Monthly Archives: July 2008

Evolution

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Evolution-a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development

We have evolved.  Rhonda and I have both decided to change the name of our blog.  We feel that our new name is broader than the first.  However, our URL still remains the same.  Don’t worry, we are still “ommies” and we will continue to post on these issues, as well as what our tagline reads the other phases of life.   We hope that you all will continue to be apart of our evolutionary journey!

In Her Shoes

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When my stepson Evan was 8 years-old, he was having a lot of problems in school.  This wasn’t really anything new–he has always had self-control issues.  But because Eliza kept them away from us, we knew little about how severe his problems in school really were. 

We suspected that he had a mental illness one random weekend when Eliza allowed the boys to spend the night.  Evan arrived with a tiny blue pill in his hand.  She had instructed Ethan to make sure he took it with dinner.  When I noticed it I inquired about it.  Ethan only ten at the time, couldn’t accurately articulate why he had to take the pill.  He basically stated that it was because Evan “was acting bad in school and getting suspended a whole lot.”  We were both alarmed.  We had to wait for Eliza to pick the boys up before inquiring about the pill.  At this time she did not allow us to have her phone number and only contacted us when it benefited her.  When my husband attempted to ask her about it she told him that she would call him about it but never did.

Evan started second grade with us on a good note.  However, three days into the school year, Evan was suspended for biting a classmate.  A few weeks later we attended a skating party hosted by his school.  None of Evan’s classmates would interact with him.  Ethan confided in me later that several of the kids had approached him saying how scared of Evan they were! That was only the beginning.

My husband works over 45 minutes away from Evan’s school.  And because my job is a lot closer, it was me who had to pick him up from school when he was suspended.  Kid you not I left work at the minimum of three times per week to get him.  Sometimes I would be fortunate enough that the call or email came at the tail end of the day.  Evan’s school is dismissed at 2:00pm and ours at 2:45pm.  I was saved by the bell many times by generous co-workers who knew of our situation.  Often someone would cover my seventh period class so that I could leave.

 I used to dread when my classroom phone rang beacuse it was usually the secretary informing me that my son’s school was on the line.  The first time it happened it I felt a surge of fear.  I thought something had happened to Nicholas.  Afterall, I only had one “son.”  After that I received so many calls from his school that I became embarassed.  Surely the office staff would start to gossip about my “bad”child. 

The majority of the time the calls came right before my lunch time.  I would make a mad dash to grab him and drop him off at the sitter’s, sometimes sliding through my classroom door right before the minute bell rang.  This went on for months.  We had tried paying a child care service to pick him up when he was sent home for the day.  This worked for a few weeks before the daycare provider grew tired of picking him up so frequently.  She felt that it was taking away from her other clients.    I was livid about what Evan was putting us through.  I even secretly gave him a nickname: Crazy 8’s.  Evan was obviously acting very “crazy,” he was 8 years-old, and he was a game aficionado.  In fact, one time he was sent home for hitting the teacher because he could not finish playing the game. 

Once while presenting at a writing conference I received “the call.”  Unable to leave my husband had to pick him up.  Eventually my husband learned that he was eligible for FMLA and his job would be protected when he needed to leave.  However, this was a drain on our finances.  My sister and aunt would pick Evan up when neither him or I could leave work.   But at least we were fortunate enough that we had family who was willing to help us.   I knew a woman who wasn’t so lucky.

I worked with Lisa my first year of teaching.  I really didn’t know much about her other than that she was divorced and had a son.  Shortly I discovered more about her when she started being absent 3-4 times a week.  At first, we all thought she was ill and had no problems following the contingency plan that Ms. Johnson had established.  The plan was that each English teacher had to take 5-8 of Lisa’s students each day that she was absent.  Remember, this is high school, so that meant  we would see an extra 25-40 students per day.  And because her absences were not planned, there were no lesson plans that came along with her unruly bunch.  It got old really fast.  We were all annoyed about having to take on her responsibility in addition to our own.

One day we were all sitting around in the English office discussing Lisa and her absences.    By then it had already leaked out that she was absent so frequently due to her young son, Austin who suffered from bipolar disorder, ADHD, and ODD.  We were all beyond feeling empathy for her even though we knew that she was a single parent and that her extended family lived in Florida.  Lisa was carrying the load all by herself.  A few times she had even brought Austin to school as a last resort.  I saw him a couple of times in the English office playing quietly.  He was a cute little boy and seemed to have a sweet personality.  In other words, he didn’t “look” like anything was wrong with him.

Honestly then I was ignorant about mental illness.  I knew that bipolar disorder was a type of mental illness and what the other acronyms stood for but that was the sum of my knowledge.  Everyone had opinions about what she should do, myself included.  I made a comment wondering if Austin was truly bipolar and the room got quiet.  Lisa had entered the area.  If a hole would have opened up in the floor I would have hurled myself into it.  I felt soooo bad.

To her credit, she did not indicate that she knew what we were discussing her life.  But I am sure that she knew.  At the end of the year she was let go due to her poor attendance.  Shortly after that she moved back to her home state in order to get the support she needed.

Today I think about Lisa a lot because I am now walking in her shoes.  Now I see what a journey it is.   She would have a been a good resource for me to brainstorm with.  I see Austin in Evan.  On the surface, he looks peaceful, too.  But what lies underneath is a very troubled child.  I used to wonder if God was punishing me for my lack of understanding.  But now I know that He is using Evan to  teach me endurance, faith, and true compassion. 

Evan’s behavior became so volatile and unpredictable that he was eventually placed in an alternative school for students with behavior problems.  His behavior did not improve there, it actually worsened to the point that we finally relented to our last resort, residential treatment. 

I have learned many things since Evan has been in our home.  I have learned about the devastating toll that mental illness can take on a family.  I learned what it really means to love unconditionally when you are pushed to the limit.  I’ve learned to leave the judging up to God.  Sometimes we don’t know what others are going through based solely on our superficial observances that we deem to be the gospel.

Strange Fruit

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A comment emailed to me from a reader, Old Friend on Makes Me Wanna Holler inspired me to write this post.  He mused that Eliza is a of a rare breed.  I have to agree; Eliza deserves to be in a class of her own for she is the strangest of fruits.  I try and try to understand her with little success.   Her behavior and life remain a conundrum.

 

There is no way I can explain why she has done some of the things that she has.  Or why she presently operates in a state of frenzied paranoia.  The old saying goes that you can’t compare apples to oranges.  I don’t know what kind of fruit she is, maybe an Elipple.  Or an Elnana.  Perhaps an Elizaberry.  She might just be a Dingleberry. Whatever she is I know that she is a lot different than your everyday garden variety.  The fruits of her spirit are quite devilish.

 

With that being said, I can’t compare her to much of anything.  It is really fruitless (pun intended) of me to keep attempting to understand her.  I just have to accept the fact that she is not healthy (overripe) and therefore does not have the capacity to act in a sound manner (leaves a sour/bitter/mealy/disgusting taste in the mouth). The rancidness of her fruitage is nausea inducing.  Fruit cake is not something I enjoy eating.  So I have stopped trying to psychoanalyze her behavior.  But this is really hard for me because I like fruit!  It is so versatile—you can bake it, puree it, can it, cook it,mash it, candy it, dry it, kebob it, and even use it as a garnish.  But it has its limitations.   You can’t heal it.  Fix it.  Reason with it.  Understand it.  

 

Me and most of the people in my circle are pretty normal fruit.  We are the apples, blueberries, pears, cherries, watermelons and strawberries of life—you know your everyday type of people produce.  While I love exotic fruit such as guava, passion fruit, and kiwi to name a few, my appetite just does not tolerate alien fruit.  Unfortunately, I am going to leave Eliza in the fruit bowl (bin) where she belongs!

Makes Me Wanna Holler

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For the life of me I can not understand why Eliza likes to be so contentious.  You would think in her circumstances that she would focus all of her attentions on improving herself.  You would think that she would be on a peace-seeking mission.  Not!

I received her latest letter today in the mail.  While it seemed civil on the surface; it was really loaded with duplicities.  This time the wording was less accusatory and more cordial.  She even included a brief paragraph about the culinary arts class she is taking.  I’m sure it  was a ploy to get the information she wanted.  Really, she only wants to know what they are saying about her.  However, Eliza must have realized by my last reply that firing word missiles would not work.  Perhaps she has figured that she is likely to have more success catching flies with honey than vinegar. 

But as usual, everytime she writes she asks the same exact questions that she has already asked in previous letters.  And I have already provided her with answers.  Not to mention, when I see her once a month, I give her an update on Evan as well.  So really she has no need to write me other than for vexation purposes–this is something which she does so well.  This time she wrote:  Morocco, if you could send me a copy of a progress report or documentation stating the nature of the concerns posed pertaining to Evan’s condition I would greatly appreciate it.  I would just like to be brought up to date with any regression or progress that he may be experiencing.  Just to have a better understanding as to what is going on with Evan.  Please kiss the boys for me and tell them I send all of my love. 

This repetitious practice only supports my theory that she is extremely paranoid and anxious about her inability to control her children (and us) as she sees fit.  It also signals a lack of trust in us.  This is wearing me down to the bone.  She is really starting to work my nerves.  I almost feel as if she is trying to “catch” me in something, what I am not sure.  My answers don’t change because you can’t really alter the truth. 

In no way will she take responsibility for any of her children’s problems and I can’t force her to do so.  When I share with her that Evan is having issues with things that went on in her household she gets extraordinarily defensive.  She also feels that I am only telling her these things to be judgemental and to hurt her feelings. Though Eliza claims she wants to know everything that is going on with her boys, she really doesn’t because she can’t handle the truth.  I too, have sent her clinical summaries from the previous therapist that Evan worked with.  She was in denial then as well.  She had the audacity to question the creditidentals of the highly qualified therapist.  Eliza argues about everything written in the clinical notes as if she was a trained pyschologist.   So you see, you can’t win for losing with her.  But the things that happened under her roof can’t be erased.  They do have to be addressed.  Obviously she does not realize that she can make the choice to be bitter or better.  Plus, I can only sugarcoat so much before it results in a stomach ache for the both of us!  Such madness!

I find myself in the same position  as I was in around mid-June.  I am depending on God to give me the right words to say again.  I know that He does not want me to spar with her.  At the beginning of her letter, Eliza wrote Know that you are a part of my prayers daily.  I truly hope she is being sincere because I do need strength for the journey.

Note: This is my reply: 

El,

 

Hello, I hope all is well with you.  The boys and I are doing fine.  Not much has changed with Evan since I spoke to you regarding him at the last visit. Again, we are scheduled to have our first 24 hour pass with him on August 2nd. 

 

He is still working to improve in the following areas:

  • Poor impulse control and mood modulation, indicative of a mood disorder
  • Resistance to accepting direction and limits from authority figures, inappropriate roles with adults
  • PTSD symptomology related to witnessing violence/murder. 

I will continue to keep you abreast of any new developments.

Mission at Midnight

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Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

 

 

Last night I went to a bed a lot later than normal.  We had a mission to complete.  At ten minutes to midnight we stood in line at a Toys R Us store on the other side of town for the Clones Wars Midnight Madness. 

 

I thought we would be the only ones in line, but of course, the line was wrapped around the building.  I forgot what a cult following Stars Wars has.  The only time I’ve stood in line for something was for Prince tickets. 

 

Clone Pilots stood at various posts to distribute posters and other Star Wars keepsakes to the loyal customers.  When they finally opened the doors we were greeted by Clone Troopers and Plo Koon.  Ever the faithful Star Wars fan, Nicholas shouted “For the Empire!” as we entered the store and was met with peals of laughter.  His excitement was palpable.

 

I was shocked to see how wild people went to get their hands on the latest Lego Star Wars sets.  Adults were loading their carts full of merchandise.  However, Nicholas had his sights set on one item, the Republic Attack Gunship.  My husband helped him navigate the sea of mayhem to get the desired set while I stood back and took pictures.  Five minutes and $140.19 dollars later, he walked out with his prized possession.  His smile lit up the night.

 

Nicholas slept with the box next to him.  I know it is an experience that he won’t ever forget.  Maybe he will tell his own children about it someday when they encounter this rite of passage.  Mission Accomplished!

 

Brown Bag Blues

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*Set to the tune of ZZ Hill’s Down Home Blues

My little boy is growing up in every way imaginable.  And it feels so bittersweet!  Last year Nicholas announced that he did not want me to pack lunch for him any more.  He wanted to eat the school lunch.  I really didn’t know what to think.  I wasn’t necessarily offended, I just felt sad.  I like packing Nicholas’ lunch.  I take great care to make it nutritious and appetizing.  I look through cookbooks and surf the web to find creative ideas so that he does not have to eat sandwiches everyday.  I also like to bake treats specifically for his lunch.  Plus,  a couple of times a week I include a note, stickers, or a small toy.   Nicholas has told me several times that he is the envy of the lunchroom.  The kids can’t wait to see what I have packed for him.  Although it is a bit time consuming I enjoy doing it.  It makes me feel  good and it gives me the opportunity to do something expressly for him.  Wanting to hold on to my little one for a wee bit longer; I convinced him to hold off on school lunch. 

While cruising down the aisles at Target yesterday we saw a display of lunch boxes.  I planned to buy him a new one for the upcoming school year.  Nicholas, however, only looked at them half-heartedly.  I knew what was wrong.  I casually asked him if he would like to eat school lunch.  His face lit up.  “I’d at least like to try it Mom, if it’s okay with you,” Nicholas replied.  He was so sincere in his response that it made me smile.  We continued on with our shopping sans lunchbox. 

This year Nicholas, my tween, will be eating school lunch!  We agreed that if he did not like it that I could always start packing his lunch again.  Better yet, if he does go back to taking his lunch to school, I plan to teach him how to pack it himself.  This is a most vital skill in the working world of 30 minute lunches!  I’m getting used to the idea and it just might be okay.  I’m going to continue my practice of notes and small surprises.  I’ll just have to put them in his backpack instead.

Criminal

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Sometimes I look back and wonder exactly where I went wrong in this whole ordeal with Eliza.  Now that I’ve had to time to figure out what my “crimes” were, I must say that I am guilty as charged.

 

In hindsight I realize that I was a little too eager to make our relationship known to the world. I paid little attention to how she might have felt.  I mistakenly assumed that she had accepted the divorce and moved on with her life.  Boy was I so wrong!  From her point of view I’m sure I came off as Ms. Goody-Goody–ready and willing to step in and take her place.  

 

The first time I met her I smiled and extended my hand in greeting.  Eliza glared at me disdainfully and ignored my gesture.  She declined to say hello.  In that moment I understood I was the perceived enemy. I was a little alarmed by her lack of decorum, but at the time, I really didn’t take her rebuff to heart.  In my ignorance I figured she would eventually soften when she saw how well I treated her children.  Wrong again!!!  This approach had the opposite effect.  It seemed the more I bonded with the boys, the more irate she became.  Later down the line Eliza accused me of wanting her boys for my own. 

 

Another offense I committed was my refusal to be scared off.  I have to give it to Eliza; she really had some creepy, morbid, desperate weapons in her arsenal that would have caused a saner girl to break camp.  I know that my diligence puzzled her especially considering she had successfully ran off several other women he had attempted to date.  My dogged determination to stay with my husband only served to fuel her fire.  She was willing to do anything to get rid of me.

 

 Any time that they had court dates, save one or two when I just couldn’t alter my schedule, I was there.  It didn’t matter that my husband had actually requested my presence.  My presence was a constant reminder to her that she was no longer his wife.  My courtroom cameos were an affront  to Eliza.  It meant that I was overstepping boundaries and “meddling in her business.”  She told my husband several times “out of respect do not bring your wife or whatever you want to call her any where near me.”  Seeing us together must have seemed like I was rubbing salt in her wound of a failed marriage.  This was not my intention; but now I can see why it could have felt that way to her at the time.  Really, I was simply a thorn in her side.  She and my husband had many separations during their short time together.  As long as he was single, there was always a chance for reconciliation.  Our marriage was the end of this ever being a chance again.

 

However, I was not content to be a shadow in my own life.  I didn’t feel that it was realistic of her to expect me to be invisible for the sake of her insecurities.  My most felonious crime was being lovable in the eyes of my husband.  Our marriage aggravated her obviously low self worth.  Her solution to this problem was to compete with me.  While he might have had me, she had their two children.  Even though he divorced her, he could not truly cut ties with her because of the boys.  She constantly reminded us both of this. 

 

So what would I do differently you ask?  I think I would have made my self less visible—not invisible.  Perhaps I could have been gracious enough to give her the space she desperately needed to come to terms with her situation.  This action could have saved us a lot of stress down the road, who knows? 

 

Today I read a beautifully candid post by Thirty Something Mommy of Two Boys that details her journey at the other end of the spectrum.