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September 2015

August 2015

In which the bershon might kill me

At dinner I make everyone say one thing they liked about their day and one thing they didn't like. (Why yes it IS a mini examen.) I have transcribed a bit of tonight's conversation. Some pertinent background information: today we went to Jack's well child exam, did some back to school shopping, and spent the afternoon playing iPad while Mommy did the semi-annual Hated Clothes Sort.

EMMA: My good thing is that I went sopping with Mommy! And my SAD thing is that DADDY went to WORK. 

JACK: Welllll... I can't think of any good things right now...

JACK'S PARENTS: Okay, well start with your not so good thing and you can think about good things later.

JACK: Wellll... my bad thing is that today was just .... we didn't have any plans. So it was pretty .... boring

JACK'S MOTHER: What are you talking about? We got new school shoes today. I let you pick out a new backpack! Those aren't good things?

JACK: Shoes just aren't very important to me. 

JACK'S MOTHER: You sure acted like they were important when you didn't like the first fifteen pairs I picked out for you. 

JACK: [heavy sigh/quasi eye roll that would do a thirteen-year-old girl proud]


*later on*


JACK'S FATHER, WITH THINLY VEILED SARCASM: So Jack, tomorrow we don't have any plans either. How can we accommodate your needs?

JACK, NOT GETTING IT AT ALL: Welllll... I like to do things. Like maybe we can go to the Science Center. Or go to a friend's house. 

JACK'S MOTHER, ENTHUSIASTICALLY: You can do laundry. You can do dishes. Oooh, I know! You can clean the toilet!

JACK: [cracks a smile because he thinks his mother is not serious] [his mother is totally serious]

MOLLY: MY good thing is that Mommy got me new shoes! And I got to pick out my own backpack! And I had a frozen GoGurt for a snack! I am happy about everything! All the time! My bad thing is... I don't have a bad thing! I LOVE YOU, WORLD!!!!!!1!!!

JACK'S FATHER: What about doing some of those Lego sets you have half built?

JACK, WITH UTMOST CONTEMPT: Most of those are broken. And the other ones you dumped out in the other bins and all the pieces are mixed up

JACK'S FATHER: ... So. You look for them. 


MOLLY: But the doctor said you had good vision!

JACK'S MOTHER: [falls off her chair laughing]

It's just... I mean, a whole summer FULL of this! And it's getting worse! And most of the time I react by staring speechless because HE IS EIGHT! He is not a teenage girl! I had YEARS to mentally prepare myself for this attitude problem, didn't I? 

Last week I printed out calendars for August and September, wrote down all the big things (appointments, Molly's birthday, weekends away), and listed out the rules for when he can ask me if he can play Minecraft. The Minecraft thing has been better since then, and that's totally my bad for not doing it at the beginning of summer. Master Jackson has always done better with Clearly Defined Structure, being the sort of person who wants to know what we're doing tomorrow, and at what time, and what we'll be doing directly after that. 

[I just heard him ask Molly if they can make their own schedule in the morning where they play chess because 1) I won't let him play the iPad on weekday mornings and 2) "otherwise I get bored".]

I feel like I could have done a little better maybe, figured out some Pinteresty projects for him to work on, gave him something to investigate over the summer and make a book or a report or something. He LIKES stuff like that. But no, instead I decided we would go to the library at least once a week and we would have at least a half hour of reading each afternoon and OH, this is not how he would like to spend his time. 

If the little girl on our street is around, both big kids will spend the entire afternoon and evening riding bikes and hanging out with her. But she's on vacation until school starts. I FEAR FOR OUR LIVES, INTERNET.

I want him to quit being such a butthead about EVERYTHING. All the time. About our whole day. The sighing, the almost-stomping, the almost-eye-rolling - enough to make us think he's being a butthead, but not enough to warrant a shouting throwdown. (Although I did send him to his room at 7:08 this morning. I think I'd been awake all of two minutes.)

So yeah, I want to respond better too. Tonight I was sarcastic and snippy and laughing at him, which wasn't satisfying since he didn't realize I was laughing at him. But that's not... I don't know. The part of me that remembers being a kid doesn't want to totally disregard him like that. 

And when we DO regard him... like right now my sainted husband is playing one of his giant silly board games with all the kids and Jack is ENGAGED. He is happy and into it and likes us again. When I spend an extra 10 minutes chatting with him before I turn out his light at bedtime, those are well spent 10 minutes. And when we DO have plans, it almost doesn't matter what the plans are, he's good. Yesterday his main companion was a 10-year-old with Down Syndrome and autism who says only a few words, and Jack was awesome with him! Included him and had fun with him. He is not the horrible, unfeeling, apathetic, super selfish BUTTHEAD he sometimes acts like. 

BUT DUDE. I am not his cruise director! I am not his teacher! Or his grandma or his babysitter or any of the other people invested in making sure Jackson Cheung has a good time! Man, some days just making sure he eats three meals is the best I can do. There are nine million toys in this house, not to mention piles of paper and art supplies, a garage full of bikes and scooters and balls, a backyard with a FREAKING SLIDE. Make your own fun, eight-year-old boy! Quit talking to me like my main function is to make sure you are entertained all the livelong day!



Okay. It might be out of my system. For now. I'm going to hide in the bedroom while the rest of them are having this little family moment. I think everyone will be happiest that way. 

Side effects

I went to see the brain doctor today. Before I say anything else, I want to tell you how much I LIKE my brain doctor. With the exception of my beloved but not entirely effective naturopath, she's the only medical person I've seen about anxiety who trusts my reporting of my own symptoms. Does that make sense? I felt like every other doctor was either comparing me to the last anxious/depressed person they saw and copying their prescription OR filtering everything I told them through a Can't Trust A Half Crazy SAHM With An English Degree filter. This doctor BELIEVES ME. 

So going in today to talk about WEIGHT GAIN was not as painful as it could have been (and HAS been in the past. Previous Brain Doctor: "You're probably just eating more." YA THINK?) Well, it was just a checking in appointment, but since weight gain is basically my only side effect, that ended up being the topic of conversation. FUN TIMES. 

The bad part is that I've gained a lot of weight. Sometimes I feel okay about it. Most of the time I don't. And then there are days when I feel horribly ashamed and hate myself. Like, more than the average lady is ashamed of and hates her body. 

The good part is that my doctor agrees that the meds have played a large part in my extra padding (even when I told her how much cake I eat - she said, "I don't know, this is more weight than just CAKE") and she suggested a few options. The one I'm going with is lowering my dose for a while and combining that, when school starts again, with the Taking Care Of Myself routine I used to have before meds made eating well and exercising feel totally pointless. I was going to the gym pretty regularly before school got out and even though I wasn't losing weight, being active made me not hate myself as much. You know? And it was SO GOOD to have a regular schedule for exercise. Sometimes I beat myself up for not being able to lose weight when I was able to lose so much weight after having Molly, when I had TWO BABIES. But I remind myself that they were BABIES and had nowhere to go and were nice long nappers in the afternoons. I DID have more "me" time then! Believe it or not. 

ANYWAY. We'll see if that makes any difference. I don't feel particularly hopeful, but I do like having a PLAN. Or something to TRY. It will require me stepping on scale, something I haven't done in a few months, and I am horrrrrrrrified at the prospect. But my doctor doesn't trust me so much that "just going by how my pants feel" will be enough data for her. Unfortch. If it works and I'm still feeling like a normal person, then yay! If I get anxious, I'll go back up to my current dose. WE SHALL SEE.

In the meantime I remind myself over and over and over that I would rather struggle with how clothes look on my body than be anxious. THAT IS HOW MUCH I DO NOT WANT TO BE ANXIOUS. I would rather stress about what shirts hide my muffin top and if they go with these pants or that skirt or maybe I should just give up and wear that maxi dress for the nineteenth day in a row. I would rather not be able to wear most of whatever they're selling at the Loft than be anxious. (Not that I like anything at the Loft these days. Hit or miss, that place.)

Phillip completely wholeheartedly agrees and does not seem to mind my expanding size at all. He says so often and I almost believe him. I really really wish that made me feel okay about myself, but guess what! It doesn't really help! Is that a women-in-general thing or is that just ME? It seems like it should help. It helps right when he says it, and then I go back to wondering how to cut my hair because I think my neck is too fat for a pixie.

Anyway, this was not meant to be a Woe Is Me post or a I'm Doing So Poorly post... I just really wanted to write about What It's Like and be honest, for my experience anyway. I don't want to blame it all on the meds, I mean, I eat a LOT of cake, especially when NOT eating cake doesn't appear to have any benefits. I think the truest way to say it would be that meds have made it next to impossible for me to LOSE weight. I am a responsibility taker! I take responsibility for the cake!

But my doctor, who has DEGREES and an OFFICE and a PRESCRIPTION PAD thinks it's a bit more than that and it is VALIDATING. She had ideas and that is HELPFUL. And when I told her that I've been chubby my whole life and that my two sisters are cute and thin and so much smaller than me, but *I* have a SCINTILLATING PERSONALITY, she laughed. Does it sound like I think she's a fantastic doctor because she likes me? YOU'RE RIGHT AND I'M KEEPING HER. 

I am not my pants size. And even if I could fit into the size 8 jeans I keep stashed in the back of my closet, I would not be a better person. I might even still not like the way I look. I would probably still take issue with many parts of me, just like every other woman I know, of every size. The "celebrating the body that produced three amazing humans!" perspective doesn't completely speak to me, but I do think the person INSIDE my body is pretty awesome. I like me. It's been nearly a year since I started this new med and it's been a good one. Lots of great stuff happening, new stuff, fun stuff. It's a near-daily struggle not to let a year of weight gain cancel out all that great stuff, but it's a struggle I generally near-daily win. 

My mother would like to know what the point of having a blog is if I'm not going to write about her grandchildren so HERE YA GO, MOM

As this is/used to be/poses as a Mommy Blog, I thought I'd throw a bone to at least my mother and write about the kids. I have kids! Do we remember them? This used to be all about them! Now they are... big. They also have absolutely no idea that I write about them on the internet. I suspect all three would be pleased in some way, though the only one who would ACT pleased is the middle one and for sure the oldest one would have some sort of cheek-sucking, "Well, I don't know how I really FEEL about that..." comment. Though the cheek-sucking is there to contain the Secretly Pleased that he can't help but show whenever anyone is paying attention to him. And then the youngest, I mean, she's still trying to color her whole self with pink highlighter, so does her opinion matter much?

But I'm not sure how much longer the Pleased will continue. The oldest is eight. EIGHT. And now he is all tanned legs and knee-length baggy shorts and sports camp t-shirts and "Can I play the Xbox? Can I play the iPad? Okay then, can I play your PHONE? And can we get a new game?" This reveals poor parenting, I know, but I feel that I can blame this particular flaw on my husband, seeing as how HE is the one who had to have one each of the the Xbox, Wii, Apple TV, Roku, Newest Phone, Newest Laptop, ETC. How am I supposed to stem the tide of Screens when I am married to that? 

I have my own screen habit btw, if you hadn't noticed. 

Jackson is going into third grade and while second grade memories are, for me, spotty, THIRD grade is when my real life began. So I am tremendously excited and tremendously afraid. This is when all the reasons he'll have to go to therapy as an adult will start happening, am I right? Now he's going to REMEMBER all my parenting flaws. And these are numerous lately, as I contend with a Jackson who is also not being the best version of himself. This summer we've had conversations on what exactly denotes a dirty pair of shorts, how (and why) to not steamroll one's grandparents, how to move about the house your mother is losing her mind with you (pretend you do not exist), why Reading is Important, how much your mother does not care what state that license plate is from on that car up there (like, so so so does not care), and why saying "please" or a "no, thank you" to something you say does not automatically make it good manners. This is the summer that real and true Boredom has set in, meaning it is the summer I have started saying things like, "You could fold this laundry right here and put it away! You could sweep the deck! Do you want to do the dishes? I CAN THINK OF LOTS OF THINGS FOR YOU TO DO."

He is moody, whiny, and entirely self-absorbed which makes me tremble with fear for his future as a teenager living in my house. He is only eight. Why so much existential angst? How bad can it be when one lives on one's favorite orange processed noodle food, has built approximately thirteen million Minecraft cities, and is continually asked to play by the cute blond girl down the street? Is this such a rough life? 

That said, the key to getting this kid to be a Good and Decent Human Being, one that does not walk about the house like a Freaking Martyr, is not taking away his beloved electronics or yelling or lectures or solitary confinement or early bedtimes. (Though none of those things are his favorite and can often serve to make his parents feel better.) No, it's actually putting absolutely everything else aside and sitting down with just Jackson in his own space and Asking Him How He's Doing. He will tell you (!) and usually at least half of it makes you want to explode with annoyance or resentment or frustration, but really he wants to be Heard and then loved on a little bit. Reading him a story (even though he's EIGHT and doesn't LIKE READING STOP MAKING HIM DO IT) or playing a game or watching him do his magic tricks or talking about what we'll do tomorrow or next weekend. A little one on one time, a little attention, and suddenly I have my sweet little boy back, the one who draws me get well cards and snuggles and cleans up the living room as a "surprise" for me. He beams with happiness, he gets the giggles, he wears what I tell him to wear, he is kind and loving to his sisters, he actually secretly does like reading. 

Molly finds the entire world to be a delight and in doing so is a Delight herself. She has her occasional moments of Devastation, for example when Jackson throws a ball and it glances off her elbow, or when Jackson (again) says something less than completely complimentary about her French braid. We understand - after all, we live with Jackson too - but we can usually find a way to move on from these bits of Crushing Despair and move right back into out of control laughing and going along with whatever anyone else wants to do. 

She's taken to sitting at the table and intently drawing girl upon girl upon girl upon girl, all with different styles and colors of hair and dresses. As I remember doing this exact same thing, I find it enchanting. She makes up stories and her response to Enforced Reading Time is generally happiness for twenty minutes or so, then, "Mommy, can I WRITE my own story?" To which Mommy always enthusiastically nods. (When she is not half asleep on the couch - HER response to Enforced Reading Time.) 

Molly is all tanned legs, too-short skirts and dresses and shorts because DEAR GOD this child is a weed, and hair that WANTS to be Princess Elsa, but is more (and beautifully so), end-of-the-movie Mulan. She is up for anything at any time. As she kept telling me in Italy, "I want to do EVERYTHING!" A former nearly-seven-year-old girl myself, I know that this effervescent cheer does not last, that one day everything will be terrible, that no one will understand her, that her mother, especially, will not care one ounce about her emotional well being or fragile state of mind or the thousands of feelings she will have in the space of one fourteen-year-old hour - so I am VERY MUCH ENJOYING nearly-seven-year-old Molly who seems to have no clue about Mean Girls and cannot wait to go back to school and see all of her favorite people, which is all of the people. 

I suspect she takes after her father, and not because she will often a choose a potato chip over a cookie (although this is because she knows her brother and sister will choose a cookie and then she can get them to share, thereby enjoying both a cookie AND a potato chip - smart). Like Phillip, Molly floats along, not really noticing the not so nice people or comments that could be taken a certain way or unpleasant dynamics. I think this will change as she gets older - she IS a girl - but for now I am in awe of this cheery oblivious-ish personality and the lack of drama compared to so many of my friends' girls of the same age. As long as we are wearing a cute skirt and braid and Mommy has allowed her to pick out her own snack, everything is very very good. 

As for the youngest, she is... the youngest. As the oldest I vowed - V.O.W.E.D. - to treat all of my future children equally, to not lay more responsibility upon the oldest, to not baby the youngest, to not ignore the middle, and especially not to let the younger kids do things at an earlier age than I allowed the oldest. HEAVEN FORBID. While that hasn't been a problem yet (no one is quite asking to shave her legs), I have utterly failed at not babying my youngest. I coddle her, I expect less independence of her than I did with Jack when he was her age. I rarely say no to anything - treats, toys, anything that should be special tends to be the norm with Emma. The thing is, I'm not sure I can help it and (worse) I'm not sure I want to. I KNOW. I AM A TERRIBLE HORRIBLE UN-EQUAL MOTHER AND MY KID-SELF IS FURIOUS. 

There is one thing about Emma that drives us positively INSANE and that is the fact that she will be wearing pull ups in college. Oh, also that if she happens to sleep during the day, even for five minutes, she'll be up until the wee hours in her bed, singing the Wicked soundtrack and/or Taylor Swift and annoying the entire house. Some people sleepwalk, Emma Cheung sleepsings. Whether or not Emma took a nap that day is a question the entire family asks, every day. We like to be prepared. 

That said, I have been ridiculously attached to this kid from Day One and that combined with the fact that she is likely our last makes it very very hard to be Objective or Stern. About anything. We find her charming and endlessly entertaining. The other day I found a video on my phone of 1-year-old Emma doing something silly with a toy, and then continuing to do it because it made the rest of us laugh. I suppose that is quintessential youngest child as well? When she's not milking her Youngest Status (and we ALL get suckered by that, her siblings included), she's searching for the thing to say, the thing to do (or sing!) that will make us all laugh. 

She loves Jack, but she wants to BE Molly. One day she'll hate that all of her clothes used to be Molly's, but right now it is the best! thing! ever! Did MOLLY wear this when SHE was three?! THAT IS JUST THE MOST AMAZING THING SHE'S EVER HEARD!!!!!

Emma had just started to bloom - happily leaving me for preschool, playing with other kids on her own - when we whisked her out of preschool and went to Europe for three weeks. Since then she's back to her clingy self, getting out of community center ballet class by whimpering, "I miss Mommy!" She's alternately terrified of and in love with other people's pets, glued to my leg while one hand gingerly pets a furry head. You ask her what she wants to do and nine times out of ten the answer is "Go shopping with Mommy." (I MEAN COME ON.) In the fall she goes back to school, now three days a week, and staying for lunch. It will be wonderful, and it will be sad. The only thing sadder will be kindergarten. Let's not think about it. 

Together they are amazing. As one of five kids, all 1 year apart, I know from fighting and my kids don't do it. Not like we did. Jack and Molly will annoy each other, take each other's thing, accidentally poke or shove or hit, but most of the time they are super tight, two heads put together making up games or shows or the most amazing domino run in the world. They're almost always happy to let their little sister play too, and if Jack can find something better than Minecraft for ten minutes, he's motivating the others and I don't even care that they're destroying the house because ALL THREE ARE OCCUPYING THEMSELVES AND HAVING A GOOD TIME AND I CAN READ THE INTERNET IN PEACE. 

The little blond girl down the street is absolutely devastated every time she rings the doorbell and Jack and Molly aren't home - they're at camp, or out at the pool with their dad, or something like that - and she is SO. VERY. SAD. And my kids aren't ever like that because they have each other and I'm just amazed and thrilled that it turned out the way it did. It is my deepest dearest hope that they are friends when they grow up - good, close friends like they are now. At swim lessons, Jack and Molly are in different classes, but if they bump up against each other in the water, they're like OH LOOK, IT'S MY SIBLING WHO I HAVEN'T SEEN IN FOUR WHOLE MINUTES HEY HEY HIIIII THIS IS SO COOL! And at school when their classes are passing by in the hallway, they throw out a secret sibling wave that everyone can see. And then Emma is on the sidelines with me, not quite old enough to have her own class yet, and shouting, "HEY I SEE MY SISTER!" and that sister will hear and throw a wave to the other one. I could not love it more. 

Still need school to start soon. I'm not THAT in love with these kids that they don't need to spend copious amounts of time away from me each day. LET'S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY HERE.