Failure to fix

By Mir
December 16, 2009

I seem to be on an F kick lately. I cannot imagine why. I’m sure it has nothing to do with a barely-even-subliminal desire to say a DIFFERENT word that starts with F, repeatedly. No no, of course not. It’s not as though I’d like to stick my head out the window right now and bellow…

… um, Frankenstein. Ahem.

After yesterday’s fudge incident (and yes, there are recipes that use evaporated rather than sweetened condensed, but then they call for things like marshmallow fluff, which I also didn’t have) I instead opted to make a giant batch of cookies and say “Screw fudge! Fudge is stupid!” I’m pleased to report the cookies came out just fine. I mean, I think they did. It’s not like I can actually eat them. Motherfrankenstein.

It’s all part of Operation Thank The Teachers For Narrowly Saving My Sanity.

I really thought that when Chickadee started middle school this year, I’d be off the hook for teacher gifts. Or maybe she’d have ONE favorite teacher. But no. She wants gifts for the teachers, all of them. Actually, that’s a lie. She wants gifts for all of the teachers EXCEPT one, and then we had to have a little talk about NOT BEING A JERK. That went over like a lead balloon, probably because—near as I can tell—being in middle school is kind of all about being a jerk.

So she has, I don’t know, eight different teachers or something, and that’s a lot of gifts if you’re BUYING, which is why instead I’m doing a lot of BAKING. Of course that meant that Chickadee stomped her way through the kitchen last night and upon questioning spat out that it’s NO FAIR because SHE AND MONKEY used to be the taste testers for cookies and now I’m always baking at BEDTIME and then they go to bed and OTTO gets to have a cookie and THEY DON’T.

I asked if she was seriously pouting because Otto gets to have a cookie and she said that YES SHE WAS. Mind you, this is the same child who begs me to flat iron her hair and then screams at me that I’m doing it wrong (simple solution: I have procured the darling her VERY OWN FLAT IRON for Christmas, and on that blessed morn I plan to BEAT HER TO DEATH with it), so I figured maybe it was the alignment of the planets or something that was TRULY bothering her, but she was unwavering in her assertion. Finally I was forced to agree that YES, it was a major tragedy, and clearly I never should’ve married him, what with the severe COOKIE IMPINGING he was committing.

I apologized for my error, and she stomped off to bed. (Who says mothers and daughters don’t share tender moments?)

This morning all was forgiven, at least until she started screaming at me that I should pick her up from school because she doesn’t want to ride the bus with her science fair stuff, and it would only be “a few minutes out of my day.” I then proceeded to swallow my own fist while attempting not to explain at length exactly how many minutes “out of my day” a certain screamy tweeny has lately been causing me to reach for the Excedrin. So.

You can see that her teachers deserve thanking.

On the other hand, we have Monkey, he of Up And Down, and right now we are Down. Right now he is so far Down I’m pretty sure his teachers all deserve shiny new BMWs, but I have yet to run across a recipe for those. Monkey does not scream at me (most of the time). Monkey is currently stuck in a repeating loop that pretty much goes like this: I am different, different is bad, I don’t want to be different, I try not to be different and I just end up more different, everyone is mean, and I would like to curl up in the corner and be invisible. Repeat a hundred times an hour, and you’re getting the gist. Did it cause your heart to splinter and crack? Because that’s more or less what it’s doing to me right now.

My participation in making things better for him seems woefully inadequate. I’m going to go hang out in his classroom for the holiday party; maybe I can pass out hot chocolate along with friendly little warnings like “Stop picking on my baby!” I’m sure THAT would improve his school experience lots. No? Okay, I’ll continue just being helpless and tortured, then. And also being grateful for the teachers who are keeping school from being a COMPLETE disaster for him right now. (See, it’s only a partial disaster. So much better.)

In summary, we have a girlchild who believes I’m the source of everything wrong, but her life is basically fine. And we have a boychild who believes I’m the source of everything good, but his life is kind of a mess regardless of what I do. And me, well, I’m baking a whole lot of cookies.

And maybe muttering “Frankenstein” a lot.


  1. Javamom

    Heads are rolling around here too. It’s the time to be Frankenstein-jolly.


  2. Fabs

    Hang in there Mir, you are doing a great job, you really are!

  3. Aimee

    Um… Flugelhorn! I’m sorry Monkey’s having such a hard time. I’m sure the cookies are delicious, and I am certain that Flat-iron beatings will soon be sweeping the nation as the latest holiday tradition, so at least you’re ahead of the curve on that one!

  4. Dawn

    “I have procured the darling her VERY OWN FLAT IRON for Christmas, and on that blessed morn I plan to BEAT HER TO DEATH with it”

    Spoken like the mother of a teen. Or pre-teen. Whatever. The lines get kind of blurred when you’re dealing with hormone-induced lunacy in your dearly beloved children.

    Poor, dear, sweet Monkey. If only the other children could realize that in the not-so-distant future he will be either: a) signing their paycheques, or b) the very rich inventor of some device that will save/improve their sad little lives, they would be so much nicer to him now.

    I vote for Ex-Lax in the chocolate chip cookies for the offending children. That’d learn ’em!

  5. Otto

    For the record, Chickadee should know that I did not get a single cookie last night. Or this morning. I oped for fruit instead … which means I must be coming down with something.

    Oh, Figaro.


  6. Little Bird

    You’ve mentioned before about the possibility of Monkey having Aspergers. If he does there are camps and “clubs” for kids with it. This may help him feel less different. Just being around other kids who KNOW can be good. No having to explain or defend yourself with a group of people who “get it.” Had these groups existed when I was his age, I would have loved it. I found a group last year (for me) and I cried at how … relieved I felt. No pressure, just people who already understood. Instant acceptance.
    As for Chickadee, she’s still gonna want you to flat iron her hair.
    We DO grow out of those weird teen years. Well, most of us do.

  7. Christine

    Mir, I have lurked for….forever because one: you make me laugh so hard! and two: I recognize soooo much of my life in yours. I too have a middle school girl who is receiving a Christmas gift/ possible beating of a flat iron and an elementary school son who is wonderfully special and different. I have always found Farvegnugen to be a satisfying F word!

  8. Mama Bear

    Ex-Lax in the cookies! My grandmother used to put that in our chocolate pudding when we were being crabby, because she thought we “needed it.” Also she thought that was the reason we were crabby. True story!
    Mir I am relating so well with your pre-teen stories. Mine are 11 and 16, and 16 is dealing with serious off balance emotions due to medication being reduced for SVT issues. Her latest is obsessing about minute things, like her radio not working. It becomes ALL CONSUMING and she finds her anger building and building until it explodes all over me! That’s what we are apparently, the place to throw the anger and get it out of their systems. If only it would stay out.

  9. Lisa

    Don’t you find it ironic that Flat iron is another “F” word?

  10. My Kids Mom

    I really truly thought I would be exempt from all the EMOTION (a word which really has to be in all caps) because I have two boys. If I can’t buy fluffy Easter dresses, the least I should get is peaceful teen years, right? But 5yo has already shown us that when THEY are mean to him at school, I (meaning, The Mom at home) will suffer. Oh F.

  11. Javamom

    “Fudge” is another f-word. With or without sweetened condensed milk.

    Just sayin’

  12. gaylin


    There’s an F word with some meaning to it.

    My mom also thought that a ‘good poo’ would help any mood but she never managed to trick us into eating Exlax.

    You are pretty, your children will grow up. They will make their own cookies. Your sanity will return or not.

  13. Kathy

    I have the best ever recipe for fudge that calls for evaporated milk and NO marshmallow stuff. Just sayin’ maybe you need a great fudge recipe to make it all better. I usually find that high fat & high sugar recipes subdue my urge to scream FUDGE at this time of year (until I step on the scales, then the urge intestifies). Let me know if you want that recipe!

  14. Jean

    I want to protect Monkey. I was the kid that was picked on in school so my heart, oh my heart is breaking for him. Many prayers coming your way that things get better soon.

  15. Tracy

    There is nothing like mother/daughter relationships…been there and never want to go back. My daughter is 21 now which means she really knows everything and doesn’t have to listen to anyone else. Blah Blah Blah. I just sit back and laugh to myself because like me she too will come to realize she knows NOTHING. Just hang in there Mir. Go kiss Licorice. She’s the one with all the huggable, make you feel better, power.

  16. Katie in MA

    Oh frak! Teacher gifts! Guess I will be baking tonight after I go running. At least it will be good practice for when the girls’ need some extra platefuls.

  17. Jenni

    Crap. Friday is the last day of school…and I completely forgot about a gift for the teacher. Ugh. Luckily there is only one teacher…bake or buy? hmm…

  18. Jomama

    Happy Holiday Fudge stress–it’s that time of year, isn’t it?

    I know it sucks to be on the receiving end of bullying. I lived that my entire elementary school career and even into middle school.

    This week we’ve had the joy of learning our youngest has been the perpetrator for several weeks now. Having a child on the other end is no fun either. I’ll remind him not to eat any cookies from the mother of the other child. Unless he keeps behaving like a troll at home to, in which case…

  19. Jomama

    I am so glad Monkey has such a caring and involved Mom, and that the teachers are on board. At least with Christmas break coming, he’ll be wrapped in the warm and loving embrace of his family and take a break from worrying about his “difference” for a while.

  20. Leandra

    My husband’s boss’ wife loves to say “fricken damn” and I have to say that rolls off the tongue quite nicely. It’s my latest swear word. Of course one does still have to be wary of little pitchers…..

  21. Karen

    Sometimes the F bomb just really makes a difference and it needs to be muttered out the window loudly to the universe. Preferrably when neighbors are out Christmas shopping or something.

    The tweeny thing is perfectly normal, and MY monkey had a girlfriend for a while who was very mean to him, as catty 13 year olds can be… and I told him he didn’t need to put up with that, there was no fun it any of it, and what was he doing. SHE then told him I give her dirty looks every time I’m in the school in her vicinity…. I DO NOT!!!…(yes I do…shut up) Anyway.. if you go to that holiday party and a few dirty looks are thrown here and there, I won’t

    Just kidding.. um, sort of.

    Better days ahead,Mir.

  22. Becky

    My friend worked at a Barnes and Noble for a span of time, and since she had a friend with Asperger’s, she took to reading what books were available on the topic. When I mentioned what was going on with Monkey, she told me to recommend a book she’d found particularly helpful and unique.

    It’s an autobiographical book called Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence by Luke Jackson, a thirteen year old boy. Apparently, what really makes it helpful is that it is a real teen boy speaking about his experiences. Maybe it would help Monkey feel less isolated by his differences? It’s also meant to give advice (thus the guide part) and might be handy for the years to come?

  23. RuthWells

    Oh, Frankincense. Poor Monkey.

  24. natasha the exile on Mom Street

    Rent the film F**K from Metflix. It’s a documentary about the ultimate F word and offers many, many satisfying options.

    Our favorite is “Boone!”

    But you’ll have to watch in order to find out why.

  25. Groovecatmom

    Wow, Mir. Just the fact that you are baking things for her to take to her teachers…impressive. I mean, if it were me, by this time, I’d think–you want to give gifts to 8 teachers? Learn to crochet or find an apron and a recipe and have at it, sister. (Why did my mother always call me “sister” when she was annoyed with me?) I gave out a lot of Bisquick coffee cakes in middle school.

  26. Ironic Mom

    Here’s an easier gift than baking(and nearly just as cheap). Buy some fancy individually-packaged tea. Write a personalized message in a card and attach a tea bag or two (or the entire box if you’re generous).

    I’m a teacher (who subscribes to the philosophy: While there is tea there is hope). Baking is lovely to get, especially since I’m culinarily-challenged, but tea is fine too.

    Happy Holidays…

  27. hollygee

    You aren’t making the mistake of thinking that just because she has a new flat iron, you will be off the hook for how her hair looks? She won’t know how to work it right (at least on most of her hair) and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT!

    Fig Newton!

  28. Heather

    Aw, my heart is definitely a little cracked and bruised for your sweet Monkey. I’m sorry things are so hard for him Mir :( You are so good at finding just the right words to help us understand. I wish I could fix it, too.

  29. Katherine

    I just spent the day baking biscotti for the younger one to take to his teachers – and maybe for the middle scholar to take, if he decides he feels like it (which he will probably be unable to decide until 10 minutes before the bus comes on Friday morning. sigh) I’m thinking fudge would have been easier.

    BTW, fudge was my grandmother’s favorite swear word.

  30. Jamie

    Why does this parenting thing have to be so frankenstein hard?! I’ve got the overly emotional 8 year old boy and the stubborn as all get out nearly 6 year old boy. I thought boys were supposed to be easier?!

  31. Jen

    This is the “cure all” when I was a teen. It’s good on EVERYTHING – sometimes she and I’d just eat it straight up with a spoon.

    Mom told me that she knew life was kicking my butt in high school when I started re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books for the 1000th time. I’m sorry Monkey is having trouble.

    Best Hot Fudge Sauce Ever
    • ½ c unsweetened cocoa
    • ½ c granulated sugar
    • ½ c brown sugar
    • 1 c light corn syrup
    • ½ c evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
    • 3 TBS butter/margarine
    • ¼ tsp salt

    In a 2-quart saucepan stir together the above ingredients. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat; boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp of vanilla. Stir in vanilla and store in a jar with a lid. This can be reheated in the microwave or in times of deep need, can be eaten with a spoon straight out of the jar. Store leftovers in the refrigerator

  32. Jen

    Plus if you have some little jars, you can jar it up and send it as teacher gifts if you double the recipe.

  33. Headless Mom

    The comments are nearly as funny as your post. I do know that it’s not funny when you are living through it. Hugs to the M-man. For Chickie? She needs a bag of ice, apparently, but know that I lived through all of that and now I have a wonderful 19 yo that I only rarely want to throw out with the garbage. (Or beat with a flat iron. Heh.)

  34. Jen

    My son has a similar refrain, and it breaks my heart too. At least the teachers get the easy end. Me? I could really do with some cookies, gluten-free please. I’ve earned ’em.
    Frankenfart. :(

  35. Kristi

    Can I just say, I love you? And will you know exactly what I mean by that?

  36. Becca

    Oh, poor Monkey. I’ve been there, but mostly in the position of not knowing I had a reason to be different, and just hating myself for being different than the norms. Getting the actual diagnosis of Aspergers was really helpful for me in that it meant it wasn’t my fault, but that kind of reasoning probably won’t matter at his age, when all he wants is to be like everyone else.

    What I would try is to see if there’s one change you can make, to make one thing easier for him, as a way of showing him that things can be better too, after the diagnosis. Exactly what that change might be is tricky, because of course I don’t know him and what exactly sets him off, but overstimulation is really common. Are there times at home when he’s making himself stay with the rest of you when he’d rather have some quiet time? Maybe permission to take a break when he needs one would be something you could try.

    Or has he ever tried a weighted blanket? It was a huge revelation to me, how much comfort that could bring. If that helps him, something an occupational therapist once suggested to me was for class situations, if you start feeling twitchy and overwhelmed, simply sit your backpack in your lap, if he has it around. The weight will often help with that.

  37. Shelley

    Inappropriate places for cursing, such as work or around children, I say FOOT! I don’t have a clue where it came from, but it works well for me.

  38. Meredith

    I will join you in the baking. Yesterday I made enough cookies for the youngest’s teachers as well as the office staff and school nurse. I do not usually gift to the office staff and school nurse, but the nurse has seen my kids way more often then ever before (strange rash, perhaps she has the flu like the rest of her class, says his head hurts, feels like she has to throw up, seems to be limping, bumped her head on the desk, no fever but says she just can’t stay for chorus today…) which has led to me seeing the office staff way more than usual, hence the cookies. Today I am baking for the other kids’ teachers (and the middle schooler has decided he’d like to take treats to his 7 teachers), my coworkers and just maybe the pharmacist who knows me by name and yeah, tell me why I decided baking would be easier?

  39. Amy

    Being a middle school kid it totally about honing one’s jerk skills. I just spent a crazy chaotic day with my lovely adolescent students and it’s a wonder I didn’t throttle some of them. With each others’ heads, maybe.

    And that Down phase Monkey is in right now completely describes one of my 6th graders. He breaks my heart; I just don’t know how to make it all better for him. :( Maybe if his mom baked me cookies? (I’m kidding, of course.)

  40. Em

    All of the important people like Monkey. I like Monkey. You like Monkey. Everyone here seems to like Monkey. What the hell does he care what a bunch of turdy kids think? (He cares everything, I know, but I wish it didn’t matter to him what they thought). My Christmas wish will be that he knows how great he is (the way his mom sees him) and less importantly, that the kids at school do.

    Also, whats really wrong with the satisfying F word? It doesn’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Obviously, it isn’t appropriate in public but I say if you are home and out of earshot of any mockingbirds, let fly. You’ll feel better.

  41. Nelson's Mama

    Methinks Hollygee must have girls have at home too!

    I haven’t dispensed a flat iron beating yet, but there is still time…

  42. Wilma Ham

    Yes, it breaks a mother’s heart to see a child being miserable and it is important to keep yourself sane and keep believing in him.
    Take care of yourself Mir and deep down keep believing in him.

  43. Aisha

    I think when I am fed up and wanting to use a certain F word, I am going to start yelling ‘Frankenstein’ instead. Hey, my co-workers already think I’m crazy, what’s a little more fuel to the fire? ;)

  44. laura F

    My autistic 12 year old girl has come up with her own F word substitution: Frequently. As in, “I am FREQUENTLY mad!” It took me a while to even figure out that was a substitution, since it makes sense all on its own, but believe me, she really means the other F word. I finally figured it out when she said something like “I don’t want to get in the frequent car” which makes no sense.

  45. Tracey

    Yes, it DID make my heart splinter and crack. :( It’s so hard when you just can’t fix it even though that’s what you want most.

  46. Sarah

    Hi Mir,

    This recipe:

    Calls for marshmallow fluff, but its way to expensive for me so I just use the same amount of mini-marshmallows (at $0.99 or less per batch). The right amount – as measured by my husband is about 5 cups mini marshmallows (and 2 cups chocolate chips).

    I also just discovered the best time saver ever (on my way home from school – I’m a teacher – at 9:30 pm after a book fair and concert on the same night)

    I bought a set of disposable cake pans (7″x10″) and each one holds a 1/2 batch of fudge. NO CUTTING FOR ME!!!!

  47. Brigitte

    I prefer to stomp around growling (or yelling) “Rackin Frackin Brick n’ Brackin!”
    kind of like Yosemite Sam, though I’m not sure that’s EXACTLY what he says.

    My heart does break for Monkey, it’s too much like our (me & sis) own childhoods. I was just remembering the other day when I was 7 and a friend said she liked how I sang to myself while working at my desk. I was mortified, I had no clue I was one of THOSE kids. No idea I was singing!

  48. S

    My heart splintered and shattered for you and Monkey! I have to tell you I was rotten to my mom when I was younger – I cringe to think how poorly I treated her when she did so much for me. She was my whipping board yet I still expected her to drive me where I “needed” to go and buy me what I “needed” to have – and somehow she did and has never ever thrown it in my face. I dreaded having a daughter because of that aspect…we aren’t at that stage yet but we are drawing close as I see the eye rolls coming already at age 10. A couple of my kids are “different” – unique personalities if you will – so I relate to Monkey’s plight – he’s so lucky to have you on his side, now if only he could find a pal as well to be on his side. Its funny (funny sad not funny haha) how we as parents can appreciate quirkiness but its like a neon sign to kick me for kids (hey even for some adults who just can’t get past the pack mentality).

    Go have some spiked eggnog and watch your husband eat some cookies! Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season!

  49. Nicki

    I completely understand. And I just finished a night of baking for 14 teachers, one of which was Rachel’s teacher last year…and still hasn’t recovered. So, she’s on my cookie for life plan. Stick a fork in me.

  50. Amelia

    I had this conversation with my counselor a few weeks ago, in which I worried that my preschooler needs counseling already and bemoaned her situation (divorced parents, alcoholic dad).

    My counselor responded that in grad school, she was taught that studies had shown that the people who were most resilient after tragedy and most responsive to counseling had only one common factor: all of them reported having had at least one person in their childhood who believed in them and reflected that belief in word and deed. It only took ONE. She said that the longer that person was involved in the child’s life, the stronger the response…so if the person was a parent or someone else with long-term involvement, the child grew up to be an even more resilient adult. Listen: you are that person for your kids. (And, just based on the little bits you have written here, I feel certain that your kids have been blessed with LOTS and lots of others who believe in them as well.)

    So this stuff you are worried is not enough, this loving-but-not-fixing that you are doing? Is actually the best gift you could give them.

    Blessings to you and yours, Mir.

  51. JennyM

    One of the funniest f-word substitutions I’ve ever beheld was peformed by a friend of mine years ago, helping to build a set for an elementary school play. Upon hitting his thumb in a spirited fashion with the hammer, he shrieked:

    “AAAA! FFFffff…[glaring wildly around at several extremely interested, saucer-eyed fourth-graders]…or he’s a jolly good fellow!!!!”

    PS. You’re pretty. And shiny!

  52. Scottsdale Girl

    augh, I did NOT apologize enough to my mother.

  53. Sara

    Amelia, you made me cry.

    Mir, you are an AMAZING mom. And I wish I could come feed you soup and gluten-free cookies (I have a cinnamon-almond cookie recipe that’s topped with meringue for maximum prettiness and is not too sweet — perfect for you, I’d say).

  54. elswhere

    I feel for you. And Monkey. And even Chickadee. It is no picnic living in a swirl of middle-school emotions, if I remember right. (And yes, I belatedly feel for my mom, too.)

    My kid has started saying “Beep!” when she feels like swearing. As in: “Maah-meeeee, can I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas again after we light the Hanukkah candles and then go to bed AFTER that?” “No.” “Oh, BEEP.”

  55. crazyjane

    i like to say fasnacht. it is german or something for doughnut but it sounds much worse.

  56. mamaspeak

    The flat-iron beatings will continue until morale has improved. ;-)

    I wish I had something comforting to say for Monkey, but you already have so much good advice. Hugs to you all, it sounds like you all could use them.

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