Happy anniversary special education

Facebook just informed me that on this day, five years ago, the department of special education evaluated my daughter and welcomed us into their family.

In my post I said that I was confused and sad and frustrated to find out that things weren't going to go as I had expected.

Five years ago, and yet, a lifetime.

Here's what I've learned in five years....

All the doctors in the world can't tell you what's going to happen with your kid. There is no "never" or "can't."

All parents get it wrong sometimes, and that's ok, as long as we keep going.

Your child is so much more than what a piece of paper says.

Your child really can do anything. Really. You may have to help find out how, and it may be different from how others do it, but that's ok.

Expectations are completely useless to everyone involved and are only incubators for worry and stress.

Worrying does nobody any good, ever.

Good doctors are so rare and precious. You have the right to say no to a doctor. In the end, they are business people and you have a choice.

Special education is really just specialized education and, when used correctly and appropriately, is the best thing in the world. Never the worst.

Neurodiversity is a movement, and I proudly support it.

Presuming competence is the most important thing in the world, far more important than any test results or assessments.

Happy five years, special education. You've pained me at times, I won't lie. But the good times have far outweighed the bad.

(Picture is of three little girls dancing to a television image of Let it Go. Two of them receive special education services. Three of them are awesome.) 

 

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My blog, but not my story to tell

I just spent the last hour going through all of my old blog posts and deleting several. Changing names and deleting details in others. Some of them I couldn't even read without cringing, so I deleted the whole thing.

This is a little hard to admit, but I have been going about things wrong. I was wrong. And now I know better, so I have to do better.

I have a daughter who has a health issue and I have disrespected her by sharing details of it here, with you all. Some of you know my daughter, and if we talk personally, that's fine for you to know them. But to throw these details out into the world unthinkingly, where anyone and everyone can read them is not fair to her. It's not fair to her now and it's not fair to future her. It's not fair for the people around her to know more about her story than she is willing to tell. Summarily, it is not my story to tell.

I have deleted all medical information and my personal opinions about her story from the blog. I have deleted her name. Why was she the only child I was willing to name in the blog? It kind of makes me sick to think of it.

Sweetie, future you... I'm sorry. I know better and now all I can do is try to be better. It's your story, not mine, and I get that now. You are entitled to your privacy just like anyone else.

This is all stemming from some information that is relatively new to me, but after much thought, makes perfect sense.

A website that I have previously published on, The Mighty, posted a satirical "Autism Bingo Card." It was supposed to poke fun at stereotypical autistic traits. If you, as a parent, had witnessed any of those things done by your autistic child, cross them off until you get a Bingo. The mom who created the card later stated that she is, herself, autistic, and she and her autistic son had collaborated on the article.

But here's what happened. A lot of autistic adults spoke up and said that it wasn't lightheartedly funny, like the author had intended. Sure, some parents of autistic children had a giggle, but the autistic community in general has railed on The Mighty for publishing it. They have since taken it down. Some of the comments made by autistic people were very angry in tone. I got to wondering why they seemed so upset, so I dug into it further.

So, The Mighty is this website supposed to be for and about disabled folks. Turns out, most of the articles are written by parents, and/or a lot of them are what is called "inspiration porn," meaning that you take a situation where an able bodied person interacts with a neurodiverse person, or disabled person, and we laud the able bodied person for being so generous as to deign to have that interaction. Isn't that sweet, we say. But we don't for one second think about the other person in that interaction. We think that they might not understand, or that they are simply so grateful to be asked to prom, or whatever, that they can't possible take offsense from the situation being thrown to the media.

But what if it was you? What if it was your kid? How would it make you feel to have society tell you that the able bodied person is so wonderful for making a spectacle of your/your child's disorder, etc? Because that's what they're really doing.

It kind of hurts to think in this way (we aren't doing this!, but yeah, actually, we are), but once you see it, you see it everywhere. We eat this shit up. But I'm starting to think of that other person in the situation, the one "with special needs." Ok, so that person talking to me was fine, I guess, but now it's gone viral? Now everyone is applauding them? Why should we take pride in someone talking to me? Shouldn't people just be kind to each other? What's wrong with me??

Then, on the other hand, you see parents (ugh, myself included), posting every intimate detail of their child's history, their struggles, their embarrassing moments, etc. Posting it out there for every Joe to see.

All the time, I see people posting on Facebook that they're so glad that Facebook wasn't around when they were growing up. So, if we recognize that there are MANY moments that we would not have chosen to display for the general public and thank God that our parents weren't able to do so, why do we not turn the tables on ourselves and think very carefully about what we post about our own children?

Then you have moms saying, "Well, I need to vent. This is hard and I need a community."

I actually agree with this one and I was anxious to hear what the autistic community had to say about it. Here's what they said, and it's perfect, "Ok yeah, we get that parenting is hard. But you do not have the right to go online and whine about it in a way that degrades your child publicly. Go grab a glass of wine and bitch to your friends in private, sweetie." (I am paraphrasing.)

Gah! Aha!

I DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY THINGS ABOUT MY CHILD ONLINE THAT WOULD POTENTIALLY EMBARRASS OR HURT THEM.

I remember when I was a kid, my mom had some friends over. I was upstairs in my room, but decided to peek my head out and sit on the stairs. Maybe I was coming down to get something, I don't remember. I paused there on the stairs when I heard my mom talking about me. I didn't like it. I shouted, "I can hear you, you know!" I was angry. (Sorry to share that, Mom, but it's not an experience that is unique to you, and I know that everyone does it.)

So, I didn't like it when my mom talked about me to her friends. Why am I willing to publicly give details about my family, then? Whatever good it does to me, it has the potential to do so much more harm to my children.

Another thing the autistic community filled me in on is that no one likes it when you laugh at someone else's condition (SHOCKER!). That Bingo card that a lot of parent's laughed at included some pretty scary things to experience, evidently. Things that only an autistic person can understand. It's scary stuff, sometimes, what an autistic person goes through. If we, as parents, struggle with watching it, we must understand that it is a million times harder to be the person ACTUALLY struggling.

And then we turn that around and make a mockery of it? Child had a meltdown that lasted 2 hours? Check off your Bingo sheet. Child punched a hole in the wall? Check. (I have no interest in seeing the Bingo sheet, so I am just guessing at what it said.)

Imagine the autistic individual having their own Bingo card. Would they giggle as they crossed things off? Highly unlikely. It's not funny.

In the last few weeks, I have devoured every blog I can find written by actual autistic adults. A lot of them are writing about this. Their anger, I have found, is that this stuff is STILL going on. They speak up and able bodied people "don't like their tone" or say, "You can't understand what it's like to parent a special needs child." What they are saying is, "Heck yeah, we're angry. We're trying to protect your kids here. We know what it's like and it's not cool. We've been saying this for a long time and no one is listening to us. Stop making a mockery of us. Your child's intimate details are not yours to share! And, also, no biggie or anything, but some parents have actually killed their kids out of frustration, and we don't really like that, so we're trying to nip this whole thing in the bud, and you're part of the problem here, lady." No surprise, that doesn't sit well. Parents don't like to think of themselves as part of them problem. We love our kids and would never do that. No, we're not killing them, but we're still not respecting them in the way that we would a neurotypical child.

My daughter is not even autistic, but I really think this goes so much farther than autism. I have said many times that I think there will be a real change in how we treat neurodiverse people. We are learning a lot in the medical field. We are more educated. We want more for our kids in schools, and in some cases, we are actually getting more.

But there is more work to do. And that work begins at home. Until parents can recognize their own inadequacies in forward thinking for our children (example: "they won't ever be able to read this and understand"), how the heck to we expect the neurotypical society to get it?

If we make jokes about their conditions, the things that make them them, what message are we sending? If we call our children burdens, saying we love them but hate their disorder, are we not teaching them to hate themselves? If we moan about how hard it is to parent them, how can we expect them to have self pride, or see through all of that moaning to feel real love? If we talk about how little they understand, are we not setting limitations on them? Limitations that may be implied, but are still felt.

Presuming competence begins at home, I see that now. And this time, it's not just words. Forever forward, I pledge to write with my children's eyes at the forefront, if I am speaking of them. I will not share details here that I would not say in front of them.

It may be my blog, but it's simply not my story to tell. I'm still learning.

I am thinking hard about The Mighty and watching to see what they'll do. They've also pledged to do better, but so far, it's a half-hearted attempt. It's clear that they really don't see that what they're doing is wrong. When so many of your community supports this ableism, it's hard to see through all that, to the truth: a website dedicated to disability should always have respect of the disabled community at the forefront. And when you read just a handful of their articles from the perspective of a neurodiverse person, it's clear that they don't.

I hope this starts a conversation here. I have been immersing myself in the autistic community, but I know that a lot of people who read my blog have very little knowledge of this. How do you see disability in the media, and in blogs? Have you thought about it, one way or another?

 

Mom's first day back to school

After a lengthy holiday break, the kids are back at school today. Baby Girl is playing play doh next to me as I write this. The house is eerily quiet, only one kid needing on me today. It feels... different.

Aside from a few shifts at the bookstore, I have basically been with a kid, or several, since the beginning of December, spending more time together than we have since the summer. It's easy to fall into a routine with that. We had a busy holiday, then the relief of it all being over and the relaxing time beginning. That was very nice. Sometimes I whine when I am alone with the kids for an extended period of time. Who doesn't, really? It can be very demanding being the sole carer of a child for days on end, even with a partner.

But today, watching my big kids get on their buses, I feel different. I don't necessarily feel relief, I feel connected to them in a way that maybe I was missing before. I have come to anticipate their needs. I know when they need a snack, or a nap, or when it's time to shut all of the electronics down. I know when we need to have a dance party.

I have always been a reluctant stay at home mom. I will not consider homeschooling, because I know that I would not be good at it. I'm not a patient person and I don't see anyone benefitting from that.

As much as I enjoy the part of my identity that doesn't involve my kids, it's hard to say where the line is anymore. They are part of everything that I do. When they are away from me, they are my phantom limb. I'm always aware of them, where they are and what they might be doing.

I watch my son wait for his bus, alone, down the street. I can barely see him. He's jumping and twisting in the air. I smile.

I clean up the living room mess. Peace and quiet. And I finally feel what I begrudge older mothers for telling me: this will end, enjoy it while you can.

This is a stage in my life, just as it is in theirs. In my guiltier moments, I wonder what they will remember of me as a mother in their formative years. I wonder which words that I say today will stick with them forever. I hope they are positive ones. I hope they are real ones, the ones I meant to say.

I watch them get on their buses, and I have mixed feelings. They are where they should be. But peace and quiet turns out not to be as peaceful as I thought it'd be.

Getting back to the school routine isn't just for the ones going to school. When mommying is what I've done around the clock for the last month, I don't hardly know how to do anything else.

Switching to a 24 hour a day task is exhausting. But switching off of it is bewildering. I'm trying to be open to what the next days and weeks bring me, and I hope I don't squander them. When I look back to the last five years of being a stay at home mom (really? five years?), I wonder where they've gone. I wonder why I'm not better at this. Five years in a job makes you practically an expert. Maybe I am an expert? I certainly don't feel that way most days.

But five years at anything is probably the time where you start to burn out a little. The time when you start considering making a switch. Maybe get promoted? And while it feels like the kids change every second and, therefore, my job changes, it's still the same old same old. I haven't gotten that promotion after all. I've moved to a new building, but the co-workers are still the same and the responsibilities are almost identical to the day I started.

A few of my friends have gone back to work after staying at home for a period of time. My husband will occasionally ask me what's next for me. I kind of laugh. It's hard to look for a new job when you're working 100 hours a week. I don't know what's next for me. It's not in the immediate future, I know that. But it is there, eventually.

Maybe what I'm babbling around is that I really do get it now. Me watching my kids get on the bus is a limited time option. Me wishing the days away does no one any good. I don't really think I'm doing that, but I know that I'm on the grind. I'm moving from one task to the next, getting this kid here and there. I'm almost always in crisis mode. And that's no way to live. It's draining, for one.

I don't know the magical solution. But I'm glad I saw my son twisting and jumping as he waited, alone, for his bus. I'm putting that one in the permanent files. I need to fill the permanent files with memories like this one while I have the time to do so. I see that now. And really, there are so many rich memories. I wonder why we don't pull them out more often, instead seeing our mistakes and perceived ineptitude?

When this season of my life ends, I'd like to be able to pull out those memory files and feel proud of what I did. I guess it's my job right now to make sure that future me is proud of real time me. I really hope she will be.

 

New Year's Resolutions

One of my least favorite comments to hear, especially from a friend, is, "I don't have time to read." I literally always change that statement in my head to, "You don't MAKE time to read. It isn't a priority to you." And honestly, that's ok, but let's at least be real about it.

And yet, I say that statement all the time. I don't have time to work out, but really, I just hate working out. I don't have time to coupon, but really, I just hate nickel and diming, even though I know it all adds up and can be a game changer in terms of saving money.

But the one that's getting me right now is when someone compliments me on my writing. I say thanks, of course, but then I almost always respond that I wish I had more time for it. I don't post very often, because I like to sit and really think out all of my posts. That's part of the pleasure for me, having something to publish that has taken me to a new place emotionally. Maybe I have something that's weighing on my mind and I haven't yet decided how I feel about it. Hashing out a well thought blog post forces me to make up my mind about how I feel about a certain topic.

I can sit here and lament all of the things that take me away from writing, but it's just the same excuses a friend may make to me when she says she doesn't have time to read. They're just excuses and writing doesn't care about my excuses. It sits there and waits patiently for me to come back to it. Or not so patiently.

I'm out of practice. I've been out of practice since forever. I've never made writing a top priority, it's just been a little side hobby. But yesterday we were cleaning part of the basement and I found a little self published book I wrote in third grade. Good God, I took that stuff so seriously when I was eight. The book was perfect in every way. And it reminded me that I have always loved writing. Like loved loved. And even though that little book was full of mistakes and didn't make a lot of sense, my little eight year old brain needed to get that out. I laughed the hardest when at the end there was a little author bio and I wrote that this was my third book. I love that so much.

So.

New Year's resolutions aren't really my thing. But I'm going to try. I'm going to take time that I don't really have. Like right now, Baby Girl is sitting across from me making beaded necklaces like they're going out of style, and the big kids are bickering over Wii Sports. There's a half dozen things I could be doing (I'm looking at you Facebook), but I am choosing to make this a priority.

I have a lot of things to say, in general. My friends know that I am a talker. Talking, and writing, help me decide how I feel about things. I was having a conversation with a co-worker a few weeks ago and we were talking about how sometimes it seems like certain people have made up their minds about how everything works. They're not adaptable. They do not process new ideas.  He's a bit younger than me, so he asked me if that was how I felt. "Absolutely not," I said. "In fact, just the opposite. I hope that I am always open to having my opinion about things revised as I learn new things."

That's what I love about blogging. I am able to open this page and have a general idea about what I want to say, and then in the process I'll sometimes come to an entirely different conclusion that I had thought I would. And I love that. It's cathartic.

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would never write a post about writing, or excusing why I hadn't been writing in awhile. (I hate reading those "I'm sorry, I've been so busy" posts.) Sorry if this is one.

But what I am resolving to do is just write. I'm not going to write what I think you want to read. I'm not trying to be the popular girl here. I'm writing for myself, purely. And if some of what I say interests you, that's wonderful. If not, that's cool too.

I am giving myself permission to do whatever the hell I want this year. Mostly all legal things, of course. But whatever the hell. I. want. Part of that is this, this thing, the blog, for whatever it's worth. This lifeline that reminds me that I am not just a sum of my parts, but a person with real thoughts. A person who is willing to adapt when I am presented with new ideas. I just need a platform to flesh out my feelings, a platform that doesn't include my three children, the most captive audience I have most days.

So there you go. Written in 30 minutes. Hastily proofread. No pictures.

Just like getting on the treadmill for that first mile, or reading the first chapter in a book.

Rough, but it's a start.

Hey there kiddo

This has been a rough week or so, emotionally. So many bad things have happened in my city, in this country, and in the world. Too many things to process. I have been more emotionally invested in things not related to my family than I can remember being in a long time.

It's hard to know how to recover from that. How to process it and hear things and adapt opinions and learn and grow, and continue to hold your heart safe. I'm weary, to be honest.

Yesterday, Momastery had a holiday giving match up, where people who need, ask, and people who can, give. I cannot give much this year, financially. This is not a giving year for me, unfortunately. But I signed up for a few things, and to be honest, it helps.

When there is a fear or sadness or anger, I find the best thing to do is something positive in response. No matter how small.

A little girl at our school did not have winter clothes, so I packed her a bag, a big Dora bag, of things. Hats, gloves, blankets, socks, books, clothes. That girl being so close to home hit hard. I hope she takes delight in her Dora bag. And that she is warm. And that her mama can worry a little less. I wish it were more.

Today I sent coloring books, colored pencils, and some of our old costumes to a family in Texas, who have been adopted into an extended family of at least 20 people. My heart is warmed by the thought of these strangers opening the packages. Of the adopted Grandma and Grandpa who continue to open their home and their hearts to non-biological family. Of the love that grows there.

I am working on a letter to a mama who is having hard time dealing with her baby's diagnosis. She feels guilty, and tired. Lord knows I've been there, too. That will be a hard, and easy, letter to write. Because I'll be writing to my past self.

I tell you this not for accolades. Just to profess that sometimes healing has to come from giving. And this is making me feel better, knowing that I am making a difference, even if it's very small.

This morning, I sat down and wrote a letter to a boy in a group home, described to me as a "prison like" setting for boys ages 10-18. I want to share it here. I didn't have a lot of details, and the lady requesting letters only said that she wanted us to give these kids hope. To let them know that they have a chance. My problems seem very small in comparison.

The letter...

 

Hey there kiddo,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you “kiddo.” See, I don’t know your name. I don’t know much about you actually. I know that you are in Florida, you are a boy, and you are young, and you are somewhere you probably never thought you’d be. That’s it.

You may be wondering why you are getting this letter from me, and who the heck I am. My name is Becky. I am a mom to 3 kids, one of whom is a 10 year old boy. He may be a lot like you, maybe not. I imagine him when I type these words. I am saying what I would say to him, as a mom. I think maybe you need to hear it, too.

I am writing one letter today, and you got it. That means something to me, that out of all the people who could have gotten this letter, it was your hands that opened it, and your eyes that are reading these words. To me that means that YOU were the one who was SUPPOSED to get it. I hope that means something to you as well.

I feel a little unqualified to be writing to you, because I don’t know your situation. I feel like I could imagine it, though. I know that to get where you are today, things were done. Things that you may regret, maybe not.

I imagine that you are tough, but maybe also scared. Brave, but maybe also sad. Fierce, but maybe also timid. Maybe you’ve made up your mind about how the world works. It may be that you don’t like what you see. Maybe when you look in the mirror you are proud. Or maybe disappointed. Maybe unbelievably angry.

I’m guessing here. I don’t know.

But you do.

I could give you plenty of well-intentioned advice. I have a lot of it stored up. But there are only a few things that I want to say to you today, and my deepest hope is that you will hear them. That you will read this letter today, and put it somewhere safe and pull it out when you need the reminder. That the letter will become frayed and the words faded, until you know these words by heart. Until you believe them.

I don’t know if you have been told lately that you are loved.

You are loved.

You. Yes, you.

You are loved.

Again, I don’t know your exact situation, but I can guess that some mistakes were made. Maybe some by others. Maybe by people you cared about and trusted. Maybe by you. Only you know what happened.

Can I tell you something and have you really listen? Please?

Every single person in this entire world has made mistakes. All of us.

Some people let their mistakes define them. They think that the mistake was so bad that they can never go back. Is that you?

Or, they think that their situation is so bad that they just want to give up. That it’s not worth it to even try because the deck is so stacked against them. It’s easy to understand. It’s so hard to overcome a bad situation, why waste the effort?

I want to tell you a quick story about my husband. Maybe you can relate.

He grew up in a household that didn’t always have love. In fact, most of the time, it felt the opposite. When his two older brothers left, he was alone there in that house. He could have easily rolled over and given up, but he didn’t. He got a college degree, and a master’s degree, and he has a good job and a family that loves him very much. He did this by himself, for himself.

When people who knew him back then see him now, they talk about how great it is that he and his brothers made something of themselves. Nobody would have blamed them had they taken the same road that his dad did.

He told me a story once about how he was crying and feeling sorry for himself about his situation, and he saw himself in the mirror and decided right then and there that he was done with that. He was done being sad, or mad. He just wanted to GET OUT. And so he did what he needed to do to get out.

Have you had that heart to heart with yourself yet?

Because, my husband? He’s a great guy. And he could have let life happen to him and accept that this was his life and he had no control over it. But he didn’t do that.

And you don’t have to do that either.

You are so young, even if you feel so old. There is so much world yet to see, kiddo. Don’t you want to see it? I hope you do. You have the chance to be great, you only have to want it. Do you want it?

One of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed, told a story about some advice she gave to a girl in a group that was similar to the one you’re in. I feel like it pertains to you as well…

“I told her that it would likely go on and she’d have to survive it. That she’d have to find a way within herself to not only escape the shit, but to transcend it. I told her that escaping the shit would be hard, but that if she wanted to not make her mother’s life her destiny, she had to be the one to make it happen. She had to do more than hold on. She had to reach. She had to want it more than she’d ever wanted anything. She had to grab like a drowning girl for every good thing that came her way and she had to swim like fuck away from every bad thing. She had to count the years and let them roll by, to grow up and then run as far as she could in the direction of her best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by her own desire to heal.”

Do you have happiest dreams, kiddo? Have you let yourself do that?

When you go to bed tonight, take a few minutes to think about that. What would a happiest dream look like to you? What happens when this is all over? Where do you want to be? WHO do you want to be?

Don’t look back at what’s happened so far. That’s all done. You have survived it. It’s ok to be mad and sad and confused about what’s happened. Take that time and do that. It’s important to do that. But, at a certain point, look in the mirror and make that choice to let that go. It happened, and you survived.

What’s next?

There is only one person in charge of where you land, and that’s you. That may be hard for you to believe, but there it is. You always have the chance to change, you just have to make that choice. And once you’ve made that choice, the one where you change, where you grow, where you hope and dream and believe in yourself, you have to REACH. You have to reach harder and farther than you ever thought you could.

This life is not easy. For ANY of us. We are all going through something. Maybe you know that. Or maybe you think that your “something” is worse than everyone else’s. Maybe it is worse. My heart breaks for you when I think about what you’ve gone through. You are so strong.

Are you strong enough to reach?

I think you are. I believe in you. You are loved, even if you don’t always believe it.

You got this. Seriously. I believe it, do you?

 

All my hopes and love and good thoughts and mojo and prayers to you,

Becky

 

So, by giving this boy my heart, I am beginning to heal my own. And that feels right to me.

 

Why I don't hover (Or, never interrupt peacefully playing children)

I saw a picture on Facebook the other day where a mom had tallied how many times her kids looked over at her while they were playing, in a certain timeframe. Her point was that if she had been looking at her phone, her kids would have felt disconnected to her. One of those guilt inducing, put down your phone posts. 

Can we just agree to be done with these types of posts/comments/judgments?

I am as likely as the next person to be taking advantage of a few quiet minutes of peaceful playtime and escaping into my phone. And that's ok.

If my kids are looking to me 28 times in 30 minutes, that's fine, but I do not think that just because they exist and I am their mother, I need to be actively looking at them every second, especially while they are playing peacefully. A fight breaks out? Sure, I'm there. They need help opening something or fitting in a puzzle piece? Yep. My job. 

But I think it is important for all kiddos, and maybe especially those with stay at home moms, to realize that they are not, in fact, the center of the universe. 

No one would blame that mom for throwing in a load of laundry or starting dinner. But sitting a minute and looking at her phone = BAD MOM. 

What if she had been reading a book? Or crocheting? Or catching up with a friend on the phone? ANYTHING really, just for herself and just because she wanted to?

When is there ever time for Mom to do something for herself besides the blessed time after the kids go to bed? 

What if we, as parents, actually let our kids see us doing things that we enjoy? Does that take away any of our love for them?

I do not have memories of my parents sitting and being at my beck and call when I was a child. I do, however, remember seeing my mom at her sewing machine. My dad in his workshop. My mom reading many books. My parents watching the baseball game on tv.

All of these things shaped me. They introduced me to the things that my parents were interested in, even if I was *gasp* not included in the activity.

Phone addiction is real. I'm guilty. I do not want to ingrain in my children's brains that Mommy spends more time looking at her phone than playing with them. 

However, I'll be damned if I'm going to sit there staring at them while they put together another puzzle. 

And I'm done feeling guilty about that. I exist, too, and I will continue to teach my children that.

 

Absolutely no one cared if I was in the pool with them. And it is glorious. I probably checked Facebook during this time. And no one suffered.

Absolutely no one cared if I was in the pool with them. And it is glorious. I probably checked Facebook during this time. And no one suffered.

Why there will be no more babies in our house

This morning my 3.5 year old daughter asked if we could "get a baby" tonight. Ummm... no.

We had spent the weekend with my family, which includes my 6 month old nephew, so her request wasn't exactly out of the blue. My nephew is at that cute age where he's really smiley and happy. Still, no.

This is the first time since having kids that I have held a baby and felt absolutely no desire to have another one. And that feels right to me. I knew that I wanted a third child. We weren't done. Now? We are done.

If we add a fourth child to our home, it will have to be via adoption, and it will not be a baby.

How am I so certain? My husband and I asked my brother if the baby was crawling yet. My brother laughed and said no, he's barely sitting up. We just looked at each other.

We have forgotten when the developmental milestones occur! We were a little surprised to discover this. After all, we have three children. We have been through this three times, we should be pros. But it's like our brains knew that we no longer needed this extraneous information and so we deleted it.

We are done.

My husband, great lover of babies that he is, told me that he didn't even hold the baby until someone passed him to him. Huh. Used to be a time that we would have ran to the baby and ripped him from the holder's arms. Not this time.

We are done. 

Now that we are entering the precious tween stage with our oldest, life looks a lot different for us. We are dealing with a whole new ballgame. And we are discovering that this new ballgame is actually pretty awesome.

We can tell our oldest to go take a shower and he just does it (mostly). We have homework and after school activities, and, for the most part, we like doing those things.

While I enjoyed the hours spent sitting and holding my little babies, I don't have time for that anymore. I have SO MANY THINGS TO DO EVERYDAY! Sitting still, holding a baby? Not one of them.

Now I know it's not all sitting and staring, but I just remember feeling so housebound when my kids were little. It was an ordeal to get somewhere. Now? So much easier. Somedays we just go, with no supplies! Gasp! 

The kids cry. I say, "Why are you crying?" They answer me (mostly). I fix it and we move on.

They sleep! On a schedule! Routinely! In their own beds (mostly)!

The kids tell awesome stories and are all able to converse intelligently (mostly). We love laughing at what they say and watching their personalities continue to develop. They are forming and we are watching it unfold, and it is a pleasure.

So no, dear daughter, I will not be getting you a baby. You'll have to worry about that yourself when you are much much much older.

We are done. 

I love babies and I love my nephew very much. But I am happy to hand him back to his mommy and daddy, thank you very much. 

That ship has sailed and I am happy to have seen it go. 

One...

One...

Two...

Two...

Three. And.... done.

Three. And.... done.

Gosh, they were cute little babies, weren't they? But, to be honest, I've known them for a lot longer now, and I think they're even cuter today than they were back then.

So yep. Done. 

On nurturing creativity, and self

This past weekend, I was invited to attend a flute recital, presented by my daughter's best friend's mom, Kate, and partially accompanied by her pianist husband.

We have known this family for awhile now, and it was truly one of those matches that simply must be. They have four children, we have three. Their oldest son is the same age as mine, and they both attend the pull-out gifted program at school. They also have a three year old, perfect for Baby Girl.

The reason we connected with them, however, is because of their daughter, Julianna. I could write a lot here about Julianna, and how thankful we are to have her in our lives. But that's another post. The short version is that she and Amelia have become best friends, and for that, I am grateful. Oh, and she has Down syndrome.

Their family is easily one that you'd look at and think, "Oh my, you have your hands full." And while I'm certain that's true, who doesn't really? The size of their family, and the issues that come with raising a daughter with special needs is not the whole of their story, and they make that quite plain. It is their ordinary, as it were.

The details of their lives are theirs, but what I came to notice is how Julianna's mom continues to focus on her work. She is a writer, both of words and music.  (www.kathleenbasi.com)  She plays the flute, yes, but she actually plays it regularly. She writes, yes, but not in her free time. She makes time for it. It is her work and she dedicates time to do it. 

We went to Kate's recital on Sunday afternoon. I ended up taking my son because Amelia was not in the mood to sit still in a church for an hour, best friend or no. My son plays the cello, and I figured it was a good chance for him to see what a real life musician looks like in the world.

But I'll admit that I was really there for me, and he was my tagalong. I wanted to see her play. Because, see, this concept of taking your talent and living and breathing it every day is kind of new to me. And here I have this example of a woman who shares an eerie amount of circumstances with me and yet, still makes time for flute recitals and paid writing gigs.

I've had to pause here and ask myself if I feel jealous. Would I love to make money on my craft? Of course. And here in front of me is a woman who is doing exactly that. I don't guess she's getting rich, but she is doing it. 

But what I feel is not jealousy. I feel inspired. 

I looked at Kate's mom and dad during the recital and thought about them. Raising four girls on a farm. Her dad told me a funny story about working in the fields the day before with his grandson. I can't imagine what they said to her when she told them she wanted to major in music.  I do remember the questions about my English degree with the creative writing emphasis. The arts are hard majors for parents.

Here's what I think my trap has been. Writing professionally always seemed like a pipe dream to me, like playing professional baseball. Only the best make it, right? So if you're not the best, there isn't a place for you. That's what I thought anyway, even if no one specifically said that to me.

But here's what I'm realizing. There is so much more room than I had thought. It is unbelievably egotistical to think that you will be the very best at what you're good at. We really can't all be in the Olympics, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have fun being good at what we're good at. Even as an adult.

And there's the rub. Even as an adult. Even as a parent. Even as a parent of a special needs child. 

I can hone my talent. It is crazy to think that anyone will suffer by me doing what I know I was meant to do. If anything, it sets a good example for my children. One, that they are not the center of the universe, which is an important lesson to learn. And two, that passions are worth pursuing. And three, that Mom is a person outside of being a mom.

Listen, I was meant to be a mom. I know that.

But that's not my whole story.

And maybe, at 35, I'm just discovering that I am the one in charge of writing the rest of that story. Literally and figuratively.

It helps me to have women like Kate in my life. Women who refuse to say, "I used to do *blank* when I was younger." But who proudly share their talents, ones that they continue to improve upon.

I'm still learning. And, honestly, I hope I never stop. 

 

Coming back

Summer ended, school began. I had great plans for what I was going to do with my "free time." Then, life happened and put me in my place.

Literally, my computer broke. And careful adding of the checking account showed me that we are just going to have to live without a computer for awile.

If you follow me on facebook (please do, I'm much better about posting there), you'll remember that I had an unfortunate tick bite right before school started that knocked me on my butt. Literally. For about two months I could barely scrounge up the energy to get through the day. Barely existing.

Then my husband went to Europe for eight days for work. The less said about that, the better. We survived. Barely.

But late last week, I ran into a friend that I hadn't seen in awhile and she asked me how I was feeling. After a second of thought, I realized that I'm much better.

The doctor prescribed an amped up version of Aleve, which has an anti-inflammatory component that it seems I needed. I could tell the difference with the first pill.... sweet relief. And I kept getting better.

I've had a vicious cold for the last week or so, but that's par for the course for this time of year. 

Finally, I am realizing that I am not dead. I do not feel like crap every single day. I have a little bit of extra energy to give. 

I think when you deal with chronic fatigue and pain for so long, you forget what it's like to actually feel GOOD. So it took me awhile to realize that that's what I'm feeling. Good! Hallelujah!

So this weekend, I acted normal. I did not nap!! I went for a 4.5 mile walk and it felt great. I almost cried about halfway through, because two months ago I would not have been able to do this. 

Look at me! Walking and smiling!! If this picture came out sideways, turn your head and blame my phone. It's smarter than me.

Look at me! Walking and smiling!! If this picture came out sideways, turn your head and blame my phone. It's smarter than me.

Today I am typing this out on my phone with my thumbs. Because sometimes you have to find a workaround. It sucks not having the money for a new computer, but that's the reality. It sucked being sick for so long, but I was lucky that it ended. The financial strain will end in time, too. We made choices that put us where we are, and I don't regret them.

The point of today's post is blurry. It's mostly just to write a post again (and to see if it works from my phone!). But also, to express the joy I feel in doing normal things again. And to shout that I'm finally looking forward to whatever today will bring.

 

For the truly gifted teachers

It is almost impossible to end the school year without a bit of nostalgia. As painful as the last few weeks can be, what with antsy kids anxious for the allure of summer, the field trips, the last rounds of assessments, Friday folders to sign, etc., it's hard not to think back to where we started, and where we've come. I feel that way about all of my kids, but it is especially significant with my daughter. All of our years at school have been special in their own ways; I don't mean to downplay how great of an experience we have had, and continue to have, but this year has been special.

She's not pointing to her chin, she's in FIRST GRADE!

She's not pointing to her chin, she's in FIRST GRADE!

Flashback with me, will you please?

We finished kindergarten last year. I say "we" because, believe me, I worked just as hard as she did last year. Navigating the IEP process and special education in elementary education, as compared to the pre-school years, is like being dropped into the deep end of the pool after one swimming lesson. And there's no life guard. It was anxiety inducing, to put it lightly. I don't think I'll ever look back at that year without feeling anxious, even though we had the best kindergarten teacher this earth has ever known.

I spent so much time and energy focusing on first grade. After all, kindergarten is a little like a "getting to know you" year. The kids learn the school routine. They learn the rules. They play a lot. They learn some too, but it's nothing like first grade.

It's fair to say that I lost a lot of sleep planning for first grade.

We are blessed to have a good relationship with our school and I was able to work with the principal to choose a teacher that I felt would be a good fit for my daughter. We decided this before the kindergarten year was over, so that I would be able to meet with the teacher to prepare him and get him brainstorming ideas over the summer.

I knew the teacher only in passing. I knew that he had a great reputation, especially for struggling readers (which we had). I knew that he was experienced. I had only heard amazing things from other parents. This was our teacher, I knew it.

I remember when I met with him, he was not overwhelmed. He took in everything I said. He said that he'd meet with the kindergarten teacher to see what had worked before. He said we'd figure this out. In essence, it was not a big deal to him. We'd work together. It was fine.

Maybe this sounds like a small thing, that he was not intimidated. It isn't. Her file is inches thick. I haven't seen it lately, but it's probably several files by now. On paper, it looks like we've got one complicated little girl. And, we do. But she's still just a little girl, looking to learn. And that's how he treated her. The rest of it, well, we'd figure that out along the way.

So much of our plan was up in the air this year. We just kind of needed to see what she'd do, then we'd step in and help if she needed it. There was a lot of pressure on me (self-induced) to be sure that she was making progress and, if not, figure out what supports we needed to put into place.

So, let's skip ahead and I'll tell you what happened.

It was a non issue. All of it. All that worrying... and it worked itself out.

Had we not had such an awful experience last year, I'd be tempted to think that this is just how it goes. That all teams support their kids in exactly the way they need to be supported. But I know better. I have experienced the other side of the coin, and it ain't pretty.

Several people helped to make this year a success for my daughter. Maybe a half dozen wonderful people came together and supported her in exactly the way she needed to be supported. Maybe more. Maybe it was more like 20 people. I don't know every person she interacts with during the day. I know it's a lot. And I know that they all stepped up.

I can tell you that she was supported. Lovingly held and raised up.

See, they saw her.

Last year, her teacher and a handful of others saw her. She survived. We did the best we could in a tough situation.

This year, she was LIFTED.

I am in tears now, just thinking of that. They lifted my girl up, just like I had hoped they would.

Two people made a difference for me, especially.

Our case manager, who simply treated me and my daughter both with respect. She listened to every concern I had. She answered every question. She always looked pleased to see me in the hallway. She was my daughter's writing and math teacher as well, and I can't tell you how much good she did for her. I got emails from her regularly, with cute stories my daughter had written. She found what made my daughter tick and helped guide this girl to produce amazing work.

Again, so simple to do, but something that did NOT happen for us last year. So I knew. This was special.

And then, there's her teacher. It's hard for me to know how to choose the right words to convey how special, how truly gifted, this man is. Without gushing. Which I'm going to do, so excuse that.

Imagine, if you will, the perfect teacher. The one who has a calm persona, who knows how to interact with each student in just the right way. The one who has a Mary Poppins bag of tricks at his disposal, pulling out the right one in just the right way every time. The one who can just use a word or two to completely diffuse a situation or settle a class. The one who knows all the things they don't teach you at school on how to be an amazing teacher. This was her teacher this year.

If I sat here and wrote down all of the things I saw him do that were amazing, we'd be here all day. He could write a book on how to teach first grade and districts would buy it in bulk.

So many small things that changed everything. I saw him do this time and time again. Not only with my daughter, but with every single person he interacted with.

One day, at the beginning of the year, he was absent. The next day I asked if he was feeling better and he told me that he had taken the day off to attend a workshop on teaching students with Down Syndrome, because he had a student in his class with Down Syndrome. When I heard that, I knew we had something special. Here was an experienced teacher, still looking to grow in order to best teach his students. That means something.

My daughter and her best friend at the school library, reading the same exact page on the same exact book. Taken by her teacher.

My daughter and her best friend at the school library, reading the same exact page on the same exact book. Taken by her teacher.

We were on a field trip the other day and I was talking to another parent about our teacher and she said to me, "He's truly gifted." We've both been in the school system for awhile now, probably a dozen years combined. We've seen many teachers, most of them fabulous. This man is a yard stick above fabulous.

Some people find just the right career for them and they bloom. You just know that they're doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing and the world is a better place for it.

The world is a better place for having our first grade teacher.

Seeing my daughter so lovingly lifted warms my heart. Seeing her progress during that time blows my mind. The things he was able to pull from her simply shouldn't be. But they are. She did it. He helped her do it. And to him, it was no big deal. "Just doing my job, ma'am."

When you get a teacher that outshines all the other stars in the sky, it's easy to stand back and admire. It sets the bar high for all those around him. And that's kind of what he does, he raises the bar. He holds it high and says, this is what teaching is. Everyone around him sees that and, I hope, we all strive to reach his heights. He doesn't brag on himself, ever. He just does. And so he makes you want to do as well.

I'm obviously not a student in his class, but I feel like I learned so much this year. About my daughter. About education. Respect. Being calm and exuding authority. How sometimes a whisper is more impactful than a shout. How sometimes a shout, or a joke, or a high five, or a kind word, or a gentle reminder is required. How to turn cleaning up after inside recess a coveted job that kids would rush to do. (Yes, I actually witnessed that. It was amazing.) How to turn a few extra minutes in the hallway into a "bubble" game where the kids competed to be the quietest, then chose the next quietest, and so on. (Sounds insane, I know, but it WORKED.)

I didn't know how this year would be for my daughter, or for me. I could not have asked for a better outcome. He simple took away all the stressors that we had last year. They were just gone. And, because of that, she was able to learn. That's it. He took away all of the barriers and she bloomed. Oh, how she bloomed.

We should all be so lucky to have someone that simply allows us to bloom.

I wish I knew how to say thank you. To paint a picture of my gratitude that would do it justice.

Consider this my thank you, Chad. From the very bottom of my heart, you cannot know how grateful I am. Best wishes next year at your new school. You do not know how big of a hole you leave at our school.

You saw my daughter. You lifted her. And, in turn, you lifted me. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU! I will never stop singing your praises. You are, truly, a gifted teacher and we were so lucky to have you.

Her teacher took this picture as well. It is simply her. Yes, he saw her, alright. Here's proof.

Her teacher took this picture as well. It is simply her. Yes, he saw her, alright. Here's proof.

On running the life marathon

If you're anything like me, you're a busy person. My life sometimes seems so overwhelmingly crazy busy that I know I appear to act (and look) like a frazzled mess. I tell myself all the time that I chose this life. And the fact is, when we are not busy, I am seeking activities to do. It's a catch 22, for sure.

The last few weeks I feel like I have barely had time to breathe. Although I somehow managed to binge watch the entire series of Lost on Netflix. (Thanks, Lost, for being so weird and making me miss water cooler talks. Can we just talk about how freaking bizarre, and sort of wonderful, that show was??)

A lot of things go on my back burner and if I don't take care of them immediately, ie. this is not that important, I instantly forget about them.

I can barely remember the last few weeks of busy-ness.

I know that we had a dental surgery for my daughter. An IEP meeting. A trip to St. Louis to see Frozen on Ice, that ironically turned into a blizzard weekend and several white knuckle drives. We had two home visits for parent teacher conferences. We had cello lessons and swim practice. We went to the doctor twice.

Life went on, as it does. The details of my busy-ness are probably only interesting to me, my husband, and my mom. You have your own busy-ness, I know you do. I may not understand it, as you may not understand mine.

I guess what I'm rambling around, trying to say is, I'm still here.

Even when I throw my hands up to the day, the week, the month, the year.

There are moments that make me pause. And see. And feel.

And recognize that this crazy life, the roller coaster that never seems to end, is good.

This was a good day.

This was a good day.

As a parent, we put ourselves on the back burner for our kids. We do it willingly. It's the unwritten contract you mentally sign when you decide to be a parent.

If this is a marathon, I'm on about mile 10. I recognize that. This is when you're feeling tired. You're questioning why you ever thought you'd be able to do this. But you know that if you walk for a few minutes, you'll be good to go again.

I need my walking days to be good to go again.

When the walking days are few and far between, I'm out of breath, cranky, mad at myself and everyone around me. I can't see the finish.

But always, ALWAYS, I keep moving forward. This marathon isn't for quitters.

And every single day, no matter how out of breath I am, how defeated I may feel, I see glimpses of goodness in this, my little family, that encourage me that I can do this. I have to do this.

You see.

Even if it sounds trite.

This is my reason for being.

I open my eyes each day and think, ugh. Today is going to be just like yesterday.

But it's not. Really.

My children grow in their miniscule ways. They learn. They see me. They echo me.

Even if yesterday was a complete fail, I begin again.

I prioritize. I arrange and rearrange schedules. I sign up for clubs and lessons. I make doctor's appointments. I forget to plan something to eat for dinner. I make endless lunches. (Why must they eat so often!?) I talk to teachers. My mind loops on endless ways to improve my children's lives.

I see my husband. Rarely do I really SEE him. I appreciate that he's in these trenches with me right now, probably wondering where in the heck his bride went and who this maniacal schedule freak is. I appreciate that he helps me with this. I try to remember to see him as well. It's hard.

Why does this feel like a hundred years ago? So young. So optimistic.

Why does this feel like a hundred years ago? So young. So optimistic.

I try to remember that the point of all of this isn't to race to bedtime, but to grow these three wonderful children into three fantastic adults. I try to remember to give them the space to do that.

No one said that parenting would be easy.

I try to remember that I'm not the only one with the insane schedule, throwing themselves into bed each night with a heavy sigh.

There are ebbs and flows to parenting, and when you're in the fast lane, it's hard to slow down. You almost need someone to shake you and say Hey you! Stop this! It doesn't need to be like this.

Someone gets sick and the schedule gets thrown and you start to lose your head and then you see. This is ok too. It's ok if the day doesn't go as planned.

You learn to take the curves and just roll with them. You can improvise like a bad-ass.

You wonder how these are not resume worthy skills.

(Side note, it just took me far too long to even remember the word resume. Seriously.)

You sit down to your hobby (huh, what's that?) and you get so wrapped up in it, the beauty of what you do well and love, that you see a flash of yourself inside there.

Remember me? I'm you. I'm five. Life is amazing. Don't try to prove me wrong, please.

Remember me? I'm you. I'm five. Life is amazing. Don't try to prove me wrong, please.

And you feel better.

And you take a deep breath and begin running again on mile 11.

Don't worry about the end. It's really not about the end.

You chose this race, so you might as well do it well.


Random, but there are pictures, squee!

I have nothing of importance to say today. Deal with it. But I have a lot of random funnies and photos. So if you're into that kind of thing...

My two year old told me that it was six o'clock today, repeatedly. It was not six o'clock, by the way. But in her cute little toddler voice it came out "sexy clock." Nothing like a two year old telling you again and again that it's sexy clock.

This bundle of cuteness should not be saying "Sexy clock." It's just so very wrong. By the way, this was her dressed up for her school picture, looking adorable. She promptly refused to smile and looked close to tears in every single photo. So, crappy phone photo it is.

This bundle of cuteness should not be saying "Sexy clock." It's just so very wrong. By the way, this was her dressed up for her school picture, looking adorable. She promptly refused to smile and looked close to tears in every single photo. So, crappy phone photo it is.

I am reading the book Heidi with my nine year old. I actually love that he's into it. He typically trends more towards science fiction, but after a particularly annoying Minecraft book, I pushed this on him. The language is quite old. I think the book is almost a hundred years old. In the books, someone called little Heidi "saucy." I got a kick out of that and told him that if we ever get another pet we should name it Saucy. He was laughing and said that saucy sounds like something you'd see on Adult Swim or the Simpsons, ie. something not appropriate for kids. I kind of love that he thinks saucy is a dirty word. It kind of is, kind of isn't. But I love language and how certain words make us feel things. And I love that he gets it too. Saucy makes him feel deliciously naughty, like he's getting away with something.

I know you can't see him, but isn't that an awesome sky behind him? I love this picture so much. And him, of course.

I know you can't see him, but isn't that an awesome sky behind him? I love this picture so much. And him, of course.

I caught myself in the car after dropping the kids off, hitting the garage door opener. Right after I get in the car. At the school parking lot. For like the hundredth time. Do I somehow think I have teleported home? Why do I keep doing this?

The light burned out in my closet and I am too lazy to get the ladder and/or check to see if we have any spare lightbulbs. So for the second day, I am choosing my clothes in the dark. It's a crapshoot what I look like after. Not really so different than any other day, really. I'll blame it on the lightbulbs.

Speaking of appearances, I noticed this morning that my hair has taken on a seriously sheep dog quality. I always get torn between trying to grow it out long enough to donate and then getting too frustrated to continue. Red headed kids need wigs, I know, but my patience with the mirror is wearing very thin. There are not enough hair products in the world to tame this beast.

I found a video on my phone of my six year old and her friend singing Grand Old Flag. It so made me smile. Why does she love this song, so? A few weeks ago my parents and aunt and uncle stopped by our house and my daughter led them all in a rousing version of the song. It's just so patriotic, you can't help but sing along.

This girl. Le sigh. It's a Grand Old Flag indeed.

This girl. Le sigh. It's a Grand Old Flag indeed.

I am about to shoot my phone. It says I'm running out of storage space but won't put photos to the sd card. When I try to download the photos to my computer, they are very hidden. Why can't the photos just go to the Pictures or Camera folder? Why must this be so complicated? Why does everything change when I unplug it and plug it in again? Why must my phone make me feel like an idiot every time?

I just chatted with a Samsung representative on the computer and she (he??? why did I assume it was a woman?) was really not able to help me, but thanked me for my patience in resolving the issue. I am imagining that these people take a lot of crap every day.

Mom, what the  hell  is this? And why can I not seem to put it down? (It's the stem from our mammoth sunflowers that we grew this summer) And yes, the kids have now turned them into weapons. Because, of course.

Mom, what the hell is this? And why can I not seem to put it down? (It's the stem from our mammoth sunflowers that we grew this summer) And yes, the kids have now turned them into weapons. Because, of course.

American Ninja Mommy

I have become a little addicted to the show American Ninja Warrior. I'm sure you've seen it as it's on tv every other show on several different stations. It's kind of hard to miss at this point.

I am not a person who is "in shape." I can run a mile, sure, but that's only because I am constantly running after my children. I am thin, yes, but that's only because I haven't sat down for a full three meals a day in many a year.

There is no way I could ever dedicate the time and energy required to become a contestant on American Ninja Warrior. Many of these people were athletes in college. Many work in gyms. Sure, you have your everyman Joe on sometimes but it's likely that he works in construction or owns his own ranch.

I got to thinking... what would be my show? What would I be good enough at that I could win? What have I been training for for the last decade?

It hit me when I was at my kids' school with my 2 year old. We'd been hanging out in the teacher's lounge, counting PTA fundraiser money for awhile. The school secretary walked in and immediately said "I smell diaper."

Um, really? Because I've been sitting next to her for the last hour and I don't smell anything. And it's my own kid.

But sure enough, after a quick check I ascertained that the school secretary has a hidden talent. She is a diaper ninja. It doesn't even have to be her own kid, she can smell a dirty diaper the exact second she enters a room. Diaper ninja, indeed.

And so, American Ninja Mommy was born in my poor, underutilized, too little social interaction, stay at home mom brain. Producers, feel free to contact me at will. My schedule is pretty free.

Requirements are that you must not hold membership to any gym, in order to eliminate an unfair advantage. Although truly, for these tasks, I'm not sure how much a gym membership would help.

Obstacles include:

  • Feeding a wiggling, crying child that absolutely DOES NOT like whatever you are feeding him.
    • Bonus points for keeping floor clean.
    • Double bonus points for keeping yourself clean.
    • Triple bonus points if the food is actually healthy.
  • Dressing a child post bath in tight pajamas (fire safety, my ass) when they are still a little bit wet.
    • Bonus points if they've just been lotioned.
    • Points deducted if they are footy pajamas with a zipper. (Too easy.)
  • Getting multiple children to the car/bus for school on time with all backpacks, lunch boxes, homework assignments, permission slips, Friday folders (signed, of course), library books etc.
    • Bonus points for multiple schools/stops/buses.
    • Double bonus points if it's your child's snack day and/or birthday and you've remembered the treats.
  • Coordinating outfits for the entire family for that precious family photo shoot, without spending any money.
    • Points deducted if outfits are blue jeans with a white shirt.
    • Bonus points if everyone actually likes the outfit.
    • Triple bonus points if no one stains the clothes before the picture.
    • Quadruple bonus points if you actually remember to purchase the pictures and display them.
  • Packing for a car trip for the entire family.
    • Bonus points if you don't forget anything.
    • Double bonus points if you don't forget anyone.
  • Taking multiple children anywhere, by yourself.
    • This is just worth double bonus points on its own. Bless you, brave mama.
  • Cooking a healthy, from scratch meal.
    • Bonus points if you have a baby in your arms.
    • Double bonus points if everyone actually eats it.
    • Triple bonus points if you actually get to eat it yourself.
  • Doing laundry all in one day.
    • Bonus points if it all gets put away.
    • Double bonus points if it all gets put away in the right closets/dressers.
    • Triple bonus points for sock matching ability.
  • Grocery shopping without a list, with a toddler.
    • Bonus points if you get everything you needed.
    • Double bonus points if you spend less than you expected.
    • Points deducted for unpaid items your toddler sneaks out of the store.
  • Finding a lost child in the mall.
    • Bonus points if it's not yours.
    • Double bonus points for finding a child's lost toy.
  • Cleaning the entire house.
    • Bonus points if the kids are actually home when you're doing it.
    • Triple bonus points for bathrooms and windows.
  • Taking the kids to the dentist/hairdresser/doctor. Your choice.
    • Bonus points if the objective is achieved.
    • Double bonus points if the child doesn't verbally abuse the professional and/or you.
  • Doing homework with the children.
    • Bonus points if they don't cry.
    • Double bonus points if you don't cry.
  • Cutting the kids' nails.
    • Bonus points if no one bleeds.
  • Eagle Ears: hear a crying child from the distance of an entire house sans monitor, at midnight.
    • Bonus points if you recognize that it's not a cry of distress and ignore it.
    • Double bonus points if you can go immediately back to sleep.
    • Triple bonus points if your husband takes care of it. You picked a good one, mama.
  • Figuring out what a child is talking about with only "Remember that time that we, uh... we, uh..."
    • Bonus points if it's a gift that they want and you can actually find it.
  • Completing (ahem, helping to complete) a school project the night before it's due.
    • Bonus points if food is involved.
    • Points deducted for usage of Pinterest.

Honorable mentions go to:

  • Mommy with the most creative lie that the children believe (see Elf on the Shelf)
  • Most creative sleeping position, either in your own bed with additions of children, or elsewhere you've had to lie to coerce your child to go to sleep
  • Quickest shower
  • Handling phone calls while the children scramble at your feet (But I'm HUUUUUNGRY!)
  • Remembering to feed the pets (poor mistreated animals, you)
  • Having energy at the end of the day to do something for yourself, or with your husband because, let's be honest, there's not time for both.

There you have it folks. A game show for the everywoman. Mommies everywhere, we've got this. We've been training for it for years. Let's show the world what we can do, ladies!

For the winner, free, quality babysitting for a year! That's got to equal the ANW prize of $500,000 anyway.

But let's be real. This would be way boring to watch. We do this all the time anyway. And we'd never find out about the tryouts.

But I, for one, could kick this competition's ass. Hands down.

More than a thank you

I have been working very hard with my six year old daughter lately. The school load that she has is typical for a first grader, but it's hard for her. We're spending at least an hour everyday doing school work.

My son is a gifted student who taught himself to read. I never have to help him with his homework. Thus, I never had to learn how to teach a child. I'm not a natural teacher. I'm not a patient person.

To say this is a recipe for disaster is an understatement.

However, I'm a smart person and I have a lot of resources. I'm using those resources to train myself how to help her better. She gets agitated when I'm frustrated. I get frustrated to see her struggle. It seems like an endless loop of not getting anywhere.

We had an aha! moment this weekend. Last night we sat down to do math homework and she finally just got it. It was like I could see the wheels turning in her head. Count the dots in each box, then add them up to get the answer. It clicked! We high fived. It was wonderful.

She let me move her on to do reading. The books she is reading are super easy. The thought is to build her confidence so she can finally move up to slightly harder reading. We've been a few weeks on easy peasy reading and I think she is getting it. She is able to read every word on every page. It's amazing. It's a confidence booster for the both of us.

We have been spending a lot of time together. I'm the one who does her homework with her, so we have been working very hard together. I'm learning to be patient and explain things in detail I never even thought of before. She's letting me help her.

Last night she climbed on my lap. She's not an overly affectionate child, so usually this only happens when she is very tired or overwhelmed. We had just spent an hour and a half on homework and, to be honest, I was ready for us to be apart for a few minutes.

She faced me, put my hands on her chest and said "Mom, you're the only one who warms my heart."

Gah.

Interpretations of this include:

  • Mom, thanks for the hard work you've been putting in with me.
  • Thanks for being patient with me.
  • Thanks for recognizing that I'm doing my best.
  • Thanks for encouraging me.

At least that's what I heard anyway. If I asked her what she meant, she wouldn't have been able to say any of this. But she knows that I'm pushing her, lifting her up. It's warming her heart. And she's saying thank you.

You're welcome, sweet girl. I'll do it forever if I have to because you are worth it. I know you can do this.

She is the one who warms my heart. She's in there. She's a person. Yes, she's a person who struggles, but she is a human girl. She has feelings. She can't always express them in the commonly prescribed ways, but she knows how to get her point across.

I paused a bit last night to think about the fact that I am so used to focusing on the things she is working on, I forget to look at her as a whole. As my daughter. As a person who will grow up and learned how to deal with her struggles, in her way.

But in the end, she's my sweet girl and she always will be. I'll take that thank you. I'd do all of it without thanks but I'm glad she sees the love in what I do for her everyday. It all stems from the root of love.

Amelia flowers.jpg


Things that have given me pause this week

I have had the pleasure of introspection this week. Sounds like a simple thing, but it's not. At the end of the day I literally have nothing left to give, every single day. I forget to even think thoughts that are not related to what actions I need to perform next.

I was reminded this week how essential it is to stop and think. Isn't that what makes us different from animals, our ability to have complex thoughts? Otherwise we are simply surviving, enduring. Not enjoying. Not growing.

This is an attempt to force myself to think. A random and incomplete list follows of things that have given me pause in the last few days. This is for me. It's my blog.

- I still love music. Doesn't sound too crazy, but when you're inundated with children's music and just the general chatter that comes from kids, you forget. Thank you Elton John Pandora station for being so wonderful. And The Lumineers, I actually went and bought a real live cd this week because I think you're so perfect.

- My son had an incident at school this week involving violence and a little girl. I felt it was necessary to tell him that there are some men in the world that abuse women just because they can. His face. Oh god, his face. It was like he literally could not imagine that men would do this. I had to remind him that a few hours earlier he himself had done a similar thing. He was crushed. I had to fight tears as I said "I do not want you to become the kind of man who would do this to a woman." He, equally fighting tears and shock, "I would never." My faith in his humanity was at least partially restored. I know he'll at least pick on a boy next time. Ugh, this mess.

- It's September 11th, and I forgot. I forgot. Although I can recall every detail about where I was when I heard and what I did the rest of the day. I can't believe we're to the point where we can forget and simultaneously intricately remember.

- A great friend had a birthday and as a gift to me reminded me that I'm still a person. I gave her a jar of my pumpkin puree. Not at all equal, but I hope it gives her some of the pleasure that she has given to me.

- My two year old walked into her pre-school class this morning without crying and said to me "You go home, mama." YES! Yes, I will go home. Way to go, baby girl.

- We got through another week of homework for miss fussy pants hates homework. Only a few tears were shed by both of us. I will call that ok.

- The behavioral therapist told me to cut myself some slack. I call that a directive. It came from a professional that is getting paid to tell me how to better my life, so that's good enough for me. My house is very messy. I'm trying not to care.

- I ran this week and my body is completely revolting today. Ok body, we'll not do that again for awhile. I get it. We're old. We're out of shape. We'll take a slow walk next time.

- It's freaking cold today and so begins the decline into my seasonal affective disorder. But there is pleasure in unpacking the five shopping bags of winter clothes that my mom bought for my kiddos a few weeks ago. Even though it is a fat pain in my ass to complete this chore for three kids. So many clothes. And they're not even mine.

- I remembered that we bought tickets to the Kidz Bop concert. On facebook today I saw pictures of dads at the One Direction concert looking pissed and/or bored. But they paid good money to be there, for whatever the reason. I hope no one is taking pictures at the Kidz Bop concert this weekend. We'll be the ones wishing we had brought flasks. Along with every other parent there, so you may not be able to pick us out. BUT! I am a little excited to get to show my kids how awesome a live concert is. I can't even remember the last time we've gone.

- Family picnic for my daughter's preschool tomorrow. I am an introvert. I am slightly agoraphobic. On premise, I hate these things. But I told my husband that we will go and I'll be making an apple pie. Because sometimes we have to force ourselves to do things that we hate. The socializing I mean, not the pie. Pie is wonderful. Pie will get me through this.

- There is a car at my big kids' school that has a funny license plate that says something like "Rat Girl." We laugh every morning when we see it, and I am beyond curious to know who it belongs to. This morning, my six year old says "Mom, I told Dad about Rat Girl last night." I'm sure he was totally confused but it made my day.

That's all I can think of right now.  I'm sure this is a rambling mess of nonsense so I'm not even going to reread it. There are so many more moments, I know. It's hard to train yourself to see them, but I'm trying.

Chin up, not optional

I had a bad morning yesterday. I'm allowed. We're all allowed. I just try to keep it to a minimum and not wallow in sorrow.

Yesterday was a wallowing sort of day. There may have been tears.

Somedays I have no words. Today I have a lot of them. Bear with me while I try to sort sense. (I just had to look this up. Is it bear or bare? If I had said bare, that would be an invitation to undress. So bear, ok?)

Today, or at least for several hours this morning, I am kid free. They are all sitting somewhere else doing something I don't know about.

Today is me time.

I started by getting my son up for school a little late. He slept in. And today is running club day. He is not a sporty child but this is the one thing he accepts being forced to do. He reminded me yesterday that today was the day. When I woke him up, he groaned. When I told him it was running club day, he jumped out of bed. This kid. Who knows?

He had to sign a sheet saying he would follow all the rules and write down a goal. Running club will meet twice a week for the next two months. Sixteen times.

He wrote down thirty miles.

Last year he ran no less, no more, than exactly one mile every time they met. Today he tells me he's going to do two. He needs to do two in order to earn a medal at the end.

I say "That sounds hard. You have to do twice as much as last year."

He says "Fifteen minutes a mile. I can do it."

We snuck up to school to watch the last few minutes. It took me a minute to spot him from my super secret hiding place across the street, but there he was. Plugging away. Two miles. No more, no less. I'm certain of it.

So I decided to run today too. I did three miles, but I'm not competing.

I took my phone so I've got good music. And you know how somedays it seems like the music is actually talking to you? Once I started really listening I heard it.

"Slow it down" by the Lumineers.

I feel her filth in my bones
Wash off my hands til it’s gone
The walls they’re closing in
With velvet curtains

Some love was made for the lights
Some kiss your cheek and goodnight
Lift up a red high heel
Lock up your doors with steel

They’re makin noise in my street
My blinds are drawn i can’t see
Smashed in my car window
Didn’t touch the stereo

Slow it down, Angie come back to bed
Rest your arms, and rest your legs

Act like you’ve been here before
Smile less and dress up some more
Tie up your scarf real tight
These boys are out for blood tonight

Slow it down, Angie come back to bed
Rest your arms, and rest your legs

And when she stood she stood tall
She’ll make a fool of you all
Don’t ask for cigarettes
She ain’t got nothin left for you

I never, she never, we never looked back
That wasn’t what we were good at
And when it came to love
We were not good enough

Slow it down, Angie come back to bed
Rest your arms, and rest your legs
Don’t you frown when you’re feelin like that
Only love can dig you out of this

 

I started listening at "She ain't got nothing left for you." But "only love can dig you out of this" spoke to me as well. And "slow it down" and "when she stood tall she stood tall."

And I kid you not, I looked down at my feet and I felt something pushing my chin up and keeping it there. This is where I'm going to muddle this up, I know. I looked down and every time I saw a cricket and it jumped at that second. And it felt like there was a strong wire holding my head up and making me not look down.

And I'm thinking, this is nuts.

This is symbolic.

I am going to write about this.

And then I look over and I shit you not, there is a freaking donkey statue in someone's yard practically yelling the word "Ass!" at me. Ha ha. You got me. I'm an ass.

I've been an ass the last week or so.

Slow it down.

When she stood tall she stood tall.

Two miles. Fifteen minutes a piece. Because of a plastic medal. Because you can.

You're an ass.

Chin up.

No, seriously.

Chin the fuck up, you ass.

 

 

Conversations with a two year old

Two years old is a magic age. They're not babies anymore. If you're lucky, your child is becoming very verbal and possibly, very confusing. And hilarious.

A conversation with my two year old this morning. We call her "Baby" at home because she's the youngest of three, so even though she's two she's stuck with the nickname. And she owns it.

Baby: I hungy, I hungy!

Me: You're hungry? Do you want a donut? (Don't judge me, you!)

Baby: NO! I hungy!

Me; Ok, want to pick out something else?

Baby: I want donut!

Me: You want a donut?

Baby: NO! (Grabs donut and walks away in a huff.)

I give up.

 

Notice the victory in her face. You win this time, Baby. And probably every time after this because I can't reason with a two year old; there is no reason in two years old.

Notice the victory in her face. You win this time, Baby. And probably every time after this because I can't reason with a two year old; there is no reason in two years old.

Withholding judgment

Let me tell you a little secret.  Parenting any and every child is hard.  They don't tell you that when you get pregnant.  You can infer it by watching other parents, but until you deal with it in your everyday life, you have no idea.

As parents, we make millions of choices concerning our children.  Based on what?  Our experiences growing up, most likely.  Maybe we've watched other people parent in a way that we'd like to emulate, but there's no guide book here.  Because each child is so wonderfully unique, our parenting choices also vary widely.  They have to.  What worked for one kiddo is never going to be the blanket cure for every child.

They say that opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one.  I have my own, of course, and sometimes I'd like nothing more than to say to another parent, "You're doing this wrong."  But I've had that said to me before, albeit rarely, and guess what?  It sucks.  All it does is make me mad at the other person.  No one really hears you when you tell them you're doing something wrong.

I think that when we're young we form our opinions on life and truly believe that this is how we are going to think and feel when we die.  Then something happens, it could be small or major, that rocks our belief system.  What if I'm wrong?  What if I've always been wrong?  The beauty in this is that you can finally say to yourself "I don't know everything.  Maybe, even, I know NOTHING."  How scary.  How freeing.  Seeing the world from a fresh and non-judgmental place for the first time.

Maybe you are co-sleeping with a seven year old.  Maybe your four year old still takes a pacifier.  Maybe you yell much more often that you think you should.  I'm sure there are things about your parenting that you keep quiet because you worry how they'd be perceived by the outside world.  I know that there is my public side of being mommy and my private side is so very much different.  I work hard to blend the two.  I don't often love either one.

Here's the thing though, and I've learned this through my years as a mom. We are all sometimes the mom to "that" kid that doesn't act like the rest.  If what you're doing is working for you and you don't want to change it, it's fine.  It's not up to me to pass judgment on you, and if some outspoken, uninformed person tries to, please ignore it.  When I see something in another parent that I question, I now say to myself "Who is it hurting?"  It's never hurting me, I know that.  Is it hurting the parent?  The child?  Even if I think the answer is yes and I think I know a way that could help them, I usually keep my mouth shut.  If a friend is venting to me, I ask myself "Do they want me to help with this, or are they just talking?" 

I would never say to another parent, "Look at your out of control child."  I may think it, but then I know that there have been probably hundreds of people who have thought the same about my kids at times.  Who are sweet, wonderfully compassionate, creative, and funny.  And I know that I work my darnedest to be the best parent I can be, which unfortunately I feel falls short just about every day.  We are both trying our hardest.  I'm sure it's the same for you.  And the lady I judge at Target, or at the school, or at the restaurant, or my best friend.

But you and I know our own struggles.  That other mom knows hers too, she doesn't need us to point them out.  And, just maybe, this place that we're silently judging is an even better place than the one she's just come from.  We don't need to knock her down and remind her that she's not there yet. 

My non-gift to my husband

Thirty-five years ago you were born.  I'm sure you were a cute baby, but we don't have any pictures of that time.  You were definitely a cute little boy, thank goodness for your grandma saving a few things.  You were an awkward teen, but who isn't?

Fourteen years ago we met.  I just had to add the years in my head and I am stunned that it's been that long.  I think about where I was fourteen years ago, who I was.  It's a lifetime ago.

We have never had the kind of relationship where we wax poetic about our feelings for each other.  Even writing that sentence makes me feel a little icky.  I didn't buy you a card today or a present.  I didn't forget, I just know that you make 99% of the money that comes into this house and, frankly, you don't really care about presents.

I suggested that you get yourself a Birthday Cake shake at Steak n Shake today and you did.  You said it was too sweet.  We ordered dinner for ourselves and made the kids hot dogs to eat in front of the tv.  It was almost like a date.

You mowed the lawn today and I heard you singing while you did it.  I love that.

You didn't have anything in particular that you wanted to do today so we took the kids to the pool, found out that it opens an hour later now that school has started.  Who knew?  It's Saturday, why does school matter on Saturday?  I was mad.  You suggested we go to the lake and spraygrounds instead, so we did.  It was a good choice and we all had a great time. 

I love that you are the calm to my storm.  You are the encouraging words I need to hear in order to make hard choices in my life.  You will never tell me no to something that I really want to try.  You motivate me to be more in my life, to do more, but only if I want to.  You have never made me feel that I am less of a person because I have chosen to stay home with the kids.  You honored my choice several years ago and have never looked differently at our life.

I love the man you are.  I love that you have taken a crappy start and turned it into success.  You don't know anything less and I know that you don't think that it means much, what you've done.  But look out into the world.  Not everyone can step out of a deep hole and make something of themselves.  You did.

You had a craptastic dad as an example and yet you are a wonderful father.  You would never speak to our children the way that your dad did.  We're over the daddy issues, I know, but I still mourn for you that you didn't get to experience what having a loving and supporting family can mean.  I'm glad that my family has turned into a support system for you.

Birthdays, like anniversaries, turn out to mean more than just a date.  It's remembering where you've been and where you're going.  I don't know where this next year will take us, but I know it will be just fine.  After all, you're the one I come home to and say "Did you hear when he said that?" and you're already laughing because, not only do you know exactly what I'm talking about, but you thought it was funny too.

Even though we are very different people, you are the yin to my yang.  Happy birthday.

 

You're going to hate that I'm posting this here, but that's what you get for encouraging me to start a blog.  It's your own fault, really.

You're going to hate that I'm posting this here, but that's what you get for encouraging me to start a blog.  It's your own fault, really.