double duty), met up with Scott for a night in Vegas, was interviewed by Erin Burnett on CNN, saw old friends, met new friends, took a friend’s kid out to dinner and bought him a mojito (I swear I’m not this old), went crazy and ate bacon and wedding cake, spoke at a luncheon with Jamie Rose and Christina Haag (who wrote a memoir about her relationship with JFK Jr- I totally had sex dreams about him that night), went line dancing, and had to follow a yoyo performer with my reading about a car wreck.

And with all this, my favorite part of the trip might have been all those hours in the air. Because when I’m flying I read. And reading- that’s my first love. Reading is the thing that got me into this whole mess in the first place.

…with Jamie Rose and Christina Haag

…with my NY guuurlz: Amber Lasciak and Catharine Dill

National Adoption Day

It’s National Adoption Day. I appreciate the motivation to reflect on adoption- both as an adoptee and an adoptive mom. Adoption is such a big piece of my story. Adoption is complicated and messy and flawed and confusing. It’s the source of some of my greatest joy as well as my greatest pain. I am grateful and amazed every day at what it’s brought to my life.

In somewhat-adoption-related news around here, we did wind up getting booted out of that pre-school. But I’m kind of grateful for that, too, because it wasn’t the right fit for T. And it really forced me to go back to basics with what I know about T’s early childhood trauma and the resulting behaviors. I picked up Heather Forbes’ Beyond Consequences again (THE book as far as we’re concerned), got some counseling and am planning to head to our local pre-school on Monday to start the process of applying for an IEP.

I’d also like to share a therapeutic thing I’ve been doing with T, because I feel like it’s working beautifully. Our counselor suggested that I hold T like a baby and (if possible) make eye contact, to try to dial the attachment/connection clock back a bit. The eye contact isn’t happening so often, but we do sit there for long stretches of time while I rock him- maybe the longest I’ve ever seen him sit still. In just a few days, he’s actually coming to me sometimes and asking to “snuggle” when he starts to get dysregulated. It’s awesome. I’m not sure who gets more healing out of it- T or me.

Also, on National Adoption Day, I’d like to point you toward an old post from my bud Kristen Howerton over at Rage Against the Minivan. Adoption isn’t a solution to the world orphan crisis. Here are some things that might be.

Third Time’s a Charm

When your kid starts pre-school for the first time, you take pictures. You cry a mommy tear. You hang out to help with the transition. And then, if you’re us, you realize after a couple of days that your kid isn’t like the other kids his age at the pre-school. That his needs are different. And the pre-school realizes it, too. And after two days you get a phone call about the fact that they can’t accommodate those needs.

The next school it takes one day.

The third time your kid starts a new pre-school you don’t take pictures. Instead you break down in tears (not a sweet mommy tear- a full snotty cry) in the director’s office. You hang on the sidelines, trying not to let your anxiety spill over onto your kid…

So we started a new pre-school with T a few days ago. I often don’t go into the challenges we face with T in this blog because I’m not always sure how to frame them. I usually feel like I need some more wisdom to share before I start blogging about things. But in this case, I’m just going to say that I have no idea how best to handle this school situation. Basically, T has aggression issues (he hits and bites) when he feels overwhelmed or threatened, which is often. Also- he doesn’t sit still or share or regulate his emotions. So school is a wee bit of a challenge.

T is attending pre-school with a “therapeutic companion” now. But Scott or T’s auntie or I also stay there. And there’s a therapist who’s sometimes hovering around. And I’m deeply grateful to the school that they’re putting so much time into our family and into T, but I’m biting my nails to the bone about this some nights. I want to do the best thing for him. Maybe this is it. Maybe it isn’t. I’m willing to put the time into the transition, but I’m also open to other possibilities.

I just recently talked with an old friend who’s son has sensory integration issues that manifested in a very different way when he was pre-school age. Instead of being aggressive and off-the-walls like T, her son would retreat into himself and hold his ears, rock and totally shut down. She chose to pull him out of pre-school and didn’t send him until kindergarten. Then she chose a school that was highly focused on ritual and structure and flow. He’s eight now and doing great.

The thing that struck me is that she said she wasn’t going to subject her son to being terrified every day. And even though T has a very different way of showing it, essentially I believe that’s what’s going on. My son is so scared. He loves being around other kids but all the stimulation also frightens him. And faced with the fight or flight response, T chooses to fight. He’s a fighter. It’s probably the reason he’s alive, after all he’s been through. And I love that fire in him, but I want him to feel safe enough that his fighting spirit finds expression in a soccer game and not in a school yard smack-down.

I’m not sure what the best way to do that is, but I’m committed to finding out.

6 Year Ago Today…

I did something really smart.

Scott and I have had some tough times and this year may have trumped them all. But at the end of the day, I know that I have someone who will walk through the fire with me. We’re a good team. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I feel confident we’ll triumph.

I love you, honey. Happy anniversary.

Wild Things

Halloween is our thing around here. I start thinking about next year’s costumes by about Christmas. I sometimes get impatient and put us in costumes for our Christmas pictures. But this year I have to tell you, I was tempted to call it off. I actually suggested putting an “abducted by aliens” sign on the door and going to hide out in Joshua Tree or something.

All the travel lately has me generally fatigued. I feel like I’m doing my best to just keep from getting too horribly behind on my work, while the laundry piles up and the to-do list grows and the house falls down around me. I know you hear me, moms. Sometimes holidays can seem like more of a chore than a celebration.

BUT when I saw T in his Max from Where the Wild Things Are costume, I pretty much said- well, let the house fall down. It’s worth it.

I think my favorite moment was the very beginning of the night, when T and I went to the neighbor’s house, where his friend Presley was dressed as Sandra Dee. Presley’s parents were blasting the Grease soundtrack and we all had a big dance party.

It was one of those moments that I wished I could have frozen in amber and put in my pocket. So I can put my hand around it every time I’m driven to the very edge of my patience and tempted to say, “BECAUSE I SAID SO THAT’S WHY” (or some profanity-laden version of that). So I can pull it out and look at it and remember that this is all I ever wanted- it really is.

Scott and I were Wild Things, of course. T went trick or treating with his BFF Bedelu and they were pretty polite and awesome. After a few houses, I even stood at the curb and watched him go. I only intervened when he started trying to eat all the candy at once, wrappers and all.

Friends came by. We got over 800 trick-or-treaters this year. We ran out of candy and started giving out change from our coin jar.

Best costume went to our genius friend Sharon McGunigle (aka Venus DeMille- for you burlesque fans out there). She was in a motion capture suit- complete with green screen.

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