The Unexpected Conversations

I’ve been obsessed for a week solid and think blogging might help.

I’ve written about my oldest daughter before.  She really is a gem (ok, they both are, but this one deals with her.).  In the past 10 days, she and I have learned that her best (new) friend has anorexia.  It’s had me pretty shaken since I learned of it.  Yes, I’m immediately thankful it’s not my daughter.   I am atwitter because it’s so close.  And because they are so young. And because this young lady is the first real friend my Olivia connected to who is a girl. She has lots of friends. Her longest, oldest friends are boys.  This young lady is the first girl she could identify with — she is athletic, she hates dresses, her parents have pretty tight rules, she’s book-smart.

Over the past few weeks her mother had mentioned to me that their daughter seemed to be obsessed with food. Wondered if Olivia was too.  She and her husband worried about her losing muscle mass.  At the time, I was still thinking she was a bit health-over-conscious.

Anyway, it all came to a head on the weekend of Olivia’s 11th birthday. Yes, these girls are E.L.E.V.E.N years old.  Her friend came over for Olivia’s birthday and watched me cook dinner. She was interested. Admired my carrots. I offered her an apple for a snack. She asked if my refried beans were the no-fat kind her parents buy. I lied and said “yes”.  She called her mom before dinner because she had a headache and wanted to go home. Unsuccessfully. I knew it was because the prospect of eating dinner with her classmates was too much on top of a long day at school where she had to skip the chocolate covered strawberries Olivia brought in to share with her class for her birthday, and lunch, where she routinely skipped most of her home-packed lunch.

While Olivia and two other classmates tore through three made-to-order tacos each, Olivia’s startlingly skinny friend ate a dollop of refried beans and some lettuce. No milk. No brownie. Then she talked about how much she likes english muffins — the whole wheat kind. She tried to engage her friends on the subject of beans and brown rice as the perfect protein. The others acknowledged her, but over a “please pass the cheese” and a reach.

The friend would not play soccer as she usually does. She stood in the middle of the back yard while the others played and laughed and kicked.  And this is HER sport.

The next day, while watching sports on television with Olivia, the commentator spoke of how the figure skater was competing again after two years off battling Anorexia. Then Olivia said “That’s what ___ has”.

I tried not to panic.

I played it cool.

I asked a few questions, but not too many.

But now we have a regular dialog on the subject. Fortunately, the friend is getting counseling with her family.  Unfortunately, she does not seem to be on the upswing yet, and yesterday missed a soccer game because of the family’s rule that she must meet the doctor’s weight target or no soccer. So yesterday was the first – of what I suspect will be many – missed soccers.

But now I am hypervigilant.

And Olivia is getting frustrated.

She said she wishes she could talk to her friend’s brain. To tell her to eat.

I know my girl. She is strong. She is healthy. She is courageous.  She will want to help “fix” her friend and she will get frustrated when the efforts fail.

But she is also intensely loyal, and so I think she will want to stick by her friend and do what she can.

Meanwhile, I have tried to find a fiction book that involves a friendship between girls when one of them gets an eating disorder.  But I can’t find one that doesn’t deal with the grisly details of bulimia, or imply something tragic that has happened at home — death of a parent, incest, or involves older teen topics of sexuality, attracting boys, etc.

Remember, my daughter is 11. She is in the fifth grade. She is a sports girl.  Boys are still her friends. I don’t want to frighten her with topics that are not age appropriate.

And so, perhaps for the best, we just talk. We talk about anorexia. We talk about being friends. About not being able to fix her friend. About how this can take a long time to change.  About staying healthy herself. About showing her you can drink milk, eat a peanut butter sandwich, a kiwi and a brownie and still be a great, healthy, happy kid.

As the subject seems to come up daily now, we’re working up to “why” this happens.

I realize as I have this precious time with my newly 11-year old, how special my kid is.  I am trying to protect her from the pain of watching a friend withdraw, as she might, and to help my daughter to remain the strong, wise, courageous and loyal friend that she is. So that she might emerge from this unexpected education even stronger.

Truthfully, I am scared. Scared for my daughter — for having to face these trials so young in life. Scared for her friend. Scared for my friends, her parents.  Trying not to show it, I do want to hug Olivia just a little bit longer and a little bit tighter. To protect her just a little bit better.

2012 State-of-the-Union

Since President Obama issued his State-of-the-Union address yesterday, I’ve been feeling like having one too.   And, having visited the financial planner yesterday, it seems no better time than to make some bold statements about 2012.

1. I will find a source of income this year.  After all, I now know that with the financial plan we’re working on, given existing income sources and adjustments for income, my kids will be able to go to a decent college, eating in a fancy dining hall, and sleeping in a dormitory that’s probably nicer than home, all with a hefty subsidy from mom & dad, but we will spend retirement eating ramen-noodles from our walkers wearing the same clothes I wear now. Seriously, I’ve always known I needed to return to work. I’ve wanted to return to work. I’ve tried to find something that suits me. But now it’s time to buckle down!  I don’t mind the ramen-noodles really (see below), but I’m gonna want to buy myself a nice pair of boots, or dear g-o-d, take a vacation to someplace warm when I’m old!

2. We will plan our expenses carefully. This is a tough one.  I am married to mr. spontaneity who’s alter ego is mr. end-cap (as in he shops from the promotional end-caps despite my advice that better deals are found deeper in the aisle).  I do usually benefit from his spontaneity.  The end-caps? Ah, we really have enough cereal.

I will make an effort to fix more things rather than replace them, whenever possible. We must plan our vacations far enough out that we budget the expenses. We have this sailboat we must equip for it’s first season (what was I thinking?) and now we must plan out what we want to spend and not just spend it all in the month of June as we launch it.  I will attempt to purchase items from craigslist — I really do need a new desk, but maybe not a brand-new desk!

3. I will try to like cooking.  After all, if I like it,  won’t I want to do more of it? And that will lead to fewer meals out.  Really, I have to learn to cook like I’m a working mom. You know, cook a big meal on the weekend and package it out as a few meals and freeze.  Perhaps a little less of “oh, what can I pull together now that it’s 4:30 and I have to feed my kids”. I really miss my single days where eating a bowl of couscous in front on the TV at 8pm was dinner. No prep. No forethought. Virtually no dishes. That was the life.  And it was 15 years ago, so really, it’s time I got my sh** together.

4. I will continue to exercise and keep myself healthy.  A cortisone shot on Friday might make this seem more doable.  But really, no excuses.  If we’re going to have to work until we’re 70 years old (which we will) then we’d better be healthy.    So on days when I don’t feel like navigating icy sidewalks to run, let me remember that I have to make this body last a long time. Next time something doesn’t work right, I’m going to see a doctor rather than just wait it out. I’ve learned a painful (literally!) lesson with this rotator-cuff.  Feet hurt? See a doctor.  I don’t want to be 70 and crippled with arthritis while I’m trying to run the cash register at the grocery store.

5. I will unclutter our lives to make it easier to live the simple life we want.  It seems a never-ending job.  Yesterday, I pulled out a box of my grandmother’s teacup collection from the basement.  If these teacups made me happy, I’d have them on the shelf. They are, instead, part of a vast collection of dead-relative memorabilia.  It occurred to me yesterday, that if I got rid of my dead-relative collections, we might have room to display our own special memories from my own special family. Nuff said.  I plan to learn unclutter AND make money by selling stuff on ebay and craigslist.  I think I might be able to make a dent in my annual income by clearing out so much stuff.

6.  A little more discipline, maybe? So, how do I make all this happen? I will have to spend less time RIGHT HERE with my friend the computer.  We have lunch together, snack, spend many days listening to music and window-shopping.  Time to get a little distance, my friend. No offense.

I’m feeling hopeful and a little bit overwhelmed.  One day at a time, isn’t that the mantra?

 

Summer’s Failures

I did it today.  I had hoped it wouldn’t happen. I  think I’ve been close before during this summer. But today I finally had my head-spinning-scary-screaming-mommy-moment which elicited the predictable deer-in-the-headlights followed-by-cowering and then sister-sister-protection from the V.E.R.Y-MEAN-mommy.  Over what?

Over my request to have my children remember to do three things every morning unprompted:

1. Make Bed

2. Brush Teeth

3. Brush Hair

I even made these cute little “friendly-reminder” signs and put them in each of their bedrooms and bathroom, so that I wouldn’t have to run through the list EVERY morning, and so I could give them the independence to “take care of it themselves”.

They did “take care of it themselves” for two days. The two days after I put the signs up.

My “Exorcist” moment now come and gone, and my children have made their beds and naturally now, they are a walking a little gingerly around me.

For what it’s worth, I am still MAD. I’m mad because I lost it. I’m mad because I almost made it through the summer without the Exorcist moment, I’m mad because my patient, gentle approach failed as much as my crazy-lash-out.  I’m mad that they won’t do basic chores without me telling them to do them every day.

I suppose I’m mad because I feel like the only tool left is to levy consequences; I just hate to start the morning that way.

One month till school starts.

Three days till the big family vacation drive.

Half a bottle of wine left in fridge.

Seven hours before a reasonable hour to drink it.

 

Peace Out.

The Best Day of Summer

Yesterday was the best day of summer vacation. I realize it’s only day four, but I think it might be as good as it’s gonna get.  For me as a parent, that is.

There was no swimming. No picnic. No sunshine. No flip-flops involved. I shoe-shopped with my children, I took them out to lunch, we grocery-shopped. I divided our grocery list into three categories (dairy, produce, other) and we each took a basket and met back at check-out lane two to see how we fared; it was fun and a brilliant parenting moment!

And then, after we got home, I suggested they help me with my photo project from the basement.  And seriously, they were SO into it. I took photos from the past twenty years in six bins and put them on the dining room table with about six empty albums and basically let them do their own thing.  They each took a photo album and put pictures of themselves in it; some w/Mom or Dad or Grandpa or Grandmother. Katie even suggested that when she’s older she might like to see herself as a “bink”.  The hours went by. They were busy. They were helping me and not realizing it. No obnoxious meddling in each others space.

By the end of the evening, they had amassed the evidence which unequivocally points to them being loved by their parents.  They felt all warm and fuzzy.

Brilliant x 2.

It can, and will, all go to shit from here. But yesterday was a great day.

Building or Breaching Trust?

We are in the waning days of school. Just two more “lunch packing days” left of school — that is, two and a half more days, not counting today.  The end of school is always such a crazy time.  This year seems worse than ever.  Honestly, I don’t think Russ and I ever really recovered from the stress of hockey season’s divide and conquer. I miss my calm life. I miss my husband. I actually miss camping, because it is calm and we just get time with ourselves without obligations interrupting things.

I feel like I have spent the last two weeks in my car.  Here’s the thing that’s really starting to get on my nerves. I am a punctual gal. It is important to me that my kids get to school on time, that I get to my appointments on time, and I pick them up on time.  Now, what’s on time? Within 2-3 minutes of the “time”.  I think that’s pretty good. Continue reading

If Dad Could See Me Now…

Russ and I took the girls on a drive yesterday. We drove down to Lake Champlain, taking the back roads, dirt roads we’d not taken before, just to make it more interesting. We were headed to a marina. To look at sailboats for sale.

It was a trip I’ve taken hundreds of times in places all along the east coast with my own parents.  Growing up, Sundays were often “mystery trip” days.  At first, my folks wouldn’t tell us where we were going. Sometimes even my mom wouldn’t know.  But over the years, we saw the pattern: all roads led to a boat yard. Seriously, we visited boat yards everywhere we lived, from New Jersey  to Maryland to North Carolina all the way to Florida. Continue reading

Lessons from Quebec

We came home from Quebec City last night.  We were there for my daughter’s “select” AAA hockey team’s tournament. We left early. We could have stayed another night and played two more games, but, my daughter’s team lost all four and were O.U.T., so we, the parental units, opted to save another $125 in hotel charges and drive after the last 7pm game, into the late night, home.  It wasn’t easy but it was the right thing to do.

Isn’t that always the case? Ugh.

Olivia was devastated when we packed our bags and 9AM yesterday morning.  They had two more games to play, and even though the first two went 0-6 and 0-4, Olivia was pretty sure her team might still make it to the championship round. Continue reading