Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Domestic Spying

Or, Why I Love this Family of Mine

Just like the President of the United States, lately I've been eavesdropping on my neighbors without a warrant.

However, unlike our Dear Leader, I haven't been doing it on purpose. For the past couple of weeks, our baby monitor has been on the fritz. I'm not sure what happened; we've had it for over a year and a half, and it's never seriously malfunctioned until recently. But about a month and a half ago, one of the recievers started randomly picking up all sorts of feedback and static, and more recently it's begun almost exclusively picking up actual audio signals from other baby monitors in our apartment building (instead of the signal from the transmitter in Isaac's room TWENTY FEET AWAY, which it apparently has lost the ability to hear) .

More than half the residents in our complex seem to be families with small children, so there are LOTS of baby monitor signals flying around. Ever since we moved in here a year ago, I've always kind of assumed that some of our neighbors were probably picking up signal from our monitor now and again and listening to us. Frankly, I've never thought much of it, because despite the fancy tennis courts and clubhouse and the high rent, this complex is cheaply built, and my next-door and upstairs neighbors could probably hear half of what goes on in my home each day through the paper-thin walls of our building with their own ears if they gave half a try.

So, it doesn't much bother me that someone might be eavesdropping on me. But hearing other people's conversations over the transmitter freaks me out. I feel like a sleazy voyeur, despite the accidental nature of these encounters.

The truth is, despite having spoken with most of my neighbors in person, I can't actually usually tell who I'm hearing on the monitor. The sound is always distorted, kind of like it is with those voice disguisers they use on TV news shows when they're interviewing corporate whistleblowers and people in the witness protection program, and though I can usually guess the gender of the speaker, and make out a few of the words, I can't recognize the owner of the voice, which is a relief. But it still creeps me out on some fundamental moral level to be secretly eavesdropping on someone else's home life, even if I don't have a clue who I'm listening to. And besides, I'm trying to hear what's going on in MY baby's room, not someone else's apartment.

So, whenever I start picking up sound from someone else's place, I immediately try moving the reciever, or turning off the radio or the tv, or changing the wireless channel.

But sometimes it seems no matter what I do, the voices just keep coming through, and I wind up hearing a whole five minutes of snatches of someone else's conversation before I get totally exasperated and turn the monitor off.

We've tried moving our other electronic equipment. We've tried messing with the settings on the monitor. There doesn't seem to be any way to fix this situation short of getting ourselves a new baby monitor and HOPING that that one will pick up its own signal without picking up everyone else's. So, I'm researching them online right now, and I hope to have a new one sometime in the next few days, and my spying days will be over.

However, I have learned something important from this secret surveilance adventure. It's something I probably shouldn't know, since I shouldn't really be spying on my neighbors, even if I've been doing it accidentally. But despite my guilt over how I've come by this knowledge, I can't help but be glad and a little proud now that I have it.


How have I come to this conclusion, you may ask? Because I now know that all of my neighbors with small children argue, angrily and loudly with each other, ALL OF THE TIME. I'm not exactly sure who's starting these arguments, or what they are arguing about, since as I said the voices I hear aren't that clear and anyway I try not to listen too hard, and I'm glad I don't know, because that would be awkward. But sheesh. Here I thought I had it bad because I cry to John one or two nights a week about how I can't get the boy to eat or sleep like a normal person and I don't have any friends anymore now that I'm a SAHM and he just doesn't understand what I'm going through* and meanwhile, all my neighbors are having all-out shouting matches with each other EVERY DAY.

I guess things are abnormally calm and content around here, after all.

Score one for domestic surveilance.

You still shouldn't be doing it, though, George.

(because he gets to shower and shave and put gel in his hair and leave the house every day, and then he talks to his friends and plays cards on his lunch hour and gets praise from his bosses all day at work, while I scrub floors and wash dishes and try to finish writing projects in ratty jeans and a t-shirt while someone still-mostly-non-verbal tries to draw on the furniture and throws applesauce at me )

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

An Open Letter to My Body from My Mind:

Dear Body,

Okay, I'll admit it straight out. I am a flawed mind. I may not always have the willpower to do everything that's best for you, even when I technically know what's best to do. Sure, I don't get enough sleep, or enough exercise, lately. I have a tendency to indulge in a bit too much chocolate from time to time. But it's almost always dark chocolate. And that has bioflavonoids, and antioxidants, and stuff! It's almost healthy for you! Remember? We read about it one time on the internet.

(And maybe I had a few too many drinks on two or three isolated occasions while we were in college. But I think you were secretly encouraging me the whole time anyway, because you have this side that's into all manner of debauchery the sort of which I DO NOT APPROVE that you know it's easier to trick a mind into when you intoxicate it).

Anyway, despite these transgressions I must point out that for the most part, I've taken pretty decent care of you thus far in our life. In fact, if you'd care to pay attention to my processing of optical information about other people lately, you might realize you have it pretty good.

I've kept us vegetarian, after all, for over a decade! We eat whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, and take our vitamins, every single day. We don't smoke, we don't drink soda, and we rarely drink alcohol anymore. As a result of these efforts on my part to resist, ahem, your outdated evolutionarily-encouraged urges, you are within the ideal medical weight range for our age and height.

We may not be all that athletically inclined, but it's not like we spend all of our free time sitting at the computer or watching television-- we lift weights, sometimes. We walk places that are within walking distance instead of taking the car. And I asked for that exercise ball for Christmas, just for you, when I could have gotten myself a DVD, or language practice software to brush up on my Hindi with, or something.

I even let you REPRODUCE yourself not very long ago, with the genetic assistance of a very fine male specimen we both picked out for lifetime emotional companionship and reproductive collaboration. Which, I might point out, is at least half the reason we don't get enough sleep and exercise these days. Not to mention the fact that the whole human-making-and-birthing process was really a MAJOR PAIN IN THE ASS. Figuratively and literally. And I'm planning to do it again sometime!

So, Body, please take into careful consideration the fact that I, our Mind, have really been pretty good to you over the past two and a half decades.

With that in mind (no pun intended, Bod), do you think that perhaps you could STOP IT ALREADY with the pain?

The lower back pain, the knee pain, the ankle pain. The impacted wisdom teeth (I'll get them taken out, already, okay? As soon as I can get the dental insurance company to stop whining and balking and actually cover it. I've been trying for six months straight. So stop complaining). The migraines. The costochondritis (I have to pick the baby up at least fifteen times a day every day. It won't stop for at least another year. And he's only going to get heavier. So suck it up already).

And, oh yeah, one more thing I would like you to stop doing, while we're discussing it. Those recurring ovarian cysts on our left side. Especially that.

Because you see, body, I know you've been storing that genetic material up there in that left ovary for future use ever since we ourselves were still in the womb. And if you keep scaring the crap out of me and ruining my productivity with this terrible, risky, painful habit you have of developing a cyst or two on that left ovary at least once every six to twelve months, I, your Mind, am going to have to ask a professional to TAKE THE WHOLE THING OUT. Then we'll only have one ovary left, just one, to regulate hormones and make babies with. Half of that precious genetic bank deposit, gone, just like that. Snip.

Your move, Body.

Thank you,

Your Mind.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

New Hope

We saw a new occupational therapist on Tuesday. The company she works for, called PS Kids, was recommended to me by a parent in Isaac's playgroup. They aren't in-network on our new insurance, of course, so we'll have to pay total cost until we exhaust our $1,000 out-of-network deductible, and even after that, we'll still be stuck with 50% of each bill.

But after weeks of searching, I haven't been able to find ANY pediatric occupational therapists who:

1.) Are willing to work with children under the age of five

2.) Are willing to work with severely underweight children with feeding disorders who are under the age of five

3.) Have any openings for new patients before next December


4.) Actually take our insurance.

Aside from the Cardinal Glennon Feeding Team, of course (*grumble* *mutter* *curse*).

So I'm kinda at the end of my rope with this finding a specialist who takes our insurance thing.

Anyway, when I called PS Kids, I found out they give discounts and offer payment plans for people whose insurance won't cover the service, AND they make housecalls.

So I decided to make an evaluation appointment.

And guess what? Just as I have suspected for months, the therapist from PS Kids thinks that the cause of Isaac's eating problems is, in fact, most likely Sensory Integration Disorder.

The fact that, after months of testing and testing and researching, someone has finally given us a specific diagnosis that makes sense is remarkable enough to start me doing a happy dance in and of itself.

But I found myself even more impressed, and relieved, by what this woman didn't say.

She didn't say, for example, that Isaac, my sweet, mostly-well-behaved, polite little boy, has been starving himself since the age of eight months because he "lacks discipline" and has a "manipulative personality."

She didn't tell me it was all my fault that he didn't like solid food because I'd nursed him "too long" and made him too attached to breastfeeding.

She didn't tell us we could fix him through strict punishment by scolding him fiercely or locking him in his room if he threw a single piece of pasta off the dinner table (mind you, he's less than two), or by witholding all food for the rest of the day if he refused to eat what we wanted him to.

She didn't tell us to stop giving him nutritional supplements and vitamins, cut out all food he's currently willing to eat, offering only food he dislikes-- to, in effect, starve him for days at a time until he was so ravenously hungry he'd be willing to try something new.

Nope, she didn't say any of those things, because she's not Barb the Draconian Dietician from the Cardinal Glennon Feeding Team.

Instead, she recommended intensive occupational therapy to desensitize him to various textures and help his confused nervous system reorganize itself. She gave us a list of theraputic activities to try, involving, among other things-- get this-- just as I imagined in a previous entry--


(Maybe I should be an occupational therapist).

And Isaac seems to like her a lot, to boot.

My fingers are crossed . . .

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Holiday Wrap-Up

So, the holidays mostly sucked for me, which is why I didn't post during them, because despite the title of my blog I am actually not the gloomiest of persons and I am getting tired of only seeming to be able to come up with complainy-sorts of things to say when I blog, and anyway I didn't want to get even more depressed during the holidays by complaining about them.

Even if I am brilliant at complaining.

But I feel the need to at least summarize.

So, I was sick (again), and I had a writing project due, because despite my best efforts to get it out of the way before Christmas, I couldn't start on it until the week before, because the client didn't get the data I needed to start it to me until then. And we had too many places we were obligated to go, with too little time, and Isaac was stressed out and angry and (*gasp*) wouldn't eat anything at anyone else's house, and everyone was constantly trying to give us loving and well-meaning and under-informed and, well, let's say, less-than-useful advice about his eating issues, such as "Strap him to a chair and don't let him out until he eats," or "Set a sixty-second timer and tell him he has to eat three peas before it buzzes or you'll force-feed him a whole pot," or, the old stand-by, my absolute favorite, "Ignore it-- he won't starve himself sick. No child would do that."

(Never mind that he already has).

ROLFMAO, my friends, ROLFMAO.

And I had a major blow-out with my sister over her not coming to see us on Christmas, or the Friday before or the Monday after Christmas, or even the weekend before or after Christmas, because her boyfriend wanted to visit his father and his foster sister and his cousins and his second cousins and his cousins once removed and his best friend and his ex-girlfriend's mother for Christmas instead. (That's right: my sister's boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's mother ranks higher than me on my sister's Holiday Visit list. True story*).

And John had to work on New Year's Eve, so I spent it alone with a cranky kid who couldn't sleep because of fireworks outside, and the the consequently sleepy Isaac took a frightful spill on the sidewalk and nearly broke his skull on New Year's Day, so we had to cancel on the annual family dinner, but that was probably for the best as at that point I wasn't sure if I could take one more person giving me friendly cockamamie advice on how to get Isaac to eat something without telling them to eat their own words. Pun intended.

And as usual, I missed my mother and my kid brother, the two of whom I haven't been able to visit with on a holiday since the year 2000. Despite having new family now, I still find myself longing pretty frequently for the old one. Even if they did drive me nuts all the time when I did still see them regularly.

But Isaac got a mad haul of toys from The Grandmas, and he had tons of fun playing with his smallest uncles, and our $10 mostly-Isaac-proofed holiday tree looked TOTALLY AWESOME, even if no one but us saw it. So it wasn't all bad.

In fact, it probably would have felt better if I'd maintained a better attitude from the beginning. I think my childhood experiences in a divorced and dysfunctional, constantly arguing family conditioned me to expect to be unhappy and stressed out on the holidays, so I wouldn't be disappointed when it inevitably happened. Trouble is, expectations like that can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, where you get so stressed in anticipation of stress that you're stressed no matter what, even if things don't turn out nearly as badly as you anticipated.

That's a thing I need to work on, there.

So, here we go: a New Year's Resolution:

I will try to stop being such a freaking pessimist all the time ;)

*Edit: After I though about this, I felt the need to mention that the fact that my sister hangs out with her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's mom is not actually quite as odd as it sounds. My sister's boyfriend's ex-girlfriend passed away suddenly and unexpectedly a couple of years ago, due to an accidental drug overdose, and although my sister's boyfriend and his ex had been broken up for a long time, the news of her death was still pretty hard on him, and of course it was devastating to the ex-girlfriend's mom. So I actually think it's rather honorable and kind of my sister to go with her boyfriend to visit his ex-girlfriend's mother on holidays. But I don't understand her using that obligation as a primary excuse for not being able to find even 30 minutes to spend with her own local family members over the holidays, especially considering that my sister lives less than 15 minutes away from us! Grrrr. Cue Lifetime docudrama music. My sister and I so have issues.