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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Girl's Night Out

I realize that I already posted today, but in my little corner of the world, this has been one inspiring day.  Not only did my 2-year-old son take four steps in the water on his own, I also got to do some bonding with my favorite short women.  I'm going to go on record now and say that I'm guessing that there are fewer things in the world greater than sharing an impromptu frozen treat with your 7 and 5-year-old daughters.  I'm sure that some veteran mommas out there who have teenagers or grown children will tell me that they have some great moments of their own, but this has still gotta be one of the best.

I picked my oldest daughter, Addison, up from soccer practice and the baby girl, Morgan, was along for the ride.  I cannot tell you how many times I've experienced some of my best moments via the one-on-one car trip.  It started with Morgan as we were waiting for Addi to get out of practice.  She had wanted to ride in the front seat of the car (which is something that I've honestly never let her do).  Still, she asked and I said no, and when I explained to her that it was against the law, she gave this response: (keep in mind that Morgan's thoughts sort of circle the globe before she comes home with the ACTUAL reason she started speaking in the first place)...

Morgan: "Mommy, when I grow up I'm going to be an artist, a sign language teacher, and a person who gets to make up their own laws."

Mommy: "Oh, so you want to be a politician.  Ok, first of all, why do you want to be an artist?"

Morgan: "Because I want to paint pictures of pretty princess and put them in an artist book."

Mommy: "Fair enough.  Why do you want to be a 'sign language teacher'?"

Morgan: "Because, Mommy, everyone should be able to talk to each other," (pause for sweet..but then she follows up with the kicker). "The should be able to talk even though they are blind."

Mommy: "Alright (making mental note to explain deaf vs. blind at some point), and why do you want to be a politician and make up your own laws?"

Morgan: "Because, I would make a law that ALL kids get to sit in the front seat and big people have to sit in the back.  The kids can even drive.  ALL kids can drive...(here it comes)...even if they're blind." (REALLY need to have that conversation, and fast).

As if this weren't enough for one evening, she then starts discussing the fact that her cousin, Ava (5), wants to marry Justin Bieber when she grows up.  But, Morgan thinks that this is impossible because apparently, according to her, when Ava is a grown up, Justin Bieber will be a "grandpa."  So, I can't resist:

Mommy: "Morgan, why can't Ava marry Justin Bieber?  Because he's older?"

Morgan:"Yes, it is illegal to marry a grandpa."

Mommy: "Well, I married Daddy and he is much older than I am."

Morgan: "Yeah, but duh Mommy...he ISN'T a grandpa!!!...wait, is he?"

Following this amazing revelation from my 5-year-old, I decided to take the girls to the shaved ice shack for a little snack.  I should have known, at this point, that the night of zingers wasn't over yet.  I was enjoying this estrogen filled evening with my two favorite girls, and basking in the glow of our mother-daughter bonding time.  I even took a little picture of the three of us, and when I looked at it, I smiled at the thought of all of the fun "girly things" we'll do in the future.  And it was this endorphin-high  moment that led to the next conversation.  I hugged my babies and said:

Mommy: "You know, you girls are pretty cool..."

Addison: Looks up at me lovingly and says, "It's ok, Mommy.  I can teach you how to be cool."


Addison: "But really, Mommy, all you need to do to be popular and cool is...(oh god, I'm freaking out now, wondering where this is going when she surprises me yet again)...nice."

Mommy:"Oh, Addison, that makes me so happy that you said that.  You're such a sweet girl."

Addison: "Yeah, well, that's just what I say to win people over."

Well Ladies, here's to the next and many future nights of GIRLS NIGHT OUT! :)

One, Two, Three, Four!!!!!

Therapy.  Medications.  Weighing food. New recipes.  New doctors. No answers. No sleep.   And through it all...seizures, seizures, seizures.  Sometimes more.  Sometimes less.  This job is exhausting, and if it's possible it's exhausting in a new way nearly every single day.  I'm learning new things about my new life all the time.  It's not just that my son has seizures of unknown origin, or that we have absolutely no idea what the future holds for him.  It's the little things, too.  He's extremely susceptible to illness so taking him to any sort of indoor playground/germ cesspool is out of the question.  But, we can't go outside because it's too hot and his special diet makes him unable to regulate his temperature.  If he gets too hot he gets a fever and has more seizures as a result, which sort of makes "swinging at the park" not really worth it.

 When it finally is relatively cool outside, I take him to a park and see a mom giving her child goldfish crackers.  He sees it too, and cries for them.  I did come up with a recipe for him now so that he can have them too, but it didn't fix the whole problem.  You know how a stray kid will walk up to you in a park and look at your child's snack and you look to the mother and make sure it's ok to share one with them?  I can't do that.  Try explaining to someone else's one-year-old that they can't have any of my son's cookies because they are "medicine."  And of course I've gotten that, "well this lady is a bitch" look from other moms who don't know us.  I smile, but think silently, "Yes, I'm sure you think your child is adorable and irresistible, but trust me, you don't want me to share."  I usually try to explain as much as I can upfront to avoid these awkward situations (a little tip I learned from my mom).  Regardless, going to the park is a completely different experience than it was two years ago.

Easton doesn't walk, doesn't say any real words, and has the worst sleeping pattern on the planet.  We are exhausted and wonder sometimes where we'll find the strength to keep going.  I say all of this, not to throw myself a pity party, but to give you an idea of how incredibly significant my day was today...

It's been a rough week of no sleep and an exhausted boy during therapy.  I had just told my husband earlier this week that I was pretty sure Easton would never actually walk, at least not without an assistive device.  He just looked at me with the same, "I don't know either," look that we always give each other when we're discussing his progress.  The lack of sleep was getting to both of us and I decided to ask my parents if Easton could stay with them for the night, so that we could get some uninterrupted sleep.  I'd never initiated this myself, and was a little uneasy about it, but they readily accepted and I took him to their house.  When I kissed him good-bye and left for home, I felt awful.  Why couldn't I do this?  Why couldn't I take care of my own kid?  How could I leave him somewhere other than his home for an entire night without me?

Well, I'm glad I did because I slept more than 2 hours straight and felt like a functioning person today.  I even had the energy to take him swimming.  My dad was there watching us from the eating area above the pool, and Easton and I had brought friends along for the fun.  I was talking to one of the lifeguards when Easton looked at the side of the pool and pushed away from me.  He then took FOUR UNASSISTED STEPS to the side of the pool.  He WALKED.  He actually did it.  I couldn't believe it.  I looked to my friend, Ruby, for confirmation of what I'd just seen.  She smiled and congratulated him, so I knew I wasn't imagining it.  Then I looked up above the pool and saw my Dad smiling and clapping for him.  It was the most incredible moment.  If I could have bottled it up, I would have enough elation in that one bottle to last me a lifetime.  We've got a long way to go and the road won't always take us forward, but now I know that he can do it.  I just have to be strong enough to get both of us there...four steps at a time! :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Say Cheese

Has anyone else thoroughly enjoyed the "back to school" pics on facebook?  I love them.  Everyone (usually) looks happy and full of so much promise.  It also helps me remember how old my friends' kids are now.  I mean, I remember being pregnant at the same time as several of my friends, but I'll be damned if I remember which one I was carrying at that time.  I love the freshly washed faces and perfectly fitted clothing, the new backpacks and masterfully combed hair.  It makes me feel all sorts of geeky when I take my own children's pics and post them for all to see what a great job I'm doing (we all know that I'm basically just trying to convince myself with said picture, but hey, if you're not rooting for yourself, who is?)

However, as I was perusing my fb page and checking out all the cute little kiddos in their brand new attire, a thought occurred to me. Wouldn't it be great to see a REAL photo of kids going to school?  Something tells me that would be even more entertaining.  So, I vow to take a pic of my kids on some random Thursday in February.  I can already imagine what this pic would look like.  My oldest son's hair will be standing on end, because he's letting it grow and by that time he's sure to bear a remarkable resemblance to Tom Hanks in Castaway (and yes, I could make him cut it, but I'm too tired).  My youngest daughter will only have one shoe on, because it's imperative that she only be able to locate one shoe per day.  This is just in case Mommy is feeling even slightly sane, she's able to tip the scales back in her favor (which, I swear, is Mommy-looking-like-a-crack-addict).  My oldest daughter won't even be in the picture because she'll still be in the house looking for her library book that I told her twelve times to locate the night before.  If she does make it in time to say cheese, it will be with an ugly twisted look of pain on her tear-stained face because, "Mommy yelled at me for just being a little kid."  (Yes, she is THAT manipulative).  And my youngest son?...well, he isn't even IN school yet, but he will most certainly have something to do with our tardiness.  In fact, I'll probably have to wake him from a DEAD SLEEP because he was up partying all night long with Mommy and Daddy. (And if you're wondering to yourself whether or not Daddy actually gets up with him, the answer is, YOU BET YOUR ASS! We BOTH work, thank you very much).

And you all know that every single member of the family will be sporting some sort of "greenish glow" due to the past two weeks of school-related illness.  From December-April, everyone within a 30 mile radius of an elementary school is either going to be vomiting or shitting their brains out for an extended period of time.  And just to make it extra special, the children will take turns and drag it out so long that you'll consider moving their mattresses to the bathroom, just to save you a few steps in the middle of the night.

Yep, I think these pics would be quite amusing.  And, maybe they would remind us that not everything is roses all the time.  Not everyone wakes up every morning with a smile on their face and a pat on the back for little Janie and Johnny.  "Off to school my little miracles!  Make Mommy proud!"  No, no, no.  It's more like, "Here, eat this pop tart as fast as you can and for the last time, STOP telling your sister that she's going to get called to the principal's office.  Because, I will call him myself little missy and see to it that it's your narrow butt that gets dragged in there in front of all of your friends! And you over there, if you don't get that shoe on in the next three seconds I'm going to make you eat it..."

Okay, everybody, SAY CHEESE!

Monday, August 13, 2012

First Day Of Kindergarten

We all remember this day, right?

Pulling out all of the new stuff one last time the night before the big day, just to make sure it's all there.  The smell of new plastic folders and freshly, pre-sharpened pencils.  The excitement and anticipation mixed with fear at the prospect of starting something new.  Wondering if the lunches will be yummy, if the teachers will be nice, and if there will be friends at recess time.  Looking through the new bookbag to make sure that everything has been packed according to the teacher's instructions.  From the looks of it, this can be nothing but a successful year.  But, what if the first day is scary?  What if there aren't any nice friends and teachers waiting with open arms?  Just when the tears of apprehension threaten to steal away the smile of excitement, a hand is on your back.  And there is that sweet, familiar face, saying:

"Tomorrow will be fun!  There will be new friends and fun teachers, and all kinds of exciting things to do.  It will all be ok.  You'll see...Mommy."

But, luckily, she has agreed to hold my hand on that first day, just in case I do get a little scared.

(For all of us Mommies who, next week,  will be experiencing the first of many times that we will "let go".)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Perfect Mother

My children have the perfect mother.  Let me explain before you throw your computers across the room in disgust at my boasting.  I, myself, have plenty of imperfections.  I have strengths and weaknesses like any other human being, but luckily for me and my little family so do several other women we have the privilege of counting among our support system.  Some of these women are a part of our "inner circle" and some of them I am only able to see their parenting expertise from afar.  This being one of those instances when facebook can be a good thing.

As mothers, we have plenty of times in our lives when we find ourselves second-guessing our choices for our family.  It can be something as small as the proper veggies for a well-balanced dinner in which every member is well-groomed and sitting politely around the table, or something as big as making a life-saving decision for one of our children.  Either way, at some point, we are inevitably going to come up short.  What I am learning (the hard way) is that we actually have very little control over either of these things.  If you could promise to provide such wholesome veggies as broccoli and spinach every night of the year, or will your children to thrive simply by loving them, mothers the world over would never know defeat.  However, this isn't the case, and eventually, we all know it.  The upside?  We get to do all of it, together.  Each of the mothers I'm about to mention has her own individual strengths, and I'm not ashamed to say that I've drawn from their strengths many times in my life.  I may not have it all together on any given day.  I may not know exactly how to provide for my family's needs every second of the year.  But, luckily from me, on those many days that I fall short, I can take a cue from my "Sisters."

Here are some of my Sisters in no particular order:

Kate- This is one of those women whom you can always count on for at least one great laugh during any conversation.  But, one of her greatest "hidden" strengths is her ability to see that humor in her children.  We all know there are times when our kids are telling us one of their 600th stories of the day and we just sort of glaze over at the sound of their voices.  However, if any one of Kate's children gives her a reason to laugh, they get her absolute full attention.  And, not surprisingly, she has one of those amazingly robust, infectious laughs.  Humor is something she has passed on to her children, but without taking credit for it, she encourages her family to see the funny side of life.

Melissa- She is the quiet mother, who leads by silent example (which is pretty incredible because the woman has FIVE children).  You would never know it though, because she always seems to have it "together."  I know that we don't always have everything together at any given moment, but even if she's faking, no one does it with more style and class than this Sister.  She never puts one child's happiness over another.  Each of her children obviously feels a special connection to this amazing woman in their life.  She absolutely will not sacrifice family time to satisfy the hustle and bustle of "getting to the top" like so many American families find themselves doing.  And, this is no easy feat because her children happen to be incredibly gifted in the area of athletics.  Many would push their offspring to the brink of a nervous breakdown by age 8, just to prove that their child is "the best" at something.  Not Melissa.  That isn't her style.  No child's accomplishments/gifts get more attention than anyone else's.  And they will be better people for it.

Ruby- This Sister and I have a special kind of mothering relationship because we live right next door to one another.  We've seen each other dressed like a million dollars and our families falling in line accordingly so that everything looks absolutely perfect on the outside.  But, we have also seen each other on those days when make-up and bras are sort of optional and we can barely find the energy to brush our own hair let alone make breakfast for our kids.  We share stories of exhaustion and frustration with kids and husbands almost daily.  (We women need that kind of unconditional support from a fellow Sister).  However, no matter how frustrated or exhausted she may be on any given day, you are almost guaranteed to hear words of love and encouragement directed toward her children.  It doesn't matter if one of her daughters is reciting the Gettysburg Address or has just peed in the middle of her kitchen floor.  She still finds the compassion to say, "I just love your little face."  I have been awed by this simple statement many times.  And it reminds me to tell my children how happy they make me just by being them.

Missy- Ahhh, Missy.  She is the crazy, wacky mom who is cool enough to allow her children to wear tutus with cowboy boots and Halloween shirts in the middle of June.  Some moms allow these moments of expression from time to time, but they are usually limited to days of staying home.  Missy would let her kids wear this to a preschool graduation, and no matter how disapproving the looks can be from other parents she will proudly tell her child how amazing she looks.  Tell me that not every one of us can use a little bit of that kind of encouragement.

Jenny- This mother of four holds down three jobs, one of which involves helping bring more children into the world and somehow she makes each delivery seem like the most important she's ever witnessed.  She creates lifelong friendships with mothers whose only connection to her is that she held their hands while their children entered the world.  (She also happens to be the crazy woman who does all this and is the lead volunteer for her children's school activities).

Callie- Luckily for me this one happens to be both my sister AND my Sister.  The same qualities of nonchalance and carefree spirit that made me want to KILL her as we were growing up, are the things I try to emulate for the sake of my children.  Her kids don't know what it means to have someone tell them to "color inside the lines" or that certain patterns don't match, or that play-doh and finger paint are only for special occasions.  Her daughters will always know that it is more important to love your neighbor than it is to get straight A's.  They will understand the meaning of acceptance and unconditional love.

Mom- Of course she has her own given name, but I assure you that this particular woman has EARNED the title of Mom.  She raised a child with autism when it wasn't a buzzword, when no one had any "answers" or therapy methods.  She had to navigate her feelings on her own.  She endured pain and heartache as her child failed to miss the social milestones that her Sister's children were reaching right in front of her.  And she did all of this while making her two "normal" children feel like life was perfect.

Amy, Jessica, Lynn, Jamie- I put these Sisters in a different category, because they've earned it.  Each of these women has been threatened with losing their children.  They've had to make decisions for their children that go far beyond deciding which schools are best or which sports teams they should join.  They have pulled strength from the depths of their souls, when they were sure nothing was left.  They've begged and pleaded to have just one more day of loving their babies here on earth, only to discover just how hard it can be to keep pushing forward on a daily basis.  These women have a deeper appreciation for every milestone reached than most.  They delight in the tiniest steps forward and look to each other for those stumbles backward.  We are members of a club no one wants to belong to, but reach for one another in times of unbearable pain.  It matters not at all that I've only actually met two of them.

We may not get supper on the table every night at 5 pm, with all homework done, and a smile on our faces.  We may not be a size 2, and wake three hours early in order to get that extra workout in before the family rises.  We may not be boasting successful 6-figure careers and balancing a healthy home-life.  We may not be doing any of these things on our own, but together we are a force to be reckoned with.  So whether you are a new mom just starting out, or a veteran whose children are all leaving the nest you can find that ever-elusive Perfect Mother.  Look around you, She is present in all of us.