Diary of a Middle Aged Mom Day 3

March 2, 2017

Rocketman:  Long before Hub’s alarm went off, I had been tossing and turning. This was the day I had been dreading since this time last year. I have officially left my life-changing thirties behind and have somehow found myself middle-aged. I drifted back to sleep around 6:30- the time that Hubs and Rocketman usually walk out the door for school. I was awakened by the light screaming on and was about to fret to Hubs, but he stopped me. Someone wanted to give me something.

Sweet Rocketman with his fair freckled face and teeth growing in in every direction snuggled up to me and handed me a handmade card with a picture of a birthday cake on the front along with”Ha..Day Mom.” On the inside it said, “Have a marvlis meltpot birday Love Ben.” And there was a picture of me with my arms outstretched and him running to me smiling. There were also four quarters that I believe he earned from the tooth fairy inside.

But it was not over yet! He gave me a little bubble wrapped parcel in which I found a little toy sea horse- my favorite sea animal. It was a little worse for wear, as he had found it one Saturday morning in the parking lot of the hockey rink, but he had kept it secret once he identified it as the perfect gift for Mom. And it was.

Rocketman knew that I was having trouble with the idea of turning forty and continuously stated throughout the day: “I really want this to be a good day for you. I really want to make this the best birthday ever.” Sweet, compassionate, sincere Rocketman.

Bubba: I picked up Bubba from Pre-K and we drove to a home close by that had a sweet little lending library in the form of a bookshelf with doors (to protect from the elements) shaped like a house. An “Awesome House of Books” with a take a book- leave a book policy. I had followed the owner of the house on Facebook and she had posted a few times about a (stuffed) puppy that was so lonely and waiting for someone to come and take him home and be his reading buddy. Sure enough, the soft little Valentine puppy was still there. I told Bubba that he could pick just one book, and that we needed to be sure to bring one of the books we no longer used by the next time. I took one for Rocketman and one for myself. Bubba selected a Good Night Elmo book, which made me secretly rejoice because I feel like: as long as he still likes Elmo, he is still such a little boy. I pointed out the little stuffed friend and told Bubba he was lonely and needed a reading buddy. Bubba stared, bringing his arms straight down in front of him, fists clenched and opened his eyes wide. “Can I take him?!” After he promised to read to him and share him with his brother, Bubba went skipping to the car, snuggly little dog in hand, squeezing him up against his chest and declaring, “I love him, Mama, I love him so much! He’s just so cute! I’m going to read to him right now.” Nine hours later, between Bubba and Rocketman, Little Dog (named “Bubby” by Bubba and “Spot” by Rocketman…we decided that it’s fine for him to have two names) has been read to at least a dozen times. It’s the little things that make a big impression.

Zen moment: That was tough today. I tried so hard to stay present. I went for a facial this morning with a gift card I had actually received on my last birthday from my sister. Although the esthetician may have been a robot, the facial itself was very calming and relaxing. My linens were spritzed with lavender and there was quiet New Age music playing in the background. In addition to the actual facial, the robot esthetician rubbed my arms and hands and neck and I tried so very hard to focus on just relaxing and enjoying the moment, because pampering like this comes around once a year at best. But my mind would not SHUT UP. Instead, it traveled to every chore at home that needed to be done, the schedule for the week, next year’s school schedule for the kids, my rapidly aging dog…everywhere but the beautiful relaxing room with the scented sheets and music. Zen moments are not easy to come by for a person with anxiety. But I plan to continue my search day by day.

Something that made me laugh/smile: Snickers. He’s our new little kitten that I almost didn’t get- if Hubs had had the final say. We were in a terrible car accident in September and dealing with all the repercussions of that (including Rocketman not sleeping for four months), my sweet old cat, Pete, died in December. Snickers was a 6 month old shelter rescued kitten that I brought home in a wrapped gift box on December 23. And after spending the last 3 years with elderly pets, he has brought some fresh, new excitement to the home. And aside from the fact that he attacks my feet at 4 am no fail each morning, he is the sweetest and funniest little guy. But, my word, is he persistent. While I attempted to dismantle a rotisserie chicken, Snickers would hop up onto the table to help himself. I would scoop him up, say, “No!” and put him on the floor. At which point he would jump right up like a ping-pong ball and attempt to eat the chicken. This act repeated at least a half dozen times before I finally had enough sense to lock him in the kitchen as long as the chicken was out. Persistent little buggar made me laugh and laugh.

An act of kindness: Hub’s amazing decorating. I walked into the family room this morning to balloons flying everywhere, a happy birthday sign and table cloth, and two cards on the table. Hubs’ card was sweet and warm and just what I needed to hear as I realize that, yes, I am going through a bit of a rough patch. But at least I have him by my side cheering me on.

A moment to be thankful for: My three boys overjoyed to sing Happy Birthday to me, surrounded by balloons and carrying ice cream cake.

Today I’m feeling: Relief. Exhaustion. Satisfaction. Love.

Diary of a Middle Aged Mom Day 2

February 28, 2017

Rocketman:  Cried and cried in my arms before walking out the door to go to school. But by the end of the day said, “You were right! I was so busy and having so much fun that I forgot all about missing you.” A good thing, I guess. But wiping his tears off my pajamas is never a good way to begin a day.

Bubba: Bubba’s Pre-K teacher, who mentioned about a month ago that he may not actually be ready for kindergarten when it is time, commented at how mature he seems after the break. How verbal and excited to learn new things. How instead of thinking it’s playtime all the time at school, he is coming up to her while she works with kids and asking when it’s his turn to write. He’s interested in letters coming together to make words. Using great words in sentences….just becoming such a mature little boy. AND, she mentioned that he held up the line as the kids walked into the building from outdoors. While his peers began to protest, he held up his hand and stated: Just a minute. I wanted to thank PJ for holding the door for me. Thank you PJ! He was the only child who said thank you and his teacher was blown away by his good manners. Proud Mommy Moment.

Zen moment: Sitting in the car at pickup for Rocketman and choosing to stop poking at my phone and instead enjoy the conversation with the polite, maturing little boy in the back seat. Who talked about whether or not there was “pulp” in his pink lemonade. He wouldn’t mind if there was because while Ben can’t stand it, he actually loves pulp. Who talked about maybe not liking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that much because in the movie Raphael says the S word…which is “stupid.” And we talk about how that word isn’t as much a bad word as a mean one. Sweet quiet little banter that I will miss next year if and when he does go to kindergarten.

Something that made me laugh/smile: Witnessing a fourth grade student who has moped through the year with his hood on and head down glaring at people, smiling for the first time. A radiant smile. When later I rejoiced in his smile to him, he told me that he knows he used to be cranky and miserable, but he woke up one day and made the decision to be happy, because it’s just a better way to be. And then he found that once he shared his happiness with others, others were actually kinder to him than they ever had been before. And so happy is his new way to be.

An act of kindness: When that same fourth grader, who has spent the year asking me to leave when I came in to work with him, thanked me for all the help I have given him in writing this year.

A moment to be thankful for: The beautiful faces of my students from: Pakistan, India, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the Netherlands all wishing me an early happy birthday.

Today I’m feeling: Anxious. Depressed. Overwhelmed. Pensive.

Diary of a Middle Aged Mom

February 27, 2017

I’m turning forty in two days and I’m not handling it well. I am sad. Depressed. Wondering where my thirties went. Upset that my child bearing years are over. Not ready to shift from being the mom of a grade schooler and preschooler to the mom of two grade schoolers. I’m not ready. At the same time, I’m watching friends having new babies and rejoicing in their warm cuddly skin and fuzzy soft hair until they cry. And then I gladly hand them back to their rightful owner. Because I loved having babies and miss The Baby Years like crazy. But there is something to be said for a child that can feed, bathe and dress himself. And besides, I’m not sure how well I could manage attending to the needs of my 2 boys, elderly dog and the household I try very hard to run if there was a widdle crying baby demanding all of my time. But I’m still sad that my child bearing years are over.


I have made a resolution of sorts. I am going to work very hard on a daily basis to……write! I started this blog 8 years ago when I first became a rookie mom and have written in it on and off since then. But NOT ENOUGH. And it’s ok. I’ve been documenting our adventures through pictures and facebook posts and things like that. But starting today….two days before my birthday….I would like to do more.

So I’ve created an outline. One that I can refer to at the end of a long day and jot ideas quickly down on. Some days I may write more. Some days I may just jot words. But the idea is to highlight this truly delightful life that I have been blessed with day by day.

It’s unnerving for a person who possesses so much anxiety to reach middle age. Because it stirs all of the fears and worries that lay dormant in the back of the brain and reminds me of mortality. And I worry more. For my very elderly dog who the vet keeps reminding me is “well beyond her life expectancy.” For my aging parents. For my boys as they grow up and become awakened and exposed to aspects of life that we were able to shelter them from when they were little.

A couple of years ago at a New Years Eve party, guests were encouraged to write their New Year’s resolution on a wall-mural. I took a big fat marker and wrote: Be Present. And really tried to live that that year. The year when my big one was 5 and my little one was 2 and I was home with them a lot and we had adventures every day. And also sometimes I wanted to pull my hair out and got grand headaches. Nevertheless, I worked everyday to do just that: Be Present.

So here I am. Forty and ready to do it again. Daily writing template resolution. Focusing on the good. Because, really, there is so much good to report in my life. My parents are both living and loving life. My family lives close by and I can rely on them for anything. I have a beautiful little niece. I am happily married. I have two healthy and wonderful boys. My dog has lived beyond her life expectancy. I have a house that I like and a bed that is comfortable and keeps me warm at night. I have food on the table. I love my job….and I really could go on and on. But I won’t. I will focus only on today. And complete DAY 1 of my daily template. So here it is:

Rocketman:  The amazing Rocketman attended his friend Anthony’s birthday party today. It was a rockclimbing/pool party at the YMCA. The Amazing Rocketman strapped on his rock climbing gear and climbed all the way to the very TOP of the rockwall as the parents and kids cheered like crazy and the bell was rung to celebrate. My little developmentally delayed boy has come so far.

Bubba: My tantrum throwing, anger management needing preschooler acted like such a chivalrous little man today. While Hubs and Rocketman were at the birthday party, I worked hard to get things done around the house on the last day before going back to school after February Vacation. Bubba worked right alongside me to clean up every inch of the playroom, organizing each toy into their labeled bin. When he was ready for
“inspecktion,” My overdramatic rejoicing was met with his tiny-toothed grin stretching ear to ear as he stood as high as he could reach with pride. He’s working hard to be such a little big boy.

Zen moment: Sadie is struggling with arthritis and having trouble getting up. She lays on the floor barking at me, but I don’t know exactly what she is asking. But, though it is crisp, it is a beautiful sunny day and the vet recommended getting The Big Girl up and moving to keep her joints going. While I have to bribe her to get up with a pepperoni, she does indeed get up and off we walk. Bubba rides his little blue balance bike like a champ and Sadie leads the way, much further than I expect. She slowly hobbles through the neighborhood, stopping at any remaining patch of snow she can find. We reach the dead end, where I take off her leash and let her wander through the muddy leaves and into remnants of snow leftover from a plow two weeks ago. She climbs the small mountain and snuffles through the dirty snow. Bubba marches up a mound of dirt to find a long lost “crystal rock.” Although he can’t find it, he doesn’t throw a fit…as he would have 6 months ago, but says, “I know! I’ll just look for another crystal rock!” He finds a “baby” one 2 minutes later and proudly places in the pocket of his jacket after my suggestion to do so. By now, Sadie is laying in the snow, her snout digging through to find the fresh stuff underneath the dirty top layer. She rolls onto her back and smiles at me for the first time in a long time. Bubba picks up a stick and plants it in the snow next to Sadie, claiming that it is a flag. Sadie rolls around a little bit more, disrupting the “flag.” Bubba almost gets mad, but instead says, “Aww, Sadie loves my flag too.” After a good roll, Sadie gets herself up with the support of the snow underneath her and wanders over to me. I click on her leash and Bubba boards his bike. And slowly we begin our journey home.

Something that made me laugh/smile: Sadie in the snow.

An act of kindness: I was frustrated. Joe was cranky. Ben was off and anxious about going back to school tomorrow. I was anxious and cranky too, but trying not to show it. Bubba walks over to me as I try to fit the finicky bottom sheet around the corner of me bed and simply states: I love you Mommy.

A moment to be thankful for: Sadie walking two blocks by choice.

Today I’m feeling: Sad. Tired. Depressed. Anxious.




What Do We tell the Children?

January 23, 2017

November 9, 2016, 4am.

I wake up having to go to the bathroom. My head is hazy. I feel anxious, but I don’t know why. I wake a bit more. I remember falling asleep around 12 midnight after watching in disbelief as Chuck Todd’s electoral map of the U.S. grew redder and redder. I take a deep breath, lean over the side of my bed, and look at my phone. And the image I see is burned into my brain forever: “Donald Trump has won the U.S. election.” With a circular picture of a smug orange face smiling back at me. I am overcome with more anxiety.

I walk to the bathroom, now wide awake. I stand quietly for a moment, listening to the rare quietude in my home. For once, everyone is asleep. And they don’t know. And as long as they don’t know, then perhaps it isn’t true?

Back in bed I’m wide awake. I tune into Facebook where I find others who are awake like me trying to grapple with the news. I reach out, trying to grasp at some sort of reality. “Are you serious? Am I suppose to go back to sleep now?” Several of my blurry eyed friends like my status immediately.

A friend has posted an article from the Huffington Post on her page. “What Do We Tell the Children?” I read it voraciously. I repost it on my page. “This is what I’ve been trying to figure out for the last 8 hours…what do we tell the children?”

I put my phone down and look over at the coinhabitants of my bed. My husband of 12 years, and my sweet sensitive 7 year old little boy who has been struggling with such severe anxiety that he cannot get through a night without climbing into our bed for “protection” despite countless efforts on all of our parts to remedy the situation. He doesn’t realize that there is only so much protection I can offer. And now less than ever.

What do we tell the children? My husband stirs. It has to happen. I need to shatter the peaceful quietude with a dose of reality. I can no longer shoulder this alone. For the first time I say the words aloud. “Trump won.”

What do we tell the children? Because in my house there is a 1:1 ratio of adults to children, we spilt forces in the morning and my husband is in charge of getting the sweet sensitive 7 year old to the bus stop. Early. Will he share the news? He decides, no, mornings are hard enough. Give him some time to live in the ignorant bliss we experienced just minutes prior. We can talk about it later. I know there will be plenty of talk at school.

The haze in my brain of early morning does not lift throughout the day, despite multiple cups of coffee. In that haze I drive my 4 year old to preschool. What do we tell the children? I go with my husband’s tact and tell him nothing. I forget to change the radio station away from NPR. He asks. “Did Donald Frump win?” Yes, he won. “Yay! I ruv Donald Frump!” Ok… that was easy.

I muddle through my haze into the preschool and kiss my preschooler goodbye. I walk back to my car and sigh a big sigh. And turn NPR back on. I need to hear it. I need to grasp this reality. I feel tired, depleted, hopeless. I cry.

Back home I go into a cleaning frenzy, clearing out the kids’ playroom. Organizing toys, eliminating clutter. I think about the “back school” I attended at physical therapy last week teaching me the correct way to bend to take care of my healing back after a bad car accident. It dawns on me: Physical Therapy! Don’t I have an appointment today?! I grab my google calendar. Sure enough. 10:30 appointment. It’s 10:20. I jump in the car and fly across town.

I’m still cloudy. Still confused. I walk into the now so familiar physical therapy building expecting something different. Something darker, more foreboding. But everything is the same. The same office manager smiling at me. The same kind physical therapist asking me about my weekend. And for a little while I forget what the reality is beyond their cheery door.

Back home I continue my cleaning frenzy and then leave to pick up my preschooler. What do we tell the children? He tells me that the kids were talking about Donald Frump at school. He’s the new president! Well, I say, not until January.

At home he watches Paw Patrol as I attempt to sew patches onto  my older child’s new cub scout uniform. My phone rings. I check the number but don’t recognize it. I ignore the call. Let them leave a message. And back to trying to sew.

Time goes by and I get curious about the missed call. I pick up the phone and check my messages. It’s the YMCA telling me that my older son has, for some reason, been dropped off to them by the bus and wondering if I am going to pick him up.

I PANIC. I look at the clock. It’s 3:50. The bus drops him off at 4:20….four days a week. But on Wednesdays he has a half day. And has for the past two years. And gets out of school at 1:30. And, again, it’s 3:50. What do we tell the children, indeed?

I’ve finally shaken the fog from my brain. In borderline hysteria I shout at my younger child. I abandoned his brother! Put your shoes on quickly!! I jump in the car and, again, fly across town, cursing myself as I do. How could I have done this? What is wrong with me? The results of this election have left me in such a state that my greatest responsibility was shirked.

I pull into the parking lot and breathe a sigh of great relief when I see the familiar puffy jacket and blonde hair bee bopping around the playground with dozens of other children. I walk the walk of shame toward the young African American man in charge of the group. Though I’ve never met him, he guesses who I am. I thank him for calling me and tell him that only every single Wednesday for the past two years has been a half day, yet somehow today I forgot. He is laid back  and forgiving and says not to worry, many parents had the same problem, that having the previous day off had thrown everyone and that my son was fine! I think him profusely and mutter that the election results didn’t help anything. He gives me a non-committal half smile and sends my abandoned child my way. What do we tell the children?

This is the moment I’ve been dreading all day. This conversation. The last brick in the wall of reality that I had been trying to come to terms with all day. And now, on top of it, I need to explain why the person that is supposed to care for and protect him simply forgot to pick him up for the last 3 hours.

Sweet, sensitive and forgiving he tells me it was no big deal. He figured I’d gotten confused because of the previous day off and it was like getting a third recess, playing outside on a different playground with all those kids. But, he hated to tell me. He has some bad news. “Mommy. Donald Trump won.” HE told ME. And the wall of reality collapsed on my head.

I ask how he’d found out. He says all of the kids at school were talking about it and everyone was upset…except Owen. (For some reason Owen voted for Trump.) I apologize for not telling him myself and explain that I had found out very early while he was still sleeping and wanted to let him sleep peacefully. Again, he is quick to forgive. I ask whether they had discussed the election at school. He tells me that the kids talked a lot about it, but the teachers didn’t say much. They just told the kids, upon coming in, that many kids might be feeling many things because of recent events and gave everyone a piece of paper to write or draw their feelings upon. He, my sweet sensitive 7 year old drew a picture of Donald Trump walking into the White House surrounded by two guards. Next to the White House was a picture of himself with tears pouring from his eyes.

What do we tell the children?

So that was it. The chunk of my day on November 9, 2016. Four days ago. And I still don’t know what to say. In three days everything has changed. The country is divided. Blue friends have invited me to join “Pantsuit Nation” where I read daily about personal accounts of workplace sexual harassment being ignored and the empowerment of its members feeling brave enough to “go high when they go low” and doing things such as paying for the meal of the family laughing at their Hillary bumper sticker in the drive thru and walking a woman being verbally abused on the sidewalk away from the abuser, instead of looking away. There is a picture trending on the internet of a swastika painted onto a Little League dugout adorned with the words, “Make America White Again.” There is story after story of middle school students chanting, “Build a Wall” to their Latin schoolmates or not allowing African American students to pass through the human wall made in the hallway of their school. There is a personal account from a white woman about her Muslim friend from New York who, on more than one occasion has been confronted by groups of white men who have yelled racial slurs at her and then grabbed her hijab and held a lighter to it, threatening to burn her in it. Red friends are shouting about cry-baby liberals and posting memes saying, “Donald Trump, making Christmas great again” surrounding a picture of Ralphie from A Christmas Story opening his Red Rider Air Rifle with glee.

And, what do we tell the children. My own children are small white Christian males. And, sadly, because of that they may face less discrimination or incrimination. But what about my other children? The children who are my livelihood? The 5- 10 year olds that I teach every week? The ones whose parents come from Portugal and India? From Egypt and Columbia? From Vietnam and the Netherlands? And what do I tell my children whose parents are from Saudi Arabia and Morocco? My sweet little girl who told her classmate that if she won the class raffle, she would give the prize to her friend who was having a bad day. And the adorable boy who asks me each day how my day has been and who does everything possible to help his classmates and teachers before anyone else. The one that came out of this classroom the other day in tears while the class held a mock election telling me that he didn’t want Trump to win because he, his mother, father, and two brothers wouldn’t be able to live in their home anymore and would have to leave the country. Even though his mother had grown up in France and dad Morocco and this had been their home for the past 10 years.

What do I tell the children? And why do I feel like I’m alone in this concern? Like I’m some weirdo that cares for my fellow man? Why are some of my “friends” calling me a “pussy” because I do care? And how on Earth can we look toward a positive future for our children when half of the country seems so empowered to engage in race wars, religious warfare and sexual harassment because they’ve been given the green light to do so? How will we explain this decision to our children when they are no longer children and want to know how this happened? What do we tell the children?




Winterfest 2015

January 11, 2016

Here it is: the end of the year, the beginning of reflection time following the roller coaster that began in September and has finally come to a short rest in the quiet remaining days of the year.

It’s a melancholy time. Christmas is over- the hubbub, hoopla, hysteria. Alvin the Elf and his nightly maneuvers into creative spots new spots that have not been previously thought of. The making a list and checking it twice and not saving it to the smartphone memo pad and having to try to remember everything that was written all over again. The Oh Shit presents and the anxiety of knowing that at any moment they may need to be used and may or may not be good enough. The reminder to not let the stress of the season get in the way of enjoying the magic that comes with young children and Christmas….which is easier said than done.

And I may or may not have succeeded in that.

There were many moments of magic. And I did try to breathe them in and savor them for the short time they may last.

One highlight of this season was Winterfest at our favorite state park.

It was local. It looked cute. Our expectations were not high, but we have a 3 and 6 year old who are still fairly easy to please, and it was $5 per person. So we decided to check it out.

We met two other families at the local state park at sunset (which, this time of year, is before 5pm). There was already a line, but it wasn’t too long. While we waited for the other families, Bubba was drawn to a large television perched on the grass next to the line. It was Elmo and Ernie and the friends from Sesame Street in sweet shorts celebrating the season. The magic in this was Bubba’s delight in these characters. This little boy, who is every bit BOY, spends his days dreaming that he is Darth Vader and whipping an invisible light saber around. His favorite show to watch is Star Wars Rebels. He talks about the Dark Side and seems to aspire to be a member of it. And I reflect on his brother and his interests at the same age- Wonderpets, Backyardagains…and while he did like the concept of Spiderman and other superheroes, we really didn’t venture out of the realm of preschool programming when it came to tv.

Well, it’s easy to limit exposure when your preschooler is the oldest child in the home. However, with Rocketman being 3 years older, Bubba has easily acquired the same interests as his older brother…and then some. (Rocketman prefers Jedi rebels and Droids to anything Dark always.)

So, when Bubba was drawn to Elmo and his friends on the big screen at Winterfest, I was delighted. Delighted to see that my “baby” still retains some of his sweet innocence. That underneath the lightsaber swinging, Darth Vader mask wearing exterior, he is still just a little boy who enjoys learning his ABCs and singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” And that little bit of Magic was a nice way to kick off our first experience at Winterfest.

The experience just got better from there. From the lit path of Christmas lights to the inflatable snow globes to the Minions and Superheroes wandering around the park, the parents were impressed and kids enamored.


We eventually made it to the “Lost City,” a trail that had been created for the local haunted house experience in October. Now it had been transformed for the Christmas season, going from a narrow walkway opening into rooms full of blood and gore to one covered in festive lights and leading into rooms full of popular holiday characters like The Grinch, Rudolph and Frosty.

Rocketman was apprehensive at first. The lights, the anticipation of large characters, the memory of the haunted rooms that filled its space previously- it all provided a bit of sensory overload. But, brave boy that he is, he pressed on, mostly concerned about that mean spirited Grinch that he’d been promised to encounter. I reminded him that, in the end, the Grinch’s heart had grown 3 sizes and was now a “good guy.” The encouragement allowed him to press ahead, but he was still doubtful.

We entered the room of the Grinch (who looked more like a bunny rabbit made out of broccoli), who was accompanied by Cindy-Lou Who and Rudolph and while all the other children ran around the room greeting the characters, Rocketman hung back. With a little persuading, he finally inched forward and into the arms of the not-so-scary Grinch. And I was as proud of him as I always am when he is willing to overcome his fear in favor of experience.


As we walked through the path to the lost city, Bubba saw a picture of Frosty on the wall and began shouting, “Look, Mommy Look! It Fosty! We get to see Fosty next! He my favorite! I love Fosty!” And there was that unabashed preschool enthusiasm again. We entered the room with Frosty and Bubba stopped in his tracks. The rest of the kids ran to the snowman, stopped for a quick photo, and then ran off to the next thing, but Bubba just stood and stared at his favorite- “Fosty.”


And this is what I love. The magic. Give them some Christmas lights, inflatables and local teenagers dressed as their favorite characters and their eyes light up and their imaginations come to life. And I know it won’t be this way forever. And I worry each year as they grow older that this will be the year that the magic begins to fade. And this is why I need to write. Need to record. Need to reflect on this fresh memory of Bubba staring in awe at super-skinny Frosty. At Rocketman’s proud smile as he embraces his fear and snuggles with the Grinch. At the fact that we are having and enjoying this time as a family and that everyone of us wants to be there, with each other, at that moment. It won’t always be this way. But I’m happy that it is now.

Once we made it through each room, we came to an area of the path that was full of dancing Christmas lights. We had purchased glasses for the boys that somehow made each light appear to have a reindeer surrounding it. While the other families ran ahead to see what was next, my family hung back. We watched the “light show” without the glasses and oohed and ahhed as they danced. We took turns wearing the glasses and laughing as the reindeer prisms frolicked when we shook our heads back and forth. And hubs and I looked at each other and smiled at the fact that this $20/family local show was providing just as much fun for our boys as any hundreds of dollars extravaganza we have brought them to. And we basked in their enjoyment.

I hope that we can always stop and look. That we can always bask in the moment, no matter how simple. No matter how seemingly insignificant. I am melancholy because my babies are growing and I am anxious about the time that will come when they no longer want to share family experiences with us and will scoff at characters and their crude costumes and obvious masks. And the magic will be gone. But then I think about the fact that I am 38 years old and I can still see the magic. And hubs is 43 and stills sees the magic too. And I hope that between nature and nurture my two boys will maintain at least some of their enjoyment and enthusiasm for this season through their tween and teen years. But, in the meantime, I am stopping and looking and enjoying these little things- Rocketman reaching for my hand when he is apprehensive about an overstimulating situation and being calmed after holding it, Bubba’s whole body responding to a picture of his favorite character- back arched, fists splayed to the side, and hums of excitement emitting from his smiling face, and the moments that my whole family stands alone in the busy hubub of the season and enjoys all the sights, sounds and magic it has to offer.


Two Momentous Years

November 15, 2015

Two years. In adult terms, two years is nothing. And then you have children. And, though they fly by, two years and the development that occurs within them are momentous. These past two years have been momentous.

Where were we two years ago this November? I had a one and four year old. I was working half time- my dream job, striking a balance between the role of mother that I adored playing and the role of teacher of young children. The mother role allowed me to spend time with my thriving, spirited boys, arranging playdates, spending extra time cuddling, making messes in the kitchen cooking pancakes together in the late morning, and cooking, cleaning and running errands during the day in order to keep the home running efficiently and effectively. The teacher role allowed me to have my own space to create and cultivate my craft,  helping students grow as readers and writers, and interacting with peers and colleagues, brainstorming how we could improve and reach students even better.  Two and a half days of each, plus the weekend with my family. What could be better? What could be more perfect?

But I was concerned. Concerned about Rocketman’s (then 4) development. His sensory issues. Fine motor. Gross motor. Speech. And, while my concerns had been mounting for two previous years, the medical community in which he was involved finally took my them seriously and sent him for evaluation.

This time two years ago, Rocketman’s OT evaluations came in. And they were not pretty. Sensory seeking behaviors combined with sensory avoidance. Weak core resulting in developmentally delayed gross motor skills. Weak left side of body. Delayed fine motor skills. He could not draw a picture beyond a circle. He could not copy shapes. He could not stand on his left foot from kneeling without falling down. He could not run down a soccer field and keep up with his peers. But the most alarming thing of all was that he could not function in his Pre-K classroom because he was so overstimulated. And he would completely shut down. And I was supposed to send him to kindergarten in a year. And he wouldn’t be ready for the developmentally inappropriate content that kindergarten currently offers. And that’s when my third role began: the role of parental advocate for my child who officially had special needs.

My previously designated playdate Mondays were now designated for speech therapy in the middle of the morning. Right at the point that the one year old toddler would be ready for a nap and grow manic, running through the hallways of the school while the school staff looked on disapprovingly and I wrangled him apologetically for the thirty minutes that Rocketman received therapy.

Tuesdays I took Rocketman to pre-k, checking in with his amazingly gifted teacher to see what kind of progress he was making coping in the classroom and learning that the progress was slow. Then I would run errands with Bubba or take him to music class and really get to enjoy my “Mommy” role…until 12:30, at which point I would again put on my parental advocate hat and pick up Rocketman from Pre-K. Bubba would go down for a nap and at-home therapy for Rocketman would begin. His home sensory diet. Fine motor manipulating beans, heavy work, usually a “project” consisting of sensory friendly materials. Then a balancing course. Mommy and Rocketman yoga. Heavy pressure. Brushing protocol. Brushing protocol. Brushing protocol. And then Bubba would wake up. And I would attempt to make dinner while he tore my house apart. And then Rocketman would eat dinner, getting every bit of food all over his face and drool. And I would be ready to go to work the following day.

Wednesdays and Thursdays were my days. Where I would work with kids and colleagues and focus my creative juices on working to become a better teacher every day.

Fridays I worked until 12 and then picked up Rocketman while Bubba napped at his one day of daycare and I brought Rocketman to one on one OT therapy.

Saturdays and Sundays I spent time with family and prayed all of our work with Rocketman would adequately prepare him for kindergarten. But knew he wasn’t ready.

And so the battle began to get Rocketman on an IEP for his sensory, fine motor and gross motor issues and to allow him another year in pre-k to be able to receive therapy in a developmentally appropriate setting. And, what a battle it was.

Our victory began another year of therapies, evaluations, sensory diets and brushing. But this time the progress wasn’t so slow. Instead, Rocketman was growing leaps and bounds. And this time, when kindergarten registration came around, we knew he was ready.

So here we are. A new year. A new school. A new and improved kid. And a new IEP meeting to discuss what should and should not be included in his new IEP.

The teachers think he’s fabulous. He’s so smart. So verbal. So funny. And he is for sure! And I’m so glad that they see and appreciate that. But I warn them. He had trouble focusing. He couldn’t function in a classroom. He ran out of theaters. He. Melted. Down. But, they don’t see it in school. They would never have guessed had I not shared that.

At our first IEP meeting at Rocketman’s new school, I heard it all. All the positives. He is thoughtful. Kind. Funny. And what a memory! And what great progress! And just sign here if you agree to the IEP.

And as I read through, I was surprised to see the piece that was missing. The sensory piece. The OT. The therapy. Not there.

“We just don’t see a need for it. If you had not shared his history, we would not have had any clue that that was ever an issue. And if it was, it is certainly not anymore. And if it becomes one then we reconvene the team and add it back in. But for now you should be celebrating. Because he has come this far that it is unnoticeable in the classroom.”

And I wanted to put on the breaks and yell that, “No! You are not seeing it because you choose to not see it! The issues are there! He still sucks his fingers! He puts fluff up his nose! He takes hours and hours to go to sleep and cannot stay asleep for more than 4 hours! He has Special Needs! You need to meet his needs!”

But here is the truth: At the end of his second year of pre-k, his teacher said the same thing. And his occupational therapist. And the speech therapist. And when I had him evaluated at the end of the year last year by an outside occupational therapist, he was assessed as not needing services. And so, really, this was the third time I’d heard this in the past 6 months. My child was no longer considered one with special needs.

And, of course, it was my mother who came to talk me down. “So three groups of people agree. His issues are not hindering his success in the classroom. And that is because: you have already done all the work. All the fighting and early intervention and sensory diets and extra time paid off. And now you are seeing the rewards of your hard work.”

So, then, why can’t I celebrate? Is it because I have lost a part of myself in Rocketman’s success? The parent advocate part? If so, I should simply step off my soapbox and walk away quietly and celebrate in triumph. But, I’m not quite there yet.

Being a parent of a child with special needs is something that one could never understand unless they were to go through it themselves. And, though I’ve considered myself to fit that role for at least the past two years, really I’ve sat on the periphery. My child did not have severe special needs. His services were limited. He was able to do most things his developmentally typical peers could do. He was just not so great at soccer. Or writing. And he’d run out of crowded places screaming. Otherwise, one would never know.

But, I still identified him as a child with special needs. And I still identified myself as a parent of a child with special needs. And I still worried incessantly about his development. And how these needs would affect him as he grew older. Socially. Academically. Emotionally.

And then all of a sudden after two years it’s like: poof! Oh, he’s all set. Totally typical. Issues? Nope. We see none! Time to celebrate!

So I will. In time. With caution. Because, while I really am overjoyed that this child, who took two years to prepare for this moment of entering kindergarten, really is doing so well in this new setting, I can’t look at him without seeing the child that curled into a fetal position and screamed in pain the first time we tried to take him into a small movie theater at 3. The child that fell out of of his chair every single night at dinnertime for the entire year he was 4. The child that needed deep pressure and joint compressions every night in order to go to sleep at 5. The child that sat under a table and wept in his classroom because he was so overwhelmed with the environment and could process so little of it.

He has come so far in two years. I know. But, just as it took time to process that my child had special needs, it may take some time to process that he doesn’t anymore. And when that happens, I will celebrate and rejoice over our grand successes. But for now I will reflect on how much change these past two years have brought and take comfort in my most cherished role of all: mother of a smart, funny, kind and, yeah, super quirky kid that has momentously transformed in the past two years.

Sink Like a Rock, Float Like a Bubble

April 10, 2015

Rocketman has always loved the water. He was born into a family of water-lovers. For one, we live in Rhode Island, a state that despite not being fully surrounded by water, has “island” as part of its name. While dating, Rocketman’s dad and I fell more in love the day that we discovered that we both would rather inspect sea creatures in a cove under a bridge than go out to a fancy dinner. A year before he was born, hubs and I fulfilled a life-long dream by completing a NAUI scuba diving course and earning lifetime scuba certifications. Rocketman was destined to love water.

I signed Rocketman up for swimming lessons when he was 8 months old. While other babies whimpered, cried and expressed fear and distress their first time in the pool, Rocketman had but a moment of concern and confusion before he began splashing, laughing and flipping around in my arms.

From that time forward, as soon as spring came around I would sign Rocketman up for swim again. We continued with Mommy  (or Daddy) and Me classes straight up until I was nine months pregnant with Bubba and stretching out my plus-sized bathing suit so I could catch Rocketman as he slid off a small slide into the pool and jumped off the block into my arms.

Swim ended and baby bootcamp began and chaos ensued. And when Rocketman was three, a magnificent, state of the art YMCA was built the next town over. And we had to check it out.

It was spring, time for swimming lessons. With Bubba in the Ergo on my chest, I strolled into the new Y with Rocketman’s small hand in mine. It was, indeed, state of the art. Modern art hung over our heads from the high ceiling, the adult gym whirred with brand new workout machines, and small cafe tables with brightly colored chairs littered the lobby. But the thing that tore Rocketman’s hand from my grip was the full glass wall that overlooked the swimming pool.

The swimming pool was large, much larger than the one we had used at our previous Y. But the feature attraction was not the pool itself. Bordering the pool, there was a kiddie area featuring a small splash pad. Water poured out of holes in the floor in an arc and sprayed out of a firehydrant and tall happy flower. Waterfalls dripped out of tall poles bent at 90 degree angles above the family swim area of the pool. Children screeched as a bucket that had been slowly filling with water suddenly leaned heavily over, spilling its contents on their heads 10 feet below. Rocketman stood, fixated, with his small hands and the tip of his nose pressing marks on the glass. And then he pointed at the bright red twisty turvy giant water slide in the deep end of the pool.

“Mom! I wanna go there!! I wanna do that!! Can we do that Mom? Now??”

But we couldn’t. Because in order to be allowed access to the giant water slide, one had to swim the width of the family pool and back. And Rocketman was only three. And could not swim.

But he thought he could! On our first day of swimming lessons at the new Y, Rocketman begged the instructor to let him go down the slide. She explained the swim test to him and asked if he would like to try it. I held my tongue and my breath as he splashed into the water with her by his side and sunk like a rock. She retrieved him from the water’s depths unfazed and encouraged him to swim the width of the pool. He did so…with the aid of her hand supporting his belly and propelling him forward. “Did I do it, did I do it??” And his face fell when she told him, no not yet.

With gentle encouragement, I explained that the reason we were taking swimming lessons was so that he could learn to do just that. And with practice and hard work, he would be passing the swim test and tearing down that slide in no time. I predicted six months, which would bring him to four. I was hopeful and he was determined.

And then he was diagnosed with sensory processing issues, low muscle tone and fine and gross motor difficulties. And swimming lessons became a nightmare.

This new pool was so big and beautiful that it drew children of all ages for all types of lessons. During one swim session, there could be at least six lessons going on in different areas of the pool, as well as family swim activities involving the splash pad and waterslide. Screeches of glee mingled with cannonball splashes and instructors’ voices straining to rise above the din. Coupled with the cool wet water covering his sensitive skin, Rocketman went into sensory overload.

Many children with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) will react to overstimulation with either a fight or flight response. Those who have a “fighting” response tend to be seen as behavior problems, bouncing off the walls, yelling, screaming, crying, banging…painfully frustrated about what the bombardment of sights, sounds and touch are doing to their bodies. Rocketman’s typical response was “flight.” Running out of a crowded theater, digging his fingernails into the doorframe to avoid being carried out of the house when there was a fire engine (and therefore potentially loud noise) across the street, or retreating inside himself to a safe place in his mind and looking off unblinking. The later is the way in which he went through his first few swimming lessons at the new Y.

While other kids were splashing, laughing, actively engaged, Rocketman was out in space. The teacher would yell, “When we float, what do we look like?” All the kids would yell, “STARFISH,” and splay their limbs out to the sides. Rocketman’s limbs would remain slack, his eyes floating to the left, unfocused on anything going on in front of him. He would be pulled through the lessons with an instructor at his side, appearing to be barely aware of where he was and why he was there. And I would sit on the bleachers with Bubba in my lap willing him to come back from wherever he was so he could learn and enjoy the experience with his peers.

I did some research. (aka Google searching) Some said that the more SPD kids were exposed to certain stimuli, the more their brains could process the stimuli. And so, painful as it was to watch, I did not give up swimming lessons, and Rocketman did not give up his waterslide dream.

As the sessions progressed, Rocketman seemed to become more aware. Now four and a half, he was gaining confidence and convinced he could swim, though I knew he could not. When it was his turn during lessons, he would hit the water and begin to flap his arms. His mouth would open and his tongue would come out and indescribable noises would emit from his body. Almost like he was blowing an invisible horn with his tongue out. Still clearly overstimulated. But at least he was responding physically in some way…?

And still we continued. Right through the the “turn around phase.” This time, while all other children were focused on the instructors and instructions, Rocketman would turn around, look at me, smile, stick his jaw out and grunt in a sing-songy way. I would spend the lesson mouthing, “Turn around,” and turing my index finger through the air while Bubba laughed and tried to jump out of my arms and join his brother in the bizarro fun.

One day, while Bubba was participating in Waterbabies in another area of the pool with Daddy, I watched as the three instructors took the three other kids in the group and swam toward the center of the pool. Rocketman was left sitting on the side of the pool unattended. I immediately felt uneasy.

Once again, Rocketman turned and looked at me, jaw jutting out, staccato grunts pushing out from his belly. I nervously held up my hand and mouthed, “Stay right there.” Then a wide smile spread across his face and he threw himself off the side of the pool and into the deep water. And, again, sunk like a rock.

I don’t remember flying off the equipment locker I was sitting on. I found myself kneeling at the side of the pool, stretching as far as my body would reach and plunging my hand under the water to grab a small flailing arm. It was as I was pulling a sputtering Rocketman out of the water that the life guard and all 18 swim instructors from the pool closed in on us. That was the day that Rocketman was finally convinced that he couldn’t yet swim, but the sick feeling that I had as I watched him sink has never quite gone away.

Rocketman was full swing into Occupational Therapy at that point. All experts agreed: swimming was great for him! It could aid in self regulation! It taught him where his body was  in space! It engaged all of his muscles that were low in tone and needed to be strengthened. And so we endured the torture until May of his year of four. And then we took the summer off to…swim. In the ocean, at the lake, and in our best friends’ new pool.

And Rocketman turned five. Therapy continued twice a week, but other than that, the summer was laid back, and full of pure childhood outdoor fun. And Rocketman thrived.

Everything seemed to “click.” Self-care, following steps in directions, and self regulation, things that he had struggled with daily for years, suddenly became non issues. He grew, he matured and he suddenly became the best version of himself.

And in November we started swimming lessons again. Bubba had broken all kinds of Waterbaby barriers and had been bumped up at two to the 3-6 year old class. And so Rocketman and Bubba took lessons side by side. And for Rocketman, there was no flailing, grunting, or throwing himself into the water. When the instructor would say, “What do we look like when we float?” Rocketman’s would me the loudest response of “A STARFISH!” He would smile and wave at his brother and us, but mostly his focus was the instructors, and following their instructions. When the session ended, Rocketman’s favorite instructor handed me his progress report. Every skill had been checked off as completed. But the recommendation was to remain in this level for one more session. “I know he could technically move up, but that class is 45 minutes instead of 30 and I think he just needs one more round of this class to increase his endurance. In the next class, they will mostly be swimming unaided.”

In school that month, the Pre-K kids were asked to write about a goal that they had. Rocketman wrote about the waterslide.

It was January. A year since Rocketman had flung himself into the water and sunk like a rock. Bubba was now in the same class as his brother. This did not phase Rocketman. He was glad to have the company.

When class ended in February, the instructor smiled as she handed me the report saying that Rocketman could advance to the next level- the highest of the preschool classes- and said she was confident that he was ready.

On a Thursday evening in March, I rushed from work to pick up Rocketman and then Bubba, sped to the YMCA, stripped their clothes off, threw their swim trunks on and rushed to join the first class of the new session.

But there was nobody there. I huffed and puffed up to a lifeguard as I surveyed the empty pool. “This is a biweek. Classes start next week.”

But we were there. And the kids were in suits. Hubs was on his way and we both had our suits. I called Hubs and we agreed to stay for family swim. The kids were ecstatic.

First they splashed in the splash pad. Then Rocketman asked if he could swim in the family pooI where the rule was that only those without floatation devices could enter without a parent. I encouraged him to ask the life guard, who agreed that it was fine.

I watched in awe as he independently swam around the low end of the pool. Then, his pupils got big and he rushed out of the pool and at me and asked, “Can I go on the WATERSLIDE?” I told him that he would have to speak to the lifeguard and probably pass the swim test first. He asked me what he needed to do for the swim test and then ran back into the pool. Without faltering, he swam from one side of the family pool to the other. When he got there he turned to me, smiled, and gave me a big thumbs up, which I returned enthusiastically. I gestured that he now needed to swim back. Without hesitation, he plunged ahead. This time, though, the current from the waterslide was rushing against him. It was slow going and nothing showed above the water but his face which was creeping along the surface tenuously.

I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until he made it back to the side. He was shaking as he scrambled up the side of the pool and rushed over to me. Pride and excitement spilled over as he asked if he could do it. Could he go down the waterslide? And then I had to break it to him that the lifeguard had no idea that he had just completed the swim test and would probably have to complete it again.

And there was no hesitation. He marched over to the lifeguard, asked if he could try the swim test, and repeated the laps, poking along against the current of the waterslide and scrambling up the side of the pool again. This time, his pride and excitement was directed at the lifeguard who looked down at him nonchalantly and muttered, “Ok.”

Rocketman didn’t understand.

“Did I pass the swim test?”

“Yes. You can go.”

“I can go? Go on the slide?”

“Go ahead.”

And then he had to clarify with me. Because he was so sure that he was misunderstanding the lifeguard’s message. But I confirmed it. He passed the swim test. He could go down the waterslide.

Hubs arrived in time to see Rocketman taking the steps two at a time, giggling and shaking with joy. He reached the top and when the lifeguard gave him the thumbs up, tumbled down the slide screeching with jubilance. And when he spilled off and  plunged into the water, he did not sink like a rock. He popped right back up above the surface and swam to the ladder, climbed out and said, “Can I go again?!”

And again he went. And again, and again. I explained to the bemused lifeguard that this had been his dream. A goal established two long years ago as a blonde curly haired three year old with his little nose pressed against the glass high above this very swimming pool. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. It was painstaking and frustrating and tedious. And so many times we wanted to give up. But we didn’t. We went to all the therapy and and enforced sensory diets at home and fought for IEPs. And spent every Saturday at the YMCA cringing.

But it was all worth it on that day. The day Rocketman came flying down the waterslide screeching with glee. And the pleasure I got out of watching this child do that was greater than the pleasure I have ever gotten watching my naturally capable child complete swim classes designed for children twice his age. I’m proud of him too. But there is something about seeing your child do something that was never going to be easy for him and succeeding only due to sheer effort and determination.

I brought both kids to swim class today, three months before Rocketman’s sixth birthday. I watched as he completed the crawl stroke without any floatation device, dove into the pool from a kneeling position and jumped off the block in the deep end and swam to the ladder. Any of the other parents watching him would see him as just any other five year old in the class. He looked no different from anyone else. But I looked and saw a child that has overcome the odds against him in a considerably short period of time, driven as a preschooler to do anything to achieve his goal. And teaming with pride, I can’t wipe this smile from my face.

What’s Disney got on that Pile of Leaves

November 11, 2014

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. The economy was good. And we were spoiled.

By “we,” I mean me, my sister, my cousins, my neighbors, friends, schoolmates…. Looking back, it seemed that white middle class kids of the 80s had little wants. We had records and walkmans and pogoballs. We had purple and pink Huffys and LA Gear high tops. We had little plastic charm bracelets. At Christmas, the present opening went on for hours. Nintendos. Game Boys.

My mother loved to travel. My dad was dragged along. They were both teachers, so we all had summers off and every summer we would travel somewhere. Deep into the North Maine Woods to camp. Rented beach houses. A road trip to the Sesame Place amusement park.

My parents were not rich by any means. But, the economy was good, they lived modestly, and they both worked, so we lived a pretty nice life.

The first time we went to a Disney Park, I was nine and my sister was four. It was the first time I’d ever been on a plane and it was, indeed, the trip of a lifetime. But I didn’t, at the time, understand why my parents would have waited until I was almost a decade old to embrace that experience. Many of my friends and classmates had already been a couple of times by the time I went. What took our family so long?

Flash forward to 2014. The economy is trying to pull itself out of the rubble of the Great Recession. Families are stressed and Mommy Wars are front and center. Most middle class families need a dual income in order to more or less scrape by. Nevertheless, the whispered conversation on the sidelines of soccer games, Frozen birthday parties and Moms’ Nights Out is… DISNEY: who’s going, where are they staying and what parks are they doing when they get there? Cruise? Resort? Time Share??? It seems the dream of every child of the 80s is to provide their own children with the trip of a lifetime: to DISNEY.

Why wouldn’t they? Disney is the place where dreams come true! It’s a happy, magical place that transports you to childhood, despite your age. Really. It’s awesome.

But I haven’t had that Disney conversation yet. At times I’ve been tempted. When Rocketman was 2 and I was pregnant with Bubba a family friend invited us to Florida and we briefly considered for one moment going and squeezing in a Disney trip, but I was quickly talked down by my colleagues who had recently gone and couldn’t imagine the experience pregnant and with a toddler.

And, really, that’s the main reason why I’m in no rush. Rocketman is 5, but Bubba is only 2. And, frankly, we brought them to a small nearby theme park a couple of weeks ago that is geared for young children and while Rocketman was in awe of each and every ride and feature, Bubba cry/whined the entire. Time. We. Were. There. For no apparent reason…

So, no, I am not willing to spend money I don’t actually have to listen to THAT again.

But, really, what I think I am holding out for is this:

To my kids, 5 and 2, childhood is magical. With Rocketman in the lead, they embrace every seemingly mundane event with enthusiasm, awe and wonder. Throwing rocks in the water. ( “Look Mom! i found a stone! Can we bring it back to the brook and throw it in???”) Seeing a rainbow appear after a storm. (“Mom, someday can we try to find the end of the rainbow? I think there is supposed to be gold there.”) Storm drains. (“Can we stop and look in the drain?! Look! There’s water!!!) These are the things that greatly amuse my children. And I, in turn, am greatly amused.

Halloween was a biggie. The biggest it has ever been, hands down. So big, that the day Hubs got a new car (for the first time in TWELVE years), Rocketman’s announcement to his pre-K teacher the next day was, “Guess what we got yesterday?? My Halloween costume!!! Oh, and Daddy got a new car, too.” We decorated everything that could be decorated, visited every pumpkin patch in the area, and went trick or treating countless times for countless events. And Rocketman (and in turn Bubba) was more excited about every single piece of it than I’ve ever seen him before. And that is saying A LOT!

So, I was a bit concerned when November 1st rolled around and all the “spooky stuff” needed to be taken down. Resilient Rocketman didn’t blink an eye. He woke up, ran to my room and announced, “Mom! Do you know what today is?? It’s the day after Halloween! That means the leaves have fallen off the trees! And THAT means Dad is going to rake them all up into a HUGE pile and let us JUMP IN THEM!!!!”

So, this weekend, Rockman’s dreams came true. One huge leaf pile, two excited boys and hours upon hours of hooting, hollering, jumping, rolling, and diving. They had more fun than I have seen them have with the giant blow up waterslide we station in the backyard in the summer, the jumpy houses at friends’ birthday parties and the damn amusement park that Bubba screamed through.

I love that they are still embracing all of those “little things” that adults are too jaded to embrace. Kids become jaded too, at some point. Maybe they will too. There is no more “stop and smell the flowers” anymore. Despite the economy, despite the lessons that might have been learned, it’s still, “bigger is better” and “more is more” and let me post it on every form of social media so that you can want one too. And I know that, eventually, they will not be immune.

But in the meantime, I treasure these moments. “Mommy, it has always been my dream to go underneath a leaf pile. And now my dream has finally come true.”

That dream cost us a $10 rake and some very minor man power.

But, if we were to jump in with the Disney thing right now, would the leaf pile still hold such value? Dining with Mickey might make the backyard picnic my kids cheered about today seem a little lame. Dancing with Cinderella may outshine dancing to the Wiggles DVD and ending up in peels of laughter. Dropping a rock into a storm drain may not seem like so much fun once they’ve ridden in a log down a mountain of water.

I look forward to the day when my kids are old enough to appreciate all that Disney has to offer (and also the day where I’m not working half time and can afford all that), but I cherish the fact that my kids are, today at 5 and 2, leading the life that every adult dreams of. One where every day is filled with magic and wonder and adventures await each season in your own backyard.

Stickers and Candy

November 5, 2014

For the second time in two months, we traveled as a family to the local polling place to vote the state election.

Rocketman and Bubba tailed me as I hurried to my small cubicle, trying to read through the candidates and watch the kids at the same time. Rocketman began his inquiry as I reread question 2 for the fourth time:

R: What’s the candy?

Me: What?

R: Who’s the candy for?

Me: It’s for anyone that wants it.

R: Can I have some?

Me: I don’t know. Go ask the nice lady and maybe she’ll let you pick one.

R: I’m too shy to go alone. Can you go with me?

Me: No. I’m busy…

Bubba: I wan candy too!

Me: Well, Rocketman, go over there and ask and bring your brother with you.

Both boys retreated as I continued to exercise my civic duty and peek at them simultaneously. Rocketman tried to work up the nerve to approach the table as Bubba (the “shy” one ) marched right up to the middle aged volunteer.

B: Cannndeee?

Woman: What’s that?

B: Um, Er, Candeee?

Woman: Oh, you want a candy? Well, I’m not sure. Your mother would have to say that it is all right.

Rocketman: She says it’s ok! She’s right over there. She said it’s fine.

Woman: Well, ok then boys. Here you go.

This was blogworthy because:

1) Bubba isn’t so shy when the stakes are high enough now is he?

and 2) What phenomenal partners in crime these two goobers make.

Love these little things.

Score one for Rocketman

October 21, 2014

I like sports. Growing up, I played soccer, softball and basketball in the city rec leagues. I liked soccer. I loved softball. I hated basketball. But I played them and was pretty good. At least at softball.

I played tennis in high school and lots of pickup beach volleyball on the school’s courts in the summer. And I threw javelin.

I was not a star at any of these sports. I was fairly mediocre. But, I never felt the need to be the best at any of them. I worked hard. I practiced. I loved being outdoors and chanting from the dugout. (2, 4, 6, 8…who do we appreciate..???)

My parents went to all of my games. My dad attended all of my practices. They were proud of me for getting out there and playing. And when I didn’t make varsity in high school, we all felt like it would have been kind of a long shot anyway and I shrugged my shoulders and joined the band instead.

Now, I know it’s not the 80’s. And I live in a different town than the one I grew up in. But, my goodness, the intensity of these parents about their five year old athlete is almost too much to bear.

Who made the travel team? Who was signed for the year round skills program? What college will offer whose five year old a scholarship? Zow. So intense.

It’s almost like it’s a blessing that Rocketman isn’t a natural born athlete. That he doesn’t join us for Sunday afternoon Patriots watching (even while his two year old brother shouts, “Touchdown” as they rack up the points.). That I would rather be going on a family hike or visiting a playground with my kids while everyone else in town is driving an hour away for a tournament.

But the best thing is that because of Rocketman’s limitations, I have a completely different perspective than those parents arguing that their child should be on the elite team. My dreams for Rocketman are just so…different.

One year ago, Rocketman was evaluated by an occupational therapist based on my concerns about his sensitivities toward sound and touch. I was present for the evaluation, and I will never forget the sick feeling in my gut that began in the first 10 minutes and lasted the entire year.

The evaluation revealed that my sweet Rocketman had deficits in fine motor skills, gross motor skills, tone and endurance. He couldn’t close his eyes and spin in a circle without flying across the room and falling down. He couldn’t stand from kneeling. He couldn’t run without hinging his entire body in one direction while sticking out his tongue in the other.

Rec soccer was a nightmare. He did ok with the skills component. But when it came to participating in the games, oh my. He couldn’t keep up with the kids, so he was more often found laying on the grass picking flowers, looking at the clouds, or sitting on a spare ball and beating it like a drum.

We wanted him to get in there. Get the idea of what it was like to play a real soccer game with everyone else. At the start of each session, we would tell him, “You don’t have to get a goal! You don’t even have to get the ball and dribble. Just TOUCH the ball with your foot….just ONCE! That’s all you’ve got to do.”

So he would run into the cluster of kids, aim for the ball, and then someone would get to it first and kick it away. All the other kids would change direction and continue after it. Not Rocketman. He would hang his head like Charlie Brown, trudge over to us on the sidelines, throw his arms in the air, and go back to drumming a spare ball.

It was all too much for him. The overstimulation of 50 town teams playing all over the giant field. 10 different coaches yelling instructions. The requirement for running, endurance, stamina. The coordination. He just didn’t have it. The kid was smart and funny and fun and thoughtful and had a million strengths. But we threw him on a soccer field where every skill needed was a documented weakness and what we got was a train wreck.

Last year was tough. But one of the high points was when soccer ended. He was put on an IEP. He was prescribed a sensory diet. Individual sports like swim were recommended and taken. Therapies were attended.

In the spring, there was an opportunity for parent and me t-ball at the local YMCA. It was a fabulous program that used scaffolding to teach baseball skills and culminated in a mock game at the end of class each week. Some weeks were good. Some not so hot. And some terrible. It all depended on his level of focus, how tired he was, what distractions there were around. One deficit was motor planning, so while all the other parents simply told their child what to do and then watched them do it, I needed to physically manipulate Rocketman’s body in order for his brain to process the connection.

It wasn’t fun. But I felt like it was almost like another form of therapy for him. And I did see progress.

This summer, we just chilled. Beach, waterslide, playdates. Bike rides, scootering, hikes. Therapy two times a week. But outside of that, I didn’t go out of my way to make every activity done at or outside of home some form of therapy. I just let him be a kid and I enjoyed watching that kid grow, learn and mature.

And then school started again. And soccer season with it.

I made the executive decision NOT to sign him up for the rec league. (Even though he was probably the only child in the town who wasn’t.) But I didn’t want to drop soccer entirely either. So I signed him up for another parent and me program at the Y.

This time Hubs worked with Rocketman on soccer skills while I took Bubba to tumbling. Again, it was a scaffolded skills class that would sometimes culminate in a scrimmage at the end of class. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of them playing from the window at Tumbling. They looked pretty good, but who knew.

Hubs was positive about their sessions and enthusiastic about working with him in the backyard. After dealing with him in a similar situation in the spring, I was surprised but impressed with his enthusiasm.

This past Saturday, Tumbling ran under and Soccer over. I approached the field feeling excited yet apprehensive. They were playing a game and it was two young coaches vs. the whole group of boys. As soon as I arrived at the field, there was a big pileup and Rocketman flipped over a teammate’s head and got the wind knocked out of him.

He was crying (which he rarely does) and he trudged to the sidelines and threw himself into my arms. I gave him a hug and offered some TLC. Then I said, “I know that you got hurt, and that stinks. If you don’t think that you can play anymore, then that’s fine and we’ll go home. But if you think you are ok and still want to play, I would absolutely LOVE to see you. They will only be playing for a couple of more minutes, so you really need to make a choice now, before it’s too late and the game is over.”

Many parents I know would, in this situation, hope for their child to run in there, steal the ball away from the coach and take it to goal. But those weren’t even close to my wishes for my little boy that day. The small gestures he made following the choices he was given made every sensory activity, trip to therapy and battle for services worth it all.

Rocketman sighed deeply, turned around, and headed into the group of kids running toward the ball. One child was able to gain control of the ball and passed it to Rocketman. Rocketman took it, dribbled it out of bounds, but then back in , and attempted a kick on goal. He missed and someone else got the ball. But instead of crying and giving up, he kept right on up with that group of kids and ran and laughed and screamed with glee.

And I sat on the sidelines and cried. Because this is all that I have ever wished for my magical little boy: that he be happy. That he doesn’t feel the sting of disappointment in himself when he sees he is the only one that can’t do it. That he doesn’t lose the strong sense of confidence he has in himself as he is challenged in each area of his weaknesses.

But he was happy. He could DO IT!! They didn’t look like weaknesses anymore. He was keeping up with everyone else. He was laughing with everyone else! He was part of the team. He picked himself up from a good fall, jumped right in and became my superstar.

Elite travel teams are not part of my vocabulary, and I hope they don’t soon become so (although Bubba is hellbent on changing all that). My aspirations for my son are different than others’ might be for theirs. But I imagine I am every bit as proud of my sweet Rocketman as the parents whose child made the elite team or has college recruiters at 5. And I still believe what I believed at 8 and 12 and 14.

I like sports. They are fun to play. They get you outdoors and into the fresh air. They encourage teamwork and cultivate a sense of belonging. But all this other hoopla? It’s all just a little bit too intense for me.