Thursday, July 31, 2008

Taking Mrs. Spit's "Vive Le Livre" challenge

(I was really tempted to put "Vive Le Liver" in my title)

(I'm neglecting my kids and packing for a beach trip to do this)

If you want to play, post on your blog, bold the books you've read, highlight the ones you loved or write a little about it.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (I was spellbound in this world and cried when I finished, because it was done, when I was 14)

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible - (the New Testament, and a big bite of the old, but unlike Mrs. Spit, I couldn't make it past Numbers)

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - Liked it a lot when I read it, in high school; don't know if I would now.

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (understanding what a catch 22 was, and being able to see examples of it in life around me was very enlightening)

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot -

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -- I have read the whole thing. It got confusing. . .

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - On my list.

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky - I don't know if I loved it, but it was powerful and profound.

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - Not one of my favorites

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - On my list.

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown -

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez--I tried this book, and put it down. Mentioned it to a friend who said to get past the 1st hundred pages. I did, and it pulled me in. I suppose it took that long to 'speak' the language of magical realism.

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding --I can't bring myself to read this, even though a friend gave it to me last year. I just can't bear a story of boys turning to savagery.

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan--Loved it, wonderful book

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel -

52 Dune - Frank Herbert--liked it a lot when I read it, about 30 years ago

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon - This is a great book. An amazing tour behind the eyes of an autistic boy. Wow.

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - it was ok.

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (a book about the soaring human spirit. Hard to believe, given the subject matter; I guess that's why I'm so impressed with this author.)

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac--had to see what the fuss was about. Didn't love it.

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding - Cause Celeb is also really good!

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie - On my list.

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville -

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker -

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -

80 Possession - AS Byatt--tried, I just could not get into it.

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro Great book

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom --I'm just not interested

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - I've read some of them.

90 The Faraway Tree Collection

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - It's about bunnies. Way too many bunnies for me.

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - I think Hamlet's a whiny jerk. I really hated this play.

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I don't think I'm as literary as Mrs. Spit. And I'm sadly lacking in classics.

Monday, July 28, 2008


In Scattered a psychological function was introduced that I'd not considered before. Mate´ used it to explain the frequent oppositionality of the ADD child. He quoted a child psychologist in calling it "counterwill". (Gordon Neufeld)

Although ADD children have often been characterized as having strong wills, counterwill is actually a hallmark of a very weak will, weak sense of self. It is a normal developmental function which especially asserts itself in toddler years and teenage years. It serves to protect a child's fragile will behind a scaffolding of 'nos'. It is the psyche's way of protecting a person's Self from being overrun by another. It serves until the person's will does develop into enough Self to freely make choices or refuse options. It is not a reflection of the child's moral character and it is a mistake to treat it as such.

Friday afternoon in Salem, having spent the night with my parents, I prepared to leave. The boys had slept in late and thus had a late breakfast and I was hoping to get away without having to take them out to eat.

Scott was hungry; wanted a hot dog. I resigned myself to feeding them first, even though it was only an hour's drive to get home. I packed up our stuff to load once we got back, then prepared to walk across the parking lot to the restaurant affiliated with the hotel.

Connor got to the elevator first. The hallway was choked with linen carts and cleaning supplies for the vacated rooms. One of the carts appeared to be waiting for the elevator we were going to take. Scott rushed up, but Connor pressed the button just before he could. So Scott pushed it, several times and a contest ensued. It was starting to get physical with pushing away of hands and public with "stop it!" and "you're fat!" and I lost patience with the whole thing and marched them back to the hotel room. I very sharply told them that I couldn't take them into public if they were going to be behaving that way and so we needed to just put our stuff in the car and leave. "Nice going, Scott" said Connor. I said, "You were as much a part of that as he was, Connor. You kept it going by participating, by continuing to press that button! It's just a button! You're older, why did you keep it going?"

Connor glared at me and said that I was part of the problem too. At the time I was inclined to dismiss it as immaturity. He has not yet connected that the reason I am angry with him is his behavior; he is merely angry that I am angry with his behavior.

It did blow over. The boys apologized to each other, and to me, and so we loaded up the car and then went to get something to eat.

Yesterday when I was writing my post and looking through the book, Scattered, for quotes I realized something. Just as I'd written that I'd spent my growing years in service to adjusting the environment to suit the adults around me (that is, modifying behavior of mine that made them anxious), I realized I had just done the same thing with my sons. When I gave them the "That's it!" tone and roughly handled them to steer them back to our room, I had been anxious. I was anxious at their fighting in a public hallway, in front of my parents. I was anxious that this interaction between them would lead to a chain reaction of other escalating interactions. I wasn't sure how to negotiate this in a congested hallway, and then managing in a small elevator with a cleaning cart. I was anxious that it would continue at the restaurant. And I wanted them to change their behavior to turn down the heat for me.

So much for a stable sense of Self inside. In that moment my sense of Self did depend upon their behavior in my environment. There was a way I felt that my sense of Self depended upon them behaving well.

I thought, but, isn't it legitimate to try to contain two boys reacting with hostility to each other? No one wants to listen to them, and listen to the mother remonstrate. Yes, this is reasonable. But was my flare of anger? If my sense of Self really had been stable and strong, I wouldn't have felt a need to save face by treating them punitively, also in public. I could have simply said calmly, "We can't have this in the restaurant. No one wants to listen to it. I guess we need to go back to the room and then leave directly for Portland without eating first."

I had blamed the boys for the ferocity of their contest to be the last to push the button. I thought it was stupid. I think that looking at it through the lens of counterwill helps me to see it differently, though. In the moment that Connor saw Scott heading for that elevator button his counterwill was activated and he was determined to deny Scott the satisfaction of pushing it first. Scott's counterwill flared and he was determined that Connor not have the satisfaction of denying him. Though it seemed stupid to an outside observer (me) to them it was extremely important. It became about Winning and Losing--each child determined that the other not see him as a loser and have bragging rights. Neither of them had enough Self to be able to peacefully surrender and live with the idea that someone thought they'd one-upped them.

And apparently, neither did I.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

True Self

Maybe a year ago I had a dream of constructing some sort of flying vehicle. It was very beautiful, with a sort of bubble, like a helicopter cockpit where I sat. Its construction was finished, and I was receiving instruction in flying it. My instructor was not visible to me, but I heard her voice. I think I may have mastered the basics, of moving up and down and sideways. Now I was moving in a slightly more advanced realm. I was feeling how small subtle shifts affected my position, and how I could use those to gain skill. There was a feeling of a barrier that I was crossing, into, and out of, something. It was a boundary of sorts, and I was practicing negotiating it. I had an unease about whether or not I was trespassing, yet I felt that since I was not doing more than crossing the boundary, using it as a training tool, it was ok. I hoped that was true anyway.

Reading Scattered, by Gabor Mate´, I'm reminded of that dream.

He talks about the basic skill of self-regulation. The ability to maintain a stable inner environment despite fluctuations without. This is the foundation for being able to attend, and to learn. Perhaps self-soothing is another skill, which is even more basic than self-regulation. These are the first skills an infant learns, in the presence of an attuned adult. To learn this skill requires a caregiver who is self-regulated to the point where his/her self is stable despite stressors. This is not a person who is free of anxiety, but is able to tolerate his/her own anxiety.

In watching children operate, especially toddlers around desired objects, I've been sensitive to fluctuations of anxiety: the children's, and my own corresponding. Will my child get what his heart is so desiring right now? In the meantime I see the child who is in possession of the toy responding to the anxiety of the other children with anxiety of his own: will it be taken away? It's mine! The anxiety of the other children increases the desirability of the object many-fold. Some children can't tolerate the feeling: they cry, or they hit. Some children are able to relinquish their desire and move on. Others respond to distraction. Some absolutely can not.

The mother can soothe her child to the extent that she is able to maintain her calm center, her inner temperature despite the rising temperature outside. Adding to the heat are the thoughts: will my child get a turn with this toy? Look how many children are clamoring for it. My child wants it so much! Look how sad she is! What will the other moms do? How will they handle it? Are they judging my child for screaming? Are they judging me because he's screaming? What if he hits someone? I feel self-conscious responding when there are other parents around. Will this kid EVER give up the toy? Look at him hoard it. I HATE him! Look, I can see on the faces of the other moms that they're also concerned that THEIR child get a chance. How can I advocate for my child without being overbearing?

This was the kind of scenario I knew came with the parenting territory, knew was coming when I held my infant in my arms, and dreaded. Parenting-In-Public.

Fortunately, I found a group of moms who were able to hold their centers stable while negotiating these rough waters, and I learned from them. I also learned that children's heart's desires are often fickle, and even if they were heartbroken over something one moment, they were indifferent to it the next.

So the point is well taken that parents who can maintain a serene inner temperature when things are turbulent outside can best teach their children the same skill. This is the foundation of the child developing a stable Self, and the ability to regulate It.

From what Mate´writes it appears that this is essential for the child to develop the brain structures that will affect his ability to learn, to attend, to focus and direct that attention at will, in her future. These neural pathways are laid down in the presence of this safe, undisturbed-by-anxiety core. The agent is the attunement of the parent. These are the conditions that are required for optimum development of these structures.

The features of ADD, immaturity, hyperactivity, inattentiveness, are all normal stages of development that a child passes through. In the absence of the optimal conditions for development a normal stage becomes a state.

This resonates with an intuition I've had, that the tension between Gary and I has been counter-productive to the emotional well-being of our sons. I realize that considering this is flirting with a 'blame-the-parent' (particularly the mother) mentality. However, I do not read blame in Mate´'s writing. I don't feel defensive, because I've been feeling this is intuitively true all along. Perhaps also there is hope in Mate´'s message: development is not static. The human brain is always developing, well into old age.

As I read his description of a stable inner Self, and the skill of Self regulation, his analogy of the warm and cold blooded animals broke open a door and light shone in. There are adults in my life who are cold-blooded animals emotionally. It's not that they're cold people, it's that they require others around them to adjust the environment to their comfort level. Their sense of Self and their well-being are dependent on the conditions outside of them, and they can only tolerate a small level of fluctuation. And it seems perfectly natural to them to expect others around them to accommodate them.

My mother is one of these people. To a lesser extent, so is my father. Gary is, and to a much greater extent so is his mother. Their sense of Self is fragile, and vulnerable to collapse in the face of disagreement and disappointment. In fact, there's a way that my life has been in service to people like this, my objections felt like selfishness to me. I wonder if other people have had this experience?

Anyway, reading Scattered, I felt a place inside. Almost a physical place, It was like a space, perhaps a potential space that has always existed, but I didn't know was there. Now I feel a Presence inside there. Unconsciously, I've been breathing into It. I've found myself breathing into It in potential anxiety situations: driving on the freeway: will there be an opening when I need to take my exit?

And then I think of the dream. So perhaps this is my vehicle, my flying vehicle. I've been constructing It with Sharon, my mentor, and I'm learning how to fly. Learning the basics, and now ready to begin acquiring some skill.

Brief summer vacation for mom

Gary took the boys to see his dad up in Washington, at least 4 hour's drive away. They left Friday, so I've had a bit of a break. The boys will be getting a surfeit of grandparents. Thursday I drove them down to Salem, about an hour's drive. My parents were up from California, to see a friend's granddaughter get married. (It's always a treat for the boys to stay at a hotel, watch cable cartoons, and use the pool. They were happy to see their grandparents, too.) Wednesday Gary's mom comes over to watch them for a few hours.

So we had only been back in Portland a couple hours Friday before their dad came home from work to take them to Washington.

My version of walking miles to school barefoot through snow is lo-o-o-ong cross-country driving trips. Since my dad was in the Air Force we didn't live close to grandparents. So summer vacations usually meant driving hundreds of miles and several days to see them. We didn't have dvd players and Gameboys! We rode in the car for 8-10 hours, without complaining.

My boys have no tolerance for car rides. They can barely go an hour without moaning. I would not have wanted to be in the van with them driving up to Washington after an hour's travel under their belts already.

Next month we're driving to Breckenridge, Colorado, for a family reunion. Trouble brewing.

I'll probably relent and let my laptop become a movieola. Prop Its Preciousness up between the two armrests of the front seat so they can view from the back, and pray that it's not flung to the floor (a good deal of my soul is in here. Backed up, yes, but I'm not convinced the magic will work should I need it.)

I haven't actually used my version of walking miles through snow to shame them into silence (it wouldn't work anyway.). I haven't used it because they could rightfully point out to me that we didn't have to wear seatbelts in my day. It's true. My parents had a huge Chevy station wagon and we mainly rolled around with the dog in the cavernous back. Being confined by a seatbelt and in Scott's case, a booster seat definitely ratchets up the discomfort level.

Note to self: bring earplugs and curse van manufacturers for not making standard a silence window between the front seats and the back.

My dear friend from my home-health days came over Thursday to assist me in the dressing change for Connor's wounds. While relieved to have been able to leave them alone for several days, I was always aware that a Day of Reckoning when they'd have to be removed was coming. I called her to ask for her advice and any pointers (she's a Wound Queen). Fresh back from her vacation she offered to come over. I was so relieved to hand this off and get training from a Trained Professional.

I realized I'd mis-characterized Connor's wounds to myself when his friend's mother brought him home that Friday evening. I was approaching them from the frame of reference of a skinned knee. Even though intellectually I knew that road rash like this is the equivalent of a second degree burn, I still was thinking that overnight it would feel better. In some ways I think it served Connor well that I misjudged it. I think going to an emergency room would have meant (besides being transported again) several hour's wait, most likely un-medicated, and then an aggressive cleaning. I had figured that we could accomplish the cleaning over a wider stretch of time, which meant gentler, at home.

In other ways it didn't serve him well because I was too slow to recognize the nature of the pain he was going to feel so that I could be pro-active in medicating him.

I approached his injuries from the experience level of wounds 101, and by the time I got the Tegaderm on him I realized I was operating quite a bit over my head.

So it was a relief when Kate offered to come.

And I made sure he was medicated.

The verdict: he's healing beautifully. There's no infection. He tolerated the dressings removal very well. She showed me how to replace them, what to look for, and the best way of removing them. He was so relieved it didn't hurt he was just giddy.

It was good to re-establish contact with her, too. We used to work very closely together and I always admired her compassion, her amazing competence. Although I'm still just in the thinking-about-thinking-about returning to the job field phase, she's working in a place I've had some interest in, and I'd love to be her co-worker again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last night Conner said, "except for the [road] rash, I'm kind of glad this happened." His face was open, eyes wide.

He and Scott and I were playing a game. It's a dinosaur game, kind of like "Sorry", where the objective is to move dinosaur pieces from a starting place to "home". A variation is that the player rolls 3 die, one of them colored red. They move their pieces according to the white numbers; the red dice determines the moves of a "tyrannosaurus rex" piece that is moving about the board stalking pieces and threatening to take them to its lair. I was playing only after overcoming the deepest reluctance, as I had done the day before.

I looked at him. "What is it about this that makes you glad?"

He said, "The closeness that we've had. We've been doing things together and sharing things."

Oh holy god. How close I came to not playing. How unwillingly I did come. How lucky I am that I chose to overcome that unwillingness.

This speaks volumes to me. And synchronistically, I'm reading Scattered by Gabor Mate´. The theme is the role that emotional conditions play in the development of neuro-circuitry that underpins self-regulation: the ability to hold oneself steady in the face of anxiety, to tolerate one's own anxiety. Basic to being able to attend to that which one chooses.

I do believe that Scott is sensitive to emotional climates, in particular the one he's been raised in with an emotionally depleted mother and a disengaged father. Maybe this is the genesis of a brain that's altered by chronic anxiety, so that he is reactive to every fluctuation in the atmosphere around him.

I'm so surprised, because the context of Connor being hurt and immobilized for a few days seemed a predictable set-up for boredom and great frustration. And then secondary negativity. That he sees it so positively is an affirmation of what Mate´ says about the importance of the emotional climate for a child's development.

And it was purely by chance that I played with them. Wow.

I think I chose well to start with Scattered in my self-education in ADHD. It is indeed a path with Heart.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Poster child for Tegaderm

Well, after the ordeal of applying the membrane-type dressing, there has been blessed silence. I've not had to mess with his wounds; they're covered and protected. He didn't need medication at all, either prescription or over-the-counter yesterday. He had an interesting pain flare-up coincident with a temper flare-up (Gary telling him he couldn't buy a skateboard rail online) around bedtime and took a single ibuprofen. That was it.

The only problem we had was very minor concerning what we had been through: I'd applied the shoulder patch under field conditions (inexperience and yelling occurring inches from my head) and it was not the most neatly wrapped package. Some of the edges were stuck to themselves, and this allowed a gap in the seal through which wound-drainage and ointment could flow. I called the pharmacy for consultation and solved that problem by taping a piece of gauze at the bottom to capture the drainage and reinforce the seal.

So I don't have to think of the next question until Thursday or Friday: What's it going to be like when I have to remove it?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feeling very old

Feeling very, very old. Wishing I could have a vodka with Aunt Becky. The inside of my head is still ringing and I'm reduced to listening to the echoes.

Hoo boy. The morning began with Connor asking for a bath and I was all-to-glad to comply, to keep the wounds clean. Well, he became increasingly uncomfortable and began to yell in pain and demand that I kill him. He had seemed to be doing so well that I'd not thought he'd need medication first. So I gave him half a hydrocodone and waited with him for the eternity before it took effect. He yelled nearly the entire time. It amazes me that he didn't wake my younger son, or that the neighbors didn't call Children's Services.

Twenty minutes after administering the medication the pain abruptly shut off. It was like turning off a faucet. He loved me again and could tolerate me rinsing his shoulder with lukewarm water. He asked me to read, and so I continued from The Freedom Writer's Diaries: (How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them) That's part of my bid to interest him more in reading, by appealing to his maturing sense of fairness and justice. I was so jangled by what we'd just been through together that I kept crying as I read the entries of these high school students.

But we were at peace for hours. I researched online, trying to find the best way to manage this and was a little confused between the traditional approach, and using the transparent dressings that you can leave on. For days.

I called the pediatrician's advice line and they called in a prescription for Silvadene ointment. They clearly advocated for the old school method. But that was going to mean needing to handle the wound twice a day, and clean it as well as covering it. I knew after the experience of the telfa pads sticking that this would be a tough sell. But I was still on the fence.

I went to the pharmacy, taking Scott. They had the Silvadene, but no dressings that were large enough to completely cover the shoulder wound. The pharmacist said the Beaverton Pharmacy might carry it. He was kind enough to call to see how late they were open. In the meantime I got a call from Connor saying his wounds were beginning to 'burn' again. I'd medicated him before leaving, so that was perplexing. Rather than go straight to the other pharmacy I went home where he seemed to feel better.

I made a decision to commit to the transparent dressing. Drove over to the other pharmacy and bought one large sheet for the shoulder, smaller for the elbow and hip. He called when I was nearly home and was clearly in distress again.

I really hope that the cause for pain was that the wound had begun to dry out. The reason I hope this is because that has now been addressed. But he was truly beside himself while it was being addressed. It made the morning look mild by comparison. I had to look online to find instructions for applying the Silvadene and tegaderm and he was shouting the entire time. He was louder and nearly hysterical for at least 15 minutes after I applied it. I broke down and medicated him again, even though it had only been 3 hours since the prior time. Scott and I had gotten a movie, "Airport: The Movie" and it was running. About the time of the bar scene where the women are fighting and one is flung down the length of the bar so her head hits the juke box and "Staying Alive" starts playing he noticed it.

Perhaps I should have had him watching it before applying the dressings. Or, what I REALLY should have done was checked my e-mail because my friend sent me some research that says that children can tolerate pain better while they're playing video games! I felt so helpless in my attempts to engage his mind to reduce his suffering even as he was in pain. He was frantic.

Anyway, the wounds are dressed, covered with appropriate healing ointment and a clear protective cover. I can leave it for the 3-5 days it's supposed to adhere. The wounds will stay moist, and with any luck what happened this afternoon will not be repeated.

I don't think either he or I could stand it.

And I really want to stop giving him the codeine. I feel vaguely like an unfit mother.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Surprisingly we were able to sleep the night through last night. I protected his road rash with a dry dressing that promised on the package to not stick to the wound. I gave him a couple ibuprofen and a benadryl, and he rested pretty well.

This morning was a different story. He insisted the dressings had to come off, yet they did indeed stick to the wounds. Bit by bit with damp wash cloths I persuaded the tissue/dressing bond to release, and he wailed every step of the way. He was wishing he was dead, wanting me to put him to sleep, and threatening to sue the dressing company. He asked if we had a case, and was insistent that he was serious and wanted an answer. Then he was unhappy with the answer: "no". He roared at Scott to leave when he came in to use the toilet. In short, he was perfectly miserable and giving everyone a taste of how he felt.

In fact, he was beside himself for a while, where he was miserable in the tub and miserable out of it and miserable because he didn't have any options. I was looking at the crust that was beginning to form on his shoulder and thinking we were going to need to soften that and clean it some more and in his state that was impossible.

In the medicine chest are the leftover hydrocodone tablets from when we've had procedures. Those are a hedge against severe pain; we often take them on back country trips. It was my ace in the hole today. I split it in two and gave him half.

Half an hour later he was drowsing in the tub, euphoric that he wasn't hurting any more. Scott came in to tell him how sorry he was that he's hurting and Connor smiled beautifically and thanked him. He was apprehensive when I suggested submerging, but he took a deep breath and tried it. To his surprise it was quite bearable. I then told him we needed to rinse it with clean water. The shower last night wasn't very satisfactory so I got a water pitcher and gently poured water above the area so it flowed over it.

6 hours later we've returned to pain and crankiness. He's in the tub again, but submerging is out of the question. I'm uneasily eying the crust forming and thinking it's going to need attending to. He's demanding to know how long it's going to be before it stops hurting and before it heals. I went online and found an informative site about road rash complete with photographs. I till him 2--4 weeks and you'd think I was personally responsible. "I don't to wait 2-4 weeks!" I told him I don't think he's going to be feeling this bad for the entire 2-4 weeks and he wants to know how much longer he is going to be feeling this bad.

So, I was hoping that Gary meant it this time when he said he'd be home 'early', by 'mid-afternoon'. Well, I wasn't betting the farm, mainly because when he was first talking about this trip he was saying he was going to be home 'mid-DAY.' He's always injured when I greet his time projections with skepticism and no one is more surprised than him when he doesn't meet them (and no one is less surprised than me.). So I was irritated, but not surprised when, 2 hours after mid-afternoon he called from above Timberline Lodge to say he was late. Duh, he was late at 3:00. And now it was going to be at least another 2 hours before there was another adult in the house. And that was 3 hours ago.

Plans for tonight--another bath session with a dose of codeine-lite on board to debride some of that eschar, followed by bed. Hopefully he'll rest well and will be feeling better enough tomorrow that we can skip the narcotic. I'm not sure how we'll protect the wound tonight, though since there's no way he's going to accept another dressing.

Scott has diarrhea. He plugged up the downstairs toilet and missed the bowl when he peed. Gary is committed to taking a group rafting tomorrow. They bid on a river trip at the Trillium Auction in May. I'd planned on having a babysitter to give myself a break, but it's beginning to look like a not-good idea.


Friday, July 18, 2008

More thoughts on anxiety and self regulation

I finally opened a library book I've had lying around for weeks: Scattered, by Gabor Mate´ M.D. The subtitle is How ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER Originates and What You Can Do About It.

This is not my first encounter with this book. I read parts of it back when Scott was a baby, not because he was showing any symptoms of ADHD, but because I found the subject added to my understanding of how the brain and mind work. There is something about that I find deeply satisfying, and this book fed that craving. This was the book that gave me the concept of "Fish in the Sea."

Now I'm revisiting the book, and from a position of personal need. Scott has a diagnosis, and I need education. I need to take the approach of a path with heart. I think this doctor's perspective holds that promise.

"Like Fish in the Sea" is the title of a chapter in Part Five: The ADD Child and Healing. It opens with the quote: "Parents who are faced with the development of children must constantly live up to a challenge. They must develop with them." Eric Erikson, Childhood and Society


Mate´ says: "self-regulation is the goal of development; the lack of it is the fundamental impairment in ADD. One way of describing self-regulation is to say that it is the ability to maintain the internal environment within a functional and safe range, regardless of external circumstance."

He uses cold-blooded and warm-blooded organisms as an analogy. The warm blooded animal can exist in a wide range of habitats because of its ability to self-regulate the temperature of its internal environment. The cold blooded animal is vulnerable to the fluctuations and extremes of the external environment...

{I once had a realization that parenting is characterized by being interrupted. If anyone ever asked me what advice I might have for new parents I was going to tell them to be prepared to be interrupted repeatedly for the next 18 years. Case in point: the phone rang as I wrote and I ignored it as usual. But it rang again, and since Connor was over at a friend's, I wondered if the call might be a rquest to spend the night or if it was time for me to pick him up. So I answered, and it was his friend. He said that Connor was 'injured.' I figured he'd gotten a bruise or two, the usual 'scars' he loves to display and brag over. But the friend's mother got on the phone, said he'd been going fast down a hill on his skateboard, got spooked when a car turned onto the street, tried to turn too quickly and was flung to the asphalt. Fortunately he was obeying me and wearing his helmet. She said he 'is pretty scratched up' in a tone that suggested an escalation over his usual war-wounds. Then I could hear him say, "It hurts" tearfully, which is extremely unusual for him. I said I'd come get him, but she offered to bring him home instead. I asked her to give him some ibuprofen.

20 minutes later he's here, with some pretty impressive road rash. The wounds all look superficial with the worst a gouge just above his hip, his right shoulder, and his right elbow beginning to swell. He's moving his elbow in all directions, and is using the arm to bear weight to relieve pressure on other sore areas so I don't think it's broken. I ran a bath, thinking that submerging him in water might be more humane than the trauma of using a washcloth on the abrasions. He tolerated that fairly well, except he couldn't stand dunking the shoulder. I tried letting him sit a while, to let the ibuprofen take more effect so he'd be better able to manage it. Applying gentle pressure with a washcloth gave him some relief so I tried having him submerge while applying pressure. He couldn't bear that either. I dredged up an old irrigation bottle and tried gently rinsing but that was too intense too. So I did what he could tolerate: kept re-wetting the washcloth with warm water and gently pressing it to the wound. I can still see the asphalt, the black stain, but the wound is very superficial, just the top layers. So I decided to content myself with less-than-pristine-clean, but watch it carefully. I might have him try to soak again a little later, and if he can do that maybe try standing under the shower. He's feeling much better and is nearly giddy from the relief of that. In fact, he's pretty darn grateful for my ministrations, which is nice. I'm hoping that a collateral benefit is a greater awareness of and respect for his limits.

Gary got to miss the excitement. He's up on Mt. Hood. It might be best that he wasn't here for this; he has a tendency to overreact.}

My original train of thought is completely derailed. Perhaps I'll return to the theme of self-regulation and homeostatic mechanisms and how they pertain to ADHD and the emotional climate of the home. I'll try another post in the future. Maybe I should wait until the kids are back in school, or until (oh joy) Gary takes them to visit his dad in Washington next weekend. (I wonder if he realizes I'm not going?)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In checking out my site meter I just noticed that I've received my 1001st visit. Of course, that may not be strictly accurate, since some of these 'visits' were mine before I figured out how to block them, or when I've accessed the site through another computer.

But I'll call it 1001, while reserving an idea that the "real" 1001st post may be coming up any time now. Like the Antoine St. Exupery, looking up into the night skies to see how his Little Prince is doing, for now, every post will be the 1001st.

THIS 1001st post came from Cork Ireland. It came this morning, and the search terms were "excavator lessons". It appears they didn't linger, just took a glance around and then moved on.

My thousandth visit, came from someone I "know." Doug, take a bow!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


What to do. My brain dulled by summer and the full-time surround of kids and kidsounds. I don't think even the book chicklet recommended can help me. She described my experience so accurately:

" Sometimes, you want to post about the things that mean the MOST to you, but you're just not sure how to put it out there in a way that makes it REALLY make sense, you know, in the way it does in your HEAD"

I flatter myself. She's more spot on when she talks about "
your brain's just FRIED and you're having one of those "dumber than a rock" moments."

Call me Petra. And I flatter myself to think it's just a 'moment'.

BUT, I found the solution to having "That Man Was A Bastard" on my opening page for weeks.

I give you:


I have 38 years of intact diaries floating around. Surely that can be good filler material? Sort of like having a rock quarry in my back yard for building a road, should I need one.

So, for my first installment of excerpts, I offer Existential Angst, from August 1993 (I'd been married for 16 months, about to turn 37 in Oct. I wasn't even thinking about kids.). The therapist I'd been seeing for seven years, Sharon, and I had terminated our therapy relationship in January. That had been an unhappy experience for me.

Sometimes my terror is about how alone I really am. I don't really experience it as terror (like extreme fear for my survival), though I used to, I think, when I'd see The Abyss. Perhaps the abyss, which I've worked in lots of metaphores--in climbing, boating, in the story of my mom blaming me for the lost puppet and I circled a large hole in the field, looking for it there, in the bottom-of-the-well analogy--perhaps the "gapped rage" discussed in Earth Spell also symbolized this abuss (or the Abyss symbolizes the gapped rage.) Back when I was a teenager and aware enough to experience these feelings as an Abyss, come to think of it, was when I was very aware of how alone I was. I had a slew of very complicated feelings and found when I tried to explain them to someone else that the someone else would be hearing something that was different from my experience. It was frightening especially when I realized I couldn't even explain my feelings to myself in ways that matched what I was feeling. Then I would wonder if what I was saying was REALLY what it sounded like to other people and I was "just" denying it because it sounded bad. And then it would seem I "should" accept the other person's version of it because if I didn't it meant I was just making excuses. Then it seemed that the feelings I had around that (of terror that maybe it was RIGHT to accept these other's interpretation) were further proof that I should accept the other's view. It was a horrible bind.

Somehow, Sharon was able to interrupt that cycle, but there were times even with her where I felt she pressed her overlay onto what my feelings and experience meant. (This, even from the person that I was lucky enough to feel as close to perfectly understood as I've ever felt with another human being.)

So there is a way I can never be fully understood by Another, and in that sense I'm alone.

I've sought understanding through the route of explaining my interior experience perfectly enough to match it. I usually fall short, and despair. Its complicated sometimes when I try this with another person and I sense they have another interpretaton. That increases my discomfort, especially if I sense their interpretation may not be favorable to me or may involve a judgment.

(An added twist is that I wonder if my discomfort comes from "knowing" they are "right.") (Especially since I'm well aware that our defense mechanisms may keep us from being able to see ourselves objectively, even if its in our best interests to see ourselves as we are.)

So there is comfort to be found in thinking that light can be shed on some of these convoluted areas.


Made it past the two early hurdles of summer break: Connor's and Scott's birthdays. Scott's birthday was an eternal now, since he'd been talking about it for weeks, maybe even months ahead of the fact. One bump in that road was a week ahead of his planned bowling party, invitations all sent, he changed his mind and wanted a slumber party like Connor had had. He was inconsolable to be told that it was too late to change plans. After a tumultuous 15 or 20 minutes or so a middle way came to me (sometimes I'm capable of inspiration): his party was on a Saturday, 2 days after the actual fact of his birthday. How about if one of his best friends came and had an overnight on the actual day of his birthday?

He brightened immediately, the storm clouds dispelled. I talked with the boy's parents; everyone was delighted.

So Scott's birthday passed easily, and then on to the bowling party ordeal.

I don't know if I've mused in here about how active, maybe somewhat hyper-active children seem to gravitate toward each other. They clump, where their combined energy is far more than its sum. All of Scott's friends are highly energetic; he gravitates toward these children. There was a full complement of them at his party; my worries about sparse attendance dispelled (though not until 8:00pm the night before did I know that more than 2 children were coming. The RSVP tag means nothing.). These kids simply take up a ton of room. Fortunately, we were at a bowling alley with easy-going management, and no bowlers on the lanes on either side of us. It was a 'Cosmic' party, which meant mirror balls, black lights, neon flashing, fog. Our group of kids spilled into the spaces adjacent to our lane and tables, dancing wildly to the music. It would have been a problem had there been bowlers hemming our party; but they were free to seek their own borders.

The fee for the birthday party included decorations and balloons, pizza and soda, one game. I'd fretted that one game wouldn't be enough to fill the 2 and a half hours allotted, but that worry was dispelled too. The way these kids threw the balls meant an eternity of meandering from bumper to bumper, a leisurely journey to the pins. These balls were traveling as slowly as is possible without outright stoppage. It was an eternal game.

One crisis when Gary inexplicably chose the most sensitive of the boys to holler at, "Felix! Throw the ball!" The din in this alley made yelling appropriate, but the timing was unfortunate in that it was coincident with a lull in the background noise so it seemed sharper than Gary intended. I jumped myself. I'm afraid the poor child experienced it as being singled out and probably felt assaulted. He collapsed into tears and it took several minutes of ministrations from his father to calm him down to the point where he could take his turn again. He did rebound in the space of time that it took for 5 boys to bowl ahead of him.

I've been spending the few days since the party recovering. The noise in my head is still too loud to settle on a theme to make observations on, so I've been bending my efforts to transcribing old diaries.

Oh, my vacant head.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"That man was a bastard!!!!" (part 4)

Timberline Lodge was having a barbeque, and I tried to tempt the boys. They would have none of it though, loudly proclaiming their preference to leave for Kahneeta. Consequently they were hungry and a bit peckish when we arrived about an hour before we could check into our room. So we ate in the restaurant there (and it was quite good!) and gazed longingly at the pool below.

A curious thing about Kahneeta is its hidden rough edges. The lodge is constructed basically in the shape of an obtuse triangle. All the rooms face east, with a good number overlooking...the resort's sewage treatment plant! Our room wasn't one of those, but we did have a misstep with the one elevator that serviced an entire wing of 5 floors. There is no indicator light so one knows what level they're on. Consequently we got off on level 3 when we thought we were on level 2. Since we'd already waited a very long time for the lift (full off luggage carts and people) we decided to just hoof our stuff down the steps.

The room is spacious with a balcony overlooking the desert hills. The boys went out to swim with Gary while I checked for an internet connection. Found that it's not available in the rooms, only in the lobby. When I was ready to head for the pool I noticed a sign on the towel shelf requesting guests to not take towels out to the pool. I noted that Gary had taken them. The sign also said that towels were available at the front desk and at the "Fitness Center". I took the stairs and then realized I'd overshot the pool deck and because of the layout had to walk all the way around the perimeter to get back to the access. I went to the front desk to request a towel and was told I had to get them at the fitness center. "Right by the vending machines". Passed the empty vending machines, found the towels, back to the pool. Blocking the entry was a family, the apparent head of it saying to one of its members: "I thought you had a fucking hamburger". One of the members reached out to guide him out of the way when they saw me waiting.

Perhaps the casino doesn't attract the most classiest of clientele. I think it was the disregard for the presence of others that bothered me. From the unsteadiness of his gait as I later saw him walking toward their spot laden with beverages I surmised the drinking had been pretty steady. Later I noted them throwing each other into the pool fully dressed.

But, for the moment I wanted one of those beverages. A marguerita would taste quite good. So I retraced his steps in to the bar. There was a woman behind the bar, but from her steadfast avoidance of eye contact it was clear that she wasn't there to pour drinks. I joined a woman who'd clearly been waiting a while. Presently the harried-looking bar-tender walked by pushing a food cart. When it was my turn I asked if I could use my room key to charge it to my room. He wanted to know my room number. It wasn't on the key card, but I fortunately remembered it. He consulted his computer and said I had to make some arrangement with the front desk for room-card privileges. As I had no cash and it was a long walk to the room I returned to the poolside empty-handed.

Back at the room I was lobbying the family for a walk. At the front desk I'd been handed a trails map and thought it might be nice to do just before sunset. Overt resistance from Connor, and this time I insisted. "Look, we've been doing things the way you've wanted to do them and sometimes you've got to reciprocate." So there was an agreement that there would be a walk, but no one was moving off the bed or turning off the TV. In exasperation I proclaimed I was going to go by myself at which point Gary rousted them.

From our balcony it appeared that we could walk over toward the stables and access the trailhead, but instead the grounds dead-ended at a steep slope on the far corner. As we were finding another way around Scott suddenly had to use the toilet. We were close to the fitness room and opted to use the toilet in there. The door was locked, but the toilet vacated shortly after, but Scott decided he needed that moment for a drink at the drinking fountain. I decided to take the opportunity for myself, and while using it there was a knock. Assuming it was Scott I said, "You'll have to wait a moment. (You lost your turn)" There was a hard knock, and then a very loud slap. "Stop that!" I exclaimed.

When I opened the door, there he was, very upset. He said that it hadn't been him that hit the door, it had been a man. And, "That man was a bastard!" "Scott, I don't want to hear you use that word again. It's not appropriate for a seven year old." He used the toilet and we walked out into the fitness center. "Dad", said Scott, "A man hit the bathroom door while Mom was inside. Why did he do that? That man was a bastard!" "Scott..."

Into the lobby of the lodge. Scott's telling Gary the entire story, and ending with the refrain, "That man was a bastard!" At this point I was thoroughly exasperated. "Scott, I'm going to take you into that bathroom there (the lobby restroom) and wash your mouth out with soap!" (I've never made that threat before. Odd to hear it coming out of my mouth.) "I swear, if it was not ok for you to say that a minute ago, it's not ok now either! Now I mean it, I don't want to hear it again."

Outside the lodge, headed toward what looked like a trail. Scott is furious with me and demanding that I apologize. In defiance he walks up on a curb, which he slips off of and falls, skinning his ankle a bit. When he saw the spot of blood he began to sob that he needed a band-aid.

It's becoming clear to me by now that we're not having any kind of a walk that night, but I have hope that we still might be able to walk up the hill behind the hotel. I manage to get him to accept that if it's still bleeding when we return I'll get him a band-aid from the front desk.

Headed up the hill his thoughts returned to the bathroom experience, and his need to tell the tale. I explain to him that he can say he's angry with the man, that the man behaved poorly, even was stupid, but he cannot call the man a bastard. We're up on a rim rock looking down on the lodge and I'm nervous because both he and Connor are wanting to stand up on the rock and there's a long drop in front of them. I can trust that Connor can keep a presence of mind and awareness of his position, but I don't have that trust for Scott. However, Scott feels if Connor has gone an inch higher than himself than it's unjust for him to have not achieved the exact elevation. And he can't rest inside until he's satisfied himself that he has done this.

So, we're starting down and a Scott's feet slip from under him and he lands on his butt and hands. A small piece of skin on his palm has peeled back and so we stand for a while with our arms around each other. To my surprise he removes the piece of skin and allows me to pour a little water over it. But it's clear our walk is over.

At least all thoughts of bastards are driven from his mind.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

july 4 holiday, part 3

The problem with late starts on one day when you have plans for the next is that the can you kicked down the road the day before when you ran out of time is waiting for you the next day. Our can was the Raft Trailer. Getting home at 11 meant we didn’t have the conditions or the inclination to put it away properly. This involves some delicate maneuvering down a steep driveway and a 90 degree turn at the end to tuck it between a tree and the shed.

That can was kicked to morning, when we’d tentatively planned a 10 a.m. departure for Mt Hood. (So in addition to packing up ski gear and packing for desert conditions at Kahneeta, we needed to finish unpacking from the raft trip.)

Funny, parking the trailer went so smoothly before. Suffice it to say that we ended up with the van and trailer wedged between the back deck and the woodpile and finally had to concede defeat. We only were able with great difficulty to extricate the van. (and surprisingly little rancor) The trailer is far from tucked away in its little slot, instead left pointing at an unprofessional angle down the hill. I call it a loaded cannon; Gary says the tongue will merely bury itself and it’ll brake itself should it start to roll. We blocked the wheels with cinderblocks to deal with later.

The Timberline plans were based on what turns out to be a misapprehension of what can be done with an opportunity they offer. Timberline may be the only lift resort that offers year round skiing. “The Magic Mile” chair carries you to nearly 7000’ elevation on the mountain, and then the Palmer chair takes you to approximately 8500’. Skiers train here and go to camps late into the summer. We thought a unique and fun thing to do would be to take their sightseeing pass which will give you a lift up on the chair and if you wish you can walk down. Why not, we reasoned, take our skis, ride to the top, have a picnic up high, and then ski down at our leisure? Conditions are good for this sort of plan because we had snow late into the spring. So there’s a good snow pack where ordinarily it would be melted down to earth at this time of year. We could ski all the way down to the lodge well away from the other skiers who are generally restricted to the salted runs adjacent to the lift. (Usually the salted runs are the only ones that remain this long.) The slope is consistent so not technically difficult and provided we got there before conditions got too hot, the snow would be perfect—soft and forgiving on the surface but a firmness to work with underneath. Because the snow can get so sloppy when it gets too hot and can become tricky and even dangerous, the chair closes at 1:30. We thought we’d be hitting it perfectly if we were on the chair around 11:30, which meant we needed to be leaving the house around 10:00.

So, sweating, we abandoned the proper stowing of the trailer at 11:00. I named the elephant in the room about maybe it not being worth the effort to pack for skiing. We were going to be cutting it awfully close to even catch the last ride up before the lifts closed, and I hate these down-to-the-wire-crunch-time modes of operation. Especially with kids. In addition the boys had both been protesting that they didn’t WANT to go skiing. Also, we didn’t have much food left over from rafting to make much of a picnic and there would be no time to stop and replenish. Gary couldn’t bring himself to let go of the vision so we went into frantic get-it-all-together mode and managed to pull out of the driveway at 11:30.

It was brilliantly sunny at Timberline. A mountain rescue was underway where a climber had fallen just shy of the summit, sustaining a head injury and broken leg. Ambulance and rescue vehicles were at the lower lodge and through my binocs I could see the on-foot team approaching the scene.

Knowing not much time was left we rushed in to the ticket counter to be faced with Reality: If we wanted to ski we had to be at the chair in 20 minutes. (All of us in shorts and sandals.) We could expect to pay the full price for a full day of skiing. So one run was going to cost our family $200. What of the sight-seeing package? Couldn’t we just take that ($15) and take our skis along? Nope. They won’t load us on a sight-seeing package if we’re carrying skis. Now, if we want to do the ‘climber’s package’, basically get a boost up on the mountain and skip a couple thousand feet of walking we could take skis ($29), but we had to show them our wilderness permits and Mountain Locator Units (MLU’s). Gary and I toyed with the idea that I take the boys up on the sight-seeing package, while he somehow manage to drag all of our stuff uphill from the ground, but since we had the boys hollering, “No! No! Let’s go to Kahneeta!” we conceded defeat for the second time that day. I swear, these guys make it so easy to be a hermit. Give these guys a hotel room with cable tv and they’re completely entertained.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

july 4 holiday, part 2

{Depending on how many parts it takes to finish this thing--assuming I don't abandon it--it may make more sense to start with the earlier post (July 4 Holiday) and work backward}

Oh yeah, I'd talked Gary down from a vision of a big rafting trip (pulling a trailer a couple hundred miles, attempting a stretch on a big swift-flowing river--the Deschutes-- with a number of class 3 rapids) in favor of something closer to home and a little technically easier. The Molalla seemed perfect--class 2 rapids with good stretches of calm water between.

Trouble is, I'd forgotten that I'd only run the river in the fall or winter, when its flow was supported by rainfall--it's not a dam-controlled river.

In our typical inimitable style we'd set an objective for a 10:00 departure and managed to leave our driveway around 1;30. It stays light until nearly 9 pm here in the summer, so that wasn't too pressing a concern.

We made only one wrong turn on our way to the river so that wasn't too bad. We did have a problem finding a place to launch the raft. It had been over 20 years since I'd boated this stretch, and I couldn't remember the exact location of the put-in which didn't seem to match the instructions in the river guide book. What seemed like a logical place was private land, a camp of some kind.

So our alternative was an embankment adjacent to the bridge that crossed the river. It was steep.

The raft is a frame raft which is probably most comfortable with 2 adults, but for short trips is fine for two adults and two kids. (Gary however envisions us carrying camping gear for multiple days out and all of us fitting comfortably. I've seen what it takes for us to camp for multiple days in what fills the back of our van. I'm having a hard time translating that bulk in my mind into the confines of this little raft which measures about 8x15'. That is external dimensions, not internal capacity.) Though not huge, it still wasn't a happy prospect to consider getting it down the steep river bank to the put-in. It had to be inflated and assembled up on the road in order to utilize the car battery for the inflater. Roadways and Scott are a combination that calls out hyper-vigilance in me since I have to fill in for Scott in the alertness department. He can very easily forget where he is and drift into the road. As the boys busied themselves with the raft I ferried the oars and other equipment down and took it on myself to move some of the bigger obstacles--mainly limbs that were obstructions at about knee-level. Fortunately they weren't exposed roots and so moved easily.

By the time the raft was at river's edge (involving a tree trunk belay with the guy rope) it was 4:30. By the time we launched it was 5:00. ("It's ok" I told myself nervously. "It's only a 6 mile stretch and it stays light late in Oregon."

One of the bridges that crosses this river used to have a gauge on it where you could get a guess of how runnable it might be. That bridge has been replaced with a modern concrete structure and the gauge is gone. This river was running about a foot below what would have made for a comfortable run. What that means is that a lot of time got chewed up by shallows where I had to get out and push (no experience rowing, so I was the muscle instead of the brains in this venture). More time got chewed up with us having to get out of the boat and look at the river ahead to see what would be our best route to avoid getting pinned in an awkward spot. As did happen early on in the trip before Gary got his rowing learning curve and we found ourselves good and caught. Of course this first test was immediately upriver from a whole bevy of picnickers who I hope were grateful for the entertainment we provided. Fortunately that was a situation Gary was able to back us out of by getting out and tugging on the stern line. We were able to relaunch from there, get lined up better and pass through that obstacle.

What a long 6 mile stretch. One more foot of water would have made such a difference. With low water like that there were times that the oars just flapped impotently above the surface, or hit rocks. That's when my leg power was called for. The kids seemed to enjoy themselves, though they really wanted to swim. Because of our late departure though I wanted to be sure we got to the take-out before it was full-on dark, as was becoming a real possibility (where the hell was that concrete bridge? We couldn't have missed it!) (Tried to ignore the refrains of an old Led Zeppelin song "The Crunge": "where's that confounded bridge!"). I placated them by telling them they could swim there. Once we took out we were going to have to hang around for at least a half hour while Gary took the bike he'd stashed back to the put-in to get the van.

So we limped off the river at about 8:25, a gravel boatramp of a county park. As Gary went to get the bike and then the van (one minor setback when he realized he didn't have the car keys and had to come back) I noticed a number of spots where people allowed their dogs to poop and just left it. Great. Half an hour with two active boys whose feet seem to be magnetically drawn to dog poop. I piled some large river stones on the spots to try to keep feet and poop from meeting. Consolidated and packed up our gear in the gathering gloom so it would be ready when the van arrived. The boys swam briefly, but the water's chill took them to their limit quickly and they were happy to change into dry clothes.

Home by 11:00. Bed by 11:30. Still on for a 10:00 departure next morning for Timberline Lodge and a ski trip. On to Kahneeta for the night from there.

What were we thinking.

Monday, July 7, 2008

July 4 holiday

I'm blogging from the lobby at the Kahneeta Resort, which is operated by The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation. Located just east of the Cascade range in Central Oregon, there was a break in the price for spending Sunday night. Gary has Monday off and so a plan was born. Internet access is only from the lobby.

Our neighbors across the street have a large pool in an atrium enclosure. They are extremely generous with its use and it was the setting of July 4 celebrations for the Hamlet as our little pocket on our road is referred to. The pool party is mainly for the kids, followed by a potluck dinner and fireworks.

This year the hosts decided that the fireworks should be legal, owing to the increasing number of children present--as our neighbor Mark said, it had been years since there had been "a children's table" at the meal. His partner has the pyro/explosive gene, however, and when he confided he had some 'other' fireworks at his house for 'later' I asked if we could drop by. While the approved fireworks were fun, they did lack the "ooh!" factor of prior years.

So that's how the evening was rounded out, with some big pop and fizz, and Connor exclaiming delightedly: "Crime DOES pay!" That may come back to bite me...

Saturday we were going to take Gary's raft on it's first run with us as a family on the Molalla River. Back in my kayaking days this particular stretch was one of the few I could run with a high comfort level, yet had some rapids that could be counted on for some excitement. It seemed a good entry-level trip:

1) Gary and I had never rafted together before, and given our track record off being way off on our mutual assumptions of what's reasonable to expect from each other, it seemed best to allow a wide margin for error.

2) Though I've had some experience with white water in kayaking, I've never rafted before, so the above applied.

The lobby's been invaded by my kids demanding breakfast, so this will be continued later...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ridiculous Things That Defeat Me

{Disclaimer: As I read over this I see that I may seem to be asking for help and advice with my questions. I'm not, though...I'm mainly trying to observe and write my process, which includes the way I question myself, because it gives me some relief to do so.}

We can start with shaping the inarticulate mass inside of me into words. Something is stirring in the deeps, longing to take shape, but falls back into semi-formlessness before I can assign the refinements of words. I'm defeated at finding one word, let alone a series of them, let alone arranging them just so, let alone having them actually channel what it is inside of me. Sigh.

Living in expectation of interruption certainly doesn't help this process of attempting to resurrect coherent thoughts from the Void. They tend to fall apart of their own weight, with the slightest distraction.

A similar dynamic occurs when I try to shape the mass of summer time into a structure that makes sense. If it was just me there would be no problem. I have plenty to keep me satisfied in books I have yet to read, thoughts to think, blogs to post.

My boys are cursed with a mother who is introverted (I used to be a borderline extrovert, but I think having kids has thrust me deep into introversion) and a failure at Activity Directing. I'm not a font of ideas when the inevitable "I'm bored"s come up, and I'm afraid the lifestyle that's comfortable right now for me lends itself to "I'm bored" for them.

It's not that I don't have ideas. It's that when it comes to the present moment, it seems like too much effort to pursue them. This includes calling kids' parents and setting up playdates. So that's another defeat. When the kids aren't bored, I don't have the energy to call for the playdates. When I *need* the playdates, they're not available.

I called an at-home dad who used to live across the street from us to set up a playdate. The route to Scott's swim lessons take us past our old house and thus past several former neighbors' homes and a host of kids my kids' age. Jon has 3 boys; Sal and Matt have 2 girls and a boy, Bob and Nan have 2 girls.

I had a bit of a crush on Jon, the at-home dad, when we first moved back from St. Louis. He and his family had moved in during our 5 years away. Our neighbors on each side of us had put up with a series of renters until we moved back into the house I'd bought in 1986.

I'll never know whether any of the crush was reciprocated. It would be the worst of manners to ask, not to mention incredibly awkward. It's moot anyway, since married (happily) men (or even unhappily for that matter) with children (or without, for that matter) are firmly in the off-limits category (except for the loophole that they have a mutual--with their wives-- agreement of 'openness' in their marriage--not that this circumstance has ever presented itself. The loophole only exists to placate a stern conscience which guards my conduct even in my fantasies. So even in fantasy their wives either have to be dead or have given their blessing.). Let's just say I warmed myself over the sparkle that may or may not have been present in our dealings (which may or may not have been completely one-sided). I was sad when we sold the house and moved to our present home, in the school neighborhood the boys were attending (and we know how that turned out). For a time I'd drop by and visit since Scott's preschool was on the route past Jon's house, but I felt a little self-conscious about my car conspicuously parked outside. Most of the parents in the neighborhood worked at jobs outside the home, but for those who did work from home I wondered if it seemed odd that I visited Jon and not them. Eventually the crush wore itself out and the visits got further between.

I really did, and do, enjoy the conversations with Jon, by the way. Some of our discussions about science, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and politics set my thinking on a path that's influencing me to this day.

So that's the backstory to calling him to see if I can drop by with the boys after Scott's swim lesson tomorrow. What's 'defeating' me is a series of details that make me a little uncomfortable. Scott's class finishes a little after 11 and we're usually leaving the pool around 11:30. That's lunch time. We're low on cash til payday and I took the boys to a movie last night, so I don't really want to buy them lunch. They'll refuse to eat anything I pack. With gas as expensive as it is it doesn't make sense to return home, and then drive back down to visit. After talking with Jon I realized I'd rather rudely invited us over right at lunch time. So I called back to ask if I could bring some stuff to contribute to lunch for the kids. He said they were out of bread and I agreed to bring some. Now I realize that tomorrow's the last day for swim classes on account of the July 4 holiday, and I'd promised Scott he'd be rewarded with a treat from the ice cream machine if he could manage his behavior in class (as in, listen to his teacher, keep his head out of the water when the teacher is talking, keep himself separated from Dylan). So we'll be lingering at the pool for a little while so Scott can feast on his treat (it seems a safe assumption he'll attain it). More likely than not this will put my boys out of sync with whatever time his boys will be eating.

I think most people's nervous system would barely register these little distractions. For me they loom large, and each seem insurmountable. I feel like I've been reduced in scale to the size of an ant walking over a shag carpet. The strands I stepped over unthinkingly become chasms to negotiate again and again.

Another sticking point is that I'd also dropped by my former next door neighbor Sal's last week. Her dad was coming out of the house and said she wasn't home...she was having a small lump removed from her throat. So I called her later to make sure she was ok (she said she is) and to mention that we drive by frequently and could we stop by for a visit. She said sure, they're around.

So, is it weird that it is Jon I called? Should I call Sal and tell her we're going to be at his house implying that I'm inviting them all over? She's going to see that we're there anyway. Will it seem weird that I called to tell her we'll drop by sometime over this week and then go to his house? It's a pretty casual neighborhood with people dropping over all the time. Maybe instead it would seem weird for me to call her rather than just let the fact of our car there speak for itself and they can come over if they wish. Why am I even thinking about these things.

I'm also defeated by Scott's birthday party. He wants a bowling party. One of the local alleys does birthday parties, but there's a charge per child and a minimum of 5. Since I removed him from one school and put him in another there's some dislocation with his friends. He has a few friends from the new school, and some children he remembers from the old. What are the dynamics like between two separate groups of kids who know each other within their groups, but no one outside the group? He wants to invite an older couple who lives up the street. He also wants to invite two four year old neighbors. These are younger friends that he runs hot and cold with. In some ways he's attracted to children who are quite a bit younger than him, but then he becomes impatient with their lesser maturity--and he himself doesn't possess the maturity and perspective to help him deal with these discrepancies gracefully. For these children to come they'd probably need the presence of their parents, which is fine, except they also have older siblings that it's a little awkward to not invite. If I don't invite them, what if some of the other children don't show (damn parents who won't RSVP) and then we don't have 5 kids? Will he feel badly if there aren't a lot of kids at his party?

These details feel like splinters sticking out of an otherwise smooth piece of wood that I'm sliding a silk stocking across. On one hand they're so silly; on another I find myself getting snagged repeatedly. I feel like Homer Simpson, having dropped off a cliff, striking each and every protrusion from the wall ("doh!!") as he falls.

I feel pathetic.