I remember my first real job.

Sure at 40-something, I now have morals and high standards and expectations, but 25+ years ago, I didn’t. I don’t know an 18 year-old that does. I flunked out of the first semester of college as a sophomore. I hated the new setting as I had moved from a community college sized town and campus to the University. Partying was what I wanted to do. My oldest sister got me my first "real"job working in clothing retail. Real meaning not scraping left-over food into gallon containers and washing an endless sea of dishes.

The shop was this hole in the wall store of a dying downtown shopping center. I remember it had wooden panel doors that had springs to pull them closed on the dressing rooms. The clothes were ugly and it was owned by a husband and wife couple who I suspect were trying to hold onto their youth by marketing to teens.

My transportation to work a Foxi moped. It was ridiculous. Rain, shine, snow, etc., that was how I got around. I even considered driving it to Kansas City, a four hour drive by car. That’s how stupid an 18 year old is, people. So one day I wore a skirt to work and who the hell wears a skirt on a moped?! Now it wasn’t a flowy skirt so it didn’t blow up and show the world my business. Oh no, it was tight. It was too tight. At the first stop I had to put my leg down to balance the moped, it ripped right up the center seam. It wasn’t an obvious tear, but still I didn’t want to make it worse by wearing it on the way home.

I did what any "sensible" 18 year old would do: I went through the store’s sales rack and picked out a pair of shorts and a matching shirt. After locking up the store, I walked across to the public bathrooms and changed clothes. This sounds like a rather obvious way to solve a problem except that I did not pay for the clothes. No, I did not forget to pay for them. I just didn’t buy them.

The next day I came into work and the owners were there. The husband pulled me aside and told me he had something to talk to me about and we headed to the storage room. Inside waiting was a police officer and a tiny television. I don’t remember thinking something was up until they turned it on and there recorded was a grainy black and white video of me walking over to the bathroom wearing the skirt outfit and walking out again a couple minutes later wearing the shorts. I didn’t realize there had even been a security camera.

Needless to say, I had been busted. They asked me if I was also responsible for a number of other inventory items that had gone missing (specifically some underwear), which I adamantly denied. Should I even mention they fired me on the spot? The most humiliating part of it all was realizing they would of course tell my sister who got me the job in the first place as they were friends, especially since they also pressed formal charges (even though I’m sure at the time the value of the two items was probably less than $20).

After I lost that job, I had to find another. That’s what led me to the dance studio a few weeks later: Now Hiring Dance Instructors. No Experience Necessary! The shorts? They were hideous. They brought back such horrible memories that I got rid of them soon afterwards. You would think I’d learned lesson, wouldn’t you? Except I was only 18…

I could give Bruno a run for his money.

In just little over a month, I turn another year older. I’ll be the age where I must accept I’m on the downhill slide of life. My husband’s 30th class reunion is this summer as well. Thirty Years. I take little comfort that I am younger. Twenty-five years ago, I was a supervisor in a ballroom dance studio trying to convince people that ballroom dancing will make you Confident! Beautiful! Sought-after on the Dance Floor! Healthy!

I can attest to the Healthy, but the rest? Not so much. First of all, dance lessons are easier if taken as a couple and even then the guy-half of your couple will most usually struggle to maintain a beat or feel relaxed enough so he doesn’t look like a cob was shoved up his backside.

This was not to say all the women who came to the studios had rhythm or grace. I remember one particular woman, an obstetrician (Dr. Gill), who had been taken lessons for years. The poor woman had the moves of a large cardboard box filled with rocks and she was at least that difficult to move around on the floor. At this point, I should tell you at the time, instructors were required to know how to both lead and follow, and each Friday at the end of the day we would have a “practice” dance and female instructors were expected to lead female students since they easily outnumbered male partners 6:1.

I dreaded dancing with Dr. Gill. The physical exertion required in moving her in a Tango was taxing even though she knew the steps. I also remember an incident with this student that did not involve dancing: I was holding a meeting in my office which was basically a glass-enclosed cubby with glass sliding door that enabled me to have a 135 degree (go ahead, I’ll wait for you to calculate it) of the studio. I had the door shut for the meeting and I stood shocked and powerless as she barreled up to my office entryway and ran face-on into the closed door thinking it was open. Thankfully only her pride was damaged. I still can see the image of her lipstick prints as if it was yesterday.

Once I became adept at the basic dance steps, many times I would join my fellow instructors and go to the clubs in town and dance. As long as there were a couple of male instructors in our group, it was fun. We were the annoying couple taking up the space of ten showing off with cha-chas and swings and twirling in your face and stomping on your feet with three-inch spiked heels. And you guys thought I am an attention whore NOW…

When I met Sparring Partner, I thought I could teach him how to dance. He might think I was teaching him how to dance better, but in all reality – a not-so-uncommon reality – playing Air Drumsticks does not equivalent rhythm. I gave up trying to teach him a sloppy, casual two-step-slash-foxtrot because it ain’t no fun trying to keep your partner on time by hissing “step, step, hold!” in his ear.

We haven’t gone dancing in years and years. But in my head, almost every song on the radio I think about in dance terms. Can I cha-cha to this? Is it a waltz? Oooh, I could so rumba to that…. I car dance if the song is particularly catchy and I’m driving solo. Admit it, you’ve Car Danced, too. Unfortunately, it’s been twenty years since I was a professional instructor and recently I’ve realized I’d forgotten the steps to a basic traveling Foxtrot box (a not so basic step lasting a total of 16 beats in 4/4 timing), and that bums me out.

Oh, those were some crazy days. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll (and lots of Big Band). Back then I could have never imagined my life would become so provincial.

Cosmetic

About 10 days ago I did something utterly selfish and vain: I got Botox and Radiesse injected into my face.

I’ve done the Botox before and this was probably about the sixth treatment for my brow. I remember my boss from Hospital Hell telling me that I always look like I’m angry because of the persistent frown lines. The first time I had it done was almost seven years ago and have a happy repeat customer.

It’s true what they say: while the effects do wear off, I can go longer between appointments before I really start to notice. Three treatments ago I had a not-so-good result and both my eyelids drooped. When I returned about six months after treatment and I explained this, the doctor said he would adjust for that in where he injected and since then there’s been no problem. The number 11 is no longer furrowed into my brow, but I can still give That Look to the kids or my husband when deserved.

Last winter when I had Botox I asked about skin peels. I think the skin on my face looks mottled from sun damage, hormones and scars. He suggested the Radiesse, which is a filler, as he really didn’t think I had that uneven of skin tone. I declined at the time, but it put a bug up my butt. Many times I would be at home looking in the mirror and pull the skin over my cheeks back to lift those “marionette” lines around my nose and mouth and think maybe it could be better. My mouth seemed to be permanently turned down and as I looked at pictures on the net and surfed for stories, I started talking myself into it.

Shortly before my appointment last week, I found a thread where a woman said she had it done and was VERY upset with the results, comparing herself to Marge Simpson’s upper lip area and I had second thoughts. If there was one celebrity I didn’t want to look like, that would be her. I went to my appointment anyway.

So what should you expect with either Botox or Radiesse injections? For me, the Botox treatments are a breeze. A half dozen or so pokes in my brow with a teeny-tiny needle while sitting on the exam table, a gauze to wipe out what oozes and away I go with instructions to occasionally exercise those muscles to help distribute the Botox and to not to lay down within the next few hours, which can cause it to gravitate into areas you don’t want it to gravitate. It takes about three days for me to notice it has taken affect.

As for the Radiesse…I had no idea what to expect. Well, except that it was injected. The nurse brought me a frozen pack to put over my mouth to numb up the area and that thing nearly frostbit my fingers trying to hold it. Eventually I reclined on the exam table to let gravity help while I was waiting, which was about 10 minutes. When we proceeded, he had me sit back up and before the first poke, he counted down, “3, 2, 1, here we go,” and the first injection took my breath away. It hurt like a mo-fo. So did the second, third, and fourth through the sixth injection, all into the lines that runs from the outside of my nose down past the lips on both sides.

“Before” (I look like hell on wheels!) March 2012

Not only was it more painful than the Botox, it feels incredible uncomfortable because it’s viscous, not at all like Botox which has the consistency of water. If you’ve ever done PIO, then yeah, it’s like that. In your face. (BOOyah!) I wondered what the hell I was doing and if I had to go a year before the stuff wore off feeling like lumps of ulcerated tissue under my skin. I thought I was screwed. He told me that in 24 hours, if it still felt lumpy, I could “massage” it out and work it into the areas I wanted. I left his office feeling like I looked like the aforementioned Marge Simpson. The lumping was bad enough; I was even worried I would accidently bite the inside of my cheeks because it physically invaded my oral cavity!

My doc said that it’s not uncommon to have bruising within a few hours and lasting for a few days. I was grateful I had the week off. By the time I got home (I did this in the city, a two hour drive, plus a little shopping), I was puffy around the mouth, but not bruised. I hadn’t told my husband I was doing this and he didn’t notice.

The next day felt much better. Not as lumpy, but sore. I noticed a very, very small bruise at the corner of my mouth. I thought it was some smutz on my face until I looked closely in the mirror. It never did hurt. The days after that, the filler evened out, the bruising and aching went completely away and now I think it looks pretty good.

The change in appearance is subtle but positive. Sparring Partner wouldn’t notice if I grew a horn out of my head, so this is definitely not something he’ll ever notice. No one has noticed in fact, or if they have, it hasn’t warranted a conversation. I have not told a soul, until now. *I* notice the difference and I like the results but I seriously disliked the actual procedure. The picture below is just from yesterday (LOVE the gray at the temples) (and I’m not wearing make-up). One of the reasons I wanted to document it is so I can remind myself of how much that part sucked.

“After” (Natural lighting is a godsend!) May 2012

As for the charge for the procedures, the Botox was $200 (up $25 from the last time I had had it done, but $100 cheaper then what it was 5 years ago). The Radiesse was $500. I did not have to pay that. I am lucky I work for a group of surgeons who have specialties in maxillofacial surgery, if you catch my drift. If I had to pay out of my pocket for it, I don’t know that I would have. The Botox, yes. The Radiesse? Meh. I don’t look 20 years younger, and not that I thought I would, but THAT would be worth $500!

Since I cannot recall any of you having had work done or finding a detailed description for Radiesse, I figured this might help someone else make a more informed decision.

High Five! But only after you wash your hands first.

With every blood test and every ultrasound and every home pregnancy test, I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer to write about it. It literally was the first thing I would do when I’d walk through the door (or washed my hands depending on the moment. You’re welcome.). I haven’t had that sense of urgency in ages.

As you may already know, I have a girl who is going to be four in July. Last July Aitch pooped in the potty and then that was it. It was a traumatic experience and she refused to do it again. It took ages just to get her to actually GO again, much less go in the toilet. We’ve had to make quick escapes from errands or family outings because she had to go, but would only go in a diaper or pull-up, and I’m sorry, but I refused to carry one with me in the hopes her desperation would take over the sheer stubbornness. It never worked. The girl can hold it for as long as it takes and I just can’t go through that whole enema thing. Talk about traumatic.

The ultimate bribe we’ve held over her was a Barbie that is part of a set that came with a horse. She earned one of the items when she finally stopped “holding it” and at the time, she chose the horse. Aitch would often ask to   just LOOK at the Barbie even though it was still in the package. She would hold it on her lap and look longingly through the plastic window at the pink encrusted Barbie. I thought it was ugly. To her, it was the most bee-YOO-ti-ful thing in the world. But not beautiful enough to sit on the damn potty and crap already.

Not even ignoring her had worked. She figured out how to put on her own diaper. If your kid is old enough to put on their own diaper, use it, take it off and roll it up, then Woman, I would say to myself, you’ve got a serious problem. I refused to stress (too much) about it. I never had to worry that she’d have an accident when out or that a road trip would mean stopping at every nasty gas station for a bathroom break.

Tonight I was in the bathroom, coincidentally, when I heard yelling coming from the other room and it was coming from Doodicus.I presumed the kids were getting into each other’s faces. Again. After lingering longer than necessary (Sometimes the only solitude I get is on the commode thanks to a child-proof doorknob.), I came out and asked what was the commotion. Doodicus looked up from his Nintendo and said Aitch pooped in the potty. I was dubious.

I looked over at the kids’ bathroom to see Aitch returning the receptacle to the training potty. I asked her what had happened. “I pooped in the potty,” she replied, matter-of-factly. Sure, kid, whatever. The toilet was running because it had just been flushed. I made a closer-than-I-would-have-liked inspection, and sure enough, out of the clear blue, she HAD pooped. In the potty.

I have no idea what switch was flipped. She told me how she had tried to get a pull-up on but couldn’t. She did have the pull-up on but she must have been in such a hurry she had forgotten to take off the underwear and realized the fact too late. So instead of pooping in her underwear (with the pull-up overtop), she had dropped trou…and then something else.

You wouldn’t believe the celebration we all did! High fives, kisses, hugs, congratulations. You name it, we did it. By the time I had finished washing up her hands, SP had the long-awaited Barbie free from the box and handed it over to Aitch who jumped up and down and exclaimed her undying love for the doll (which is now sitting haphazardly in the Fisher Price school bus, all but forgotten less than an hour later).

I know. Who cares, right? So my almost four year old FINALLY pooped in the potty. Big deal. Tomorrow she may decide “meh” and be back to square one. She could regress and start wetting her pants! But right now? The first thing I thought of after the high of event wore off was to announce it here. I am so fucking excited about this that I couldn’t wait to tell you. Just be happy I didn’t post a picture on FB and then end up on STFU, Parents. Let us hope for all of our sakes this is the last post I will ever have to write about toilet training.

Hospice

My FIL was admitted to Hospice care after several months of increasing health issues. He was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and even though after his treatments were concluded, he was told the tumors were shrinking. Unfortunately after one of his follow-up appointments they found tumors scattered throughout his body. When they attempted to treat one area, it would negatively affect another organ. Then when they would treat that next organ, another would fail. The cyclical pattern was telling: there was nothing more they could do as far as treatments.

This news has sent the in-law’s family into turmoil, driving a wedge between those who think the doctors gave up too easily and those who think he should be allowed a chance to pain-free and comfortable days. When I first heard that he was going to go through chemo, I was stunned. I didn’t agree with his decision, nor the encouragement of his decision, to go through treatments that would make him feel like crap with the slim chance it would actually add time to his life. If he was 70 instead of 20 years older, I would feel differently. In other words, I thought his quality of life was severely diminished.

And then the chemo DID make him horribly sick and now instead of spending quality time at home, he’s too weak and requires continued care in a nursing home. Not so say he wouldn’t have possibly spent time there if he hadn’t gone through chemo, but being laid out for weeks in a hospital bed prior to making the hospice determination is where I think his health was negatively compromised.

Sparring Partner and I are not seeing eye to eye on this, but I am trying hard to keep my mouth shut. This is not happening to MY dad; I don’t know what he’s really feeling. I just know he leaves almost every evening to see his dad and returns well after the kids and I are in bed. During the day, he is prone to moments of brooding and even tears. After all these years of hearing stories of childhood, I wonder where the sudden change of heart is coming from, but as my sister explained, for my husband’s family, their dad acted as the true patriarch of the family and was actively involved and had final say on anything they did. Not like my dad who was this person who would only say, “Ask your mom…” when there were decisions to be made (if not just an outright “no”).

It’s a strained atmosphere around here. Waiting for the other boot to drop.

It’s a Lengthy One. You Can Trudge Through It!

The last time we met, I had my panties in a bunch over a note my son’s teacher had sent me about Doodicus and an upcoming field trip and how we could make it a more enjoyable trip for all. On my blog, I tried to present her in a neutral light, but I admit on Facebook I was an indignant and defensive attention whore and threw her under the school bus.

As instructed, all correspondence between me and the teachers when it comes to Dood’s behavior is to be copied to Dr. Rita. Of course, I forwarded the note from the teacher to him and by the next morning I had this response:

· Very clear, concise, specific expectations (for instance, [Dood] need to keep hands to himself, stay within arm’s length of the teacher, etc).

· Frequent feedback on those expectations (“[Dood], you are doing a great job staying with the group”, “Remember to keep hands to self”).

· Clear and specific consequences that can be applied on the field trip (“[Dood], if you touch things you are not supposed to touch, you will have to hold the teacher’s hand for 15 minutes”).

· On the bus, set [Dood] up for success. Assign him to sit next to a peer he will do well with, and have that assigned seat close to the teacher who can provide regular feedback when [Dood] is doing well meeting expectations.

· Give him incentives to look forward to on the trip. It sounds like this event lasts all day. When he does well on the bus on the way there, he gets to be the first one off the bus. When he does well staying with the group during the tour, he gets to be the first one to have lunch/decide where he or the group sits, that kind of thing. There are lots of small, cost-free ways to reinforce behavior. And the more the behavior is reinforced, the more likely it is you will see it.

Please let me know if these suggestions make sense. Also, if there is a specific concern they have, please let me know and I will do my best to provide additional suggestions.

It wasn’t until the note from the teacher did I actually have any concerns about how Doodicus was going to be on the trip. Since students were given the OK to bring something to occupy themselves on the bus (two-hour trip! One way!), I knew that his nose would be buried in a game and quite an easy traveler. But now I was stressing.

Between the scheduled field trip and exchange of notes above, we had an appointment with Dr. Rita, the psychologist as well as our first appointment with the psychiatrist to discuss possible med changes. I remembered to bring a notebook this time because when Sparring Partner asks me about the appointment, I find it difficult to summarize a 90 minute appointment in a five to ten minute discussion. Bullet points, it is! This has proven to be especially helpful when two weeks later, SP is doing something that the doctor has advised us not to do (or conversely, NOT doing something we should be), and SP defends himself with, “You never told me that!” “Oh, but I did, dear husband. Right here.” And hand over the notebook.

Our appointment with Dr. Hairy, the psychiatrist was enlightening, if not endlessly, …well…ENDLESS. Bedside manner is not his forte, but he asked dozens and dozens of questions. I would try to let Dood answer the questions and only interjected when necessary (how was the pregnancy? Birth? Baby diet, etc., etc.). In conclusion, the medication Dood had been taking (the Daytrana Patch at 20mg/day) was not doing its job effectively. It may have been sufficient at one time, but it’s possible to build up “immunity”. The new medication is Vyvanse and it’s been a nightmare getting it approved through my insurance company (Coventry). To complicate matters, our employer has switched back to BCBS on May 1st. To date (May 3rd), Coventry has not approved the prescription and I now have to get it approved with BCBS, too. As for out of pocket, the Vyvanse is less expensive than the Daytrana; however, when you are going from $275 to $230/month, it’s not significant.

On the first day of the Vyvanse, which was the day before the field trip, he complained of sharp stomach pains and nausea in the morning. In the days following (it’s now been one full week), he’s mentioned some nausea these past couple of evenings and that his arms hurt. The nausea thing could be one of his stalling tactics, since he usually feels just fine up until five minutes AFTER we’ve told him to get ready for bed. The aches might be growing pains? A valid suspicion if I was to factor in the recent appearance of pimples on his forehead. PIMPLES. ON MY TEN YEAR OLD. AAAARRRGGGGHH!!

Behavior-wise? He is a whole new child, according to his teacher. She actually described him as almost somber during the field trip, but that was before he confessed to discovering he had lost the $20 bill we had given him to spend (which was found by another teacher!). While I’m excited over the initial results, his behavior before the medication and at the end of the day are, simply worded, explosive and unpredictable. What’s most remarkable about these unfortunate events is that he feels remorse over them later. THAT has never happened in the past.

There’s less than two weeks to go in school. We will have to make a decision soon about where his education will continue next fall, but quite frankly, I have all but formally announced to Doodicus and to his parochial school that he will not return in the fifth grade, and that we will instead enroll him in the public school system.

I had been procrastinating the writing of this post because there just seemed like there was so much (TOO much) to write about, but I have to get this out there. The little details flit from my memory like moths out of a blanket getting snapped in the air. Which reminds me! I had requested Dood’s office notes from his visits with his therapist from 2008. The first time I had left a phone message with both the doctor and the therapist, I was ignored. My second voice mail messages I left were not so gentle, but were returned. I was informed that Dood’s mental health records could not be released to me, but only to a treating physician. I confirmed this information on-line (no thanks to Nebraska Health and Human Services (NHHS) endless links to more links and even MORE links) before actually reading that mental health providers and their patients’ notes cannot be released to the patient nor their guardian. Just an FYI.

As for the empathy displayed towards my teacher, I still feel a bit raw about it. As a parent, even to a child who I know can test the patience of a saint, I expect everyone else to think he’s perfect. Said with a certain level of wryness. Before you go too soft for the teacher, here are some excerpts from more recent emails (this first one is pre-new medication):

While [Dood]\’s day yesterday was \"better,\" this morning started out on the not-so-good side! The first full hour was a struggle for both of us. He was incredibly fidgety, inattentive, disruptive, noisy (actually humming nervous tunes and noises), uncooperative (didn\’t get Math book or practice book out when directed to do so…neither with the class nor when personally asked to do so), couldn\’t find Math homework (refused help to find it, saying it was \"at home\"), even a little argumentative. The afternoon is going a little better!

I have his assignments in order for being gone tomorrow and he has taken his Spelling test…got an 84%.

Perhaps you have an appointment set, but I\’d recommend a haircut soon. He\’s starting to play with his hair, dragging his fingers through it, and the bangs are in his eyes more often than not.

Here’s the response to our (mine and Dr. Rita’s) request to have a behavior-tracking-with-points form completed each day (emphasis is ALL mine):

I have given the charts to [Dood] and we’ll see how it goes! I think it might be tedious, but we’ll give it our best shot! I’m going to give him a certain folder (on MY desk) to hand his work in as it’s finished.

And then this:

Please clarify for me again…am I expected to chart this information? Would it not be as easy for him to do it? Also, I wanted to let you know his day seems to be going very smoothly! I’m anxious to see what a whole week looks like for him!

And finally:

Okay, Mrs. C. and I will do our best, but surely you understand that we have many other students and things to keep our minds occupied. This is a particularly challenging group of students, many issues, etc. However, as I said, we will make every effort to complete this task daily. I’ll keep the charts in a folder at my desk and there will be no need for concern by anyone else.

Aaaaaand, discuss (said with a waved flourish of my hand)!