Sunday, December 14, 2014


"A characteristic of the normal child is he doesn't act that way very often." ~Unknown

Here we are at the last cusp of toddlerhood, Little Bear, your fourth birthday! I can already see you have left almost all of your baby ways behind, and are forging ahead at top speed to reach that grown up place your brother and sister inhabit where nobody tells you you are too small. And you really are the biggest personality in this house. You let absolutely no one forget you are here. Whether its your antics, your laughter, your screaming, or your arms wound around my legs, I always know when you’re nearby.
I love your opinions slipping out. Even though its usually something unflattering, you speak the whole truth and nothing but. You still call your favorite restaurant “Old McDonalds” and lovingly mangle a whole other bunch of words, like "dysterical" and "skunkt" but I also have enjoyed discussing the past and the future with you. I love how you tell me what you want to be when you grow up - a pilot, a farmer, a fireman - and I sincerely hope you can make them all come true one day! You are my biggest helper in all aspects, from shopping, to helping me carry things, to making dinner or dessert. It amuses me how much your taste is similar to Daddy’s, and I can always count on you to pick out something he will like. You are feisty, and full of spitfire, but will still snuggle with me and offer me hugs and kisses with no prompting or warning. You are growing so fast into a little man, and sometimes I want to just wrap you up and ask time to stop so I can carry you around for just a little bit longer. Even when you are 6 feet tall, you’ll still be my baby boy.
Happiest of birthdays, Little Bear!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Eight is Great

A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip. ~Author Unknown

I cannot believe it has been eight glorious years since we welcomed you to this Earth! Right now you are crazy about animals, especially horses and cats! Your favorite toys are your Calico Critters, and your Legos. You love to create, and construct, and craft. You make pictures, and cards, and jewelry, and suncatchers. You also love to read, and one of my happiest memories was sharing my old books with you over the summer, and having you enjoy them as much as I did.

You are spontaneous, inquisitive, and passionate. Even though we are working through some challenges right now, you still take the time to be kind and giving to others - considerate and caring, like a good Girl Scout should be. I hope you stay like that always. Your mind is constantly going, going, going, and sometimes I fear there will come a time when I can no longer teach you something you don't already know. I wish that thrill of discovery stays alive in you for years to come.

I believe in you, even and especially when you don't believe in yourself. I have seen you learn and accomplish so many things in such a short time, and I know in my heart there is nothing you cannot master. It may take a little longer than planned, but we will get there. Hopefully together.

We love you, Monkey! Happiest of birthdays my sweet!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.” ~Author Unknown

Its been six months since the day I cried after meeting with Scootch’s teacher - the day she told me she wanted to hold him back and repeat a year. But I remember having a purpose after I dried my eyes. I knew that her solution wasn’t what was best for Scootch, and I knew what needed to be done to get him in the best place possible. And since school has been underway and going so extremely well for him, I was thinking it would be great to breathe a nice deep sigh of relief and relax for a little while while things went back to what passes for normal around here.

And then the homework drama started. But not with who you would expect.

Monkey came home one day with a blank assignment pad. I asked her if she had any homework, and she said, “Yes. But I forgot to write it down.” Its happened to all of us, so I let it slide. But the next night she forgot to bring home the list of her new spelling words. The night after we had a bout of tears before we would even attempt to do our spelling homework, and the math homework induced a temper tantrum.

I was thinking it was just her being tired. We tried to keep the kids close to their normal schedule over the summer, but seriously, it was still daylight out at 8pm. There was no way those kids were going to lay down and go to sleep with sunshine coming through the window. And the first two weeks back to school are always a harsh adjustment. But the problems persisted. Every night was a different issue. She left the paper in her desk, forgot her assignment pad, didn’t hear her teacher say they had any homework. The excuses were piling up as fast as the laundry, and I was getting annoyed. Plus, she got her first note sent home from the teacher stapled to a stack of assignments. “Homework incomplete. Please have her finish and hand in.” So we sat down to try and have a chat, and that didn’t end well either. It turned into Monkey yelling and crying and fleeing to her room to calm down. (And ultimately, escape into a book.)

But what startled me was a couple days later. I was (as usual) trying to supervise her doing her homework while I was starting dinner when she just laid her head down on the table and started to cry. And when I asked her what was wrong she told me “I’m just too stupid to do math.”

That floored me.

My kids are not stupid. We don’t call them that, we never have, and no one I have ever met has ever used that adjective to describe my children. My first reaction was my gender-equality-feminist-temper bristling at the thought of someone telling my daughter that she was the “s-word.” So when I immediately asked her who told her that, I felt sick when she told me, “No one. I just know I’m too dumb.”

I don’t think there are words for the feeling you get as a parent when your kids stop believing in themselves. Its a special kind of frustration and pain that splits you apart because they don’t see themselves as the beautiful, well-rounded, human being that they are. But furthermore, this was not my child. This sullen, bad tempered, obstinate little girl who was so shrunk into herself, was not the same laughing, imaginative, Monkey I sent to school on the bus four weeks ago. And after spending the entire summer getting Scootch evaluated, reading literature for Attention Deficit Disorder, and answering the same questionnaires and Vanderbuilt assessments in triplicate, of course my first thought was, “Does she need to be evaluated for ADHD, too? Maybe we’ve missed something.”

And I don’t know what to do. My instinct, which was so absolutely right with Scootch, is telling me this is not just growing pains, or the need to give her more time to adjust to third grade. Its telling me something is wrong. But at the same time, I don’t know if maybe this is just backlash from giving her brother so much special attention over the summer. Or stemming from the fact that she was in an inclusion class last year, and this year is her first experience with changing classes for subjects. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions with her needing to go through an evaluation because it is literally just fresh on my brain and I am seeing it everywhere. And at this point, since her grades aren’t slipping yet, I don’t know if she would even qualify for one. We’ve written to her teachers to ask if there is anything else they are noticing that we are missing, and have somewhat agreed to just let it ride as a ‘wait and see’ period. Meanwhile, we had a temper tantrum, missing homework assignments AND Monkey staying up past 9pm to finish her homework last night. So what is the tipping point? Where is the line in the sand that tells us we have spent enough time waiting? As I stand here watching my brightest flower wither and languish while her self esteem drains away, I don’t know how much longer I can endure seeing her suffer. Not when I know how much change you can create by simply standing up and saying “enough.” Scootch is evidence of that. I just need to know whether its the right direction to go with Monkey as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Come September, Please Remember....

What this world needs is a new kind of army — the army of the kind. ~C. Amory

The first day of school is a momentous one for most parents and children alike. The excitement and expectations of a new year with friends. The anxiety and trepidation of a different school or an unknown teacher. Many kids, mine included, spend time picking out a special outfit, packing their new book bag, and prepping their new lunch box for another year. And I'm sure the school or the teacher have supplied a checklist of things to add to your own pile of necessary items with which to arm your child to conquer the coming year.

None of this is different for a parent with food allergies. What is different is the emails that are also sent the night before to the child's teacher, so they're aware of the allergy. My necessary items list varies because it has the ever important additions of Benadryl and EpiPens that I make sure are packed along with Scootch's new pencil and folder. That flood of school paperwork starts before school even begins because I'm filling out a step by step protocol of what to do if my child is having an allergy reaction, or possibly dying, and trying to not imagine those scenarios in my head. And instead of telling my kid to have fun and make new friends while I walk him to the bus tomorrow, I'll be going over with him the food rules; no sharing, no stealing, and no eating anything we didn't pack for him unless someone checks the label and can tell him it is safe. I have to remind him that he can't hold hands or kiss his friends on the cheek because he doesn't know for sure who had peanut butter in their lunch and who didn't.

I also know that on Back to School Night I'll pipe up that I'm the parent with the kid everyone doesn't want to have in their class. The one that makes the class parties so difficult because the food needs to come from an approved list, and stresses that the teacher makes the class wash their hands with soap and water after lunch period. The one that makes other parents get defensive because life would be so much easier if their picky eater could just eat his peanut butter sandwich in peace because that's the only thing besides waffles he'll eat on a consistent basis. And that Scootch's peers will tell my kid he's missing out because he's never eaten a Snickers, and can't get a cone off the ice cream truck, regardless of the fact that even if he did, it would make his mouth burn and he'd throw up and possibly stop breathing instead of enjoying it.

Could every one of you do me a favor? When you kiss your child goodbye before sending them off to school this September, please, just ask them to be kind. We know it isn't easy for everyone else to deal with, because it isn't easy for us, either.The fine line we walk on between freedom and safety is a hard one to manage at the best of times, but it really can mean the difference between a good day at school and a trip to the hospital. Scootch endures scratch tests, blood tests, and visit after visit to the doctor, so he definitely doesn't need anyone else to point out how weird or different he is from everyone else. He's well aware that most people don't have three different primary doctors. The fact that he won't eat what you're offering him doesn't mean he doesn't want to be friends, it just means he knows that it could make him sick. And he doesn't want to throw up on your brand new school shoes. But, most importantly, please just wash your hands after you snack on your Nutty Bar. We're not asking to annoy you, and no, I'm not proposing a nut ban on school premises (although that really would make Scootch's life easier!) I truly do know how hard it is to keep a picky eater on the right side of the weight curve. It really is just the simple fact that the friendliest hand, for Scootch, is a clean one.

Hoping we all have a safe and wonderful year!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It Was Not Death, for I Stood Up

"I don't care if it's a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it.  If you don't, you feel even worse.”  ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Robin Williams was one of my mother’s favorite actors, and very quickly became mine. I think I was about Little Bear’s age when I first saw him in Popeye (and became acutely terrified of octopi immediately after that). I also think I was the only six year old to watch Good Morning Vietnam, and The World According to Garp - parts of which were blocked by my mother’s hands over my eyes and ears - because I was begging my mom to let me see him again in a movie. Thank goodness we got a copy of Toys a few years later, although I still sometimes yell “Watch out for the under toad!” while running into the surf at the shore. When I heard the news on Monday afternoon of Robin tragically taking his own life, my first thought was one of sorrow, that the world was a little bit darker without his light in it. My second was that my mother would be overjoyed to see him again in “person,” besides the one time she ended up seeking him out to apologize for her son kicking him in the leg in a hotel pool. But as I read the comments on every article and news posting, and have absorbed all the backlash pieces that have popped up, my main feeling is grief. For everyone out there that condemn his death, malign his name, and call him a cheat, a coward, a weakling, and - worst of all - selfish, I applaud your ignorance. And my wish for you is that you keep it your entire life. I would rather you shouted your stupidity at the top of your lungs till the end of your days than to ever have to be afflicted with something as dark and insidious as actual severe depression. I don’t like to talk about my health problems. Especially my depression and my anxiety. I know I’ve mentioned it, I’ve wrote about it, but I don’t like to talk about it. Mostly because of the opportunity for judgement from the blissfully ignorant masses that thankfully have no idea what its like. There are a slim few that I share this darkness with, in some ways to protect them from it, and in other ways to protect myself. Nothing irritates me more than those inspirational photos that say people need to just choose to be happy everyday. As if I chose this disease for myself, and was happy living with it. Might as well tell a cancer patient to choose not to have a tumor when they wake up every morning. Part of the misunderstanding I think lies in the word we use as the label itself. You can feel depressed without having depression. But having depression is nothing like being a little low in spirits that feeling depressed means. Let me just say that again to let it sink in. Having depression is nothing like feeling depressed. I’ve mentioned actual depression is insidious. You might even personify it as a kidnapper, or a jailer, because the first thing it does is isolate you. It isolates you from your family, your friends, the world in general. You start to feel irritable and angry with those around you, then awkward, and alone after you’ve driven them away. You can easily identify that something is different, something is wrong, which almost immediately translates into something being wrong with you. Everyone else seems to be able to laugh, or cry, or sleep at night, or wake up in the morning. Why not you? It also isolates you from the rational parts of yourself. That self esteem that your wonderful parents gave you, the compliments from your friends, the praise and promises from the love of your life that everything will be okay, and they love you anyway….they can’t get through. There is no cell service at this island you find yourself stranded where those encouraging messages could be received. You’ve become the new lead in Cast Away, but instead of having a benign volleyball to talk to, you’ve been left with a deceitful forked tongue serpent that likes to lie to you. You are on this island, trying to communicate with the people in your life, whom you can see, but not really hear or understand. Especially since they are shouting from so far away, and that serpent is right next to you, drowning out their words by speaking directly into your ear. And the longer the serpent is next to you, the more chance it has to wrap itself around you. At first the contact might even feel nice, or comforting - you can actually feel something for once! But ultimately, you realize that the closeness will eventually kill you if you don’t do something about it. So you struggle against its bonds hoping to free yourself. You struggle with those python-like bands around you every day, every moment. Some days its just too exhausting to fight them. The thought of making the effort to even get up out of bed in the morning is so overwhelmingly tiring you just don’t. Trying to smile, and converse, while those bands are squeezing around you, making your bones ache and your lungs pinch from lack of air is sometimes too painful. Every decision you make is weighed against the effort of moving, and carrying this burden wrapped around yourself. No one can reach you past its coils. You long for real contact. An actual true sensation of feeling something touching you besides this insidious serpent. With depression, the most vital decision is when you actually admit to struggling out loud. Sometimes, with the right support, you can get medication, and therapy. But its still a process. The pills don't take the serpent away like aspirin resolves a headache. The psychologist can't pry the lies out of your brain or stop their hissing from sounding in your ears. The bonded sensation still squeezes the breath out of you some days, and then feels like its fleeting the next. Or sometimes, it just doesn't help at all. And when the pain wears you down so much, and the people yelling can’t reach you, or hold you, and you have just been listening to the lies murmured about you for days, months, and years, unending, sometimes - like Robin - you do feel like the only recourse, the only relief, the only escape is to do something. Anything. The only thing you feel you really can do. Something drastic.
I want to tell you something else about depression. It might fly in the face of what you believe in - what every psychotherapist, psychologist, doctor, priest, rabbi, friend, parent, or child may tell you - but ending your life is not a weak, cowardly, thing. It takes someone strong to actually go through with it. To actually decide to act, to choose to go through with something so final and permanent that goes against the basic human instinct of survival, is, thankfully, not something everyone can do. And to be so desperately embattled with a serpent that it seems your only viable option to free yourself, is to end yourself, does not deserve condemnation or criticism. It deserves reflection, and empathy, and at the very least, understanding. In mourning, we all, selfishly, cry for what we have lost. We should also remember to find joy in what Robin has gained by finally being released from his bonds of disease. The cessation of his pain. "Genie, you’re free!"

~ I pray you've found peace and laughter in heaven, Mr. Williams. It was a privilege sharing time with you. My thoughts are with your family and friends. Say hi to my Mom for me. XOXO

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Own Personal V-Day

The finish line is sometimes merely the symbol of victory. All sorts of personal triumphs take place before that point, 
and the outcome of the race may actually be decided long before the end. ~L. Malone

Today was the eligibility placement hearing for Scootch with his school - otherwise known as the culmination of our entire summer of testing. This poor kid has had a test almost every other week since May; speech testing, psychological testing, social skills testing, motor skills testing, learning evaluations, physicals, neurological name it, he probably had it. It was a pretty big test for Mommy too, having to weather all the stress and anxiety. Was I doing this for the right reasons? Would it be worth it subjecting him to all of this? It was hard not to over analyze everything he was doing now, or sit there and criticize myself for deciding to take this route instead of just leaving him back to repeat a year and trying to let him fend for himself. But over and over again, as the testing results were trickling in, they were reaffirming the same things we were worried about - lack of focus, poor impulse control, and immature fine motor skills.
The hearing today was with hubby and I, the child study team, and Scootch's Kindergarten teacher. They reviewed all of the evaluations that were done through the school and summarized the findings for us. Best part of the day was hearing three different evaluators tell us what a bright, wonderful boy Scootch was, and what a pleasure it was to meet with him. They also all agreed that he presented with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a diagnosis that was likewise found by his private neurodevelopmental assessment we had done. So with the diagnosis comes his eligibility for special services. He is now qualified for an IEP - Individualized Education Program, and will be moving up to first grade with the help of an inclusion class, where there is an extra aide in the classroom to help keep him and a few other qualifying students with their weaknesses. He will also be attending Occupational Therapy twice a week during school hours to hopefully get his fine motor skills stronger and more up to par with his age level.
Overall, it sounds like he'll be getting everything we hoped for him! Hubby and I shared a high five on our way out of the school, and it truly felt so good to feel like we won a battle for our child. Hopefully this upcoming year of first grade will be just as rewarding for Scootch as today was for us. Even the fears I have of him having a stigma, or being labeled, were almost completely overridden by the relief I felt that he will be getting the extra assistance he needs to learn and grow. I know he is capable of great things, and hopefully this will set him up with the skills to achieve everything he sets his mind to!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Daughter, Myself

"And thou shalt in thy daughter see, this picture, once, resembled thee." ~A. Philips

Monkey and her classmates waiting in the wings during recital

I always wanted my daughter to be her own person, I just never realized how much it would hurt. Being so similar is a double edged sword; on one hand, you always know you can find things you'll have fun doing with her. But on the other hand, when she rejects doing something you treasure so much, it feels more like she's rejecting part of yourself.
Monkey has talked about being a ballerina ever since she was four years old and watched "Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses." When I signed her up for classes a year later, she was very put out that she was required to take tap as well, because all she wanted to do was be a ballerina. It took a year and a half, but she was finally in an all ballet class this year. Since this should have been a glorified accomplishment for her, to say I was taken aback by all her complaining was an understatement. She complained about the stretching, she complained about the pointing, she complained about having to repeat the routine over, and over, and over again, to get it right. The final blow came a week before recital - she calmly informed me as I was reading over the summer schedule that she didn't think she wanted to take dance anymore. I think my heart might have actually stuttered as I tried not to cry. 
What I would give to go back to ballet class. To feel that warm limbed exhaustion from working every muscle group you weren't aware you even had, or reveling in that in weightless feeling when you're flying through a grand jeté. I even miss the blisters and missing toenails displayed in old flip flops in November, because you put in six extra hours of practice in a week so you could join in a special production of The Nutcracker as a snowflake. But I had to remind myself that she wasn't me. I didn't want to heap all these memories on her to guilt her to keep going just so I could live vicariously through her.
So her second recital this year became a bittersweet one. I sat in the audience through the first show to try and soak up all the dancing I could, and then volunteered as the class mom with her and her classmates through the second show in the afternoon. Recitals were always my favorite growing up, with the anticipation and adrenaline mixing with makeup and costumes. And as I sat "backstage" in the freezing cold high school lunchroom, watching the girls playing tag, reapplying makeup, or doing one last run through of their routine, I tried to take it all in. The realization that this might be my last time experiencing this made a little lump in my throat. Lining Monkey up to go on with her classmates, I watched them as they sat in the wings wide eyed watching the older girls before them perform their routine and I was transported back in time to my own girlhood. The smell of rosin and gaffer tape and hairspray all mixed together in my mind, and I just sat there for a moment savoring the memories. And after her number, when she rushed out of the doors and into my arms all breathless and exhilarated from performing she hugged me tight and looked up at me and said, "Mommy? I think I still want to do just one more year of dance."
Maybe that means I'll get one more year of memories too.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

6 Years of Wisdom

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." -A. Schwindt

I can't believe our Scootch is six! He is truly my big boy and my baby all at once. Insistent on doing things on his own, but not too big yet to still want a cuddle or to be held. I think his birthday this year was more bittersweet for me because of all the trials we're trying to weather together with his evaluations for school. As much as its hard as a parent for your child to have to be "labeled," its also heartwarming to know that your instincts are justified, and that other people can see the good qualities and things you love about your child too. 
I think the most amazing thing about our journey together these last 6 years is how much he really has taught me. Being the second child, I went into his pregnancy thinking I had this in the bag, only to be blindsided with so many postpartum issues and complications. Trying to find yourself all over again is doubly difficult when you're doing the balancing act of new motherhood. Throw in the health issues with his feeding and food allergies, and sometimes I feel like I never was able to get off the roller coaster. With these last challenges at school, I am fully seeing what a gift Scootch is to our family, and especially to me. His attitude and happy nature are a constant reality check, especially when I'm stressed or anxious. This little boy reminds me to live life in spite of fear, and to love life despite restrictions. If he can get through his day with all his daily challenges still smiling and upbeat, then really, who am I to be throwing myself a pity party?
Happy birthday to our silly, smiley, lovable, Scootch! I hope you always find a reason to keep smiling, now and forever!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pants on Fire

Liar, liar, pants on fire, hang them up on telephone wire.

Monkey used to sneak food when she was a toddler. She learned how to open the refrigerator while she was still in her walker, so being fully mobile opened up a whole new avenue of pantry raiding when Scootch was born. Instead of requesting a snack, she just felt it would be easier to liberate the food herself while I was usually otherwise occupied with a feeding or a diaper change. The denial was amusing  when she was three and vehemently denied she stole granola bars while the melted chocolate chips were still smeared all over her mouth. Now that she's the ripe old age of seven and a half with an attitude to match, the denial isn't cute anymore.
Its partially my fault, to be honest. We fight over so many things during the course of the day, taking her to task for the daily petty offences is usually one of the battles I choose to just not engage in. I tell her I think she's lying, she denies it, and I just leave it lie, hoping she'll at least acknowledge to herself she is in the wrong. She's not really adept at hiding the evidence, either. Which is something else I fail to point out to her because, truthfully, I don't want her improving on that particular life skill. My tipping point, however, came while Daddy was away for a few days on business. The second time that week she came downstairs dressed for school wearing my good 14K gold jewelry I pretty much flipped my lid. To which she just insisted she "found it" in her jewelry box. No. Way. In. Hades. my jewelry spontaneously traveled space and time into the little box in her bedroom!
When Daddy came home, I was more than happy to hand off the disciplinary reins to him when it came to refereeing a dinner fiasco. Monkey refused to eat her dinner the entire meal, then when everyone else left the table, she came prancing into the living room two minutes later claiming to have finished every last bite. It didn't take much investigating for Daddy to find her entire meal stuffed into the garbage can. That evening's bedtime routine became one long talk about truth and dishonesty. And in some ways I'm so thankful he's here to get through to her. Monkey listens and opens up to Daddy in so many other ways than we communicate with each other. He can get to the root of her behaviors and actions so much quicker than I ever seem to be able to. On the other hand, its positively maddening to deal with a child who is so righteous and fastidious about preaching right and wrong about other's behavior, but never seems to hold herself to the same measure. Especially when I'm the one at home usually stuck holding the ruler. I'm just hoping we're working through this phase, and she has finally learned a valuable lesson.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Don't Hold Back

Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back. ~Chinese Proverb

Carefree Scootch blowing bubbles at the park
School has proved to be a struggle for Scootch. I noticed the social differences in him as young as age three when I was taking him to story time in the library. He usually refused to participate, or insisted on sitting on the outside of the circle rug so he could just observe or limit his interaction. Comparing him to Monkey at that age or to Little Bear at his current age is like a study in opposites. And even though everyone tells you not to compare your children, it has always been something that niggled at the back of my mind. Preschool repeated the same process, but as the year progressed, Scootch really grew up and spread his wings. I was so emotional at the end of the year at his preschool graduation seeing this bright, social, bubbly little boy. The complete opposite of the sullen withdrawn child that started the school year.

When Kindergarten rolled around, Scootch was nothing but pumped to get started. I saw no nerves or hesitation. I was so hopeful that he had left his withdrawn behavior behind. Little did I know what awaited. From his very first report card, his teacher has been concerned with his listening skills, social skills, motor skills, and work habits. The repeating themes of "self control" and "focus" came up every week when I stopped to chat with her on the days I volunteered at the school. The "comments" section of his report card has gotten more and more crowded every marking period with the list of things he's having difficulties with - even as his grades have steadily improved.

Last Friday I went in to meet with Scootch's teacher before the day started. Third period report cards were being sent home that day, and I figured I would go in to talk to her about the challenges she was having with him instead of making her write everything down. The good news was that his grades were the highest they've ever been - all "Progressing Towards Mastery" or above. The bad news is that she still felt he would benefit by being held back to repeat Kindergarten next year until he could get his behavior under control, and that that would probably be her recommendation for him at the end of the year.

I don't think there are words to describe the feeling you get when a teacher tells you those words about your kid. Especially when academically speaking, he's bright, and smart, and mastering everything they have been learning. To you, your child is just your child. Loud or quiet, hyper or calm, funny or serious. But it seems the time has come that I need to look beyond his behavior as just Scootch being Scootch. This behavior needs to be analyzed and most likely identified. My feeling right now is that if we don't seek help for Scootch now, we will be creating a larger problem down the road. And as much as my heart breaks that getting help has a high possibility of earning him a "label" for the rest of his academic career, maybe that dreaded mark might actually make his emotional load easier to bear. Perhaps a diagnosis will yield assistance in school, so his frustration levels cease to push him to the point of tears multiple times a day.

The next few weeks, and most likely months, promise to be challenging and stressful. I've already lined up requests, and meetings, and consults, and appointments. The list of people we need to see range from school staff to therapists and neurologists. Its daunting. And scary. And I previously had a good cry about it. This is not another challenge I want my son to bear. But in some ways, I already know Scootch has the strength to get through it. With all the issues and shortcomings we've dealt with concerning his food allergies, I've come to admire the way he can so easily bounce back from a setback. The way he never fails to keep racing forward after an obstacle, usually laughing the entire way. I think I need to just take a page from his book and keep moving forward, no matter what. Because I don't want anything to dim that bright light in his eyes. The flame of his intelligent spirit just waiting to burst free. I never want to have to hold him back from being the best he can be.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert. ~Jason Love

Easter dessert. Delicious, decadent, perfectly leavened, 4 egg pound cake. It is a wonderful thing to be able to bake with eggs again!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Speak To Me

"People see God every day, they just don't recognize him." ~P. Bailey
Albrecht Dürer - Praying Hands. One of my mother's favorite art works.
I had a funny conversation about religion today at a baby shower. And when it comes down to it, I guess my true answer is that I'm a very spiritual person, but probably not an overly religious one. Some of my friends are atheists, my own husband is most likely considered agnostic, and my kids aren't all that interested in church even though I try to drag them there on a regular basis. But be as that may, I cannot dismiss the power faith has in my life - including my daily life.

I have to admit the loss of my mother caused a pretty seismic shift in my childhood. My mother was the driving force of my own religious upbringing. She came from a very devout Catholic family, sent me to parochial school for my elementary education, and taught at one for about 9 years before she passed away. I'll never forget how excited she was to go see the Pope right before she died. Sure she was seeing him from the nosebleed seats in a sports stadium, but she was as giddy as a teenager getting backstage passes to One Direction. However, the event of her death, and the circumstances surrounding the people she worked and taught with, really soured my whole outlook on faith, religion, Catholicism, and for a little while, God himself. Sad to say, I was a typical angry teenager with the mentality of a toddler. I wanted to know "why?" Why, why, why, why, why? Why my mom? Why did this happen to me? Why not take me instead? Between the "why's" and the "what-ifs" my spirit was sucked down an abyss faster than Alice went down the rabbit hole.

It took me a long, long, time to accept what happened. Even longer to accept that it didn't happen to punish me or because I was bad, or unfaithful. And it was an even more lengthy road back to my spirituality. Sure there were the reminders, and the nudges to go back to my faith. I started attending a Youth Group with my girlfriend because I slept over her house on weekends, and that's where she ended up on Sunday mornings. Coincidentally, (or not), it was the same place my husband ended up on Sundays as well. I became a member of the E & C Club, and would only go to church on Easter or Christmas with another family when I went to their house on holidays. And then there were the little happenstances that kept occurring around me that couldn't be discounted or explained away. Things like certain songs coming on the radio when I was having a hard time missing my mother. Seeing people or having someone call me out of the blue when I was feeling frighteningly alone and desperate. Certain photos or papers of my mother's that would mysteriously fall out of books or drawers when I would least expect it. These little signs were like a tide ebbing away at the dried up remains of my faith. The more I got them, the more I could feel that empty little spot inside where my spirituality used to reside. The more I knew that spot was empty, the more I wanted to feel like it was filled up again.

I am now a great believer in "God winks" (to borrow the term from a book I once read). Mostly, I believe I receive them from my mother. But there have been other occurrences that have happened that don't carry her mark on them. These little signs and messages are treasured and cherished by me every time they occur. They're delivered to me through the radio, strangers, books, and my own kids. They remind me that I can still connect a part of myself with the one remaining essence of people who have passed away. That even though I might not be able to see my loved ones, they can still speak to me and be involved in my life. Because as much as I'd like to say I've matured, and learned to keep my faith overflowing, there are still events that cause those little tremors to return. Things that seem senseless, and cruel, and unfair, and revert me back to that demanding toddler mentality of "why? why? why?" But again, I am sent a sign, a message, an answer. 

On today of all days, I struggled with the 8 year "angel-versary" of the death of a friend's son. I have never been able to reason or wrap my head around this loss. Such wonderful parents having such a small window of time with their little boy. And they are such loving, positive, people despite that. The effect they have on others and for others in the name of their child is a beautiful thing to behold. Their courage and strength are amazing to watch, and because of that, it is so easy to slip back into that questioning mentality. Why? Why them? And in the Gospel reading at church today was a section that jumped out at me. My answer, if you will.

John 9:2-3
And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "it was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."

For me, his works have never been displayed better. Faith, humility, dedication, love, and kindness. Thank you for the note.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Testing, Testing, 1 2 3

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. ~R. W. Sockman

Scootch not impressed during his allergy testing
Growing up hurts. I think its an evil system that most parents are hardwired to do anything to relieve their kids' suffering, but true growth involves your children surviving pain.

We've been so lucky this year so far with the food allergy issues (knock on wood). I am was petrified every day Scootch headed off to school to the big scary world of Kindergarten. Fortunately, I think we were blessed with a very empathetic teacher for him this year. She wasn't scared to grow and learn along with us. There have been plenty of near misses involved with the school snacks and food projects, but she has never hesitated to act, or pick up the phone to call me whenever she has a question. I am happy to say the Epi Pen has not made its debut as of yet.

But the necessary evil of growing older for Scootch is the allergy testing. And re-testing. And testing some more. His allergist and I discussed his falling IgE scores on his last blood test and decided that his egg allergies seemed to be down low enough to warrant a scratch test on his skin to see if there still was a reaction. Just hearing that made my head spin off in the direction of baking with real ingredients again. Instead of visions of sugarplums, it was more like visions of leavened cakes, fluffy pancakes, and cookies that didn't resemble chocolate chip crepes. But before I could get ahead of myself (again), we needed to actually accomplish the test.

We trudged in today in full force. Daddy even took off early from work, because I wasn't sure if easygoing Scootch would morph into the full fledged kicking demon he sometimes impersonates in the doctor's office, and if so I needed all the extra arms I could get. But it turned out only mildly difficult. After hanging out in the waiting room making friends with an 11 month old, we were called back to start the skin test. Scootch only needed a little bit of encouragement and restraint as the nurse marked the numbers on his skin and applied the allergens with the scratch applicator. (I think he really thought the pen was a needle, he was screaming so loud). Then we got to watch a Thomas the Tank video for 20 minutes while we waited for the results.
In number order, they show the 1. histamine control to represent what an allergic reaction would look like, 4. egg white protein, 5. egg yolk protein, and 8. saline control. The egg yolk shows almost no difference to the saline, so as far as the allergist is concerned, he's not considered allergic to egg yolk anymore! The egg whites show a very mild reaction, so the consensus is that for now, he is allowed to have egg products if they're baked for an extended period of time. His allergist feels that the small amounts of proteins present in foods that are baked would be low enough to boost his tolerance without triggering a reaction. But still no omelettes or hard boiled eggs for Scootch just yet.

However, I'm extremely hopeful that I can enjoy some homemade pound cake for dessert in my near future!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Long Winter

Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. ~H. M.
Daddy and the kiddos in front of the snow shelter they made
Is it safe to come out yet?
How does the shortest month of the year somehow feel like the longest? Can’t believe how much was due and done in the little month of February, but C’est la vie of a busy mom, I guess. I survived my first cookie sale as a Girl Scout leader! Monkey reached all her selling goals despite the weather giving us more snow days than we knew what to do with. I am always amazingly grateful for the generosity of our family and friends during fundraiser season. And this year she also won a Golden Award at school for the month of February for demonstrating Fairness all month. Couldn’t be more proud of her and the little lady she is blossoming into!
Scootch is flourishing in Kindergarten despite some physical issues. He’s already mastering addition, subtraction, and lots and lots of reading! He loves to come home with stories and pictures from his Writers Workshop sessions in school, which usually depict monsters and roller coasters. There is no end to his imagination and his bright mind. You can tell he is always thinking. His teacher is suggesting we get him some assessments done, though. Many of his motor skills and developmental behaviors don’t seem on par with his age group, so she just wants to make sure we aren’t overlooking something that might impact him as he gets older if they aren’t corrected now.
Little Bear is becoming quite the little man these days. He is definitely not shy in telling you what is on his mind. And what’s usually on his mind is his next meal. ;-) He is getting so proficient and independent in everyday things, and is my capable little helper. Whether we’re using the screwdriver to change the batteries in his toys or making a three course meal, he is usually right there by my side telling me “I help you, Mommy.” And help he does. He could probably make the Friday night pizza dough himself if he could reach all the ingredients. As much as I miss having a baby around, this bright little boy is nothing short of amazing everyday. Come September I’m sure we’ll have to start him in a preschool program of some sort. He’s already so good with his letters and numbers and shapes, I think a learning environment a few days a well would do him lots of good.

But right now, we’re just thinking warm thoughts and wishing for Spring!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Go For Gold

Olympic Fever has struck at our house. Little Bear is currently competing in the Living Room Free Skate Program. :-)

Go Team USA!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Oh How They Grow!

I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. ~C. Dickens

This is happening.  

And this

And this

Someone stop feeding them Miracle Grow! They’re getting way too big way too fast!