Sunday, April 2, 2017

I'm a Bad Mom (Or, Down with the Mommy Guilt)



While watching “Bad Moms” with my husband this afternoon (the second time I’ve seen it since it came out) I caught myself thinking over and over again-that’s me. I’m a bad mom. 

I don’t volunteer at my kids’ schools. (I work two jobs.)

I don’t spend hours making food for bake sales. (The school would just reject it anyway, since it doesn’t come with a pre-printed ingredients label.)

I refuse to do my kids’ homework. (I suffered through 8th grade algebra, you can too.)

I don’t buy or pack my kids organic foods. (There are a few we splurge on, but seriously. That shit’s expensive.)

I make my daughter walk to and from her afterschool activities. (We live less than a mile away, she’s got this.)

I don’t sign my kids up for a million activities. (Been there. Done that. Have the ulcer.)

For the most part, I think we’re doing okay. My kids are good people who are growing up to be great. They take in strays and donate to charity and are kind to people they meet. Sure, we have our blips along the way, but for the most part they’re growing up to be pretty awesome adults.

So enough with the mom guilt.

Seriously? Being a mom these days is ridiculous. Attachment parenting. Helicopter parenting. 
Corporal punishment. People calling CPS for your kids playing outside in the lawn.

Don’t tell your kids no. I would seriously love to know who came up with that one.

If you’re a stay at home mom (or a homeschooling one), your kids don’t socialize enough. If you’re a working mom and your kids go to school/daycare, you’re letting someone else raise your kids. Tell them to wash their hands, you’re turning them into germophobes. Let them run around dirty, you’re not teaching them to be healthy. Breastfeeding mom? Bottlefeeding mom? Oh, the vultures on the Internet can chase after that one for days. #fedisbest

Healthy dinners. Hand packed lunches. Make crafts for kids’ birthday parties. The list of what we as moms are expected to do for our kids goes on, and on, and on, and…

And that’s before you start talking about keeping the house clean, getting back to your pre-baby body in six weeks or less, or any number of other things that we as women are expected to achieve.

My point is, as parents, we are never going to be good enough. It’s time to stop. Stop staying up late and getting up early. Time to stop running our kids around all day without having two seconds to ourselves. Stop planning our days down to the last minute without any cushion for when things blow up. (Like, say, when the dog has vertigo and you have to jump up every three seconds and carry him outside!)

And for pete’s sake, stop holding yourselves, and each other, to unrealistic standards. Put away the judgement sticks. Stop trolling the Internet. We’re all in this thing called Parenthood together.

Friday, February 10, 2017

POTS Stinks



Let me start by saying I tip my hat to all the parents out there who have children with chronic illnesses, disabilities and special needs. It’s exhausting, and you guys are rockstars!

If you’re new to the blog (and let’s be honest, I update so infrequently it’s a miracle anyone is here at all!) let me catch you up.

About two years ago, Princess C was diagnosed with dysautonomia and borderline POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). For those of you not familiar with the medical jargon, it means the part of her nervous system that controls her body’s automatic functions, like her heart rate, the ability of her veins to constrict, how her GI system processes food, and her breathing, doesn’t quite work right. She’s considered borderline POTS because she has all the symptoms, but they aren’t quite severe enough to meet diagnostic criteria.

It took us about a year to really get her symptoms under control, during which we homeschooled, and physically she was doing well. So well, in fact, that we decided to send her back to public school.

Since then, it’s basically been a nightmare. Her symptoms have been relentless, and I think she’s missed almost as much school as she’s gone to. Although her last report card said she only missed six days of school. I think someone fudged the paperwork somewhere :P

We have an appointment with her specialist next week to see if we can get some accommodations for school. Some days, she’s just too down to go to school. Fainting, vomiting, that sort of thing. But then she has those in-between days-what we’ve dubbed her “dizzy days”-where she’s lightheaded and unsteady on her feet, but fully capable of sitting in a chair and following along in class. Which I know because we’re still doing her at-home Spanish classes through the Spanish Homeschool Academy, and I’ve only had to cancel a few of them.

Until we get those accommodations, however, we’re still playing the absenteeism game. Which means long stretches of days where she needs someone to make sure she gets liquids and foods and safely to and from the bathroom, while we’re both agonizing over the amount of school she’s missed and wondering if this is going to be the day we get the call from CPS.

I don’t think it will happen-she’s got a GREAT principal this year (she’s in Jr High now) who has worked closely with her physicians to get her back in school. She was actually Mr. A’s third grade teacher, and we LOVED her. But the year she was sick and in and out of the hospital without a diagnosis, she missed so much class it was “mentioned” more than once. Right along with holding her back, despite her grades being high enough that she was still on the honor roll.

We were all stressed out and on edge until one of the nurse practitioners at her pediatrician’s office said enough was enough, pulled her out and got her a tutor. When she did go back, it was half days only for the rest of the year.

Know who told us a tutor was an option? Her doctor’s office. Know who told us half days was an option? Her doctor’s office. Know who didn’t tell us diddly, and made it sound like we were going to get a visit from CPS, and told us that having a tutor for an extended length of time wasn’t an option and if that was the case, we needed to homeschool?  

The elementary school.

To be fair, homeschooling for a year did turn out to be an excellent option while we got a treatment plan in place. She was able to take days off as needed, and work at her own pace around doctor’s visits and PT. We all appreciated the huge breath of relief it gave us not to be agonizing over whether or not she was going to make it to school that day. It would have been nice, however, had we not been made to feel like that was our ONLY option.

Oh! You’re probably sitting there wondering why we re-enrolled her in the first place in homeschool was such a good choice. The problem was, Princess C is a social creature. She loves being active, and really needs to be around people and get involved in extracurricular activities. With her dad working full time, and me working two jobs and going to nursing school, she wasn’t getting that. Once she started feeling better, it wasn’t doing great things for her coping skills.

She’s been MUCH happier since going back to public school. They set up her schedule so her best friend is in almost all her classes (not sure if that was a great idea or an awful one, but the girls are happy with it!). She was chosen for select chorus, and has a part in the school play. It’s exactly the sort of school experience she needed.

After having her home sick for the better part of the last two weeks, however, we’re all exhausted. Thank goodness it’s the weekend. I have to take G-money for a placement test for the STEM program tomorrow morning, but after that we have the rest of the weekend to rest and recharge.

POTS stinks.

Friday, February 26, 2016

How to Get Teenagers Out of Bed!




Okay, look. I remember trying to get out of bed in the morning as a teenager. It wasn’t fun. I didn’t like doing it. But I’m pretty sure my parents never had to all but sit on my head to get me to school in the morning!

Fast forward a dozen years or so, and now I have the teenager that doesn’t sleep well, doesn’t wake up to an alarm and waits until the last possible second to roll out of bed in the morning, often making himself late in the process. This year has been the worst. It used to be we could poke him to get him up somewhere between 6:30 and 7; that way, even if he dawdled, he’d still be ready in time. This year he insists on staying in bed until 7:40 when school starts at 8. 

Honey, I understand completely.
The winter weather has been…well, winter in the Northeast. I can’t say it’s the worst I’ve ever seen, but it certainly hasn’t been warm and toasty. Since he’s at the high school and can’t ride the bus anymore, we’ve been giving both the boys a ride to school in the morning. That way, G-money only has to make the scoot from the house to the car instead of standing at the bus stop, and instead of walking almost a mile before the sun’s had a chance to warm everything up Mr. A can catch a ride in a vehicle that’s at least slightly warmer than the outside.

This morning he wasn’t doing it though, and with company to get to school on time (we babysat for a friend last night) I just gave up. Dad drove the three that were ready up to school, and Mr. A walked when he was ready.

It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. The problem is, the school’s been lenient with his tardiness so far. So much so that even though I spoke with the principal earlier this year and encouraged the school to begin implementing some consequences for his tardiness, it hasn’t happened yet.

If the school doesn’t care if he’s late, why am I making myself nuts in the morning?

Yes, I know. It’s a matter of good habits and ethics and all that good parenting stuff I’m supposed to be doing. I get that. But honestly? He isn’t five anymore. I can’t pick him up out of bed and carry him to the door, and short of that I’m tired of trying. I figure today’s going to become the gold standard, with a few changes. 

I think a new alarm clock needs to happen, and he needs to get himself out of bed. And I think we need to implement a time past which we will NOT be making the drive up to school. Being driven to school is a privilege he needs to earn, and if he doesn’t want a ride I see no reason to roll myself out the door in the morning…no matter how entertaining driving into the school parking lot in my PJ’s happens to be.

Moms with teens, am I missing something here? Does someone out there have any awesome tips for getting teenagers out the door in the morning? Or are we all in this together?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Homeschooling is Exhausting



You know how sometimes you have this idea in your head of how something’s going to work, and then it works, and it’s just how you thought it would be? And you know how the other 99% of the time, it’s a giant mess and you’re left scrambling to adjust your expectations and figure out how to pick up the pieces and put together something that’s going to get you through?

Yeah-that’s me and the story of homeschooling right now. 

It sounded like such a good idea when it started. Princess C was diagnosed last spring with dysautonomia-borderline POTS, to be precise. I know I haven’t said a lot about it here. When it happened we were barely keeping our heads above water, and I'd be lying if I said I was any saner now. To be honest, it’s been a struggle. She’s sick one day out of three every month, and while it’s getting better we’ve still got a long way to go.

http://www.potsuk.org/images/stickman-pots.png
Image found at, and created by, PotsUK.org. It's a PERFECT representation of a POTS flareup.
POTS flare ups are awful. If you're not familiar with the disease, it involves a disorder of the autonomic nervous system-the one that controls your heart rate, breathing and digestion, among other things. So when things go wrong, they go terribly wrong. She’s dizzy. She’s sick to her stomach. She gets headaches, and walking the ten feet from her bed to the bathroom leaves her absolutely exhausted. And she has to have someone standing right next to her when she makes that ten foot trek from the bed to the bathroom, because if she doesn’t there’s always the chance that we’re going to find her unconscious on the floor.

It took us almost four months from the first time we found her unconscious to the time when we finally got a diagnosis. I’m not complaining-we’ve been blessed as far as that goes. The average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis for many people with POTS is five years or longer. Ironically, it was a referral to a teen clinic for depression associated with being sick and isolated at the height of her illness that led to the diagnosis in the first place-one of the doctors at the clinic was familiar with the disorder and diagnosed her immediately.


Months of pain and dizziness, accompanied by endless visits to specialists and therapists, made school attendance a nightmare, however. I’m going to spare you the details of listening to me rant and cut it down to this-homeschooling her this year was a better option than trying to go ten rounds with the school system, especially because she’s still sick as often as she is. I was kind of excited when we first decided to do it. I could pick her reading lists, decide what subjects she studied (with an eye toward state requirements, of course), and help present the information in a way that would make it interesting and fun.

What I didn’t expect was the uphill battle homeschooling was going to be when you coupled it with nursing school, going back to work part time while still picking up freelance writing gigs, and still having two other children to take care of. She ends up doing a large amount of the learning on her own, and while academically she’s doing very well the isolation of being home rather than with her friends (for her) and the stress of trying to keep up with everything (for me) has made it more nightmare than blessing some days. 

I’m glad we have the opportunity to homeschool her, I really am. And from an academic standpoint the decision has been the right one. Unfortunately, her frequent illnesses and my insane schedule mean it’s difficult to take advantage of many of the homeschool activities and groups around here. The cost and the amount of time she’s still out sick makes it very difficult to commit to various homeschool group activities and workshops, since we never know what she’s going to make it to vs. when she’s going to need to stay home.

Maybe it’s just a bad night at the end of a bad week, but right now I’m tired and looking for something-anything-that’s going to keep this homeschool boat afloat. Moms who homeschool multiples, I tip my hat to you. You’re amazing.