Is It Over?…


…I ask, as I emerge, bleary-eyed and hungover from too much eating, too much spending, too much cooking and too much family. It’s a full week into the new year and I have finally crawled out from beneath the rubble.

As hard as I try to be more organized, to be less a worshiper on the alter of consumerism, to avoid being sucked into the madness that is the holidays, I always end up running around like a chicken with no head, spending too much money and running out of time. Every year, I swear the next will be better…that I will be better. I’m still trying to get there.

Baby Boodle still has a gift in the closet that has yet to be put together. It’s a little red wagon that she can’t use until the weather gets warmer but still. It’s embarrassing to admit that. Besides, she’s been ODing on the zillion toys she got from the grandparents & aunts.

For some reason, this holiday season was a rough one. It could have been the dog peeing blood, or my serious dental work, or the million appointments for BB or the fact that my husband might not have a job soon or my new car needing major repairs that made it a tad bit harder to bear. There were a few other happenings that I’ll mention in future posts.

Looking ahead to the new year, I’m hopeful that it will be better than the last. It’s got to be.


The Big “O”


Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not about that big O.

“What do you think about Oprah and Obama?” asked the Occupational Therapist. This came out of the blue during our last session. After being prefaced with “I know I shouldn’t be asking this question but…,” she asked it anyway. I was startled since I don’t really know her that well. She comes for an hour a week and the focus is supposed to be on BabyBoodle, but lately I’ve noticed she’s been chatting more and doing less. I keep trying to steer conversations to focus on ways to get BB faster, better, stronger.

“Uhm, I’m not sure what I think about Oprah. I know that she hasn’t done this for anyone else in her entire career.” I stalled as I tried to figure out why is this woman asking me this? I wasn’t ready to unleash the political dogs on her. It’s amazing to see O wield her significant powers and to know that one word out of her mouth can really make or break someone (hello James Frey!). I also feel that with every move by every candidate being scrutinized ad infinitum, I’m already on candidate overload and starting to shut down.

“I don’t think he’s black enough,” she said dismissively. Oh boy, here we go. This having been said by someone who told me that she’s married to a white man and doesn’t want to be lumped with African-Americans since she’s of Guyanese descent. I’m cool with all of that. I grew up with plenty of Jamaicans and Trinis (I’m related to some through marriage) and technically, they aren’t A-As; their struggles are different so it makes sense that they don’t want to be thrown together with us. I always got the sense from her that she didn’t want to get locked down by the whole racial classification thing since it’s not such a big deal in Guyana, her daughter is biracial and her mother is Portuguese. Did she have the right to say that Obama isn’t black enough? Does anyone really? I’ve been accused of not being black enough too, so I bridled at her statement.

“You think so? I think he embodies the ideal of America–the whole mixed race, melting pot thing.” Okay, I nearly vomited after that one but to some extent it was true. His biracial heritage and untraditional background might be the ticket for getting him into office. I didn’t want to go into the whole “one drop of black means you’re all black” thing with her which is still a commonly held belief in America. It’s hard for outsiders to understand that sometimes. “I’m not sure how much he can get done even if he does make it. At least Hillary has an inside track,” I said, opening a box of blocks for BB as a reminder of why we were here.

“Obama’s wife is so, so…strident.” Hmmm, interesting choice of words coming from her, a person whom I wouldn’t call strident, but definitely someone lacking the warm and fuzzy. Of all the therapists, BB hasn’t really connected with her as much. She has some good ideas sometimes but we labor at our conversations. Besides, what does Obama’s wife have to do with him being president?

“And Hillary’s not?” It popped out before I could stop it. “She can be hard to stomach at times.”

I was about to start my rant about how our two-party system isn’t really working and has neglected the black voter; how complicated this election is becoming with its many early debates and caucuses; how I wasn’t really thrilled with any of the candidates on either side (could I really vote Republican?); how Americans have been sold a bill of goods for the whole election process (see Fahrenheit 9/11) and how regardless of who is elected, this country is headed for a serious economic downturn. The next president can’t guarantee that I will find a job next year when I send BB to nursery school, or guarantee that my husband won’t be fired from his financial services job or that my taxes will go down (or at least not go up 10 freaking percent in one year). That’s what I’m worried about. As I opened my mouth to start, BB walked over to me and bumped my head with hers and giggled hysterically. It’s this game we play. “Ow!” she said and giggled some more.

The conversation was over.

Here’s an article from the NY Times about how certain disorders might run in families. Definitely food for thought…especially with what I’ve seen in my own family (relating to food & allergies).

“Your Child’s Disorder May Be Yours, Too”

So BabyBoo and I packed a lunch and headed off for the hills. Our goal was not to escape the industrial wasteland of Union County for the lush countryside of Sussex with its rolling hills and grazing horses (it’s amazing what NJ has to offer less than 2 hours away). We were not searching for beauty; we were on our way to see a DAN! practitioner.

The appointment had been made two months ago. Armed with my stack of paperwork (12 downloaded pages to be exact), I also had copies of evaluations from BabyBoo’s “team” of therapists and a food diary from the last 3 days.

Damn, I need my own team of therapists.

Anywhoo, we followed the directions listed on her website. It’s a good thing I allotted lots of travel time. Her office is in Hackettstown which is not easy to get to from where I live and took me roughly 90 minutes each way.

She was definitely worth the trip. Dr. E. was clear, concise, down to earth and very warm. She ordered a bunch of tests and prescribed B-12 shots (which I have to administer, yay!). She raised an issue about possible celiac disease in my family. My mother has always had food allergies and has always thought she is allergic to wheat. She’s getting tested for celiac disease at the end of the month–she never truly believed she has rheumatoid arthritis since all of her symptoms don’t match. Dr. E. ordered a blood test for me as well in addition to urine and stool samples for BB. That’s the subject for another blog entry.

It’s funny how having a child makes you reflect and dig within…even if it’s just finding out what may or may not run in your family in terms of disease.

I got into this interesting discussion with my dentist today as she was preparing the temporary crown for my back tooth. This was after the first one cracked within hours of being installed. I had come back to her office for an emergency visit, with of course, the Baby Boodle in tow.

“Is she with you all the time?” Dingbat asks about BB, her back is turned to me as she fusses with nasty smelling/tasting plastic at the counter. BB is doing pretty well at this point, strapped down in her stroller with a few blocks in her lap. She was more fascinated with the dentist’s waist-long, curly, flowing, high maintenance hair than with me getting things jammed in my mouth.

“Mostly,” I reply calmly. I can sense something stupid about to form. She goes on to ask me generic questions about my plans for the holiday, mentions how cold it is, etc., etc. There must have been a course in dental school called “Engaging in Patient Conversations” since she seemed to be ticking off an imaginary list in her head as she spoke.

“Is she a morning person?” Ahhh, it’s building, I can feel it.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, she is.” I say this proudly, like waking early is an Olympic event that my child should get the gold for.

“I guess that means you don’t get to sleep in,” she says with pity in her voice. I skip a beat and want to scream with laughter. Lady, you have no fucking clue. There. Is. No. Sleeping. Period.

I just smiled at her as she turned to me and stuck plastic in my mouth.

One down, one to go. Holiday, that is. Unless you count Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. Then you’ve got a ways to go (especially if you celebrate all of the above and Christmas). Thanksgiving was okay. After much discussion, planning, redistribution of resources and wrangling, it was decided that all family members would stay in their respective houses. I mean really, we’ve been making plans since August and it all boiled down to no one wanting to do anything which is what should have been decided back in August.

Atlanta Sis couldn’t get off from work on the Friday which meant that she wasn’t flying home. Initially, Queens Sis had to work Friday as well which meant she didn’t want to cook for everybody. She eventually got Friday off but ended up being sick the whole weekend. Mom, Dad & Granny stopped by my house (but didn’t want to do a big dinner–hello, it’s Thanksgiving, it’s all about being stuffed.) So it ended up being me, Hubster and Baby Boo. After a recent phone convo with Mom, it seems as though everyone was miserable. Either we’re miserable together or miserable apart. Sheesh!

The Pre-Parade


Hubster and I had this brilliant idea to go to the Blowing up of the Balloons on Central Park West. Somehow, we failed to take in the fact that a)today is the busiest travel day of the year; b)NYC is under a gridlock alert and c)there is a strike on Broadway.

What does all of that really mean?

A) Being THE busiest travel day of the year isn’t limited to just air travel; alas, a trip on NJTransit showed us that the airlines weren’t the only ones raising the body count. Supposedly, NJT added extra trains and put more cars on the back of existing trains. That thump you hear is me falling on the floor, laughing hysterically. Extra trains for them are as real as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

B) A gridlock alert means that you should take mass transit. It should really mean, grab your good running/walking shoes or a bike, ’cause you ain’t going nowhere fast…even on mass transit.

C) The strike on Broadway (The people, united, will never be defeated!!) has left a whole lot of tourists with nowhere to go. Here’s an idea…let’s go watch the balloons get inflated! Yeah! So in addition to all the bridge n’ tunnel folks (of which, regrettably, I am one), there were hordes of people who just wanted to suck up some NY cultcha, even if it meant watching helium being pumped into polyurethane and being run over by the latest Bugaboo. That’s if you could even get close enough to see.


Can’t see anything, huh? Neither could we. This was as close as we could get even after circling the block a few times. That dark blob is the Energizer Bunny. The one good thing I can say about the whole thing was they were giving out free stuff (organic iced tea, Terra Chips and hot cocoa). I’ve never seen so many kids in strollers in my life. It was a real mob scene–as crazy as the parade itself.

Needless to say, we won’t be doing that again next year.

Why do so many people think that life is so easy if you’re a stay-at-home-mom? People think you’re sitting around, watching soaps, eating Devil Dogs and getting fat. They think you get to sleep as much as you want (sleep late, take naps, that type of thing).

I wish someone had told me the truth.

I had visions…maybe not the soaps and Devil Dogs part, but of something nice cooking on the stove (maybe stew or homemade soup) while I curl up on the couch and read books to baby. Of course, in my dream, the house is spotless and there’s no dog hair tumbleweed in the corners.

Nobody told me.

They didn’t mention that your house stays dirty because you’re in it more. Or that if you want to get anything done (cooking, laundry, bills) or just time to yourself (say, to blog), you’ve got to wake up at 6:30am. Napping is out of the question.

In order to keep BabyBoodle happy, challenged and engaged, I take her out everyday. That’s on top of the 7 hours of therapy she gets a week. We make heavy use of the local libraries, rec centers, parks, free programs, etc.

Notice I used the word “free.” This word has become a very important fixture in my life. That’s because being a SAHM means there’s no money. No, really, there’s no money. So that means that we haven’t shopped for new clothes or shoes for us; I use coupons as much as I can; I don’t get my hair done at a salon; we don’t subscribe to magazines and have cut back our cable; we don’t buy music (even for $.99 at iTunes) or pop into Starbucks for that latte. Decisions to buy even the basic necessities means agonizing over money. It really is like trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. Pimping my brain out on the weekends to tutor precocious 9th graders certainly helps in the money department–it just ain’t enough.

Then of course, there are the media-inspired “mommy wars” between the stay-at-homes and the work-outsides. I’ve gotten some venom from people…attitude-laced innocuous questions about “how great it must be” to stay home with my daughter. Since I’m a black SAHM, there are huge socio-political implications…according to society, we aren’t supposed to be SAHMs. The debates and discussions involving SAHMs don’t reflect a lot of diversity (which really pisses me off). There are just different cultural implications for us and a lot more backlash.

Well, with the autism, the diet, and the therapy, it has become a necessity for me to stay home…at least until we get her back on track. Anybody who wants to see how wonderful it is to be a SAHM can switch places with me for a week. You’ll be having seizures from the latte withdrawal on day one. When you work at a job outside the home, the law states that you are required to get breaks and lunch. I get to eat standing or while I’m trying to shovel food into BabyBoodle’s mouth. That’s if she’ll actually eat. So you can deal with the food issues, juggling the therapies, driving her around town to her playdates and activities, baking her carrot muffins from scratch with rice flour (no wheat, remember!), finding more food that she will/can eat, paying bills with an almost zero balance in the checking account, shopping for food at a discount, and somehow managing to stay sane.

Yeah, living the life of Riley, is that what this is?

My daughter was diagnosed with “mild” autism in September ’07 and ever since, I’ve been plunged into some sort of bizarro world. The neurologist who diagnosed her spent all of 10 minutes asking me a bunch of questions from the Denver Developmental Screening Test. Little did he know, I already had my very own copy. After spending this brief 10 minutes and looking over her body for birthmarks (when there are more than 6, the chances of autism are greater) the doctor counted 5 and determined that A is autistic. He said it in an offhand manner as if he was noticing her hair color. I just remember not being able to breathe properly.

After the shock wore off, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Of course, I was immediately overwhelmed. There’s a lot of info out there about autism, some of it useful but most of it scary and confusing. We’ve been doing the diet (wheat-free and casein-free) which is a real bitch to accomplish. I feel like some wacky chemist mixing up batches of stuff that hopefully A will eat. She’s not a good eater; she’ll be 2 next month and still eats primarily baby food. We’ve been doing the Omega 3 fish oil in the form of a gel. My mom got me Jenny McCarthy’s book which was a good read about her personal struggles with the system and getting her son the help he needed. I really just needed a book that gave me some kind of game plan for what to do. I also got kind of sick of seeing her face all over the place (Oprah, Larry King, GMA, etc., etc.) I managed to find a DAN doctor who called me back even though she’s about a 90 minute drive away. We’ll see how that visit goes.

Anywhoo, hubby and I enrolled A in the early intervention program through our state. A has 5 hours of therapy a week: 3 hours of ABA, one of occupational and one of speech. Things are definitely improving. There are days when I still feel like screaming. But I know there are mothers out there who have it a helluva lot worse than I do. My daughter gives good eye contact, shows affection, shows a range of emotion, engages socially with others and uses some language to communicate. The therapy and the diet seem to be working; she seems better. I know she’s sick of me shoving flash cards in her face and saying “show mommy what you want.”

These DAN docs don’t take insurance (you might be able to be reimbursed through your insurance company) and they charge about $200-$500 bucks an hour. I’ve already had to borrow some money from my retirement fund (hmmm, cat food, yummy!). Hey, my baby needs this money now. If anybody out there is paying attention, families with autistic kids who are NOT on welfare could use some help. I haven’t even mentioned all the lovely wheat-free, casein-free food that I’m now buying which has tripled our food bill. Or the bill for all of the therapy. Even though it’s through the state, it ain’t free.

Lord knows, I’m tired and the fun has just begun.