Fragile

Be careful with my heart.

I know how you look at me when I’m wth my children. I see you watching. I’m aware. I know what it looks like. I’m a fragile mom, yes, but a mom who is battle-tested and will no longer shy away from meeting your eyes. I will not be shamed. I will not let you tell me with your look and your eye roll and your mutterings under your breath that are just loud enough for me to hear that I am a bad mother.

I still feel the sting of your gaze.

Do I wish it was different? Sure. Do I wish life was easier for him to navigate? Without question. Would I change him if I could? Nope.

I used to think the Autism diagnosis would somehow be the worst possible thing ever about being a parent. I remember speaking with another expectant mom friend at the time, “Can you imagine? What if the baby has autism?” As if it is the worst possible fate.

It’s not.

It’s exhausting and challenging and rewarding – times that it sucks, and times that it takes your breath away with the amount of determination and persistence it takes to overcome challenges – that pride in the littlest of successes will be like nothing ever experienced before. But it’s not the worst possible thing to happen to a child.

I may have a fragile heart, but we are far from breaking.

Advertisements

It’s Happened…

It has officially happened.

I woke up this morning and realized: I am a parent. Beyond simply giving birth and raising a family, I’ve become that parent. You know what I’m talking about. Driving my minivan, crumbs all over the floor from breakfast on the way to school, and on our way to (drum roll please) t-ball practice!

I drive a minivan and cart my kids to sporting activities.

Yep, I’ve officially arrived. Card-carrying parent. I did in fact have my mom camera handy, too. If you catch me wearing mom-jeans outside of Halloween, please, please for the love of all that is good and holy, schedule an intervention!

In the mean time, enjoy the pics I snapped of my kid’s first practice!

IMG_5153 IMG_5143 IMG_5145 IMG_5153

It should also be noted that my husband is now a Dad. As in that Dad. He’s the assistant coach of the Dragons. (Given Jake’s love of all things fire-breathing, he was thrilled when we told him the team name!) They practiced throwing the ball and learned where all the bases were.  We learned that if there are a pile of white  whiffle balls with one red one in the pile, all the kids will fight over the red one.

Yay team Dragons! Yay parenthood!

Parenting: Are We Over Thinking It?

I’ve been told that I “read too much” or “think too much” or “worry too much” when it comes to parenting. Not by anyone person, but in general – by a couple of people.

Shaking their heads from side to side with that look that says “there’s just too much information out there”.  We read books, blogs, articles from parenting magazines or online and pamphlets at the pediatrician’s office trying to do what is best. How are we to know what’s best? It doesn’t seem, at least in my circle of parent friends, that we have the luxury of multitudes of extended family on both sides waiting to chip in with tried and true methods of raising kids, as was the case in say, my husband’s family. (His mother moved in with her mother and father-in-law when she and her husband were married!)

We are in the military so we move frequently. Even outside of the military, families are much more mobile than in generations past as we travel to where the job market dictates. With this mobility, that “village” that it takes to raise kids is altered.  Without the network or village of extended family, and with the amazing amount of information (both good and not so) is it any wonder that we parents tend to seek out other opinions, methods and techniques in raising our children? Is that a bad thing? If it is, why?

It seems like the “kids should be seen and not heard” generation came at parenting more from a biological “this is just what we do” approach. Get married – check. Have kids – check. No examination or reflection or parenting seminars. No helicopter parenting, just life rolling along. Perhaps there could be a middle ground. Somewhere in the middle of “my kids are simply a function of biology/a checkmark on life’s to-do list” and “Super duper over-involved helicopter mom who checks and rechecks if Tommy is “okay” with the day’s plan” would be nice.

I often hear, “Parenting is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” I completely agree. In marriage and other relationships, we work at them via counseling, marriage retreats, date nights, etc. Why should our parenting journey be any different? If parenting is truly the hardest job (and most rewarding), why not learn and grow and “work on” our relationships with our children?

If I want to improve my running, I read up on form, technique and training ideas. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t. The same holds true for learning to be the best parent I can be – use what works, toss what doesn’t. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Parenting isn’t easy, regardless of generation. I don’t think one generation is better, or worse. They are just different. And with that difference comes it’s own challenges and advantages.

What about you? Been told you are “over-thinking it” lately?

Oh No! Here We Go Again…

Whoever said two’s were “terrible” were liars! I’d take two’s back any day. Terrible 3’s is more like it. (Okay – call it “Terrific 3’s” if we’re gonna be all PC about it.) In our house, it’s beginning again. We have a 2 1/2 year old and she’s got the full on 3’s. Bring on the tantrums, being inconsolable, and downright defiant with the “No!” Argh!

Yes, I do know it’s a stage. Yes, this too shall pass. I get all that. I even somewhat get that I’ll “miss this part of raising kids”; so says the random lady witnessing one of the catastrophic end-of-the-world meltdowns that transpired today. I’m not certain I believe her though. I don’t miss this phase with my son…and he’s barely out of it.

Here’s how our day went: (because I know you want to live vicariously through me!)

Not only are we at the tail end of moving and beating back the sea of boxes, we have regular life (i.e. post-op dental appointment) to deal with as well. In true form, Jake was shall we say “difficult” and put up a bit of a fight to let the doc look at his teeth. Then there was the having to say “goodbye” to the toys at the office upon completion of the check-up. One of them would be ready to go, then the other would be digging in heels. I had visions of doing the sideways-carry-to-the-car I’ve employed before. Luckily, bribery was working today and the carrot on the end of the stick was a lunch date at Red Robin. (Oh, the days when I was a “good parent” and NEVER would have used bribery! You know, before I had kids!)

Finally in the car, everyone is in, has buckled his or her OWN buckle, and closed his and her OWN door and coats are on (or off depending on the current preference) – off we go to grab some lunch. Or at least to the restaurant’s parking lot before the next meltdown needs averting. Grab my cape, tie it on and voila! SUPER MOM to crisis management:

Jake climbing out of the car: “Mom, I don’t wanna wear my coooooaaatt! (yes, that would be the sound of whining).

Me (internally trying to take a deep breath and not lose patience): “Jake. It’s very cold. You have to wear a coat. Once we get inside, you can take it off.”

Back and forth. He then tries to negotiate with me to just hold it, or just hang the hood on his head and not put his arms in the sleeves.

Really?! By this time – we could have been in the joint ordering some food.

Me: “You have two choices: put your coat on or get back in the car and we will go home for lunch.”

When that did the trick, lunch went pretty smoothly, except for the first 10 minutes where he wouldn’t talk to us in an attempt to clearly express his displeasure having been made to wear his coat. After lunch we head home. I had the genius (I’ll use that term loosely) idea to go to the playground. A little energy burn and some cold fresh air would do us all some good.

Off we go riding bikes, dodging some scary looking dogs, looking both ways to cross streets and wiping the wind-induced snot from noses. Finally we arrive! YAY! Let the chasing, swinging, and getting out the sillies commence! And it did. For about 15 minutes. Then they decide to do the seesaw.

After I get Hannah on, Jacob on and pulling them up and down, Jake somehow manages to bounce off and bust his lip. Blood is gushing everywhere, snot flying, tears flowing…okay – I give up. It’s time to go home. Only, Hannah couldn’t give a rip if Jake is hurt or not – she wants to PLAY. And loudly. Jake is in the lead with his bike, riding slowly. I’m walking behind him and Hannah (bringing up the rear of this hot mess of a parade) is simultaneously throwing a fit, pedaling a trike, and screaming, “I WANNA PLAAAAAAYYYYYY at the PLAYYYYPARRRRRK!”

All. The. Way. To. Our. House.

What a way to make friends in our new neighborhood, right? At one point, we are at a busy corner, Jake is (thankfully) waiting patiently while I pry Hannah off of the road where she is now laying down kicking and screaming. And a car is coming. Awesome. Luckily the car does see the situation and doesn’t impale my daughter. I get Hannah’s attention and pick her up to cross the street, set her down and she promptly resumes said fit. I walk on.

Now she has worn her little self out and is sleeping peacefully and Jake and I are watching his current favorite Mighty Machines! I see a glass of wine in my future and a prayer that my sweet, funny little girl will wake up and be her normal self in a short while.

Or maybe she’ll down for the night.

A mother can hope, right?

Nope…she’s up. Time to re-fasten my cape….

Supergirl
Supergirl (Photo credit: levork)

Wonder-full Wednesday

I have never been so grateful to sleep in my own bed as I am after a stay in a hotel. Yes, more FWPs (First World Problems) but I have to say – if you are thinking of buying a Tempurpedic (or a Select Comfort, I’ve heard) really consider all options. They are the BEST mattresses, but they make you a complete pansy when it comes to sleeping on anything else. Not sleeping due to crappy mattress, coupled with a nasty head cold and falling down the stairs and hurting my back – I was looking at my beautiful babies and the thought of “calling in sick” seemed like such a fun fantasy. There were a few times when I worked outside the home (especially early on in my first pregnancy) when I was very VERY thankful for the ability to call in sick, pull the covers over my head and just sleep and take care of myself. Or, the rare occasion when I was sick on a day when Eric was home and HE could take care of me! (Yeah, I think that’s happened twice in our 12 years of marriage!)

Now here I sit with my beautiful babies and yes, I admit, I would love to go back upstairs, pull the covers over my head and sleep off this cold for a few days. That just isn’t an option. Moms aren’t supposed to get sick. And when they do – they still have to do everything they usually do. So I kept it low key and drug out my camera and played cars, and blocks, and read books with these kiddos.

Then it hit me. While I love the idea of “calling in sick”, what I am REALLY thankful for is a “job” where the “bosses” love me no matter what, that they really don’t care if my hair is done or in a ponytail for the fifth day in a row, that I’m slinging snot all over, and I don’t have to wear nylons. Ever.

Here is a little bit of what we did:

IMG_1273

Hannah’s sweet little face…kind of tired and recovering from all the excitement of our little weekend away.

IMG_1372

Racing cars down the slide!!!

IMG_1368

IMG_1356

The collection!

IMG_1352

Sweet little stinker!

IMG_1349

Watch out! She’s coming down!

IMG_1334

Peek at you!

IMG_1332

Blocks and tower building!

IMG_1322

Dazed and a bit sleepy!

IMG_1311

The fog was so thick we couldn’t even see across the street!

IMG_1307

Window art!

  IMG_1295

Toys toys toys…..

IMG_1286

IMG_1278

Hannah decided to do Jake’s hair!! (He was such a good sport! 🙂 )

IMG_1274

I love my littles.

Even on the sick days!

An Answered Prayer

Since my son was born in 2008 he has been his own little person. He lets his needs be known. Sometimes loudly. He was not verbal until he was 3. Of course because of this (and many other behaviors such as only eating a narrow window of foods, extreme fear of doctors – to the point of full on tantrum meltdowns when anyone tried to touch him, weigh him or measure him, sensitivity to textures, etc.) our pediatrician recommended he be evaluated for autism spectrum disorders.

This process was an emotional one. As a parent, the first thought is defensive, “Screw you! There is nothing, nothing, wrong with my child.” But after the suggestions were made, and the realization that some behaviors do line up with pervasive development disorder or Aspergers, it hit home that maybe, just maybe there was cause for concern. Then I really started to notice other kids, and compare. How did they eat? Were they picky? How did their kid behave at the doctor’s office? How did they play with other kids? Were they verbal? At what age? And on and on and on…. A person can drive themselves crazy with the questions. Not to mention the questions of cause. Was it something we did? Ugh…that one will break you.

We made the appointment and were relieved to learn after 2 very extensive sessions that, to quote the wonderful doctor we met with, “we were not impressing him at all” with our child’s behavior with regard to it being on the autism spectrum. I’ve never been so happy to see my son “fail” at something! (I’ve never forgotten that doctor and how kind he was. I so wish he could have been our regular pediatrician.) Shortly after we were enrolled in Hawaii’s speech therapy program. A speech therapist came to our house 2 times a month and worked with Jake and I and “played”. And through play, taught me how to illicit speech responses from Jake. He now talks ALL THE TIME.

There has still been some lingering questions, however. We still dread going to the doctor and dentist. Dread probably isn’t a strong enough word. It’s traumatic for all involved. To the point that with the dental work he needs, he will need anesthesia. Food has been a battle for us since he started solids and the 20 or so foods he would eat, now is only about half that. We walked out of Sunday school a few weeks ago with me carrying him sideways in a full on freak out tantrum. I hugged him by the side of the car for 15 minutes until he was able to calm down. And as we walked out – all the other 4 and 5 year olds were happily sitting at the table doing their Sunday School craft. (As a side note – don’t judge a parent based on one tantrum you may see. You don’t know what that parent is going through or what that child may be going through. Yes, there are brats, and there are bad parents, but most of us do want what’s best for our children. Judgement of our parenting skills is not helpful.)

Part of me thinks, “Okay – he’s a “picky” eater. He’ll outgrow it,” or “His dad is hesitant to try new foods, he just takes after him,” and “Kids will eat when they are hungry – don’t make a big deal about food or it will become a much bigger issue.” “All kids tantrum, he is no different.”

Another epic food “disagreement” yesterday (it was so not pretty), and I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out the key to my son’s lock. He’s changed them on me and I just need to figure out a way in. Yelling, threatening, ignoring, cajoling, taking away privileges, etc… none of that works. He eats crap. He is 4. He OF COURSE is going to gravitate towards the sugary, empty goldfish cracker crap kind of food. What 4 year old wouldn’t?! Heck, what adult eats what they should most of the time?! Most of us don’t.

Even though my weight loss journey and desire to learn about and eat only REAL food led us to cut out the processed junk from our diets, I kept making excuses and justifying when it came to junky food and my son. (We don’t let him drink soda, and juice is a once in a while treat and we keep junk food to a minimum). He refuses to try new foods and would rather not eat and will just go play. I give up, and give him the same food over and over (grilled cheese sandwich) because I would rather him eat something – even if it’s not the best option or he’s eating the same thing for days on end. And the cycle plays out over and over.

Today I came across this:

Image

And I almost cried in the bookstore as I was reading chapters that could have been taken from dialogue in our home. It describes behavior we experience daily with Jake. I came home and shared what I had found with Eric. He then told me that after our “disagreement” with Jacob yesterday, he had been praying for some kind of answers on how to deal with behavior and food issues.

I was looking for a cookbook when I came across this one. In a completely different section. Don’t tell me that God does not answer prayers. He does. And He did. And I am so grateful.

“What’s Eating Your Child? the Hidden Connections Between Food and Childhood Aliments: Anxiety, Recurrent Ear Infections, Stomachaches, Picky Eating, Rashes, ADHD, and More. And What Every Parent Can Do About It.” written by Kelly Dorfman, gives practical hands-on advice in a very applicable way. She outlines the E.A.T. program:

1. Eliminate any irritant, or in some cases unhealthy food, from your child’s diet. (In our case, that’s going to be large vats of milk that my son LOVES.)

2. Add one new food.

3. Try one bite of the new food. Trying one bite of the same new food every day for two weeks.

It takes an average of 12-15 tastes of a food before a person (adult or child) acclimates to liking a new food. In my case, I offered so many new foods and then gave up after the first, maybe the second, refusal. I think it’s what a lot of us do. We have a country full of picky kids eating the standard pasta, chips, crackers – essentially white processed garbage. The book outlines in detail why we crave certain foods, how sugar acts like heroin and is EXTREMELY addictive, as well as case studies that illustrate how nutrition plays a crucial role in health, development and behavior.

This process is going to be a tough one. Especially for my tough cookie. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. The father of modern medicine was exactly right.

Now it’s time for me to learn.

It’s time to help my son.

An Experiment

I’ve noticed lately that more often than not, I am saying “No.” to the kids. All the time. Or I’m saying “not right now”, “later”, “in a minute”, etc. I don’t want to be that mom. The negative mom that you hear in the store that sounds angry, hurried and just bothered by being a parent.

So I am conducting an experiment: I am going to say “Yes.” All day long. (With the obvious caveat that if they want to hurt each other or go play in traffic, that’s gonna be a no.) But to say yes, and really really do it. Jacob wants a piggy back ride – YES! Hannah wants to play dollhouse? Sure!! Do they really care about the pile of dishes in the sink? They don’t care about my “to-do” list. They just want me. And that’s pretty cool.

To engage and eliminate those negative, not now, maybe laters that never come, and work on being a Yes Mom!

Today that is my aim.

(And get in a run if there is time!)

Time to play….

IMG_3012