Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rites of Passage

Brubeck graduated from his first obedience training class today. The instructor even put a little mortar board on his head and gave him a celebratory an ice cream treat (which he promptly threw up. Apparently my dog is lactose intolerant.) Gavin and I stopped in toward the end of the class to witness the pomp and circumstance and, after photos, the dogs had free play, which was great fun to watch.

Our little guy has come a long way. He can sit, stay, come, (lie) down, and leave it on command. Best of all, he can WAIT.

It used to be that the moment I picked up a blanket and a book, he would vibrate with anticipation: Where’sshegonnasit?where’sshegonnasit?where’sshegonnasit? he seemed to say. I’d hardly start to lean toward the chair and, with an explosive bound, he was suddenly in it. With irritation, I would remove him from the chair and hold him in one hand over my head while trying to adjust my position, my blanket, my book and the light while he wiggled and licked and frequently fell right out of my hand (he has a very odd center of gravity).

After he learned “wait!” three weeks ago, all of that changed. Now when I grab my blanket and book he still starts to vibrate, but all I have to do is get his attention and say firmly, “Wait.” He will drop to a lying position, tail erect (what there is of it), ears perky and watch intently while I slowly and carefully choose my spot. I stretch out the blanket. I set down my coffee. I turn on the light. I find my place in my book. Finally, without even looking up, I say, “Come!” and with an explosive bound, he’s in my lap. What an improvement!!!

As someone pointed out at dinner this evening, dog obedience training serves primarily to train the owner, not the dog. I conceded the point eagerly: I admit I knew absolutely nothing about dogs when Brubeck joined our family. Well, I knew the things I didn’t like about dogs, but anyone can complain if they’re ignorant. Within a week of his first class, I knew how to get him to stop jumping on me and barking to get my attention (simply turn my back to him and say “no.”), and why he seemed aggressive with other dogs (in fact, Brubeck is ridiculously social and was not actually exhibiting aggression).

I’m not saying we don’t have a long way to go. My niece, Rachel, asked how long it would be before they taught him not to jump and bark and snap at family members when they came for a visit. Yeah, I’m hoping for that one in the next class myself. So is Eiledon’s flute teacher, I imagine (“It’s not just me, is it?” she asked on Friday afternoon. Poor woman.) But I’m hopeful about Brubeck’s future in this family, whereas before I was starting to think one of us was going to have to go and it wouldn’t be me.

So congratulations, Bru, and thanks to Dan and Eiledon for taking him to training classes, and to LaTasha Hamann for being a fantastic instructor. As long as he can wait until I have my book open, he can stay.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wonderland

A Journal entry from October 7, 2003

I would swear, sometimes,, that I’m living in Wonderland. One must question one’s sanity or reality (or substance use?) when a little girl dressed as a princess is crawling on her hands and knees pretending to be a horse and pushing a stuffed white rabbit, which is wrapped in a dish towel and sitting in a stroller, across the floor with her forehead.

Then there is the little boy who says he’s “Blue Spirit” and neighs when he’s not babbling sing-song nonsense to himself or laughing rather maniacally.

We have, of course, the Cheshire Cat—two, actually. One of them begins howling deep in his throat every evening when the house goes quiet. And when I yell at him to “can it!” the little horse princess calls out from her bed, “No, Mama! He has do to that to scare away all the monsters!”

With any luck, I’ll come across a cupcake labeled “eat me” and I’ll take a bite and find myself on a marvelous adventure. Then again, isn’t my life already a marvelous adventure?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pleasantly Nondescript

On Facebook in the past couple days, people’s statuses have been popping up with an inviation to change your profile picture to someone famous that others have said you look like, and then pass it on. I don’t think anyone has ever said I look like anyone other than “someone I know.” I get that all the time. I must have the same generic, run-of-the-mill, German/Scots-Irish/Anglo mutt look that everyone knows someone else who has. Wow. Could that grammar be any worse?

While wandering around campus my freshman year of college I remember thinking that there must really be a finite number of possible combinations of human features. Everyone I met looked like someone I already knew and most people who met me knew someone back in their home town who looked just like me. That could, of course, be because I went to a Lutheran College and was surrounded by a whole lotta Lutherans. Who knows.

My husband looks like LOTS of famous people. In the 20 years I’ve known him, these are just a few of the people others have said Dan resembles: Paul McCartney, Bob Geldoff, Al Pacino, Dave Grohl and Robert Downey Jr. Now, with the exception of Sir Bob, these are high compliments and I’m tickled to be the wife of such blatant eye-candy.

But me? I look like my grandma Fergus. You know, Hilda. Hilda Anna Wilhelmina Markworth Fergus. What, you didn’t know Hilda? Your loss.

When I was a little girl and would shake my head until my tow-head blonde hair was a disastrous mess, my older brother told me I looked like Debbie Harry. I thought that was pretty cool. But aside from the mop on my head, there's not much resemblance. Oh, and I'm no longer blonde.

When Star Wars came out, and, more importantly, when Star Wars action figures came out, Princess Leia wasn’t on the first run so I got Chewbacca. And became known as Chewbekah. Not that I looked like him, but whatever. Or maybe I did. Or still do.

Yeah, I'm pretty happy just looking like me. And that's a pretty big statement for someone who had a painfully bad self-image most of her life. I love having my grandma's nose and my mother's eyes and all those little genetic tweaks that make me recognizable to those who know and love me. Famous people, schmamous schmoeple.

So I chose Chewbacca for my profile picture. Good old Chewbacca. He’s got lovely hair.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cat Who Played Fetch

Jack-Jack Oinkpuff Orange Squeakbox Moir, the Cheeto Padawan came to live with us when he was eight weeks old. His new compatriots, Dolby and Perry were a dozen years old each and regarded the young upstart with some misgiving. Jack-Jack, for his part, was completely oblivious to the negative vibe. He was all about the fun.

At the time, Gavin was in a phase where he had to systematically remove every single tire from each of his toy cars and trucks and then get me to put them back on again. He never tired of this game. In particular, he had this wonderful eighteen-wheeled truck that doubled as a matchbox carrier and it actually had eighteen separate rubber tires that could be removed from the plastic wheel rims. In short order, these were all over the living room.

Jack-Jack flipped. They were the perfect cat toy. He could play with them on his own, but he far preferred when one of us would toss or roll one across the living room floor. It wasn’t long before he started bringing the tires to us, wordlessly begging us to throw them.

For the next several weeks we found these 3/4-inch tires in every nook and cranny of the house, in every possible state of disrepair. When we moved furniture, we found tires. When we swept out corners, we found tires. When we opened the hide-a-bed, we found tires. Or, at least, pieces of tires. The tires didn’t last all that long.

That fall, Eiledon participated in a running club which required her to wear her hair up. I purchased a cheap package of thick, multi-colored hair rubber bands for her and emptied these into my bathroom drawer. They didn’t stay in her hair too well and she tended to discard them any old place. Day by day, the supply of rubber bands in my drawer dwindled.

One morning, as I was making breakfast, Jack-Jack tripped lightly into the kitchen and dropped a fuschia hair rubber band at my feet. “Cute,” I thought, picked it up and tossed it down the stairs. A blur of orange fuzz tore after it at breakneck speed and I returned to my task. Moments later, the distinct sound of the metal clip on a hair band hitting the wood floor at my feet caught my attention. There sat Jack-Jack, the fuschia hair band between his front paws. He looked up at me plaintively.

“Okay, Jack-Jack,” I said smiling, picked up the band and tossed it again, figuring the matter was done with. I’d hardly flipped my oatmeal pancake when he was back, fuschia band dangling from his teeth. He meowed eagerly and the band fell out of his mouth and hit the floor. “How odd,” I thought. “He plays fetch?”

It took me a LONG time to finish making my breakfast that morning, as I had to stop every fifteen seconds and throw the stupid hair band down the stairs again. I showed Dan at the first possible opportunity: “This cat plays fetch,” I declared and, sure enough, he pursued and retrieved a chartreuse hair band multiple times. We got bored LONG before he did.

Eventually, it became a challenge to see who could last the longest. No greater sense of victory have I experienced than the time that Jack-Jack finally gave out and flopped onto the wood floor at the top of the stairs, exhausted.

So obsessed was he with these simple pieces of elastic that once when I was actually using one as it was intended--in my hair!--he climbed onto the back of the chair I was sitting in and proceeded to swat at my head in an attempt to dislodge it.

We figured he’d eventually grow out of it. But it’s been almost three years and just this morning, when I was making my oatmeal pancake, I heard the distinct sound of the metal clip on a hair band hitting the wood floor at my feet. He’s on his second package of hair bands now—he got them for Christmas. I can’t even imagine what we’re going to find if we ever move out of this house. In the mean time, at least he gets some exercise.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Definition of Insanity

I’m good at finding things. For one thing, I’ve deliberately gotten rid of so much junk over the past three years that there aren’t as many piles into which things might vanish. For another, I’m constantly losing things (I often joke that I got my tattoo as an ankle bracelet I couldn’t lose). Much as I strive for the ideal of “a place for everything and everything in its place” I still have a terrible habit of setting things down and forgetting about them, so I’ve evolved a corresponding skill in searching. When it comes to my kids’ or husbands’ missing objects, I seem to have an innate ability to mentally sniff things out, whether it’s by systematic elimination or an ability to analyze the logic of my family, probably both.

The others in my household are less gifted in this regard. It’s an accepted fact that unless a given object jumps up and bites him on the butt, Dan will be unable to find it. This is a lifelong disability which seems impossible to train out of him. The kids are even worse, of course. “Mom, where are the granola bars?” “Pantry closet, second shelf from the bottom on the left.” Silence. “I can’t find them.” “Have you looked yet?” “Yes!” “Second shelf from the bottom. Start at the bottom and go up one shelf. On the left side.” “They’re not there.” “They are there.” “No they’re not, Mama!” **sighhhhhhh** I stop what I’m doing, travel through two rooms, reach into the pantry closet and pull out a granola bar from exactly the location I specified. “Oh.”

Between my long history of having to locate misplaced objects and my natural ability to think like a lost object, not much gets permanently lost in this house. After five years, we still have every single piece of Eiledon’s Disney Princess tea set, including all 12 utensils. I see that as proof positive that if it’s in this house, I’ll find it.

So someone tell me WHERE IN THE HECK IS GAVIN’S SOCK MONKEY!?!?!? It’s maddening, I tell you. I have searched in every nook and cranny in this not-all-that-big house and Hobbes, as he’s named, is not to be found. I KNOW Hobbes was sitting atop the entertainment center at supper time on Sunday, and I KNOW he went missing that evening, so I KNOW he must be in this stinkin’ house!

I’ve heard that insanity can be defined as doing the same action and expecting a different result. Well, I’m completely bonkers, then, because I’ve checked and re-checked and re-checked AGAIN in the same drawers and cabinets and closets and beds and under those beds and behind furniture and in my car and through the entire blanket cabinet and I can’t find the stupid monkey.

I’d give up. Except once, when I lived with my sister, I lost my checkbook. I tore the place apart searching for it, retracing my steps, checking my clothing and backpack, you name it. I must have checked all four pockets in my Ragstock blazer a dozen times but finally, Kathy picked up the blazer, reached into a pocket, and pulled out my checkbook. I was utterly flabbergasted.

So now it’s Wednesday and my son’s favorite stuffed animal is still no where to be found. It’s maddening, I tell you. MADDENING.

Maybe I should invite Kathy over.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One Wacky Dream

Another cop-out today. I figure in light of yesterday's entry, I'd include the write-up of my dream from the morning of September 11th, 2001 just 'cuz it's wicked creepy. Enjoy!

--RM

-------------------

I woke up on the morning of September 11th, 2001 and said to my husband, "I had the weirdest dream! George W. Bush was in it. I don't think I've dreamt about a political figure in my life." I proceeded to tell him the following dream:

I was standing on the deck of the Titanic. I think I knew it was the Titanic because it was a visual image straight out of the James Cameron movie. It was late evening and the sky was purple-black and cloudy. Next to me stood President George W. Bush. We were aware of each other in a casual way. I didn't feel as if I were working for him, more that we just happened to have run into one another by coincidence.

In front of the President was a radar screen, the large, round display half-lit as the straight line in the middle went around. (Ok, so, my technical knowledge of radar is nil. If you know the right terminology, please don't be shy about telling me). He was looking hard at the screen with a neutral expression.

Curious, I leaned toward him so I could see the screen. Right away, I gasped. I could see clearly that there were obstacles--ice bergs--all over the screen! I stepped back and turned to Mr. Bush.

"Mr. President,"I said with alarm, "we're going to hit an ice berg!"

The President regarded me blankly, as if to say "What are you talking about?" But he just said, "I don't see anything. There are no ice bergs."

I was incredulous and started to feel a little panicked. "But, Sir," I insisted, "don't you see them? They're all over the screen!"

Mr. Bush looked back at the screen for a time. I could see in his face that he honestly did not see anything on the radar screen to cause any alarm. I thought maybe I was nuts, so I leaned back in to look again.

No. It was very clear that we were surrounded by large, jagged ice bergs and that at any moment, we were going to hit one. I tried again. "With respect, Mr. President," I said, "please look again. We are in imminent danger."

The President turned back to the radar screen and, once again, showed no reaction or any indication that he could see anything amiss. My feeling of panic began to rise. How could I make him see what was going to happen?

Just then, there was a horrible sound of squealing, tearing metal and the world lurched and I woke up.

Once I had shared the dream with Dan, I forgot all about it. About an hour later, I heard NPR report on the first plane crashing into the Twin Towers. No one knew what was going on yet. It wasn't until Dan was watching some news coverage from his own office that he remembered my dream and called me, feeling a little sick. Who knows why I had the dream. It wasn't as if I could have done anything with the information. I figure I probably just picked up on whatever sinister energy was floating around the world that morning. My brother said he wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people had similar dreams then. Let me know if you experienced anything like this.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Sixth Sense?

I’m reading a fabulous book about the history and development of modern physics as it applies to the origins of the universe. I can totally geek out over this stuff. And while some who might misunderstand the nature and character of science might think this information is contradictory to my spiritual beliefs, in fact, it is not.

So I think it’s funny that just as I'm reading about Einstein’s early ‘career’ my daughter says, “Oh, Mama—can I tell you something that happened at school today? I was sitting by Ethan at lunch and he was playing hangman with another kid and I could tell just from where he put the “E”s in the words what it answer was. It was Albert Einstein.”

“Um.” I said. “What made you think of that all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know,” she answered, “I just remembered it.”

“I’m reading about Albert Einstein right now. I don’t know that I’ve ever read about Einstein before. And I had no idea you even knew who Einstein was.”

“Who is he, anyway?” she asked.

I believe that science is testable and provable. I don’t believe in coincidences.

I might still believe in them if things like this didn’t happen so darn often. Not necessarily to this degree of oddity, mind you, but with enough regularity it gives me cause to wonder what, exactly, is happening when someone in my family appears to be able to read the mind of another. Well, not “read the mind,” per se, but, like pick up on things in other people’s heads.

My grandmother once had a dream that a family acquaintance died and then found out the next day that, in fact, he had been killed in an accident during the night. (I can’t remember the details, Dad—correct me if I’m wrong. And did you say you had a dream like that once, too?) I had a dream about my mom’s dad (Pa) in which his departed wife (Nana) appeared and indicated that she was going to take Pa with her. I found out the next day that he’d been admitted to the hospital overnight with serious heart issues (he did not die that night). Then there was that crazy dream I had on the morning of September 11th, 2001 which turned out to be eerily prophetic.

But it isn’t just dreams. It happens more often than I can accurately quantify that an obscure song unexplainably pops into my head while I'm standing in the kitchen and then I find out later that right around the same time, Dan heard it on the PA system in a convenience store somewhere. Or vice versa.

While I believe this kind of connection is related in some way to spirituality, my inclination is to believe that there is also a scientific explanation for this sort of extra-sensory perception. To date, I have yet to hear any credible theory (not that I’ve been looking for one or anything, so if any of you know something about this, please do share.)

Meanwhile, Dan and I have chalked it up to both of us using the same brain. But if Eiledon’s using it now, too, can it be more than a matter of time before Gavin moves in? Things are going to get a little crowded in there. Maybe Dan and I should move to a tropical island and just sip rum on the beach while the kids are in college. They’ll probably get better grades.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Addict

My name is Rebekah and I am a compulsive over-reader. That would be funnier to me if it weren’t true. I can go weeks, even months without reading a book, but the minute I pick one up, I disappear into the oblivion of voracious intellectual consumption until the book has been completely devoured. I have tried again and again the experiment of reading “just one chapter” only to give in three or four days later to the inexorable need to disengage completely from life until the last page is turned. With the recent institution of “Family Reading Time” after dinner each night, I figured I could control my consumption. Half an hour. That was it. It worked for a few days, and then it didn’t. Dang. Am I going to have to start committing my reading to my sponsor?!?!? She all but said so this morning. Dang.

I’ve always read like that—at least for as long as I remember. And it’s probably worth noting that I was reading before I can remember. I think the figure my mom gives is that I started reading at three, which means I literally can’t remember a time when I didn’t read.

In high school, I would do most or all of my homework at school, during study hall, lunch or other classes. After supper, I would disappear into my room to read, starting before bed-time and often continuing until 3 or 4a.m. My mom didn’t realize I was doing this: When I told her recently of this pattern she commented, “No wonder it was impossible to get you out of bed in the morning!”

I guess this is further evidence of my self-diagnosed ADHD. I could do a zillion things at once and thrived on chaos. But when my energy was focused on something I loved, everything else in the universe vanished.

It’s been problematic since having children. While I used to read at least a book a week, and at times a book a day (my Agatha Christie period was like that: they’re quick reads) with the arrival of responsibilities which stubbornly refused to cease existing for the period in which I was immersed, my drug of choice had to come second. At times, I really resented it. And for the addict, resentment is a serious ‘no-no.’

So I don’t read much anymore. My husband and children are kind enough to let me mainline at least one book each summer at the cabin (two years ago it was Watership Down which was friggin’ awesome!) and now and then they have the patience to tolerate my psychological absence for an extended period of time. But by and large, the books are down. They have to be. I have too darn much to do.

Dang.

This afternoon, I inhaled the second two-thirds of Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by Jim Webb, lent to me by my father-in-law. Sitting in the living room waiting for me, on the recommendation of my brother Pete, is Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe, by Simon Singh. And gosh darn it if my father didn’t hand me the latest Sister Fidelma mystery by Peter Tremayne at church this morning!!!

Thirty minutes at Family Reading Time. That’s it. I swear.

Suuuuuure. Heard that one before.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Angels in our Midst

“Buckle Close Friends to Your Soul”

--Maya Anjelou

And so it begins. Eiledon came home from school last Thursday and said, “Mama, the other kids in my class really aren’t nice. Especially the girls.”

The first kick to the gut of a mom who went through upper elementary, junior high and high school completely lost among the daily dramas of adolescent identity-seeking, internally crippled by insecurity and falling back on the only way she knew how to be, which was “weird” and a “know-it-all” and a “teacher’s pet.” I didn’t get my classmates and I was sure they didn’t get me.

“Oh, Eiledon,” I said as gently as I could, trying not to make it about me, “I remember how that felt. And it’s okay. It’s normal. But it may be that way for a while, maybe even up through high school.”

“Well that sucks,” she said. “Sucks” is a new word for her. I try not to giggle.

“Now is the time, Eiledon, when you have to hold on to your good friends.”

I am so grateful that Eiledon has good friends. A handful of girls for whom she has indomitable affection and with whom she can truly be herself. She will need them.

I think if it hadn’t been for Lora Grisafi, Susan Waldenmaier and Mika Nishida, I wouldn’t have made it through high school with my sanity intact, much less my optimism.

Lora was my very first friend. Seven months older than me and just two doors down the street in our neighborhood, Lora and her brothers were just a part of the pack we kids ran with. When we were little girls we fought like sisters, friends one day, “I’m not your friend!” the next. As we grew up, it was evident that we had little in common beyond proximity, but it never mattered. Lora was a constant in my world and someone I could count on to love me even though I had absolutely no clue about anything worldly. We talk maybe once a year anymore but every time we connect it’s as if no time has passed, we just pick up where we left off.

I met Susan in kindergarten at Carl L. Dixson School. We would be Brownies and then Junior Girl Scouts together, have the same third and fourth grade teachers, and both play flute in the Alice E. Grady Elementary School band. When you’re kids, friendships are more casual and situational and, particularly after I skipped fifth grade, I wouldn’t say we were “close.” But for some reason, when I was in ninth grade and she was in eighth, something changed. It’s weird, when I think about it: I have this crystal clear memory of the Hamilton High School cafeteria, sitting with Sue and a few other people, eating lunch, and from that day, things were different. We were inseparable. She probably doesn’t remember it the same way, like it was an ‘all of a sudden’ thing. But I just remember that before that day, I was horribly, miserably, devastatingly lonely and after that, I had a best friend. (I still have her. I am so lucky.)

Mika moved in when she was in the sixth grade and I in the eighth, having been born in Japan and lived in California from age 3 to 10. She lived two doors down from me in the opposite direction from Lora. Because of a quirk of school district mapping, she was in a different district than I so we never had the common backdrop of school. What we did have was a shared passion for music and the arts. We sang together, we drew together, we ran around like maniacs together. She went to church with my family for years. When I went off to college, and she, later, to the Boston Conservatory for the Performing Arts, we lost touch. For whatever reason, we just couldn’t keep up the communication. Say what you will about Facebook, but it has brought Mika back into my life and my life is much richer for it.

I’ve grown past all the stomach-churning memories of ‘mean girls’ from my past. I understand, now, that they were as lost as I. But at the time, in my na├»ve and socially inept navigation of the confusing maelstrom of growing up, Lora, Susan and Mika were no less than angelic presences in my life, giving me all the unconditional love and grace I didn’t know how to give myself. They are still buckled close to my soul. Thanks guys. You rock.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yer Darn Tootin'

I played the flute from fourth grade through senior year of high school. I had adored playing the recorder in 3rd grade and was chomping at the bit to take up a “real” instrument the following year. I wanted to play the clarinet because it seemed like that was the instrument all the cool kids were going to play. My mom wasn’t so sure. She said she loved the sound of the flute and encouraged me in that direction. I think she was probably terrified of the sounds I would make learning the clarinet—that whole dying goose thing, you know. Whatever the reason for her advice, I took it and the flute became my instrument of choice.

When I brought my school-owned instrument home that first day, I couldn’t get a sound out of it. I was crushed. I had an absolute melt-down, yelling that I would never be able to play the flute and I should just give up now! (Does anyone remember my blog about when my daughter started the flute? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m so sorry about that Mom & Dad). As it turned out, the flute was actually broken and I was given a different instrument and then things were just fine.

Flute came easily for me. I don’t recall practicing much at home, though I must have at some point. By the end of the fourth grade, I was playing on a sixth grade level and was given a perfect score at the solo festival that year (for a fourth-grade-level piece.) I was no prodigy, mind you. I just picked things up quickly. At some point in high school, the requirements of playing the instrument well caught up with my natural ability and I believe, for all intents and purposes that I was pretty mediocre in the end. I did take private lessons on Saturday mornings for a while, which were lots of fun until I decided I really didn’t want to spend the time practicing. Then Saturday mornings were awful. I always walked up Mr. Cohen’s walk with a sense of dread, certain that he would know I wasn’t practicing. Which he always did. Eventually, I asked my parents if I could stop the lessons. I felt like I was wasting their money.

When I graduated from high school, I made the decision not to continue playing flute. Part of it was that I was going to a college with one of the premier music programs in the country and I was completely intimidated and unwilling to do the work I knew it would take to keep up there. I gave my flute to a junior high kid who couldn’t afford his own and felt like the gesture validated the decision to quit. I remember my mom, again, not being so sure. She said there might come a time when I would regret quitting.

That time came in 1998 or so, when I was actively involved in a church with a ridiculous number of gifted musicians in its membership. It wasn’t that I wanted to do what they did. It was that I remembered how fun it was to play music, to create sound, to be part of a musical team. Choir was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, and I would never choose one over the other, but when people would play flute in church I would feel my fingers wanting to follow along with the notes, and I was sad I didn’t have my own instrument anymore.

I got over it. Like you do.

So when Eiledon decided she wanted to play either the violin, the clarinet or the flute (in that order), I said not one word. I didn’t even tell her that I had once played the flute. The school had an evening event where each kid got to try out their top three instruments and I sat silently by while my daughter clumsily drew a bow across the neck of a three-quarter-sized violin. She didn’t appear to be all that excited about it. Then, in another room, she tried the get a sound out of the clarinet. Nothin’. Not even the dying goose. She was very disappointed. The band instructor smiled kindly and handed her a flute mouthpiece. “Now look at the wall over there. I’ll hold the mouthpiece. Don’t look down—look straight ahead, make a small hole with your lips and blow.” Out came a high and lovely note. She was hooked. Instantly.

After she had made her decision, and was certain of it, I told her that I had also played the flute, but hadn’t wanted to influence her in that direction. But now that she’d chosen it, I was really excited for her.

A few weeks ago, I held her flute and played it. Not well. But I played it. And I remembered how much I loved it. As a result, I’ve been able to work with her in her practicing, to play pieces for her so she can hear what they’re supposed to sound like before she starts plugging away measure by measure. Who knows, maybe I’ll take this as a “refresher course” and get my own flute and we can play duets some day. Meanwhile, I just want to say “thanks” to my mom for steering me away from the dying goose. :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Precious Gems

A Michigan journal entry from August 8, 2008

As I sat at the bottom of the dock digging my hands into the rocks, I thought, “how priceless are these little bits of stone.” They may not be diamonds or sapphires, but they are in so many ways infinitely more valuable. I love the way they change color in the light or between water and air. I love the amazing variety and how, no matter how often or how long I look, I an always find something beautiful and new.

My favorite are the subtly striped stones, like little pieces of far off planets, the dark swirls hinting of alien weather patterns and things too ancient to comprehend.

The fossils always give a little thrill, their surfaces etched with the lacy remains of life from long ago. Most precious of this is, of course, the coveted Petosky stone which, when found is cause for celebration indeed.

Then there are the different quartz-like stones, shimmering pink or gold, the leopard-spotted stones in orange and the ones which are pale blue-gray with black and white striations, like miniature planet Earths. The rocks with portions cut away by time and the elements make me think of layered jawbreakers half-eaten. Even the most plain-looking rock can have secrets when you turn it over and experience all of its facets.

There are also a myriad of shells, tiny curling snail shells in brown or blue-gray or white, and copious zebra mussel shells. While I am aware of the ecological ravages of this introduced species, I can’t help but find their empty shells beautiful, with their iridescent interiors and colorful exteriors.

On rare occasions there might even be a precious piece of beach glass to be found. Usually white or clear, but sometimes brown, pale blue or green or, if you’re very lucky, dark blue. Leftovers from human attempts to pollute and destroy, taken by the water and sand and transformed into luminous gems, now more valuable than the original glass ever was: these are reminders that nature can and will outlast our attempts to subdue her.

These treasures are right there for the enjoying, before my eyes and under my feet, whenever I can again sit peacefully on the shore of Mullett Lake. May I never take them for granted.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rocking

A Michigan journal entry from July 31, 2008

Often when I lie down to rest, I can almost conjure the sensation of gently swaying. I crave this feeling. It makes me comfortable. I experience security and release. I have repeatedly expressed my desire to have a hammock or sky-chair at the cabin so that I might lie beneath the trees and swing in the lake breezes accompanied by the sound of the waves and the gulls.

I know where this desire originates. I know why rocking is so infinitely comforting. When we are rocking, we know, instinctively, that we are Held. From our very first experience in this life, we are snuggled securely in the womb and the movement of our mothers’ bodies speaks of contentment. All our needs are met, there are no fears, just this continual sway.

As small children, when we are upset, warm, strong arms hold us and we rock, once again safe and secure, removed from whatever pain or frustration might assail. We are reminded we are loved and that someone who cares for us deeply is looking out for us.

Recently, though I am an adult, the yearning for this sensation has returned quite strongly. Few days pass wherein I don’t find myself lying in bed and attempting to feel that rocking. I think, as I said, of hammocks. I imagine a bed frame on a sliding track that could create this motion for grownups. Rocking chairs. Swings. Amusement park rides.

Perhaps this explains why I love the lake so much. I can sit in the boat or on an inner tube in the water and feel that delicious sway. I can feel that I am Held and loved and cared for in ways I cannot possibly comprehend. And so I am, and that is why, even on solid ground in a stationary bed, I can still feel that I am gently rocking.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Series of Fortunate Events

It’s rare that one discrete event, such as reading a book, can have a singularly transformative effect on everything else in life. I know the book I read last Wednesday wasn’t magic and that it’s wisdom and insight, unto itself, can’t “fix” my parenting challenges. It occurred to me in the days following that it wasn’t so much the book itself, but the fact that I had “hit bottom,” as we say in the 12-step community, as it related to my children. Until January 10th, I had been assaulting the problem with my considerable will power, hell bent on “figuring it out,” as I have always done. Just as with my food addiction, my will fell short and I had to concede utter defeat. I simply could not do it on my own. It took slumping into a multi-day depression to get me to the point where I was ready to listen, ready to accept help. That was the first piece of the puzzle.

Enter the perfect book at precisely the right moment. Suuuuure. Coincidence. Yeah.

It gave me the next couple pieces. It said that the single most important part of a treatment plan for a child with ADHD is unconditional parental love. I realized I wasn’t doing this all that well. It said to look at ADHD as a gift to unwrap. When I first approached Eiledon with this idea, she didn’t buy it. She challenged me, “How is it a gift?” I had a few limp responses, but I really didn’t know myself. Still I muddled through and, if nothing else, I stayed positive.

By Saturday, I was noticing some distinct changes in Eiledon’s behavior.

  • She started self-checking her temper (she would yell “Hush!” at me but then immediately shake her head and say, “Sorry, sorry,” and bring it down a few notches rather than fly off the handle per usual).
  • She started putting effort out for others (I asked Gavin to hang up his coat and she quickly said, “Oh, I’ll do it for him, I’m down here. And he always hangs up my things.”)
  • She started laughing through her flute practice whenever she would mess up (instead of dissolving into rageful tears and self-abusive negative talk, she would launch into a clearly fake performance of the same painful behavior and then start giggling hysterically).
  • She started doing her homework on Saturday without being nagged. Without even being reminded. (Somebody pinch me).

Now, it happened that around the 11th or 12th of January, we upped her ADHD medication dose to what would be, most likely, the proper therapeutic level for her size/weight, and it’s likely that that’s another piece of the puzzle. And the more I noticed positive changes in her, the more my own outlook improved.

On Sunday morning, in this mellow, optimistic state, I led the littlest Sunday Schoolers through a re-enactment of the epiphany story during worship. The older kids held their star art-projects in the air and sang “Bright and Glorious Is the Sky” while the 3, 4 and 5-year old “Wise Men” followed a gold star-shaped mylar balloon to Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Way fun.

As I was carrying the last load of props back out of the nave after the service, I was stopped by one of the ushers. He’s not someone I know well, except by sight, but he stopped me by saying, “You know, I have been trying to figure you out.” He said he’d seen the various work I had been doing at Calvary and kept trying to guess from whatever I was doing what my professional career might be. He listed (in very complimentary terms) some of what he observed as my talents and then guessed at what career each might indicate, marveling at how none of them seemed compatible. Finally, he said with a smile, “I can’t figure it out. I give up.”

I stood listening to his monologue, my arms full of cardboard tube “telescopes” and scrolls, my eyes wide, a stupid grin across my face. He had just handed me the missing puzzle piece. He was, at that moment, the very incarnation of God, looking me right in the eye and saying, “Come on, now, Rebekah. Haven’t you figured this out yet?”

I have ADHD. And it’s the greatest gift I possess.

It’s also been a serious challenge. But I finally realized that my ADHD makes me who I am. And who I am is pretty damn cool. Which means I can now look my daughter in the eye and say, “Your ADHD is a gift. And we’re gonna have a blast unwrapping it.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Who Am I?

Just a short jotting about a game my family has been playing at dinner every evening for the past few days called “Who Am I?”. It’s basically “20 Questions,” although there isn’t a limit, and generally we all chose a “person” to be. I put person in quotes because we’re often various cartoon creatures, aliens, animals and others. “Personalities” might be a better word.

Eiledon had played it at school and then brought it home for us to try. Everyone does a pretty good job choosing personalities that we’re sure the other three would be able to identify. This isn’t easy. The kids and I have the shared reference of Cartoon Network shows which Dan never sees. And, of course, Dan and I have years of common experience we can’t tap because the kids haven’t been around that long. But we’re a close family and it’s not too difficult to find a personality we can all figure out.

An example of how well we know each other: It was Dan’s turn—possibly even the first time he ever played. He said he had though of someone to “be” and we could start asking questions.

Eiledon and I asked a few and narrowed the field to an actual person (rather than a fictional character) who was living and male. Gavin, who had been absolutely silent to that point said, “Billy Joel.” Dan’s jaw dropped open, for, of course, Gavin was right. He had pulled the name out without pertinent facts like: famous, musician, rock & roll, or any other clues. He just knew that Dan would pick Billy Joel. We all had a good laugh at Gavin’s perception—and Dan’s obvious choice.

In the book I just read on parenting kids with ADHD, the author stressed the importance of nurturing a “connected childhood” for such children: connected to family, traditions, community and so on and so forth. It good to know that something as simple as a family game around the table carries such weight in child development. I remember playing all sorts of games with my family growing up and it makes sense to me now how that encouraged a depth of interrelationship that created security and stability in an otherwise unpredictable life. At the time, I just thought we were having fun. Because we were. I guess it doesn’t always have to be rocket science.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Letting It Go

I spend a lot of time and energy working with Sunday School kids on drama and music. The creative arts are my passion and I love to experience the way children’s minds are so much more free than adult minds. Most of the kids really respond to drama, too. Even the one or two who are getting to the point where they’re “too cool” to sing in front of the congregation warm right up to the opportunity for some good comedic lines and the spotlight.

As a result of my efforts with the kids, I’d like to think they are each getting a deeper understanding of God’s word by experiencing it in multiple ways. As another result of my efforts, people compliment me a heck of a lot. I’m much better at accepting praise gracefully now, with the help of my twelve-step program and my honest work toward more humility. But my lifelong MO is to absolutely thrive on the praise of others. In fact, growing up all of my self-esteem came from what other people thought of me. So when someone pulls me aside to tell me how amazing it was to see the kids do thus-and-so and did I write that skit???, I have to be very deliberate about being gracious and giving the credit to the kids for their engagement in the process.

Then there is the matter of Gavin. I remind myself with some frequency, whenever my head starts to swell, that for all my passion for the arts, for all my ability to get kids to act and sing and really dig into the Gospel, the only child who absolutely will not participate in anything I do is my own son.

It’s not his fault. Whatever his emotional-behavioral challenge might be labeled eventually, the bottom line is that he will not participate in group activities, especially if they involve any kind of audience. He did manage to do his Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade Performances at school, but every year was a crapshoot and we were always surprised when he did it. Third Grade? No dice. Even though he seemed to want to participate, even though I bribed him shamelessly, reports kept coming from school that as soon as he would get to music class to start rehearsing for the play, his behavior would quickly go downhill. As the performance loomed closer, he started getting agitated at just the mention of music class and the play. At home, he still told me he wanted to do the performance but the facts coming from school didn’t support this. In the end, his special ed team strongly recommended that, for his own sense of serenity, he shouldn’t participate.

This was hard for me. Gavin has a beautiful voice. He is engaging and funny. He memorizes lines effortlessly. He. Will. Not. Perform. My primadonna diva proud stage-mother ego was being poked with a hot skewer.

I asked Gavin directly: if the bribe were not hanging out there, would he really want to do the performance? He said no.

I had to concede. Whatever it is that sets Gavin off about public performance is real. And it would be mean to force him to do something that was so terribly unnerving for him. Even if it was something he was good at. Even if it was something I loved.

After letting it go at school, I was able to start letting it go at church, too. I can’t force him to participate in Sunday School, sing songs with the other kids, or stand up in the sanctuary and act out a skit or a Bible story. I don’t want him to hate church. Or singing. Or me. And I realized that if I was honest with myself, the main reason I was pushing was pride and ego, not love and service to my little boy with the big heart.

I am grateful for this. Today, another mom was near tears at the way her children did not want to participate in the worship service. I just hugged her and told her I understood, and that the purpose of the experience wasn’t to impress the other grown-ups, but to dig in to the story. They had already done that. They didn’t need to prove it to anyone. I gave her daughter a hug and said, “I love you, Hon, even if you don’t want to sing.”

It was a good reminder, too, that my job isn’t to impress the congregation with the talents of its children (or the talents of its drama director). My job is to facilitate the children in sharing the story with those around them. That has nothing to do with me. Thanks, Gavin. :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paleolithic Metallurgy School

Trying to advocate for kids with learning and behavioral challenges is a study in acronyms. In the past year or so I have come to be very familiar with terms such as FAPE, IDEA, IEP, ASD, CAM, ADHD and PDD thanks to a number of MDs, PhDs, LPs and LicSWs. I don’t mind all of these shorthand terms, but it’s very hard for me when my 10-year-old daughter says in frustration, “I wish there were no such thing as ADHD. What does it even mean, anyway?”

How would you feel if a couple dozen authority figures in your life insisted upon referring to your personal frustrations by an acronym that included the words “deficit” and “disorder?” Eiledon is only now able to remember what the letters actually stand for. I’d rather she forgot again.

When I was an adolescent and young adult, I was regularly plagued by another acronym: PMS. It wasn’t all in my head, as medical practitioners contended for years rather than having to address the issue. My cramps, moodiness, food cravings, fatigue and volatility were all real. I wasn’t just blaming my emotional and behavioral challenges on a convenient medical term so I didn’t have to deal with them. I dealt with them. Every stinkin’ month.

At one point in high school or college I was sitting around with my brother, Pete. I must have been in the throes of PMS—weepy, tired, ravenous, miserable. He felt bad for me—he really did. Pete’s an amazing friend to me. He suggested coming up with alternate meanings for the acronym PMS. We pulled out a piece of paper and started making up completely ridiculous phrases with the same initials. Within a short period of time, we were laughing hysterically and I could focus on something other than how lousy I was feeling. Sadly, I remember only one of our new meanings: Paleolithic Metallurgy School. It was Pete’s creation and it appealed to me on so many levels, nonsensical as it was.

I don’t get PMS as badly anymore (unless I eat beef chock full of hormones—then I’m positively homicidal). But now and then, I still think of Paleolithic Metallurgy School and it makes me smile.

I thought a similar exercise might be in order with my frustrated and shame-filled daughter. She forgot to go to her in-school flute lesson yesterday and the two other girls who go with her absolutely refuse to help her remember. She didn’t notice they’d gone and she missed the lesson completely. She came home from school embarrassed and dejected, furious at her “mean” classmates, but determined to apologize to her flute instructor in person on Tuesday. I was proud of her for that.

This morning, before Gavin woke up, Eiledon and I sat together in the big blue chair and I told her what Pete had done for me all those years ago. How it had made the label ridiculous and more bearable. I’ve been talking a lot with her about how to see the gifts of ADHD, to see the ‘disorder’ as a ‘difference in thinking.’ So she agreed to my suggestion that we got to decide what ADHD stands for in our house.

A partial list follows:

Astronaut Dinners Have Dumplings

Any Day Has Donuts

Ancy Dogs Help Drive

Ape Drums Have Dingoes

Astronaut Downers Have Diarrhea

Another Day Hugging Donkeys

Always Do Happy Dances

Awesome Dramatic Hi-Definition

In the end, I pulled together several of our crazy brainstorms to create what I believe ADHD says about my daughter. It says: Astonishing, Delightful, Hilarious & Dramatic. Because she is.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What’s In A Name?

Names in our family are completely arbitrary. They pretty much serve the function of legal identification for tax purposes. Beyond that, no one in our house is who their birth certificates say they are.

On a road trip to the east coast about 18 or 20 years ago, Dan and I saw a huge rock along the Pennsylvania Turnpike onto which someone had spray painted, “I Love You, Booper!” We found this quite funny (not even having seen the movie “She’s Having A Baby” yet) and kept threatening to start calling the other one by that nickname. Dan won, consistently referring to me as “Booper” for the requisite 21 days it takes for something to become a habit. He claims self defense. I still sign e-mails, text message and other correspondence to him “Booper” or, the more informal “Boop.” I got my revenge, inventing the ridiculous name “Dannypookernose” and then proceeding to call him nothing else. He signs most correspondence “Pook.” Cutsey? Maybe, but who asked you? ;)

When we adopted our beloved cat, Dolby, he, too was given all kinds of nicknames, Splinky, Spider-monkey cat and Lump being the most memorable. When we adopted Perry, we called her “Perry-Girl” or “PG” for short. PG is still her primary identifier between Dan and me. Collectively, they were known as “The Buddies,” never “The Cats.”

It’s somewhat of a miracle that our daughter ever learned her given name. Eiledon Katharine is a mouthful in any case, but those words rarely come out of anyone’s mouth in this house. From birth she was “Binky,” and then “Binks,” “Munchkin,” and then “Munch,” (which is still my favorite) and a slew of other endearments. At daycare, she was dubbed “Leelee” since the other kids couldn’t pronounce her name. It’s stuck and is probably Ledon’s most commonly used nickname. Her middle name came into play when her behavior got rocky. I will never forget the time when she was about three and we were in a Stride Rite shoe store. She was chattering away to a complete stranger: “Hi. My name is Eiledon. But when my mom is mad at me, she calls me ‘Kate.’” Ledon-Kate, Leelee-Kate and other similar concoctions are still frequent.

In fact, we had given Eiledon so many nicknames that when Gavin arrived, we were sort of tapped. Seriously. I actually sent out an email to friends and family asking for suggestions. I thought about calling him “Dutch” after my grandfather’s CB handle: “The Flying Dutchman” but it just never stuck. Gavin was… Gavin. We did shorten it to “Vin” and Eiledon sometimes called him “My Gavy” but nicknames didn’t come easily. Then later, when he was about 2 or 3, he went through a phase when he refused to be called anything but Gavin. Not even “Sweetheart” or “Vinnie-bear.” If I called him anything other than his given name he would look at me with a scowl and say, “Mama, I’m just Gavin! Eventually he accepted other permutations and I most commonly call him “Vinnie.” These days, he is generally one or another Pokemon, so as soon as I find out which one he is, I call him that until he changes his mind. Poor Dan knows nothing about Pokemon so he gets kind of lost in the nickname shuffle.

Collectively, the kids are referred to as “The Monkeys,” which is appropriate since they both like bananas and jumping all over the furniture.

When Jack-Jack arrived, nicknames really weren’t necessary. We had a family meeting to choose his name and wound up laughing so hard at all the different suggestions, we just kept them all, giving him an official name of “Jack-Jack Oinkpuff Orange Squeakbox Moir the Cheeto Padawan.” Where do you go from there?

A similar situation arose with Brubeck, when he came into our lives. Having set the precedent for multiple given names, we skipped the formal process and all came up with one or two we liked and just lumped them all together. His full name is Brubeck Dyoxis Obstreporous Yankovik Moir VIII. Still, this hasn’t prevented the nicknames from flying out the woodwork (which isn’t the best thing for a dog, really—he’s confused a lot). My sister dubbed him “Brewski” which totally stuck. It then mutated into Bru-skaDOOSH (courtesy of Kung-Fu Panda) to just “SkaDOOSH” to “Ski.” Ledon calls him “Ski-baby” usually (which she pronounces SKEE-buh-bee). He has no idea who she’s talking about. I shortened Bru-SkaDOOSH into “Brushka” with a heavy Russian accent. He responds to that one.

Then last night—which is the reason for this entry in the first place—Dan came in from walking Brubeck, took him off leash and gave him a treat saying, “There you go Spazzy MacBarkBark.”

I about peed my pants. Spazzy MacBarkBark. I’m still laughing.

Poor dog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One Among Many

Another cop-out, folks. Too much going on to be inspired and it's against policy to write about how I have nothing to write about. SO without further ado, here's an earlier version of my children's book One Among Many, written with a lot of 12-step influence for my kids. It's been edited/cleaned-up a bit since then but I don't have it in a format I can upload. So here you go. Peace out.

--RFM

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Was Wrong.

This kind of admission would once have been the ultimate humiliation for me. I remember the one altercation I had with my high school social studies teacher over a test question I got wrong that I was certain was right. She had some very pointed words to say to me after class about otherwise being a such a polite young lady who oughtn’t be so outright rude to her teachers. I was red to my toes. Even more so when, for a brief moment, I understood why I had gotten the question wrong. Made my arguing that much more ridiculous.

I won’t say I’m completely different now—I’d still prefer to be right and I still have a tendency to be quick to correct the inaccuracies of others.

But this… Today… I have never been so happy to have been wrong.

I just read a book about parenting children with ADHD. It wasn’t preachy. It wasn’t jargonistic. It wasn’t rigidly procedural. It was about loving your child for who they are. Not just that you should. But why and how to do it.

I read about my own children in that book. I laughed out loud. And I felt like I was going to cry on several occasions. Mostly because I realized what a lousy job I’ve been doing of loving them for who they are. Or, at least, showing it.

I read about myself in that book. About how I have trouble seeing ADHD as a positive trait. How I’m deeply worried about my children’s future. How painful it is to see them struggling in school. How bringing all my will to bear on the situation with checklists and behavior charts and constant nagging at them to try harder, to behave better, to pay more attention simply isn’t working and, worse, seems to be making my children depressed, frustrated and self-loathing.

Four days ago, I hit a wall. After my son’s behavioral issues escalated to the point at which he is no longer able to ride the regular school bus and my daughter failed for the third day in a row to simply hand in an assignment which was complete, I was defeated. I blogged a few days back about being a lifelong quitter and how I couldn’t quit on my kids. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to quit that day. A friend had tried to encourage me by telling me God knew what He was doing when He gave those kids to me. But I felt kicked in the gut by the reality that I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t seem to have anything left up my sleeve.

Six days ago, I had poked around the Hennepin County Library system catalog for books on ADHD, hoping to find out more about the condition, treatments and prognosis. Grasping for any kind of resource that might help. Nothing was available immediately but I put in several requests for books that looked promising. The first three were ready for me to pick up within a couple days and they sat on the shelf until I ‘had time’ to read them.

Finally, last night, during the recently instated “Family Reading Time,” I started Superparenting for ADD with low expectations (it really isn't a great title). By the end of the introduction I was nearly in tears. By one o’clock this afternoon, my hope was completely restored.

The good news is that Dan and I have been doing a lot of things right. The better news is that the things we’ve been doing wrong—the things that aren’t working for our kids—are completely fixable. Not easily. Not instantly. Well, some things can change instantly, like my attitude. For the very first time, I can honestly say that I can look at my kids’ ADHD as a gift. As a truly positive trait that can be nurtured for their benefit in the long term. I didn’t believe that yesterday. I’m happy to say that I was wrong.

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Here's the Book:

Hallowell, Edward M., MD, and Peter Jensen, MD. Superparenting for ADD, New York: Ballentine Books, 2008.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

When in Doubt, Make Pizza

Now, if you’re one of those people who believes everyone should just shut up and eat whatever is put in front of him with a smile and LIKE IT, you might as well stop reading. Of course, if you do keep reading, I’m sure you’ll have lots of things to say to me about how I’m raising my children incorrectly. Oh well. That’s the risk of blogging, I guess.

My household is made up of the following members and their associated food issues:

Daniel G. Moir, age 42. Dan is the quintessential “guy.” He will not, can not, does not stand for anything remotely resembling “hot dish” (that’s a “casserole” for all my east coast peeps). Different food types can’t touch each other. Seriously, if the man eats vegetables (which, to be fair, he does) he will actually finish eating everything else on the table first and then have the proffered vegetable as a separate course. Additionally, he prefers to avoid anything that can be considered “production” around meals. In his perfect “guy” world, all meals would come frozen, be heated on tin foil and eaten off paper plates.

Rebekah M. Moir, age 38. I’m a food addict. I don’t care what it is or how it’s prepared. With a few exceptions for “out there” type foods (I won’t eat anything still living!) and lima beans, bring it on, Baby! Yeah, this wasn’t the greatest philosophy for my health. Now, to maintain my recovery from my addiction, I precisely weigh or measure individual food items that I eat so I have to make almost everything from scratch. And sugar is absolutely out of the question (did you know that Green Giant actually adds sugar to its canned corn? I am not kidding.) Luckily, since I’m the family chef and I like to make things from scratch, I’m covered.

Eiledon K. Moir, age 10. Your typical, picky eater, Eiledon will not consume anything without first tasting the tiniest piece of it to within an inch of its existence. Everything puts her off. Taste, texture, aroma, sometimes even the name of a food is enough to elicit complete refusal to consume. She subsists on bread, pasta, cheese, a few fruits and vegetables and some highly processed meats but only very limited varieties of these items. And what she adores one day, she may honestly detest a few days later. With her, every meal is a crapshoot.

Gavin A. F. Moir, age 8. Your not-so-typical picky eater. Actually, Gavin likes a much broader variety of things than his sister. He will gladly eat meat of any kind, and a good number of items from all the food groups. What’s frustrating about him is that the foods he doesn’t like are the only ones Eiledon does. He will not eat macaroni & cheese or pasta of any kind. What kid doesn’t like PASTA for crying out loud?!?!?

Lest you think I fall into the role of a short-order cook, I will tell you that I can and do feed my family a single meal as often as possible. But just as in my childhood when my mother made herself liver and onions and the rest of us pasta (because, well… liver and onions, Mom! Eww) there are times when each individual gets his or her meal a bit tailored. And even when I do serve a single, unified menu to the family, there’s a pretty fair variety of choices on the table. If we’re having spaghetti, there’s sauce and (plain) meatballs, butter and parmesan cheese, and bread all of which can be consumed by anyone in any combination. But EVERYBODY has to eat the vegetable, dammit. Even if it’s for dessert.

Still, there are those nights like tonight when I think, “Heck with it. I’ll just throw in a pizza.” (And then I make a little homemade one for myself and it’s so tasty!) Bon appetit!