Monday, May 30, 2011

a crossroads. a turn.

[Note; the following post is mostly for my far away friends who use this blog to keep up with my life. Though this issue certainly impacts my parenting, my indulgence of it here is for those who know and love me personally. The rest of you, I will not be offended if you skim.]

It's a new world! Major changes over here, and this time not due to the kids' developmental stages. Nope, this one is about my developmental changes. Hold on to your seats. IT'S POSSIBLE MY HEADACHES ARE CURED. Perhaps I should wait to write these words, wait until the verdict is clear, but already the impact on my days and on my participation in motherhood (as in much else, as you will see) is radical. Let me explain.

I'd heard about botox as a treatment for migraines, heard it as a rumor. Then I read some, and turns out that women on the front end of the botox revolution who were receiving cosmetic botox in their forehead and temples, and who also had migraines, were discovering that their migraines were going away for the duration of botox treatment. At some point the pharmaceutical companies started running clinical trials, and last October the FDA approved it as a treatment for migraines. I found out in a random article sent to me by someone as a link. Why my neurologist did not shout this from the rooftop is a bit hazy for me, but it could be simply because folks get stuck in their ways.

I called my insurance company to see if they would cover treatment and, a thirty minute wait on hold assured me, indeed they will. When I asked my neurologist about it he referred me to a new neuro who treats patients with botox. Before hanging up I asked if in his experience it worked, and he said it was hard to tell because people generally used it as a last ditch, after all other medications had failed. But why? Why would it not now be a first choice? Or at least a third? Why would my doctor be more comfortable having me ingest handfuls of pills? I'm a bit confused about it.

Because the upshot is that if this works, not only can I eat like a normal human again, but I can come off at least 3 medications I'm on daily, not to mention the migraine pills I take for the actual headaches, plus the high dose NSAIDS (frequent) and codeine (rare) and anti nausea pills (medium). Are there any downsides to the Botox? Are people afraid of it and assume there must be? Cuz I don't see any. Except maybe that it's expensive, even with the insurance covering 80%. Still, it's not THAT expensive, and it's going to same me the money I currently put into the other migraine medications.

PLUS. Let us briefly discuss the things I will be able to enjoy on this earth. We'll touch on a select few and then move on. Ahem.

Brownies. Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, Reeces cups. Dark chocolate bars, truffles, chocolate mint ice cream. Blue cheese, brie cheese, cheddar cheese, parmesan, manchego, fontina, gjetost, drunken goat. Enchiladas, PIZZA!, peanut butter, trail mix, ohmygoodness.





(I don't hold out much hope yet for the coffee. It's the worst trigger of all. We'll get there and just see.)

I'm gonna gain a bunch of weight.

I had to jump through about 120 hoops to make all this happen, and maybe that's why the docs don't advertise... they don't want to deal with the hassle. But last Wednesday, a whole six days ago, I went to the neuro's office and had her stick my head - all around my forehead and temples (those really hurt!) and the back of my head. Since then I've felt better than I have since I was perhaps 5. Really. Six days might not seem like a lot to you folks, but it's unheard of for me. I recently kept a headache diary for the first time in a few years, and turns out I was having headaches 6 of 7 days. I didn't even realize how frequent. The really big ones were every 3 days or so. In addition, I now know that what I thought was "no headache" was actually about 2 notches up the pain scale. Who knew! There were times when I really did believe I had no headache, but I was wrong. It's like when white noise you didn't notice suddenly stops. Quiet. But you didn't realize it had been loud before. That's what it's like.

So no pain! On two different occasions so far I've had a handful of peanut M&Ms; two big triggers, and a certainty of a headache before. And nothing! Two of the last few days I took naps where I feel deeply asleep for an hour. Nothing! Magic! The past few days I've been happier, more patient with the kids. I also have the emotional space to be more creative with them, convince them to drink their milk at dinner by slurping my own and making it a game rather than badgering.

I could come out on the other side of this a different person. I wonder if you folks will even recognize me. Plus, I have a really smooth forehead.

For those of you with questions, you'll find the answers here: 1) The needles hurt some, but nothing a person can't handle. 2) Yes, my forehead is very smooth, but mostly in the middle. Up at the scalp line my skin still wrinkles; my neuro said they target more specifically in cosmetic botox. 3) They don't know why it works exactly, but the theory is that the botox relaxes the nerves that spaz out, which cause the migraine. 4) It doesn't work for everyone, and for some people it only gets rid of the big ones, but the little ones still slip through. (yet, maybe that's because botox is mostly being used for the most extreme cases... when I first saw this new neuro and told her what I wanted to try, before she said yes she gave me a whole speech about which medication combinations I could still try, and wrote me a prescription for several.) (And, frankly, if I had to pick, I'd rather have my big ones. Those I can at least treat with a triptan. The low grade ones I fight all the time are the ones that make me a shitty mom who yells at her kids.) 5) It lasts for 3 months. I've already made an appointment for 3 months from now.

I'm supposed to start my period in a couple of days. If I don't have a headache then, we'll know some major plate in the earth has shifted. Then I'll enjoy an amazing glass of red wine and see what happens. Oh my.

I'll keep you updated about the new me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Frances in charge

Frances: "Pretend I'm a princess and you've never met me, and this is a real duckling. I mean, pretend you have met me before, but you've never seen this duckling, and he's real. Pretend you can only hear the duckling, you can't see him, and he surprises you. Pretend I'm a real princess, and I'm your sister, and this duckling is my pet."

A separate subject.
To my displeasure, Frances has lately been obsessed with American Girl Dolls. Do you know what these things are? They are overpriced and absurd, the hot thing now for at least the last decade. Because of their expense, they seem to be a sort of status symbol among girls, though Frances can't know that yet at 4, can she? They promote consumerism at its height, providing a catalogue carrying any kind of accessory you can imagine. The want is bottomless. I ended up on the American Girl Doll mailing list somehow, and when the catalogues come I rush them to the recycling before Frances can see them. Over Christmas, however, Frances got ahold of one and perused it at leisure with her grandmother. Oh well. So now an American Girl Doll is the goal.

Our eight year old neighbor got one, and she told Frances you have to be eight before you can get one, and I appreciated that. So I had my line: When you're eight, we can talk about it. Then Frances went to another friend's house for a playdate and at the end, while I was gathering up her shoes and coat, she appeared with Bitty Baby Twins, the American Girl Doll for the younger set which costs $100, two of them off all things, naked. "Maia said I could keep them," she said. Hm. I was saved by Maia's father, who said that "actually, Maia was given those by a special friend, and they need to be here when she comes to visit." Maia doesn't like dolls at all, and she was perfectly happy to hand Frances both dolls and their suitcases overflowing with pajamas and bunny slippers and blankies and several other outfits. "You can borrow them, though," said her dad. I tried to insist that we had enough doll clothes already and we'd just take the dolls, but in the end it all came with us.

We've since returned all of that, and at another playdate with a different girl, Frances came home with a full size American Girl Doll. Holy crap! How did she do that? She said she wanted one, and here one came. I have to say, she did seem to love it more than any other doll. She brought it to the grocery, to the library, and she buckled her securely in the seat beside her in the car. And, average sucker mom that I am, I did love seeing her joy with that doll. It's gone back now to its owner. This morning Frances asked how long it is til christmas because she knows what she wants to ask santa for. Her list was impressive; two specific American Girl Dolls, a bike for one, mugs and drinks and clothes, a pet for the other. She drew this picture to illustrate.

Much as I hate them, I wonder if she'll end up with one, and before she's eight. She certainly knows what she wants and does whatever it takes to get it. It's rather impressive. 

pirate love

Recently Clark and I went to visit the school where he'll be going next year. On the way he wanted to know if they had pirate hats and swords. He thought maybe he should bring his own. 

At the school is a great big castle room - a big wooden structure to climb on, with turrets and flags and thick matts up pushed up beside for jumping down onto. After a good bit of very physical climbing and playing on the castle, we all sat in a circle and sang w/ Teacher Tom while he played the guitar. He's amazing. He's one of those people who has a gift of speaking the Language of Children.

Anyway, after some singing and talking and instrument playing, some folks had questions, had things they wanted to say. Tom told anyone who wanted to say something to raise their hands and Clark put his up right away. I thought maybe he misunderstood, but then when Tom called on him he asked - without the first whiff of timidity - if Tom had pirate hats and pirate swords, which he did not. It was so cute.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Thank god, thank earth, and all that is; it is finally, finally, FINALLY spring. Horrible, that's what that was, the six weeks before. Maybe that's why everyone here hates the winter snow so much - they all know what's coming after.

I love the snow up here in the snowbelt. Though, to be fair, I have the ideal set up. I would probably not love it as much if I a) didn't have a garage and was forever brushing and scraping my car so I could b) go to work. That I am a stay-at-home-mom means when it's really painfully cold and deep, I just don't go out in it. It's one of the perks. Perhaps the perk, come to think of it. So I get to enjoy the snow when I want to. (In case anyone cares, I believe there are only two things you must do to enjoy the snow here. 1) get a really good coat (you'd never believe the number of fools walking around here in hoodies), and 2) go out in it. You don't even have to ski or anything; just layer up and go for a walk. The world coated in white is an amazing one.)

But now we're actually done with the snow. Done! I had truly begun to wonder if it was going to get warm again. I thought perhaps it would stay in the 40s all summer until the snow started up again in the fall. You should see the pink blooming trees in my yard.

So. Tuesday when I went to pick up Frances from school, she skipped to me singing, "playdate! playdate!" as she always does. Previously I'd made a policy not to give in to spur of the moment playdate requests, but I apparently forgot. She went home with her friend Maia, and Clark and I went home and ate lunch then took a snuggly nap on the couch.

When we got to Maia's house to pick her up, she and Maia were playing in the back of the backyard. They ignored me as long as they could, and before she'd even said hello to me I heard her say to Maia, "I don't like Clark." Frances was very difficult about leaving, as she often is, and when we got home she was as mean to Clark as I've seen her be. Wouldn't let him touch her things, grabbed things away from him, said how much she doesn't like him and how he's not good at playing, and then shoved him down. I didn't know what on earth was going on, and the end result of all of it was that I broke my no yelling streak. I was eight days in! Oh well.

After much crying and much lap sitting, she told me Maia said something really sharply to her at school and it made her cry, and then one of the boys was boasting about how great he was going to be, how he'd build skyscrapers and she wasn't going to do anything, he was so much better than her blah blah blah. That made her cry too. So she turned and did the same thing to her brother.

I don't know why I don't see this behavior when it's happening as a red flag that she is suffering in some way. If I could pause and address the suffering, rather than the behavior, everything would go a lot more smoothly.

Hopefully next time.

How confusing it must have been for her to have Maia be so mean but then want Frances to come to her house and play. And probably confusing for Maia too! To have these aggressive feelings toward someone you like... Emotions are a bizarre and unwieldy jungle to trek.

I hope I can help her, at least draw her a crude map of the paths I know to the other side.

I also think she was simply overstimulated, overexcited, exhausted. That's her temperament, her tendency, after all. It is spring - so suddenly - and she's probably playing harder (they play outside more than 2 hours at her school) Plus, it was on Tuesday, which is the first day of her school week, plus she stayed longer at Maia's than I would have liked. That's one lesson I had already learned (like the no-spur-of-the-moment-playdates lesson) but let slide: playdates should be two hours max. Any longer and she melts - usually moments after we pull away in the van.

My new rules, in order to avoid the above situation: no playdates on Tuesday, no playdates spur of the moment, no longer than 2 hours, and - the most important one - if she's acting uncharacteristically badly, then she is suffering because of something else. Gently, go gently. Try to wait. Listen.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

sibling unity

The kids are in love with each other again. So I guess it will come and go, and I should have faith on the wane that it will wax.

I got Clark some superhero action figures. He played with some at a friend's house and LOVED them. The mom was surprised Clark didn't have any of his own, looked at me like I deprive my children, and I wondered somehow if maybe I do... He only got his first hotwheels a month ago for his 3rd birthday.

So Sunday we went on his very first foray to ToysRUs where he picked out an Iron Man 3 pack, and was immediately ready to go. I said, "You wanna look over here and see if there's anything you like better?" "No! Ready to GO!" (My neighbor commented that he's already learned how to shop like a man. Which, I hate to generalize like that about gender, but fact is, it's mostly true). Frances would have lost her shit in that store, wanted everything everything everything, unable to make a decision, and it would absolutely have ended with a meltdown.

After the toy store we stopped to pick up some food for dinner, and usually Clark would have been climbing my legs, climbing the chairs and the counter and mommymommyletsgo mommymommyletsgo, but this time he played with his superheros. It was amazing. He was completely content. Why didn't I learn this trick earlier? And since then he's done very little but play with his superheros.

Here's the funny thing: he and Frances are quite suddenly getting along again, and I think it's due in part to the superheros. He's able to get out some of his (very boy) energy - all arg! and bzoom! and crash! - with the toys rather than leaping on and wrestling with his sister. Quite suddenly she's in love with him. She's hugging him and kissing him on the cheek and telling him how cute he is, and the other night when she was mad at me but still wanted comfort, she went to him. At the time he was lying on his belly on her bed, waiting for the drama to pass so we could all read stories, and when she moved away from me, she went and wrapped her arms around him from behind. The look on his face was so funny. He just lay very still, and finally he said, "Mama, I think sissy wants me." He seemed rather surprised by the turn of events. After a few minutes she got him to sit up and she settled herself beside him so they could hug front on. They held each other and rocked for awhile until she felt calmer. She said, "Clarky, I love you so much."

Yesterday when we were having trouble leaving the house in the morning, Frances got mad at me and said, "You're bad, Mommy," and she turned and put her arm around her brother. Clark looked up at her and said, "Sissy, do you love me so much?" Painfully cute.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

non yelling mama

Clark: "I am a person, and I yell a lot."
Me: "Is it Mommy?"
Clark: "Yes! Good job, Mama."

I don't like to yell. It makes me feel like a crappy mom and sometimes a crazy person. And I've noticed lately that they've started to yell at each other. It does not escape me from where they learned this.

So on Monday I decided to go the whole day without yelling. It was great! I didn't yell once, and I found (very interestingly) that, having promised myself this, it was easy. I was actually not even tempted to yell. When those moments came, when I would usually yell, I just took a deep breath, stooped down to look them straight in the face, and talked. Plus, I became acutely aware of my Job - meaning, the time I yell is when we're in a hurry to get out the door and short people are dragging their feet, or still playing with the trains, or ignoring my requests to don rainboots, or simply refusing directly - and I think I believed my Job was to make things run on time, to deliver bodies to school on time, to get to my gym class on time, to go to the playground with enough time to play before dinner. But that's not my job. My job is to be kind and to teach them how to function well in this time-driven world. There's no reason we can't sometimes be late to preschool, or to my gym class, or skip the park all together if there's too much dawdling. Natural consequences.

The things we struggle with are often so simple.

That was Monday. Later in the day, after I saw I was successful, I told Frances the promise I'd made to myself, and told her how proud I was that I hadn't yelled even once. Then I did it again on Tuesday, and again on Wednesday. I'm marking it on the calender, going to see how long I can go. I hope it's long long long. Because yelling is only a habit, and habits can be broken.

I do find that in order to be successful in this, I have to have tissue in my ears at all times. Earplugs block too much, but with tissue I can still hear conversation. It just takes the sharp edge off the shrill, and I'm much more able to be patient.

Now there can be a No Yelling rule in the house. I'm noticing already that it's helping with how they talk to each other. Yay me!