Thursday, July 31, 2014

gosh darnit all over the place

i have definitely cried at work before. like, when someone dies, or sends me a video of pound puppies. but yesterday was the first day i've ever almost cried at work because of work.

i know this is a recurring theme, but... being a mom is hard. being a working mom is hard. life is hard. and beautiful and rewarding and amazing and way easier than a lot of other people's lives, blah blah blah... please let me reintroduce the scale of suck:

but still. it's hard. hard for me, anyway. and also, why is everyone else better at it? i seriously don't understand. i just can't get a grip. i haven't been to the dentist in almost a year and a half. they just sent a postcard that said YOUR LAST CLEANING WAS MARCH 2013 in some attempt to shame me into the dentist's chair. i also haven't had my lady bits inspected by a medical professional since Colby was 6 weeks old. should probably get on that. you know what? i am going to open a dentist/doc-in-the-box/dry cleaner/juice bar/movie theater/internet cafĂ© that is open from 9pm to 9am. befriend me now before i become a bazillionaire.

so anyway. yesterday was not the best day. i recently found out that the girl who's above me on the food chain at work is leaving. (i say girl because she is practically a child. not sure she can even legally drink. she may have graduated college at 16.) i was hopeful that this could (finally) be an opportunity for advancement. we're in "the shit" on this case and she is leaving us in the lurch and i've been working this thing for years so this could be my chance to demonstrate how indispensable i am. my favorite friend at work gave me a pep talk: you can DO it! so i'm pumped! i'm ready! let's do this thing!

the morning after my Rocky Balboa/Elle Woods moment, i came into the office to discover that the opening had already been filled by another associate - a lateral move. my current position is something less than an associate. somewhere between associate and, say, monkey with a j.d. i decide, after conferring with DM and my girlfriend, that i should still talk to the lead partner so he is aware of my interest and enthusiasm. a while back, when they were hiring for associate positions, i similarly expressed my interest, and he basically said, i like you, but, come talk to me when you don't have to leave at 4pm to pick up your kids every day.

so. i go give him my spiel. so-and-so is leaving, i know this case like the back of my hand, i've been working my butt off, i'm ready for more responsibility, colby is starting preschool in a couple of weeks so i'll have more flexibility with my schedule... basically i'm saying, "c'mon coach! put me in! i'm ready!" he was very relieved to find out i did not come into his office to quit, but other than that, his response could best be described as equivocal. oh well. i was glad i'd said my piece, anyway.

ummm, yeeeeahhhh, about that promotion.
(my boss is really nothing like bill lumbergh, thank the lord.) 
then. my day begins to spontaneously combust. i won't bore you with the details, but, bottom line, a bunch of stuff has to be done by 4:45 in the afternoon. i went into the office over the weekend, and stayed up until 1am the night before, to ensure that things ran smoothly and there weren't any last minute fire drills. insert life's evil laugh here. shit, meet fan. fan, shit. an endless parade of fuckuppery began at 7:42 a.m. and just didn't stop. at about noon it became clear that there was no way i was going to be able to pick the kids up on time. i texted DM. i knew he was busy with work, too, but on the off chance he could cover me, i had to try. no response. i called. no response. i sent approximately 13 increasingly frantic texts to no avail. my sister just started nursing school so she can't bail us out anymore. none of our babysitters had car seats or a house key on the ready. Efffff. "hey boss! i am READY FOR RESPONSIBILITY! errr... tomorrow!"

god/allah/buddha is having great fun with my best laid plans. i'm trying to do two extra days' worth of work in four hours. while perhaps not the most intellectually challenging of projects, it is of the "fuck this up and you are fired, or at the very least, relocated to dinkytown, minnesota" variety, so i was kind of stressing out. my rational thought process: "i am extremely agitated and haven't eaten anything all day! this situation calls for red bull! make it a double!"

meanwhile, i can't really feel my hands and feet. see, doctors think i have this condition my friend refers to as "terrible tooth disease" (known as charcot marie tooth in medical parlance). of course, they can't be sure, because that would require follow-up tests and appointments and who has time for that?! anyway, this condition causes numbness in your extremities, and sometimes it really cramps my style. "hey boss! i am HERE TO WORK! bring it on! as long as "it" does not involve the use of my arms. or walking."

because of the numbness in my legs and feet, i'm basically a danger to myself in flip flops and sandals, but they comprise 94% of my shoe collection, so i wear them anyway. in my haste to be three places at once, i was jogging up the stairs, and totally ate shit. thank the lord i fell up and not down the stairs, and that no one was there to see me.

i wish i could say that was true when i tripped over a box in the supply room seven minutes later, and knocked over... ohhhh, i don't know, EVERYTHING?!? okay, i'm exaggerating. maybe only 73 binders, 184 highlighters, and 2,516 paper clips. the hot, muscle-bound guy from across the hall came running from the racket. he was shocked i wasn't killed or maimed by flying staplers. i sort of wished i was.

the series of events just felt like someone was mocking me: you're barely keeping your head above water as it is and you think you can add more to your load? pfffttt! good luck with that!!! and i thought to myself, seriously. who am i kidding?! i felt frustrated and overwhelmed and more than a little sorry for myself. as colby has taken to saying, "gosh darnit all over the place!"

i finished the work in time, but i was so late to pick up the kids, which just kills me. my mom was amazing in countless ways, but punctuality was not her strong suit. she was also a working mother, with all the juggling that entails. she was often late to pick us up, and i distinctly remember the shame of being the very last person at school or daycare or camp or soccer practice, waiting with a teacher/coach/etc who is, for your sake, valiantly trying to act like they aren't put out. i SWORE to myself i would never, ever, ever do that to my own kids. i lied.

as i'm running out of my building, i notice i have a missed call from the preschool. this is never good news and it scares the bejesus out of me every single time. i check the voicemail and they had called to say they were on LOCKDOWN. what in the fuck?! i called back to get more information. everyone was okay, thank god, but they spent an hour locked in the bathroom with two teachers and eighteen children, because apparently that is what we do now while nut jobs are allowed to run around terrorizing people with guns.

on my painfully slow drive home in rush hour traffic, i tried to chill the F out and summon david foster wallace's "this is water," but really i just tweaked out on red bull and spent most of the drive feeling bad that i can't win at any of the things. my cousin sent me this quote recently and it really hit home:

believe you, me. i had plenty of time for self-flagellation because i was stuck behind jesse fucking pinkman on the I-5 and he was hiiiiiiiigh. in his altered state he believed the speed limit was 22 MPH (or he mistakenly believed he was driving 75). i'm usually not one for road rage but i wanted to go monster truck on his ass with my mom car. the other day DM had friends from boston in town and they were complaining about annoying california drivers who space out and drive slow in the fast lane. usually, i think people are just doing it to be ornery, but jesse here hadn't a friggin' clue. then this morning i was stuck behind another slow-ass space cadet for nearly my entire commute. she literally put on mascara for 27 minutes. i imagined her having seven rows of eyelashes, like shark teeth. there was no way i was going to try to get in front of her, though, because there was a 97% chance she would rear-end me and stab herself in the eye with a mascara wand. i didn't want that on my conscience on top of everything else.

ANYWAY. i finally got to the kids. and they are just so freaking cute sometimes. my mood was instantly elevated. i felt sad, too, though, because colby had these little pigtails and she just looked like such a little girl and i thought to myself, these babies are growing up right before my eyes, why on EARTH would i want to miss a single second more of it? what amount could you possibly pay me to make it worth it? (granted, some days i would pay YOU to get out of the house. but you get my point.)

"work/life balance," the mythical beast. please let me know if you ever find it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

mackenzie ninjago cheeseman, surprise ruiner extraordinaire

today is my dear husband's birthday. he is 39.

DM's family never made a huge deal about birthdays, so he doesn't care so much. but i do. growing up, birthdays were a big thing. my birthday was always my favorite "holiday." in my family, "birthday month" is a phrase uttered without sarcasm. over the past dozen years or so, i've painstakingly trained DM in these exacting standards, and i have to say, for the most part, he's really stepped up to the plate. though, i will admit, when the kids were born, each within a week of one of our birthdays, the lens was necessarily refocused. pesky little buggers, horning in on birthday month ;)

anyway, sadly, this year, i am not holding up my end of the bargain, at all. what with all of our summer plans, familial obligations, getting my ass handed to me at work, and preparing for jack's joint-preschool-starwars-birthday-bonanza this Saturday, DM's special day has sort of fallen through the cracks. add to that the fact that he is crazy busy with work, too, and won't even be home until the kids are asleep tonight. seeing as i haven't washed my hair or my pants in 3 days, and can't even think about baking a cake right now, i'm actually considering that a blessing. but, as far as birthdays go, this one's going to be a dud. 8pm last night: i'm so sad your birthday is going to be so uneventful. i'll get up early and make pancakes! 6:30am: crap. toaster waffles? 7:30am: DM is making me toaster waffles, and there's a sad little pile of presents. jackson jay: "i'm not going to tell you what it is, but it's a coffee mug." sorry, my love.

we are having date night and going to a concert tomorrow, but that's about all i have to offer him. in my mind, i was borrowing birthday credit from next year, with plans for the big 4-0 already in the works. for some reason, DM won't stop talking about north carolina, and specifically, the outer banks. i mean, he doesn't just want to visit, he at least somewhat seriously wants to move there. i'm not even sure he's ever been so i can't explain the reasoning behind this obsession, but, it is what it is. two different friends recently attended weddings in the outer banks, and this only served to stoke the fire. i'm not too keen on the concept of moving across the country to north carolina, but an oceanfront vacation? that i can do.

okayyy. i *guess* i'll go here. if i must.
i don't really like surprises, but DM does. or at least, i think he would, if i could ever maintain the requisite secrecy! this was going to be THE ONE. i researched lodging and flights. i told his parents and siblings about my plans. then i sent a group email to his large network of cousins. he is always lamenting the fact that he doesn't get to see them enough, so i figured we could make it a family affair.

i proceeded to email back and forth with several of the cousins, including a conversation on an unrelated topic that DM and I had recently discussed. i then FORWARDED this email conversation to DM. the subject line of the email was literally, like, "SHHHH! BIG HUMONGOUS TOP SECRET SURPRISE!" honestly. i am such an IDIOT. he probably wouldn't even have read back to the beginning of the thread if it weren't for the glaring breaking news subject line. grrrrr. i am still so mad at myself! the top secret surprise that lasted all of 19 hours. sadly, that may actually be my personal best.

oh well. SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! this time next year, may we be taking photos of our feet :)

this was actually from my birthday last year. DM really outdid himself. probably because he was going to spend my birthday weekend at his fantasy baseball draft in vegas. whatever. i will happily feast on the spoils of guilt :)

Friday, July 25, 2014

say what you mean to say

can someone please buy a cat and name it pico de gato? just pico for short.

i can't. i'm allergic.

i also want bunnies, named fern and myrtle. or paisley and argyle. or all of the above. but i'm highly allergic to bunnies as well, which i discovered in college when my sister and i went and bought a bunny (i think we named it sushi or egg roll) and my face promptly puffed shut. FOILED AGAIN.

breathing is highly overrated. JUST LOOK AT THEM.
oh wait. i can't. my eyes are swollen shut.
this reminds me of a story my mom used to tell. she taught these management classes, and one of the themes was being honest and straightforward about the reasoning and motivation behind your actions and decisions. otherwise, people will find a way around it, or back you off your position. she used this anecdote to illustrate the point: apparently, when i was little, i really wanted a cat. we had a dog, (my mom and dad's first "child,") and in addition, my mom hated cats, so it wasn't in the cards. but when i asked for a cat, she said, "we don't really have room for another pet." i responded, "can we have a cat if we move to a bigger house?" she replied, "well, katie (the dog) doesn't like cats." me: "when katie dies can we get a cat?" finally my mom came clean and said, "we can't get a cat because I do not like cats." me: "well, when you die can we get a cat?"

so... this was a funnier story before my mom actually died. ha. whoops. this was also before we learned that i was violently allergic to cats. oh well. pico de gato will remain forever a dream.

still, it's a good lesson. i am THE WORST at this. it's why our social calendar has been booked solid since february. i don't even know how it happens, but we just always have plans. every year i swear "never again," and yet every year i end up like a doctor on some terrible HMO plan, saying, "hmmm, yes, i think can pencil you in for a quick lunch three months from now." i don't mean for this to sound like, wah wah wah, it is soooo hard being soooo popular and having soooo many friends. i am BLESSED, and for once i'm not using that term sarcastically. i am very lucky that there are people who know how bat shit crazy i am and still want to hang out with me. but still. THE PLANS. it can get a little out of hand. i really do need to get better at saying no, being more judicious with the precious minutes i have to spend with my family, and not always succumbing to "shoulds" and "FOMO."

i'm the person that says "we should totally get together!" and then the other person says, "okay what time?" and i'm like, "shit." or i post online, "yay, can't wait for my wonderful Caribbean getaway!" and then someone says, "omg, when are you going? us too! we have to meet up!" and then i'm spending a day of valuable vacation time ziplining with some random facebook friend i'm not sure i ever actually knew in real life. or like, e-vites. since when did it become socially unacceptable to just politely decline? now it's like, if you say no, you have to have an airtight alibi for your nonattendance.

or say, for example, someone mentions having a get-together. before my brain even catches up, my trap flies open and i'm like, "we'll host! and i'll make themed appetizers! and mini cupcakes! whoooo wants oreo pops?!?" let's have so-and-so over and order pizza. "how about a bento-box picnic on the beach instead? with handmade heart-shaped sushi rolls?!" what's going on this weekend? "oh, we're booked for three toddler birthday parties on saturday, hope you don't mind!" superbowl party with beer and bbq? "i'll look up edible appetizer football stadiums on pinterest! let's invite the whole neighborhood!"*

seriously, i would try to do this.
as DM says, "you are the most social anti-social person i have ever met." i mean, i actually want to do most of these things, theoretically. but as soon as it's out of my mouth i usually regret it. then i have anxiety for a week and don't sleep and stay up all night crafting goal posts out of pretzel sticks

i really have no one to blame but myself (and pinterest). it's so hardwired, though. to be polite, to join, to feel the need to explain yourself, etcetera. but there is a beauty in just saying no. it's very liberating. the other day, my sister asked me if i wanted to do some yoga and beer thing on a saturday morning, and i was like, nope! i want to do nothing. my "plans," for once, are to do exactly zero things.

i'm not saying i want to be needlessly rude or hurt anyone's feelings. there's a time and a place for a little fudging here and there. but generally, i want to surround myself with people who won't hold it against me when they invite me out on a Friday night, and i just say, "no thanks! it's Friday night cozies!" (ps, do you know there is a Swedish word for this? fredagsmys. it literally means, like, "Friday + cozy" - chillaxin' on the couch in your comfies, drinking, eating snacks, and watching crappy television. i have to give credit to the swedes for coining the term, but i actually can't imagine anything much more American ;)

"how beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward." - spanish proverb

and if i do invite you over, don't be sad if there aren't any color-coordinated cake pops. you're getting stale sriracha popcorn in a dubiously clean bowl. drink enough beers and it will be delicious.

happy fredagsmys, friends!

*note. these are hypotheticals. it is highly unlikely that i am talking about you, specifically.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


i've always had a sneaking suspicion that i sort of suck at cooking. the fact that, on occasion, my children will willingly eat dog kibble or leaves off the trees in our yard or bite-sized rocks, but stage a nightly revolt at dinner time, probably should have been my first clue. then there was that time when DM said the kids were probably going to grow up saying, "sorry, mom! we already had dinner at Millie's house!" or i might have been tipped off when, every couple of months, DM eats something i cook and his face is awash with awe and he says, "this is good. i mean, like, really good. you made this? where did you get the recipe?" still, while no great gourmet by any stretch, i always imagined my meals were perhaps boring, repetitive, unoriginal... but at least edible. i am now beginning to question even that very basic assumption.

i was gone for five days last week. a work trip to Atlanta followed by a quick visit with my aunt and uncle who live there. my in-laws flew across the country in the other direction to visit and help DM with the kidlets while their absentee mother relaxed at the ritz carlton in buckhead. incidentally, five days is too long to be away from the kids. and 48 hours is the amount of time it takes before i'm ready to leave again :) (i'm mostly kidding, actually. they are being SO cute and sweet and snuggly and lovey lately and i *almost* can't get enough of them. swoon.)

anyway. apparently, when Ima (grandma) cooked, the kids ate like champs every night. maybe it was just a coincidence. i'll keep telling myself that ;)

then, last night, someone was coming to the house in the evening, i didn't feel like cooking, the housekeepers had been there earlier so the kitchen was actually clean, and i really wanted to keep it that way for more than 97 seconds, so i asked the kids if they wanted to get mcdonalds for dinner. i thought this special mid-week treat would be met with great enthusiasm, but instead, Colby asks, "do day have cutlets at mcdonowd's?" i.e., please mama, may i have real food instead of junk food for dinner? cue instantaneous, all-encompassing shame. (for those not in "the know," Persian cutlet, or "kotlet," is kind of like an oblong hamburger patty made with ground beef, potato, onion, egg, breadcrumbs and spices. and the kids lurve it.) i do have Ima's recipe for cutlet (such as it is - she is one of those lucky folks who just throw in a little of this and a little of that and create deliciousness). i've made it before. and it looked like cutlet, but of course, i cannot personally vouch for its verisimilitude. so i told Colby, "i can make you cutlet." but she wasn't havin' any of that. "no! you non't know how do it." sigh. luckily for us, before she left, Ima stocked our fridge and freezer with plenty of cutlet, rice, and tadig. i have enough to handily sidestep supper skirmishes for a week.

Mash Donald's
Pizza Hat
my Persian (BatGirl) Princess
(wearing nothing but shoes and a cape <3 )

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

burning man, man

burning man. where you can hang out with geniuses, buy pot for a hug, build ridiculous feats of art and engineering, and/or get so high you feel like your face is gonna fall off.

this is just a quickie. i wanted to take a moment to brag on a couple radical relatives of mine. the first is my cousin, who is working on this ridiculously cool "art car" called dr. brainlove- a "retrofitted school bus topped with a giant, climbable, light-up, model of an actual human brain." she just got her PhD in ... i don't even know what. something super smart involving neuroscience and brain mapping. i am not a good listener. maybe someday she can map, explain, and find a cure for "mom brain." anyway, she's helping build this beauty for burning man. the project was just featured in The Atlantic. there's nine days left in their indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. check it out.

last year, my "rocket scientist" uncle built The Shaman Cycle...which, according to the website, "is equal parts dynamic art sculpture and multi-person bicycle, a visionary green vehicle with a beautiful and massive Eagle as the roof! Something like this has never been created before. Six people power the ShamanCycle via peddling, 1 person steers, and the steering mechanism is integrated with the massive eagle structure on top, so when the bike turns the head and wings move in perfect unison!  The ShamanCycle is made from reclaimed and repurposed metal parts, imagineered by artist Phoebe Legere and engineered by a rocket scientist (seriously).  ShamanCycle will have a pedal powered generator to make it a truly off the grid mode of transportation.  Oh, and fireballs shoot out of it's eyes, because that is awesome." yes. yes it is :)

i have never been to Burning Man, and i sort of doubt i'll ever go. (see, e.g., post re: highly sensitive people.) you gotta know your limits. with my luck, i would trade some oreo pops and handmade flower headbands for organic falafel and i'd get food poisoning and nearly die in a dusty ditch. it would be sort of a poetic death, though, against the desert sunset with a crown of flowers on my head. or else i'd get black lung and forget my inhaler, or pass out and get trampled by the crowd and pee my pants and have to be carted to the nearest town on the shaman cycle, powered only by patchouli and human perspiration.
but. i just have to say, i am pretty damn impressed. while much of the world often seems like a great steaming pile of suck, things like this remind me that the values of community, creativity, inspiration, ingenuity, beauty, love, and plain good ol' fashioned fun will always persevere.
and besides, where else do you get a chance to dress like this:
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk,
mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time,
the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing,
but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
- jack kerouac

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

the highly sensitive child. and mariachis.

you guys. this book has changed my life.

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D
okay maybe that's a little ... enthusiastic. but seriously. game changer.

if you looked at the title and thought, "huh? highly what?" then this book and this post are probably not for you. but if the term highly sensitive resonates with you, i would definitely recommend this book.

as you may recall, i myself have a sensitive boy. what you may have gathered, but i probably haven't said in as many words, is that he gets a lot of that from me. i really liked this book not only for the insight that it gave me into my son's little brain, but also for the light it shone on my own issues with life, people, marriage, motherhood, and "the real world."

within the first few minutes of opening the book i was like, "okay, i'm gonna need a highlighter." then i felt like i was in law school again because i just highlighted all of the parts. i was in the bathtub, actually, at the time, and i kept getting out, leaving foot-shaped puddles out to the living room where DM was sitting. "LOOK! highly sensitive people NEED down time! i'm not just being a party pooper or a wet blanket. this is a real thing!!" back to the bathtub. two minutes later. traipse back out to the living room. "highly sensitive people like to follow the rules! highly sensitive people need routine! they are planners! they like the quiet. we are highly sensitive to caffeine! and drugs! this is why coffee cracks me out and i am a total tweaker on pot! (allegedly)." and finally, "ooohhh myyyyyy GAHD! DADDY MACK! highly sensitive people hate mariachis!!! it's like this was written about ME! er... i mean... about Jackson." THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING!!!

DM will rue the day that amazon prime delivered this gift unto my doorstep, because it's like my new bible for justifying all my weird-ass quirks and peccadillos. in addition, i have diagnosed 37% of the people in my life as "highly sensitive," which is 22-27% higher than the rate at which the personality type naturally occurs in the human population. with my google university degree in medicine and this book, i am UNSTOPPABLE!!!

but, let's be honest. (DM and) i already knew i was crazy. that's not what we needed help with. we needed help understanding our boy. i have to say up front that life with jack has become more and more enjoyable with each passing milestone, without the help of this book. whoever warned me that "the trying threes" were worse than "the terrible twos" was wrong, at least in jack's case. (also whoever said it was easier to potty-train girls than boys. NOPE.) anyway, while still especially "strong willed" or "spirited" or "challenging" or "a dick" at times, on balance, our family dynamic (which generally revolves around jack's moods) has improved immensely over the past year or so.

but man alive. that was not always the case. there was a time when i wondered on a near-daily, if not hourly basis, what on EARTH was wrong - with him, with me, with our approach to parenting, with karma, with the universe. i thought for sure that i had broken the poor kid with my new-mom neurosis. or maybe it started even before that. as the L&D nurse said to me in the hospital after jack was born and she was unable to soothe him: "did you cry a lot while you were pregnant? if you cry a lot while you're pregnant, then you get an unhappy baby."

i know i am "highly sensitive," which can be a blessing and a curse when dealing with a little mini version of my stressball self. but i've learned to "fake it." at least before i told the entire internet, only the people closest to me knew what an enormous nut case i am. but i was worried that jack was going to have a harder time adjusting. on the other hand, i worried that he would adjust just fine, but that in the process he would lose all the parts that made us fall in love with him... in "toughening up," he would have to harden his sweet little heart and soul. thankfully, for all parties involved, the boy is already learning to "pass" perfectly well, but his sweetest, lovinest, funniest, cleverest pieces have remained completely intact. his teachers even commented the other day, "we just LOVE jack! he's one of our favorites! we are going to warn his teachers next year that they just have to be patient and eventually he'll come around and charm their socks off."

there was a time when we were afraid to take him to parties. especially parties where anyone was going to make any sort of noise. superbowl parties were THE WORST. GOD FORBID anyone score a touchdown. PLEASE LORD LET THIS BE THE FIRST SUPERBOWL TO TIE 0-0!!! if anyone dared to cheer, Jackson would ensure that the party would come to a screeching halt. literally screeching. i myself am very sensitive to noise, so i can totally sympathize. (DM just told me i needed polarized sunglasses, but for my ears. i think they're called earmuffs.) but it was a real problem. even at home, DM, previously an obnoxious slightly-louder-than-average east coast sports fan, quickly learned to tamp down his raucous reactions to the triumphs and sorrows of being a Philadelphia eagles fan.

another issue is being touched by strangers, or really, anyone, at least unless he happens to be in the mood for touching. this seems perfectly normal to me! but apparently it is not. a couple of weeks ago we were at a party and one of DM's friends not only touched Jackson, but picked him up over his head and threatened to throw him into a small body of water. this struck sharp bolts of panic into both our hearts. DM and i stared at eachother, stricken, like ohhhhh f*ck, and silently counted down the seconds until J emitted his usual party-stopping scream. but then.... silence. DM and i watched in awe as a slideshow of emotions clicked across Jackson's face. "what in the F?.... I DO NOT LIKE THIS!... I DO NOT LIKE THIS AT ALL... this makes me want to scream... or cry... or perhaps both simultaneously... processing: ramifications for kicking this person in the head... no... wait... you got this!... hold it together, man... it will be over soon... oh thank god... okay, smile for the crowd... see? look. take a picture, mom. this is me having fun. whee."

and on the subject of the physical: highly sensitive children (apparently) feel pain more. here we thought we were raising a contender for the biggest crybaby in the guinness book of world records... turns out most of it is probably pretty legit. and they need their feelings, physical and emotional, to be validated, not discounted.

so, you can see why i might be a little concerned about this little marshmallow making his way through the cold, hard world.

then the other day, this conversation happened:

j: co-by, i'm not mad or anyting and we're stiow fwends, but you do not hass to sit WIGHT next to me all dah time.
c: but i wants to pway wif you.
j: you can pway wif me, but you juss hass to give me a wittow space!

and would you look at that?! the kid is not even four years old and he knows what he needs, AND knows how to ask for it. he's got me beat, ten ways to sunday. it's actually to the point now where Colby will walk up to him and say, "Jack, do you want to be awone?" Jack: "Yes, pwease." Colby: "Okay." (Alright, well, she says "Okay" maybe 51% of the time. The other 49% of the time she gets a devilish glint in her eye that says, "too f*ckin' bad, bruddaaaah!") i'm calling it progress.

but one area where my highly sensitive son and his highly sensitive mother diverge, personality-wise, is that, while i tend to be quiet and withdrawn when upset or overwhelmed, jack falls into an uncontrollable rage. i'm pointing the genetic finger at daddy for this one. (me: we do not throw things or kick things or break things when we're mad. j: yes we do. daddy does. me: ....)

i liken it to a switch being flipped, and once it's "on," there is no going back, you just have to ride it out. or, like going off a cliff. once he's gone, you can't pull him back. these "rages" are impossible for me to comprehend, let alone manage. frankly, they scare the crap out of me. until i had a ... i won't say "normal," but... not-highly-sensitive child, i thought maybe this was just one of those parts of parenthood that no one tells you about. but the more i interacted with other kids the more i realized it was... beyond.

my sister, who is to the autism spectrum what i am to "highly sensitive" personalities, has diagnosed both Jackson and me with Asperger's. and while i can see her point, i was resistant to this line of thought because, my apologies, this may not be a PC thing to say, but i think that being "on the spectrum" is the ADHD of the 21st century, in that it is an over-diagnosed catch-all. this is not to say that there aren't plenty of legitimate cases, of course. (the book actually discusses how to differentiate a highly sensitive personality from autism spectrum disorder.)

at one point, though, things felt so out of control that i finally did ask the pediatrician about it. he rolled his eyes and assured me that perhaps i was crazy, but that my son was perfectly normal. of course, he had never witnessed my "smart, well behaved" child try to punch me in the face when he was in a blind rage. every time it happens, i am just at a complete loss. it's like 3 years and 11 months of parenting flies out the window, and i feel that black blur of terror from the early days creeping up again. it cuts me off at the knees. i'm back at square one, ground zero. it f*cking sucks.

this is one area in particular where The Highly Sensitive Child book helped me understand my son, more than myself. she talks about how to help prevent these rages, and how to roll with the punches (literally and figuratively, in my case), when they can't be avoided.

maybe it's like astrology and horoscopes. maybe you just see what you need to see. but if any of this is sounding familiar to you, it is definitely worth a read.

the overarching theme i took from the book is that your child is super sensitive and SUPER AWESOME and it's a package deal. it's about accepting them for who they are, and working with instead of against their personality strengths and weaknesses. don't try to "fix" them. they're not broken. the same goes for you, too, pal. work with what you've got. it takes a lot less energy than trying to be what you're not.

ps, though i know i sound like a walking advertisement, Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D doesn't know me from adam. i just really liked her book :)

pps, i can just imagine my grandfathers or my old school uncles reading this and saying something along the lines of, "pshaw. what this kid really needs is the business end of a belt strap." and don't think i haven't considered it. but i just know in my heart that that is a) not the way i want to handle it, and b) probably the most counterproductive tactic we could possibly devise for dealing with this boy of mine.