Archive for August, 2013

Big Fat Juicy Ones

August 30, 2013

When I was pregnant with my first, and all the scary “you might loose the baby” stuff was behind us and we knew that it appeared to be a healthy pregnancy, I breathed a sigh of relief, took my husband’s hands in mine, looked him in the eye and said, “I so hope this is a boy!” And he did too. But we were both convinced that it was actually a girl and that that would be fine too, as long as it was healthy and ladidadida.

So we set a date (the first day of Spring) to look at the card that the ultrasound tech had written for us that would reveal the sex. We opened it together and it said, “It’s a boy…congrats!” And we looked at each other and laughed until we rolled for about 20 minutes. It was so very exciting.

So we got our boy and that was B and I loved having a boy as much as I had imagined I would. And then I got pregnant again and while it was such a better pregnancy physically, I think that looking back I was an emotional basket case. And at Thanksgiving, when I revealed to extended family that I was pregnant and someone suggested how adorable a girl that looked like B would be, I started crying into my cranberries. I did not want a girl.

What’s wrong with girls?! After all, I’m a girl! I grew up with one sister and no brothers. I have a bunch of great girlfriends and, as a teacher, I absolutely love my girls! They are so helpful and thoughtful and studious and sweet. And CALM. Girls are great! So what would be the problem with having a girl?

I didn’t want a girl because I really just thought that I would make a better mother to a boy than to a girl. I grew up hiking through swamps and catching toads all summer. I went crabbing with the boys in the rocks at the beach. I hated dressing up. (I still do.) I had no problem with getting dirty. (In fact, I was quite good at it.) And then, as I got older, I learned that as a girl you were supposed to play games. Not games like “Wall Ball” where you throw a ball against a wall and somebody catches it and throws it again (totally a boy game), but games like “If that girl talks to you, don’t talk back to her because it will make her feel rotten and that will be funny.” Or “Flirt with that guy until he asks you out but then turn him down because otherwise you will look desperate.” I never knew how to play any of those games very well.  I never got them.

If I had a girl (or if I ever have a girl…because I suppose anything is possible?) I would totally step up to the plate and do the best that I could. But I knew that if I had boys, they would most likely enjoy hiking through swamps, catching gross creatures, and getting dirty with me. And I wouldn’t have to worry about making sure I had the newest cutest Bean and Bets (or whatever the hell they wear) coat or get into the most popular dance class and wear a tutu onstage….these are the nightmares I’ve had when I thought I might have girls.

Anyway, today there was a crowning mother- of -boys moment where I got to use all my tomboyish talents to prove that I can rock this boys’ mom thing. C toddled over to me in the backyard, incredibly excited about his discovery- a rock that he held tightly in his grubby hand.  I got excited too and told him to follow me to B’s old “Rock Garden” that I had created when B had his rock obsession at 2.  The rock garden had seen better days. Rocks were buried under weeds, dead leaves and sticks. I suggested (more to B since C is 1) that we should clean out the rock garden and make it look good again.

We went to work right away, filling a bucket with all the big rocks and tearing the weeds and dead leaves out. I grabbed a plastic hoe and started moving the pea stone around, exposing the earth for the first time in two years and this big fat night crawler came creeping out of the ground and started wriggling all over the place.  I let out a quick, startled scream and then laughed, daring B to grab it for our composter. He excitedly went after it, but it kept wriggling out of his hands. C stood, screaming in pure terror. I picked C up in one arm, reassuring him that the worm would not hurt us, and grabbed the night crawler with the other hand and ran it to the composter. B had to say his sentimental goodbyes and then we returned to the rock garden and repeated this scenario 7 more times.

Finally, when C had truly had enough. I told B I would be putting him down for a nap. B wanted to stay out to catch more worms, but decided it just wasn’t as fun without Mom, so came in and watched Curious George instead. But it was totally the highlight of my (otherwise rather stressful) day. It’s totally why it was ok that I cried into my cranberries that Thanksgiving and why we laughed like hyenas for twenty minutes when we discovered that B was a boy.

I am not good at doing hair. Or shopping. Or keeping my nails painted for more than a day. But I rock at hiking up the creekbed to catch crayfish, storing a whole rock collection in my pocket and catching a ton of worms. I love girls. I love the daughters of all of my friends and family members. But this is what I was meant to be: the mother of a couple of loud, silly, dirty, active, crazy boys.


August 30, 2013

B, C and I attended our last music class of the summer today. It is a class for toddlers and preschoolers that is run by an elementary school teacher that I worked with. He is wonderful, the kids love it and so do I.  Every class, the teacher reads one story aloud to the children. Today’s read aloud was “Mortimer” by Robert Munsch.

The teacher introduced  the read aloud by building some background.  He told the children that Mortimer was a boy who had trouble falling asleep and asked if any of the children had trouble falling asleep.  Of course my B, who has had over a year’s worth of struggles with sleep, (If he doesn’t nap during the day he is tired but falls asleep at 8.  If he naps he is rejuvenated but falls asleep at 11 and battles with us every hour until then) raises his hand. He announces to the class that he sometimes has trouble falling asleep but makes sure that he is in bed by 10:00 because that is the time that the police come to the house to see if all children are asleep and if they are not the parents get in trouble. (I may or may not have told that story a few times in great desperation not realizing that my little white…story would be exposed in front of a colleague, several parents and grandparents and a group of toddlers and preschoolers.) Luckily, the teacher responded that there happened to be police in the story that he was about to read (they were actually called because the child would not go to sleep and was being too noisy!), too, and it became a great opener for him to begin reading the book.

The story was delightful and quite relavant and when my hubs asked about music class at dinnertime, Ben was quick to recount the story.  I remembered that there were several Robert Munsch ebooks that I could access through my library and at bedtime tonight we picked one to read and laughed the whole way through.

I have been teaching elementary school for fifteen years but have somehow missed the bulk of this man’s work.  Curious, I went onto his website to read his biography.  It was incredibly interesting and inspiring.  I learned that this enormously successful author gets most of his stories from listening to children. In his bio, Robert Munsch states, “I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.”

This is something that I have always believed.  What children think, feel and say is enormously important and many adults seem not to respect that. But it was a good reminder to me. Four-year-old B has a great deal to say. But he says it through stutters of um, um, um, um, the, the, the, the, that, that, that, that… It can prove to be very frustrating and I often would like to cut him off and finish his sentence and move on with my day. Especially when I am tired. But then, that wouldn’t be fair. It would make it appear that, as his mother and the person who should love him the most, I am disinterested in what he has to share. And then, would that mean that what he has to share lacks importance?

So, this impromptu author study will be a reminder, then, of how important it is to listen to children.  Their perspectives are fresh and not jaded. They experience without judgement and report  without bias. They are funny. They are bright. And they are a piece of who we are that has been lost over years of hardened reality . We should listen.  I will listen. And I will appreciate and respect the amazing stories and perspectives that come from these silly little people that still have so much to teach us about life.

Attention: Lost Mommy

August 14, 2013

I lost my child at the zoo today.  I have two. One is a crazy maniac that climbs things and the other is enthusiastic but measured and responsible. That is the one that I lost.

It took me about a year to get used to the various challenges of having two children. Not that I overcame those challenges. They just did not present such shock and surprise after a year. One of the challenges has been to keep track of both of them at the same time. C became very mobile very early. And now, at 13 months, he wants nothing more than to eat, run, climb, repeat.  And he is fast and he is tricky.

SO, when I arrived at the outdoor play area of the zoo today with my good friend and her two children, 2 years and 3 months, I decided that I would take note of where B was going to be for a while and then shadow C like a hawk.  B was immediately drawn to an area around a tree that had pieces of tree trunk and branches that could be used as building blocks. B has been on a building spree lately, and immediately began creating all sorts of cool structures.  C lasted in the area for about 1 minute before running across the large play area to try to climb into a fountain.

I spent the next fifteen minutes multitasking.  I would hand wooden fish to C so that he could place them onto a waterslide that would send them into a fountain and we would both clap. I caught up on the latest with my very good friend who I don’t get to see often. And every 2 minutes or so I would peek my head around a plant that was obscuring my view of B so that I could confirm that he was still where I had left him. I would then quickly turn my attention back to C and pull him out of the fountain that he had just climbed into.

B was wearing a big floppy camo hat. Each time I would glance his way, the hat would confirm his presence near that tree. Until it didn’t.  But I didn’t panic. I turned to my friend and said, “I don’t see B.” She quickly agreed to watch C and I headed over to the tree.  He wasn’t there. I started through the large outdoor play area scanning up and down and just as my panic began to rise, he appeared as happy as can be with two zoo workers (one who I graduated high school with but who didn’t recognize me which at that moment I decided was a good thing.)

Apparently, B had come out of the block area, and did not see me. He ran over to one of the zoo workers (wearing a bright yellow smock to distinguish herself as such) and reported his mother missing.  She then called a “1047” on her walkie talkie that alerted her supervisor, as well as every other zoo employee, that a child in the zoo was missing his mother. Security was alerted and reported to the scene. And then they found me searching for him.

This all happened in 5 minutes. The zoo employees explained what had happened and then told me that I needed to be interviewed by zoo security so that she could fill out an incident report. I asked if she was going to call Child Protective Services on me. She sort of laughed and then asked for my name, address, phone number, shoe size, etc.  I refused to give her my address in fear that a social worker would be waiting at my door when I returned home. As I was completing my report my good friend arrived with her children and my “crazy one” to see what all the hubbub was about.  The security woman moved on and I told her I was being written up as The Mother Who Lost Her Child.

What did I do wrong? Once C had found a spot that would keep his attention for over a minute, I should have had my friend watch him while I reported to B exactly where he could find me when he was finished with his activity. I knew where he was but he didn’t know where I was and that sent him to the zoo worker. What did B do right? He went to a person that he identified as an adult that could help him and he asked for help. I was very proud of him and I told him so.

SO, while these mother-of-two challenges don’t shake me as hard as they did for the first year of C’s life, they still challenge me.  I will never know it all.  I will never be an expert. But, I hope to continue to learn from my mistakes and pray that none of them lead to physical or emotional harm to either of my children. Or myself.

As for the zoo workers, the guy I went to high school with (no, I never mentioned it to him) confronted me again later on. He mentioned that he was sorry that so many reinforcements had been called and that such a big deal had been made out of the situation, but that that was simply zoo protocol in order to maintain the safety of the visiting children.  I thanked him and told him that I absolutely understood, but was taken aback my the report that I needed to fill out with security and mentioned my child services concern.  He chuckled and assured me that security’s report was done to cover the zoo’s behind lest I turn around and sue them for not finding my child in a timely manner.  He then looked me right in the eye and said, “This happens all of the time. Children separate from their parents. I cannot explain to you how many times this happens even within an hour. It is the nature of the beast. It is inevitable. Believe me.  You are not alone.”

And so, that is that. I am not alone in losing my child. I am not a terrible mother. I am just like all the other lost mommies who are doing the very best we can to accept these challenges of parenthood and to learn from our mistakes.  And to hope and pray that nobody gets physically or emotionally injured in the process.

Look, Up in the Sky…

August 11, 2013

I’ll admit it.  I have sensory issues.  I have since I was small.  I was a great eater, but refused to eat water chestnuts because of their watery crunch. I preferred not to wear socks. I cannot touch styrofoam without great discomfort, and the sound of its squeak will sent me running to another room with my hands over my ears.

This is why there should be no surprise that my first born starting showing signs of having sensory issues at about 2 years old.  A fire engine was parked in a neighborhood that we were visiting in preparation for the fireworks later that night. The firefighters were letting the neighborhood kids check out the engine and as we were passing by, they let out a quick blast of the horn that sent the usual happy, mellow B into hysterics that lasted the rest of the night and eliminated the option of us sticking around to watch the fireworks.

Since that time, B has had several incidents of going from perfectly normal to hysterical within seconds when confronted with loud noise, or even the prospect of it. I was late for work one morning because a fire truck was parked outside of my neighbors house and, while B thought it was the coolest thing to watch from the window, he clawed the at the doorframe screaming in fear as I tried to move him from the house to the car. We left two annual Fourth of July parties because the minute the fireworks started he ran aimlessly screaming until someone caught him and brought him to some sort of shelter. And while my friends all exchanged reviews of the newest Pixar film out in the movie theatre, I cringed at the memory of B throwing himself to the floor and curling into a fetal position outside the door of the “movie night” room at a hotel, screaming and pleading for us not to make him go inside.

The pediatrician felt it was a common occurrence for two and then three year olds to be sensitive to sound.  I thought that his seemed a lot more dramatic than other sensitivities I had seen in his peers. This was confirmed the night that we took him to his first live theatre production , Sesame Street Live, when he was two and a half and I was 6 months pregnant with C. He had loved Elmo since he turned 2 and we were excited for the opportunity to see him live on stage singing and dancing.  He was happy and excited all day and we were thrilled with anticipation.  All went well until Bert and Ernie came on stage to open the show with a song.  The music started playing and hundreds of toddlers jumped up and down dancing and singing.  And my child let out a primal scream and ran through the entire theatre and out into the lobby.  Two parents and six ushers spent the entire first act trying to calm him enough to get him to reenter the theatre. Following intermission, after spending the first half of the show that we paid big bucks to get front row seats for in the lobby, a very sweet usher was able to convince him to sit in a balcony seat to watch the second half of the show. He lasted through 3 notes of Cookie Monster’s ballad before again hitting the ground running and climbing up a very steep set of stairs to the very back of the theatre in an attempt to escape. When he got to the top, he ran back and forth along the very last (empty) aisle, desperate for an escape hatch. Finally, he sat on my lap in the theatre chair that was the farthest away from the stage for the last 20 minutes of the show. Only because he was too exhausted to do otherwise.

One of the wonderful ushers who had tried so much to help during this whole traumatic ordeal tried, at one point, to convince me that this was not uncommon. Two year olds have sensitivities to noise and other types of stimulation and that he and I were not alone. I looked at her and wearily pointed out that he was the only child in the entire theatre that was hyperventilating in this lobby while Super Grover was flying over our front row seat. There was nothing to be said from there.

So, this sound-sensory stuff has been what we have been dealing with for the past two years.  We try to deal with it with a great deal of preparation, understanding, and the choice to leave the situation if it gets too overwhelming.  Since he has turned 4, however, B has done some pretty brave things in an attempt to conquer his fears.

Two months ago, we took B, a grand lover of music, to his first rock concert. It was Los Straightjackets and it was in an old mill that had been converted to art studios and a music venue. We provided him with earplugs and he danced all night long. He even got the drummer’s autograph at the end.  After that, B felt like he could face anything. We attending his first movie theatre movie, Monsters University, a month later and he sat enthralled for over 2 hours. We went to Sesame Place in PA and sat through an Elmo Rocks concert and a fireworks show with little incident. (Though I did initially need to chase him though a crowd of people as he aimlessly ran shouting, “We need to get inside!!  I don’t like this at all!!!”) I managed to calm him in the end and when asked a week later what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he requested a “Fireworks Cake!” Who knew.

Which, finally, brings me to tonight when a popular local children’s band was performing the final concert in a local outdoor concert series.  In preparation for the event, I spent some time with him on You Tube watching clips of their concert and laughing at and clapping to their songs. When he asked if we had seen the band before, I told him the truth.  We had gone to see him when he was two, but he had thought they were too loud and had run through the halls of the school where they were performing in an effort to escape. I explained that we could sit anywhere he chose, close to the stage and speakers, or more far away where it would not be so loud. He seemed to take this into consideration and then walked away.

He came back 5 minutes later wearing a Batman shirt, a Spiderman mask and asking me to secure his Superman cape. He asked if he could wear this outfit to the show. I told him that of course he could.  He said, “Good.  Because I have the best idea.  If the music gets too loud and I get too scared, I will put down my mask and it will protect me.” How could I argue with that logic.

So my big brave Bat-Spider-SuperMan attending the show. He chose a spot farther from the stage, but did spend a good deal of the time sitting up in front of the stage with many of the other children. There was no hysterical screaming, no running without destination, no fetal positions. On one or two occasions, I saw him tip his mask over his face when things seemed a bit more overwhelming.  But most of the time, Spiderman’s face rested on his head, with little strands of his blonde hair sticking through the eyeholes.

We’ve come a long way since the day of the first fire engine blast and I feel that we have won this battle with a whole lot of understanding, preparation and the allowance of whatever type of security needed to feel comfortable.  I am so proud today of my amazing SuperB.

It Takes a Village

August 6, 2013

My hubs left last night, but our beach house was still full as my parents, sister, brother-in-law and aunt all stayed overnight.  That meant that I had to share a bed with a smelly four year old that had pooped in his pull-ups and a one year old who, now that we are on vacation, wakes at the crack of dawn. So, while the rest of the family enjoyed sleeping in, I did the following: yelled at my 4-year-old for pooping in his pull-up…again, cleaned my four-year-old’s poo, chased my one-year-old around after he broke into my make-up bag and ran off with my bronzer, cleaned bronzer off a baby’s face, attempted to clean bronzer out of the rental property’s carpet, and shushed shushed shushed and shushed both kids in a vain attempt to not wake up the rest of the family through all of this madness.

By 9:30 when everyone else was getting up, I was ready for a nap.

Soon, everyone was “packing” for the beach. For them, this consisted of slinging chairs over their shoulders, throwing a towel, bottled water and sunscreen in a bag and walking five minutes to the beach. For me, it meant dragging 2 boogie boards, a giant toy-filled beach basket, a bag of towels, sunscreen, swim diapers, juice boxes and waters and 3 beach chairs to the car, strapping in myself and 2 wiggly kids and driving 2 minutes to the beach. And then unloading all of the above to drag it all along the sand.

Once on the sand, the rest of the family who had no small children sat leisurely in their beach chairs talking, laughing, dozing and tanning while I ran in and out of the water, trying to lifeguard one child and simply keep track of the other who was spending most of his time trying to join a father-son paddleball game by making off with the paddleball. In between, I tried desperately to get in touch with my cousin who I knew was at the beach. And who also has children.

So while the childless walked to the other end of the beach to a local seafood restaurant that I knew my children (or at least toddler) would probably tear apart (our days of pleasurable restauranting are temporarily over), I joined my cousin and her Friends With Kids.

Suddenly my world came back into balance. Conversations were interrupted by a child toppling over in a beach chair and children who renamed themselves “Mud Monsters” as they shook mud all over all of us. But, for the first time all day, I was in good company. I was with a group of people who had left their homes with baskets full of sandy toys, a pack of overpriced juice boxes and 3 different types of sunscreen. Never would they imagine walking down the beach to a restaurant to leisurely eat clamcakes and chowder over a couple of beers. They would, however, be able to relate to stories about potty training nightmares, bronzer mishaps, and social apprehension between 4 year olds. These mothers that I had never met before today were helping to keep track of my children, feeding them chunks of watermelon and laughing at their general cuteness.  Finally, as I was sweeping a suspected rock out of C’s cheek (it was a pita chip), one of my new mom-peers asked, “Where’s B?” There were seconds of rising panic as we all scanned the beach in trying to spot him. Another mom pointed toward a sandcastle where I heard his concern escalating as he repeated, “Mom…MOM….” He was fine.  He was 30 feet away from us. But it was scary for everyone involved.

I sat down next to the other moms after the drama was through and I thanked the mom that had called my attention to my missing child. My cousin turned and said, “Well, they say that ‘ It takes a village.’ We all help each other out.” Amen Mama. We help each other physically when we have missing or hungry children, but we also help each other mentally, when we feel like there is nobody on earth out there that understands what we are going through. We share our stories, worries, and triumphs and realize that this is a place in time when the ONLY people that understand what we are going through are other moms/parents who are also going through it, right this second. Parenthood can be a very lonely place, until you find one of the umpteenth moms or dads that can share their stories, feed your children, and hold your baby while you load up 16 wet and sandy items into your arms before trudging to the car with your baby in a front pack and your four-year-old trailing two unused boogie boards over people’s beach blankets behind you.

Four Years Later…

August 2, 2013

I still don’t know what I’m doing.  But I’m just going to come here and write.  About my life.  My kids. My job. My dog.  Just days in my life.  Just journaling. Will others read it?  I have no idea.  Can others read it? No clue. But I will come and I will write and I will leave that as my goal.

I came here four years ago when B was 3 months old. Then life got crazier. I went back to work when he was 6 months, got pregnant with number 2 when he was  2 years and had C when he was a little under a month from turning 3.  Then followed a blur of sleepless nights, pumping and crying, lactation consultants, potty training, lots of time outs, borderline PPD, and me looking so much older today than I did 4 years ago.

But it’s been a year since C was born. And life is good.  B is (mostly) potty trained, C feeds himself, the terrible 2/3s are over for now and our family is fat and happy.  I returned to work 10 months after C was born and it didn’t take long for me to begin losing my mind. Contrary to popular belief, working full time does not equal being a part time mom.  A mom is a full-time mom regardless of whether her children are standing in front of her, Nana, or a daycare worker. And I found it very hard to juggle 2 kids, a full-time job, a house, dog, husband, social life and fitness routine and still manage to walk out of the house fully clothed or not wearing slippers instead of shoes. And so I am making a change. While I am on vacation for the summer now (and yes, life IS good), I must return to work in September.  When I do that, I am going to be working (GASP) part-time.

This is a dream that I have had since before I had kids.  To be able to spend much desired time with my children during the week, but also have a creative outlet in which I could use my brain for things other than potty training or a four-year-old’s summary of what happened on Transformers.  And still be earning money.  The money will be HALF of what I was earning previously, but…hey, can we put a price on time?

I am excited. I am apprehensive. I am tired and so hoping that this may bring some sort of balance into my life so that I can really focus on the people and things that I love instead of just trying to keep up with my life.

I am happy to be here. Life is good.  I want to write. I want to share. I want this out there. Being a mom has made me such a stronger, more self-assured person. I love it and I love how it has shaped the definition of who I am and what I want to accomplish in this life. But it can be a lonely place. And it seems to be a place that can only truly be understood by those who are making the same journey. Perhaps I will find no one out here in the bloggosphere. (Is that what it is called?) But perhaps I will make a connection or two and a moment of recognition and understanding will be shared and respected. And that would be good too.