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?

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.”

halloween2015

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

Happy New Year

second grade

I have a second grader, you guys. A SECOND GRADER. Parenthood is the wildest of wild rides, and the absurdly fast rate at which your children grow is part of that wildness. It’s SERIOUSLY like you give birth, and then you blink your eyes and they are feeding themselves, totally potty trained, reading books, losing teeth, riding bikes, and all the other surprises that lie ahead.

Yesterday was the first day of second grade, and it started off with a bang. Well, a shake. There was a pretty sizable earthquake across the bay, and we felt a little rumble out here at the beach. I was sitting on the couch, trying to enjoy my cup of tea, and I felt the room rumble. I got prepared to yell at my kids to get back to eating their breakfast, and looked at them to find them eating their Fruit Loops like perfect angels.

The day seemed to go pretty well. He was also in an after school program for the first time ever, which has him in school until 6pm, which I worried would be too long of a day for him. But, all things considered, he held up pretty well.

I spoke today with his teacher about his SPD and all of his quirks, and she seemed really positive, and eager to help. So, I’m feeling really optimistic about this year. As you might recall, last year was a total drag and he had a really hard time. We’re hoping things are much smoother in second grade.

SECOND GRADE. You guys.

Seven

It’s so hard to believe Bowie is turning 7. Last year I thought the same thing about 6. Six seemed like such a big number for such a little boy. And now 7. Each year older a kid gets is like moving one point on the Richter scale. It’s just one more, but exponentially more different than the last.

His birthday always seems to fall right around the time the school year is wrapping up, which makes it all feel very formal and official. And so I hereby decree that he shall now pass on to the next year of his life.

He asked me to tell him a funny story about the day he was born. So, I said, “the first thing I ever said to you was, ‘thank God you’re finally out.” Which I thought was funnier than he did. But then I told him about how he didn’t cry, he just looked at me very intently, and I said little things to him and he held my finger tightly. And he said, “That’s ’cause I’ve always loved you, mama.”

This year has been a positive one, despite having a teacher that was very unwilling to help us with his SPD issues in the classroom. He is excelling in math and reading, and is making friends (that’s kinda hard for him to do). He’s still acting out, but the incidents are fewer and further in between.

At home he’s become more agreeable, more helpful and more loving toward us. He’s finding lots of new hobbies and interests. He cannot get enough Minecraft these days. He plays the game on all of the electronic devices in our house, he watches YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft, he has Minecraft figurines, Minecraft Legos, Minecraft books, book marks, pencils, clothing…so much Minecraft.

But, I figure it’s a safe game for him to be playing. We limit his time sitting in front of a screen. But, what I mean is, he’s learning while he plays, and it allows him to explore his creativity. He comes up with, and then builds, some pretty impressive stuff. It’s also something that gives him a great sense of pride, in a world that gives him few opportunities for that.

Seven is walking the two blocks to Auntie’s house all by himself. Seven is no more training wheels. Seven is showing signs of growing out of the worst of the SPD. Seven is helping out around the house. Seven is learning to tell time, count money and tell mom what kind of clouds those are in the sky. Seven is less fanfare around a lost tooth. Seven is wearing boxer shorts, not little boy underpants. Seven is getting kissed by a girl on the playground.

It’s hard to believe he’s turning 7, because you’d think after 7 years of parenting, I’d have more of a handle on all of this. But, the truth is, they are always changing, growing, evolving into the adult they are going to become. Every day is a new set of challenges, and I’m sure I’ll feel as clueless at 17 as I do at 7.

Seven is traditionally a lucky number, and I have high hopes for him this year to come.

bowie's 7th

Reason #4954 Parenting is Just the Best

Over the past week or two, we have slowly ventured into the parenting minefield known as potty training with Ferris. He usually goes on the potty in the morning and before bed, and maybe once in between. I was afraid we were heading into “waited too long” territory, but it finally started happening.

With Bowie, we were new parents and we started right when he turned 2, thinking that’s just when you started, that’s just how it worked. We’d put him on the potty every few hours, like a puppy, and give him a little treat when he went, and then in a few weeks he’d be all potty trained, just like that. Over and out.

Any seasoned parent reading this knows that’s not entirely how it goes. And with Bowie, it ended up being as easy and enjoyable as giving a dental exam to a hungry lion. And the journey that began when he turned 2 didn’t end until he was about to turn 4. There were many a day spent at home with him running around completely naked from the waist down so he could make a mad dash to the potty when he felt that urge. We gave more than one UPS guy the most interesting day of his career.

So, when it came to Ferris, we took a much more relaxed stance on the issue. We encouraged it, of course, but never forced it. Some days he was excited about it, some days not so much. But, it’s starting to work. He’s getting self-aware, knowing when he has to go, though he generally just tells us as he’s going, or shortly after. But, we’ll get there, slowly but surely. And then we wait for our good friend, regression.

But, it’s also been a good 3 years since we’ve really had to worry about the issue at all, and so much of it has been blocked out and tucked away in my subconscious to protect my sanity. I feel like we’re totally new at it again. I hesitate to use a reward system, because we have been showering him with praise whenever he’s successful, which he hates (a trait no doubt inherited from his mama).

So, what were your experiences like? Any pointers for anyone out there doing this for the first time? Any tried and true methods? What motivates a kid who hates praise?

As you can see, he’s having a blast with it, and giving us all that toddler respect for elders.

ferris on the throne

 

Growing Up

Yesterday the director of Ferris’ preschool announced that there were 6 weeks left in the school year. And it triggered that familiar twinge I get each year at this time. Another school year in the books. My babies are another year older.

To add insult to injury, Bowie’s birthday always falls right around the last day of the school year. So he truly does turn a year older.

I know if you’re a parent and you’re reading this that I’m preaching to the choir. It’s tough to see the wee ones grow up into big ones. And then bigger ones. And it’s hard to think about the day they will leave the nest.

I will be just innocently going about my day, relishing in how little my children still are, and then I will see a picture of them from one year ago, and realize just how big they have gotten. And then I say, “Stop growing up so fast!” And I’m only like, half kidding.

But, when they do something completely amazing, like form their first full sentence, or read their first full sentence, or use the bathroom all by themselves, or help their friend up after they fall. Then you’re so proud. You puff out your chest and smile ear to ear, and think to yourself, “I made that. Me. I did.”

I remember when Bowie was little I would think, “Two is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” But then three was awesome. “Three is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” And then four was awesome too. And so on, and so forth.

Every new step comes with its own challenges and new horizons. And you look back on the previous years as being so easy. Why didn’t I just slow down and enjoy that more? Why did I think that was so hard?

But, every new step also comes with its own really amazing stuff. Suddenly your kid is capable of things you never even thought of waiting for them to do. And you can have conversations with them. And you can enjoy just hanging out with them. It’s much more relaxing at 6 that it is at 2, for sure.

I know the teen years are hard. Even if only because I was so terrible myself as a teen. But, I know that it will also be great for so many new reasons. And then when they are grown, yes they will leave me, but then I get to watch them go out into the world and become something.

I’ll sit back and watch and think, “I made that. Me. I did.”

boys at the park

 

Two Point Five

It’s handy that Ferris’ half birthday falls on St. Patrick’s Day, because it makes it so easy to remember. And I want to document it all, because at this age, they change so much and so quickly, you might as well give an update every hour.

I’ve noticed so many things about him lately. I think this year, between ages 2 and 3, is one of the most exciting times to watch your child grow. They come out of the baby phase and learn to really communicate and socialize, and they become a real “kid.”

The thing that’s really striking to me, and just interesting, is that Ferris seems to be the kind of kid that can pick up an activity, pretty much any activity, and instantly be good at it. He’s not very self-conscious, so he’s willing to try just about anything. He’s not afraid to admit when he’s scared and he wants to give something up. And he’s not very clumsy, compared to some kids. (Including his big brother, who was very clumsy, awkward, shy and unwilling to try anything new without some major encouragement.)

He’s so proud of his accomplishments too. When he succeeds at a new task, like climbing a steep ladder to a slide for instance, he jumps and dances around and says, “I did it!!!!” over and over again. And he’ll make sure everyone in earshot knows he did it.

He’s making friends in preschool, real friends, and he’s turning out to be pretty loyal. He asks about his friends when they aren’t at school. And he can recall events from his day at school, and even from days before. He’s getting more articulate and starting to use whole sentences, so he will recount his day for me on the way home, and it’s crazy cute.

He shows empathy and concern really well for his age. When another child is crying, he wants to investigate, and he asks, “Aw, what’s wrong?” When he sees a crack in the street or  some damage to a car or a house, he gasps and says very dramatically, “Broken.” And he wants to fix it. The other day, my husband was home sick from work and had a depressing (but good) documentary on. Ferris had no idea what the subject matter of the movie was, nor could he fully understand what was being said, but he got enough of a vibe from people’s expressions to know it was sad, and every couple of minutes he’d say, “Awwww.”

He’s not really a big fan of sweets. Of course, he likes sweet things, like any other kid, but he doesn’t like to have a lot of it in one sitting. And he usually won’t eat anything cakey or cookie-like. Even his tolerance for sweet cereal is limited. We give the boys Honey Nut Cheerios for general daily breakfast, but we have some goodies on hand like Cocoa Krispies, Apple Jacks, etc. that we allow on the weekends or the occasional after-school snack. But, he will choose the Cheerios over those almost every time. I think he’s like his mama this way.

Now that he’s big enough to defend himself, we’ve reached the era of Brother Fist Fights. It would be hilarious if not for that whole getting hurt thing. I’m breaking up no less than a dozen fights a day. Do girls fight this way? So physical and rough? Anyone got any great tips on getting it to stop? Or will they still be giving each other noogies at Thanksgiving dinner in 20 years?

Favorite things: Gogurt, milk, hummus, gum, “Blankie” and “Monkey”, Thomas, Caillou, Bob the Builder, running, jumping, going on walks outside the stroller, the beach, the park, anything and everything that Big Brother is doing, eating, saying, wearing or feeling.

Least favorite things: Holding hands to cross the street, being stuck in a stroller, someone helping him go up/down stairs or opening/closing doors or getting in/out of the car, not being allowed to fully subsist on Gogurt and milk alone, the post-school pre-brother-gets-home early-afternoon slump where he’s tired enough to nap, but refuses to actually nap.

Why oh why do they have to grow up so much and so quickly?

Here’s an action “I did it!” shot. Remember this play structure? He tackled it. Like a boss.

 

i did it