Saturday, October 29, 2011

Big Crazy

A few days ago, I was struck with an unfamiliar sensation. I was driving home from the gym, mentally mapping out my morning - the shower, the groceries, laundry, lunch, picking up the kids. This practice, even this plan, was not unusual. What was strange was the energy with which I contemplated it. For the first time in two months, I wasn't viewing what was in front of me from the smoldering pit of anxiety and depression. Indeed, I was anticipating my day with relish.

I've had many moments of laughter, of silliness, of fun, even, in the last long months of depression, but I haven't, for what seems like an eternity, felt okay. Always there has been the nagging feeling that things are not all right, really not all right, that at any time, everything could fall apart - from the world to my family to just my own mind. In the last few days, that feeling, for hours at a time, has ebbed.

Two weeks ago, my new psychiatrist, after much gathering of history and weighing pros and cons, put me on a new medication. My family history, even my own, is complicated. There are shades of bipolar right and left as well as touches of OCD to add to the general palette of major depression and anxiety. Finding the right drug for me was challenging. Some work for depression and anxiety but aggravate bipolar and OCD tendencies. Others manage bipolar symptoms but don't do much for the rest of it. And some, god forbid, cause weight-gain, an absolute deal-breaker in my book. That alone would make me depressed and anxious.

And so finally we reached a compromise, a drug that could, hopefully, quell the symptoms that bother me most without precipitating a mania (something I've only tasted but have witnessed full bloom in my mother). I took the pill and I waited. Days went by, some better, some worse. Anxiety would hit and and I would be anxious that it was back. Depression would take hold and it would make me depressed. I have been trying to pull myself out of these self-perpetuating whirlpools for so long now.

And then, for a number of days, I've felt well. Not manic, not speedy, not hyper-joyful but well. I have energy for something other than trying desperately to feel okay. A couple days ago I cobbled together a sweater-coat out of recycled cashmere sweaters. It's comprised of four sweaters, big patches and small, purple and brown and green argyle. It is a big garment; it reaches past my knees, I can wrap it around me to create a nest of layers of soft wool. Ben has termed it "Big Crazy". I was working on at our weekly stitch-and-bitch and when I was polling my girlfriends about how I should patch a moth-hole on the back, my friend, Ann, suggested the letters "LC" as in Liz Capron. I've been half-heartedly searching for a new nickname because there are suddenly so many Lizs in our parental sphere. There followed a discussion where I referred to myself in the third person as we laughed about how LC rolls. LC is tough, it seems, and decisive; she tells it like it is. And maybe, well, a little out there. A little crazy.

There's something about this article of clothing that speaks of this whole experience. I took apart something that wasn't working - old sweaters in one case and my mental health in the other - and pieced it back together into something that is strange but beautiful and very me. It's a giant, wearable, baby-soft blanket, a form of comfort I've created for myself. This depression has been different than the others in that I've been very public about what I've been going through. I have refused to hide. I've taken what's wrong and I've worn it and made it right. With a big "LC" emblazoned on my back, an emblem of the new me that has emerged.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Little Criminals

I have a general afternoon conundrum. The girls have homework and could use downtime at home. Mihiretu is, quite simply, awful indoors. By nature, he should be running, yelling, throwing balls. Those things don't work so well in our living-room. Particularly when his sisters are otherwise occupied. In an effort to focus all attention forever on him, he steals spelling lists, maims multiplication tables, chucks super-balls at their heads.

In an effort to have our afternoons be all things to all Caprons, I decided to try a round-robin play-date. Every Wednesday, each child has a standing date with a friend. Locations alternate week to week. Yesterday, Lana was at her friend, Ella's. Mae's pal, Ryder, was over here. Mihiretu had Luke here, too.

I've discussed Luke in these pages before. He's a kid very much like my son; handsome, busy, charming, rascally. The two boys match each other's energy - a phenomenon fortunate or catastrophic, depending on the day.

Yesterday, I urged the boys to play outside while the girls designed Ryder's Halloween costume. The girls sat, shiny brown head to shiny brown head, absently chomping pear while they studied their drawing, wondering just what a snow bride would wear. Snow bride? Snow bride.

The boys, meanwhile, circled the house, waving sticks at each other and the occasional passing buck. I would hand a banana or a bottle of water out the front door from time to time but mostly let them be. The lunch dishes were washed and dinner was underway when Mihiretu burst in the front door.

"Luke!" he said, gasping for breath. "Play pano! 'Tole money!"

Luke skidded in behind him. "It was Mihiretu's idea!" he shouted. "He's the one that played the piano!"

Slowly I gathered that the boys had entered the apartment downstairs, the apartment we rent out, the apartment for which we have a signed agreement not to enter without 48 hours notice.

"You played their piano?" I asked, my eyebrows reaching for my hairline, "You stole MONEY?"

Each boy pointed at the other. I ran outside and down the stairs. Indeed, the apartment door was open. Oh my god.

Unable to find evidence of stolen money (for Mihiretu a penny is big money so it could have been minor) and otherwise assessing our tenant's home to be intact, I eased the door closed and pulled them back upstairs.

Admonished and re-bananaed, they headed off again.

By now the costume design was done. I looked it over, made a few suggestions and got to work on a pattern. As we cut shiny blue fabric, stitched and fit Ryder, the boys came in intermittently. Each time, I hustled them back outside. If you don't want Mihiretu inside on a sunny afternoon, you REALLY don't want Mihiretu and Luke together penned by walls and delicate furniture.

Soon I sent the girls outside to occupy the boys while I finished the dress. Within a moment, they were back, breathless.

"They're on the neighbor's roof!" Mae gasped.

I ran out onto the back deck and, following the arc of Mae's accusatory finger, saw two boys, one blond, one curly brunet, balanced below on the Mexican tiled roof of the house downslope.

"Off the roof!" I screamed, my voice cracking. The boys glanced in my direction but continued in their investigation, prying tiles, poking under with their sticks.

"You guys!" I shrieked. "OFF THE ROOF!"

Moments later, thoroughly hoarse, I had successfully cajoled the boys back up the hill. Why does counting work when all else fails?

The boys now strictly instructed to stay off and out of other people's property, I, perhaps foolishly, headed back inside to finish up Ryder's costume. The girls started a game of soccer with the boys.

Soon it was five o'clock, the dress was done, dinner was bubbling on the stove and Kelsey, Luke's mom, was walking through the door. Together we collected Luke and his back-pack, socks and shoes as I told her of the afternoon high-jinks. All of us walked down to say good-bye at the car.

Luke was secured in his car-seat and we were saying our farewells when Mae and Ryder shouted from the other side of our van for us to come. I peeked around the back and burst out laughing.

"Kelsey," I said, "You have to see this."

There, against the side of our van, stood a two-foot round boulder, clearly pushed down the hill by the boys. There was a scratch in the paint but no dent. Kelsey and I shook our heads.

As they drove away, I felt strangely buoyed, curious given this afternoon of boulder-rolling, roof climbing and breaking and entering. Instead of worrying for Mihiretu's future, the jail cell he and Luke would share in fifteen years, I took a deep breath and hefted a sigh of relief that there is a boy out there as crazy as my son. A boy who was not orphaned, not adopted, not transplanted half way around the world. A boy who is active, curious and sometimes bombastic. Just like my son. Boys are, apparently, boys. As the mother of a boy, a testerone-addled, adorable maniac, I do not stand alone.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Comedian

Mihiretu likes to call out to strange men on the street. He waves his arms and shouts, "Hi, Daddy!" These men, these poor men, either offer a bewildered smile and half-hearted wave or simply pretend they don't hear him.

Mihiretu knows these people aren't his daddy. He just thinks it's funny. When I was reading about Ethiopia prior to our adoption, there was a lot of discussion about the Ethiopian sense of humor. It's dry, apparently, off-hand, and ever-present. This is true for Mihiretu, but with him, it's turned inside out. Yes, it's dry but it's also loud. He loves to accost people he doesn't know. He growls at kids, moves in too close and karate-chops the air in front of them. When we're walking to school in the morning, he stands at the edge of the bike path and shouts, "On yo' lef!" to kids as they cycle by. They are, in fact, on his left, they are the ones who should be saying "on your left", but he finds their confusion hilarious.

A couple weeks ago, we were walking down the main street of Fairfax, our funky little town. A restaurant had it's windows opened onto the sidewalk to catch the evening breeze. Two women sat at the window table, having some civilized discussion. Mihiretu yelled, "Hello!", ran at them, and started to scale the window sill. I pulled him off, placed him back on the sidewalk, smiled faintly at their "Well, he's friendly, isn't he?", and then had to run after him through the door of the restaurant because he was coming at them from another angle.

He's not particularly friendly, actually, my Mihiretu. He can be shy when introduced to new people, he clings to me when I leave him at preschool. He just loves to fuck with people.

His ribbing is, of course, not limited to strangers. Today I was riding him to school on the back of my bike. I stood up out of the saddle to conquer an incline and he, with my rear in his face, said, "You got a giant butt, you know." I'm sure, from that perspective, it did seem giant, but I'm equally sure that he loved delivering what he knew was not a compliment. Luckily, my butt is not my problem area - when Lana pokes my belly and asks if there's a baby in there, I hit the roof. Mihiretu had pushed a button, just not one that was wired to anything.

He likes to trick, as in "Momma no find cah-keys. I tick her!" If the girls are attached to any item, a new stuffed animal, a barrette, their homework, he's sure to hide it. Some things, Ben's prescription, highly expensive, eyeglasses, for example, disappear forever. It's difficult to remember that he does mean to be funny. He's not only trying to piss us off - although that, of course, is an added benefit.

And here's the thing. Often, it is funny. When he's yelling "Hi, Daddy!" at some redneck in a truck, the guy looking over one shoulder and then the next in an effort to figure out who this small black kid is addressing, it's everything I can do not to laugh. And sometimes I laugh anyway.

He's not a sociopath. He does love people. He just has, quite literally, a wicked sense of humor.