Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Food and Shame

I hate people.

About a year ago, my son's doctor called him fat to his face and told me I shouldn't let him drink so much soda. He doesn't drink soda and when I said as much, she rolled her eyes at me. She also recommended that we go to the nearby children's hospital for 'Wellness.' It's a program for fat kids and anorexics.

We got a new doctor that day because nobody should make my son feel bad because of the way he looks. Nobody, least of all a pediatrician.

But, out of open-mindedness, we took Nick to Children's Hospital to talk to a doctor and a nutritionist about his weight. We started last June. Mostly, since then, Nick has gone to the appointments and felt bad about how he looks. Sometimes he feels bad about eating, but mostly, he feels bad about how he looks.

I tried to keep an open mind. I did.

Finally, at our last appointment with the doctor, I asked what their track record of success is. The doctor was honest and told us that they don't keep track. I asked him why not and he shrugged. Then, I asked him what his impression was. He said that it seemed as if most patients hold steady in general and then revert to where they had been before they started the program. And I was about to ask what his end-game strategy was. There is no end-game strategy in that answer. We've been going there, without success, for eight months. All I see in Nick is more resistance to eating healthy food and a sense of shame about not getting the program to work for himself.

Today, we were fifteen minutes early for an appointment with his nutritionist and she was running thirty-five minutes late. What, was there a nutritionist emergency that held her up? We had time scheduled with Nick's trainer forty-five minutes after our appointment was over and when we finally got in to see this nutritionist, I told her that we had to leave in twenty minutes, that we couldn't afford to stay later than that. I had asked if we could reschedule, but she didn't want to do that. I should have insisted. I chaffed at the idea that we were here, being reminded that we were failing at our appointed jobs and in the meantime, Nick was going to be seriously late to the one thing that has been helping him the most, time with his trainer. So, I asked the question again. What is your track record of success? The nutritionist said that she had no statistics, but she felt, if her patients are trying, really trying, that they reach their goals.

So, it seems that we're not really trying. All those discussions about nutrition, all those conversations about this food versus that food, is not really trying. It may not have been producing the desired results, but dammit, we have been trying! I was feeling pretty crabby, but for some reason, I'm seriously not sure why, I ended up being the one to apologize for leaving to go see the trainer so we didn't miss our appointment with him entirely. Why wasn't she apologizing to me? We weren't the ones who were late!

I wanted to tell her that my son is trying really hard to get good exercise and eat healthy food. I wanted to tell her that we're tired of making him feel bad. I wanted to tell her that we want to do all of the things that she recommended, things that we generally knew about anyway and tried at home anyway, without having a ration of guilt once every three or four weeks at our appointments. I wanted to tell her we had to leave because Nick's trainer was waiting and this trainer is patient and kind and has gotten Nick excited about sweating it out and doing reverse lunges and squats. I have to tell you that it seems like a sort of miracle to me that anyone can get anyone else excited about doing lunges and squats. Nick loves going to the gym to train. He loves it! What is that?

I just wonder if we've done more damage than good with these nutrition appointments. I hate the idea that Nick feels ashamed whenever they get him onto a scale. I hate that he had to answer the question about what he ate today, that he felt bad about that extra sandwich. The worst part is that he had to go to every appointment knowing that he hadn't succeeded. He knew before he walked in. Poor kid.

For a program like this to work, the person running it needs to have struggled in the same way Nick has. Other kids should be there to talk about how they're doing so that the kids can cheer each other on. No appointment with three or four or five weeks in between will be effective when it comes to changing a teenager's habits.

I can tell them this - their program doesn't work. There may be a reason why they don't keep track of how it's working for their patients. It's not.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Season of Falling Away

I did my nails tonight. They still smell of polish, that fresh wet chemical smell that makes me wonder about cancer. Yet, I'm sure that something entirely different will take me out someday. Not even the headache that this nail polish is causing is going to kill me. My nails don't even look that good. I kind of made a mess of them, but I've learned that if I wash my hands in cold water in the morning, the stuff that I painted onto my skin the night before will peel off and it almost looks as if I had them done. Almost.
Nick doesn't want me to smooth his hair any more. Today, he told me that he's old enough to manage his own hair. He is. We see eye to eye when we stand together. At least he still hugs me. He's solid, more like a man hugging and somehow supporting his mother instead of a boy clinging. I can feel him giving something back to me now. He knows that it aches for me to see him grow up so quickly.

"I'm going up, Mom," he says proudly when he sees that look in my eyes.

"I know sweetie," I say and never manage to keep it inside without some tears spilling. I had to wait in the car this morning for a few minutes while he ran into the orthodontists office for his appointment. He got braces today. Afterward, he looked suddenly older, a boy on the cusp, so nearly a man.

I took him to lunch to celebrate, sushi. We sat at the sushi bar and watched food move past on the conveyor and I suddenly felt dizzy, as if I'd fallen out of time for a second. He talked about how he had to enunciate more clearly now. Maybe that's what is making him seem older. He just couldn't stop smiling. Back when I was a girl, kids with braces spent the first three weeks trying to hide their faces. Some really cautious ones, hid their teeth at all times, painfully aware that they looked different every moment until the day they got the braces off and their beautiful new smile was revealed. Now, getting braces is a rite of passage.

After the sushi bar, we were going to buy Nick some new clothes. He needs new clothes. I'm not sure what happened to his old ones. I should know that they gradually ended up on the pile to donate as he grew. But I was suddenly very tired and wanted to go home. I didn't even walk the dog today, poor guy.

Why was today so difficult for me? Oh, Nick said he was too tired to shop, that he'd had enough by 1:30 when we finished lunch. He probably was. Even brushing your teeth when you have braces is an ordeal. Flossing is absolutely impossible. But I was tired too. Why?

Some days, remembering the incredible feeling of connection with my baby, it's excruciating to feel separate again. I had that kind of connection with my grandma, though I only saw her on weekends and later, when I was older, only on vacation time. I so seldom had a whole day with my grandma just to myself to revel in that feeling she gave me. I remember when hugging her turned from something she gave me to something I gave her. I was much older than Nick when it happened. I was technically an adult, but hadn't wanted to let go of being a girl, her girl, for as long as I could.

It's no wonder I don't want my boy to grow up and away. Yet he will only be healthy and in truth, I will only be healthy, as I let him go.

Nick will be driving when he gets his braces off. He will likely experience his first kiss in braces. I never had braces. Oh, I may have needed them, but I didn't have them. I can only watch what will happen next for him and soon, very soon, I won't even see much of his life as it unfolds. I will be given school breaks and vacation days. When Nick was little and I'd talk to him about when he grew up and moved away to college, he'd insist that he'd never leave home, that he'd live here forever. I could not convince him that he'd change his mind.

I can still see that clinging little boy when I look at Nick, but he isn't clinging anymore. I am.

And I'm going to have to let go, at least a little every day until he flies off into his own world and lives his own life. I'm going to have to straighten my back, to walk the dog every day, tired or not, and wait for those precious days when he comes to hug his little mom. At those times, he will give me back what I had given him, something I had learned from the hugs my grandma gave me when I was a little girl.

There's a season in that touch, a longer season than a simple spring turning to summer then fall. It is almost too long a season for me to see, but I see it now, rolling down through time, first holding things together then letting them fall away, over and over.

Oh, the season of falling away makes my bones ache.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Stomach Bug

I have a stomach bug. We all have it.

See, right there we have a problem with too much information. You are picturing me praying to the porcelain god or worse.

Yet, the best scenes in movies show that shit. Remember 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist,' when the drunk girl pukes into the toilet and then picks her gum out and begins to chew it again? What about the pie eating contest in 'Stand By Me?' Or the guy's first win in 'Here Comes the Boom?'

Do I really want to think about this right now?

No. I don't. It's a bad day for me to even burp. Lets just say I brushed my teeth a lot today. The bad news is that all three of us have it. The good news is that it's a mild case.

When Nick was about three years old, we got him a new bed, a double in case we were tired as we tried to get him to sleep. Oh, the official reason was for those eventual sleepovers, the early ones where you could tuck two small boys into the same bed. But the real reason was that we were sick of cajoling him to fall asleep on his own and it was easier to lie down and fall asleep next to him because we were inevitably more tired than Nick was.

Yes, I know we were supposed to teach him to stay in his room alone at night. Yes, I've been told that they cry for three or four nights and then stop. We couldn't bear hearing him wail. We really couldn't.

About when Nick was four, when that bed was still new, he came down with a stomach flu. Oh, this was a doozy. That night, both Mike and I stayed up with him, taking turns changing sheets and pajamas and doing laundry. We quickly learned that it's easier to let a small child puke in position than to run through the house with him puking on the walls and floor in a trail to the bathroom. The bathroom was not all that far from his room, but it was still easier to pat him on the back, try to aim him in an already nasty direction and tell him to let it all out, that he'd feel better when he let it all out. He was young enough that he resisted putting his face into the clean little plastic bucket we put in front of him. My dog Teddy is still that way. Of course, Teddy crawls under the deepest table in the room with the nicest carpet and then moves along to another corner as he goes. Another story. Sorry.

So, Nick was so very sick that night that we were worried he was getting dehydrated. In between bouts of vomiting, he was barely getting to the toilet in time. And forget vomiting in there. He had absolutely no desire to vomit where his butt had been. I get that. I really do. Nick would get going all over again any time we gave him a sip of water. How do you explain to a thirsty toddler to sip the water? Many trips to fill a tiny glass, we learned. We quickly became exhausted.

At about 3:00am, after three or four light loads of laundry, Nick began to slow up.

And then I started in. At least Mike could handle Nick by then and let me be on my own. The only problem was that I found very quickly that Nick had a favorite bathroom. How can you have a favorite bathroom? Well, he did and I was in it. I had never realized that I had a favorite bathroom too.  I was pushed downstairs into the cold bathroom. I shivered as I alternated between sitting and praying. You get my drift. All the while, Mike was upstairs with Nick on his own. After an hour or two more, I settled into a quiet moment and wandered upstairs as dawn broke. It was a beautiful morning. Why is it always beautiful outside when you're really sick?

Nick and Mike were both asleep in their underwear on top of layers, garbage bags under putrid towels. A blanket was thrown over both of them, though it too was gross. The whole upstairs smelled of vomit and shit. I went out to the living room to the wet couch, the first catastrophe. I turned to the linen closet to get a towel or something to put down over the wet spot. Nothing. Even the larger hand towels were gone. I grabbed a couple of wash cloths, put them over the spot and sat down. Just as I was getting comfortable, beginning to doze in front of a stupid movie, Mike came running out of Nick's room with that look on his face and Nick began to cry.

"Can you?" he said as he closed the door to the favored bathroom.

"Sure," I said getting up again, though I was weak with fatigue.

I'm telling you that you never forget the moment you crawled into a bed wet with puke and a little shit to snuggle up with a very sick toddler on top of a layer of garbage bags and towels. Never. It's amazing that sleep comes, even with the awful smell, the sticky blanket, the wet towels, the garbage bag stuck to your ankle, and the glorious morning light shining through the window.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, January 13, 2014


I could complain about my thirteen-year-old son here. I really could, but who would be surprised by that? Oh, he deserves a public flogging now and then and this could be a great forum for that, but it isn't a story that would make the news, now would it?

Arrogant Teen Yells at His Mom
by Mom

No, I'm irritated about something else as well. Today, I tried to get the kind of notebooks I like at Barnes and Noble. Oh, the staff there were very nice to me. I have no problem with the help I got. One woman in particular really worked to see if I could get what I wanted. She checked the shelves. I knew there weren't any on the shelves. She checked in back. I was pretty sure there weren't any in back either as they'd never stocked what I was asking for in the year that I'd been looking for them.

I really like Molskine notebooks. On my bookshelf of notebooks, I have every color but gray in Moleskine's Cahier style of notebooks. They're my usual, a soft creamy paper with a heavy card stock cover. I like these notebooks.

But sometimes, I splurge and buy the Volant style of notebooks. They're colorful, yellow, orange, green, or blue.

But here's the thing. I want pink. Yes, I admit that now and then, I'd like to carry around a pink notebook. I'd also like purple. Purple would match the cover on my iPhone. Have I ever told you that I like the cover on my iPhone? It never gets confused with all those other iPhones with black covers. Never. Once in a while someone else has a purple case, but not a squishy Otter Box like mine. I also have a purple canoe paddle. On top of that, I accidentally bought nail polish in the same shade as my Otter Box. I'm not sure if it was stylish or just sad to match that much. Picture the way women look when they've matched their socks to their sweaters. Not so cute, is it?

The problems with getting either a pink or purple Molskine notebook at Barnes and Noble is that they only stock the biggest Volant notebook in ruled paper. I don't like ruled paper. I like my pages blank. That is important in case I decide to draw any bad art into my notebooks. I find they're much more interesting later when I've drawn bad art in them. So, rule number one with a notebook is that they can't have lines. (Ha! Did you get it? Rule? Lines? Ha! Okay, so I'm not all that funny, am I? Mike tells me that sometimes too.)

Barnes and Noble also has the pink and purple in tiny little notebooks. I could only write four words in a row in these tiny little notebooks.

It turns out - the Barnes and Noble lady helped me discover this - that I can't even order a purple notebook in the bigger size that I want, let alone get it in plain paper instead of ruled.


Moleskine has pigeon-holed anyone who wants a purple notebook as someone who writes small and stays in the lines. I do not write small. I need big. And I do not stay in the lines. Are they trying to say something about people who like purple? Do they think that if I want purple, I'm not serious about my craft? Is it a statement about women, a misogynist plot to drive us crazy, to limit us to four words per line and staying within the damned lines? I don't know.

So, I can't buy purple, but it turns out - the Barnes and Noble lady helped me discover this too - I can buy the big plain Volant notebooks that I like in pink. I just needed to order them and could have them delivered right to my house if I want, free of charge. Really?

My big pink girly-girl unruled self is going to be so happy when they arrive. I might even have to go out and buy some pink nail polish to match.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bad Manners

What is wrong with people? This absolute bitch was talking to her stylist as her stylist worked on her hair and she could not be bothered to put down her damned phone the entire time she sat on her puffy little ass.

I tell you. I was so tempted to walk over to her, take the phone out of her hands, drop it on the counter, and tell her that she needed a lesson in good manners.

Thank you for listening, jules