Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Vegas, baby!

We had occasion to go to Las Vegas last week so DH could receive a professional honor. Which was lovely for him, and also we figured we'd stay an extra day and explore a bit. Because I've never been to Vegas, and everything I know about it I learned from "Swingers" and "The Hangover." Always double down on 11, and stay away from Mike Tyson's tiger.

I hadn't actually been on a plane in nine years, since we moved back to NJ from Florida, and things hadn't changed much. You still take your shoes off. People still overstuff the overhead bins. It's still incredibly awkward to use the tray table for eating, especially if you're trying not to dump overpriced airplane food all over your laptop. And you still walk out of the airport feeling like you just ran a marathon (and finished last), even though all you did was sit down for five hours.

Vegas is ... interesting. It has that Florida palm-trees-everywhere sort of vibe, but the buildings aren't pink and I didn't see any random lizards scurrying about. Though granted, January. It was midweek so the streets were pretty quiet -- just random vacationers, and also Elvis wearing a backpack. I assume he was heading to work. I wanted to renew our vows in front of an Elvis, but DH tells me this is cliche. Other sightings: Darth Vader, Hello Kitty and Homer Simpson. Largely they were panhandling.

The casinos are impressively huge, and you could wander one for weeks and never leave. Because the food is fantastic and there are shops and shows and oh yeah, gambling, and why would you need to leave, really? My one disappointment is that the Cirque Beatles show wasn't performing the days we were there. I love the Beatles. I wasn't even alive early enough to see them in concert but I love them. I've been singing "Yellow Submarine" and "All Together Now" to the kids since they were born. So seeing the show would have been nice. I discovered, however, that the casino also had a whole boutique full of Beatles merchandise, so that was fun. A Yellow Submarine-shaped Christmas ornament is sitting on my desk now.

I've never seen so many vices jammed together so enticingly in one place. Slot machines in the airport. Celebrity chef restaurants every half-block. Walk-up outdoor margarita bars. Even an outdoor hookah lounge. Shopping shopping shopping. Oh, and the sex. Rolling billboards announcing "GIRLS Direct to You!" drove down the street roughly every two minutes. Guys stationed on street corners handed out cards for this peep show or that peep show. Some of the guys, in fact, tried to snake their hand around me to hand a card to DH. I considered grabbing the cards myself, maybe collecting a whole set, but decided all the plastic surgery on display would depress me too much.

I wondered aloud to DH how we would have explained all the, um, cleavage to kiddo, had we brought the kids with us. (They were safely home with Grandma.) "Oh, the lady on the truck, sweetie? People call her for a ... playdate. Why is she naked? Because they take a bath on the playdate." Still, we kept seeing people pushing strollers around, or holding a small child's hand as they walked through the casino, so I guess "family-friendly" is in the eye of the beholder.

We did discover some culture in the form of a Da Vinci exhibit. Pretty nicely put together. There were models of a few of his flying machines, and another section offered in-depth analysis of the Mona Lisa. Also there was a large touch-screen monitor with a chess game set up on it. Aggravatingly, I lost my queen early and never quite recovered. That's right: In a city full of people playing slots, I was playing chess.

So, probably not the city for me. Wow was the food good, though. And considering how rarely we get to dress up and go out to a nice restaurant, I think the five-hour flight was a perfectly acceptable trade-off.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ADHD has an image problem.

No, hear me out. It's not a physically debilitating condition. People who have it don't look as though there's anything wrong with them. There's no cure for it. It's just a thing you learn to live with, more or less successfully, or you don't.

You can't hold rallies for this. You can't build a walkathon around it. There are no rubber bracelets to wear and no bumper stickers for your car. It's almost a thing you're embarrassed to speak publicly about, because so many people are convinced it isn't real.

So where does that leave ADHDers? Stuck with a mental disorder they have to act like they don't have, if they want to be able to function in the society at large. Where does that leave parents of ADHDers? Unnaturally focused on school accommodations and obsessing over whether their child is alienating potential friends.

I'm not even sure how you could change the image problem, short of talking about ADHD a lot more, to everyone, to change people's perceptions. Which I already kind of do, since I make no secret of kiddo's condition. But there isn't much point in, say, a fundraiser. Who would you give the money to? The makers of Ritalin or Vyvanse? CHADD, maybe, but I'm a little bothered by the fact that they take money from drug companies. I know they're a well-intentioned group with some nice resources on their website, but ... I feel like a non-profit group ought to be funded by its members.

Look, I'm happy to be a one-person outreach program on ADHD but I feel like there ought to be some sort of ... something else. Some sort of larger movement, some sort of attempt to achieve a greater understanding. So that we're not all stuck in this permanent defensive pose. "My child has ADHD. Yes, it's a real disorder. No, it's not made up to excuse my lousy parenting. No, I'm not a lousy parent for medicating/not medicating my child. Yes, my child is entitled to extra time on classwork/preferential seating/fidget toys at his desk/occupational therapy. No, that does not give him an unfair advantage over his classmates. Yes, it is possible for him to to be smart and also have ADHD. And no, I don't feed my kid too much sugar. Thanks for playing."

As I type this (with an overtired kiddette curled into my shoulder), kiddo is building the latest in an endless series of elaborate Lego vehicles. The space shuttle didn't work out, apparently, so now he's trying a carnival truck. (Whatever that is.) He's so amazingly creative. But he's a square peg -- or possibly a trapezoid -- surrounded by round holes. He's never going to do well if people try to change him to fit the world around him.

Therefore, the world needs to change to fit him.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Overheard in the AYM household ...

Bill Cosby was right -- kids do say the darndest things. Honestly I had no idea having children would provide so much free entertainment. Which is good, since babysitters are expensive. Anyway, enjoy.

Kiddo, pointing at congested sister: "Boogers!"

Me: "Thanks, but can you think of a nicer way to say that?"

Kiddo: "... Please?"

Kiddo, spying a spider: "It's a daddy long legs!"

Me: "No, it's not a daddy long legs. It's too small."

Kiddo: "Brother long legs?"

Kiddo, upon waking up: "I'm sorry I ate the last cookie in my dream."

Me: "You did?"

Kiddo: "Yes. You were trying to get it but I got it first and I ate it. It was good."

Me: "What kind of cookie was it?"

Kiddo: "I don't know."

... and I'll give the last word to kiddette, 21st-century feminist:

Me: "What did you do at school today?"

Kiddette: "I made a rocket ship!"

Me: "You did?"

Kiddette: "Yes! ... And I'm pretty!"

Monday, January 7, 2013

Putting the year to bed

with, I hope, more success than I've had putting my daughter to bed, since she's currently pressed up against the gate on her bedroom, yelling, "Mooooommmeeee ... Moooommmeeee ..." Sometimes she has a moral objection to bedtime. Meanwhile, her ADHDer big brother, whom you might expect to be wide awake, given his skittery brain, fell sound asleep about five minutes after his head hit the pillow. Go figure.

So it was an interesting year, possibly in the ancient-curse sort of way. We've learned that: 1. Kiddo has ADHD; 2. I have arthritis; 3. Kiddette was not going to let her brother be the only one to have eye surgery; 4. The Jersey Shore was so much more vulnerable than we ever thought (and corollary: I never thought I'd be grateful to only wait a half-hour at the gas station); 5. Apparently, the way to keep kids safe in schools is to give the teachers guns. Which makes me think of one of my high school history teachers, who had cataracts in both eyes and let a couple of students fill out the grade sheets for her. (Rumor was that said students upgraded their friends' grades.) I think we might want to rethink this gun idea. 

I know more about ADHD than I did a year ago, but I'm still just scratching the surface, I think. I'm not always sure we're doing everything we can be doing for kiddo. I worry that his teacher is getting exasperated with him. I'm really doubtful the 504 plan is going to be enough, when he just does things like pushing other kids for no apparent reason and I don't even think he can explain it to himself. The school officials still seem willing to work with us, though.

I've learned that mental disorders are almost this great Wild West of medicine, because there's a lot that's still unknown, and treating such disorders is still a bit of a guessing game. And no matter what, people are going to assume that the "disorder" is a made-up excuse to cover for bad parenting.

I've learned that families frequently feel like they're alone in dealing with these issues, when they aren't. I feel like all these individual pockets of families would be better able to cope if they knew about each other, and banded together.

But we'll keep trying to do our best for kiddo (and kiddette). And since the world didn't end and all, we'll see how 2013 goes for us.