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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An Open Letter of Appreciation

Dear Mrs. C,

I had feared the beginning of Kindergarten since my first-born baby was about three months old. (Before that, life was a blur.) I worried about letting him go. I worried about what he would be exposed to. I worried about the other kids--would be be well-liked? Would he make a friend? Would he be confident but not obnoxious? Would he show his true, beautiful and vibrant, colors or would he hide behind the veil of introversion as his mommy often did?

And then, we learned of his food allergies. All of my worries were trumped by my newest Worry: Would he be safe?

But also: Would he feel excluded during food-related school events? Would he be taunted? Teased? Peer-pressured into "trying" one of his allergens? Would there be someone there, when I couldn't be, to look over his shoulder and double check that ingredient list?

And, as if I wasn't already up-all-night as it was, we started to trip and stumble our way into the murky, undefined waters of sensory processing disorders and anxiety. And as Evan began to speak up for himself when presented with a new food ("Is that safe for me? I'm allergic to peanuts, you know."), I became overwhelmed with a new Worry...one that will probably always be with me, as it is for all parents, of all children....

Will my baby be happy?

Will he be loved?

Almost exactly a year ago, with a couple of deep breaths trying to settle a couple of nervous tummies, I kissed my Kindergartner goodbye as he stepped onto the bus, headed off to his first day of School.

And waiting for him in the doorway of that first classroom on that first day, was Mrs. C.

And he was loved.
And he was happy.
And he was safe.

And there was more.
He made friends!
He learned to read!
He sculpted with (wet, slimy, squishy, not amenable to children with sensory issues) CLAY!
He wrote stories!
He READ HIS STORY ALOUD into a microphone in front of a live audience!
He SANG and DANCED on STAGE during the kindergarten musical!

He gained confidence.
He honed his sense of humor.
He started saying things like, "But Mrs. C said....." and, "Well, according to Mrs. C...." and, "Never mind, Mom, I'll just ask my teacher."

And I've been trying since Teacher Appreciation Week to find the words to adequately express my gratitude and appreciation for everything you've given to and done for my boy. (And for me.) But I don't think those words exist, so these will have to do.

Mrs. C, Thank You.
Thank you for teaching my son. Thank you for loving him. Thank you for believing in him and for building him up. And through it all, thank you for supporting me, during what you knew in your Mother Heart to be a very difficult transition for me.

I hope that you have had a restful and rejuvenating summer vacation because I know that in a few short weeks you will be back again, giving every ounce you have to your new group of Kindergartners. And while I'm envious of the parents of your Bees-to-be, because they, and surely their children, are among the luckiest ones....I, and Evan, too, will approach the beginning of this new year, First Grade, with the confidence and positivity that we learned from you.

And it will be another great year.

With love, thanks, and most sincere appreciation,
(and Evan)

Lesson Learned:
It's easier to let go when you have someone so wonderful waiting and ready to catch him.

Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that this one-in-a-million teacher will see me through my next two Kindergartners-to-be.....

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Calm the F* Down

There's a new Theory of Parenting circulating around the internet. Coined by David Vienna, of The Daddy Complex, the CTFD method promises to simplify your life and still result in happy, successful, well-rounded children. CTFD, of course, stands for Calm the F* Down, and is directed not at your children, but right at you, Mom and Dad.

Here's why I like this method:
Regardless of whether or not you stress over it, your child will, most likely, figure out how to ambulate, communicate, eat something, sleep at some point, use the potty, make a friend, function within a society, and secure gainful employment as an adult. And, more likely than not, love you, his or her devoted and supportive parent. So just enjoy it, right? Just calm down and enjoy it.

Here's why I don't:
I can't Calm Down. I am, by nature, a Worrier. And, more importantly, I am, by biological reproduction, a Mom. I am jealous of the Dads out there who can CTFD. (And the Moms who can, if there are any....I'd like to meet you and let you buy me a glass of wine, by the way....Yes, you read that correctly: clearly, I'm the one more in need of that vino than you, oh Stress-Free Wonder, you.)

I think it's because I read this article a mere days after reading one (and I really wish I remember where I read it...) written by a Stay-at-Home Dad who admits that he can do no wrong. When he's at a "Mommy and Me" music class with his daughters at 10am on a Tuesday, he's Super Dad. When he's grocery shopping with a cranky toddler and a fussy baby, he's Super Dad (and a great husband). When he's at work, he's providing for his family, therefore, Super Man/Dad/Husband/Provider/etc. When his wife is with the kids? She's just being a Mom. When she's at work....she's neglecting her family. He can't lose, she can't win.

I'm a Stay-at-Home Mom. I don't have the added burden of having to juggle my family and my career. But still....sometimes I feel like I can't win. No, that's not true....I honestly feel like I win every day. It sounds hokey to say it, but there are successes each day to be celebrated...some bigger than others....some days I need to look reeeeeeaaaaaaaaallllllllyy hard to find that something...but it's always there.

But my days are not without stress.

Being the primary caregiver for three young children is stressful.


That's not to say that I don't fully support and appreciate the CTFD method. I think, in my life, it applies less to me as a "parent" and more to me as a "mommy." As in, I'll never calm down about my role as a parent to these three wonderful little beasts. I CAN, though, calm down about what the hell other mommies are doing all day with their wonderful little beasts.

I can stop comparing myself against other mommies.
I can stop judging other moms for the choices they make that work for their family.
I can stop competing (in my mind) with the moms I emulate. Learn from them, yes. Compete? No.
I can stop keeping up with the Pinterest goddesses. Just, like, cold turkey stop. My kids won't even know what they're missing.

My kids are happy. My kids are healthy. My kids are thriving. So tonight, I will Calm the F* Down.

Lesson Learned:
I think I need to bookmark The Daddy Complex and re-read this post often. "Calming Down" isn't typically in my repertoire. It needs to be. Starting now.

But wait! The first grade school supply list came out today. OHMYGOD. I'm not ready! We're just now hitting our lower-anxiety, summertime stride! He still refers to his kindergarten teacher as "my teacher," and refuses to discuss the possibility that she'll have new kindergartners when he starts school again. And why did they stop selling the only brand of dairy-free yogurt that Evan will eat at our Whole Foods? Now I have to pick the berry bits out of the Silk Strawberry yogurt and, I tell you what, it is even less glamorous than it sounds. And Max! He's going to be leaving my for THREE mornings a week! What will I do without my stream-of-consciousness chatterbox by my side? And the other day, he said he didn't like pink anymore. He said pink is for girls. I reminded him that colors are for everyone, and he said he still liked pink, but not to wear. Is it because that annoying neighbor kid said that "Tinkerbell" isn't "manly" enough? Can I shield Max from annoying neighbor kids forever? And is Molly really getting enough Mommy Time? I mean, I'm constantly juggling between her and the boys. I don't read to her enough. Shouldn't I be singing her more nursery rhymes? Have I EVER taught her the Itsy Bitsy hand motions? And when, WHEN, am I going to enroll us, any of us, in a Mommy and Me Yoga class? I've been trying to do one with ANY of the kids for SIX YEARS and haven't gotten around to it. So, WHEN?! GLOBAL WARMING. BIO-TERRORISM. HATRED. LIARS, CHEATERS, MEAN GIRLS, MOTHERS WHO ALLOW THEIR TODDLER TO TAKE THE TOY RIGHT OUT OF MY BABY'S HANDS WITHOUT APOLOGY OR CONSEQUENCE.

Deep breath.


Okay. I'm good.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

slip slidin' away

It's disappearing. Right before my eyes, it's slipping away. We're really only about halfway through summer, but that means we're HALFWAY through summer. And I don't know about where you live, but here, the first half of summer has been nothin' but rain. Our summer to-do list? Practically untouched. In addition to our upcoming beach trip, there's a lot left to cross off: hikes, parks, playgrounds, picnics, pool days, playdates, and....well, I'm sure I know two little boys who could help round out that list of "P" words....

It's been a weird summer. But we've still managed to keep busy and happy. And I'm just soaking in my time with my two big boys before I send them off to school in just a few short weeks. Evan? FIRST grade? I can't think of it. And Max? Three days a week? As much as I'm hoping that he'll find his new school a better fit, I'm going to miss that kid....and the wacky things he says....

So it's been a fast-as-lightning, monsoon-soggy kind of summer, but it's still Summer. And Summer is For Fun.

Playing in our new Sensory Garden is Fun!

Painting with Water is Fun!

Making a Fairy Garden is Fun!

Peach Picking is Fun!

Playing on the new Patio after breakfast is Fun!

Art Projects are Fun!

Playing at the Cousins' House is Fun!

Fourth of July Parades are Fun!
(But having to take the requisite picture is not fun. Or easy)

 (Yup. Those were the best that we got.)

But watching the parade is Fun!

(Baby Signing for "More" Parade is Fun and Cute.)

Playing at Mom Mom and Pop's House with the Uncles' Vintage Toys is Fun!

Trying to keep up with the Big Boys on the Spider Web is Hard.

Catching up on Lost Time with your Brother is Fun!

Playing Doctor is Fun!

Playing Dress-Up is Fun!
(Evan does not prefer to dress up.)

MORE Inside Art Projects are Fun!
(This time, magic swirly color prints with shaving cream)

And if you might put the shaving cream in your mouth, yogurt is a good substitute for 
Swirly Color Fun!

But when you're 16 months old, there is, unfortunately, such a thing as
Too Much Fun.

Lesson Learned:
It's not over yet! And the weather forecast for this week looks hot and humid. Like it's supposed to be. Still time to soak it in before we slip, slide away, right into the school year....Oh, and Target? You can take your school supply section and shove it because some of us aren't quite ready to see your shiny safety scissors and perfectly pointy Crayolas, okay?

(Who am I kidding? I am such a sucker for brand new crayons.)
(And we both know I can't stay mad at you, Target. I forgive you.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pediatric EKG/Echocardiogram: What to Expect

At Evan's first check-up with our new pediatrician in May, the doctor detected a heart murmur. She said it was faint, and she reassured us that heart murmurs in children are very common, but she recommended that we have his heart thoroughly examined given our families' history with Matters of the Heart. My mom has Mitral Valve Prolapse, which causes her heart murmur, and Sam's family has a history of congenital heart disease.

Two weeks ago, a packet of pre-approval papers arrived from our insurance companies. Twelve pages of pre-approval papers. TWELVE. I hadn't been nervous about the results...but now...I was nervous about the testing. What, exactly, had we just been signed up for?


I started Googling to find out more information about the procedures, but I kept getting distracted from my intended search and accidentally finding Worst Case Scenario stories about heart murmurs. So I stopped Googling.

Today, Evan and I headed off on our Big Adventure at the Pediatric Cardiologist.

After a brief physical exam, it was time for the EKG (or, electrocardiogram). The nurse placed super-sticky "stickers" (electrodes) all over Evan's chest. When he was all connected to the machines, I took a picture to show him....

"I look like a Robot," he said. 

It was completely painless and took less than five minutes.

This is the print-out....

After the EKG, it was time to go back to the "Echo Room" for the Echocardiogram. I had read that the procedure is similar to that of a pre-natal ultrasound, which is the explanation I used to prepare Evan for it. We entered the room that looked exACTLY like the sonogram rooms I entered when pregnant....except for the fact that there were Buzz Lightyear wall decals everywhere we looked, "Toy Story" playing on a screen up at the ceiling (the perfect angle for viewing while lying on the exam table), and a jar of lollipops sitting on the technician's cart.

The technician used the same gel and a similar, if smaller, wand on Evan as were used by my OB. She ran the wand across the middle of his chest, the sides and upper area of his chest, and on his neck. While she scanned, she clicked and scrolled, taking measurements and capturing screen shots. She turned the screen toward Evan when she was monitoring the blood flow through his heart. The images were colored blue and red, showing the blood flowing into and out of the heart. We watched the valves of his heart opening and closing. We saw the organ pumping and flexing. We watched and were amazed at the beauty and the miracle of this.....again, not unlike a pre-natal ultrasound....watching the miracle that is your baby, growing inside of you. Did you know that the human heart is completely formed in the first 28 days of gestation? Twenty-eight DAYS. How is that possible?

I was struck by that same feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I watched the screen today as when I watched my babies growing inside of my belly....what I saw on the screen I knew to be perfect. I didn't "know," of course, I'm not a pediatric cardiologist....just like I didn't "know" the baby I saw on the screen would be perfect. But they are....my babies and, as confirmed by today's appointment, Evan's heart. Yes, they may have their flaws (the babies, not their hearts)....and yes, they may drive me completely crazy (the babies, not their hearts), but they're mine...and they're perfect. And when they're not, because they won't always be....I'll do everything I can, read every manual, talk with every expert, go to every last corner of the earth...to fix them, or heal them, or help them, or, at the very least to understand them. Because they're mine.

I felt the butterflies and I reached out to move a stray lock of hair off of Evan's forehead. I wanted to cry. I still didn't know the results of the Echo and I had that strange timeless feeling...Evan was the baby in my belly, the big boy on the exam table, the grown man, with a full life and a family of his own. His heart is fine. He will be fine. He IS fine. Right?

As the technician finished taking her final measurements, she looked me right in the eyes: "Dr. M will meet you back in the exam room. She'll discuss the results of the Echo with you then."

"Oh, good," I responded, "I was really hoping to leave here today with an answer."

"Of course, honey. It would be cruel to keep a Mama waiting about her baby's heart."

Yes, yes it would.

"But," she added, almost under her breath, "you don't have anything to worry about."

And I didn't. Dr. M met us just a few minutes later, chatted with Ev for a bit about kindergarten and his favorite books and such. Then she smiled at me and told me what I've known all along: "Well, Mom. He's perfect!"

Lesson Learned:
The doctor, a pediatric cardiologist, explained to me that heart murmurs in children come and go. He does not "have" a heart murmur. He had a heart murmur. They can be caused by fever, stress, anxiety, and any other number of factors. Doctors may hear a murmur in him again someday. Or maybe not. The bottom line is, the form and function of Evan's heart is perfect.

Now if only I could get an Echo on each and every square inch of all of my kids....maybe then I'd have a few less Mommy Worries keeping me up at night....