"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, June 29, 2014

make your own Flower Petal Stained Glass

Today, Evan found it shower-interrupting-worthy to tell me that Max was ripping petunia blossoms off their stems. I assured him that, not only was it okay, but that he was actually doing exactly what I asked him to do. Too stubborn to concede that he was not ratting out his bro, he added, "Well, if he can pick flowers right out of the garden, then SO CAN I." I just kept shampooing and pretended not to hear.

I have been watching Jean and her girls make gorgeous flower petal stained glass for-EVER over at The Artful Parent.

Today, finally, was the day we made our own.

What you need: flower petals and contact paper


Pick your flowers, then just start sticking...


I loved watching their methods. Some of their designs were random...some were patterned...


...some were minimalist...


But all of them were beautiful.




After his third, Max said, "Mommy. I should stop. My mind is saying, 'Stop, Max!' but my heart is saying, 'Just one more, Max!'" 
"Well, are you going to listen to your mind or your heart?" I asked.
"Mommy. I gotta listen to my heart."


And...ummm...I could have done this all day.




When your designs are complete, stick 'em right up on your sunniest window. 
They're gorgeous.

Lesson Learned:
Do this. Today. 
Hopefully your kids will let you finish your shower first.

Friday, June 20, 2014

the power of conversation

It was the morning of the last day of school. The cluster of moms and dads at the bus stop was breaking up, now that we had, for the last time until late August, waved goodbye to our school-bound kiddos. Walking home, I fell into step beside two neighbors--two other moms, Karen and Jill. We walked leisurely, as Sam had already headed home with Max.

The topic of our conversation turned to him. My Maxwell. My confident and creative little boy who had worn his My Little Pony jammies to the bus stop. There had been looks...and a comment...but he's not bothered by other people's opinions of his clothing...or maybe he doesn't notice? He's often lost in his own world of rich, complex imagination.

That morning, walking towards home with the other moms, Karen mentioned how pleased she was to see that we allow Max the freedom to express himself through his wardrobe. I responded that that--the clothing--was the least of our concerns. We don't care what side of the aisle he shops on, just as long as he feels comfortable (and loved and supported) in his own skin.

I went on...a big concern of ours right now is Max's big brother. Since the beginning, Evan has had nothing but support in his heart for Max. He has answered friends and neighbors who question Max's clothing choices. "Pink isn't just for girls! Pink is a color. Colors are for everyone!" he has said, and my personal favorite: "Well, this little fella here just happens to like wearing dresses."

But he's getting older. His social life is changing. Will he start to feel societal pressures to fit in? For his brother to fit in? Of course he will. But will he, one day, hear some kids laughing at the dress-wearing boy on the bus...and join in? Or worse...will he resent his brother, and us, for putting him in the position of having to choose between joining in with his friends or sticking up for his family?

My heart aches with worry for our future. Can't we just stay right here, where it's safe, forever?

We're doing what we can to give Evan the words he'll need to educate his friends about Max so he won't, hopefully, be put in an impossible position.

"In our family, we wear what we like."

"They're not girl clothes (toys/accessories) until a girl is wearing (playing with/using) them."

"He feels more comfortable in dresses, but I feel more comfortable in pants."

"Everyone gets to pick their own favorite things."



The other mom walking with us, Jill, cut in.

"I never thought about giving words to Michael. He's had to hear comments about Ben and, now that he's older, he can stand up for him. We probably should have given him a statement or phrase, though, to have at-the-ready when he was younger and didn't know how to answer questions about Ben."

Ben is Jill's older son. He has autism. He also has an intellectual disability. His younger brother, Michael, has witnessed kids staring at his big brother....has been asked hard questions about his brother....has heard negative and hurtful comments made about his brother. And now that he's older, now that he has the words, he can say, "Please don't use the R-word. It's offensive." (And when he's even older, he can use even stronger language, when necessary.)

Michael and Evan are in not-so-dissimilar situations. And despite their differences from one another, the fact that Ben and Max stand apart from the rest of society puts them in not-so-dissimilar situations, too.

Jill and I were remarking on how our situations, though miles apart on paper, are strikingly close when it comes to a Mama's Heart. Our worry for our boys who don't quite fit into the mold that our society has created for them....Our worry, not for the boys themselves, but for what society has the capability of dulling out of them in an effort to fit them into those molds.

We were walking, noting similarities, marveling at the fact that we all...literally all of us...moms, dads, siblings, friends, anyone who has ever loved another person...we all share the common thread of worrying that, for whatever reason, the people whom we love will experience pain related to the fact that we don't all, always, fit into the perfect little boxes that the society...which is made up of US--we people who love other people...has created. We made a connection during that conversation...a human to human connection.

Jill stopped me.

"Sarah," she said. "I have to apologize to you."

I couldn't possibly imagine why.

"The other day--it couldn't have been but two days ago--we were walking, Karen and I, and we saw Max. I asked her, 'What would you do in that situation?' I was gossiping about your situation...and Max. I was judging. And I'm sorry."

I didn't really know what to say.

She went on: "And now, talking to you, realizing that you are struggling with the same worries and fears that I am...and that we're both just trying to do what's best for our kids and figuring it out as we go...we're all going through the same thing, even when our situations looks so different from the outside."

I nodded. "And if I may be so bold, Jill," I said, "I'm sure that people have looked at your family and have imagined what it would be like if their child had autism. They, too, have probably wondered, 'What would I do in that situation?'"

It was a defining moment, that conversation....that connection made. One I've replayed in my mind many times. I admire Jill's honesty. It took guts to say what she said. Major guts.

***

Is having a child with autism the same thing as having a child who is gender-creative? Nope. I know that Jill and her family have had, and will continue to have, struggles that I will never begin to understand....struggles that will last a lifetime.

I also know that the world has changed, and will continue to change, in the way we view, treat, and support people with autism and intellectual disabilities. It is no longer socially acceptable to toss around the R-word. We no longer isolate people who are cognitively impaired from the rest of society. We teach our children not to stare or point at people with mental and physical disabilities, while explaining to them that everyone's brain and body develops and grows differently, but that we're all human beings. We're all the same...because we're all different.

So let's start teaching our kids not to stare or point at the little boy in the dress, okay? Let's explain to our kids that everyone's brain and body develops differently...and some boys' brains and bodies just prefer dresses to pants.

To a little kid, this world is mysterious. They are learning new things about it and their place in it everyday. So let this be the new thing they learn today:

Clothes are for everyone. Toys are for everyone. We wear, and play with, what we like.

Lesson Learned:
Jill, who once questioned our parenting decisions in letting Max twirl through our front yard in a sundress, has now pledged to be a force for good on Max's behalf. That human to human connection we made while walking home from the bus stop changed her worldview. And as for Ben, he already had an ally in me. Oh, what a difference one casual conversation can make.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Extraction of a Supernumerary: el fin

Today was the Big Day. The day that had been looming...on our calendar since January. The day this mama was to earn some pretty serious stripes on her badge...and the boy would earn a pretty good story to tell. Today was the day of Evan's Oral Surgery...the Extraction of his Supernumerary.

We left the house at 6:45 for his 8am appointment. Google said it was an hour's drive, to a city I'd never driven to before, and I wanted to have plenty of time. We did. We had PLENTY of time. We had enough time to hang in the car for awhile, joking around and playing games on my phone. Then, when the office staff finally showed up (Yes. We were quite early.) we had time to snuggle on those comfy waiting room chairs and read the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid I had picked up for him.

And then they called his name.

And my heart started pounding.

And as he coolly and calmly followed the nurse back to the room, I wanted to cry. Instead, I was Brave Mommy. I grabbed onto his shoulder and held on tightly.

(I was only pretending to be brave.)

The doctor met us in the room, briefly gave us a (G-rated) description of the procedure to remove that ridiculous extra tooth lodged between his not-yet-descended adult front teeth, and asked if we had any questions. I had a million...mostly related to post-op pain-management and infection-spotting. He had just one: "Can I keep my tooth when you take it out?"

"Of course, you can, buddy!" Dr. B promised. "Tooth fairies LOVE special teeth like these!"

He smiled. Big. Then we posed for one more picture....


...because Dr. B also kinda sorta slipped in there that those two adorable little front baby teeth might just become the two littlest casualties of that stupid, unnecessary extra tooth.

Dr. B measured out and administered the Versed; the mild sedative that would make Ev drowsy and ease any anxiety he might have about getting the IV. For the next 30 minutes, I read to him and rubbed his back as the medicine took effect. I wanted to freeze time. I wanted to fast forward time. I wanted to chug the unused portion of that sedative. But I continued my Brave Mommy act.

It was the performance of a lifetime.

Before I knew it, Dr. B was back...it was time for me to go to the waiting room. To wait. To sit, helpless, while she put my baby to sleep, cut open the roof of his mouth, and dug out a goddamn, completely worthless, unbelievably anxiety-inducing, non-functioning, upside down, sorry excuse for a tooth supernumerary.

It was a LONG 30 minutes.

But, really, it was only thirty minutes.

They let me back to see him.

He was groggy. He was dazed. He was confused.

But he was fine. And he still had his two front baby teeth!!

Dr. B said the procedure had been a breeze. The tooth came out cleanly and easily. He did great.

She went on to say that she had only needed to administer the minimal amount of sedative to him (he was only "under" for 8 minutes) and that his bleeding was minimal. She said he was the perfect patient.

Then....looking around...she said, "Hmm. Let me find out where they put that tooth."

Several minutes later...."Well, they dug through the trash, but it was already in the bio-hazard bin. They can't get it. I'm so sorry."

My shaky, slightly delirious boy perked right up. And he was Mad. "That's it. I'm leaving now," he insisted. The nurse tried to help, " Oh, honey, that's just the medicine talking." I wanted to assure her that, no, it was Evan talking. That boy had wanted that tooth. "I'm walking out the door now!" he said, as he slid out of the chair, unable to support himself.

I picked him up and said that, yes, we could leave.

He started to cry.

So did I.

He was so disappointed.

I was so, so relieved.

He was fine. Perfect.

Sore and swollen, but nothing that a day full of ice cream and new "You're So Brave" Legos couldn't fix.

And, to be honest, I'm kinda glad we don't have that tooth. I don't want to see it. I don't want to know more than I already do about what went on in that room while I sat in the waiting room, biting my nails to the quick.

Lesson Learned:
It's over. He did it. We did it.

My brave, brave boy.


Tomorrow, Day 2 of ice cream and Legos.

But first, tonight I'll sleep.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Character Assassination Carousel: Pinkalicious, You're Such a Brat

I "met" Nicole Leigh Shaw when I followed her on Twitter because my sidebar told me to. Oh, wise, knowing Twitter sidebar. (She "met" me several weeks later after I had sufficiently stalked her.) She's funny on Twitter, so I decided to creep around her blog, Ninja Mom Blog, for awhile. (It's awesome; definitely worth a creep. Wait...that didn't come out right.) That's when I discovered the hilarity that is the Character Assassination Carousel. The way the game works is that, when it's time for your turn on the ride, you pick a "beloved" storybook character and you give 'em a good roast.


Last week, Inga at Cool Kidz Cool Trips skewered Pooh and his buds from the Hundred Acre Woods.

As a former kindergarten teacher (uh...and current mommy?) I want my kids to love reading. I held on to my classroom library from my teaching days so I could expose them to the classics...basically anything by Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Patricia Polacco, Jan Brett, and Kevin Henkes. Over time, we found new favorites for the bookshelf, mostly Mo Willems, Jim Arnosky, and The Magic Treehouse series.

But, because I want my kids to love any kind of reading, I've also succumbed to the pressures of buying Star Wars, Strawberry Shortcake, and Lalaloopsy books. I wouldn't exactly call them Fine Children's Literature, but I'm okay with that. If it gets my kid loving books and reading, I'll buy it.

Then my second child, Max, turned three. By the time his third birthday rolled around, it was clear that Max was diving deeper and deeper into a world of pink....and not just pink, but pink and sparkly and sweet. Max wanted to be a baker. He even knew what he would call his someday bakery: With Sprinkles On Top (how awesome is that?). And in that bakery, he wanted to bake pink cupcakes.

Imagine my delight when I heard about a new children's book character named Pinkalicious who also wants to bake pink cupcakes! Of course, it immediately earned a special spot on our bookshelf.


We settled in on our couch to a cozy afternoon of Reading New Books and happily started at the very beginning....


This is just like the beginning of The Cat in the Hat! How could this not be wonderful, fine children's literature?!

But then, the Mommy bakes the Rainy Day Cupcakes in the color that Pinkalicious has demanded ("Pink!" she said. "Pink, pink, pink!"), not even ASKING picky-eater, little brother Peter what he would like. I bet Pinkalicious knew full well that she'd get all the cupcakes to herself if she picked something her brother didn't like.


Even that, though, is missing the larger issue: You guys. In our house, our kids Do. Not. speak in such a demanding, obnoxious way. I mean, of course they DO, but we are constantly yelling and screaming at them to speak in a kind and loving way. And even after she's eaten the begged-for pink cupcake, she goes on: "More!" I cried. "More, more, more!" Like I need a story book character to teach my children how to be insisting, demanding, entitled little brats? I pulled the plug on Caillou years ago for that very reason. And I mean, it's not like I would ever model such rude, disrespectful behavior. Okay, not counting those mornings (every morning) when we're hurrying to get out of the house...."Shoes! Coats! Come on, guys...Move, move, Move!"

Oh. Whoops.

Anyway, back to that little brat, Pinkalicious...(and is that her given name? Probably. Have you seen her hipster parents? They're, like, super retro chic with their old-fashioned kitchen accessories, original appliances, lacy doilies, and vintage toy collection. Gag.)

So after gobbling up several Red #40-laden cupcakes, Pinky (not surprisingly) throws a spectacular tantrum, complete with stomping and tongue-sticking-outing.



How cute. Instead of serving her a spectacular consequence for her behavior, her parents serve her MORE cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes, as in plural. I don't even feel sorry for those Too Cool For School jerks.

Well, if her parents weren't going to teach her a lesson, the Universe sure as hell was going to.

Pinkalicious wakes up the next morning and she is PINK!


Unfortunately, this is exactly what she has always wanted.

The bath with industrial-strength soap didn't help. (Seriously, Daddy? You thought your daughter's entire body, including her hair and her tears, had turned pink because she had "played with markers?" Get a clue.)

Pinkalicious is pleased as Hawaiian Punch with her new look, but Mom wises up and figures it's time to visit the professionals.

Dr. Wink, the pediatrician, is not a bit surprised by the symptoms presented by her patient. In fact, she's seen this before and even has a clinical diagnosis and treatment plan for poor, little Pinkalicious: For the next week, Pinkalicious is to strictly avoid all pink foods (Hooray! for sticking it to the synthetic food dye industry!) and is to consume a steady diet of green food, to which Pinkalicious responds YUCK! Hooray! for reminding my own picky eaters that green food is gross! Wait....what? Seriously, Children's Book? WTF?

Well, the moral of the story will probably be that green foods keep bodies healthy and taste great! Let's keep reading, shall we, kids?

After a brief run-in with a swarm of bees and a flock of birds who take Pinkalicious for a peony, the family returns home.

Where Pinkalicious asks for another cupcake.

Oh my god, are you F-ing serious? How many goddamn times do you have to be told? Listen to your mother, your pediatrician, and common sense, would you, Pinkalicious? Honestly. It's hard to even keep reading this damn book.

But I turn the page and read what turns out to be the single most obnoxious part in the entire story.


After pretending to eat her dinner of "mushy" dark green veggies, Pinkalicious sneaks into the kitchen for a little, illicit midnight snack of...yup...another damn pink cupcake. How many ways are you going to teach my children to make bad choices, Pinkalicious? You are the kid I don't let my kids play with. Honestly, it's going to take years to undo the damage you've done in this one, stupid story.

Finally, she's dealt a consequence that makes an impression: Pinkalicious wakes up the next morning RED. (Oh, the humanity! Not RED!)



I had hoped that this would be the turning point in the story, the part where Pinkalicious sits down to a nice, delicious kale salad and extols the virtues of healthy eating and direction-following, but, alas.....


...she chokes down artichokes, gags on grapes, and burps up Brussels sprouts.

Thanks for nothing, you little bitch.

So Pinkalicious returns to "normal," and her family gathers in hugs and love...until.....


Ruh-roh.

You're on your own, Peter. I'm staying out of this one.

Lesson Learned:
I didn't learn any lesson from this book. In fact, reading this book made me so angry that it actually interfered with my own decision-making skills. It must have....why else would I have gone out and purchased the other FOUR books in this goddamned series?!

***
Come back for another ride on the Character Assassination Carousel when Jessica Azar at Herd Management takes on a character she just loves to hate.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

#100HappyDays

Over the past, well, 100 days, I participated in the 100 Happy Days challenge.

It's pretty simple: you pick a day to start, then, for the next 100 days, you photograph what makes you happy and tag it on social media with #100happydays

The official site says that 71% of people fail to complete this challenge. 
Most of them said it was due to a lack of time.


71% of the people who attempted this challenge didn't have time to be happy?
Surely not.
I guess it took too much time to recognize and document the happiness they did experience....


I wonder how much time those same people 
spent finding something to complain about each day.





I found it easy to make it to day 100; not because I'm happier than most or have more free time than most or wanted to prove something to myself more than most or anything like that...but because I really loved this challenge. 

I try to make it a point to find tiny moments of happiness throughout the day.

I think it's because, as a stay-at-home mom, my days can look pretty monotonous. 
Or maybe it's because moods of the day can come and go so quickly, I want to capture a happy moment in my memory before the next inevitable meltdown occurs.

Or maybe it's because I watch the news and read too many headlines and sometimes it's hard to remember that, despite the ugliness that everyone seems to be talking about all the time, there is beauty, too. More of it, actually...and it deserves to be noticed and talked about, too.

I want my kids to hear me talking about what makes me happy
more than hearing me complain about what doesn't.



Looking back through my 100 Happy Days photos, 
I noticed a few big themes in my happiness...

1) I love my kids, I do.

But writing....


...and catching up on my shows after they're in bed...


make me happy, too.

2) Chocolate, beer, and coffee....




....and not necessarily in that order, make me happy.

3) This beautiful world...


...especially our own little corner of it...


....and especially when my kids have had a part in creating it's beauty...




...make me happy.

4) And of course....these three....


Their love for each other...




...their accomplishments...





...their bright and independent little personalities...



....I just love to watch them...






...they make me Happy.

Lesson Learned:
The kids knew that I did this challenge.
They even started playing along...around the dinner table instead of on Instagram. 
We each share one happy moment from the day. We try not to repeat our answers...we try to pick a unique Happy each day.

We'll beat the 71% who couldn't find the time to be happy.


**check out the rest of my 100 Happy Days on Instagram**
http://instagram.com/echo4102

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

PSA: Time to Stock the Shelves at your local food bank

My kids can be such ungrateful little brats. Mostly because they're four and seven and they like and want All The Toys.

But even if the only permanent cure is maturation, Sam and I are going to try our damnedest to raise tiny humans who grow into happy adults who show gratitude and appreciation for what they have and achieve, while giving back to their communities what and when they can.

One of the ways we practice this now, while they're still our captive audience, is by regularly donating to our local food bank. We talk often about how there are families in our own community who don't always have enough to eat. Instead of writing a check (which can oftentimes be more useful to a food bank, we realize), we open our wallets and go grocery shopping with the specific purpose of Buying Food So Others May Eat.

Today was the day.

Evan came home from school and after a snack and a few rounds of Angry Birds: Star Wars, I announced our plan for the afternoon. Evan's school is currently hosting a food drive, so he was eager to participate. I opened up my wallet and pulled out some cash. "Okay!" I said, "Here is some extra money I can donate to the Food Bank!" He immediately headed upstairs. He came back down with $7. "I'm trying to save up for the Ewok Village Lego set," he said, "but this is extra."

Max wasn't having it. "I'm saving all of my money for me," he announced, with furrowed brow.

"Max!" Evan said, "You have to think about other people!"

Says the kid who can't stop adding things to his "wish list" and asks daily if we can just order just one little Lego set from Amazon....

I didn't want to force it, but I did remind Max that he can look in his wallet and see what he has. He might choose to save some money for himself and just pick out a few dollars to donate.

Sure enough, as we were getting our shoes on, he slipped away.

He came back with a huge smile on his face and five one-dollar bills. (They were his crumpliest dollars, but they were his dollars.)

***

Families with children who struggle with food insecurity feel the burden especially strongly in the summer months. Without schools to provide a free or reduced-price lunch (and often breakfast), families suffer.

Children suffer.

Babies go hungry.

Our neighbors' babies go hungry.

If you can, please consider donating to your local food bank now, to stock the shelves for the summer months...so children may eat.

Lesson Learned:


It's a start.