Still Alive

One day, I’ll return to writing for my own sake.

In the meantime, this is what is going on right now:

Evan is thriving in middle school. The girls are swarming. It’s bad. Last Thursday, after some really strange symptoms that had been going on sporadically, we were told that they thought he had a brain tumor. More about that experience on another day. I just can’t right now. He is seeing a pediatric neurologist in a few days and we’ll hopefully get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I am trying not to unravel in my worry by focusing my attention on the fact that the head CT was negative. I am instead focusing on other things: that–for the first time ever–this kid has friends; that girls love him and I actually have to worry about what goes on when he is not supervised with a girl, that he is now wearing small men’s clothes, that he has that goofy ‘stache coming in and his dad is going to have to teach him to shave.

Zach is…Zach. He refuses to have anything to do with a toilet. I am tired of having to buy Pull-Ups. Or worse yet, diapers. He still sleeps in a diaper because Pull-Ups leak too much at bedtime. I would let him feel that discomfort with the idea that it would motivate him, but he just sleeps through it, thus we sleep through it, and we wake in the morning to a child with a rash and blue lips from sleeping in soaked pajamas. I cannot deal with neither the grossness factor or the health risk of that. We encourage. His preschool teachers encourage. We have purchased every toilet-learning device known to man, looking for the magic one. Currently, that is this cushie Prince Lionheart insert that seems so comfy that I wish it would accommodate adults.He has no desire whatsoever. But what is he doing? He is speaking plainly, counting, saying his alphabet, (crudely) writing his name, singing songs. (Please do not mix up the order of he verses of “The Wheels on the Bus”!) In May, this was the child who could literally say nothing that a stranger could understand. So I am not sweating the potty stuff. We’ll get there. He always does, doesn’t he? He’s still my little wonder–smart, cute,  funny, sweet.  He’s just Zachy.

John is making me proud everyday, He has lost over 50 pounds since the fateful day over the summer when a doctor I respect came to me to tell me that he could have died at any second from the blockages in his heart. His BP is down. He is down to only one medication for diabetes, and that dosage even had to be cut in half. His cardiologist cleared him to run at home after he outgrew the mild exercises at cardiac rehab. His cholesterol was actually low at his last check, so his medication for that was cut in half. The beta-blacker was stopped after he exhibited no need for it. He was wearing a size 40 waist in the summer. He is down to a 34, and those are falling off, but we’re holding off on shopping for more, since he’s built up to 2-mile runs daily–any little bit of weight he has left will melt off as his endurance gets back up there. His doctor says he only needs to lose 9 more pounds to be ideal body weight. If he loses 18 more, he will be back down to his post-boot camp weight from his Marine Corps days.

And me? I’m hanging in there. I have–wait, let me count–8 more weeks left of school. I start my capstone next Saturday. My paperwork for graduation is submitted. I am off of work. Blame some little boys who cannot seem to get their dirty laundry in a hamper. I tripped on some dirty clothes and fell down the entire flight of basement stairs on my left leg, with it ricocheting off of each step on the way down. They thought stuff was torn. Instead, I found out that every piece of cartilage in there is inflamed from the trauma. So it has been injections, PT, crutches (for about 5 weeks). I am finally to the walking stage, but only for very short trips and in transit. I cannot stand or walk for long periods at all. (Read: I can limp to my class and sit in a chair, I can walk to the car and get in it, but I can’t do shopping trips, etc.) I’m just hanging in. Also, I remember lamenting on here how I hated undergrad corporate finance. It has nothing on the 600 level.

That’s all.

I’ll be a blogger again one day, I swear,

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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.
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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.

Time Flies (Still)

So the boys had some more photos taken with a coworker of mine who is working on honing her photog skills. She has taken their photos before, and this time she got some great candid images of my babies. We met her at a gorgeous park in Cincinnati, which is a prime spot for photography, it would seem. Well, at least there were a bunch of others there that day for the same purpose. We saw baby bump photos, wedding and engagement photos, and family photos being taken. I just wanted some playful, casual shots of the boys, as they are growing up before my eyes. And as always, I see the photos and I still see the newborns they once were. Time goes so quickly, and with grad school now, I am always hustling and bustling to and from one destination or another. And I miss them so much. While I wasn’t looking, Evan turned eleven years old. Two more years with him until he is a teenager. I want to clutch them to me and beg them to slow down. In the mean time, I remind myself daily that I am doing all of this for them. At some point, so help me, I will be able to honestly say that I can give them anything they want. Anything. The best home, the best education. Opportunities that they may not have had if I had not pushed myself to get these higher degrees. But in the meantime, I keep my nose to the grindstone, cherish every tiny moment I am given with them, and count the days until I am finished.

Toddler Challenges

Oh sweet merciful crap.

I never have enough time to blog about my Mommy Misadventures. My life is chaos, though right now, I am even off of work for a couple more weeks following the shoulder issues. We’ve had some big changes.

John got a job.

Zach started daycare (and abruptly stopped when I got put off of a work for a short while.)

I am wrapping up my undergrad business degree and preparing for grad school in a couple of short months.

But the biggest change is the challenges we are facing with Zach. Not that Zach is having trouble, but that we are a little bit. I forgot what the life was like of a mother of a toddler. I forget some of the simple stuff every day that one takes for granted. Like how it is no longer cool to have anything important within reach. Books will be pulled off of shelves. It will not matter if those books are expensive text books or cheap paperbacks–they all have equal right to destruction here. We do not discriminate in this house.

I forget how keys must be kept hidden from a toddler who loves them. It took a couple of occassions where we were frantically trying to find said keys while the alarm was going off on the car. Apparently that red panic button on the keyless entry is just to powerful to resist, but then you have to find the keys to turn it off.

Yes, you really can crawl around on the floor, picking up toy cars and blocks and puzzle pieces a million times a day.

The dial on the dishwasher has a gravitational pull that begs for little hands to mess with it.

The refrigerator is a fascinating place. And there is no appliance lock that can withstand the Power of Zachary. We have resorted to locking the fridge and sealing it with clear packing tape or we will end up restocking cans of soda, bags of cheese, gallons of milk, and a gajillion cups of Greek yogurt as often as we pick up toy cars/ blocks/ puzzle pieces.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, has power like a couple of plain M&Ms. Yeah, I know. Junk. Zach usually doesn’t get junk, but in a quest to find something to motivate him to use his words, his speech therapist recommended it. It worked. We try to limit its use to when the situation calls for the Big Guns.

DJ Lance What’s-His-Name on “Yo Gabba Gabba” looks strikingly like JJ from “Good Times”. And nothing will make a toddler giggle like these four words: I. Like. To. Dance!!!!! We can end any horrific mood with that one.

Words, coming from the mouth of a toddler who has a speech delay, are very interesting. Truck is Cuck. Except when he sees one and gets excited, shouting out the name, it doesn’t sound like CUCK. It sounds like a very vulgar term for male parts, and we get lots of looks. Similarly, when one has a southern husband who refers to pants as “britches”, and that same toddler gets a hold on that word…well, you can imagine what that sounds like. I remember the first time Zach came up to me, putting his little hand on the leg of my denim capris, saying, “Mama Bitch.” Gasp! Pause! ” Yes, Zach, those are Mama’s BRITCHES!”

The sliding window in the living room, which has a sliding screen, is a veritable Vortex. If it is opened the wrong way, one side is completely opened, no screen or anything. If it isn’t attached, isn’t too heavy, and isn’t too big, it’s going out that window. Yesterday, at various times through the day, I rescued my cell phone, the remote control, a binky, the beloved Lightening McQueen car, a ball, my planner, and the phone book. This morning, I cannot find the cell phone charger and must remind myself to check the shrubs under that window.

I’m reminded that, if you cannot say the word, it is perfectly acceptable to make up your own, so long as you are consistent. Lightening McQueen is loved in this house. But he isn’t Lightening. He’s Ahhhhhhh-Baba. I do not know. No idea. Not a clue. But that is his name. It is also the name for anything with the Cars logo on it. At all. And when these crazy “word approximations” (the term his speech therapist uses) come out, it is our job to know what he is saying, to speak his language so we can not only know what he wants, but repeaat the word back to him in correct form so he can learn.

Play-Doh balls aren’t for squishing and molding and playing. They are most obviously for throwing around the room.

Mashed ‘Tatoes are delicious. Until you have your fill. Then they are for finger-painting. On a similar note, it is perfectly normal to simply get tired of a spoon or fork mid-meal and just give up. And cutesy plates with cartoon characters don’t really encourage a child to eat like a human. They encourage the dumping of the food anywhere and everywhere just so you can see Mickey/ Elmo/ Lightening McQueen without all of that pesky food in the way.

Toys ‘R’Us has got to be the most identifiable store on the planet to a toddler who is in a car with a Mom who really just has to get somewhere NOW without stopping at Toys ‘R’ Us first.

It does not matter what it is. I you see it and want it, it should be yours and come home with you. The cart at Wally World. The ginormous aquarium at an orthopedic surgeon’s office. Every damned toy within a fifty-mile radius.

Toddlers create a challenge that, once we can say we have survived the toddler years, we often forget. I don’t remember having to do any of this stuff with Evan when he was Zach’s age. It isn’t that the kids are that different or that Evan was an angel and Zach is not. I just forgot. I let my mind slip because, while all of these seem like a massive pain, they are wha you do. This is a mom’s job, to teach a child to navigate the world around him. To tap into herself to see how keys really could be fascinating, how Toys ‘R’ Us really is a cool place, and finger-painting with mashed potatoes can be interesting. We see them do it, we try to prevent them from infringing on the rights of others in the process, and so long as it doesn’t hurt them, we let them carry on. They have their whole lives to learn lessons. Now is for them to learn of all of the little things in the world that can be so awesome. And I think we forget the challenges over time because, well, those challenges get completelyy overshadowed. You don’t see the mess, you see the smiles and hear the giggles and squeals of delight. You hear new words. You see the child you once nursed feed himself.

And you count every challenge of toddlerhood as a blessing. Because, lucky you, you get to witness every bit of it.

The Bonds We Make

Evan went on his annual trip to spend time with his grandparents this past week. I used to relish these trips because they gave us a break, and then we had Zach. Well, Zach is just too young to go away like that, so for the past couple of years, this time has left us with only one child. And it always goes the same way, each and every time: at first the peace and quiet is nice. I forgot how quiet it can be just having a baby or toddler in the house. But then? Well, then the dust settles and I miss Evan terribly. Palpably. There is a massive void that only Ev could fill. And I start to ponder my relationship with my oldest child. He is challenging-oh, so challenging–but he is mine. He is a part of this home. An integral part that cannot ever be replaced. And then I realize that, while he may be a challenge, I am as bonded to that child as anyone could ever be. He is a part of me. But this year? Well, this year brought a different reaction.

I can remember when I discovered I was pregnant with Zach. My immediate thoughts revolved around our life and how Evan, having been an only-child for eight years, would handle a sibling after all of that time. Evan is a good kid, a kind kid. But Evan is also over-indulged. Everything we had ever done was about him. The toys he wanted, the resttaurants he preferred, the activities he wanted to do. Extra money? Hmmm, what to buy Evan? Suddenly, some of that was over. No warning, as we had none. And then we had Zach, and I wondered and worried some more. How were the two of them going to relate to one another when I had them so far apart? I ensured that they will never have anything in common with the age gap of eight plus years between them. Well, amazing child that he is, Evan stunned me. He loves his baby brother. He looks out for him. He will start endless campaigns to get Zach new toys if he feels Zach would love them. He almost tries to parent Zachary. He is his Big Brother, and he took to the role like he was made for it all along. But suddenly, the summer trips were not about just a break or us missing him. This past trip has been a little difficult. Sweet and heart-breaking, too.

It started in the car. We met John’s mom and step-dad at the halfway point, each of us driving 2 hours. We all ate lunch together. And then it was time to go. We distracted Zach while Evan got in the car and buckled his seatbelt. And then Zach saw him in the car and the whimpers started. “Bubby?”, blended with the sound of little tears. And As we drove off, the crying got a little worse until he finally fell asleep. I thought that would be the end of it, until he woke about an hour later with he same little whimper. Bubby was gone, had gone “Bye-bye in the car”, and no nap could make that go away. He got to where he was eventually okay, but it took a little while. Then the week without Evan started. He came back here to this house with the children’s photos all over the place. And everyday this week, he has awakened and run to the window to look for Bubby to return in the car.  And at night, when we make our nightly call to Evan to tell him we love and miss him, to hear about all of the fun things he is getting to do (“A waterpark?”, “Just how big was that fish you caught?”), to remind him to behave, to wear his sunscreen, and not let Grandma forget his medicine, we can hear it in his voice: the tears, always, when he gets to the part where he tells Zach that he loves him.

When I had my kids, I got kind of selfish. They are mine. Nobody can love them the way I do. The primary relationship is with me, their mother. The hand that rocks the cradle and all of that. But I forget. I didn’t create children. I created lives. Lives that are rich with others who love them also. And this week has shown me that all of the worrying I did about the age gap between children was for nothing. These boys are as bonded together as I am with each of them. I created brothers. They are in it together, and while they may be too far apart to enjoy the same things, they know each other. Zach, in Evan’s absence, would get excited when the shows Evan likes would come on the television. Evan would call me to tell me that “Bubble Guppies” (the one and only show Zachy watches and enjoys) was about to come on. Evan saw something in a store down there that Zach would like, and up here, at the weekly trip to the grocery store, Zach expected us to pick up the things Evan likes. It seems that the topic, all week long, has been Zach’s Bubby.

So I am going to leave you with this: Zach latched on to a photo of Evan and carried it around most of the week. He wouldn’t give it up. I would have to sneak it from him at times when he would not be supervised, since the frame had glass in it. But that was Zachy’s way of keeping his Bubby with him all week.

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Another Year

On Sunday, Zachary turned two.

Two.

I cannot believe he has been in our lives for two whole years. I should be able to spew some poignant tribute to his wonderous persona. I’m sorry to be failing you in that respect. I simply can’t come up with the words. This past weekend was too much of an emotional roller coaster for me.

It all started with a trip to take the boys to see John’s parents. We haven’t been able to make the trip since Thanksgiving. That alone was enough to induce tears when John’s mom quietly whispered, in a resigned tone, that Zachy just didn’t know her. I felt guilty for keeping the boys from her, though I cannot help it. I gave living down there a try and it just did not work. This is where work and school are. We have a life up here that we simply did not have down there. And then it was Sunday.

Zach’s Birthday.

Also? It was Mother’s Day.

We were so busy traveling the four-hour trip, packing and unpacking the brightly-wrapped and be-ribboned packages fro the car, keeping the boys from tearing up Grandma’s house, well, that I completely forgot. It was May 13th. It was Mother’s Day Weekend. And I completely forgot thatt it was also the day after May 12th.

I forgot Mom’s Birthday. I didn’t take a second to stop and honor her memory, and then I felt even more guilt. For each year since her death, May 12th has been horrendous. Depressing and sad as I wallow in missing my Mom. And I have hated Mother’s Day for the same reason.

I forgot this year. I was wrapped up in Zachary, subconsciously procrastinating the memory of the Motherless Daughter. And as I saw the mother-daughter pairs at Zachy’s birthday party later in the day, I started to cry. And then the thought of my littlest baby growing up…I actually had to remove myself for a few minutes to get myself together. When I emerged, only John, who knows me best, could tell I had been crying. He is also the only one who would not have to ask why.

So I put on my smile: the smile of a mom.  The smile of a host. It started out so …fake. Then it was time.

Dimmed lights. The flicker of a “2” candle. Happy Birthday, Dear Zachary. And I watched my honey-blomde angel relish his homemade red velvet birthday cake, made from scratch by his other Grandma–the one who is still living. I giggled as he squished handfuls into his face. I laughed out loud when we looked at the cake and icing goo between his fingers, exclaiming, “Ewwwwww!”,as he reached out and wiped them on me. We laughed some more when he threw a fit to go outside afterward, and we all chipped in to move his mountain of presents outside to make him happy. And I stood over him, taking photos at the top of his beautiful little head as he opened his gifts that were hand-picked by so many who love him.

For so many years, I have missed my mother while loathing this time of year. And Zachary was born this time of year, over six weeks before his due date. He came into the world in a manner that seemed so serendipitous, but now more than ever, I am questioning that. As a mom, I know that a mother will do anything in her power to ensure her children are taken care of. Does that translate to the beyond as well? Did my mother fix this time of year for me by sending a surprise little boy who looks just like her?

So that night, as Zach went to sleep, I watched over him. My mind flashed back on the little moments that have made up the time since his last birthday. On the day I found out I was pregnant with him. Evan made me love life. And then I got caught up in goals and plans and obligations. Then someone sent me Zachary. I was reminded of the beauty and wonder in the world and of what really, truly mattered in life. And I remembered how to laugh and smile again. There weren’t many who could have done that. John. Evan. Now Zach. And my Mom could’ve. Only them.

I’m not sure what else I have to say here. Not sure how to explain. I know I am failing mmiserably, like I said. So I am going to just stop here after I say one more thing.

I love you, Zachy. I love you, Mom. Happy Birthday to both of you.