Did I Tell You The One Where Christmas Break Would Not End?

1476175_10202797128275919_1196886460_nTeachers everywhere were rejoicing. Of that I have no doubt. It started all extra-nice. (See above photo for evidence.)  It was snowy outside, warm and cozy inside, and the boys loved each other. I was having visions of piling up on the soda, toasty warm, watching our favorite movies, reading our favorite books. Cocoa would be in hand, complete with marshmallows. Zach in his footed pj’s, Evan in his flannel sleep pants, me in sweats.  The world shut out, and the ones I love shut in against the cold. There was no school for me, and only my 3 scheduled days of work per week. It was going to be great.

Then this happened:1480549_10202798469749455_592936327_nIt snowed. I love our street in the snow. The houses look so cute and cozy, the neighborhood becomes a Thomas Kinkade painting. We put up the Christmas tree together. This year, Zachy was really able to  participate, which was adorable. I kicked the OCD into low gear as he put the ornaments too close together, and somehow resisted the urge to tweak them ever-so-slightly the entire time that tree was up.

This year, I even managed to somehow get all of the Christmas presents for the boys wrapped before anyone knew what they were getting. This was about as successful a Christmas as I could’ve asked for, considering some of our previous misadventures. The whole next day, the boys broke  played with their new things. Then Evan remembered how fun toys can be when you are only 3, and Santa brings you things like racetracks for toy cars or little train sets. And it dawned on Zachy just how cool big-kid stuff can be.

Magic: Over. Bubble: Burst.

Next thing we knew, there were fights. “Mommy, Evan did________.”, squealed Zach. “Mom! Zach has my _______.”, whined Evan. And so it went all the way up through the end of their Christmas break. It seemed like the longest one in the history of winter breaks. I seriously thought I was going to die. To make matters worse, I was fresh out of school. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that distraction. With me home more, John felt he deserved a break, and left most parenting matters to me. I’m certain the grey hairs on my head have multiplied as a result.

The eve of their first day back to school, I was working the ICU. It really is a good thing my patient was in a medically-induced coma and couldn’t hear me or tell on me. The tv in his room was turned to the news, where I saw the update where the boys’ first day back was called off due to weather.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I’m sure my wail reverberated off of the walls of the ICU, into the adjacent waiting area and throughout the rest of the hospital. Nurses from outside the room rushed in to see what had happened, as I’m not generally an alarmist at work.

That day. That day I had been dreaming of, hoping for, wishing on….My hopes were crushed. My spirit broken.

The fighting a home got worse as cabin fever started in. Snow kept dumping on us. Just when it would start to clear up, more would come. And then it didn’t. The boys were finally going to go back to school. I was relieved, and by that time, I think they were as sick of us as we were of them causing chaos.

And then that “Polar Vortex” bullshit happened. Anyone remember the “I can’t put my arms down” scene in A Christmas Story? Well, we will never have a modern-day version of that. They cancelled school because it was too cold. For not one day, but days-yep, plural. When we were kids, our parents would just bundle us up. We waited a little closer to last minute to go to our bus stops. But our bus stops weren’t at our driveway, either. Generally, we had to walk. If it was dangerously cold–as in losing digits to frost bite despite gloves or mittens—my mom would crank the heat in the car to warm it up while I was getting ready and then drive me to the bus stop, where I would sit in the car until the bus was in sight. The lowest it got here was 2 degrees, and I am sure that I remember it getting a lot colder. As a matter of fact, I just googled that and discovered we had temps as low as -25 in 1985 in Cincinnati. But they closed school. There was no snow or ice on the ground, no slick roads, no frozen pipes at the school. It was just cold.

It seemed like winter break was never going to end. John and I were never going to have a single moment of peace. Armageddon was going to strike, Hell was freezing over, and we would have to home-school the children from now on. I was on the verge, man.

Finally, on January 10th, the boogers got on the bus and headed back. They were out of school for 29 days in total. I sincerely hope they tack the extra unplanned missed days onto the end of the school year. I am now on a mission to treasure every moment of silence until June, and promise to never take a peaceful moment for granted for as long as I live.

Finally,

Not Ready

28809_1470325484751_4630848_nI remember the day like it was yesterday. It was just yesterday, right?

We tell new parents all of the time that they shouldn’t blink, that it will all go way too fast. Evan started middle school a couple of weeks ago. That hit me hard. Not as hard as the day I found myself sobbing in the school gym as he turned and looked at me as he was walking away from me and toward his kindergarten teacher. I remember the clothes he wore: khaki shorts with a brown leather/ orange grosgrain belt coordinated perfectly with his orange polo from Baby Gap. He was small. He was my baby. He still is.

But then we had another one. I wrote countless times how I didn’t think I could ever love another like I love Ev. And I remember kvetching that I couldn’t possibly be pregnant again, that it was a cruel joke with the worst possible timing. I had no idea that the child would completely consume me. That he would become very much a part of my very being. I could tell you I love him, but those words seem so paltry and inadequate. If you cut me, I would hemorrhage Zachary.

So today happened. It’s a day I’ve done before, many years ago. Except Evan was starting kindergarten, not preschool. But somehow, this is worse. This is so much worse. He’s only a year younger than Evan was when he started kindergarten, but still. He really is my baby. And I just watched him. I saw the spark of excitement in his eyes, the amazement that that big yellow school bus was stopping for him this time. I watched his chubby baby fist grasp the rail and climb onto the first step of that bus, guided by his father while I tried to hold it together. That first step, incidentally, was almost waist height on him. The bus driver motioned me onto the bus, smiling in understanding and reminding John that moms just do this while the assistant helped Zach to his seat. And he turned and looked back at me as I blew him a kiss, all smiles and happiness at his new milestone reached. At independence and new days filled with macaroni art and learning to sing new songs. At things that would no longer involve me.

I turned and got off the bus and they pulled away. I turned back to watch him go as my heart splintered. Because I worry that these strangers entrusted with his well-being won’t understand how amazing he is. They don’t know how he almost wasn’t here, that he is a connoisseur of chocolate milk, that “bobberries” are really strawberries and are his favorite fruit,  that he simply must have an Eskimo kiss before his nap. But also because, having done this about 8 years ago, I know. I know that Tomorrow, he will be starting middle school. He’ll have earbuds in his ears and not want to cuddle. He will be too cool for me. I will become Mom, no longer Mommy.A Mom is, after all, different from a Mommy. Moms ensure you do your homework and take care of you when you are sick. Mommies kiss boo-boos to make them better, read bedtime stories, are given the gift of crayon scribbles that may as well be fine art. It will be Tomorrow.I know it from experience.

I’m not ready for Tomorrow. And I know that is where Today leads.

I’m just not ready.
1239614_10201960273115063_1972389987_n

This Could’ve Been My Kid: Toddler Boy Called A Faggot At WalMart For Wearing Pink Headband

http://www.mommyish.com/2013/07/31/toddler-boy-called-a-faggot-at-walmart-for-wearing-pink-headband/

Anyone remember Evan and his affinity for all things pink and sparkly? I didn’t really care, but I was worried for him simply because of people like the man in this article. Because people are ridiculous. And dumb. And virtually intolerant of anyone or thing different from themselves.

I remember those days. I remember having to tell my son that, while there was nothing wrong with him wearing or choosing whatever he liked, that there were people in the world who didn’t understand that and would be mean and cruel to him as a result of his different tastes. That didn’t make it okay, but as his mother, I felt it was my duty to protect him from any potential threat. I would rather he learned that lesson gently from me at home as opposed to the way this innocent little boy learned. So he expressed himself in the house, but not out in public.

Right or wrong, it was such a story as the one above that motivated me.

If I reflect back on that time in his childhood, I feel guilty. His personal preferences have always reflected his quirky, spunky nature. He is not the same as everyone else. He knows it, we know it, everyone knows it. He may have outgrown the pink, sparkly phase, but he has shown other differences. That’s fine with us. His unabashed exhibition of who he is for all who care to get to know him reflect a comfort in his own skin that many of us only hope to have at some point in our lives. I hope that time all those years ago didn’t quelch any part of that within him.

If it did, I am no better than the oaf in this story.

We all have our heads crammed full of what we should be/ think/say/do…
You’re a girl. You can’t throw a ball.
You live in the city, so you have no values.
You’re rich, so you must not know what it means to work.
You’re a man. You aren’t worth shit if you don’t solely support your family.
What do you mean, you can’t cook? Aren’t you a real woman?
You’re poor so you must be lazy.
You’re straight, so you hate homosexuality. You’re gay, so you’re a deviant.

We are who we are. That’s the world I want for my kids, in a nutshell. A toddler in the midst of discovering he is separate from his parents can wear a damned headband-pink, green, sequined, lacy-if it makes him happy. Evan can be obsessed with history instead of XBox. We can choose for my husband to stay home if it works for us. And, yes I suck at cooking anything aside from 3 specialty dishes, but I can rock out some corporate finance while keeping you alive, so that’s okay, right?

Our preferences don’t make us better or worse people. We are not less simply because we have our own strengths and weaknesses that are distinct from the person sitting next to us.

Someone needs to teach that man a lesson.

Bitchypants

The Smallest One

393096_10201215393853547_1875360026_nZachary is three whole years old. This happened last month. Remember how he wouldn’t talk? Well, now he doesn’t stop. And it amazes me to hear what he has to say. All of that time he was silent, he was absorbing so much so that now that he is completely verbal, he can show us that he was learning all along. He was listening.

Yesterday, while going to eat at a local restaurant, we were occupying him with some coloring while we waited on our food to come to the table. He asked for a crayon I was holding. I reached out to hand him the one in my hand. “Not that one, Mommy. The blue one!” He was pointing to the blue crayon laying on the table, but John and I had the same reaction: to stare, mouths agape, at this kid. As if to say, “When did he learn his colors???” Well, of course he learned colors because, from the time he was about 3 or 4 months old, I have included the color of everything in my sentences. “Here’s your cup, Zachy. The cup is red!”, or “Look at that tree’s green  leaves!”

And he learned empathy and how to be concerned for others. You could try this one for yourself. All you have to do is act like you have hurt yourself–stub a toe, get a papercut–and he drops what he is doing, stops in his tracks, to come to you and look at you with with those big green eyes and ask if you are okay. It is so cute that, I must admit, I have said “Ouch!” on more than one occasion just to see him in action.

I’m trying to convey how much he has grown and I am struggling here. He is just his own little person. I could spend all day just watching him. He has his own tastes and preferences, sense of humor, ways of doing things. The wobble of toddlerhood has been replaced with confident running, jumping, climbing, playing. For his third birthday, his little green tricycle was replaced with a green bicycle.

The shadows of dimples that were once there on his little cheeks have been replaced with real dimples. We knew they were there. 253495_10201210419249185_1369711929_nWhere Evan was always temperamental and a little introverted, Zach is the opposite. He is rambunctious. A true boys’s boy. He says “Hi” and “Bye” to everyone he sees, which can make leaving a grocery store or any other outing quite the experience. (Oh, there’s a bag boy 5 checkout lanes to whom we didn’t say goodbye! Let’s take care of that now!) When he hear’s a song on the radio he likes, he has complete confidence to just belt it out. Our current favorite is this:

*Note that the radio plays the edited version and since Zach associates all bridges with crossing the Ohio River, his version involves crashing a car into the river, not a bridge. But it is still hilarious to hear him sing it.

And yes, he’s starting preschool in August. And it breaks my heart because it has gone so quickly.

6 Rude Things: My Version

middle276 Rude Things Moms Let Their Kids Do (Tsk Tsk) | The Stir.

Yes, I read this one. And I got pissed. I’m not sure why, but I did. Maybe it is because I have had so many encounters with unbelievably rude “adults” that it gets hard to swallow the critique of children. Yes, it is important to teach our children manners. And common courtesy. And how to behave in social situations. It is important that we not allow the carelessness of out children to infringe on the rights of others. But adults are not above these same guidelines. And before we can lecture our kids on manners, we have to set proper examples. So here is my list of some of the rude things adults do that completely get under my skin. And since they limited their list to 6, I will, also.Because I am a polite bitch.

6. When you see a mom bustling through a parking lot in rain/ snow/ sleet, don’t jump on the gas pedal to avoid waiting for her to cross the damned street. Just because you haven’t procreated, or you have and are fortunate enough to not have to go to the store with your children does not excuse you from common decency. Think to when your kids were small. All you needed was some milk, eggs, and maybe some random ingredient for dinner. You had to wrangle a squirming toddler into outerwear, wait behind him as he tried to climb into his carseat, because, hey, he can do it himself. Now it is cold, it is wet, and you are trying to hurry, carrying the 30-lb. mini-me through the massive parking lot, you get to the crosswalk and are about to make it into the store when a string of traffic passes while you helplessly watch rude assholes who can’t pause for 5 seconds to let you cross. And did I mention their cars are warm and dry while you and the little one look on in the freezing rain? People, if you are in so much of a hurry that you cannot do one this one thing, you have no time to go to a big-box grocery store, anyways. (The principles of this one can be extrapolated to apply to lot stalking as well. You see me with a toddler and another child. It is cold. You also see the cart full of groceries. There is a vacant spot 2 spots down from mine. Don’t sit and look annoyed/ honk/ etc. while I try to convince the oldest to get in an buckle up, strap the baby into his carseat, load all of the groceries, and put the cart away. It takes time. Don’t rush me. I’m sure when you had children back in 1952, all you had to do was toss them into the floorboard and speed away. We have better standards now.)

5. Treat my child’s cheeks as if they are magnetized, and that magnet, for some unknown reason, seems to get stronger during Godforsaken flu season. This one is simple. Quit touching my child. Yep, he has chubby cheeks. Yep, they’re friggin’ adorable. I made them. I know. He gets them from me. He also has the cutest little button nose. But after using enough public restrooms in my day, I have seen enough nasty assholes completely bypass the sink and head straight out of the door without washing their hands. And I have learned that these assholes  are generic in appearance, and thus cannot be identified among the rest of the population. And even if you are not one of them, how do I know that you are not harboring influenza/ MRSA/ syphilis/ scabies or any other nasty shit I find in my line of work? And then you touch my child’s face? Or his little hands, which he does not realize have he capacity to transmit the damned plague and thus puts them in his mouth without thinking? Shame on you.

4. Drawing assumptions. You know what they say, right? Assuming makes and ASS out of U and…. Scratch that. The saying is wrong. It just makes you an asshole.  What is it about seeing a mom/ dad/ both with young children that brings out this tendency in people? And we assume a lot of things. I have had people assume a lot. I have heard whisperings about morality .John and I do not wear wedding bands–John’s ended up down a bathtub drain many years ago and mine fell off of my finger and wasn’t found until John stomped on it with a steel-toed work boot many-many-many years ago. And, well, we just never replaced them. We keep meaning to and then forgetting. I assure you we are very-much married–12 years this very week thankyouverymuch. And even if we were not, it is none of your business. There are many types of families out there, and who are you to assume you have the right to judge any of them? Maybe I am “shacking up with my Baby Daddy”. What of it? This is in the same category as many other rude assumptions, like that I want your parenting advice. Or that, simply because my child is having a bad moment, I do not teach them manners.

3. If you visit a kid-friendly establishment, quit going with the expectation that there will not be children present. Kids will be there. And no matter how well-behaved, kids are growing, learning beings. In order to teach a child manners in a dining or other public establishment, there has to be some practice involved. Kids can get squirmy, fidgety, over-excited, over-stimulated. They are, by nature, impatient and self-centered. When they are hungry, they want food now. When they are stuck in line to pay for the jeans their mom or dad is buying them because they outgrew their old ones, they don’t generally like to wait in line. They never want to wait their turn, even if they have been thoroughly trained that this is something they must do. Expect that. They are children, for shit’s sake. You, on the other hand, are an adult. We expect that you have learned patience, as you have had ample opportunity. And we parents can teach and teach our children, but sometimes those lessons are forgotten, despite our best efforts. Are we never supposed to leave our homes because you might decide to go to one of the places we go? So just stop. Stop getting huffy when a kid whines for a candy bar in the grocery checkout line, when a toddler gets frustrated because he is hungry and has waited too long for his food. Stop acting like my children are infringing on your space at a kid-friendly business when, in all truthfulness, you are treading on our turf there. Or better yet, when one is at Chuck E. Cheese, expect for kids to get rowdy and excited, and just stop acting offended by playing children. You are at Chuck E. Cheese, for crying out loud. You are being ridiculous. In return for the improvement of this behavior, I will continue working on my children’s manners. I will request to not sit in the booth next to you so they can eat their kids’ meals freely while you enjoy your seniors’ country-fried steak or whatever other old-people shit you order. And I will not be so rude as to infringe on the swanky restaurant you visit for date night with unruly children. I will stick to places that give out crayons with the kiddie menu because I am civilized. (PS. Remember this experience on the day Obama passed through here, blocking roads for hours?)

2. STFU. If you don’t know what this means, Google the shit. My kids–and yes, even the little one–have issues. And this does not mean I do not discipline them. It doesn’t mean I don’t parent. I have to continue with my teachings that “no” really means no. That they cannot get everything they want. he end result is some tears and maybe some meltdowns. What I do not need from you is for you to turn around in line and instigate by making sure the kid knows that you would buy them the sugary candy if you were me. Or for you to turn around and tell me that you would beat them into submission. or that I need to control my kid. I prefer to raise a child who does not need to be “controlled” but rather has the self-direction, self-control, and logic to understand that behaviors have consequences, that we must earn what we want to receive. It is difficult to teach them this. It is especially difficult with mine, with one having a probable ASD and the other being largely non-verbal until recent months. But they still have to grow up in this world, to learn to function. And so I have to say no to some things. Regardless of their reaction, you have no right to put in your unsolicited comments to me or to them. It is none of your business. And if you would hurry up and quit the long-winded conversation with the blue-haired cashier, we can pay for our shit and get the hell out of there where not a soul will witness their meltdowns.

1. Quit acting as if my kid is the only child you have ever seen misbehave. And sometimes they aren’t even really misbehaving. We are learning more and more that some of Evan’s behaviors that could have been construed as being bad or bratty or manipulative really couldn’t be helped all along. Not all of them, but some of them. So you do not need to tsk-tsk. You do not need to gawk. There is no need to give dirty looks. And even though Evan looks like a typical kid his age, he isn’t so quit fucking staring at him. He is remarkable. He is probably smarter than you. But he has different reactions to some things. We’re working on it. Always working on it. What about you? And while we’re at it, even if he were to be completely like his peers, sometimes the best kids with the best parents can misbehave. And for you morons to turn around and stare like you have never seen this happen, to treat us like we are in some sort of freakshow, is completely unacceptable behavior from an adult. Because, in all honesty, your tendency to react like that makes me want to give in. Buy him the toy/ candy bar/ toilet scrubber he is so irrational about just to get you to leave us alone. Because the only other options are to deal with your lack of manners or never take him out of the house. I refuse to keep my kid like a caged animal because you have some sort of problem. And the same goes for the baby. He went through this shrieking phase. It was awful. And you people would hear me and see me trying to get him to be quiet. Telling him not to scream. Yet you would still stare and give largely the same reactions you would give to Evan and one of his meltdowns. And Zachy is obviously a little guy.

Maybe, instead of preaching on the bad manners of kids and the seemingly-awful parents who fail to teach them manners, maybe we all need to step back and consider others for a minute. Because ALL of these situations I have mentioned have happened to us. Some happen more than others. Some happen all of the friggin’ time. I am not perfect. My children are not perfect. But we are good people. We know right from wrong. My kid, who might have a mini-meltdown over a candy bar he didn’t get may turn around and gladly give his most prized possessions to a needy child or weep over a homeless man on the street. Later, on the same day as the meltdown, he may be so polite and well-behaved that strangers come up to us and comment on the polite young man we are raising. And the bottom line is that he is a child. He is being taught more and more everyday. Some lessons stick right away, while some take repetitive drilling. Some seem to stick and then he adopts the bad habits of his classmates, putting us back to Square One. He is, after all is said and done, still forming. You, on the other hand, are running out of time to let your asshole-ness wear off. And if you are so apt to help me parent, what with your assumptions, unsolicited advice, and comments, perhaps you could be more efficient by stopping the rudeness and serving instead as another example of good manners for these kids.

Using His Words

Ferguson-2Zach speaks.

Not gibberish. Not “word approximations” where he makes up random syllables to represent things he frequently encounters in his world.

He uses his words.

“Give Mommy hugs.” “Go night-night.” “Turn lights off.” Not long phrases. He will probably, according to his speech therapist, continue to have a speech delay, but she expects it to be completely resolved by kindergarten. He will qualify for preschool, because my state stops early intervention services at 3 years of age. This is also the age they stop adjusting his developmental age for his prematurity. In January, we will meet to discuss his preschool options.

Preschool. Zachy. Completely unreal.

But he uses his words. And well enough that I feel comfortable starting other things with him, like potty-training, though I completely forget how to do that. I did it once. I’ll figure it out again.

And his voice is such a gift. Each word he says the sweetest sound I have ever heard. He is showing us, once again, the wonder that is the world. My favorite word of all, “Look!”, shows us that he sees something new, something interesting, that he is learning. Everyday, learning more and more.

He still mixes up some sounds. If you ask him his name, he says, “Yack”. His age? “Doo”. I can live with this. He is two. He is not going to be a keynote speaker right now. He may never be. But when you have a child with apraxia, you appreciate each word that is understood, that does not need to be translated. Gone are the days where he could not tell us what he wants or needs, where he would point or grunt, or rattle off indecipherable gibberish that we could not understand, leading to frustration and tears from all involved.

For right now, we are thrilled. He is growing. He is strong and healthy. He is making progress. He is overcoming. He is using his words.

The Christmas That Never Was

blog_christmas_no-santaI have done Christmas differently each year. I know, I know. This is not going to win me any points in the Mother of the Year Race. First came the years where we didn’t have a pot to piss in, and I would have to count to know exactly how many paydays I would have before the holiday to come up with a game plan. Then came the years after my first degree, where I would end up working Christmas and Evan would never know if we were going to have Christmas early or late. Then, when Evan got old enough to make his voice be heard, I would let him choose whether he wanted Santa to come early or late. (Always, always early.) And then there was the Great Christmas Con, when Evan decided to celebrate late, went to spend actual Christmas with John’s mom, and conned her into believing that we weren’t buying him gifts, inducing her to spend even more money on him. I could go on, but you get the general idea. Christmas is always an adventure in this home.

This year, I wanted it to be different. I wanted us to have the close, cozy family Christmas. I bought the stuff to bake gingerbread men and chocolate chip cookies with Evan. Nevermind the knowledge that I cannot bake for crap. I’m smart, right? Well that was a disaster that I do not care to recap.

Regarding gifts, I got smart this year. I bought the boys’ gifts online. We were going to do the whole cookies for Santa, Christmas morning surprise thing. I even told some white lies to throw Evan off so he would be surprised that he got what he really wanted when the day came. I am smart. I am clever.

The problem is that my kids are smarter than I ever will be.

Because instead of delivering the packages midday during Evan’s last days of school before the holiday, as was supposed to happen, Fed Ex decided to knock on the door of this small-ass house in the middle of dinner. John and I recovered nicely, though. Instead of bringing the boxes in through the living and dining rooms where the kids were, he ran them around to the basement.

Then Zach wandered into the basement, following John, who was doing laundry. He found one of the small gifts, a Super Grover, his favorite Sesame Street character. John didn’t have the heart to tell him that he couldn’t have it, so Zach carried it around the house, with it still attached to its box. That is when Evan saw and, thinking it unfair that his brother got a gift early, went in search of the loot.

The moral of the story is that I returned from work one day to find that the kids had found all of their gifts and were even playing with some. The incessant begging ensued. Mom-can-I’s started. One by one, with each of the gifts, I gave in. And by the time I had the time, I had absolutely no desire to even put up the tree. No gingerbread men and milk for Santa. No Christmas morning surprises. All of it, gone. Except the turkey. John insists on cooking the bird, but I got the flu and spent Christmas unable to even hold down clear fluids. The result? Christmas dinner the day after Christmas.

You could say this holiday has been a huge failure. I’m choosing to think of it as Zach’s speech therapist described it: this is truly a Christmas we will never forget. And after all, aren’t those memories the whole point of all of it:?