Posts Tagged mother and son

Health Update and Request for Ripple Reviews

Hello friends. I hope the sun is shining on your Saturday with as much light and brilliance as it is shining on mine. It’s been an overwhelming week for me and for my family. We spent the greater part of the week in specialists’ offices and holding my son tight as we search for answers. While we still don’t have a diagnosis for what’s causing our son’s high blood pressure, our hopes our high and our faith is firm. We will find a cause and then a cure. In the meantime, I thank God every morning for another day, for me, for him, for all of us.

Your prayers and kind thoughts mean more to me than I can adequately express here. Please keep lifting my family up, and please know just how much we appreciate it. Truly, we are so grateful for your love and support.

As you may or may not know, Ripple’s planned release date is Monday, 1/21. I thought about delaying it, but right now, working is keeping me sane and helping me get my mind off my worries. With my family behind me, I’m going ahead and releasing Ripple on time. It’s true to my nature and true to what the characters in this novel would do were they in my shoes. No matter the circumstances, life must be lived, rather than set aside. And in living, and working, we can find relief from our difficulties.

Front and Back Cover

To those of you who were kind enough to advance read Ripple, I would be so very grateful if you could write an honest review on Amazon and/orGoodreads. And I do mean honest, with the gentle caveat that the more stars you give it, the more likely it is to end up in the hands of other readers.

I’d also like to send out a huge thank-you to Renée Schuls-Jacobson, who sent me a note late last night and single-handedly turned my Amazon blurb into a much better end product. My name may be on the title, but the writing of this first novel has been one I could not have done alone.

Here are the links to Amazon and Goodreads.

Amazon

Goodreads

And finally, to buy an autographed copy of Ripple, I think you can click on this link: Buy Autographed Copy of Ripple

And again, thank you all so very much for your support, and especially for your prayers and kind thoughts concerning my son.

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My Son: Holding Tight, Not Letting Go

He fidgets. We wait. He jumps up, runs over to the machine and looks all herky-jerky, happy, just wanting to play with one of those toys they give to kids. You know the toys, right? They’re packed into this glass case, and a kid deposits a fake coins into the dispenser after he gets done with the pediatrician.  In the old days, we got lollipops for our troubles, but modern kids, they’re all obese, or heading that way, so they get these cheap toys. Or so they say.

I look in the mirror and I see a fat woman and for the life of me, she won’t seem to go away. Stop, El. This isn’t thinking. It’s abuse, another form of it, and deep down, you don’t want that anymore.

 •••

  “Mom! I want this one! The jelly-wiggle!” He grins, all dimples and elbows, and dances around, in a circle, each hand raised with index fingers wagging toward the ceiling. When he dances like this, his face breaks into sharp angles that accentuate his Eastern-European chin dimple, which is, I just learned, caused by some strange genetic malformation of the chin bones. My husband has it. So did Kirk Douglas, and so does his son. The funny thing about this chin dimple is it makes a man look incredibly handsome.

It’s funny, isn’t it? The things that are malformed, not right, a little off, unique, can be the things that make a man, a boy, most loved. I always was taken with a chin dimple, and the fact that it’s a mistake, a genetic error, makes me even fonder of it.

“Shh,” we whisper. “Calm down, love.” He runs back and sits next to my husband, who wears a dark gray suit. Before I can count to ten, he jumps back up again, and stares, intense, eyes narrowed, at the jelly wiggler toy.

•••

She leaned over and scribbled something on his chart. I squinted. 160/102. No. The muscles around her eyes flexed and then she let go, and as her eye muscles retracted, she undid the blood pressure cuff, all the while speaking to my son. Rip, it went, and it sounded so loud in that coffin-quiet office with the pictures of our aging doctor and her three sons on the walls, and I leaned over and shut the office door.

“160/100,” I whispered to my husband, who was watching Dr. M while I held onto my tiny creature, not so tiny now, but in my mind’s eye, I see him as a baby.

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“Mama, was I this big?” He asks, holding his arms about a foot apart.

            I grin.

            He grins, and the grin is as big as his face. “The size of a football?”

            “Yeah,” I nod.

            “I could fit inside a football?” The light dances inside his eyes.

            “Yep.” Now I smile back at him. “That big. No bigger.”

She ripped off the elastic that makes the cuff grip his right arm so tight, and wheeled around, writing something down in his chart. It’s a thick chart for a six-year old. After all, we always joke, he’s our medical scare baby. When I was pregnant with Maddie, I got laser surgery on my eyes, and with those surgically-repaired eyes squinting, I could read her handwriting. 160/100.

It passed quickly. The appointment, I mean. But how fast will this pass? How fast will he pass?

Just a few days ago, he stood in front of the fridge in a Cambray button down shirt and baggy khakis, all serious and tiny, and in my mind’s eye, with both eyes fixed on all fifty-two pounds of him, I saw him as a fifteen or sixteen year old. He was tall and lanky and searching for a glass of water. For some reason, I often see him projected, his tiny form onto his future form, older, taller, a vision, a future ghost of the man he is becoming. It always makes me smile, he always makes me smile, this little boy of mine, this unique, quirky, challenging imperfect child, this sunshine, my sunshine, and I know I can hold on only for so long.

I never wondered if God was giving me this vision to comfort me, to let me know what this youngest son could have been, because he was no longer to be. But it’s weird, because I never see my other two children as older versions of their little selves. Just the baby of the family, my baby, this dimpled man-child of mine. Is God sending him to me, this future man, as a message, as a reminder, a letter of love and comfort and a promise that he will make it through this okay? Or is God reminding me to hold tight, so tight, because his time here is fast fading, fading?

 

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A Hail Mary Pass Thrown into Swirling Gust of Wind: Medicating AD/HD

I paced back and forth in front of my son’s first grade classroom, waiting for his teacher to finish talking to another child’s parents.  My husband tries to come to as many parent-teacher conferences as work permits, but I’d scheduled this one for 10 A.M. on Election Day, so I was going into the breach solo.  And while I didn’t want to feel scared and worried and a little sick to my stomach, I did.

Too often, these conferences hadn’t gone well in the past.  At the very first one, when Ben was still in preschool, his teacher glared at me with this serious, disapproving look.  “You know, you’d better get a handle on this sooner than later, when there’s still time.  Otherwise, he’s going to end up in jail.”

I glanced at my husband in shock.  “Jail?”  I gasped.

“Jail,” she repeated.  “At this rate, with this much oppositional behavior, this much anger, jail.”

In case you’re wondering, we switched preschools after that.

Things got worse before they got better.  When Ben was in kindergarten, I would jump when the phone rang.  If it wasn’t the school calling, I breathed a sigh of relief.  When I visited Ben at school for lunch, his classmates told me that my dear son was “bad.”  As I have written here, this hurt like hell.  I felt powerless and not a little clueless.  The last thing I wanted to turn to was the medicine cabinet.

But we did it anyway, both for our son’s sake, and for our own.  The payoff was not immediate because we had him on too low of a dose: 10 mg of Metadate, which is a generic form of Ritalin.  But once we got the dosage right (20 mg), the turnaround was immediate.

And yet, as I stood in front of Mrs. X, I wasn’t sure.  It had been about three weeks since we’d increased Ben’s dose, and we hadn’t heard from her except for one phone call, which I received the day after we increased Ben’s dose.  It had been a really weird call.  Mrs. X called for the sole reason of telling me that Ben had behaved well all day.  Was this an anomaly, or a new beginning for our troubled six-year old?

Before I even sat down in front of Mrs. X, I knew the answer was the latter: Ben had gotten a fresh start.  A redo, a do-over.  “You know, I’ve been looking forward to this meeting,” beamed Mrs. X.  “It’s been like night and day, like a sun rising, ever since you made the brave step of getting him the help he needed.”

“Really?”  I couldn’t breathe so I tried to sit down without smashing my knees into the tiny table in front of me.  I’m clumsy like that.

“Yes.  Really.  The transformation has been the biggest one I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of AD/HD kids.  Sometimes the meds help a little.  Sometimes a lot.  In his case, he’s gone from . . .”  Mrs. X paused to find a tactful way to say it.  “Well, from struggling, to being helpful, and attentive, and funny and . . . oh so kind.  I mean, he was always sweet and affectionate, but my gosh.  Now he gives me flowers, tells me how much he loves me—“

—“He’s always been so affectionate and sweet,” I murmured, my heart hurting.

She nodded.  “The great thing is that you made this change for him early in the year.  So his classmates won’t always remember him getting in trouble.  I mean, they all struggled to figure out the rules in the beginning, so he didn’t stick out as much in their minds.  And now he’s getting along with his classmates.  He’s funny and well-liked and . . .”  Her voice trailed off and she smiled at me.

Some decisions, when viewed from hindsight, seem obvious.  Other ones seem divinely inspired, like small miracles.  But the decision to medicate our son was more like a Hail-Mary pass thrown into a swirling gust of wind: a combination of savvy quarterbacking, divine guidance and a tad of blind luck all in one.

 

 

 

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4 Soccer Games, 17 Library Books, 6 Donuts, 4 Slurpees . . .

Three kids, four soccer games, seventeen library books, six donuts, four Slurpees . . . such is the first equation that best describes the math of our Autumn Saturday.

Between soccer games, we all ended up in the kitchen.  With a bottle of water in one hand, I leaned against the countertop, watching as my husband ate a “Muffeletta” sandwich we’d bought yesterday from The Italian Store in Arlington, Virginia.

Our middle child, Travis James Farris, Jr., or “Jim,” sat facing my husband.  “Dad, when I write ‘Junior’ after my name, it makes me proud to have your name.”  Jim’s voice, still high pitched, echoed against the red walls in our kitchen, and I smiled.

Before I could say anything, my husband set his Muffeletta down and wiped his hands on his paper towel.  “Well, son, I’m very proud to share my name with such a great kid. I don’t think I’ve told you today just how awesome you are.”

I glanced at Travis, who was once again grasping his “manwich,” and nodded at the clock.  He sighed; I sighed; and we started to check shin pads, cleats, water bottles and soccer balls.  Fifteen arguments, three Facebook status updates, four missed calls and an entire box of obliterated Munchkin donuts later, I sat in my husband’s big, striped fabric chair in the kitchen, typing up some research notes about angels on my silver Macbook Pro.  My youngest child whizzed around me, and we played our “I love you game.”

I started.  “I love you more than all the leaves in the backyard.”

Ben’e eyes lit up as I spoke.  Before I finished, he danced in front of me.  “I love you more than all the trees in America.”

“Sun, moon, stars.”

He grinned, all dimples showing, and yelled, “Mom I love you more than anything, even God.”

I smiled back at him, and put a hand on his shoulder.  “Not more than God.  You must love Him most.”  I paused mid-negotiation long enough to mix a smile into my sober response.  “How about except God?”

“Oh, okay, except God.”  He hopped around again.  “And I won’t let anyone hurt you.”  My six-year old, 48-pound boy grinned at me while he sipped his Slurpee. “And if anyone tries to hurt you, I will protect you.  If someone comes at you with a knife, I will hit them, or cut their head off!”

“Um . . .”

Ben jumped up and added, “Look at the picture I drew for you, Mom!  It has pink hearts on it, and me, and you.”

I glanced over at the drawing of two blue-colored people holding hands on a scrap of wrinkled white paper.  Admittedly, I was a little relieved to see that there were no weapons mixed in with the pink hearts that circled the blue-colored sketch of mother and son.  I knew, just as my husband knew–just as my entire family knows–what it means to feel loved, and my soul rang out with laughter and with light.

 

 

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Tales of Woe from the Soccer Field

It’s Tuesday afternoon.  He runs into my room wearing cleats, shin guards and socks that are so long on his still tiny legs that they reach up over his knees and need to be folded over.  I sigh and follow him down the stairs and out into the garage, and before I get in and turn the key in the ignition, I put a hand on his cheek.  “You going to have fun and listen, right?”

He nods.  I take a deep breath and hope it will be different, but some things either don’t change, or aren’t going to change for a long time.  He’s no more a soccer player than I’m a soccer mom.

Jim.

That’s part of the problem: me.  I’m an abject failure at this so far.  Last Tuesday, we had three kids that had to make it to practice at 5:30 p.m., and the practices were in three locations.  Our daughter rode with neighbors, and I drew the easiest lot: taking our middle son, Jim, to his practice.

I paced around and fidgeted and tried to watch Jim run through his drills.  I talked to other moms.  And then, at 6:15, I checked my watch.  Practice was ending at 7, which meant I had time for a 3-mile run.  Twenty minutes later, I paused in the thick early September air and checked my watch.  It was 6:33, which gave me plenty of time to make it back to the fields with ten minutes to spare.  I smiled.  Damn, was I on my game, for once.

As I loped back onto field eight a little bit later, a sense of panic overtook me.  Those aren’t the same kids, I realized.

Then I heard a little voice screeching my name, “Mom!”

I caught a glimpse of my son standing on the running board of a tan SUV.  What the hell is going on, I muttered, and before I could ask the coach what happened, my husband drove up in his black sedan, and smiled at me.  The coach had called him because, well, practice had ended at 6:30.  I apologized of course, but I felt awful.

At Wendy’s an hour later, I looked over my diet soda at my husband.  “How did it go?”

He shook his head.  And then, with a bemused smile, he replied, “Ben went searching for fossils.”

I chuckled.  “Fossils?”

“Yeah.  And when the team scrimmaged, he walked off the field, in search of four leaf clovers.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” he nodded, his facial expression switching between laughter and frustration.  “And then, when the coach told the kids to run around the field, he was in the lead.  Then he stopped to look at something.  And then, when he ran next to his teammates, they turned left, to follow the field, and he turned right, ran down a hill, and in the opposite direction from everyone else.”

I covered my eyes and giggled.  “Wow.”

Ben.

“Will you please take him next time?”

I looked over at my children, who were busy eating and elbowing each other. “I’ll take him to his game Saturday.”

Fast forward to Saturday’s game.  I fidgeted and paced and observed Ben doing anything on the field but playing soccer.  He never even touched the ball.  When it came his way, he seemed to run in the opposite direction.  He bent over in search of bones, fossils, pretty crystals (rocks) and four leaf clovers.

Seeing a couple of dads running around the fields, I joined them.  Maybe if I help out, I can get Ben engaged, or so I thought.  I had no effect on Ben, other than to confuse the hell out of him.  The other dads ignored me.  It felt like I was invisible.  And then the ball flew toward me, and I’ve replayed this over and over again, because I’m not sure if I did this on purpose or was completely passive when the ball hit me in the hip.  I suspect that it was a little bit of both.  I’m a lifetime athlete, and when a ball comes my way, my instinct is to go and get it.  This instinct to go for the ball is every bit as strong as a border collie’s instinct to herd, or a golden retriever’s inability NOT to chase after an object in flight.

Whatever I did or didn’t do, I wasn’t expecting what happened.  The other dad on the field helping our team, an assistant coach, yelled at me to get off the field.  “Let the kids play.”  And so, with my head down and my face and neck turning even redder than the sun was making them, I headed off the field, where my in-laws sat.

“That was your fault,” my father-in-law snapped at me as he caught me muttering a protest under my breath.  “You should not have gotten in the way of the ball.  This isn’t your game.”

I stood there, several feet away from him, and tried to listen to this friend of mine, this dad who always has a story to tell, but I couldn’t follow him.  Tears were falling down my face, and even though my dark sunglasses hid my eyes, he could see me shaking all over.

“Hey,” he whispered, as he reached out and put a hand on my shoulder.  “It’s okay.  I’ve been ordered off the field before.  To be honest, you did get in the way of the ball.”

“I know,” I sobbed, barely able to speak, “But I’m so embarrassed.  Why did he have to do that?  Yell at me in front of everyone else?  And then my father-in-law has gotta pile on, and he’s never said a nice word to me, not ever.”  I cried harder and harder, and my friend listened and tried to make me feel better.

“I’d give you a hug,” he added, his eyes moving from the field to me and back to the field, “But I don’t wanna embarrass you.”

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Sometime in the middle of this, my daughter had arrived, still wearing her soccer uniform from her earlier game.  She tried her best to make me feel better, and I tried my best not to cry in front of her.  After the game ended, I tracked down the assistant coach, and with tears again falling, I asked him not to ever yell at me in public, and explained about my son, and how he’s doing his best.  And so was I.

Maddie.

As I touched Ben’s cheek on Tuesday afternoon, all of this flashed through my mind, and I knew it wouldn’t be any better at practice, but I knew I wouldn’t love my son any less.  Sure enough, we couldn’t find the practice field, and I was too anxious and nervous to ask anyone.  We were a few minutes late.  And we forgot our ball.  And Ben ran in the wrong direction of the ball, searched for four leaf clovers, hung off the goal posts, and barely a soccer ball.

When it was over, he asked me how he did.  With his gray-blue eyes looking very blue, he chirped, “Am I a good soccer player, Mom?”

I looked down into his eyes and thought of my friend, the dad who put a hand on my shoulder when I cried tears of humiliation and frustration at Ben’s game on Saturday, and I smiled.  I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and kissed his head.  “I love you.”

“But am I a good soccer player?”

I’m not a fan of lying to my son.  The truth is, he’s no more a soccer player than I’m a soccer Mom.  And in the grand scheme of things, that’s okay.  And we’re going to be okay.

I smiled at him.  “I love you.”  With eyes shielded from the setting sun, I held his hand and we rambled off to face the close of another day.

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Ruminations on Past and Future: Another August Day

8:44 AM.  Voices and hands and feet echo and bounce off the walls and I awake to another day in August.  I shake off my nightmares and all of their painful psychological detritus.  I should have known the nightmares would come back again.  I just met with a new therapist and while it’s old for me, it’s new for her, and as I bring her into my past, I drag that past back into my mind’s eye.  It doesn’t matter how far I get from my past.  There will always be times it binds me like an eagle’s talon in my sleep.

Shhh.  I’m safe now, I think, gazing out the window and stepping over books and magazines that I tossed on my bedroom floor just before I slipped off to sleep the night before.  “Get dressed and brush your teeth,” I order, and I wonder if my mother was right about me in the last words she uttered to me.  Is it true that I show them no love, allow no smiles, and bear them no affection?  Is it really a terrible legacy I leave my beloved?

In truth, I think not, but the pain of not knowing is underscored by the unbearable vision of being molested over and over again as the night fights against the damn-it-please-come-soon morning light.

11 AM.  My son comes into my room, bubbling over with indignation.  “Mama, Maddie just hit me.” He points to his arm. “Right here.”

Typing at full speed, I glance over. “Uh-huh. That’s not nice.”

His voice takes a melancholy turn.  “Yeah.”  He hops up and down and then his tone brightens. “Can I hit her back?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Can’t.”

He paces around me demanding answers to his questions as I type and yet again I count the days until summer ends.

1:30 PM.  After we conclude a trip to Kohl’s that only stands out for its lack of tear-my-hair-out-bad-hilarity, I sit next to my six-year old at Wendy’s.  I’ve taught them the meaning of “numbnut” after a minivan almost crashes into us in the parking lot.

My daughter, almost 9, smirks at me.  “Can I say ‘numbnut’ at school?”

Brushing my still-blonde, but so close to brown hair out of my eyes, I shake my head and shrug and grin all at once.

“It’s better than idiot, right?”

I sip my diet coke and look at this child of mine, with the still-blonde, but so close to brown hair and before I can answer her, my youngest son bumps into me, lost in thought, and staring at the closed-circuit TV set.

“Is Wendy’s going to be here always?”

I look around and think.  My other child, the blue-eyed son who bears his father’s name, has a serious look about him, but he’s just hungry.  I cannot seem to give an easy answer.

What lasts forever?  I see chairs and tables and children and people I don’t know, and none of us last forever.  But this isn’t really the question he’s asking me.  I want to reassure him without lying to him.  I want us, our love, our family, to last as long as we can; I want to be here as long as I need to be and as long as he needs me.  And yet, dear son, beloved light of my heart, there are no guarantees, no promises, no sure things.

I close my eyes and a flash, a fast-moving series of images, zoom from one synapse to the next, and in that millisecond, I see a fire burning, a nuclear bomb falling, and please God, I pray, make it so that I don’t see or feel us burning.  I’m not afraid in that moment, the moment that I hope is just unfounded fantasy that will never come to be.  I’m at peace, sitting here with my three children inside of a Wendy’s on an August afternoon, secure in knowing that this day, this moment, is all I can really be sure of.

It’s enough.  It’s enough for me.  And it that I know I’m free.

I smile over my straw.  “I hope so, son.  They do a good business here.”

“Yep.  Not like Ho’s Dynasty,” pipes up my daughter.  She’s talking about our favorite Chinese restaurant, which just closed down.

I take this in, my eyes making contact with each set of blue or blue-gray eyes in these children of mine, and I flash an easy smile.  “Yes!  Well-said Maddie!”

A tiny child toddles past me and we exchange winks.

As I clean up the table and crack jokes with my daughter, I think about all of this.  I don’t make up the rules that govern our lives or dictate how many days we have left.  All I have is this moment, with this family, and a quiet faith that there will be enough moments.  When it comes to the future, our future, it really is that simple.

“Sodas.  Trash.  Let’s go,” I chirp.

“And watch out for numbnuts in the parking lot,” adds my daughter.

I hold the door open and look both ways before we cross the blacktop and head home.

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“Mom?” –“Yeah?”

Questions from Ben after getting off the school bus:

“Did you get me anything new today?”

“No. I was sick.  I got you some cheese.”

“Can I have some?”

“Yes.”

“Will you cut it in half?”

“Yes.”

“What’s wrong with the scissors?  Did Maddie poop on them again?”

“Ben!”  Jim cries.  I giggle.  “Um No.”

5 minutes later . . . “Mom, did you get me the chocolate to make me a happy chick?”

“Huh?”

“I unwrapped the red paper and ate the first two but I didn’t like them.  I put them back.  But I liked the other ones.”

I nod and frown about the Godiva chocolates he destroyed.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Are these new ornaments?”

I giggle and try to lie and say they are but Jim sighs and glares at Ben.  “Ben!  They’re filled with chocolate.”

“Can I have some now?”

No.”

“Why not?  Is it Christmas?”

“No.”

5 minutes later—“Mom?”

“Yeah.”

Ben holds a chocolate Santa.  “Are all of these for Christmas?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I have one?”

“No.”

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“My teacher says all paper clips are weapons when we twist them like this.  So we need to throw this away, right?”

I shrug.
Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Aren’t you gonna throw away all the weapons?”

“No.”

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