Smelling Those Roses

This time of year is odd. On the one hand, it’s summer. The kids are home and free, and the weather is nice (albeit hot here) and there’s lots of fun stuff going on.

On the other hand, school is right around the corner. It starts August 4th here. And once school starts, another year of my kiddo’s lives zips right past us. All the pick ups and drop offs and homework and field trips, and then the holidays and there’s no stopping the freight train that is time when school is in session.

I try to slow down and enjoy the days that we have. But the boys are fighting incessantly, and it’s to hot to go and do many of the things we want to. I’m simultaneously willing the school year to start, and not wanting it to at all.

The Timehop app on my phone shows me pictures from long ago, when Bowie was just a baby and a toddler. And I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and how big my kiddos are now. Even in pictures from only one year ago, they seem so small in comparison.

People often talk about what the hardest parts of parenting are. Having a newborn. Successfully breastfeeding. Getting kids to sleep through the night. Getting them to even just lay down at bedtime. Making sure they eat healthy. Keeping siblings out of each other’s hair. But I think when we really boil it down, it’s how quickly they grow up. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Every day they rely on us less and less. And eventually, they will rely on us very little, if at all. This is the way of things, of course. We did the same thing to our own parents, and they to their parents, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

So, here’s to slowing down. Enjoying every moment. Playing Legos with them, letting them splash in the bathtub a little longer. Because these moments are fleeting. Gone in a flash. And even a good old fashioned sibling WWE match can be funny and memorable if you’ve got the right mindset.

A Letter to my Sons as I Move them 800 Miles From Home

Dear boys,

I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I moved every single year in grade school. New school, new neighborhood, new friends, new everything. Every time we moved we had to start all over again. Sometimes I had to give away pets, which was so sad.

I also moved a bunch of times in middle school and high school. We just changed houses in the same city, but it came with a lot of the disruption of a long-distance move. And I switched houses every year in college.

I always told myself I would find a place I loved living and never leave. And I found San Francisco. And it has been the most amazing 10 years of my life. This city is amazing, and I felt so fortunate to be able to be raising my family here. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one city, and I consider it to by my home.

The one caveat to living in such a great city is that it costs so much. We are throwing so much money at food and rent alone, it’s a miracle we have anything leftover for other stuff. And we looked into buying a house here. Hahahahahaha. Not only would it cost us in the neighborhood of $1 million, but we’ll still be living on top of each other in one of these tiny row houses.

So, mommy and daddy decided to expand our house-buying horizons, and now we are moving to Tucson. Which you guys seem totally stoked about, but I’m afraid for the feelings that will come when reality sets in for you. And I’ve got all these childhood memories flooding back to me of how it felt to move. To be the new girl once again. To have to make a new room mine again. To have to get used to a new city’s way of doing things.

I’m sorry to be moving you to a new city. San Francisco is where you were born, and the only home you know. And I hope you’re old enough to remember how awesome that was. But, Tucson is great too. And you’ll find lots to do, and tons of new friends to hang out with.

I understand now how my mom and dad felt each time we moved. How hard it must have been for them to uproot us all those times. But, they were following opportunities, and they knew they were making the best decision. And as parents, that’s all we can do for you guys really, just close our eyes and jump into the abyss and hope this is really as right for our family as it feels right now.

We are going to make the absolute best of Tucson. It’s a fun place to live, very vibrant and beautiful. We are going to make new friends together, we are going to find our new favorite restaurants and parks and museums. We are going to get a new library card and find a new swim school. We are going to be able to do what we do here, it will just be a little different at first. But we’ll get the hang of it.

Let’s also try to enjoy our last three weeks in San Francisco. Let’s go to all of our favorite spots and say goodbye. Goodbye for now, because it’s not as if San Francisco is going anywhere, we can and will visit.

It’s going to be awesome, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. I love you guys.

Mom

Someday You’ll be Taller Than Me, But I’ll Still Hug You When You Cry

Bowie is about to turn 8. And most of the time he’s pretty grown-up acting. He mostly doesn’t need help in the bathroom anymore. He can shower himself, dress himself, and do a lot of his own homework. He can even make himself certain foods.

But, there are still those moments when something in this cruel world didn’t go away, and I find myself hugging my crying baby once again.

I thought the other day, as I just thought about how fast they grow, and the genetics of my family, and how more than likely my sons will both be taller than me. Before I know it.

And I want them to know:

I will always hug you when you cry. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed. If other people shame you, come find your mom. I will always be there for you to let you cry, to support you, to offer advice when you want it.

When I brought you into this world, I took on the role of mother, a role that never ends. I am your mom forever. Even if something happens to you, even if something happens to me, I will always be your mom.

And right now, you are small. Coming to me for a hug when life sucks comes pretty naturally. But as the years go on, you will come to me less and less. But, I hope you never stop coming to me when you need me. You’re never too big or too old to get a good comforting hug from mom, to cry on mom’s shoulders, to get the love you need when the world isn’t giving it to you.

Someday you’ll be taller than me, but I will still hug you when you cry.

I Had my Baby on my Due Date. But You Probably Won’t.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. My youngest is 3, so birth stories aren’t exactly relevant. But I have a lot of friends and family having their babies lately, many of them having their first babies. And the topic was on my mind I guess. Anyway, this is all about due dates and how it’s all a sham.

I did NOT have Bowie on my due date. In fact, that little dude stayed in 8 days past my due date. I was devastated. I tried to have my midwife do a “membrane sweep” which is apparently impossible if you’re not dilated at all. Which I was not. I wept in the hospital room when they told me if he didn’t come over the weekend that they’d induce me on Monday. I really didn’t want to be induced. I decided he would just be a June baby rather than the May baby we thought he would be, and I’d wait. And wait. And then in the wee hours of May 31, I went into labor and 18 hours later he was here.

Ferris was different. I went to the doctor on my due date. She examined me and found I was already at 5 centimeters, and we both started freaking out. The exam triggered contractions and she gingerly walked me down to labor and delivery and they admitted me, and 6 hours later he was born. On my due date.

Studies say that only 5% of women actually give birth on their due dates. Far fewer when it is their first baby. Due dates are crap. They are just a day that they assign you to give birth based on the approximate time you conceived. It means nothing, really. It gets all your hopes up and when the day comes on your calendar you get all excited, and then nothing happens and you’re pissed because you’re so sick of being pregnant.

Really, all women should just forget about their due dates. Sure, use it as a benchmark for when your baby is fully cooked and ready to come out, but not a plan for when the baby will come out.

Your body knows what it’s doing, and your body will push that baby out when it’s good and ready. Your due date means zilch when you’re body’s got it all under control. Try not to put too much stock into it. Baby might even decide to come before your due date. Lucky you! Unless it’s too early. That’s a whole different ball game.

What about you? Did you have any of your kids on your due date? Anyone you know? How early/late were your littles?

The Way Things Are Supposed to Be

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my older son Bowie has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He’s also emotionally volatile and fragile, likely as a result of his condition being misunderstood for so long, but he’s also just a sensitive guy.

My husband, my younger son and I spend a good deal of time just negotiating life with Bowie. Handling outbursts. Avoiding outbursts. Trying to give him everything he needs and deserves to be happy, healthy and successful.

I think, for the most part, we’ve grown accustomed to it. Often people passing us on the street mid-breakdown are astonished at his behavior, and that we appear to be so nonplussed by it. But there are those days when he has one too many breakdowns, and our nervous systems just can’t handle any more. Or, we get a lecture from a stranger about what a shit job we’re doing raising our shit kid. And then I just lose it. My husband appears to hold up okay, but I bet he’s losing it too.

Our younger son Ferris is around the age now that Bowie was when we first started to suspect there might be a problem. And so far, Ferris doesn’t seem to exhibit and of those troublesome traits (knock on wood). He’s a much calmer, more agreeable child. Of course he throws fits, he is just three after all, but it’s nowhere near the level we were dealing with for Bowie.

I find myself sometimes alone with Ferris and thinking, this is how it is supposed to be. This is how it was always supposed to be.

I don’t have to worry about Ferris randomly punching another child. I don’t have to worry about him yelling, “Fuck you!” at another child, or at me. I don’t have to worry that he’ll bite another child, or another parent. I don’t have to drag him kicking and screaming from a crowded public place because he’s completely overwhelmed. I don’t have to worry that he will head butt my face, sock me in the eye or kick me in the teeth.

Yes, Bowie actually did all of these things.

It’s the trouble with having your first child be a child with special needs. If you have another child, you get a glimpse into what a “normal” kid is like, and the whole special needs situation that you thought you had the hang of suddenly seems so very abnormal. 

It’s not that I wish to change Bowie in any way. He is my son and I love him 100%, difficulties and all. I never let my brain get to that place where I start to wish he were different. I stop those thoughts dead in their tracks. Because that’s not how I feel.

Sometimes I just wonder what life would have been like for us, what life could have been like for Bowie, if we weren’t dealing with SPD. It would have shaped our family so differently. But would that have been a good thing or a bad thing?

And how do people cope with larger issues? Bowie’s SPD is no walk in the park, but it’s pretty low on the scale of special needs in kids. What is it like for people who have it a little harder than us? I feel like I should just be grateful that Bowie is difficult, yes, but manageable.

I’d love to hear from other parents of kids with special needs. Or people who are friends with them. Do they ever get caught up in this “what if?” thinking? And do they feel mass amounts of parental guilt because of it? Is it taboo to talk about your other child(ren) as “easier?”

Just some stuff I’ve been musing on lately.

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It’s the Most Modest Time of the Year

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. The holidays were simple. Great! But, simple. My mom and dad always did their best, and we always had good gifts.

It wasn’t just Christmastime that it was like that. We ate simply, and I argued with my mom every single year when it was time to get back-to-school clothes. But, the hot pink dress flats! All the girls in my class will have them!

We have a lot more money than my parents did. But, I want to raise my sons to know there’s more to life than possessions. I feel like I grew up with an appreciation for things. With the ability to wait and save up for things I really wanted. How to tell the difference between something I wanted and something I needed. I know the value of a dollar.

In today’s world, this is an all but forgotten concept. Especially in the United States, kids are raised to think they can have anything they want, and be surrounded with stuff. Hardly anyone tries to raise their kids to be happy with what they have, and to be happy with less.

We keep the toy box half empty. They don’t need every single toy they see on TV. And they don’t need 1,000 different things to keep them happy. A set of blocks, a few Matchbox cars, a train set, some art supplies. This fosters creativity, and a true appreciation when we do introduce a new toy. After a while of getting all the toys they want all the time, receiving a gift begins to lose its meaning.

It’s not that I don’t want to shower them with a ton of gifts. I love my children with all my heart, and want them to have more than I did when I was younger. But, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a balance. Good, nice gifts, but not every toy on the shelf. More presents than I got as a kid, but not a gigantic pile under the tree.

What’s your philosophy? Do you get your kids new stuff all the time? If you can’t afford to do that, are you sad that you can’t get more? How do you talk to your kids about money/consumerism?

Halloween 2015

I hope you and yours had a great Halloween. Ours was tons of fun. This was the first year Ferris really understood what was going on, and it was really cute. We bought his costume ages ago because he saw it at Costco and fell in love. He talked for months about being a firefighter for Halloween. While we were trick-or-treating, if he forgot to say “trick or treat” at a house, he’d immediately stop and tell us, “Oops I forgot.” Then he’d yell at the top of his lungs, “TRICK OR TREAT!” back at the house he forgot. It was hilarious.

We also had the Last Minute Costume Change with Bowie, who went to school on Friday as a Creeper from Minecraft, and then Halloween night decided he absolutely had to squeeze into the 4T monster costume he’d worn in Halloween past. It worked, but barely. Sorry kid, no monster costume next year.

I know a mom that either doesn’t take her kids trick-or-treating, or she takes them but they give all the candy away. She asked me, “what do you do with all that candy?!” I had to fight the urge to say, “Eat it when they’re not looking. AMIRITE.”

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“Worry is literally betting against yourself.”

Before I even had children, I was worried about how I would pay for their college education.

I’m serious.

I’ve always been a worrier. I worry about pretty much everything. Like, all the time. And, despite helpful tidbits of advice from non-worriers, such as “just stop worrying!” I still do. I can’t help it.

I’ve received a lot of help over the years for my worrying, really my anxiety, but I still tend to worry. A lot.

When I did have my first child, I was told by someone, or I read somewhere, that as a mother, “It’s your job to worry.”

But, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It’s your job to enjoy their childhood before it’s gone. It’s your job to feed and clothe them, and provide for them. It’s your job to provide them with emotional support. But, it is not your job to worry. If you don’t worry, you’re not being a bad mother (or parent). You’re just a heck of a lot better at dealing with reality than us worriers.

Where did we get it in our heads that it was not only our responsibility to worry, but our job?! As if we were getting paid to be worried. If that were true, I’d be the richest woman on planet earth.

This is where helicopter parenting comes from: worry. Worry that they will fall down and get hurt. Even though when we fell down as children, our parents were like, “Are you bleeding? Don’t get it on the carpet.” Kids get hurt, it just happens. No amount of worrying will prevent it.

And we worry they won’t do well in school. When in reality, all kids do well in some subjects, and not so well in others, and it’s up to us to find the weaknesses and help our children in those areas. Not to accost the teacher and demand that they raise our child’s grades just because. We can help our children, but we cannot learn for them, and no amount of worrying will help us in that area either.

We worry about their health. But this too is pretty pointless. All we can do is take the proper precautionary methods, and the rest is up to the environment. We can try to shield them from germs, inoculate them against diseases, get regular check ups, watch for early signs of trouble. But, they will still get sick, regardless of our worry.

And of course we worry about providing for them. In a world where resources are growing scarce, and money isn’t always there when we need it, we worry that we can’t get what we need. But, there are resources if we really fall into trouble. All we can do is get through one day at a time, making sure we have what we need, and hoping for the best tomorrow.

Me telling someone not to worry is the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black. But I’m going to tell you anyway: stop the madness, stop worrying yourself sick. We can’t sit back and enjoy their babyhood and childhood while it’s here if we’re busy looking at what might or might not happen to them in the future. And we worry ourselves into a tailspin of negative emotions. We get so caught up in fear and worry that we start to be worried for other people’s kids too. And then it’s just too much.

Don’t let fear take over your life, especially not where your kids are concerned. Your job is to love them. That’s it, really.

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What’s the Haps

Hi all. Now that it’s fall, and the kids are back in school, and everyone is back from whatever fabulous summer adventure they went on, I get asked a lot, “What’s new?” My answer is long and rambly, because there’s a lot of little random new things with me. Thought I’d share it with my bloggy friends too.

1. I got a nose ring. Not really big news. But, new. A modest tiny shiny stone of some sort. Most people don’t even notice it, even people I’ve known for years. When I point it out they say it “just fits your personality.” Which I don’t know how to take, I guess. But, it’s fun, and it’s one of those things I always wanted to do. Actually, when I got my eyebrow pierced 15 years ago (I’ve since taken that one out) I had regrets that I didn’t do the nose instead. So, another one checked off the bucket list. And I love it.

2. I am in school! I’m in an online program with Penn Foster for a vet tech degree. It’s like a nurse but for animals. I’m so excited, and can’t wait to be done and get a fun job. I have always had a love for animals, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how intensely I love them and I want to work with them. I think it’s a combo of losing my 19 year old kitty recently, and through the magic of the Internet, seeing that there are so many animals that need help. Pets get surrendered at shelters and rescue organizations for the dumbest things, like “he pooped too much.” And all the abused and neglected animals, it just breaks my heart. With my degree I’d like to work with the SPCA or a shelter or rescue organization. It will feel so wonderful to get to work with animals every day, and make a difference in their lives.

3. Speaking of animals, we recently got two pet rats. Their names are Laverne and Shirley, after the show, which was a childhood favorite of mine. (The vet called to confirm “Shirley and Laverne’s check up” and I was like wut. Somebody doesn’t know their 80s TV shows.) They are sweet and gentle and wonderful. I was worried that our cat would torment them and stalk their cage. She has a history. But, she seems like she couldn’t care less. They, of course, are terrified of her, but that’s easily solved. They really are a great pet for kids. Better than a hamster or gerbil because they can be easily handled, and smaller than a bunny or guinea pig for keeping in your house. And I have not been bitten once, not even a nip, they’re very gentle. Two more members of the family.

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4. Ferris turned three! I really should be dedicating an entire post to that, but who has the time? H’s really forming his little personality, and it’s so fun.  He asks for water all the time now. It’s only so he can fake belch, but whatever, he’s drinking water. Favorite phrases: “No.” “I hate it.” “I love it.” “Two minutes.” (As in, I’ll do it in two minutes, a phrase picked up from mommy and daddy.) He absolutely loves miniature people and furniture and animals, so we got him a dollhouse for his birthday. Big hit. And he’s hit the picky eating stage. He used to be my great eater, I bragged about it all the time. No more. In case you were wondering if a kid could survive and grow on milk and white bread, I’m here to tell you yes, it’s possible.

5. Bowie started second grade. His teacher this year is amazing. We are over the moon for her. She was immediately so much more supportive of his classroom needs and tolerant of his issues. I couldn’t be happier. There’s only been one major incident with another child, and even that was mild. This time last year, we’d already had two classroom meetings and a meeting with the principal, and he was back in OT. He’s now not currently in OT and we’ve not had a single call from school. I’m so happy. For me, but so much more for him. He’s figuring it out. I am so glad to see him growing and maturing in this way.

So, there you have it. Lots going on. But life is good. What’s the haps with you?

I Don’t Think I Know What I’m Doing Anymore

Bowie’s different than most kids.

He’s super emotional and sensitive and he’s like that most of the time. And he’s been that way for most of his life.

His response in a fight or flight situation is always to fight.

We’ve been told over the years that it’s his SPD. He is much more easily annoyed by things that you and I can deal with, or just plain don’t notice. A breeze. An itchy underwear tag. The hum of a truck parked outside of his classroom. Bright lights. A ticking clock.

One of the things that really gets him going is when another overly energetic kid gets too close to him. Makes too much noise around him. Pokes at him in some way. And continues to do that after Bowie has asked them to stop, which we’ve fought so hard to tell him to do over the years.

Yesterday he hit a kid on the head with his lunchbox (which is metal, btw) for following him around the schoolyard after Bowie had asked him to leave him alone. He told us he didn’t see an adult that could help him, and in his own kid words he told us he did what he had to do.

To add insult to injury, this is a kid that is not in his class this year, but was in his Kindergarten class and his first grade class. A kid that he has a love-hate relationship with. Most of the time they’re buddies and get along great, but when this kid, one of the “overly energetic” types I mentioned, does something Bowie doesn’t like, Bowie responds violently.

He is the roughest with those he loves the most, but how do I explain that to this kid’s parents? And now, after two full years of explaining the whole SPD situation to them, and apologizing profusely after every incident, and doing my best damage control and sucking up to them and planning afterschool playdates so they can “learn to get along better”, it has happened AGAIN. More violent behavior.

There comes a time when sympathy for Bowie’s situation runs dry, and he’s just The Kid That Hurts Other Kids. It’s easy for us to tell him 100 times a day to think before he acts, but not so easy for him to actually do that.

He’s rough with us at home too. All three of us. And we take it, over and over again, because we are so familiar with how hard it is for him to navigate life. We’ve seen him at his most tender times, we know how sweet and loving he can be when he’s got the energy for it. But, most of the time, we generally just don’t like being around him. He feels the safest around us, so he lets all of his emotions run wild in front of us. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Unfortunately, those are the emotions he goes to first.

So, I’m starting to wonder, when is a kid just a difficult kid, and when do more drastic measures need to be taken?

He’s been in and out of occupational therapy for his SPD for years. And it helps him, it really does. But maybe he needs talk therapy. Maybe all those years of the adults in his life punishing him for just being himself has done some damage. Maybe it makes him depressed that there are kids at his school that are too afraid to play with him. Maybe he’s starting to turn some hatred inward because he’s so out of control of his own impulses.

All I know, is I remember the first time I laid eyes on him, and he lay in my arms so peacefully, just staring at my face as I cooed at him. So calm. I want to rewind and start over. Do it differently this time. Because surely it’s my fault that he’s like this now.

My sweet, quiet, calm boy is still there. I still see glimpses of it once in a while. But life has really got him down lately. And I don’t know what to do.

Bowieatbeach