The road, cont.

Wow, that tapped into a lot of hurt yesterday. It sounds like so many of us are just tired of fighting through each day.

I'm sad that the post turned into a battle between people who would like accommodations for serious health issues and people who feel hurt by being asked to make those accommodations. I was thinking about it all last night, about how I am so willing to make accommodations now, when I wasn't so much a few years ago. I think one of the reasons is that my months of gluten intolerance* were so hard emotionally. I can remember just feeling like all the strength and will had been sucked out of me because I was afraid to eat anything I hadn't prepared from scratch myself. Friends would ask me to go places with them, with our kids, and I'd have to turn them down because I couldn't face going someplace and knowing there might not be anything safe I could eat. And all it was for me was intense stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, and hot flashes.

Thinking about kids being in that situation all day, of not feeling safe, of feeling like you could get sick at any moment from something you have no control over, breaks my heart. Even if it's not immediate danger of dying, it's still imprisoning to know you could develop hives, itching, difficulty breathing, wheezing, migraines, or any of the other symptoms.

Anyway, that is only part of it. I figured out that what makes me more willing to help other people is that I can finally ask for help for myself. For years, I really could not ask anyone for help. I spent years and years white-knuckling it through, feeling like I had to be the most competent, have it all together, be on top of everything. And that asking for help was something I couldn't do.

Honestly, of all the gifts divorce has given me, the ability–the need–to ask for help and accept it has been one of the best. And as I get deeper and deeper into being enmeshed with other people when I ask them for help and offer to help them, I've started to feel my false, painful boundaries disintegrating and my integrity of self increasing.

Someone commented on the evening routines post that she was lonely. Parenting is *such* a lonely proposition a great deal of the time. Reaching out and getting enmeshed helps, though. A lot.

It is my strong wish for all of us that this new year brings us the ability and desire to ask for and accept help from others.

* In summer and fall of 2006, my body was rebelling against my bad marriage and I developed a gluten intolerance (which may or may not be the correct term for it). Eating anything with even a tiny bit of gluten, even if I didn't realize it was there (soy sauce is hidden in a TON of foods!), would make me feel sick for hours. About a week after I told my then-husband that I needed to get out of the marriage I could eat wheat and gluten again with no symptoms. Taught me to pay attention to my body.

Special needs of all sorts and the school year

I had a great time at the Phila area meetup yesterday. What an interesting, thoughtful, funny, snarky bunch of people.

One theme that came up a lot was that parents seem to be dealing with all kinds of issues with their kids and a variety of special needs, and things seem to be extra amped up now that school's in session.

Food allergies. ADHD. IEPs. Therapy. Learning disabilities. Movement issues. Autism/Asperger's. All kinds of stuff. I just think about these parents standing at the bottom of the cliff, looking up, knowing they're going to have to do such an incredible haul to get up to the top to make sure their kids are OK. It's exhausting just thinking about it.

And if you're thinking, "This doesn't affect me," well, it might, and you just aren't aware of it. I found out last week that the "nut-free and dairy-free classroom" notice for my son's class didn't just mean that one of the kids, A., wasn't allowed to ingest dairy. It means that if A. touches dairy or touches a kid who's touched dairy and hasn't washed hands in between, he puffs up like a big red itchy wheezing balloon. It would have been nice to know how serious it was, so that I'd avoid all dairy things in my son's lunch. I'd been putting cheese inside his sandwich on the logic that my son knew not to give bites to other kids in the lunchroom (bonus of my short-lived gluten intolerance–my son accepts food issues). But once I told my son about the other kid's allergy *he* said, "Oh, so I shouldn't bring cheese in my sandwich anymore in case I accidentally touch A. after I eat it!" Woulda been nice to know–for us *and* for A. and his mom–three weeks ago…

So, anyway, until I get the message boards up and running, could those of you who've been there (enu, hedra, etc.) provide some emotional support for the parents who are in the middle of a long process of advocating for their kids? Also, is there anywhere online a printable list of commercial snacks that comply to food allergy specifications? (Like a list of snacks that are GF, one that's dairy-free, one that's soy-free, etc.)

I saw it on TV so it must be true.

Has anyone else in the US seen these new, completely ridiculous commercials promoting high fructose corn syrup? They're made by the Corn Growers' Association or somesuch.

I've seen two versions. In each one person offers the other something laden with HFCS (grape drink–which used to be "sugar, water, purple," but is now "HFCS, water, purple"–or popsicles or something like that) and the offeree is horrified and says "But it has HFCS!" and the offerer patiently explains how HFCS is "nor worse than sugar" and is fine in small doses.

The first time I saw one of these commercials I laughed out loud, thinking it was a spoof commercial.

I still think they're funny, as in absolutely ridiculous. But I also worry that people will see them and think that HFCS is safe, and more similar to sugar than it is. I also think there are some vaguely racist overtones to the commercial with the black mom offering the grape drink and white mom refusing it. (If it's not racist it's at least unoriginal, and Dave Chapelle is way funnier. That link contains swearing, BTW, if you're not familiar with the oeuvre of Dave Chappelle.)

Also, it's just dumb. There are all kinds of things people ingest that are not good for them in large doses (alcohol, sweet, sweet coffee, etc.). But HFCS is not comparable to those things, because there are at least half a dozen easily-obtainable, affordable equivalents that are better for you (sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup, even regular old corn syrup that's not high fructose). I don't have time to dig up all the sources about why HFCS is so much worse for us than any of those, but there is no doubt that research shows that our bodies just can't process it well.

The website they direct you to is also a big euphemism. Sweet Surprise? Sweet Surrender? Sweet Something-or-other? Sweet Extra-Cellulite-on-Your-Thighs-Because-HFCS-Can't-Be-Broken-Down?

I wanted to bring this up when I first saw the commercials, but now I've gotten five emails about them, so thought you guys would like to talk about them, too. I'm certainly not linking to them in the main post, but if they're up on the web somewhere and someone else wants to link them in the comments so the non-US readers can watch the insanity, go ahead.

Q&A: Drunk Daddy

This is the post that's been stopping me from posting this week. I couldn't get past it, but still don't know exactly what to say.

Amy writes:

"I have been searching your siteand could not find advice or feedback on how to deal with Alcoholism in the
home. My spouse is an alcoholic. I, as a first time mom, am finding the stress
of juggling the sucking vortex of sleep disturbances/teething while watching the
clock from 4:30 till 5:00pm(is he coming home from work or is he stopping
for a "quickie" at the usual watering hole?) with the vigilance of a death
row inmate wating for a stay/phone call from the governor before the lethal
injection to be altogether too much for me. I am attending a weekly Al-anon
meeting, and thank God I can bring the baby along. I stay at home and have been
unable to get a sitter, let alone pay for one. We are living on one income
and it is just not making it.  Also, I have a weekly family therapy
session, and I have been taking the baby there too. It's a blessing that
our insurance for mental heath care does not require a co-pay! And I can go up
to 52 sessions a year! Whoo-hoo, cause I need 'em, I really do. Not only is
motherhood kicking my ass, but feeling something like a single parent was
something I hadn't bargained for.

    I say SOMETHING LIKE, because I
am not faced with leaving my baby with a childcare provider or family member
while going to work/school. Ugh. Hats off to you ladies and gents who are
doing this alone! My mom did it with five kids and when I ask her for advice,
she simply states, "honey, I can't even remember the Vietnam War. How am I
supposed to remember how I fed/dressed/diapered 5 kids on a police cadet's
salary in the sixities?

    So what to do, what to do. I
feel like I cannot leave the baby in his care and get out of the house alone for
a spell, which I need to do DESPARATELY-even if it is running errands on
the Mommy Clock. That's if he even makes it home at a reasonable hour. By
reasonable, I mean 7:30pm, for the whole bedtime routine. If he does make it
home, he usually is pretty buzzed or completely innebriated, so much so that I
cringe when he picks up the baby and walks around the house with him. Not like
he's ever dropped him, but it still makes me nervous. So husband might spend 1/2
hour with baby a day, sometimes, and then he generally passes out in front of
the TV. Husbands says he fell asleep, but I know better. Anyway, he's gonna do
what he's gonna do, while I am concentrating on everything else that needs to be
done, with safety first on my mind.

    I sent a few questions your way
this week regarding sleep and routine, etc., etc., and I feel my husband's
behavior (not spending time with our child, walking funny, talking funny when he
is home) is contributing to Grumpy's overall development, bar none the
loosey-gooseyness of our ever deteriorating schedule.

I am trying to get husband involved, with bath time
and feeding (we are in our first week of cereal 2x a day) but he can't be here
at any given time after work hours.

Should I give up, or will pressing the importance
of the routine issue become a routine in itself? He won't change diapers sober,
but he dotes on the baby after a few beers, let me tell you. Help! I feel like I
am searching for the tv remote in the bedcovers at night without waking the baby
in bed with me, and all I have to search with is a single foot and a dim
light at the end of the hall.

    How can a girl find a free
sitter? What are sitters charging nowadays? Who can you trust? My son, 6 months
old, is going through that clingy,teething,no-sleep stage; so in a way, I
feel the idea of handing him over to someone else is an impossible
dream, and therefore a moot point.What options do I have? My sanity is
involved here. I am nursing him round the clock, and daddy won't give a the
baby a bottle, unless he's been drinking, and even that
takes timing. Shit. This truely sucks.  

    If you choose to consider
posting this, please, you have my thanks. However, once I send this email, I
will delete it from my sent messages. I just don't want any more confrontation
from husband. It's hard enough getting to a weekly meeting; he's so defensive
and in denial."

Oh, girl. I'm just so sorry. This email is sucking the fight out of me just reading it, so I can't imagine how it must be to be living it.

First, get a free web-based email address from gmail.com or yahoo.com or hotmail.com that's just yours. Don't let him know  you have it, and clear the browsing history of your browser before he comes home. Then email me back.

Now, here's what I want you to know, even if you can't do anything about it right now: This is not your fault, and you are built for something better than living in fear of someone in the throes of a disease he can't control and is denying. You are meant for something more, Something far better, and something that makes use of who you are and what you can be. And your son deserves far better than he's getting right now, too. You're going to have to leave. Even if you can't do it now, you know it. When you're ready to, you will. Thousands of women have done it and are doing it, so you can, too. And we'll be right here to help you.

And it's not safe for him to be in charge of your baby. When he's sober he might be a wonderful guy. But alcoholism changes people and makes them behave in ways that are not rational. Until he gets into recovery, you cannot trust him with your son. And there is nothing you can do to get him out of denial and into recovery. Your job is to protect your son and yourself. You are the family unit at this point, because your husband is allowing himself to be absent and dangerous. Asking for or trying to get help and responsibility from him is simply not an option, because he's deep into this illness and just can't be trusted.

It sounds like what you need right now is a friend with a child who can trade some babysitting with you. You can leave your child with her for a few hours and then she can leave her child with you for a few hours. (But please please don't take her child while your husband is home–his active alcoholism makes it an unsafe situation.)

I don't have personal experience with Al-Anon or AA, but from my outsider's perspective I wonder if you could approach anyone in your group to ask for some help. It sounds like the alcoholism is making *you* feel ashamed and is limiting your social contacts, and that's tragic. You need all the support you can get right now. Can someone who's been (or is in) either Al-Anon or AA comment about whether she could approach other people in the group, or if that's not something that's done? It just seems to me like those are people with whom Amy wouldn't have to pretend that everything is OK.

This post is dedicated to the memory of D.E., who died yesterday at the age of 37 from complications of alcoholism.

Does anyone have any words of support or advice for Amy? Any women who've gotten out of alcoholic situations? Any people who grew up in alcoholic homes? Any women who are crying reading this like I'm crying typing it?

Atlanta meetup?

Jill and anyone else in the area, I'll be in ATL on Thursday, October 9 (one night only!). I know it's Yom Kippur, but can anyone meet for dinner? I'll be there for work so won't have kids with me, but bring yours if you want to. I can meet at 6 or later. We need a location–anyplace people can get to and that's typical Atlanta would be good.

Suggestions, RSVPs?

(And yes, rudyinparis, I guess I do kind of get around, although for me going to Philadelphia is like you going to St. Cloud.)

San Francisco Moxie Moms meetup

San Francisco Bay Area Meetup

Sunday October 5, 9 AM-1 PM
Blue Playground in Golden Gate Park (enter off Fulton @ 9th Ave.)
http://www.ggmg.org/Playgrounds/ggpark_9thave.html

We'll have a blanket on the lawn next to the play structures. If
you're looking for me, I'm pale and brown-haired, probably in pigtails,
and will be accompanied by a small blond child in glasses. – Lisa

Moxie is NOT going to be there, unfortunately. If only I could go…

System freeze

So I kind of had a mini-system freeze yesterday, in which everything was like moving through pudding.

I wonder if we're starting to hit the intersection of Overload and Illness. So far we've had one wave of head cold Chez Moxie.

And we've started talking about Halloween costumes.

And are making plans for Thanksgiving.

And I know what I'm getting the kids for Christmas.

And all this before I'm even wearing a coat to work in the morning.

When did I become this person?

Something more useful later on today. Comments, please, on whatever you want.

By popular request: Evening routines

I've been saying for years that if I ran the world there would be universal nannies for all parents every day from 6-9 am and 6-9 pm.  I think I've proven my case for the necessity of an assistant in the mornings. Let's roll the tape for the evenings.

I'll go first.

Parameters: Single mom with two kids in school, picked up by babysitter. Kids' dad relieves babysitter between 4:30 and 4:45 and plays with kids outside or in my apartment until I get home.

I leave work at 6, walk to the subway, and am coming out of the subway any time between 6:15 and 6:25. I usually swing into the grocery store around the corner to get something for supper and whatever I'm out of for breakfast and lunch for the kids for the next day. Speed through the aisles, wait at the check-out, chit-chat with Krystal or Stacy or Gloria as one of them checks me out, walk home. As I'm in the elevator I invariably realize I forgot to get something at the store.

Arrive home. Cats and kids rush me. Hugs, kisses, petting. Put down purse and bags, take off shoes, exchange information with kids' dad. He leaves.

Start supper. If I'm lucky, the kids are playing with cars or trains or playing Club Penguin (devil's tool) or Hide the Farts or one of the baseball games on the computer in the living room so I can make supper quickly and with no unnecessarily messy incidents. Dinner probably involves George Forman grill or quick stir-fry of some sort. Need to start ramping up slow cooker again, now that there's a chill in the air.

I feed the cats. Did I mention that my babysitter and her roommate convinced me to start cooking my own cat food? I am such a dumb-ass, because I tried it. It takes about 45 minutes once a week, then I freeze the portions in silpat cupcake tins, pop them out, and store them in the freezer, 'til I thaw them and plop them on the plate for the cats. Their fur is definitely shinier and they have more energy and seem more playful. Or else I'm just imagining that.

Serve supper. Pray, eat. Yes, they can have more tater tots once they finish all of the broccoli and chicken. Yes, you may be excused, but please go wash your hands. With soap.

Clear supper dishes, wipe down table. Check mail, look over older son's homework packet. He's gaming the system by doing all of it on Monday night instead of in increments. Make sure he's not behind. Check any other correspondence from either school.

Roam the apartment looking for wayward laundry. Boy sock in between the tines of the broom. Interesting. Boy underpants on a desk. Collect enough clothes for a load. Consider prioritizing by which clothes will need to be used in the next couple of days, but don't have the emotional energy. Horrible thought: Do I have any quarters? Yes–it's a Christmas miracle. Toss the load in the shared laundry machine down the hall.

Break up fight between the boys. Turn on "Wheel of Fortune" to distract kids and learn more about the fascinating English language. Read books with kids. Snuggle, laugh, play with cats. Guess final round of Wheel of Fortune. Keep playing.

Look at time, and give 5-minute warning before bath. Run bathwater (with bubbles). Get kids out of clothes and into tub. Wash dishes while kids are playing in tub. Pick out pajamas for kids. Wash their hair, get them out of tub, dry them off, stuff them into pajamas. Help them brush teeth.

Tuck into bed. Hahahahahahahaha. The older one is easy–a cup of water, a kiss, and he's ready to sleep or else pretend to sleep until I'm gone at which point he reads Sports Illustrated for Kids in his bed quietly, thinking he's fooling me. The younger one is a nightmare of multiple trips for water and peeing, being tucked in the wrong way, needing to tell me "sumfing" a dozen times, and not wanting to go "tooo sweeeeep." Try to stay patient and loving. Triumph by eventually just saying "Goodnight" firmly and walking out of the room, ignoring the wailing. Switch laundry to drier.

Change into elastic-waist pants, althletic socks, and sneakers. Do T-Tapp (BWO+ or SATI). Have TV on in the background while I work on freelance work assignment. Write Ask Moxie post. Drink some water. Fight off urge for cookies. Look at time–crap! 11:30. Do face routine, brush/floss teeth. Put in retainer. Change into pajamas. Look woefully around my room and make mental note to do something about organization on the weekend. Send text to friend who drives a semi and gets lonely on the road. Pray. Fall asleep. Have completely forgotten about dry, wrinkled laundry in the hall.