Sound Support: 8 ways to Improve Life with Misophonia


We have now been living with misophonia for almost two years.  Misophonia was a sleeping monster inside my little girl… awakened  during the summer of 2012.


Misophonia is condition of extreme sound sensitivity.  It is characterized by an immediate, acute, negative emotional reaction to certain sounds.  People with misophonia experience a fight or flight response to simple everyday sounds like tapping fingers, typing on a keyboard, crinkling wrappers, sounds in speech, eating noises such as chewing, swallowing, or crunching.  The fight or flight response creates panic and rage, and sufferers can become violent and emotionally explosive when they hear these triggers.


The easiest way to relate, would be to imagine being trapped in a room with someone who is scratching their nails down a chalkboard and will not stop.  Most people will have a powerful, negative reaction to this scenario… first a cringe, cover their ears… but if the noise persisted,  soon they would flee or get angry and demand that the sound stop.

My daughter feels this intense reaction to small, insignificant sounds.


Unfortunately, misophonia triggers can also be specifically focused on one person.  In my daughter, her emerging misophonia presented as an intense aversion to my voice.   In fact, emerging is not quite the right word… misophonia looks more like the sudden transformation from Bruce Banner to the Hulk.  Quick, violent, immediate, and terrifying.

I wrote about that crushing few months in Sound Desperation and Sound Hysteria.

If you have never heard of this condition, you are not alone.  No one seems to have heard of this condition.  Doctors and mental health professionals are unaware.  Which means that as parents and sufferers of misophonia, we are largely on our own, trying to cope with a disorder that looks like a giant temper tantrum.  Without being understood or respected as a true health crisis, misophonia can quickly tear a family apart, destroy relationships, and create a life of isolation and desperation.

Since we began dealing with misophonia, Lydia’s triggers have increased.  She now has powerful reactions to her sister as well, a heartbreaking reality I wrote about it in Sounds of Our Crisis, Living with Misophonia.

Her list of triggers are growing every month.
It has been bad.  Really, really bad.  I will admit here, that there have been weeks of time where my husband and I wondered if we would be able to raise our child.  I have googled  boarding schools in our area, feeling my heart may just disintegrate in my chest like a wet tissue.


Two years in, I am relieved to report that things have gotten so much better.
I finally feel like I have something constructive to say!  So, here is what we have learned, and how we are coping.  I want to share it, to help others who are in those really dark places right now.

It seems like every health article out there begins the same way… perhaps because even though we don’t want to hear it, the truth and healing lies in diet, sleep and exercise.

Bleck.  I know.

But essential.

Misophonia is easiest to relate to when you think about irritability.  Moodiness.   It is really hard to understand Lydia raging about the way I say my S’s, but I do understand what it feels like when I am too tired, too hungry, or too inactive.  Human beings are more likely to overreact, say cruel things, tantrum, or embarrass themselves if they are  sleep deprived, hungry, or have a lot of pent up, unreleased frustration.



#1.  SLEEP


Lydia must have regular, good sleep.  We rarely allow her to have sleep-overs with friends or stay up late on weekends because being tired makes Lydia impossible to live with. We are very, very strict about her sleep schedule.  I am afraid as she gets older this will be harder for us to manage well, but for now, she doesn’t have much flexibility.





We find that she does so much better when she is really active.  We will always have her in a competitive sport that requires exhaustive exercise (like swim and soccer and track) because this makes her feel so much less irritated… and she sleeps better.


#3. DIET

When she is hungry, watch out.  When we plan poorly and she gets too hungry, or if we get lazy about healthy snacks, Lydia has a much harder time with her misophonia.  It’s an almost guaranteed disaster if she gets into that low blood sugar zone.




Misophonia is worse with overstimulation.  When Lydia is feeling triggered, she will often come get a really tight hug from me.  The squeezing is helpful in reducing sensation and sensitivity, and calms the nerves.

We also bought Lydia a heavy blanket… these are straight from heaven.   We bought ours here…



It is a blanket filled with beads or rock.  They come in various weights and sizes.  Lydia sleeps with hers every night, and the heaviness does the same thing as a tight hug.  It calms her overstimulated nerves and helps reduce sensation.  When she is in a meltdown mode, we will send her to her room to calm down, often under her blanket.



We got really focused on the sounds Lydia hates, but the trick is to reduce stimulation while masking the sounds she is triggered by.  Bright lights and lots of noise chaos can make the sensitivity worse. We found these apps that have all kinds of noises… rain, static, chimes, wind…


We turn down the lights, turn off the t.v. and then Lydia can chose one of these sounds to help distract her from her triggers.  We prefer to have this playing because we want Lydia to be able to manage herself with the most mild forms of intervention possible.  But, many times she still has to eat in a separate room, or use headphones to more thoroughly block sound.  It’s a slow process.  Even our four year old will acknowledge in gratitude the days that Lydia joins us for dinner.





For about a year and a half, Lydia saw a neurofeedback specialist, Rae Tattenbaum.  Here is the link to her practice:

We were also featured on a local show, Better Connecticut.

Kara’s Cure: Inner Act and Neurofeedback


When the misophonia was nightmarish, Lydia would go at least 2 times a week.  We were able to cut down to once a week, and we did that for a long time.  This treatment did help her enormously, and we saw a huge improvement in her coping ability.  In the beginning,  seeing Rae was the only thing that made me feel like I could raise my daughter, the only thing that made our situation liveable. Once we had things more under control, we began to realize that the neurofeedback was not a long term solution for us.  When we stopped the treatments, she would slowly slip back into misophonia meltdown mode.  Eventually, we felt stable enough to look for alternative answers.



In February, we found a professional who had actually heard of misophonia!  We took Lydia to see  Melanie Herzfeld, an audiologist  at the Hearing and Tinnitus Center in Long Island, NY.


She recommended a set of hearing aids for Lydia, which emit a white or pink noise.  They help mask all of the small sounds that make Lydia go nuts.  She does not have to wear them all of the time, just when she is feeling triggered.


The hearing aids have saved us.   I was very nervous about getting them, because they are so expensive and also not covered by our  insurance… but worth every single penny.  We bought her hearing aids one day before we drove from our home in Connecticut to Washington DC for spring break.  It took us eight hours. Normally, this would have been an epic nightmare.   We have been on way shorter trips that have been emotionally scarring for all of us, car rides where I contemplated hitchhiking home.


She wore her hearing aids and watched movies with her sisters and I talked to my husband in the front seat… It was a miracle, truly.  I had been unable to speak while in a car with Lydia for the last two years.  I was so afraid to believe that it was not some kind of random fluke… but we drove all the way home without trouble, and have been doing well in the car ever since!



The audiologist also strongly recommended cognitive behavioral therapy with an emphasis in pain management.  She stressed the importance of finding someone who will not try immersion therapy techniques (making Lydia listen to the sounds she hates).  Pain management would help Lydia learn coping techniques to redirect and refocus her attention.


We have looked around, but have not been actively pursuing this therapy for Lydia right now.  The techniques in #1-7 have helped get us to such a safe place, we don’t feel it’s necessary right now.  But I also know that things change.  Lydia is going to change.  We will grow and adjust with her, and it’s good to know where we will look next if we need more help.

There are websites and support groups popping up on the internet now that can also be sought out.  Personally, I avoid them, although I am sure they are very helpful for others.I can not bear the stories told in those groups.  Most of them just fill me with heaviness and desolation, wondering if I will raise my daughter and never see her again when she is old enough to leave.  Will she be able to call me?  Visit?  Will she know her sisters and be a part of our lives?  Will she be able to have deep, meaningful relationships?  Love, without feeling tortured?


I have to believe so.  And while I ache for those that are in that pain now, I am not prepared to be a part of the support group.  I can’t.  Because today, things are ok.   I can only look forward and believe that my daughter will be ok, and I will have the privilege of always being in her life.    But I offer all my love and support in sharing our story here.

And I will contact anyone who needs to hear a person say, “I understand.”

We understand.


You don’t ‘fix’ your child, you create the conditions for them to RISE.  

-Shefali Tsabary

Poulin, Meganphoto credit: phyllis meredith photography


The Sounds of Our Crisis: Living with Misophonia


Everyone has a trigger… that one thing that will make you go apeshit.  The emotion you just can’t cope with.  The monster you were sent to slay.

Mine is feeling silenced, my voice stolen.  Muted. Dismissed.

So naturally, I have  a child that hates the sound of my voice.  She suffers from misophonia, which makes her go crazy if I talk in the car while she is in the back seat.  She can’t stand to hear me talk on the phone, or converse with Rick downstairs on the couch while she tries to fall asleep.

Is that irony?  Divine cruelty?  God’s stab at satire?

Maybe.  But it also gives me clear direction…it demands that I find a way.   I have a little corner here, my own piece of the internet, and all I can do is write about what is happening with honesty.

I’m scared.  Driving home with my girls squabbling in the car, the fear creeps in.  It makes me angry and I am yelling at them before we have hit the driveway.  We have been together for 4 minutes.

We are emptying the dishwasher, setting the table for dinner.  Lydia stomps down the stairs, on the defensive.  She is singing loudly, slamming things to the ground, shoving chairs into the table, she crashes through the kitchen… the fear grabs me by the throat, and I struggle to maintain calm.

Lydia hisses at Carly as we sit in our chairs, and jumps to her feet quickly, almost knocking over the chair, slopping water out of the glasses.  About five months ago, Carly was added to the growing list of things that provoke Lydia’s misophonia meltdowns.  I take in a few gulps, the panic I feel tightens every muscle in my neck, strangling me.  She grabs her plate and kicks the swinging door in, stomping.  She grits her teeth but it doesn’t muffle the  furious screech.  We all freeze in place.   I put my hand on Carly’s back, and the small gesture of compassion breaks her composure.  She whimpers, and then grunts angrily.  Rick hands me Lydia’s  fork and napkin.  I snatch them from him and storm into the kitchen.   I try not to throw them at her.   She is cowering in the corner,  plugging her headphones into her iPod, turning it up so loud I can hear Bruno Mars damaging her eardrums.  She looks at me with disgust.

It hurts.  I can’t help it.  I feel wounded by her posturing.  Her revulsion.  Her aversion.  It’s an old wound now, scarred over and reopened by her sharp looks and high-pitched screeches over the last 18 months.  It’’s raw right now.  Because she is triggered by Carly too.  And every time she hurts my adult feelings, every time I must reach deep into the best, most mature part of myself to process this hurt and turn it into much-needed compassion for my glowering daughter, I think of Carly.  Her inability to process.  Her young spirit, and what this rejection must be teaching her about herself.  The complexity of the emotions swirling around our dinner table is nauseating.

I retreat to the dining room, and we eat, minus one.  While we eat, I struggle to pull my mind out of the next 10 years.  How will we survive this?  What will this do to us?  What will happen to my little girls?  To me?  I look at Rick, my eyes communicating my desperation.  He tries to ground me into the moment.  “Take a bite.  It’s just dinner,”  his eyes say, pleading.

It doesn’t feel like just dinner, it feels like our whole lives are being swallowed by this crazy, mysterious misophonia.

Sometimes, I can not keep the monstrous fear at bay and  I lose it.  Most of the time, it looks like anger.  I rant. I watch Stella’s eyes widen as she hears, “I’m so damn sick of this shitty behavior!”   The words taste terrible as I spit them out, aware of their sharp edges.     This extra loss of control  must do wonders for all three of my girls’  already tender, aching spirits.  Their appetites.   Being angry with Lydia is like being angry when a wounded animal snarls at you.  She is hurting, I know this.

Sometimes, the tears just roll, drip into chicken orzo pasta, and everyone acts like they don’t notice.

Sometimes, we pretend it isn’t happening.  We spend the meal sharing things we are grateful for in a clockwise, orderly fashion.  Stella gets up, runs to the kitchen, and makes Lydia lift her headphones and give her grateful words so she can report to the group.  The grateful list is building up, the room tightening with tension.

After dinner, when the clicking of the silverware against the plates stops, when the sight of Carly chewing her dinner is gone, when the sound of me taking a sip of water is over, Lydia goes into sweetheart mode.  She is throbbing with guilt and shame, she is not oblivious to the pain she is causing.  She snuggles up to me, she brings me school papers with great marks, she sweetly engages with Stella, offering to help her get her pj’s on. She tries to make Carly laugh.   She leaves us love notes, to smooth out the hurts.

I often find Carly sulking in bed.  The rejection is getting to Carly.  Normally so passive, so unexpressed, so quiet and easily content, Carly is beginning to show her pain.  She is frustrated and pissed off, she cries in an angry fit, kicking at my attempts to hold her.

“She HATES me!  She thinks I am disgusting!  And I am not doing ANYTHING!”

She folds her arms defensively, growling at me.  I try to explain.  But the explaining doesn’t soothe.  I know that, as I ache too.  I feel rejected.  I feel terror about how Lydia’s life will unfold, how she will manage.  I feel the weight of the damage she is doing to her sister, unintentional, but real, slam me in the chest.

Oh my GOD, what are we going to do?

It is not breaking my heart…it is eating me alive.

I think about all the families out there, trying to hold on.  Carrying their own burdens.  Their own hurts.  I am grateful for the health we do have.  That my girls are doing well in school.  They enjoy sports and friends and music and movies.  I think of people I know.  People I know who have children with closed  head injuries.  Autism.  Feeding tubes.  Wheelchairs.  Brain damage.  Schizophrenia.  People I know who have to liquefy their child’s meals and feed him through a straw.  Or are acting like their son’s pancreas, spending sleepless nights on his bedroom floor, praying the numbers go up, one hand ready to summon an ambulance.

These thoughts do calm me.  I do feel genuinely grateful.  I feel relief that it is not me.  And then I cross my fingers, knock on wood, send up a half-hearted prayer.

And please bless that will never be me.

But it does not drain me of my fear.  It does not help me feel capable of handling my own life.  My own daughters.  My own burdens.

I used to have a recurring dream, showing up when I was a small child.  It has haunted me for most of my life.  In the dream,  I am going about a normal day, when I notice that a tooth is loose.  And when I wiggle it, the tooth pops out in my hand.  Horror fills me as I realize that the tooth has come out.  My permanent tooth!  I tell someone… whoever is with me in the dream.  They seem unconcerned.   I dial the dentist’s office.  And while I scramble to tell people what is happening, or make an emergency appointment, my teeth become loose and fall out, one by one.   I feel completely out of control.  Helpless and panicked.  Permanent damage is being done, and there is no reaction, I can’t stop it, I can’t find someone who can stop it.

I haven’t had that dream for many years.  Maybe because I have climbed inside of that nightmare.   I am living in it now.  That feeling of helplessness and desperation.   We are living with something no one has heard of.  There is little known about it.  Our doctors haven’t heard of it.  Psychologists.  Therapists.  The few that know it, can not agree on what it is.  A psychiatric disorder?  A neurological disorder? A hearing problem?  A sensory integration disorder?  An autism spectrum-symptom?  A behavior problem?  The sensation of absolute helplessness is paralyzing.  I have no control.  I have no where to turn.

Why I am writing this?  This private, personal account of what really happens at our house, around the dinner table?

During the summer of 2012, misophonia had already slithered its way into our lives.  It’s presence a snake, coiled and waiting.  Watching us.  I had a sense it was there, but only that unease that comes as a premonition before the strike.   When it struck, here, and here,  I did what most sane, reasonable parents do.  I turned to the internet.  And there, I found almost nothing.  The info that I did find was less than encouraging.  It still haunts me, the things that I read that summer.  About families that can not live together.  About kids who leave home and never come back.  About mothers or fathers or siblings that are lost to each other, unable to overcome these tiny, imperceptible, everyday noises that scratch at Lydia’s brain like nails on a chalkboard.

There was a blog, I wish I could remember the name of it.  One blog.  And the mom who wrote it, posted about her son, and his misophonia.  All of the things they had tried.  All of the medication, and therapies and specialists that were not helping.  About dinner time.  But what left the lasting  impression was one sentence.

“We are in crisis over here.”

It was the most comforting thing I have read about misophonia.   I think of her often, and her willingness to admit it.  The crisis.  “Me too,”  I thought.

Knowing I was not alone was everything.

We are trying things.  We are draining our energy, our time, our savings account, trying to find help.  On the outside, we look like a normal, everyday family of five.  Mini van, soccer cleats, playdates, preschool art projects, birthday parties, piano recitals.  On the inside, if you came to visit, you would see a functioning family.  Home cooked meals, sibling squabbles, love notes, piles of laundry, homework unpacked on the coffee table.

Maybe we are a normal everyday family of five.

And everyone has something that makes them feel out of control.  Helpless.  Terrified.  Alone.

Are we all there?  Walking around with our teeth falling into our palms?  Clinging to the stories of the other people?   Gathering gratitude like seashells in a bucket, talismans of the burdens that we don’t have to carry?

The one thing I can do is step forward.  Use my voice, and say it when I can.

Me, too.   Me too.

To learn more about misophonia:

This NY Times article

The today show segment, here   Warning:  trigger sounds are played.

Sound Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
― Thornton Wilder

It’s August.

Late August.

 Which means that we have made it one year here in Connecticut.  The thick humid air, charming old houses, light summer nights ripe with singing wildlife, it has me feeling unanchored in time.  The trauma we went through last year is blinking back at me in blimps and flashes… like post traumatic stress disorder.

We moved.  People do.  But during this time, our daughter Lydia, always a child who struggled with sensory sensitivity, burst into a new and life altering mania.  She hated sounds.  Specific sounds, like chewing and swallowing, and sounds of speech, especially S, T, K, P and C.

She hated these sounds, when they were made by me.

 Her mother.


 This suddenly made every day life a harrowing ordeal filled with angry tantrums and sudden outbursts of rage.  I could barely communicate a simple “it’s time for dinner” without her falling to the floor screaming.  She flinched, grimaced, covered her ears, kicked her feet, jumped away defensively like she had been burned.  She would stomp around loudly and hum, crash things together, sing obnoxiously loud, anything to drown out my sounds.


Lydia has Misophonia.


Desperate, we turned to the internet for help, and the things we read about Misophonia devastated me.  Completely eviscerated me.  The scarcity of good information and the personal accounts were awful.  Stories of families that can no longer live together, or live in the same household but in isolation from one another.

  “My little girl is ill.  Our lives will never be the same” played in my head, a vicious mantra.  No one I talked to about what was happening  would validate my devastation. In well-meaning ways they suggested  it was simply a discipline problem, perfectly normal considering the transitions the move had forced upon my daughter.

That wasn’t it.

Car rides were a nightmare.  Meal times were a nightmare.

And bedtime made me ache.  Even now, the sight of her summer pj’s has me reliving some of those nights with painful sharpness.

 Just a few weeks into our move, I went in to get the girls to sleep for the night.  I decided to just breeze through it, act nonchalant…not expect a battle.  Be positive.  I took some cleansing breaths, trying to wash away the day’s earlier traumas.

I entered with a smile…and the moment I said “hop into bed and I will read you a story” Lydia screamed and cowered on the bed, kicking her feet angrily in my direction.

Palpable disgust radiated from her expression.

When I turned wordlessly to walk away, not knowing how to bear it, she crawled to the end of the bed and hung on my waist, sobbing.  She begged me to stay, and I could feel how rejected she felt as thickly as her disgust, two emotions that I simply did not have the tools to carry together.  I smoothed her hair and wiped the  tears off my face with my sleeve.

I tucked Carly in first, she complied despite the fear I saw in her blue eyes.  I did not dare whisper, so I signed “I love you” and touched my lips with my fingertips, and then hers.  I tucked Lydia in next, and repeated the sign language.

This silent communication  was not a comfort to me but a physical act that seemed to be shredding our futures together.

 I turned away and she grabbed my hand.  She whispered “Im so sorry mommy.”  She tugged me closer.  I climbed into bed with her, pulling her against me, I held her tightly, buried my face in her freshly washed hair, and wept silently until she slept.


Today, my girls are in Vermont with my in-laws once again.  They are enjoying all the brilliant fun of summer at Grandmama and Grandpapa’s  house…the pool, learning flips on the trampoline (gasp) and eating icecream at the fair.


 And I am here, with Rick in Connecticut, swimming in memories.


But, with the PTSD flashbacks comes gratitude, washing over me in great waves.


1.  By the time we settled into our new home in Connecticut, my inability to communicate with Lydia had reached a crisis stage.  Rick and I would pour over internet information at night, searching for a tiny glimmer of hope.  We found a post on a message board.  A woman and her son, in Australia, claiming they had found success with a very specific type of neurofeedback therapy.  She cautioned that it must be this specific form of biofeedback, as she had tried many others that had failed to work.  One positive story, one mother who had not been forced to live in silence or away from her child.


2. We had just moved to a small town, in a small state.  What are the odds we would be able to locate a therapist that performed this type of specific neurofeedback for our child?  I was skeptical.  And we found Inner Act, run by Rae Tattenbaum, a woman who specialized in this neurofeedback.  Her office is less than two miles from our home.


3. For the first 5 months, I brought Lydia three times a week.  The minute we opened her office door and Rae would inquire about our day, I would crack open, and weep.  Every time.   But it started working.  I was able to kiss Lydia goodnight.  Ask her about homework.  Take her to buy soccer cleats.  Eat (sometimes) together.  We pared it down to twice a week, and eventually, once a week.  Rae saved us.


4. Lydia has not had regular therapy from Rae since early June.  When summer came, our schedule went.  We’ve been traveling, visiting family, going to summer camps and beaches.  I had hoped the progress we had made was permanent.

It was not.

Lydia is now showing signs of sensitivity towards her sister, Carly as well.   We have not eaten a meal as a family, in the same room, for well over a month.

But I know there is hope.  To get her back to a place where we can manage.  We can be a family.  I will not lose my daughter.  We will find a way to maintain our bond.  There is hope.



5. A few days ago I found out that the young neighbor who used to babysit for us in Colorado has been diagnosed with misophonia.  I called her mom…

Oh, the cathartic nature of a talk with someone who truly understands.  I can not express my gratitude to Lori enough.  She also shared with us that she has found a new therapy… hearing aids that help decrease the sound sensitivity.  Her daughter has found immense relief.   I can’t wait for tomorrow, to seek them out.

 And then maybe,  I can have dinner with my baby.



Shit hell damn fort piss. Today I am choosing Happiness.

choose to be happy

 “Shit, hell, damn, fort, piss!” A string of expletives handed down through generations.  Yeah, I was raised by a prim and proper mormon woman who was in turn raised by a very prim and proper mormon lady.  But we all have our weaknesses, and the occasional naughty word wormed it’s way into the household.  I grew up hearing my mother, in moments of great frustration or pain, utter this string of expletives.  This would shock and secretly delight me.

My young mind had worked through the secret, naughty meanings behind the words, with the exception of “fort.”  When I got the courage to ask for explanation as a teen, the answer was so much better than I could have imagined.  Apparently, my regal, uber-feminine, ultra-mormon grandmother had the bad habit of using this string of words at times.  The “fort” was actually “fart,” but that word was too unbecoming and unladylike, so she said “fort” in its place.


 The moment when this string of wicked words became a part of my own arsenal, slipping out as if it had always been there…it was a right of passage.  And sometimes, I have those days where they come much more readily than others. In our home lately, our mantra has been “Choose to be happy.”  Because it is a choice.  Every moment.  BUT.  There are days. Days where there is nothing to be done but hiss “shit, hell, damn, fort, piss!” between gritted teeth… and try to laugh, as my grandmother is most certainly laughing with me from above.

 Last week, I had one of those days.  A quick synopsis:

1.  Getting Cocky

2.  Digging Up the Dirty

3.  A Smoke Monster

4.  Great Balls of Fire

5.  $10,000 Sweaty beds

6. Blue paint and Wet toilet paper

7.  A Huge Load of Crap

 Let’s get started.

 #1.  Getting Cocky

I forgot that I am not 20 anymore.  Gone are the days I could juggle 18 credit hours, a job, a sports schedule, and a boyfriend without writing anything down. Fifteen years, a husband and three kids later,  if I don’t write my own name down, I may forget it.  Or the name of my kids.  Done that too.  On this fateful day, I got cocky.  I did not check my calendar.  At all.  I could handle the basics, I scoffed at the intuitive warning bells.

This cockiness led me to believe that I could allow my children an extra half hour of play on the school grounds before heading home and into the fray.  Big. Mistake.

 After the extra playtime,  I was pulling into the driveway, the were kids hungry and filthy, and I was rattling off the list of expectations.  “Practice the piano, put on your uniform, find a book and do your reading, finish your homework.  I will pack snacks and water for the game.”   I was already feeling the rising pressure of cramming too much into too little time.  My fault, my fault.

Before the car was in park, Carly reminded me of her neurofeedback appointment.  Today.  At 4:00.  Blast!  The essential calendar reminders on my phone went unnoticed, as my three year old was busy opening every app on my phone and dismissing the crucial ding!  reminders with an expert touch.  It was 4:03.  And thus,  the beginning of my “schooling.”

 I backed out of the driveway, amidst the cries of hunger and thirst.

 “Suck it up!  Mommy dropped the ball!   NO ONE eats!”  I wanted to yell over their whiney protests, my stress level instantly soaring.

But I took deep breaths instead. (And muttered “shit, hell, damn, fort, piss” under my breath, enjoying the release of stress it brings.  I was quiet about it.)  On the way, Lydia asked me if I was obeying all the speed limits, and could I please stop breathing so loudly, stop chewing my gum, and could I please not whisper? Her polite attempt at avoiding a misophonia meltdown  (like this and this)  made me want to claw my eyes out.

 I had to forgo walking Carly up to her appointment like the responsible mothers.  But instead, texted the therapist to watch for her and reminded her of which button to push in the elevator.


#2. Digging Up the Dirty

 I had to recover the day. I can do this. Back at home, I barked out orders to Lydia.  She ran inside, unearthed her filthy uniform from an epic pyramid of dirty clothes and puts it on.

 This felt acceptable because “playing softball” when you are in second grade means playing in the fine, powdery dirt, kicking up great clouds of it, tossing it in the air, rubbing your glove in it, innocently unaware of the large, hard ball that could smack you in your unsuspecting shins, or worse, your teeth.  Also, diving around in the grass by the dugout until it is your turn to bat.  She was going to be dirty in five seconds anyway…no one would know, right?   No big.


I grabbed four bottles of water from the basement emergency stash and we ran out the door to pick up Carly, and drive to the ballpark. I texted Rick, who would meet us at the field after work with snacks. Crisis over.  I rock.

 We arrived at the game with relief, ready to collapse on a blanket with Stella, get Carly started with her homework and watch Lydia play in the muggy 90 degree heat.   This is when Lydia’s softball coach ambled over to ask me why Carly is not playing today.  WHAT!?    I missed that Carly had a game too?  The damn calendar!  How could my “mind calendar” have gone so very wrong?

 In a pink dress, without hat or mit, I sent Carly sprinting across the field to her team, snatched Stel and drove all the way back home. At the house, I dug deep into the mountain of dirty laundry that Lydia had fished her uniform out of.   I found Carly’s balled up uniform and crammed it in a sack with a box of crackers, her hat and glove.

 Rick pulled in the driveway, I tossed him the goods and he was off to watch (both!) girls play softball.  Stella and I would make dinner.

 Whew!  All is well.

 At this point, I decided it was time to be more responsible.  Learn something from the mayhem of the day.  Be prepared.  Before grilling burgers and baking fries, I felt that doing a load of laundry would be…redeeming.

I was quite diligent and responsible as I overfilled the washer.  Shaking out gravel and mulch,  fishing gum wrappers and chewed up erasers out of their shorts pockets, pulling the balled up wad of crusty socks so they will get clean, and my favorite, seperating the dirty underwear from the pant legs.   But just as I was going for the detergent, I spotted a clump of Stella’s clothes hidden under a bath towel.  Hastily, I grabbed the lump, and shoved it in without inspection.  So it was a risk, but I felt better about myself. 

#3.  Smoke Monster

 Onward.  Here is where things get dangerous.  I could only find frozen fries, frozen burger patties, and two slightly shriveled zucchini for dinner.  I was still in the mood to compensate for the earlier catastrophes so I decided to go the extra mile and make baked zucchini fries to dress up dinner.   And, I was gonna let Stella “help” which will certainly boost me out of the disorganized, foul-mouthed hole I dug.  I turned on our oven, and let Stella wear a cute apron and dip the sticks in egg.  It was messy.  I was going with it.  Serenity, and good mom vibes abounded.  Until I opened the oven to bake up our zuchini.  My mascara melted together and I was completely blinded by a thick billow of black, acrid smoke.  The smoke detector began screaming, and in my quick thinking, I crammed the baking sheet into the smoke monster before slamming the oven shut.


I forgot that a few days ago, I had made this beauty:


A lemon pound cake. I do a lot of baking,  but I had been out of the Martha Stewart mode since we moved to Connecticut (obviously).   And, like I had never made a cake before in my life, I happily filled the bundt pan all the way to the tippy top, (seriously??)

I lovingly smoothed the batter with a spatula right to the edge,  and then licked it clean while half the cake baked and half the cake batter bubbled over into the oven.  Miraculously, we waited out the smoking mess, and it was delish.  I had decided to let the burned mess cool before cleaning up the oven…  Two (ok maybe three) slices of lemon cake later, we laid out with our sugar hangovers, and I forgot about the mess.

Until the zucchini, today.  And 425 is 100 degrees hotter than my cake baked in, so the result was much, much worse.

 Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have preheated the oven without opening it up first…which resulted in this happy moment a few years ago:

I couldn’t get the storm windows down on the kitchen windows, and the house filled full of nasty black smoke. The smoke detector, just doing it’s job, went off intermittently for the next hour despite my efforts to fan it into submission.  Frazzled and worried about permanent smoke damage to the house, I retreated into the muggy yard to light the grill.  The show must go on.  The Rick and the girls will be home and hungry soon.

 #4. Great Balls of Fire

The starter was not working so I turned the gas on, crouched down with a match to find the small hole to poke it in, as Rick had shown me.   I poked a lit match into the hole, and took a forceful ball of fire at point blank range to the face.  A GINORMOUS ball of fire.  It engulfed my face.  Picture the fireballs the wicked witch throws at scarecrow.  Like that, in my face.  I jumped back, immediately swatting at myself like a swarm of bees were on me, certain I was on fire.  I ran into the house and turned the faucet on my scorched face, frantically patted down and wetting my hair, then feeling for my eyebrows.  Singed, but in tact thank God.

 Rick came home with Carly and Lydia as I was running ice cold water over my scorched hand, wrist and arm, my hair slicked back and wet from dousing myself.  The smoke detector was going off again., it smelled like the zuchini was actually on fire in the oven.  He informed me that in fact, Carly did not have a softball game after all.  False alarm. For the love of humanity.

#5.  $10,000 Sweaty Beds

Defeated but determined to get through the night, we sent the girls up to shower and threw together a pathetic meal.  The zucchini and fries tasted like charcoal briquettes. During dinner, Stella kept asking me, “Mommy, are you choosing to be happy?”  Don’t you hate it when your kids decide to throw your “life lessons” in your face when you have burned your eyebrows off and smoke is still curling around all of your furniture?  “You choose to be happy.”  Uh. Huh.

I looked forward to getting the kids to bed.  It was hot and sickening and smokey in our main level, but upstairs held the promise of our new air conditioning.  We paid a cool ten grand to put the AC in the upstairs last year after we moved in and I almost went bat-shit crazy in the sticky heat of summer.  Nothing can make me angrier than sweating while brushing my teeth.

 But in today’s 93 degree heat, the AC would save the mood for sure. When we got upstairs, I was gleefully expecting a cool 71, and it was 83 degrees instead.  It was now  9:30 pm on a school night.  The AC Was. Not. Working.  I sent Carly and Lydia to bed with wet hair, fighting over which way the fan should point.

Shit.  Hell.  Damn.  Fort.  Piss.  I was so close to saying “fart” too.

 #6  Blue Paint and Wet Toilet Paper

Conquered,  I plopped down on the lid of the toilet seat to comb through Stella’s wet hair, only to discover that the blue paint she had been sporting since our art project that morning had not been washed out, merely re-wetted, and clung to her hair in blue gobs.  Too tired to find something other than toilet paper, I began to sponge the paint out of her wet hair while she cried with weariness.  I felt like I was trapped in some perverse version of “If You Give A Moose A Muffin.”  Little did I know.



#7 A Huge Load of Crap

“Meg?  You wanna hear the clincher?  Should I top it all off for you?”  Rick called up the stairs.   Feeling wreckless, I bravely called out “Hit me with it!  Bring it!”

 “There is shit!  In the washing machine!” .

 Now that was unexpected.

I almost fell off the toilet seat laughing.  He appeared in the doorway, observing my indelicate pile of wet toilet paper streaked with blue paint, and Stella, defiantly sporting a long sleeved fleece nightgown, cheeks blazing in the sticky heat.  I believe he was equally surprised to see my laughter,  which quickly turned into dry heaves.

“What the hell?  (Blaaaaaaughhhaww) (Bleaaughhaaw!)  In that big load of kids clothes?” (Blawwwwwuuugha!)

“Yup. It’s everywhere. All over,”  He wiped his brow and rolled his eyes at my deafening dry heaves.

“Stella had an accident and didn’t tell me?… but I went through all of the clothes….”  I heaved again, remembering the pile at the end I hastily crammed in.  Sending Stella to her room, I started digging into my cleaning supplies.

I handed Rick a cylinder of lysol wipes and an empty laundry basket…

Moral of the story: check the calendar before giving the kids that extra half hour of play,  look in the oven before turning it on, open the grill before lighting a match,  and always shake out every piece of dirty laundry before you toss it in…you never know the hidden pile of crap you may find there.

You’ll want to deal with that NOW, not later.  It will not all come out in the wash.

Sound Desperation

My eight year old daughter hates the sound of her mother’s voice.  My voice.  It fills her with rage, with a fight or flight response so powerful, I may as well be holding her down, a knife at her throat.  When I say, “how was school today?” or “buckle up your seat beats please” I am never sure if this will send her into a door slamming, screeching, hair pulling, kicking rage.

It began in earnest last summer, after a long distance move from our landlocked state of Colorado to the northeast.  We rented a beach house for a few weeks, while waiting for the closing of our new home, and the moving truck to arrive with our junk.  She began interrupting incessantly in the car, not allowing me to speak a full sentence.  This obnoxious behavior was not a new one, but much more extreme and persistent.  She demanded that I stop “whispering” or making strange clicking sounds with my tongue as I begin my words.  She asked as sweetly as possible, if I could just stop using the letters C, K, S or T.  She hated how I did those especially.

I had no idea what she was talking about.  What I did know was her behavior was obstinate, demanding and unacceptably disrespectful.  Rick and I tried to be understanding of the enormous strain the move had placed on our middle daughter.  She had been beside herself with emotion, saying goodbye to my parents, her cousins, friends, teacher, school, home.  Her acting out was to be expected.  At the beach house, she began to leap from her chair during meals, knocking it backwards as she plugged her ears and screamed that I was disgusting, the way I ate my burger.  She would scramble suddenly and dramatically away from me, like I had just sprayed mace in her face.  And she did everything loudly.  Stomping up the stairs, slamming doors, singing obnoxiously without stopping, interrupting incessantly.  We were constantly telling her to stop (fill in the blank).  Every normal thing she did seemed to be amplified and inappropriate.

Rick and I vacillated between correcting it, or ignoring it and accepting the misery of the rest of the family.  The absolute worst behavior was in the car, where she was so loud and attention seeking and defiant, a trip to the grocery store had Rick and I dangerously close to losing our minds.  Several days into our stay we drove the kids up to see our soon-to-be new house and the kids’ school, about an hour’s drive.  Lydia totally lost control, kicking the seats in front of her, screaming and crying and yelling.  At one unbearable point, my calm, sweet husband turned in rage and bellowed out a tirade of pent up frustration in a way none of us had seen before.  The roar of her father stunned Lydia and her sisters into silence for about 3.4 seconds.   His wildly out of character loss of control was the only thing that calmed me.  I knew one of us must remain in control.  We were approaching our new town, according to the GPS, we were just a few miles away.

“Look!  Let’s calm down and look out at our new town!  Pay attention! This is where we will live!  Look out the window!”  I said, and then like magic, we turned from a beautiful view of the capital building with it’s glowing copper top, to ghetto.  The street we were on was unrecognizable, and I did not recall seeing anything like it during our house hunt just two months ago.  People were loitering on the street corners, a few women were pushing stolen grocery carts full of trash bags across the street.  There was garbage in the gutters and bent chain link fences caging in a school we passed by.  Now ferocious with hysteria, Lydia began pointing at the unseemly scene, and crying “What?  Is that my SsssCHOOOL!??   Is that my house?”  I wanted to reassure her, but my insides reflected her outer behavior.  I wanted to screech in disbelief,  noticing that we were just 2 miles from our house.  “IS THAT OUR SCHOOL!?”  She continued to scream this repeatedly, pointing out run down buildings that lined the street.  Just a few course correcting turns later,  we arrived in front our soon-to-be-new home in our tree lined, quiet street minutes later.  We emerged from the car feeling wrecked, all five of us were crying. The true battle was just warming up.