Monthly Archives: April 2010

Benjamin’s ears, nose, and throat

A little over a year ago, Benjamin failed his first hearing test.  We had always thought he wasn’t listening, which was also the case.  As it turned out, he had both a hearing and a listening problem.

He had an ear infection, so the pediatrician cleared it up and then sent us to get a new hearing test, for which we could not get an appointment for two weeks, by which time he had a new ear infection.

We rinsed and repeated this process a few times till I wised up and made the appointment with the audiologist in advance, then scheduled a pediatrician appointment for the day before.

In the meantime, the pediatrician put him on Singulair, because a big part of the problem was that he was so clogged.  See, it wasn’t just his ears.  His nose had been running non-stop for over a year.  And, although I had not wanted to put him on allergy medication at the tender age of two-and-a-half, failing multiple hearing tests seemed like a big enough deal to warrant such a step.

The Singulair made a big difference.  His nose ran a lot less, and he stopped biting other children.  Both excellent outcomes.

Benjamin did pass a hearing test once, but his ears were partially clogged.  “When his ears are clear, he can hear fine,” the audiologist told me.  Right.  Got it.  But what the hell good does that do, since his ears were only clear on alternate Wednesdays when the moon was full?  Hearing is usually considered a more full-time occupation.

We went to the ENT.  “He’s not a candidate for tubes,” she told me.  “He’s probably just a stuffy kid.  Bring him back in six weeks and we’ll see if the stuffiness has cleared up.”

OK, by this point I was tired of bringing him back just for people to tell me that his only problem was that his ears and nose clogged, with absolutely no suggestion as to how to fix it.  Plus, we were about to move across the country.  We threw up our hands and let the Singulair do its job.

Except that he was on it every. single. day.

He is three years old.

We wanted to get him the hell off the medicine.

Plus, it didn’t clear him up completely.

And, he still didn’t listen.

So, I took him to the allergist two months ago to determine just what it was that he is allergic to.  They did a full panel and we found out, that’s for sure.  He is allergic to…


The kid has no allergies.  “So why the hell is he on Singulair?” I asked the allergist, except I didn’t say “hell” because I rarely if ever curse in real life.

“Look, the Singulair is working.  Just keep him on it.  You and the pediatrician can try taking him off in the dead of the summer.”  We had taken him off for a few days in the dead of the winter, and suffice it to say that didn’t go very well.

Neither my husband nor I were particularly impressed with the “leave him on the drugs” idea without a diagnosis.  Plus, I began hearing people around me throwing around a word I had never heard before.  “Adenoids.”  As in, “We thought it was allergies, but then we had her adenoids taken out, and she’s like a new child.”  That’s an outcome I could get behind.

We took him off the Singulair eleven days ago.  By the following Monday – last week – he already had copious amounts of snot running out of his nose.

“You want to get his adenoids checked?” our new pediatrician asked.  “That’s an unusual request.”  Then she looked up his nose.  “Well, that stuff’s all green.  That’s infection.  It very well could be his adenoids.”

She wrote down the number for the ENT.  “Listen, we used to send kids to the ENT, and they’d put them on this nose spray and send them back to us.  Let’s skip that step.  Here’s a prescription for the nose spray.  Make the ENT appointment for two weeks from now, so he’ll already have been on the nose spray.”  Now, that’s the kind of medical treatment I can get behind – skip the whole chasing-our-tails portion of the program.

As the week went by, Benjamin’s behavior took a turn.  Straight towards hell.  He was hitting us and kicking and pinching.  He took two hours to get to bed, doing things like screaming, laughing, and kicking the wall when we put him in the room.  He ran in front of moving armored trucks, shoved his sister behind the couch, and woke his brother up one morning by throwing the guard rail down from the top bunk.  Needless to say, he is no longer allowed to sleep on the top bunk.

“I think he’s in pain,” I told a friend.

“Why don’t you try giving him Tylenol before bed and see if it helps?” she suggested.  So, Saturday night I did.

And he went to bed without a peep.

Holy shit.  The kid had been in so much pain it had completely changed his personality.  OK, not completely, because he’s always been a maniac, but the fact is we have no idea how much he has been in chronic pain that was partially masked by the Singulair.  It’s possible that a large chunk of his Crazy comes from the medical issues.  We just don’t know, and we won’t until we see the ENT next Monday.

Today, I’ll take him to the pediatrician, in case there is an acute problem on top of the chronic one.  That he’s been in so much pain makes me worry about his tonsils.  And, next week I’ll take him to the ENT, who I hope does not try to tell me he’s just a stuffy kid.  Maybe someday soon, he’ll wake up without pain.

I think it’s too much to ask that he also learn how to listen.

What about prom?

Let’s let go for a moment of the fact that Constance McMillen wanted to bring a girl to the prom.  Let’s forget the lawsuit and the homophobia and the absurdity of anyone giving a shit who brings whom to the prom.  In fact, let’s leave Constance out of this conversation altogether for a couple of minutes.

Instead, if we may, can we please focus in on the fact that the parents in Itawamba, Mississippi all got together and organized a fake prom for the sole purpose of excluding a couple of queers and a few learning disabled kids and – I’m just guessing here – one or two other social misfits, as well.

Now, I am always the first person to sign up for organizing parties at my kids’ schools, not because I love doing that crap but because the first person to sign up always gets to bring napkins or grapes, while the last person is inevitably stuck making 97 tiny egg salad sandwiches.  Organizing this shit SUCKS, and that’s why I make it my business to do as little as possible for school parties while still appearing to be involved.

So it fucking blows my mind that there was a group of parents who actually thought it was worth the trouble to plan two proms – a real one and a fake one – just for the sake of excluding a handful of kids.

Really?  You care that much?

I mean, think of the effort they had to go to, not just planning two parties, but making sure that the losers all got sent to the wrong place while the rest of the kids went to the right place.  There just must not be a whole hell of a lot to do in Itawamba, Mississippi if we’re spending our time on that kind of crap.

The diamond-pointed cruelty of it all just astonishes me.  Sure, my high school had meanness and bullying and all that shit, but most of us have grown out of it by now.  I cannot imagine a group of adults all being so incredibly mean-spirited as to target a small group of kids because they were too uncool to do the Electric Slide next to their own precious children.

And, so, on the off chance that someone in Itawamba is reading this, I would like to point out the bleeding obvious that somehow missed your attention: those kids – the ones with learning disabilities and buck teeth and whathaveyou – those kids are someone’s children.

And you should be fucking ashamed of yourselves.

Benjamin’s couscous

Lilah loves beans of all sorts.  Benjamin likes most bean dishes, although white beans are hit or miss.  Zachary would not consider eating a bean if it were coated in caramel and dipped in chocolate.

Lilah thinks squash is one of the seven wonders of the world.  Benjamin likes squash unless a better offer comes along.  Zachary would switch seats on an airplane if a squash were sitting next to him.

Lilah loves to try new foods, except on the days she doesn’t.  Benjamin assumes that any new food must be a treat that we’ve been hiding from him, and usually that turns out to be the case, like last week when he tried scallops for the first time and adored them.  Zachary hasn’t tried a new food since the Bush administration.

You see how it goes in our house.  About the only thing Zach does like is hamburgers, which Benjamin doesn’t particularly appreciate, so he ends up just eating the baked sweet potato fries.  Lilah likes burgers, though.  That’s how third children roll.

It’s all quite exhausting.

Sunday night I soaked two bags of garbanzos and then I cooked them up Monday morning while we were all getting ready for the day.  We had been out of town for the weekend so we were out of quite a few things, although we did have a couple of acorn squashes and quite a few carrots.  Unfortunately, they boys are off school, which is how I found myself at the grocery store with all three children, a situation I am usually far more successful at avoiding.

Sometime between the first and third time the boys decided to wrestle on the grocery store floor, we went down the rice aisle.  “I’m making chickpeas tonight,” I told Benjamin.  “Would you like them on rice or with this?  It’s a special pasta called ‘couscous.’”

“Um, I want that!” Benjamin replied, assuming if he hadn’t had it before, it must be delicious.

Now, their father hates couscous, but, frankly, if I thought about that fact I was afraid my head would start to spin around and my nostrils would blow blue smoke.  So, I bought some whole wheat couscous.

And, here’s what I did with it all.

Benjamin’s Couscous


Olive oil

One chopped onion

Several chopped cloves of garlic

Carrots – sliced in discs

One bag cooked garbanzos, drained

Two baked acorn squashes (sliced in half, baked face down about an hour on 400 with a little olive oil on them)

Chopped dates


Melt together the butter and olive oil.  Fry up the onions and garlic until translucent.

I didn’t have any chicken stock on hand, or I would have used that, but instead I used plain water.  I poured in a little more than 4 cups of water to a boil because the couscous package said 1 ¼ cups water to 1 cup couscous, and I wanted a little extra in there since I was cooking up other things, too.  Bring it all to a boil.  Add the carrots and cook till soft.

Then, add the couscous (in this case, I used three cups) and the dates.  Mix up and cover.  After five minutes, fluff with fork, then mix in the cooked garbanzos and chopped up cooked squash.  Don’t worry if they’ve already cooled, as this particular dish is fine warm instead of hot.

Salt to taste, which usually means I forget the salt and then we all rush to add it at the supper table.

My husband actually loved it, despite his deep seeded prejudice against couscous, perhaps due to some childhood trauma involving a Moroccan restaurant.  Benjamin and Lilah loved it, much to the detriment of our dining room rug.

Zachary didn’t try it, but I had also made garbanzo muffins.  Because I’m not an idiot.


We were in D.C. this weekend because my husband is turning thirty-five and when you are turning thirty-five but your grandmother is turning ninety-seven, you go to her to celebrate.  I think when a person is ninety-seven years old, she has the right to call any shots she wants to.

Saturday, we took the children to Kenwood, a neighborhood in Maryland.  It has lovely houses and quiet streets, but the reason to visit Kenwood at the beginning of April is the cherry blossoms.  On every single street, in front of every single house in Kenwood, there are several cherry blossom trees.

If you’ve never seen the cherry blossoms, I strongly advise you to make it your business to be in D.C. one year around Easter.  It is one of the most breathtaking sights you could ever hope to see, and frankly, that kind of beauty is about the best reason I can think of for continuing to bother breathing.

They form tunnels of pinkish white with veins of black running through them.  No words and no photo can quite describe the sensation of street after street canopied with millions of tiny pink flowers, although there are certainly plenty of folks who try their damndest to capture it on film. Saturday afternoon, the streets were clogged with pedestrians toting cameras, not to mention quite a few morons who took in the cherry blossoms by slowly driving through the neighborhood, not bothering to get out of their cars.

Here’s a little tip, folks: the cherry blossoms are considerably more lovely when you actually walk amongst them, rather than treating them like an amusement park ride.

Of course, my kids were at their grumpiest, all except Lilah who was thrilled to pieces that her grandmother had purchased her some brand spanking new sneakers with pink patent leather and she would no longer have to wear the brown sensible shoes mommy had gotten her.  We didn’t last long among the throngs of blossom viewers, because there is no buzzkill like a five-year-old pouting and dragging his feet.

So, Sunday morning, I went back to Kenwood for my run.  There were only a few early risers out, as the cars full of Easter-bedizened families had yet to arrive for their photo ops.  It was mostly me and the trees.

Again, there are no adequate words.  The sensation was similar to being the first people to arrive in the Sistine Chapel, standing alone looking up at the ceiling.  Except better, because this was outside.

I am a nature person.  I like to be outside.  I like winter because snow is so overpowering – it requires us to stop and respect its space.  I love rain storms for their intensity.  And I mostly love how the snow and ice and rain come to fruition in the spring as things start growing and blossoming.  I respect the snow because it gives us things like the cherry blossoms.

The cherry blossoms are stunning because they are ephemeral.  They last for only a few weeks, and then they give way to other seasons.  Summer is brutal in D.C., fall is short, and winter is unpredictable.  But, for a few short weeks, there is a beauty that can only come from the changing of the seasons.  Every year, they will fall off the trees.  But the next year, they always come back.

On grownups and teenaged bullies

So, I’ve been thinking about these girls who bullied Phoebe Prince for three months before the fifteen-year-old couldn’t take it anymore and hung herself with a scarf her sister had given her for Christmas.  It’s a tragic story, not the least for her poor sister, who found Phoebe’s body hanging in a stairwell.

It’s also tragic, however, for the girls who harassed their classmate so mercilessly that she saw no way out but to kill herself.  Because, I’m betting that these girls are more or less normal teenagers – insecure, feeling their oats, and just generally clueless about life.  We all know how the song goes, because we surely sang it throughout our teens.  Even the happiest of teenagers hummed a few bars.

Come on, talk to me here.  How many of you bullied or teased someone?  How many were bullied or teased yourself?  Probably most of you.  Because that’s what teenagers do, right?  They get a little bit of power and have no fucking clue what the hell to do with it, so they get drunk on it and abuse it.

Now, hopefully, in most situations, the victim is strong enough to withstand it and the perpetrators think the better of it after a few rounds.  That’s the best-case scenario, right?  It’s a normal part of growing up.

Well, I’m gonna have to call “Bullshit” on this one.  Hell, yes, it’s a normal part of growing up.  But that doesn’t mean we just sit around drinking beers with our thumbs up our asses and hope everyone comes through the fire with only mild burns.

Acne is a normal part of growing up, yet we take our kids to dermatologists.  Crooked teeth are normal, yet we go to orthodontists.  So, sure, bullying is normal, but that doesn’t mean we leave our kids to figure it out for themselves.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: kids have no fucking clue what they are doing.  It’s the grown-ups’ job to help them, teach them, guide them.  That is equally true for algebra and for social relationships.  When a group of girls gets carried away by their own power, they need adults to reign them in.  They have no idea how to do it for themselves.

Maybe we all need to spend less time worrying about whether teenagers are having sex and more time teaching them how to handle social situations.  Because sex?  Also a normal part of growing up.

The bullies were let down by their adults.  No one helped them learn to be kinder or more civil.  No one set the limits they needed, no one gave them the lessons they needed in the line between acceptable and unacceptable.  The adults just stood aside and waited for them to outgrow it.

Unfortunately, Phoebe Prince won’t get a chance to outgrow it.