Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Bonfires

Last week I went to the dentist for what I thought was a regular cleaning. What it was, in fact, was the physical manifestation of my worst retail nightmare. I was reclined, strapped in, and wheeled through the marketing house of horrors, in which various masked people shoved sharp objects in my mouth - which could accidentally slip at any given moment - and yelled "consume, consume CONSUME!" My teeth - which were fine, according to the dental hygienist - had suddenly slipped into the nether-lands of black goo by the time the dentist entered the room, and I was definitely not having enough x-rays, getting enough fillings, or using enough of the offices "specially priced" whiteners/mouth-washes/prescription toothpastes that would address my specific problems - of which I'm not convinced I have. (But how would I know unless I get x-rays every five minutes...) After explaining -politely and in a matter of fact manner - that I didn't have the money for Y product/service, she proceeded to explain that it would cost more further down the line if I didn't act now. Yes, this is true, but it doesn't change the amount of money in my bank account, does it? After we had gone through this conversation twice, the dental hygienist - who had just told me ten minutes ago that my teeth were fine - piped in with her story about how she let a tooth go for so long that it was too late, and she had to have it pulled. I muttered, only somewhat sarcastically, through the hands in my mouth that I guess that would be my fate as well.


"It looks like you will have to pull my tooth then."

The room was pleasantly silent for the rest of my visit, but the dentist was not going to let me walk out empty handed. As I was leaving, she suggested that I purchase her treatment plan, both advice and products, for the very low price of $100. Sorry, no. Again with the spiel. My teeth are all going to rot and fall out the moment I leave her dentist office, and that is going to cost more money to fix than the low price of $100 she is offering today. One day only! Buy now! At this point I was more than a little irritated, and turned to her, looked directly into her eyes, and in a voice I reserve only for the very few who have earned my aberrant wrath, I explained to her, slowly, that unless her arguments are putting money in my pocket, that she is barking up the wrong tree. I'd love to save my teeth from the tenth layer of hell, lady, but how do you expect me to buy something when I've been telling you for a half hour that I HAVE NO MONEY. I have enough money - cash - to get my teeth cleaned, and get the @*%^ out of my way so that I can go give it to the receptionist. Thank you. And by the way, how much is your special mouthwash that I will never find anywhere else? Twelve dollars?

Later that day, I found it at the health food store down the street from my house for eight. And I bought it. I will fight oral bacteria on my own terms. And I will be looking for a new dentist.

This past week, I brought Emerson to the dentist for her regular scheduled cleaning as well. Again, I was not expecting anything out of the ordinary to happen. Again, wrong.

Last time Emerson went to the dentist, I was told that the office starts giving x-rays at age five. That seemed a little odd to me, as the teeth are just going to fall out in a few years, and there didn't seem to be ANY problem with Emerson's teeth as it is, but the lady persisted, and I finally agreed to have bite-wing x-rays taken (after saying "no" at least three times) because it made sense to me that there might be some hidden decay lurking between her back molars. So they took the x-rays, and there was nothing wrong, and after I left the office I felt angry that I had been talked into them in the first place. I told myself that I would not be talked into any x-rays again until Emerson had some permanent teeth.

Her appointment the other day went fine. No cavities, no anything, perfect hygiene, bla, bla. And then came the talk of the x-rays. I said no, the lady persisted and persisted, but I stood my ground. I can fit an entire toothbrush through the gaps in Emerson's front teeth, and you aren't missing anything there that an x-ray will find. But we just like to look at the adult teeth and make sure they are there, and coming in correctly. Why? What can you do at this stage if they're not? No, I don't want the x-rays, thank you. It was a polite and calm conversation. She said she would talk to the dentist, and I thought that was the end of it.

But no. It wasn't. After Emerson's cleaning, I heard her in the corner, whispering to the dentist. Then he came over, and in the course of her exam, said that he wanted to take some x-rays. Hadn't we gone over this already? Remember, the whispering? I said no, calmly, and said I would wait until she had at least some permanent teeth first. I thought he would persist with the reasons and bla, bla, bla. Instead, as calmly and coldly as could be - while looking in my daughters mouth - he said "then you'll have to find some other office to accommodate you." No discussion. No pulling me out of my daughter's (or anyone's) earshot. Just my way or the highway. I was so shocked I felt teary-eyed. But I acted normal, kept my nice voice on when helping Emerson to pick out her prize, and then walked out. I wish I wasn't with Emerson so I could have told him what I really thought. Or at least talked to him. Who does that in front of a five-year-old? It's like someone breaking up with you in a crowded restaurant to save themselves any possible expression of emotion.

I left the dentist office, keeping my game face on for Emerson, but screaming inside. A mixture of anger and some weird feeling I couldn't put my finger on. Shame? It was like I did something wrong and was kicked out of school, or fired from a job. Was I the crazy one? Was he sane? I called Matt as soon as I had a moment alone, and we agreed that maybe I was acting a little rashly. I didn't want to lose a "good" dentist that had be recommended to me by a few trusted people, and maybe I was being to unreasonable by rejecting the x-rays. I ended up calling the dentist back, and going back in for the x-rays. I am a big enough person to admit I was wrong, and that I can reconsider. No big deal.

They took the x-rays, and the dentist looked at them and called me over. He informed me - in a VERY cold way - that Emerson was, in fact, missing her two top incisors, and did that run in the family? Yes, it does. My husband is missing one of those teeth. I was friendly. He was a total dick. I asked him what would be done about it. Well, we'll take another x-ray in a few years and make sure they are not hiding somewhere in the top of her mouth. When she gets her braces on her permanent teeth we'll pull the baby teeth and put a false tooth underneath. When she gets the braces off, she can get an implant so the other teeth don't move around. What? So she'll get braces when she's a little kid? No, not until she's eleven or twelve. And the implant? Not until she's eighteen or nineteen?

What? Why did I get these x-rays again? So that you can take more x-rays in a few years? So that you can do nothing until she's twelve? Are you fucking kidding me? Not that I said any of this. I left, perplexed, and took the girls out to lunch.

I don't care that my daughter is missing two teeth, if in fact she is - which I am not totally convinced of. Modern dentistry is amazing, and I'm sure it will all work out fine. I do care that I can't have a conversation with a doctor who is caring for my child. That when I try to say something, I am completely shut off. If he kicks me out of his office for refusing useless x-rays, what next? Will I get kicked out for refusing sealants? Refusing fluoride pills? Refusing to do everything that you - the dentist with the perma-tan -tells me to do? I don't lean so far to the alternative side of life that I refuse everything just for the sake of refusing it. I don't think everything is bad. But I am a person who questions things, and I appreciate someone who can meet me in the middle and have a rational discussion. I'm not going to blindly do everything a doctor tells me to do just because he is a doctor. Especially if he gives me no reason for doing it.

So I'll be looking for a new dentist for Emerson too. (To my credit, when I told Em's pediatrician - who I trust unconditionally - he told me I shouldn't go back there, and gave me a list of other area dentists.) I will find someone who will be open to discussing things with me, someone I can trust, and someone who has my child's best interest in mind. Someone like our pediatrician. I will keep believing that a good diet and brushing are better than x-rays and sealants. And I will try to ignore the fact that Emerson may or may not be missing some teeth, and might need braces and all the rest. Maybe she will. But I don't need or want to see the future if I don't have to. I'm happy with her right now, the way she is.
Sigh. And then it is all forgotten in the midst of a Sunday bonfire.I love these ladies. (And the guys aren't so bad either...)

* Side Note* The wands were a big hit at the holiday fair. Gone in an hour - but found later in the hands of some familiar faces.
King Winter is coming...

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Finished! Fairy wands for the holiday fair children's bazaar at Emerson's school. Just one of the many *finished* projects yet to come...

I've already churned out two blogs this week - which were actually left-overs from weeks past - so this one will be short. But I promised myself I would write one, both today and every Sunday night. And I will finish the blog on Sunday night, and post it Sunday night, and that will be the end of it. The lingering blog - that I begin writing Sunday evening and drag into Thursday and Friday of the following week - is one (and only one) indication of the prevailing challenge of my life: UFOs. Unfinished Objects. (The more accurate acronym would be really be UFPs - unfinished projects - but UFO is my way of sharing the other-dimensiony realm of existence my procrastination leaves me in every day).

This week was a pretty hectic one for me. No more hectic than others in the actual things I have to do: get the kids up and ready to be out the door at 8am - which is no small feat -, drive Emerson to school and back about a thousand times, try and remember what I have to do in the small amount of time that Emerson actually IS in school, make sure I remember to pack snacks, lunches, a million changes of clothing for Ophelia, and grab everything else that I might need while we are out of the house, make sure there is money in the bank account, work two jobs, drive 45 minutes to pick up 100 lbs. of beef to put in our freezer (yeay!). There are always thing to do, things to remember.

But then there are the extra things that are running through my head, which this week ranged from starting study groups/teacher training sessions at the school to purchasing/publishing a quarterly magazine. By the end of the week I felt so completely turned around that when I actually got the rare chance to sit down and work on some writing (not blog writing, but my real writing - Lyza, Jenn, and Jenny take note!) I just sat and stared at the computer screen for two hours unable to decide how I wanted to structure one sentence. ONE SENTENCE!

I went to bed defeated, and with a thought/question burning a hole in my skull: I am trying to fit too much in. I need to give something up, but what is that something going to be? Writing? Blogging? Exercise, which I have just incorporated into my life again? Thoughts of any future career? Time with my children? What is the thing that is most important to me? And what are the things I need to leave behind?

And the answer is..... nothing. Balance. That is the most important thing. And although I told myself a million times over the week - in panicked moments when I felt like I was being left behind in any sort of career - that Ophelia, as a second child, needed me less than Emerson, (she is more social, etc...) the truth is that her childhood and her time with me is the most important thing as well. But not the only thing.

Someone told me recently that by trying to parent all your children the same - in other words, trying to "be fair" - you are actually doing a disservice to your children. Each individual child is different, and each one needs to be met on his/her own terms. It was great advice, and it has helped me to look at Ophelia's situation and realize that just because I did something with Emerson at a certain point in her life, doesn't mean I have to do the exact same thing with Ophelia (or feel guilty if I don't). It also doesn't mean I can totally disregard Ophelia and rationalize dumping her off with babysitters because the circumstances are different. What I need to do with her - and know I can do now - is to look at where she is, and where I am, and decide what is best for HER at this moment, instead of just putting her into the same activities Emerson was in. This is freeing for me, and fun. But it is her time now. She won't be little for much longer, and I am not willing to give that up for anything.

And I'm not giving up the writing either, or the exercise, or the moves towards a future career. I'm just doing them on my terms, and making some rules so that everything fits. So now the blog is written on Sundays. It doesn't drag into the rest of the week, eating up time I could spend on other things. There is a place for everything in life, and my aim is to become the master of keeping everything in it's place. Be present when I am writing. Be present when I am with my children. Be present with everything that I am doing, so that I spend more time bringing things to fruition, and less time trying to catch up with myself. I don't want to live in the land of UFO's. I want to live in the here and now.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Earlier this year, when it was about time for school to get out, and for summer to begin, I was ready. I was ready to have no where to be and no schedule for a while, but most important - and this is, sadly, true - I was ready to take a giant break from Emerson's classmates' parents for the summer. It seemed that everything any kid brought home with them from school was looked at under a microscope, and then - if it was undesirable - blamed on another child in the class. It culminated at the end of the year by a group of parents ganging up on a five-year-old child (a fairly disruptive one, yes...) and using him as a scape goat for all of the problems - or perceived problems -they were going through with their children. Fortunately, Emerson was home sick from school during the height of mass hysteria (although some parents were kind enough to call me at home and fill me in). Sigh. Did I mention that these children ranged in ages from 3-5? They spent 3 1/2 hours together, three mornings a week. Hardly Lord of the Flies, but ...

Emerson came home every day, seemingly oblivious that anything was dragging her out of her blissful childhood. She had a nice year in nursery, and had made a friends with another shy girl in her class - parents of other girls in the class accused the girls of being "exclusive" - and then later, as she felt more comfortable, with other children as well. In the last weeks of school, as the rioting parents demanded a solution to this "problem child," the teacher sent home a note to each parent saying something to the effect of "we, as adults, need to create a positive outlook within ourselves, so that our children may emulate this, as they look to us as guides..." She worded it much better than I can remember, but you get the point.

The summer was wonderful. I didn't sign Emerson up for anything "enriching", and I didn't join any organized playgroups in hopes of strengthening her relationships with other children in preparation for the next school year. I didn't stress out about what class she would be in this fall, and I didn't care which children would be in her class. I assumed - rightly, I think - that she would be fine either way.

A few weeks before school started, we got the class lists, and the deluge began once again. "I can't believe my child is in this class", and "I'm so sad my child isn't in that class", and "Can you believe this?" and on and on and on... "My child is too OLD for this class - the next oldest person is THREE MONTHS YOUNGER!" "I think I need to switch my child's symbol, he will be very upset about being a raccoon..." (each child gets an animal or plant symbol on their cubby, chair, art folder, etc... )

I thought I could handle it, but it got to me. Even before school began!

So here we are again - in kindergarten this time - and the theme this year, from what I can see, is social dynamics.

During the first few weeks of school, Emerson wandered away from her best friend on the playground, and started playing with someone else. Emerson's friend was devastated, and was in tears for days, saying things like "we got in a fight," and "we're not best friends anymore." When I asked Emerson about it, she responded (verbatim) "Lila was just standing there... and Toler was doing more funner things... like talking about pee and poop." Exactly.

Fortunately, the situation straightened itself out in a couple of days, without parental intervention.

A couple of weeks later, I kept Emerson out of school for a couple of days on either side of the weekend because she was a little run down and didn't feel like going to school. When she went back, she started playing with a different little girl in her class (who is a year younger than her) every day, instead of the older girls she usually plays with. At first, I didn't think anything of it, but then -sad, but true - I was overcome with a bout of the parental affliction that had annoyed me the entire previous year. I started worrying that Emerson was playing with a girl so much younger than her, and wondering why she would chose that over the more organized games the older kids played. I wondered if she had felt left out of the older girls games because she had missed a few days of school, and was having trouble integrating again. What if this was going to be the pattern for the rest of the year? Would Emerson be left behind? Was she feeling sad and alienated and not able to tell me?

Fortunately, after four days, I came to my senses. The truth lies here:This is my daughter. She is five years old, and when she gets home from school she puts on her "bathing suit" ("this is the kind that has tops and bottoms, mommy") and goes swimming in her "lake." Fortunately, she is not too savvy on the social scene, and she - like most other children her age - doesn't spend her days worrying where she fits in. She spends her days swimming in her lake, or preparing her underground burrow for the winter, or dancing, or trying to figure out the best method of picking up the cat.

I try not to ask Emerson a lot of questions about school - I like her to share with me what she wants - and fortunately, my craziness passed before she could detect it at all. The information she did share was a lot like this: "I didn't like the game Lila and Lily were playing. It was too sandy, so I went and played with Rose." Or another time, "I didn't like the game Rose was playing, so I did something else."

The most healthy reaction to a situation I have heard in a long time.

Why do we have to place these adult intentions, emotions, and responses into our children? Why do we feel the need to orchestrate their lives based on our fears, our lacks, our ambitions? The kids are fine. Emerson is great, in fact. She is having a wonderful time in kindergarten, exploring all sorts of new friendships, and feeling happy. She says things like this: "Rose is my best friend. And so is Lila. And Nola. And Ruby." She likes to make surprises for her friends.

She can bring princesses made out of popsicle sticks to life.
She has fun playing with friends of all ages, and loves them all.
She is happy, and healthy, and (as her teacher said in our conference) "perfect." We should take lessons from these amazing young souls, not the other way around.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


This is it - the best Sunday of the year! How I love having an extra hour to spend during the day, and how I love having both my kids in bed by 6:30pm. Yes, I'll probably be up a little earlier than usual tomorrow, but that is a good thing, as the girls and I have taken to sleeping in recently, and have had to do the mad get-ready-dash one too many times. The girls have known there is something wrong with getting up in the dark, and they were right...

But the dark is coming. Slowly but surely. The leaves have almost all fallen off the trees, and the ones still clinging have turned a browner hue, but there is still some subtle color to be seen. Today as the sun set (at 4:30) Matt and I watched the light bring life to the remaining trees in our backyard. The leaves, which look dull during most of the day, shone in the sunlight, showing us the bits of yellow and red that still live within them, for a few more days at least. November is an ugly month to many in New England - dark and chilly, no leaves, no snow - but the subtly of light this month always moves me. November is not outward with it's beauty - you need to look for it - and we certainly found it today.

And this time of year doesn't want for excitement either. Unlike the beginning of the year, when we search for something to celebrate, the end of the year is festival after festival after holiday after holiday, and there is always something to do, make, decorate, burn, wear...

Let the celebrating begin!

I have to work the night of the lantern walk at Emerson's school for Michaelmas, but Em doesn't know that, and she is enjoying the lantern Matt made her. Maybe we'll have our own lantern walk. There is always a place for celebrating light as the darkness comes...We did jack-o-lantern it up for Halloween though! There is nothing that says fall like some hot cider and pumpkin seeds, and some scary friends...
And the girls suited up!Emerson wanted to be a fairy this year, which I was excited about, because it's the easiest costume ever. Especially since she already has sparkly dresses, wands, wings, and a flower crown I made her in the spring. I think she would have looked cute, but for the million necklaces, and the face paint - she wanted face paint at the last minute because Ophelia had some, and she changed her mind about the color so many times that it ended up looking almost black. But she was happy with it, and that's all that matters.

Ophelia was a flower. A silly one.
After a bit of deliberation, we decided to stay local this year, and just trick-or-treat in our neighborhood. There are some people in the neighborhood with tween aged kids, and I thought we might get lucky and see a few people. I was also feeling rebellious against organized Halloween events - parades, popular neighborhoods, parties in a school gym, and all the rest - and was longing for the simplicity of my youth, when kids just walked outside their doors for Halloween. We even left a bowl of candy on our porch with hope that someone might stop by our house while we were gone... but they didn't. And we didn't see anyone, which I thought might put a damper on Emerson's Halloween, but it didn't phase her at all. She alternated between skipping and running from house to house - in which people waited who "hadn't had trick-or-treaters in three years," but were "always hopeful!" Needless to say, the girls got a lot of attention - and candy. And my rebellious ideas were reinforced. Kids - at least five-year-olds - don't need the perfect costume, the perfect place to be, the most people. They just need to walk around in the dark and have fun. To ring peoples doorbells and yell "TRICK-OR-TREAT!" - or run away in Ophelia's case - when they open the door. It's a fun and spooky night, and the girls thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the fact that it wasn't very "Halloweeny" on our street. Next year Emerson might enjoy something more -like going with a friend - but I am going to try and resist falling prey to commercial Halloweenism as long as I can.