It’s about time someone addressed the very real and largely ignored issue of grizzly bears attacking and eating our children and their teachers on school grounds. It’s totally underreported by the biased mainstream media, but it’s a real and persistent problem. I read on some blog one time that 963 children died on elementary school playgrounds from grizzly attacks, and now, after this hearing, teachers are finally talking about how hard it is to avoid the bears while they are going to and coming from their schools and sharing their concerns about it. The threat is real. Has the do-nothing Congress even talked about it? No. Never. I’m glad that someone is finally going to start protecting our kids. With the guns. In the schools. From the grizzly bears. In all of the states.
Once upon a time in September 2006, I gave birth to a baby boy. And while I cannot say that I immediately fell in love with the rather huge human who was screaming his head off about being prematurely awakened and suddenly having to breathe and eat on his own, I did feel an overwhelming sense of protectiveness. The falling in love with him over and over every day still happens, but then? No. Instead, in an instant, those Nat Geo shows where the mama lion rips the arms off of a passing monkey who glanced at her cub all made sense. Yes, mama lion, yes. He was looking at your babe; of course, violent, bloody death is the only answer. I got it. Maybe a little too strongly, but I understood. I also understand that zebras are typically not violent animals, and none of that has to do with public schools, but bear with me. I’m going to tell you how the Kraken came to be. As he grew up, I noticed that my special snowflake wasn’t exactly like the others. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, but my background was in Educational Psychology. And folks, he was doing some weird stuff. Like the spinning. Dude could spin and spin and spin til I was ready to vomit from watching and then walk away not even dizzy. He couldn’t catch a ball, but he could swim like a dolphin. At 3. He ran like Phoebe on Friends. The vaccuum cleaner and hair dryer sent him into a frenzy. So, I called some people and they took a look and they called some more people and then I was learning about Sensory Processing Disorder and seeking/avoidant and joint hypermobility and low tone and an IQ that was off the charts. I learned about OT and PT and the enormous difference between hypermobile and hyperactive. And so it went through preschool and Pre-K until, after sketchy attendance and rather unstellar performance, he dropped out of Kindergarten and went to the beach and gave his grandmother lice. Truth. His rather brilliant and attentive OT suggested that I make an appointment with the Metabolic Disease Department at CHOP, just to rule things out because he had an odd rash. They were booking almost a year out, but I scheduled it. All of this brings us to June 2013, which is where the zebras joined our little circus. On the first day of summer, he broke his arm on monkey bars in the park, and we discovered that pain meds don’t work on the spawn. Two days later he had 13 stitches in his cheek playing with the dog and the attending children’s plastic surgeon I made them call in from a golf course on a Sunday thought his skin seemed “different.” Four weeks after that, he sprained an ankle. Ortho warned me that three breaks in one year would mean a full orthopedic workup over three days in the hospital. The stitches
I have to say, that as years go, this one is off to a less than stellar start, though it’s better than last year when, on January 2, all of the pipes burst in the middle of the night and there was The First Great Flood of 2016, which was quickly followed by The Cat Bite That Went Septic. The spawn has two broken bones encased in a half-arm cast insufficient to the task of keeping them stable and painless, we have a jackal foster puppy who is now biting us, we have a cannibal hermit crab who ate its friend’s legs, in front of the screaming spawn yesterday, and I’ve got a to-do list that I’m going to throw away and start over because there are least six things are now past the point of doing. And given all of this, I made the questionable decision to go to the Costco today during the free-lunch rush. Obviously, that was going to end well. You’ve probably all heard the saga of how I developed a heel spur in August, then fractured said spur in late September doing yoga to stretch the foot. The giant shot of cortisol into the foot did nothing, but the 14 days of oral steroids did greatly lessen my physical pain at the unfortunate cost of everyone else who knows me’s emotional stability. Then I sprained that knee. So walking very far is not possible, and I try to minimize it. Like right before Thanksgiving, when the spawn and I went to the Walmart and I attempted to use a motorized wheelchair while he danced around gleefully pointing and laughing at his disabled mother. Costco seemed like it was going to be a little much, and it’s cold and damp and my knee is aching, so when I passed the motorized wheelchairs by the front door, I thought “why not?”, flashed my card at the door and began the arduous process of deciding whether or not I needed 16 jars of peanut butter, a 54-pack of white tube socks, enough toilet paper to last a year and so on. I was happily motoring around when the store began to crowd with the people in the suits who go there for the free lunches. I used to wear work clothes and go out for lunch. But that’s not what this is about. I was zipping around the frozen food aisles, picking up spawn-food (things of questionable nutritional value, mostly containing ingredients that I can pronounce, that he will eat without throwing an epic fit) and looking for things I might like, such as a cheesecake that serves 24 or an entire frozen lamb. And then I heard it. “Karin, is that you?” It was loud. It was behind me. The voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Crap! No makeup, crappy handbag, hobo clothes, Love Your Melon – LYM hat and Crocs for heaven’s sake. I could not be seen looking like this. Now, I realize these
I gave it a lot of thought. I did. And I decided that The Kraken’s word for 2017 is going to be SMITE. I think it’s what Krakens do. It’s certainly what I do often enough. I’m going to collect instruments of smiting, read about smiting, maybe take a class on This History of the Smite, and go about smiting injustice and unfairness and bugs and laundry and whatever else, really, annoys me or seems unfair. So, SMITE it is. And yes, I know it’s an incredibly popular video game for Xbox One, and no, why would you think I just learned that searching for this meme? Sheesh people.
I am lucky to have a bunch of cool, smart friends. And one of the coolest and smartest is Deirdre. Beautiful inside and out, and a talented musician and songwriter, she is all things funny and savvy and thoughtful. And so on this last day of 2016, my way to repay her for over thirty years of friendship is to unabashedly steal her thoughts about New Year’s Resolutions, and how they suck, and how to do it different and better. You see, a few years ago, Deirdre wrote on Facebook that New Year’s Resolutions set you up for failure, and they give you permission to drop the ball as soon you fail. Planning to go to the gym three times a week? Yeah, well, when you miss that target two weeks in a row at the end of January, it’s easy to let go of that resolution. You’ll feel bad about yourself (again), and it’s another reason for some pretty negative self-talk, and then it’s forgotten until next December, when you do the same thing all over again, and hope to have different results. And we all know what that’s the definition of, right? Deirdre proposed that instead of making resolutions, we pick a word, a single word, that we wanted to use to define the coming year. A theme word. And she made us Facebook banners to put on our pages so we wouldn’t forget our word. Brilliance, right? Because if you think about what you want to resolve to do, you can keep doing it. You can’t fail at a theme word. When you revisit your theme word at the end of the year, and you consider the one you’ll choose for the next, you will find that you lived your theme word. I don’t just leave it on Facebook, though. I put it on sticky notes on my bathroom mirror, near my phone charger, on my desk. It’s there, seen but necessarily noticed all of the time. In 2014, I picked Fearless. Yep. Fearless. I grew up with the deeply ingrained belief that the world was frightening and unsafe. The only place I ever felt remotely safe was at my grandmother’s house. But even there, it didn’t override the sense that the other shoe could drop at any moment, that things could turn on a dime, that someone’s mood would switch and I’d been shaking inside from the angry onslaught I’d tried desperately to avoid. And I carried that into my adulthood. Once, when I was dealing with C-PTSD, a therapist asked me, “What if the world was a safe place?” Dude. What? I was so upset and angry that I left and didn’t go back for three weeks. I was a raving lunatic at the idea that he’d said that to me. So, Fearless. I decided that when opportunities presented themselves in 2014, I was not going to hide, avoid change and try to force myself to feel safe, I was going to do all of the
We spent last night in the Emergency Room at Paoli Hospital. It wasn’t our first visit, and it won’t be our last. But each one, in its own way, both strengthens us and defeats us a little more. Spawn has a somewhat complicated broken arm. I think he’s had 5 broken arms since the summer of 2013, on top of stitches, sprains, strains and scrapes. He’s had MRI’s and IVs and a host of other medical procedures. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a beast. No matter what happens, though, we’re the ones laughing in the waiting room, or pulling the door closed in the examination room so others in pain don’t hear us carrying on. But last night, it felt like our spirits were broken, too. I’ve been wishing 2016 away for some time. The summer was hard, and fall was a slog through thick muck. While I was worried sick about our finances, a job, the election and myriad other things, the spawn was battling his own demons, and he spent some time out of school working on ways to combat the depression and anxiety that accompanies an incurable disease that causes chronic pain and keeps him from doing things he wants to do. He’d always managed with high spirits and lots of humor, so when he started showing signs of it really bothering him over the summer — not so much the pain but the constant dealing with doctors and appointments and people asking questions — I actually felt some relief that he was expressing what I thought I would have been feeling. I wasn’t prepared for the crash, though, or how hard it came. When he was asked what the major triggers were for his “bad thoughts”, he cited Donald Trump winning the election as the first. Therapists were second because he is, after all, my spawn. We got through it, though. He’s bounced back to a degree, and I don’t feel like he’s quite so fragile. He’s working with a pro about how to cope and what to do. I learned quickly that having a child who is struggling emotionally is a lot different from having one with physical problems, and while the warm and supportive reactions from some friends left me with Shock and Awe, the reactions from others felt more like Shock and Appalled. I was thinking yesterday of a couple of them who were just freaking mean and rotten, like this was not the child they’d known forever but some other kid about whom it was suddenly okay to say terrible things. It’s hard to forgive even your best friends when they’re assholes about your child. The phone service was cut off on Tuesday because I didn’t have enough cash to cover the bill in my account. I didn’t panic. I figured the money would come in, and it was okay. And I did not tell the boy because I’m trying to keep his worries centered on things 10-year-olds worry about, like Minecraft villages being destroyed by
In 2011, Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, told us that we should learn to choose our battles in a post that involved a giant metal chicken she named Beyonce. The hilarious post went viral, and people began to post photos of themselves with giant metal chickens all over the world. For a while, I’ll bet sales of scrap metal soared while the uninformed wondered why people were suddenly scouring stores for metal avians. I don’t remember how I came across that post, but I’ll always remember the events that followed because, in truth, enormous metal poultry has had a bigger impact on my life than one might think possible. Online friendships were not new to me before The Bloggess came along; in fact, I met Friend who helped me keep my son alive and well online just in the nick of time, a few months before he was born. To this day I remain grateful to her for telling him that he just wasn’t a boob man and to get him some formula and that the chicken and liver cat treats he’d eaten while we were on the phone (that were in a yellow and purple container that looked an awful lot like the Gerber Graduates one, in my defense) would make his hair shiny. I’ve tried my hand at online dating, which is basically why I don’t date. But the friendships that emerged and then endured in the wake of Jenny’s epic tale of Victor’s lack of whimsy at having an enormous metal chicken staring at him have deepened over the years to become the kind that if I really needed to get rid of a body, I would have people all over the country, and the world, scrambling to help. Yep, those kind of friendships. The kind where they wouldn’t even ask why. The first person I met through Beyonce was Dee, who lives far away in a peaceful land called Canada, and who is one of the few friends you will find by name here. I think we met because I posted a photo of Blue Ivy, my baby Beyonce, to a Facebook group devoted to metal chickens (there are Facebook groups for EVERYTHING). It’s been a long time since a day has passed without us messaging back and forth about our lives and the people we want to throat punch, the boys we’ve loved and then wished vaporized, the kids we adore but who befuddle us, financial mishaps, how to turn $10 into gas and food for three weeks, and what our retirement will be like when my spawn takes over the world and sends us off into exile on a quiet tropical island filled with hundreds of cats and one dog and many shirtless cabana boys. We have it all figured out. We’ve even been saving ideas to Pinterest. We’ll drink whiskey all day and wear outrageous hats and when our visitors get on our nerves, or our cats pee in inappropriate places, they will
Fifteen days before Christmas, my spawn’s Xbox died. How it died is a matter of great debate at the Gamestop in Wayne, where Rob and Jeff dismantled it, did techno-CPR and tried to bring it back to life. Alas, it was pronounced dead, along with its warranty. I pronounced to the spawn that I had no way to replace it, and he was going to have to sell some toys if he wanted another. They kiddo’s had a hard time lately. Already struggling with some serious depression and anxiety, he agreed, and I listed some things on FB Yard Sale sites. Then he got sadder, and he decided he didn’t really want it back at all. And as I do, I posted an update about the awesomeness that is the staff at that GameStop, and Friend read this and offered to replace the Xbox. I was reluctant, but I accepted. I hate receiving so much help, but I’m torn when it’s things for him. For me? I don’t want anything except for wine, even boxed, delivered anonymously to my patio with straws because I don’t know how to do IVs. But for him? Another friend had already offered to put together Christmas for him while he was hospitalized, so it’s not like there was nothing in the works. But replacing that machine? Not in my budget of $58 for the rest of December. So, I went with the gift card, and with the generous trade in on the other machine and the Minecraft game that was stuck inside of it, I was able to upgrade to an Xbox One and buy him one game that he’d asked for before the catastrophe. I hid it all away with the other things that people had been dropping off here and there, and that I’d picked up with gift cards that people had given me, and I started messaging Dee that my closet was beginning to look like the store room at a ToysRUs. People are very generous. People love the spawn. But the spawn became more and more insistent that he did not want the damned Xbox back. “It’s lonely to have it in my room,” he said. “Other kids can be mean on it,” he said. And all I’m thinking is that there is like a super-expensive piece of equipment in the Closet Where Christmas Exploded that has a return policy. And said return policy is one week. Tick tock. I felt the parental panic that I’d totally screwed things up and gotten him something really big that he didn’t even want. Yesterday, before he came home from school, I wrapped it up, and I put it under the tree. I’ve long done the Twelve Days of Christmas (or some variation) with him, giving him gifts in the weeks leading up to CHRISTMAS DAY when Santa delivers something special. It gives him a chance to savor each thing, and it prevents the overwhelm you see on some Christmas mornings. “What’s that?” he asked me, looking at
In less than twenty (unsupervised) minutes, the baby Jesus lost both his hands, Mary lost an ear and part of her mantle, the shepherd boy’s sheep is in smithereens and one of the wise men is split in two. Apparently, this occurred in an epic battle with the Skylanders, which the Nativity set lost horrifically. While I was folding the laundry. – December 3, 2011 Some of you will remember the awful battle between the Skylanders and the Nativity Set in 2011, where the (ceramic) Nativity Set tragically lost to the plastic warriors, the new kitten, Nugget (now known as the Dark Lord Cheeto) ate the baby Jesus under the Christmas tree, and the whole set was destroyed by the expensive little space critters, each of which cost $10.99. I refused to buy another breakable set, so we went with Fisher Price, and then we moved on to Playmobil. Last night, the spawn asked me if he could rearrange things because he couldn’t “find all of the pieces”. Like I cared? After this past month? I was busy whining on Facebook about my lack of wine and bourbon and all other adult beverages. So, this is what I woke to. It seems that Mary and Joseph said, “Fork this crap,” upon learning that the only place to stay was a manger. They, with their camel, moved through the village, where they came upon Santa and a wise man, who must have been problematic because they smited them. They did spare the reindeer, though, who apparently thought the manger looked like pretty good digs and returned. I didn’t ask what happened to the sleigh, and I forgot to question why the reindeer didn’t just fly away. I guess the sheep were hungry because they seem to be picking over the dead remains, which may be a nod to The Walking Dead because according to the spawn, Jesus and Lazarus were, in fact, zombies at one point. Note the Christmas goat at the manger (remember when spawn did not want to be Gabriel in the Nativity Play at Our Lady of the Assumption and instead insisted he be allowed to be a goat which was not actually a part). Good times, folks. But I digress. Mary, pregnant, craving real food, in a bad mood that only a close-to-the-due-date pregnant woman could understand, and sick and tired of worrying about how she was going to take care of her baby, told Joseph to make himself useful and go find her a castle where they could be safe, warm and comfortable. I can relate to her in this tale. I feel this way. Obviously, Mary was used to a higher standard of living in this version of the story than in the original. My Joseph is still pretending to be a farmer in Tiverton, RI, but again, I digress. This isn’t about me. But this Joseph, probably scared to death by his hormonal, mysteriously pregnant fiancee listened. And so he did go find her a castle. And
“I changed my mind about what I want from Santa this year,” he said while eating his cereal this morning. He said it like, “I need some new socks,” or “Can a friend come over to play?” or “We’re out of cat food.” Like it’s not December 13 and “changing” his mind would not upset the scales that delicately balance the universe and cause the end of civilization. Loudly, I continued emptying the dishwasher and shooing the ever-helpful cats who were playing inside of it, hoping, praying and pretending I did not just hear those words. But he wasn’t giving it up. “Mom! MOM?!? I changed my mind about what I from Santa. I know you can hear me.” No. This is not happening. You are a ten year-old, and while in some ways you are young for your age, in some ways you are older and wiser than I am. I killed the tooth fairy last winter, and the Easter Bunny bit the dust the week before Easter. We’ve had thought-provoking discussions about why some “good children” get a hat and mittens for Christmas and other “good” children have ToysRUs explode in their living rooms on Christmas morning, and how that has nothing to do with race or color or behavior and a lot to do with zip codes and what kind of jobs their parents have. I’m not afraid to pull back the proverbial curtain on the jolly old elf less than two weeks before the holiday that is supposed to be filled with magic and wonder not mania and stress and upset. I am not afraid to call it a day, put another card in the “Shit to Tell Your Therapist” Jar, and sleep late on the 25th. I’m a mom on the edge, starter tween. Don’t push. 2016 has been a year for us all, snowflake, not just you. “You can’t. Santa works closely with Amazon and ToysRUs and other stores and the orders have been placed and some are delivered already. Everyone knows that there are no changes possible after December 10,” I told him, like he was the one who should have known this obscure rule that I had literally just made up. Like the one where the tooth fairy doesn’t deliver on weekends (cause she doesn’t have cash in her wallet). “That is NOT a rule. And Santa delivers toys in a sleigh on Christmas Eve, not with Amazon. Are you crazy? You don’t know anything about Santa.” he retorted with a fair amount of vehemence for a child who has lost his sneakers in the house and has not been able to locate them for four days. And so I sat down and I looked at the spawn over the breakfast table, and I thought so many thoughts while I focused the Maternal Death Stare (MDS) deeply into his first defiant, and then less sure, brown eyes. I thought about doing in the red-suited, white-bearded current bane of my existence. I really, really