Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to post about P-O-O

But here's the deal. I really don't care . . .

***

JR is fairly well potty trained. The only challenge we've come to face is the "poopy" parts. While he has no trouble announcing its impending arrival, "POO POO coming!" and then hightailing it to the toilet, he does have some relational issues.

He has trouble . . . letting go.

***
"Mama, poo poo coming!" I race behind him as he scrambles toward the bathroom, pulling down his pants as he runs. He tosses the McQueen (CARS) toilet seat on the toilet and springs (and I do mean SPRINGS) on top, shifting his legs beneath him, tucking his boy parts beneath the pee protector.

Grunt. Grunt. Grunt. Red face. Squeeze.

Plop.

"Mama, I did it!" Hands go in the air. I cheer as if I have just been notified that I am indeed a finalist for the Nobel Prize in potty training. This is my job. I do it well. I scream, whistle, hug and give what has become known as our finale--the double fist pump.

"Mama, look!" He peers into the toilet, admiring his handiwork.

"Yup, you did good little man! You have one big one and one tiny one." I support his curiosity. This is what good mothers do.

"Mama, oh, is so-eee cute!" He grins at me, indicating his belief in the aesthetic value of the smaller poop.

"Yeah, it kinda is," I say supportively. "OK, buddy, time to flush." I don't want to rush a good thing, but I fear this quality time has run its course.

We spend a few more moments in admiration. I'm fading fast. I remind him it is time to flush, wash hands, go play. His eyes narrow and he begins the whine. I try again. He laments, again. I can't take a poo dirge. I simply can't.

"Hey, JR, let's tell the poo poo bye and that will see it soon, OK?" The promise that they will meet again has worked. He reaches for the handle and slowly flushes.

"See you soon, poo poo!" He waves. It waves back in a swirl and disappears.

***THE NEXT DAY***

"Mama! Poo poo coming." And here we go.

Grunt. Squirm. Red face. Plop.

He jumps off the toilet in dramatic fashion, performing a sort of half spin as he faces the toilet, head bent down.

"Poo poo, you came back!" He turns to face me, perhaps realizing that I am a mother who keeps her promises. I lift my shoulders with pride. This is what good mothers do, you know.

"Oh, poo poo" he rejoices. Yes, indeed it came back.

My son can hardly contain his excitement while relishing in his good fortune.

"Yes, JR, it sure did." I make mental doodles in my head.

"Is sooooo--eeee cute!" And here we go again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Superhero

I have had many jobs in my life. I remember making "floor shakes" when I worked at a fruit juice stand while in high school. We would pour the pitchers full of sticky, fruity concoctions onto the already sticky, dirty floor and then slide around like blind ice skating Olympians, drunk Olympians with a penchant for Orange Julius.

I loved that job. I mostly loved that every single time I had to make a chocolate banana shake that I ALWAYS made way too much. Oddly, I was not about to waste such a precious mixture (yet, I had no trouble dumping it on the floor at the end of the night for pure entertainment purposes). No judgment please . . . thank you.

I made Subway sandwiches (I was an expert bread cutter--I cut the bread like hull of a boat where the top of the bread fit like a Tupperware lid minus the burp). I taught water aerobics to senior citizens. Cranky, opinionated, invigorated--it didn't matter. It was a "Rump Shakerpalooza" and a hell of thrill to watch. As a side note, it was one of the only times in my life I wasn't self-conscious in a bathing suit. I have to admit getting a few cat calls from the over-60 set was a thrill.

Customer service, retail, teaching, technology. I have been to job hell and back. I have worked for nothing and done nearly nothing for a lot of something. I've had bosses who bossed, bosses who leered, bosses who went crazy and did things to Post It Notes that to this day I still have a hard time talking about.

Jobs. Lots of 'em. Too many . . .

Yet, the job that I loved the most. The job that I would do all over again from day one. The job that paid absolutely nothing.

Motherhood. Well, yes . . . that, too.

Sister.

I loved being a sister (even if I didn't know it then). I love it more now. Being the eldest I had an advantage that extended beyond height (that advantage is long gone as I am the "runt" of the family). I had experience, knowledge, and a driver's license.

I remember hoisting up toddlers and preschoolers on my feet and launching them onto the couch. They would slide to the floor in fits of giggles while begging for more. I lugged the three of them to the beach, piled them in my car, chased them in the backyard, and checked on each and every one of them at night, to make sure they were breathing. To make sure they were still there. We fought. Big fights. Lots of tears. Lots of wounding words. I'd give a limb to relive those moments and make them pretty, sweet, a moment a unicorn would hang a rainbow on.

But I can't. All I can do is be thankful for the moments we shared that made me look like a superhero. Yes, I said it. I loved that they saw me that way. Before they knew any better.

JR calls his little sister, Baby A, Angel. It is a name that will stick for the purposes of this blog. I love that he calls her that, even if he is just mimicking me. I love that he leans in for kisses while she hums and pushes her puckered-lipped face forward. They meet and it is magic.

I swell. They swell. He sighs, "Oh, Baby Angel" and she nuzzles her head under his chin.

He loves her. She loves him. He's her Superman.

Then he nearly chokes her as he pulls her away from the train table and the impressive track design he has so diligently been working on. She screams as she uses her head as a weapon against him, pounding it against his chest.

Sibling love. What a beautifully painful thing.

So they probably will try to kill each other on more than one occasion. I know he will profess his disdain for her and she will swear she is not related to him. I know he will probably pull her hair (when it finally grows in) and she will more than likely tattle on him for every single little thing. Hero worship will become a thing of the past.

I know it's coming. I've seen the previews.

But I know that no matter what, they will be there for each other. I hope that in the midst of teaching them love, respect, and self-defense, that I'll be able to foster a friendship that will last forever or at least until my funeral.

I'm not a superhero anymore. My siblings are all grown up. They are smart, strong, independent. They are funny, creative, talented. They can leap tall buildings . . .

You know, I just realized something. I may not be a superhero . . . but how cool is it that now I have three of my very own?

Very cool, indeed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Love You . . . But

BlogHer dumped me.

I can't say I blame them. I hadn't blogged in weeks. Months. (That's cool. I made .49 as per my recent BlogHer check--now I feel guilty that some tree had to suffer for my meager earnings. Great.)

A friend of mine had a baby a week or so ago.
I didn't even know she was pregnant.

I've missed a few appointments.
It's no wonder since I don't even remember making them.

I can be in the middle of a conversation and fall asleep.
Well, what do I expect on only a few hours of sleep?

I have no idea what I look like with make up and hairspray.
But I know exactly what I look like in sweat pants and t-shirts.

My purse has a Buzz Lightyear, a Blue's Clue paw print, and a mini Doc from CARS in it.
I have no idea where my lip gloss went.

"Date Night" involves a movie never watched and a fancy dinner at the Taco Bell.
We usually never get through the movie--sleep is a rare commodity.

I type this as my nearly three-year old climbs on me and points to my tepid coffee and says "So hot!"). I tickle him and her races off preparing for the morning chase. Which means I'm going to have to run . . . again. And again . . .

Time is a rare commodity . . . yet oddly, sometimes it lingers longer than it should in the spaces between bath and bedtime.

Are you ready for the great revelation?

Motherhood is hard.

I get it.

It took a little time, a little distance from the hormonally fueled honeymoon of being a new mom, with my shiny, squeaky things and inflated ideas of perfection. Oh, and I suppose having ANOTHER child provides some clarity as well.

(My nearly three-year old has confiscated a box of "Crunchies" and is now . . . he poured the entire box on his pancake plate. I consider it a victory in that it is ALL on the plate. SCORE!)

I've come a long way from videotaping my living room and posting the elaborate toy "stations" we would go through as the day progressed. I've come a long way from the posts with ethereal photos in the park of a pale-faced, doe-eyed child looking lovingly into the camera. I've come a long way from the rhyming, witty posts about the lack of sleep, ending in a couplet of sweet understanding and love.

A long way . . .

Motherhood is hard. Perhaps "Whiskey in My Sippy Cup" was a clue. I just thought is was a cute blog name. Yeah, I had no idea it was a survival technique. Not that I've tried it . . . yet.

* * *

Jennifer Senior wrote in NEW YORK MAGAZINE about parenting. It wasn't your typical article about the joys of motherhood and the trials and tribulations that end in profound revelations doused in love. Nope.

It was about why parenting sucks--"Why Parents Hate Parenting." (a blog post dedicated to this article is brewing as I write this . . . )

A few years ago I would have scoffed at such a topic. Today, I get it. I love parenting, right? Sure I do. Do I hate parenting? Yes. Some days I do. But the constant is this--I absolutely love my children. Even if I cringe as I peel a Dum Dum out of my hair, change a poop explosion that has spilled out into areas unknown, chase after a toddler as he runs like an Olympian into the parking lot, tend to "business" while my infant eats toilet paper and the toddler "decorates" the bathroom with said paper while "blessing" it with the toilet brush. Yeah. I love them.

I feel like a late arrival to a party where all the games have been played, the wine bottles have been emptied and the party goers sit slouched on tired couches recalling the days of misspent youth. Mommy bloggers have been blogging about their exploits since the blog was first birthed (pun weakly intended). I remember thinking, "Perhaps it will be different for me."

No. It hasn't been.

And for that, I am thankful and desperate, trying to remember why I've abandoned this blog, the blog world.

Oh, yeah. The whole time and sleep thing.

And, while there is not enough blog space for me to thoroughly explore another topic, I think too much. I don't think I have that luxury anymore and quite frankly, it is a luxury I don't need, I never needed. I would ruminate over a blog post until I killed the topic with critical thoughts and misdirected misconceptions. Really, I obliterated perfectly good ideas, worrying about how it sounded, driving myself crazy with fear that it might not be good enough. I was drenched in self-doubt and while drowning, I let go of the story and it let go of me.

Just write, just tell it like it is, with all the raw details, cliches and misspellings you want. So you're no Hemingway. Who cares if what you say is trite or far from profound. It's like blood . . . everyone has it running through their veins, but the difference is that it courses through your body. Your words. Your blood.

Perhaps you'll want to read what I write. If you do, so be it. If you don't, so be it.

I miss this. I do.

And I'm not ready to walk away . . .

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I Tried Not to Make a Scene

Let's just not mention how it has been over a month since I last posted. Agreed?

Great.

Moving on.

JR is in this art class. Well, it really isn't so much an art class as it is a big room with activities set up in stations. Outside of the very loose circle time at the end of the class period, there is very little structure. It is perfect for JR.

The very first day we went to class was a nightmare. While the little girls sat at tables and pressed their tiny hands into clay or happily twirled a paint brush, my guy ran around the room as if his head were on fire. He begged nearly every person in the room to help him escape the evil of a room filled with crayons, puppets, and puzzles. Let's be perfectly honest, some of those puppets can be scary.

He hung on ankles, pleaded with his sad blue eyes, and yanked with all his two-year-old might. He wanted OUT.

The first day was spent trying desperately to get him to stay, to try, to hang in there just one more moment.

He went over to the sensory table (a sand/water table filled with beans), filled his hands with beans, and let them fall through his fingers. The sensation was calming. Unfortunately, the mother standing nearby with her daughter didn't think it was so calming. She abruptly pulled her daughter away. "Let's go play somewhere else for now." For now.

For now.

I get it. I got it. I do. My child isn't exactly gentle. But, he was not out-of-control or violent. JR is just a little more robust in his play. He's a boy. He's a sensory kid. He's a toddler.

Her obvious disdain for our play was felt by me but largely ignored by my son. I'm thankful that he didn't notice the little girl being pulled away by her mother.

Flash forward to Wednesday.

JR has calmed immensely. He's in a playgroup that should help him with transitions and "proper" social interactions. They get that he is a sensory kid and they work that into how they interact with him. I love that. He needs that and so do I.

JR's behavior has improved in art class as well. He is calmer, more engaged in activities, and seems to enjoy socializing with other children (and inanimate objects--whatever works!).

Unfortunately, the mother from day one is still not convinced.

At the sensory table, JR and the little girl stood. JR raked his fingers the length of the table, she watched him intently as he looked up and caught her eye. They were calm, clearly engaged and maybe even enjoying one another.

Until mom came. "Let's go play somewhere else, for now."

She did not just say that again? I made an effort at eye contact with her, hoping my mom-to-mom gaze would speak volumes.

It didn't work. Off she went, little girl in tow. JR standing alone at the table.

Again, he seemed unfazed. I, however, was not.

Inside a fire was ignited. How dare she! Couldn't she at least make it a little less obvious? I know moving to the circle of other mothers to discuss exercise videos and vacation spots was clearly more important than letting her daughter socialize with the class pariah, but come on! Because it is my hope to keep this a family friendly blog, I will withhold the unpleasant (horrific) thoughts that filled my head and the poisonous words that clung to my tongue.

I've been there. I've been rejected. Neglected. I've been ignored. While in my youth these rebuffs would have sent me reeling, as I've grown older they barely register. I don't care. I will not force anyone to like me, to befriend me. Being fairly level-headed, I don't get worked up by much.

But JR. It is a wholly different. This is my child. He is innocent. He is sweet. He is funny. He is smart. He is just a little different.

A little.

I am pained to realize that one day he may realize those differences. But even if those differences no longer matter, I pray he will never, ever be the kind of person who lacks compassion, understanding, acceptance.

I want him to see beyond the differences of others, to embrace them, maybe even celebrate them. My greatest hope is that he is one who reaches out instead of turning around and walking away.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Filed under things they never tell you when you become a mother

I cried today. I felt the tears well up, drowning my vision in what ifs and what could have beens and a healthy dose of you were not enoughs.

He sat before me, alternately working his pen across the page and looking up at me, the mother. He told a story, an anecdote meant to comfort me, while his eyes darted to my son writhing in my husband's arms, my son in the grips of an unexplained urge to bolt. Our daughter lie on the table, clad in a diaper and a drool-filled grin. Patient. Waiting.

I'm sad. When I looked in his tiny eyes nearly 2 1/2 years ago vivid images of a laughing toddler, a boy curled up with a sleeping puppy, a young man proudly walking across a stage, a father cradling his child took up residence in my mind. My boy. My son. Those images are nothing but hazy reminders that I am not in control. That sometimes life renders you powerless.

The doctor gave us our referral. JR will soon be in therapy for a disorder I'm still trying to wrap my brain around. While I take comfort in a checklist of symptoms, I find I have more questions than I do answers--the questions are tiny voices echoing in my ears--"Is this my fault?" "Has my history inked itself upon your present, your future?" "How will I fix you?"

* * *

This is it. I gorged myself on optimism. This will work! Fresh lies pushed the nagging truths to the shadowy recesses of my brain. I will make this work. My conviction wallowed in fatigue, as did my body. I knew this was going to suck. Hope was nothing but a sucker punch.

He ran around the room. I introduced myself to the other mothers, pulling suckers out of my bag and watching as JR climbed the stairs, peered through the windows of a plastic house, and happily greeted the pretty girl who has become his best friend.

An unstructured art class. For toddlers. This was what JR needed. I just plunked down a small fortune to make it true. I tried preschool. Fail. I tried a gymnastics class. Fail. Playdates. Fail (mostly). This had to work.

***

He's such an awesome kid. He's charming. Engaging. He's learning new words and phrases nearly every single day. Do you know he can identify every letter of the alphabet? Maybe it's no big deal, but to me it is simply genius. He is so bright. But . . . he never, ever stops. Never. He lives by the credo- "Why walk when you can run?" His energy level is astounding, infectious, exhausting. But only at home, in a world carefully constructed by me, his mother, or in a world where there exist no walls, no hands pulling him back, no voices telling him NO, does he truly thrive.

***

The unstructured art class was my undoing. I was THAT mother of THAT child. With an infant in one arm, I raced after him as he headed for the door, the big room, the staircase. The other children crowded the easel, the bean table, the train set. Their parents sat with them, taking in the look of gleeful wonder that gilded their toddlers' faces.

Except for mine. He screamed. He writhed. He dropped to the floor. He wanted out. And so did I.

"Do you want me to take her while you handle him," her voice was kind, masking the pity she felt for me. I handed my baby girl to another mother, a stranger, so I could stop my son from running out of the room, up the stairs, and out onto the street.

We sat on the floor in the outside hall. I pulled him to me, willing him to be like the other children. Willing him to just stop.

"If he can't do it, that's OK," the teacher said to me in a hushed, yet supportive tone. I heard only, "Please don't come back, ever." I'm sure that's not what she meant. Actually, I'm not all that sure.

We left early, both of us empty and a little lost. I was too tired to be mortified. Too afraid to be angry. It didn't work and I had no idea how to fix it.

***

My daughter is six months old and today was her six-month check up. While I wanted so much to immerse myself in her growth, in her amazing development, I was lost in a haze of self-doubt, of worry, and of an undeniable fear for my son. I raced through the questions about my daughter, who gurgled and grinned her way through her exam. My hand rested on her soft belly, her fleshy legs kicking excitedly at my touch. But my focus was on the small piece of paper I had in front of me--a penciled in checklist of all the ways my baby boy was broken stared back at me.

Broken.

I know every child is different. Evey child has his or her unique challenges. I don't seek platitudes or even heartfelt words of support and encouragement. I simply seek a soft place to land. For now. I want time to inhale and exhale. I want a few more minutes, hours, days to look at my son and not think therapy, disorder, referral, special, delayed . . . broken. I just want to look at him and feel the weight of his perfection one more time.

Truth. I'm broken. Yet I need no salve. No tape. No glue. No bandages. No glaring faces with a notepad and wire rimmed glasses. No labeled bottles filled with pills. No bottles filled with booze (not yet, anyway).

I just need to dry these stupid tears, yank up my mom jeans, and push on. Right? Because that's what we do. That's what I must do.

Because right now . . . he's alive. He's happy. He's healthy. And he's gonna be OK. Broken or not.

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
-Coldplay "Fix You"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How to Rip Off a Label

"I don't get it," I turn the pages and desperately try to understand the fascination with a green room, a rabbit and a painting of a cow jumping over the moon. Toy house. Mittens. Socks. And that old lady "whispering hush."

My husband shrugged. He didn't get it either. Why was this book beloved by so many? What was the big deal? There wasn't much of a plot and the character development was awfully flimsy.

Although I didn't know it then, I would be delivering a 5 lb. baby boy in a matter of days. It would be only then that I would get it.

***
"She's a daydreamer. It is hard to get her to focus." My mom nodded at what she already knew.

"I know. She's always been like this. She gets lost in her own little world." My mother had no idea the weight of her words.

We left the meeting with a label and a referral for services. I was now "special." I had a label and "it" had a name. ADD.

My mom refused the drugs, claiming that I would eventually grow out of it as if it were last year's woolly winter coat. Although I don't know if I grew out of the condition or if I just learned to manage it, I never grew out of that label. While over time the label no longer existed in my records, it wrapped itself around everything I tried to do. It became my crutch, my excuse, my reason to begrudgingly welcome failure. ADD--my chaperone to mediocrity.

***

"What are you thinking?" I watched her as she followed JR around the room. She'd tilt her head, sigh, scribble in her notebook, and then finally, she looked to me. What the hell was she thinking?

"Well, I'm just taking note of the things he is and isn't doing, you know, what's right and wrong for a two-year old." The sound of her voice was like a needle working its way through the back of my neck. I cringed. She was the developmental specialist assigned to our case. Since JR was a month early we qualified for special services. Although I didn't think we really needed them, I was eager for any help, any guidance that I could get. I was focused on speech--the extra help would be a bonus. But the look on her face, the haughty tone in her voice. What was she talking about?

JR was born a month early. Totally healthy except for having to endure time under a lighted blanket. He hit every milestone. No delays. I never expected him to be a genius, to play a concerto at 3 , recite the periodic table at 5, enter college at 10. I just wanted him to be where he was supposed to be, whether he got there early, late . . . didn't matter. I just wanted him to get there.

His speech was my biggest concern. While he was a physical dynamo, his verbal skills consisted of short grunts and my personal favorites, high pitched, groans and whines. I got it. He had better things to do than speak. He wanted to run, to jump, to make an attempt to land in the ER before 3.

"What are you thinking when you watch him? I only ask because you have a look of concern on your face." I prompted her to respond. I leaned in closer and searched her expression.

"Autism," she replied. And with that, the oxygen was sucked out of the room.

***
He doesn't have autism. I'm 99% sure. The doctor was 100% certain, shaking his head as I told him of the events leading to his "diagnosis."

Regardless, we live in a world of labels. What will be his label, I wonder? What word will bind his hands and cause him to second guess his ideas, his dreams, his abilities?

***

A wise friend once asked me, "What would you do if he did have autism?"

My mind was a swirling vortex of bubbled questionnaires, meetings around tables with "experts" scrawling notes, laborious hours of therapy, and the countless fears that he may never belong.

What would I do?

Love him. Intensely. Unconditionally. No matter what.

***
JR wraps his legs around my body, his head rests on my shoulder as I lean back into the chair and open the book.

GOODNIGHT MOON.

"Moon!" JR shouts.

"Yes, baby. MOON!"

"Goodnight comb and goodnight brush."

"Mush!" he shouts.

I squeeze him tightly in my arms.

"Yes, baby. Goodnight mush."

I hold him in my arms, gently rubbing the arch in his back. His words silence the nagging fears and doubts--in him, in me.

The labels fade into an imperceptible whisper.

"Goodnight noises everywhere."

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