Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

Everyone else in the world is doing a "best of the decade" and "what happened this year" list, so I thought I would throw my synopsis out into the ethos.

A lot of my FaceBook friends have status updates today indicating that they are glad to see 2009 go. While the past 365 brought us a lot of conflict and confusion, it also brought us some answers, closer to our friends and found us more involved in temple life.

While Jack's diagnosis has certainly been the central theme of 2009, we were happy to have some fantastic diversions as well.

January found my back in the Big Easy courtesy of Sisterhood. My friend Pam and I got the opportunity to travel together to New Orleans for a fantastic leadership conference. It also gave us some one on one girl time, which was really nice.

In May, Osi and I both got a chance to participate in the roast of our outgoing music director, Bryan Zive. It was a great chance to give the kid some flak, drink with our friends and generally throw, or be a part of, a fantastic farewell party. In May we also got to see the fogies from "This is Spinal Tap." An amazing concert of just about every different kind of person you can imagine. We had a great time yukking it up and singing along with our friends the Baskinds and the Howards.

June found us in Marietta, on a much needed getaway. Well, sorta. It was the marching band reunion I had helped plan. While it was a headache while it was being planned, it was completely gratifying to see the former director and assistant director and so many of the people whose lives they had touched come together to reminisce. It also allowed me to catch up with a lot of old friends and see who they had become. Always interesting.

Our summer was filled with a lot of family time. Trips to the zoo, the Popcorn Pops, the Bexley July 4th parade and the temple picnic were all opportunities for us to spend time together as a family doing some pretty fun stuff.

One of my favorite traditions (is two years a tradition?) is picking apples with my college girlfriends and their kids in the fall. I remarked to my friend Erin as we lifted our sons to reach an especially juicy fruit that this, in the orchard with my son and friends, was my happy place. I look forward to it every year and I hope we continue to frequent the orchard for years to come once the leaves start to turn.

Jack actually "got" trick-or-treat this year, so it was wonderful to watching him all spiffed out in is Top Gun costume and use his manners. i was a very proud momma and he was a very sugared-up boy.

Among other things Jack "got" this year, was Hanukkah. Or at least the candle lighting = gifts concept of Hanukkah. It was really nice to have him look forward to it every night and, in fact, on December 31, he is still asking if we can "do Hanukkah" tonight.

So, as much as I want to rail and rage against 2009, it has produced some pretty fantastic memories and time together with some of our favorite people. I hope we can be so blessed in 2010. Happy New Year to all of you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Crisis" Management

Since Thanksgiving, the JCC has had a third teacher working in Jack's classroom. Kylie is a senior at Ohio University majoring in Early Childhood Intervention. She has made tremendous strides in eliminating Jack's flight risk, keeping him away from doors and helping with his meltdowns. We still need work with using out words when we are mad, frustrated, sad or jealous, but, hey, he is four.

Meanwhile, Osi and I have been trying to find an aide to help in the classroom to shadow Jack and give the teachers some help. We interviewed a gal whose resume was impressive, but who was not at all the "warm and fuzzy" we were seeking. She seemed unenthusiastic to be on the interview, yet alone in the classroom. We were going to give her a shot anyway, out of desperation, but she also decided it wasn't a good fit and waited until yesterday to tell us she wouldn't be taking the job next week.

Jack has two teachers in his room. He had two teachers from August until Thanksgiving. While this did present logistical challenges while he was a flight risk and constantly at the doors, they managed (Again - not ideal, but they did it).

Kylie's last day at the JCC is today. Yesterday I informed the social worker, teachers and administration that our aide had flaked on us. Apparently now we need to meet to formulate "A Plan."

Well, folks, the plan is that we will continue to pay the $600 JCC membership fee that is required to get into the preschool. We'll continue to pay almost $1000 a month for Jack to attend preschool. In return, how about you teach him some shit and quit complaining that he is acting like a four-year-old when he is, you know, FOUR-YEARS-OLD.

My beef is this: I feel like 90% of the behaviors this group has a problem with is because Jack is a 4-year-old boy, not because he is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. however, because he IS diagnosed on the spectrum, they find it an easy excuse to say "Jack made sad choices today," or "Jack has quite a few meltdowns today." You know what? So do other four-year-olds. You know how I know? I have stood in the classroom and watched them do it.

So man up, educators, administrators and social workers. A diagnosis is NOT an excuse to sweep all undesirable behavior into the "developmentally disables" category. Sometimes he is just pissed because he is 4 and boy, that can really suck some days.

We have a meeting with the school system at the end of January to discuss Jack's IEP. Once we have the IEP, we can apply for the Autism Scholarship. This is $625 a week that helps meet the child's education needs as stated in the IEP. This is MORE than enough to hire an aide for the amount of time we need them in the classroom each week. However, we don;t get that money until the IEP is in place and the scholarship approved - probably late February.

This delay in getting an aide - about 6-8 weeks, caused "increasing concern" with the teachers and administrators. So we are meeting at 4 pm today to discuss "A Plan", as mentioned above.

I'm sorry, did you not sign up for a 2:14 teacher to student ratio? And, I'm sorry if, though your poor planning, 10 of those 14 kids are 4 year old boys - rambunctious all.

So tell me again how it is my responsibility to pay $500 for an additional aide in the classroom when I am already shelling out about $13,000 a year to you to play with my kid from 9 am - 4 p.m.? Maybe I am the developmentally disabled one, because I just don't get it.

The Director reports Jack is not the first PDD-NOS kiddo the JCC has had and that he certainly won;t be the last. My question - was each of the previous kid's families responsible for providing their own teacher on their own payroll> I think not, but I guess I'll find that out today.

I think they don't need help specifically with Jack (although I acknowledge he has challenges, most of you have met him and were surprised that anything was diagnosed because he is so high functioning). I think they need help because they have 10 hyper 4-year-old boys for 8 hours a day and 4 kind of emotional little girls. I would pull my hair out. But you know what? I didn't go to school for this and sign up for it as my chosen profession. You did.

Man up. This is not a crisis and we do not need "A Plan." We need for people to have learned from the extremely capable Kylie while she was there for a month. How was she able to keep Jack in classroom? Well, maybe the two other teachers should model that, ya' think? We need for you to acknowledge that we cam into this school year with no diagnosis and 2 teachers and, while it was a challenge, it was workable.

What has changed? The diagnosis and the fact that the two teachers saw how much easier a third set of hands made their lives. Would someoen please tell me how it is my responsibility to pay for that third teacher now that Kylie is back at school? If I am going to shell out $1500 a meonth, I just as soon take Jack someplace where the teacher ratio is 1:3 and he is getting intensive therapy.

And if you don't want him here, you should have told us this months ago. We will gladly spend $13,000 a year somewhere else.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Defending the Dogma

I expected to have to defend, or at least explain, my decision to convert to Judaism earlier this year to a handful of people. My parents, devout Christian friends and rabbis to name a few. Never, however, did I think I would find myself defending my decision to the gal who cuts my kid's hair while he is seated in a toy airplane.

We have been going to this particular hair-cutter ("stylist" hardly seems appropriate when she give the kid a buzz every 4 weeks) for about a year or so. My first clue that I might be in trouble was in the fall, when she was uber excited that her kid got to read "The Christian Pledge of Allegiance" on a local Christian radio station. I had never heard of this and asked her about it. She enthusiastically explained that the kids all pledge their allegiance to Christ, Our Savior. "Hmmm...." I thought. After looking it up, I found the words "with life and liberty to all who believe" inserted in the end. So much for separation of church and state.

So last night we were in for my son's monthly shearing (seriously, the kid's hair grows like a Chia Pet. And in about the same pattern and texture). She asked how our holiday went and when I said great, we are headed down to Cincinnati this weekend to celebrate Christmas with my parents, this sparked a look. I can't describe it exactly, but maybe she thought she could save me back. She asks, point blank, which I believe MORE. Sticky situation.

I explained that while I have always been a questioner (really, Catholics? Unbaptized babies can't get into heaven? That seems a bit harsh), I felt as a Catholic I was never really allowed to question. Judaism allows me to question, encourages it, even. We also believe that you shouldn't so much worry about what is going to happen to your soul after death- that you should act here on earth like your soul depended on those actions. That our job is to heal the world - whether the inhabitants are Jews or Christians (although many seem split on what we do with Muslims).

Her answer to that? "Right on."

It was not the first time this week, even, that my beliefs cam into question. Christmas - this beloved holiday celebrating the birth of the Christian Savior - seems to bring out nastiness in people.

A friend on Facebook joined a group called "It's Merry Christmas NOT Happy Holidays." I felt the need to ask "Why not be inclusive?" A few others echoed my point and this particular person got all righteous, saying that I had pissed her off and that she didn't join the group to have her moral integrity or, and I quote, "diversiveness" questioned. Short story - she was hot about having her beliefs questioned, but didn't hesitate to plaster them on Facebook.

(For the record, I think if you put something out there on the interwebs, it is up for public debate and consumption. Since this blog is on the Web AND posts to FB as a note, feel free to comment, disagree, etc.)

I knew Christmas would be a challenge for me this year,since it is my first as an official Member of the Tribe. But it has turned out to be difficult in a different way than I expected. I don't miss the tree. I am, even as I type this, waiting for cookies to come out of the oven and I persuaded Sisterhood to adopt a family or two for Christmas, so I got to wrap and deliver gifts.

The holidays are difficult for me this year because it is the first time I have had to publicly say "I am different than you." For a kid who, for 30-odd years has wanted nothing more than to just fit in, this is a difficult, but absolutely necessary statement to make. I really do believe that it is only when we ask questions of one another and at least TRY to understand the other point of view, it is then that the world will run a little more smoothly.

So thanks, Jennifer G., for asking the questions. I hope my answer made sense and that you got a peek into what makes this particular Jew tick - and Merry Christmas (AND Happy Holidays)!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Commitment

I am a firm believer in follow-through. I don't accept tasks, committee positions or other things that will add to my "to do" list unless I can commit to them and give it a decent effort. I also believe you get out of things what you put into them. This includes relationships.

I am beginning to realize that not all adults function this way. Which make me wonder how people hold jobs, maintain relationships and avoid being a social pariah.

I enjoy volunteering. I do it for selfish reasons - to help shape policy, make an event better than it was before, etc. I also do it because I like being a part of a larger whole.

I was recently mocked for the number of committees I am on at Temple. That's OK. I generally don't mind it - EXCEPT when those who also volunteer aren't getting things done. As a former volunteer coordinator, this drives me bonkers. Not everyone has to be as committed to a cause as everyone else. We need people at all levels f time and interest. What we DO need is for everyone to be on the same page. If you agree to sit on a committee, TRY to show up at the meetings. You know what, do more than try. Be at one or two of them. I don;t need you at every meeting, but I DO need you to be on the same page as everyone else on the team.

If I am your friend, I generally try to be a good friend. And, as a rule, I am usually pretty darn loyal. I try to keep plans for social engagements, to listen when you are having a rough day to spend some time with you. Relationships sink quickly when left on auto-pilot.

And so, friends, this is another rant. A rant about just saying NO if you are over-committed, or busy or - frick - just want to sit on your couch rather than attend a meeting with me. Just say no. It is that easy. Please don;t avoid the calls and e-mails. Please say you are going to be somewhere and habitually cancel. Don't set me up for disappointment and frustration. Just say no. It will save us both a lot of time, trouble and blood pressure medication.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Many Meanings of "Blue"

Blue is my favorite color. But it is so much more than that.

If you look up "blue" on Webster's, no less than 19 different definitions for the word come back to you. For instance, you knew that if you clicked on that blue link right there, you'd go to Websters.com, didn't you?

I have been in a bit of a funk lately. A blue mood, so to speak, which has me thinking about this. It is my first holiday season as a full-fledged MOT and, while I do not for one minute regret my conversion, I do feel a twinge of sadness for the loss of my childhood traditions. Let's be honest - taking down the Christmas tree and accompanying decorations is a huge pain in the ass. That I will not miss. But the glow of the lights against the snow, the presents stacked beneath a well-decorated tree and the smell of cinnamon pine cones, these are all things for which I am in a little bit of mourning this month. Add to this the colossal fiasco that was Thanksgiving (not unironically, revolving around the decoration of my parent's tree), and there is the indigo icing on the blue cake.

The blue mood has made my fuse even shorter than usual (as if, notes my husband under his breath, that were possible). That, in turn, has caused an increase my cursing a blue streak. Not something of which I am especially proud. I do appreciate the line in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie refers to his father as working "in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay." I think it might say something about me as a human being that my favorite part in that entire movie is when the dogs run through the kitchen and steal the turkey and the father yells "Sonsabitches! Bumpuses!" (Side note: I cannot believe I couldn't fine a clip of that moment to post here!!)

This time of year also brings the ubiquitous Christmas music. I do not say "Christmas Carol", which implies angelic looking children with beatific faces singing happily at your door. No, no, friends. I speak here of the auditory assault that is "The Christmas Shoes" and, well, anything Mariah Carey puts out this time of year. What we need here is a little Christmas Blues. A little FUNK - another word with multiple meanings. Let's get Doctor John and B.B. King up in here to do up Christmas right. (OK, admittedly, that Dr. John clip has Christina Aguilera singing. But it IS blues and, c'mon, girlfriend has some pipes.) So, in case you didn't get my inference, I am a fan of blues music as well. Stevie Ray Vaughn. Mm Hm. That's all I'm sayin'.
So, to wrap it up an in a nice little blue ribbon; while this post might seem out of the blue, it is an offering in contrast to all of the Christmas red and green popping up this time of year. (Oh, HEY! Hanukkah - blue and white. Not a bad tie in.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Frustration: Not a good color on me

I have been planning a fund raiser for Temple Israel Sisterhood and Brotherhood for the last 3 months. It has been frustrating. That is an understatement. Let me say upfront that Pam Chambers and Lisa Goldsand have been amazing in their efforts to help pull this event together. They rock and I would choose them first for any team I am on (professional, volunteer or dodge ball - you gals ROCK.)

Bingo-Rita - an evening of bingo games for prizes and a few Mexican libations, has been a hit at other temples. The lack of support we are getting here in Columbus has been maddening. If it were only from our general members, I could understand that, perhaps, the idea is not a good one and what works in Boca Raton does not work in Columbus. What I find most disheartening is the lack of support from temple leadership.

Sisterhood (and Brotherhood) do amazing things for the community. We send kids to camp for weeks at a time. We provide donations for Temple Israel functions. We provide more financial backing for temple than you might even comprehend. These are organizations filled with people who want to make a difference and who volunteer their time to help support Temple Israel and its families. We do it happily and with open minds and hearts. We also make really great friends.

Is $10 per person really too much to ask for you to come out and support an organization that supports you? I really don't think it is. We're even providing babysitting - so there is an excuse and extra cost - off of your plate.

We need 60 people to cover our costs. After that, it is a fund raiser for the 'Hoods. Money in our coffers that go directly back into the Temple Israel Community. Is it that hard to shell out a $20 for you and your significant other to come play a game of bingo, have a drink and just generally support our efforts?

Apparently so. Lack of support from leadership is enough to drive volunteers to burnout faster than you can say BINGO! As someone who managed volunteers professionally for a large chunk of my professional life, I can tell you that it is your job to nurture volunteers and help them succeed. Many of the leaders are volunteers themselves. But when you accept this position, you agree to lead by example. I am disappointed that so many are choosing NOT to participate.

So, is this rant appropriate for Facebook - where temple leadership (and members) can see it? Probably not. But I am posting it anyway. Despite the fact that it likely sounds as if I am a harpie and a tyrannical leader. Perhaps Jewish Guilt will kick it and you'll buy your $10 ticket to support the organizations who support you.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Things Jack Did..

Boy Wonder, The Manchild, Jickety, Munchin. The Little Man turned 4 a month ago and he has had a month full of adventures already.

The evening of his birthday, for instance, we gave up the binky. I explained that the Binky Fairy came and took it to a baby who needed it. That binkies are for babies and he, being 4 now, is a Big Boy. This lead to the following announcement: "I don't like fairies." That, my friends, is a loaded statement.

Last week, as he was playing in the bathroom sink, J dropped one of the shapes he like to play with. It landed between the toilet and the cabinet. While reaching for the shape, Boy Genius managed to get his head stuck. Next to the potty. (ew) I came running when I heard frantic crying and Osi screaming in a high-pitched panicked voice. A few quick maneuvers and he was free of his potty prison. But still, not his most shining moment.

We made the move to big boy pants this weekend. If, by big boy pants, you mean underwear with Disney characters grinning at me from the area of my son's tushy, then yes, bog boy pants are what we have. Only one accident during the weekend. My parents graced us with their presence for a few hours on Sunday. Dad thought the phrase "Listen t your body" was the most hilarious thing he had ever heard. Hearing Jack say it was, apparently, even funnier. This led to my father making all kind of obnoxious man noises and saying that he was just listening to his body. Unfortunately, so were we. (I guess that falls under the "Things my dad did" category.)

Life with a 4-year-old boy is always an adventure. I have a feeling it only gets more exciting from here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dear Neighborhood Idiots...

It is once again the eve of Trick-or-Treat; that sacred tradition of shaking down people you barely know for obscene amounts of sugar. As I survey my neighborhood and those around me, I see a host of ghosts and goblins, a few witches and one or two undead. Which brings me to my rant...



Last year the dufus across the street sat on his porch in a full body werewolf costume waiting to pass out candy to little kids. His son, the youngest of three knuckle-dragging brothers, lurked in the tree suspended over the driveway. As we were just beneath him, the little shit jumped down - in full on "guy from Scream" outfit and scared the bejeezus out of our troop, which ranged in age from 2 - 4.

OK. I get that you L-O-V-E Halloween. I get that you like to scare people (I live across the street from you and, let me tell you, you terrify me on a weekly basis). I am asking, for the sake of 4-year-olds with vivid imaginations and savant like memories everywhere - Could you PLEASE tone it down this year?

Should we not participate in Halloween? A lot of orthodox religions don't. Lots of right wing Christians and most orthodox Jews just ignore it. But, to me, it is part of being a kid. It is FUN to dress up and parade around the neighborhood and get free candy. So who is wrong here?


I really do believe that Beggars' Night is for the kids. My rules are 1) You must have a costume, 2) You must say Trick-or-Treat (followed promptly by "thank you") and 3) You must not yet have boobs or a baso profundo vocce. I think this keeps us to the 11 and under crowd, no? So if trick-or-treat is for the kids, why are we trying to scare the hell out of them. How, exactly, is that funny?


The real world id terrifying enough. Cripe, I honestly thought I was going to have to explain the concept of war to my 4-year-old during "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" I don't remember questioning my mom about why Snoopy, the "WWI Flying Ace" was being shot at. Maybe that is the part of the show when I went potty or retrieved my Dolly Madison snack cake from the kitchen. My kid, however, looked a little concerned and I sat there, waiting for the question (which, thankfully, did not come).
So I am asking, pleading, nay, BEGGING on this Beggars' Night to please tone it down. Remember that these are little kids with bog fears already. Let's not add to the mental and emotional scars Mommy and Daddy are already amassing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Sunday's Worth of Thoughts

There is a girl who does the weather before the football games on CBS. Her name is Marisol. She is very pretty. But do we, at home and ensconced in our couches and flannel pants, really care what the weather is doing in Denver?

To add insult to injury, she got it really wrong today. A little wrong would be that she called for 70 and sunny for the Pats games and it was 80 with clouds. Really wrong is calling for rain and getting snow throughout the game. While she called for rain in Foxborough, she mentioned that it was going to be "really chilly" in Pittsburgh for their kick-off with Cleveland. It was going to be 43 degrees. Does this woman watch football? Because "chilly" is having you ass frozen to the bleachers in The Dog Pound in December with a brutal wind coming off the lake.

My point is, call a spade a spade. Marisol clearly has no idea what the weather is going to do and I don't think she was aware that there are tight ends other than her own until she started this job (probably still isn't). But damn, she looks fine out there in front of a green screen, doesn't she? So let's give the girl something to do like bring the guys who know what they are talking about drinks or something. I find the "meteorologist" facade insulting. So should you, Marisol.

And now for something completely different...

I am having a moral dilemma. I think the moral dilemma has made me ill. In my last post I told you that I gave notice at work. Now I am champing at the bit to get going on figuring out my kid already.

Whoever came up with "Two Weeks Notice" was a moron. When someone has given notice at a job, they are telling you they are done. Do you know how much damage a facetious employee with a gripe could do in two weeks? They could do some pretty damaging sabotage.

I am not that kind of employee. I am not even that kind of person. When I commit to something I see it through. I finish strong. But...

This is about my kid. This is about what is right for not only me but for my family. I go a little more insane just thinking of the minutes I will be sitting in a cube, unable to do anything about it during the week. Add to this that the president of the company and his wife a friends (if not family) and I really don't want to leave on bad terms. But this is not a job that is going on my resume because I have been there for such a short time. I am not trying to screw anyone. I am just trying to get some momentum on The Jack Situation.

Today was spent compiling phone numbers, browsing websites and making a list of who to contact. Can't do any of that from work.

And so I am torn. And I am literally sick about it. It's only a week. But it is my reputation. I know what society and my employer expect me to do. And I know what my gut is telling me to do. They are at odds. Thus the gastrointestinal distress. And I am beginning to see the truth in the old addage that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

Ah, if I were only a beautiful weather girl. I could walk off the set and no one would even notice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

So Here's The Deal


In July, Jack was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, which is more letters than he is old. Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. Osi and I thought maybe we were looking at a kid with some OCD tendencies, what we got was a diagnosis that placed us squarely on the Autism Spectrum.

If you read back about a year, I was railing against people who thought Jack needed tested because of the constant fascination with doors. As time wore on, however, and we met with the social worker at Jack's school (yes, his preschool has an in-house LISW, and we are thankful every day for her), it became obvious that the door fascination was just the beginning.

So in July, we had him tested at Nationwide Children's Autism Center here in Columbus. People always ask if it is Asperger's Syndrome. It is not. Not that glamorous, folks. It's just Autism. Not "capital A Autism" as some people refer to it, but again, on the spectrum, which is scary enough.

You never want to hear that your kid is anything less than perfect. So it has taken months for us to come out with this info. We literally told my parents, Osi's sisters and 2 sets of close friends in the first month. We were in denial and after that we were grieving. We didn't tell people because we didn't want people to treat him any differently. But if you're reading this, then you have likely met Jack and you know him. Great kid - a little quirky. You likely love him anyway.

Now I am in the let's kick this thing's ass mode. Which is why I have given notice at work and am devoting myself full time to getting Jack the help he needs. The longer I sat tied to the phones, unable to take or make calls or do any research or any kind, make appointments or get information for 8 hour stretches, the more I felt like the worst mother ever. I knew what my first priority was, and there I sat, not doing a damn thing about it. So, my last day of full time employment is Oct. 23. Can I afford to quit? Sure cannot. Can I afford not to? No way.

Already I am beginning to feel the heaviness lift. I feel ready to fight, rather than the crushing whirlwind I was caught up in just a week ago. With a decision made, I feel we at least have a direction. Is it the right one? Only hindsight will tell us. It is the right decision for us with the information we have right now.

Some people are in denial. Saying that if you ask for a diagnosis - whether or not anything is wrong - they will give you one. That there is nothing wrong with Jack. Others say"my kids misbehave, too." We're all resilient. Jack most of all. Hope you'll support us in our journey - it should be an interesting ride.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Trying to Learn, trying to grow

The last few weeks have been very busy here at Chez Zimmer. We were in the crush of the High Holy Days and with all the repenting and atoning, one has litle time for blogging.

Honestly, though, I have tried very hard to take the themes of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur seriously. I am a believer that we should try every day to be a better person that we were yesterday. But these two days, and the 10 days in between, really crystallize that feeling for me. My heart aches with the wrong I have done and the potential I have not fulfilled. I want so much to be what God expects of me, but fall prey all too often to my human faults - anger and bitterness the quickest to come. So I find it hard to sit through a service during this time of year without shedding tears - if not all out sobbing.

Which makes that fact that I was asked to sit on the bima (altar, for all you goyem out there) all that more challenging. My Sisterhood co-president, Mel, and I - along with the Brotherhood president, were all guests on the bima for the services beginning Rosh Hashanah (think of it at the Jewish New year's Eve). My focus, for most of the evening, was keeping my knees closed, adjusting my dress so my gut didn't look larger than it was, and being mildly amused at Artie Isaac knocking the rock of Lary Pliskin as he came off the bima from closing the ark. All of these led me to to reflect on Reform Judaism.

Some things you won't see at an Orthodox temple:
a) a woman on the bima.
b) a woman in a dress short enough where she is worried enough to have to keep her knees together
c) Artie Isaac knocking the rock of Larry Pliskin

At least 2 out of 3 of these things make me very proud to be a Reform Jew. You can decide which 2.

The last two weeks also also afforded me another opportunity to try a children's service with Jack. Once again, several of his JCC classmates were thee, sitting quietly. Once again, Jack had the attention span of someone half his age and we had to leave the service because he was disruptive. It is very difficult to watch. To have your kid not physically be able to act his age and not be able to explain to other parents that he is not a bad kid and you are not a bad parent. I want to get a little "We're On the Spectrum" yarmulke for him. While Jack is, what the doc called "high functioning" it is unmistakable that he is NOT like other kids his age when you see him in a room with them. It is then that this knowledge smacked me in the face; at 9:45 on the morning of Yom Kippur, throwing me into full emotional meltdown in the staff bathroom. Thank God I have connections or I would have been sobbing on the floor of one of the 20 stalls of the public restroom.

It has been a hard two weeks, but not without its triumphs.

Today was Jack's fourth birthday. We had a small party with just family and four of Jack's buddies at the JCC playground. We played pin the tail on the donkey, ate cake and climbed/jumped/slid until our hearts were content. We are thankful for every day with Jack - even the ones filled with challenges. But more often than not, they are filled with cuddles and laughs.

For instance, when trying to decide, in the 11th hour, what kind of cake to make for his birthday, here is the discussion my son and I had last night:

Me: What kind of cake do you want for your birthday?
Jack: Chocolate. With chocolate icing!
Me. Right. But what do you want it to LOOK like?
Jack: A CAKE, Mommy.

Because, yeah, I'm the idiot.

I am still learning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week 5: Still Learning

1. When a preschool teacher says your son has gotten dirty - so dirty she had to change his clothes - put said clothes in the wash to soak immediately. Jack's beige shorts are on wash #6 after I left them for 3 days waiting for laundry day. A mistake a will not repeat. How do they get so dirty? At school???

2. Do not talk at customer service goal meetings. I have not yet learned this first-hand. This was a friendly heads up from someone who likes me and would like to see me keep my job.

3. Fresh, warm apple-crisp goes a long way to making friends in the office. Especially if your boss has a sweet tooth.

4. Wear a long skirt when your scheduled to sit on the bima (altar) for High Holy Days. I spent most of the 2 hours I was up there Friday night trying to make sure I wasn't pulling a Sharon Stone on about 500 or so congregants. "Happy New Year! Have a Peek at My Goodies!" I am pretty sure the rescind the conversion certificate for stuff like that.

5. Confirming what I thought I learned last year - one of the major reasons I converted were the prayers in the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. Very powerful and meaningful for me. Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) has made me cry every year since the beginning.

6. Finally, I learned that if I am to take this repent and be a better person thing seriously, I am going to have to come to terms with my parent's second-class treatment of my son. I cannot both be a better person and hold a grudge. I need to make my peace with the fact that they will always love Donovan more - not differently, just plain MORE - and move on. They love Donovan like a near suffocated person loves air. I wish my son has a grandparent who loved him like that. It will have to be enough that his dad and I both do. I don't want to spend my life bitter about it, but it is really, really hard not to be mad and sad about it. I am struggling with this. Avinu Malkeinu, shema kolleinu.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Enlightening Week: Week 4

1. A sick day is sometimes completely necessary. Management may not believe this, but let me assure you, I should have taken one on Wednesday, when I found the following words escaping my heavily medicated mouth:

Customer: Well, how big is the 16 quart colander?
Me: (Wanting to avoid the obvious answer of "well, dude, it's about 16 quarts, giver or take") Well, you could wash a baby in it, but I wouldn't recommend a teenager.

Hand to God, I have no idea how I am still employed. After going in and feeling even worse on Thursday, I left an hour into my shift. I think after reading this they should thank me. I might have actually been COSTING them customers all day Wednesday.

2. Sometimes I overreact and it may be harsh but it also may be completely justified. This can also be read as Billy Joel's excellently worded "You may be right. I may be crazy." After a week of a pesky sinus infection that has had me on large doses of antibiotics for that long and has caused vertigo and headaches for longer than that, I had had enough of hearing about a particular Sisterhood issue. I snapped, man. I threatened to resign the presidency should a particular member not remove herself from my bottom (in no uncertain terms). This is a member, God lover her, who is very involved and also believes that I have a right to her opinion on everything. In 2 words: I overreacted. On the other hand, I haven't heard boo since. It was completely the wrong way to handle the situation and I have since apologized, but there is really only so much a gal can take.

3. I may have found my happy place today.

Erin, Naomi and I took our boys apple-picking for the second year in a row. Jack did OK last year but thoroughly enjoyed himself this time out. Being in the warm sunlight, lifting up my son and the sons of my oldest friends, listening to them squeal with laughter and shout with excitement...it was just this side of heaven. Seeing Jack have such a good time, interacting with his peers and watching them all grow up together made me extraordinarily grateful.

I am so thankful that these girls have stuck with me through thick and thin. These are the women I call in a childcare crisis, in a personal crisis, when I need mommy advice. I am so very thankful for them and I don't tell them that often enough. I love you guys and are so glad you're part of my happy place :)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What I Have Learned: Week 3

Continuing in The Education of Mrs. Zimmer, I would like to post a few nuggets of enlightenment gained this week.

1. Helen Gurley Brown is full of shit.

Really, need I say more? Ladies, we cannot have it all. And really, do we want to? It exhausts us, if we allow ourselves to admit it. I don't like to half-ass anything. Unfortunately, since once again becoming employed, everything has been half-assed. Friendships, the housework, relationships with my husband and kid, volunteer work - you name it. Some of my dearest girlfriends summed it up as such: you get used to it. We laughed and toasted half-assed as the new all-the-way. I simply cannot have it all. Nor do I want it all.

2. This job was the absolute right choice for me. Had I made the choice to pursue the better title and all the grandeur and stress and driving and travel that comes with it, I would hate myself right about now. I would be making slightly better money, be in my chosen field and have a fabulous title, but wake up every morning hating myself. That's one helluva compromise. I will settle on saying the name Wasserstrom about a million times in a week.

3. Grilled cheese is still the world's best comfort food. Don't even try to argue with me on this one. When, as Paul Simon so aptly put it, I am weary and feeling small, I just want a grilled cheese sandwich and a piping hot bowl of tomato soup. Preferably Campbell's. I have had people try to soothe me with chicken soup, spaghetti, and meatloaf (not all at once, mind you). While thoughtful, all of these were far inferior to the humble grilled cheese.

4. The people in my group at work are pretty cool. They roll with my stupid mistakes and are really trying hard to help me. We laugh a lot and try hard to work as a team. That's really nice.

4a. One of the aforementioned cool person's names is Roxanne. I have to stop myself about 18 times a day from singing her name out loud a la Sting. She don't have to put on her red light. In three weeks there, I have only done this twice. Considering the number of times I have WANTED to do it, this is an amazing feat of self-restraint.

5. Who my friends are. I have not completely learned this yet, but I have a feeling it is coming (not unlike Eli). These are the people who don't lose touch, who are the support network and who roll with it when I have been out of touch for three weeks. As Jack grows and develops, these will be the people we rely on - the people who will be in pictures at his birthdays and family gatherings. They may or may not have kids, or kids his age, but they love us and him no matter our challenges.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What I Have Learned: Weeks One & Two

I have just finished my second week back at work. Since my schedule will alternate, we'll be in a constant state of flux with J's pick-ups and drop-offs; something I hope he learns to roll with.

I am already learning some important lessons, both on the job and at home. I thought I might share some of these with you.

1. I have wasted a good amount of time in the past four years folding pajamas, socks and underwear. None of this is necessary. Wrinkles on your feet, underpinnings and bedclothes are rarely noticed and if they are, points are rarely deducted.

2. Few things beat the first time you share un-baked batter with your kid. Nothing like raw sugar mixed with a possible salmonella scare to heighten the taste of goodness. Jack and I baked brownies together this week and, although he was leery of the batter at first, the look on his face when it passed his lips was something akin to pure bliss.

3. "Scrubble" is an incredibly fun word to say. It is a new cleaning product one of our stores is using for cleaning and I swear I want to ring a bell and shout "SCRUBBLE!" every time someone orders it. Now, let me also say that the people in charge of loading the information into our system are idiots, or at least not user friendly. When a customer is looking for "Scrubble", it comes up as "pad, cleaning, steel wool." Come on, folks. Work with a sister, will ya'?

4. I have forgotten the general mentality of the stereotypical mass cubicle dweller. They are paid to push a button and follow the rules. Not to think of NEW ways to push said button or to think of ways to improve the button. Also, they will get upset if you suggest that you might be thinking of these newfangled ideas. Push the button, get the treat, man. Don't rock the boat.

5. There are just not enough hours in the day. I knew this as a stay-at-home mom, too, but working outside the home has given it a new dimension. Work has a very strict Internet/personal e-mail policy as well and I get 30 minutes for lunch at 2- 10 minute breaks (they are not mandatory, said my trainer, so I can choose not to take them). So between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. I am pretty much on information lock down. I respect that this is a business, but it also means that there is no checking personal e-mail during lunch, which means that, on average, I have 35 e-mails to be answered (generally Sisterhood-related) when I get home. I don;t have time to do that because Jack and Osi are m priorities, so e-mail has to wait until 10 pm, which means I am not in bed until almost 11:30. Here's what I am saying: If I could just check personal e-mail during lunch, I would be a more well-rested, ready-to-go employee in the morning because I wouldn't have to be up until midnight taking care of stuff I could do in my lunch half-hour. Just sayin'. For my birthday I am asking for a phone with a QWERTY keyboard and Internet access. Booyah.

6. My crock pot has become my new best friend. If you have any tried and true crock pot recipes, I BEG OF YOU, please send them my way. We can only eat post roast, brisket and BBQ chicken so many days of the week.

So, that's what I have learned this week. How about you? Anything new?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blahhhhhhhg.

I have survived my first week of work. I find that, while I am not catching on as quickly as the other 2 people in my training class, I am enjoying learning new things. While the "things" I am learning may be mundane, I am still learning. Feeling useful and helping a company - which is locally owned - do a decent business. I feel that if I put my best into it every day, I can be proud of it. I am having actual conversations with adults and using my brain to earn income. PLEASE - how am I not paying them???

Osi stayed home with The Prince all week, as the JCC was closed for teacher training and general cleanup. I am happy to report that everyone came through with flying colors. Osi is sad to go back to work on Monday and Jack has been in his glory hanging with Daddy all week. They've been to the grocery store, the post office, Target and McDonald's. Everyone was happy. Jack has been mad at me all week, but that is to be expected. It hurts my feelings, but we'll get into a groove, I'm sure.

I am finding that I very little time for ANYTHING else, though. I leave the house at 7:30 in the morning, have 30 mintues for lunch, am not allowed to use the company computers for personal e-mail or Internet use and get home at 5p.m. Between 5 and 8 there is dinner to get on the table, laundry to do and all the Jack and Osi time I can squeeze in. I find myself turning in shortly after Jack does, at 9:15. I have no energy left for anything left.

So the Blog, Sisterhood e-mails and responsibilities and all other non-mission-critical items have been put on hold. Hope you'll all bare with me as I transition...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Feh.

I may be in the midst of an existential crisis. Or a panic attack. Or, I may just be freaking out a little. Either way, something is going on with a) my tummy, b) my blood pressure and c) my tear ducts (as in, they are leaking frequently this evening).

I start work on Monday. At a job. Outside of the house. With adults. Who expect me to LEARN STUFF. And then answer questions for other adults in a clear and concise manner. WTF? Have they met me? OK. The job outside the house I can do. Probably. At least, I won't get fired in the first month or so. That's a goal, right?

But then there is my OTHER job. My ACTUAL full-time, always-on-my-mind, on the clock even when I am sleeping job. You know the one: Mom-Wife-Maid-Cook-SupplierOfAllThingsAnyoneNeedsEVER. That one. THAT is the one I am freaking out over.

My husband comes home every night and, after a dinner I have, 90% of the time, made, promptly begins dozing on the couch. I mean complete with snoring. How many, by show of hands, believe that I will be able to get away with this?

Right. That's what I thought.

Because if I come home and - after a meal has magically appeared on the table - I start snoring on the couch, several things will happen. Well, several things will actually NOT happen:

1. Jack will not be bathed.
2. Laundry will not get done.
3. Floors will not get vacuumed.
4. Sheets will not get changed.
5. Dishes may or may not get done.
6. All potty-training and discipline ceases to exist.
7. Stories will not be read.
8. Songs will not be sung.
9. Middle of the night calls for Mommy will not be answered.
10. Groceries will not be purchased.

These are just the things I can think of while continuously typing. As you can see, my mind is reeling a bit.

I understand - in my addled brain, that women work every day all over the world and you know what? Their kids are fed and bathed and their homes do not fall down around them. Many of these heroic women are single mothers. I swear to you right now I do NOT undersand - just plain do not comprehend how these women do it. Hats off to you, ladies.

But this is new. And I am scared.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

J-O-B

I am officially employed. Well, I will be, anyway, when I start in the customer service center at The Wassersrtom Company. I am calling it a starter job. It is my first job out of the gates of the stable that is stay-at-home momhood.I am extremely thankful that we wil once again be a two-income household. It also likely helped that we not only know the president of The Wasserstrom Company, but that we reguarly attend his daughters' birthday parties. There is a fmaily entanglement there that is too complicated to explain here, bu I will say it again - I am very thankful.

I was a finalist for a job in Zanesville, 45 minutes away. The title - admittedly NOT a starter job - was Assistant Executive Director. As fantastic as that title tasted in my mouth, there was much more travel involved than I could stomach and I could spend 1.5 hours on the road three days a week, 45 weeks a year. Those other 7 weeks? Travel to the West Coast and elsewhere. So I swallowed my pride and took my name out of the running when Wassestrom offered me a position.

The down side is that this is a one year temporary position. But is it really a down side? Ideally, I would like to work my way up and be management again someday. Well, let's face it - ideally, I would like to be a director of membership somewhere, but I have apparently done irreparable damage to my career by staying at home with J for 4 years.

I would not trade a minute of it. For as much as I have second-guessed my ability to make a serious decision NOT having to do with family matters or dinner, I would do it all over again. I would stay home and be here for Jack as long as I could, and just keep volunteering to activate my "non-Mommy brain."

When I call this new job a "starter job" it isn't a dig. It really is. It is a job where I can do a great job in a familiar environment - I have excelled at customer service several times before. It is a job where I can regain my professional confidence. Where I can decide where we go from here. I am indeed, very thankful.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stress Makes Mommy Flat

My son has a repertoire of songs he asks me to sing before bedtime each night. For those interested, those songs are, in order, "O Seh Shalom" (Bryan Zive version), "Hashkiveinu" (Danny Maseng version), "Baby Mine" (from the movie "Dumbo") and "Hey Jude." That two of the songs are sung in Hebrew is both funny and sweet for me. It has forced me to learn the words are really know what I am singing and it lets Jack hear the words of the Jewish liturgy from a very young age.

The bedtime songs tonight, however, were off. They were flat, to be precise. No matter how hard I tried, I kept dipping a half step or so too low and everything sounded off...and awful. Haskiveinu, the prayer for peace, was especially horrible in my ears this evening. Jack, God bless him, didn't seem to notice or mind.

I just could not concentrate on the songs tonight with everything else racing though my mind.

I have a second interview tomorrow in Zanesville (about an hour's drive) for a job I very much want at 10 a.m. This is nerve-wracking in itself, but I know that I am qualified and would do an excellent job for this company if hired. This is really the least of my worries, believe it or not. (Prayers still very much appreciated, though.)

We went to Cincinnati this weekend to visit the folks. Once we got there, the AC started making a horrible racket and stopped blowing cool air. A slight problem, as it is July and we had a long ride both back to Columbus and then to Zanesville in professional attire on Monday. To tell the truth, I contemplated not getting it looked at because we really don't have the cash lying around to fix it. But we found a Firestone open on Sunday and took it in.

Good thing we did.

Once they replaced the compressor and started flushing it with freon, they found that the liquid (is it gas? I have no earthy idea...) was going nowhere. Apparently when the compressor disintegrated, metal started just free-flowing through our car's system. Now it is stuck God knows where, rendering the car un-drivable. In Cincinnati. On Sunday. At 6 p.m.

So you can see my predicament.

The current estimate on the car is well over $1000 bucks. The best solution we could come up with is that I bring Jack and my nephew (who had gone with us) back to Columbus in my dad's car and my husband would stay with the dog in Cincy and await the ever-increasing repair costs on the CR-V.

So here I sit, on the eve of a great (hopefully) opportunity, sans husband, dog and car, trying to figure out how to get myself interview-ready and out the door with a three and a half year old in time to be an hour a way by 9:45 tomorrow morning.

To quote Robert DeNiro in "Analyze This,"... "I got stress."

To top it all off, the darn stress ruined the bed time songs. When a gal can't do a proper rendition of "Hey, Jude," somethin' just ain't right in the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lost & Found

Today I received news that I did not get a job that I really wanted. A job that I thought, in my delusional thoughts, was perfect for me and vice versa. Not only did I not get the job, I didn't even get a second interview.

This has me questioning a lot of things. Like what I know and what I don't (both practical knowledge and that intrinsic, intuitive knowledge). Like what I have been doing for the past 36 years - more specifically, the last 8 years - when I have been A) doing association work, and B) raising a child; both of which I would like to devote a number of the rest of my adult years to.

I've lost some things and I've found some things. Is it an even trade? It depends on the day; sometimes the hour. It also depends on who you ask.

I've lost confidence in my ability to network effectively with other adults. Because there is no news scroll on Noggin, I am woefully unprepared to hold a conversation on Obama's health care plan, the pros and cons of getting involved in the Iranian unrest (do I get points for knowing there is unrest?) or the latest trends in change management.

I have found the ability to engage preschoolers in a game of Infinity Questions (adults know it better as "20 Questions") on topics as broad on why it is NOT raining, why the Play-Doh is red and what makes glue stick.

I have lost three years of my career, where I could have been promoted to senior manager or maybe even department head (again, have I mentioned I am delusional?). This includes professional development, trends in association management, opportunities to be mentored and, perhaps, to mentor.

I have gained three and a half exceptional years with my son. Years that I would not trade for all the professional opportunity in the universe.

I have lost a great percentage of my professional confidence. Do I know how to effectively recruit and retain volunteers? Can I still write a successful communication and marketing plan? Could I EVER? I don;t even know anymore.

I have found maternal instincts that I never thought I had and never believed I even wanted. This includes trusting my gut when it comes to discipline, nutrition, education and many other aspects of making sure my phenomenal boy turns into a happy, healthy, productive member of society.

I've lost confidence, found loads of doubt. Lost security and found a whole new world of worry.

I've lost time. And I've found it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Menus as Memories

I will admit to you, my friends, that I occasionally purchase O, The Oprah Magazine. Especially when she has summer reading lists, as she did this month. I am also a huge fan of her columnist Lisa Kogan. I think she and I are living parallel lives, she living in the more successful universe, apparently. This months, Kogan's column was all about her life through memories of food. It got me thinking that a lot of my memories are tied to food as well, and that I might like to share them.


My Grandma Fleming will always be peach Hi-C (out of a circular aluminum can) and Archway oatmeal cookies. She made a phenomenal apple pie, that certain women in my family can replicate, but for me, this juice and cookies snack will always be my memory of my maternal grandmother. We'd have a cookie or two and a glass of Hi-C and then she would play a game of checkers with me. Or let me trace pictures through onion paper. Or let me sort through the extremely cool glass squares she had collected. Good times.

From first through fourth grade, I attended Catholic school in an Italian parish. This meant that several times a year there would be spaghetti dinners. REAL spaghetti dinners. Not this crap the Irish parishes are trying to pull off over at St. Bridget of Kildaire. The pasta sauce and meatballs from St. Anthony's spaghetti dinners will remind me of my youth both at school and at my paternal grandparents' house. My dad's parents were heavily involved with the church and, thus, the dinners. Both grandparents had a heavy hand in the making of both the sauce and meatballs for the dinners - both at the parish dinners at at their home every Sunday - where we were expected to be at noon every Sunday. In Columbus, Carfanga's sauce comes about the closest (but you have to add red wine when you cook it).

When I converted in May, I gave up pork. To be honest, I am weaning myself from it. We don't have it in the house at all, but I cannot resist now - nor have I ever been able to resist - a good BLT sandwich. When I was pregnant, Osi and I went to Rooster's restaurant before almost every doctor's appt. and there I ordered what I believed to be the perfect BLT. Lots of crispy (but not burnt) bacon that is not the fancy stuff, either; two thick slices of tomato and a couple of leaves of iceberg lettuce topped with a healthy (ahem) slathering of mayo. On a toasted white bun. It is so simple and so yummy. Too many places try too hard and end up screwing this up. So, thank you, Rooster's, for providing me my pregnancy food memory - your perfect BLT.

And what is food without drink? Thanks to the Wandering Jews, and the friendships I have developed with them over dinners, drinks, wings and beer over the last year or so, Corona Light will always taste like friendship to me. It's my drink of choice during the summer, and we have had so many laughs over cookouts, fire pits, fireworks and hot wings, all accompanies with a Corona Light with a lime. It would be nice if this were the last thing I taste before I die.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Boy Wants to Potty All the Time...

BIG NEWS at Chez Zimmer: We have finally had some success in persuading The Boy to use The Potty.

Ah, when Boy and Potty meet, in a non-hands-in-the-water kinda way, it is a loverly thing, indeed. A thing for which Mommy has prayed, ney, bargained with the deity of your choice, would happen before all hairs on her once nicely-coiffed head turned gray and fell out. So I hope you will forgive me if I have not updated with any fresh material in a few days. We have been very, very busy here.

People, we have pee peed on the potty.

Now, my mother, with almost 40 years of child-rearing under her belt, begun arriving in my home with Pull-Ups shortly after J's second birthday...TWENTY, count them, 2-0 months ago. In her infinite wisdom, she thought it was time to get on with business, so to speak. J thought otherwise. And we all know, when a three-year-old decides something is NOT going to happen, well, if they have any control over it whatsoever, then, friends, it is just not going to happen. J had the ultimate control on if and when (oh, God, tell me it will be "when and not "if" I pleaded silently into the black night) potty training would commence.

Well, it commenced, with very little fanfare, on Thursday. The Boy announced, in the tub, no less, (in all his squishy boy nakedness): "Mommy, I want to wear underwear."

"Well, J," says I, " Underwear are for boys and girls who put their pee pee and poops in the potty, not in their pants."

"OK." Says Boy. "I have to go potty." And he did.

The little shit had it in him (literally) the entire time and no amount of pressure from Grammy or Mom was going to coax that pee into the potty before its time. Go, Diego, Go underpants, though? Well those are pantaloons of a different color! Why didn't you mention that before, Moms? (Actually, son, I did. At ages 2 years, 2 years 4 months, 2 years 6 months, etc., etc. ad nauseum.)

Now, I am completely aware that this all comes down to peer pressure. About a month ago, we were at the park with friends. Boy's friend Jake (a year older) had to use the potty. Of course, as soon as he emerged victorious, Boy felt the urge To Go. In Public. At a Park Restroom. (Have I not mentioned my horrific phobia of public restrooms before? No? Well, mommy is about to get over that real quick, methinks.) Boy Wonder pulled down the pants, the Pull-Up (thanks for the 3 year supply, Grammy) and was all up on that potty. I do believe not a part of him left that park without touching said toilet. ewwwwwwwwwww. We go to wash our hand and of course - of COURSE - there is no soap. Strike that. Not even a soap dispenser. Not even the illusion that they might expect some sort of basic human hygiene. That was it. Mommy collected Boy Wonder, made a quick goodbye to her friend and children (potty instigators!) and proceeded to damn near strip the Boy down and disinfect him within an inch of his life in the back seat of the CR-V.

That was out first experience with Potty Peer Pressure.

This underwear thing I am down with, though. Kids in J's class are, one by one, slowly catching on and graduating to big kid pants, leaving "baby diapers" as J calls them, and Pull-Ups behind. The Boy does not like to be left behind.

We have a full arsenal (arse-enal...heh heh) of Diego training pants and Diego and Thomas big boy pants. Some Lightening McQueen may be thrown in to balance things out. If this is all it took, I am all in. Somehow, I think he may be bluffing. Weekends are a little iffy and we have to ask every 10 minutes if he has to go. After almost four years, a diaper free existence is like a mirage to me. I think he's making it up just to mess with me.

So far, so good. More from the trenches, er, latrines, later.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

If We're Rubbing Salt in the Wound, We Might as Well Make a Margarita...

Since "retiring" from my career in association management, I have developed a crazy sensitivity to all things "Stay-at-Home-Mom" related.

Like the word "homemaker." Our CPA insisted on using that as my occupation on our tax forms. I lobbied hard for Chief of Operations because, let's face it, this place would not run without me (sorry, honey). I am in charge of
  • procurement (everyone has food to eat, clothes to wear and birthday cards/presents to give to recipients through no effort of their own),
  • event planning (I scout both play dates and date nights, arrange for all babysitters and likely have picked the restaurant),
  • development (the three-and-a-half year old has not yet lost limbs or digits, he has play dates and attends temple as often as we are comfortable taking him) and
  • about half of the finances (admittedly, not my strong suit, which is why we have a CFO here at Chez Zimmer).

So tell me how the title Chief of Operations does NOT apply here?

Now, I know a lot of working moms would kill or maim to be in my position. Truth be told, I would maim (although maybe not yet kill) to be in their positions, too. I have been trying to get back to work for about a year. I am the closest I have been, having had a great interview with COSI last week. But this SAHM gig was not ever intended to last forever. The fact that it has lasted this long has added mounting frustration to the gig.

So, you can imagine that when people assume I have loads of time to either just hang out or to dedicate to them and their pet projects because I do not "work outside of the home", I go a little, well, apeshit.

When a retired friend assumed I would be available to help with her latest pet project, it was fresh salt in the unemployed-mom wound. She did not ask if I would be willing to volunteer, it was implied that I would be there. This particular friend has chutzpah for days anyway, so usually i just roll my eyes and move on. This one, though, poured enough salt in the wound for a grande margarita.

I will be elated to return to work for many reasons. For one, I think I'll be one of those women who is a better Mommy when I spend time "outside the home." When my non-mommy brain is being stimulated, I believe I'll be grateful to come home to my family, the ones who really matter. For another, I spent way too much on an education to be making the world's best pot roast and failing miserably at potty training.

Everyone says that being a mom is the world's toughest job. I'm not here to agree or disagree. After watching "Deadliest Catch," I think crab boat guy has a pretty good shot at that claim as well. However, I think we do start to stop assuming that just because women are at home (and may or may not arrange for pre-school for their kids on some days) they have unlimited time to do your bidding. I, for one, am way too busy extracting all that salt and lime juice from my wounds and making margaritas.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maybe You Can Go Home Again

This past weekend, I attended what one friend lovingly (I'm sure) called "Geek-a-palooza": A reunion of some of the members of my high school marching band, in Marietta, Ohio. That is how big of a band geek I was - I helped orchestrate a reunion. And it was fabulous.

My planning cohort and I had planned a family get-together for families as a local playground and arranged for lunch - for those who wanted it - to be delivered. For three hours, we caught up, reminisced and gave our former directors a hard time. It was fantastic to see people who shared the same experience many years over come together. Band was a saving grace for a lot of us and, for me, it was where I made my strongest high school friendships.
Marietta is a lovely place to visit - lots of historical stuff, if you're into that. It was a mind-numbingly boring place to spend your adolescence, though. We has to travel 30 minutes to Parkersburg, W.VA. for a mall, a movie or a decent restaurant.

Lots of things have changed since I graduated in the, ahem, 90s. When we rolled back into town Friday night, I was impressed to see that they had built an Applebee's in the last decade. To the town's credit, they now have a movie theatre (and a Wal-Mart, although I don't believe that is entirely to their credit). Wandering around town Friday evening, there was live music by the river and several festivals and events promoted for the weekend.

I was amazed to see how the town had changed to my senses as an adult and as a parent. Was it me, or did the whole town smell of honeysuckle? I noticed that we couldn't travel more than 7 minutes in any direction without coming across a different set of baseball fields. It seemed quieter. Perhaps it is the nostalgia seeping into my veins, travelling into my nose and eyes and ears, but all of sudden, this one-horse town seemed like the perfect place to raise kids.

Of course, with 48 hours hindsight to my advantage, I realize that the school system is likely not that vastly improved. During the weekend, Osi noted that the entire city seemed "anti-credit," since the restaurant we were eating at offered a 10% discount for cash payment and the ice cream stand had a "cash only window." My response is that they are "anti-a lot of things here." That is still very likely true and I have no idea how my more liberal friends breathe in a place where gun racks are sold in Kroger.

But it was nice to drive around town, noting that many of the landmarks from my childhood still stood. Many of my friends from high school were still the same people and home can still be a nice place to visit.









Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spoken To

Last Sunday, we spent a lovely afternoon at a piano recital. The recital was not for our child, but for one of our friends' child. If you have ever been to a children's piano recital, you may be chuckling, but we attended for several reasons. A) We love both of this couples' kids as if I had birthed them myself, B) We have supported the musical endeavors of the young pianist's older sister, and C) It was going to be a good time to go watch the, ahem, expansive range of talent out there.

Said young pianist was brilliant. She was third from last, which meant she was clearly one of the more advanced players. No kidding, the kid after her played "Dancing on the Berlin Wall" by David Lanz. All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday.

Not on the program was the piano teacher's grandson, who made a surprise appearance (in a "Bite Me" t-shirt and a scowl, by the way). He sat down and began playing "100 years" by Five for Fighting. Now, as cliche as this seems, this song always and without fail makes me cry. During my pregnancy, a credit card company had a commercial set to the song and I damn near barfed every time it came on. (Seriously. Watch it. If you are hormonal - watch out!) It just sums up how little time we have here (I KNOW. I acknowledged it was cliche, OK?). Couple that commercial with pregnancy hormones and, well, it wasn't pretty.

Here's the thing. Those of you follow me know that I have been having some difficulties with The Boy lately. He is at an age where, quite frankly, I want to knock his ever-lovin' block off at least once a day (you know the phrase "and twice on Sundays"? It applies here.). I have been praying about this. A LOT. I have tried all manner of prayer requests, from "Lord, please grant me the strength and kindness to be a good Mommy to Jack" to "Lord God, please do not let me kill this boy right now. We will renegotiate after nap time."

Cliche or not, when the Young Disgruntled Boy started to play that song, it sounded like a message straight from God (maybe because the recital was held in a church, I dunno). I started thinking (with no offense to our friends or their daughter intended) why else would I be sitting in a church listening to this slacker with the inappropriate t-shirt play piano? I was supposed to be sitting here, thanks to our friends, getting this message.

I honestly felt as if I was being reminded of the emotion this song stirs in me - how little time we all have here - and being asked how I want to spend that. Do I want to spend it in a rage over the door closing for the millionth time today? Do I want to spend it trying to win inconsequential battles with a three-year-old? No, I do not.

This song has literally become my anthem. Every time I start to get frustrated with J., I turn on the tape in my head and Five for Fighting is telling me that's he's only going to be three for a moment. A musical version of "This too shall pass."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Doors

I am a fan of Poe. Short stories, poetry, whatever. I'm down with it.

My door-obsessed child recently reminded me of one of my favorite Poe poems: The Bells. I swear I have heard my own version of it in my head the last few weeks, as the door situation - once better - has progressed to the point of possible madness for both Jack and me. Here is my take on the poem, specifically the last stanza...

Hear the closing of the doors
Wooden Doors!
What a world of agitation their monotony compels!
Breaking the silence of my day,
How I quiver in dismay
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every slam that throbs
From the brass within their knobs
Is a groan.
And my boy - ah, the boy
He is my pride and joy
Flesh and bone,
And who, closing, closing, closing
In his room alone
Feels delight, I'm supposing
In MY throat, a groan
He is neither happy nor sad
He is neither good nor bad
He is obsessed
And his king is the door that crashes;
And he bashes, bashes, bashes
Bashes a cadence of the doors!
And his maniacal laughter pours
With the cadence of the doors!
And he dances, and he roars;
Keeping time, time time
In a sort of preschool rhyme,
To the cadence of the doors
Of the doors:
Keeping time, time, time
In a sort of preschool rhyme
To the bashing of the doors
Of the doors, doors, doors
To the crashing of the doors;
Keeping time, time, time
As he explores, explores, explores,
In a bizarre preschool rhyme,
To the thumping of the doors
Of the doors, doors doors:
To the pumping of the doors,
Of the doors, doors, doors, doors
Doors, doors, doors
To the slamming and the jamming of the doors.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In Praise of OPP - Other People's Parenting

I spent some time this morning with my friend Erin. Something that I don't do often enough. Erin is the mother of three boys under the age of five, is working on her doctorate degree and is a beautiful, patient, funny and smart girl. Perhaps I don't spend as much time as I should with her because she is bad for my self-esteem...but I digress....

We were having yet another ill-fated play-date. Ill-fated because Jack, even at almost four years old, still does a lot of parallel play. And that is a best-case scenario. Worst case is he doesn't want to be around other kids at all.

My Bellas all do a wonderful job of handling this and not taking it personally. Their kids are all fantastic and go on their merry ways. I, however, get 27 kinds of embarrassed and frustrated. Even if Jack doesn't want to play with our hosts, I thin k he should remain, you know, in the same zip code.

Erin, in a true stroke of mothering genius, hit on a moment of bliss this morning. She brought out seven old time 50-cent water pistols and let all of us - moms and kids - go at each other. Before I describe the kids of joy and release this brought to all of us, I feel the need to for the disclaimer that both Erin and I are usually staunch anti-guns-as-toys for our kids. Since these were a) bright pink and purple, b) see through and c) we both had them as kids and didn't turn out to be mass murderers, we thought they might be OK. Also, we are the mothers of boys, who eventually turn EVERYTHING into a gun anyway (if you are the mother of girls, trust me on this. I have seen boys turn a Barbi legs, baby bottle and a Tickle Me Elmo all into semi-automatics, but again, I digress...)

The moment all of us were armed, it was a free for all. And once Jack understood that he could shoot me and he could retaliate when other kids shot him, there were gleeful squeals all around. None so loud as mine. Here was a chance to get my little stinker square in the back of the head with a cold burst of water - and have him laugh about it - GENIUS! I felt like I was getting frustration out and having fun with him all at once. Did I feel a little evil? Oh, most definitely. Did I feel about 1000% better afterward? Indubitably.

Now I know Why Erin is the one working on her doctorate. She really IS smarter than the rest of us. She takes it all is stride. I made the remark that I shudder to think what kind of monster I would be with three kids when I can;t even keep it together with the one I currently have. Erin;s parenting style is laid back and her kids are well behaved. Yes, we joke about her middle one, but he is "all boy" as our mothers would say, and she does a fine job with all of them - and her fourth boy - her husband. I am in awe of all of my friends and how they handle their parenting responsibilities and their relationships and, someone them, on top of that, careers.

Maybe I should really consider spending more time out there at Camp U. If only to suck up the Knowledge. I understand I can suck it up by osmosis - through water guns :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Doing the Right Thing or Looking for Trouble?

Emotionally draining. That is how I will describe today. I think my husband would agree.

On the suggestion of the LSW at J's preschool, we had an appointment with a behaviorist at Nationwide Children's Hospital this morning. To sum up, we were there for a number of behaviors. An obsession with doors (to the exclusion of all other activities), freaking out when broken out of his routine, still doing the parallel play thing at almost four, and absolute fetish for toes...these are only a few of my boy's idiosyncrasies. They are glitches and they are his glitches. I was hoping he would he would grow out of them (especially the toe thing. Cute at 3. Creepy at 13).

We began working with "Team Jack" last year, when J was 2 and the door thing became a problem. He was disrupting the class's activities with the constant door obsession. Both the Infant/Toddler Coordinator and the JCC and the LSW were able to offer some very helpful advice and the teachers were able to get J interested in classroom activities again. Our family outings were limited for some time, however. He didn't enjoy things other kids his age did. Not playgrounds or the "play pits" at the local mall. Not kids' concerts or bookstores. We couldn't get him past the doors. It was disheartening and sad.

We turned a corner early this year and things were looking up only to backslide a few months ago when J kicked it up a notch and not only remained obsessed with the doors, but now was opening them and started bolting from the classroom when frustrated. Ug. Now it was a safety issue. Our trusty LSW suggested we go tit for tat in the ramp up and maybe look onto a behavior evaluation at Children's. She said it could be nothing. She also said that if it is something (and she wasn't saying WHAT it could be) that we could learn some coping skills before he hit Kindergarten.

Today was the Day of Reckoning.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Behavioral Health Center asks that you show up for the evaluation of your child with possible behavioral problems 45 minutes before your scheduled appointment so that you can fill out a ridiculous amount of paperwork that could easily be mailed to you ahead of time. Luckily, mine was the only one going apeshit in the small waiting area. This could very easily be a Thunderdome situation. Get five or six hyperactive kids in there with anger issues and, well, Mad Max ain't gonna save yo' ass. While Jack melted down about three times in the 45 minute period, mommy was close to tears at least twice. This was my idea of hell. I could feel my blood pressure going through the roof. I could feel my heart trying to pound its way through my chest. And I could feel the hot tears of frustration and anger burning their way from the back of my eyeballs to the forefront.

Once we were called to meet the LSW specializing in OCD (that's a whole lot of letters, sorry), all went a little better, I guess. She was very nice and great with J. After 45 minutes of evaluation, she decided that yes, if he were older, he displays dead-on OCD characteristics. However, since he is so young, let's get a "full-spectrum evaluation." I don't like the word "spectrum" one damn bit.YOU know as well as I do what spectrum she;s talking about and I don't want my kid on it. I dont care if Jenny McCarthy cured her kid by giving her kid special bread or not, I do not want my kid anywhere near the word AUTISM.

But there he was. And here we are. Waiting for a call back from a lovely PhD to get a "full spectrum evaluation" later this summer.

On a side note, it turns out that OCD-like symptoms could have been caused by J's exposure to my Group B Strep at birth. It is an odd little thing called PANDAS. Check it out. Who knew. Wouldn't it be great if this could all be cured by a round of antibiotics (which a. Jack is mostly allergic to and b. it won;t be because I've already looked into this and am about 98% sure this doesn't describe Jack's symptom's because his aren't cyclical). Interesting all the same.

So I am left thinking - ARE these just J's little ticks? Am I just an older, first-time parent going over-board? Am I LOOKING for a diagnosis? Or am I doing the right thing by following the advice of the social worker who, I have to trust, knows more than I do, about child development. I have a feeling this nagging question will be with me throughout the summer.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Come As You Are

On the way home from Culver's last night, I saw a sign for a Vineyard Church. It asked you to "Come as you are!." I think that is a great policy. For a lot of places, actually. First of all, let me explain that, yes, I understand that you show respect to God by dressing up when you go to your place of worship. My personal belief, though, is that God doesn't particularly care what you're wearing. He/She/It is just happy that you showed up to give thanks/ask for stuff/for the free nosh. What I DON'T get is all the parading around in fancy Easter hats or the over the top High Holiday suits in order to look rich and famous for each other. Just come as you are.

We're hosting a good old fashioned Memorial Day Weekend BBQ in about 2 hours. Come as you are is pretty much the theme here, too. The official start time is 4:30. We have friends who will no doubt pull up in front of the house at 4:30, right on the nose, bearing a casserole (you know who you are, Bryan). We also have a second wave, who will show up after softball games, or after enjoying time with other friends first, and that's OK, too. We're just glad they could join us. Just come as you are.

I hope as Jack grows, that he adopts a "come as you are" attitude. I want him to always be who he is, and accept people for who they are - first offer. No need to dress it up, hold out for a better offer or make excuses. Just come as you are.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ladies and Gentleman, This is...Hip Replacement

We spent an absolutely wonderful Sunday evening with friends in the company of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Schearer. Otherwise known as Spinal Tap. Also, not ironically at all, known as The Folksmen. Aside from being hysterically funny, they are also incredibly talented musicians.

I get a wee bit jealous when some people get a double load of blessing like that. But then again, since they share it with the rest of us via the concert we saw on Sunday - Unwigged and Unplugged (GO SEE IT IF IT IS NEAR YOU) - I can forgive. Also, Christopher Guest has directed some of my favorite movies. If we are friends, it is not necessary for you to have see all of said movies, or be able to quote all of said movies. But you should certainly not mock any of the following movies and you should certainly appreciate the humor behind them.

Best in Show. Come on. A spoof about the Westminster Dog Show? Genius. Four words. "We both love soup." Osi and I are also big fans of "A Mighty Wind". A spoof of the time when folk music was trying to be pop music. I love that Guest has this cast of "players" that he uses in all of his movies. Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Ed Begley, Jr., Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard, in addition to Shearer and McKean make Guest's movies always hilarious and unpredictable. The fact that they work together so often makes me think that they can improv often and come up with some of the best material in the movies. I've not even talked about "Waiting for Guffman" or "For Your Consideration." See them. We'll discuss.

But back to the concert...

I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. I mentioned to Tammy, she of Mommakin fame, who I was lucky enough to share the experience with, that it was going to be interesting to see what the demographic was going to be like once we were inside. Tam said she thought she was going to be it. Since I consider Tammy pretty dead-on normal (sorry, Tam), I thought to myself "Hm...".

Turns out, there were lots of Silver Foxes in the house. Thus the name of this post. Now Guest was born in 1948, making him a rockin' sexagenarian. And ROCKIN' he is. Dude wears it well. And Michael McKean? Let me tell you that anyone that funny is always, ALWAYS sexy. For those of you who may not be familiar with his latter work with Guest, let me re-introduce you to his earlier work: He was Lenny of Lenny and Squiggy fame on Laverne & Shirley. (Also, for those of you stuck in Noggin land, he is "Cousin Louie" on Oswald, and Maestro Bingo Bunny). Harry Shearer you know from The Simpsons. Mr. Burns? Ned Flanders? You can thank Harry Shearer for those. And let us not forget this is a guy who started on the freakin' JACK BENNY SHOW. He is 66 and still maintains the proper "I am rockin' this bass!" stance throughout the rock part of the show. Show some respect, people.

So yeah. At 35, I was feeling like a youngster in the room. I felt like Wayne and Garth in Wayne's World. "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" There was way too much talent on the stage and they were really very humble about it. Guest even attempted - mostly unsuccessfully, but with great comic effect, I might add - to play the didgeridoo.

They were all up there having fun. Oh, and also probably making a crapload of money, too. Let us not forget that one of their encore songs was Gimme Some Money.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Ghosts of Personalities Past

As I have mentioned several times before, I think Facebook is a wonderful thing. I have been able to keep up with current friends, organize a reunion of my high school marching band members, find long-lost friends and find new friends who share my interests.


Like many, I have been many people during my lifetime. I am sure - or at least I hope to heavens - that I will continue to evolve and be a new, hopefully better, person in 10 years or so. This brings me to the "long lost friends" part of Facebook.


Are people frozen in time there? Like my not-so-friend from grade school, are people forever stuck with their last impression of you? If so, I, like Lucy, have some 'splaining to do.


I recently had the extremely good fortune to be able to locate college roommates from my freshman year at OSU. These gals were some of my first impressions of college life and they were (and I am sure, still are) fantastic. The problem is, I was a little less fantastic.


I suffered my first real broken heart my sophomore year of college. I went a little nutso and then took up with a boyfriend I would be with - on and off - throughout my college career. He was not a great influence. The problem was, I wasn't a strong enough personality not to be easily influenced. Long story short, I made bad decisions and the relationship with my awesome friends ended badly and it was completely my fault. (This may bring us to another post later on: Losing friends over boyfriends. But I digress.)


Flash forward: I've recently discovered a lot of those friends on Facebook and they seem genuinely interested in what I'm up to these days. I am enormously thankful for the opportunity to a) right past wrongs and b) show them that I am no longer a psycho hosebeast. I'm torn as to whether or not to acknowledge my behavior circa 1993. Fifteen years is a lot of water under the bridge.

I have actually apologized - via her husband - to the gal I feel I wronged the worst. Her husband and I go way back, to high school, actually, and I hope he passed along my regret and apologies. Other than that, I am thinking that I'll let my current life and attitude speak for itself.

Thoughts? Advice? Fashion tips? What would you do?