Love, Loss & Childhood

Once upon a time there was a cute little orange “Tabbysinian” kitten who found his way into our lives.  His papers said he was a Rudy Abyssinian, but his face was much softer than what you might expect a typical Aby to look like.

Ozzy's favorite spot

Ozzy’s favorite spot

He picked The Husband one day, 14 years ago, when Pet Stores were not outlawed quite yet. The Husband was only “The Boyfriend” back then, and it was the very beginning of our relationship.  And although he hadn’t intended for this little kitten to be a present for me, well, he ended becoming just that. Even though we didn’t live together yet, we shared this cat – I would bring him to my house for overnight stays, and eventually we all ended up moving into a house together 2 years later, (with our other cat, Emmy, a rescue who had found her way to me a year after Ozzy.)

Ozzy. I will use his real name because it’s cute. And he was an Ozzy through and through. He was so sweet & friendly; a bunch of orange fur with a purr as loud as a tractor motor – so loud, it was difficult to fall asleep if he happened to curl up & take a nap with you. He demanded to be pet all.the.time. If you stopped petting him, he would nudge you with his wet nose, or gently nip at the fat on the back of your arm (YOW!) to get your attention.

We made all the mistakes with this guy, our first “baby.”  We fed him food from the table, which transformed him into a steak-thieving, fang-bearing wild animal. He swiped chicken nuggets off of plates at parties, until we eventually had to lock him up when guests came over. Yogurt, eggs, tuna juice, salmon, filet mignon, burritos, artichokes, edamame, butter … there was no human food that this cat wouldn’t want to ingest.

And because we didn’t know any better, we let him roam around both inside and outside, until the unthinkable happened one day & he didn’t come home for dinner. Several days later, he turned up, mangled and barely hanging on to life. We rushed him to the hospital, where he cashed in one of his nine lives. He had been hit by a car & his jaw was broken. It was the first scare in our career as Ozzy’s parents, and I vowed to never let him out of the house again. He lamented that decision, but eventually got used to being just a house cat.  He tried, and managed to, escape once or twice.

Fast forward to the arrival of our human child, The Boy, five years ago. Ozzy was probably the least excited of the cats to meet this new unpredictable babbling little wild man – a new entity in his midst, that would surely take our attention away from him.  Ozzy kept his distance, carefully eyeing The Boy, and scrambling away when The Boy got too close.

The Boy didn’t care if Ozzy wouldn’t play with him, The Boy still loved him no matter what. The Boy called all of the cats his brothers & sister, and would draw pictures of them with him or by themselves. The Boy,  just like me & The Husband, is a true animal lover.

So in September, when Ozzy first got sick with a blood clot in his front paw, The Boy & I rushed him to the emergency vet and waited, hopefully, for the doctors to say that he would be ok. As Ozzy lay sedated in the oxygen cage, The Boy got to pet him & was elated that he finally got to feel Ozzy’s soft, orange fur. The Boy saw me cry in the consultation room when the Cardiologist explained that Ozzy had silent heart disease & that this time we were lucky because the clot was in the front paw … if it was in the back leg, that is a much worse diagnosis, a death sentence pretty much.

Back home, for the past 3 months, we’ve watched as Ozzy made a remarkable recovery, and plied him with pills twice a day, hidden in the smokey folds of salmon.  Spoiled, sure, but if anyone deserved it, it was Ozzy. I knew that his days were numbered, but figured we were looking at years, not months.  So, last weekend, when Ozzy refused to eat dinner & could not walk on his back legs, I was shocked.  And I knew in my heart of hearts that this was it.  The end.

I am a very emotional person, an easy (and very ugly) crier.  I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’ll cry at the drop of a hat most days – something that moves me, be it happy or sad, can trigger the tears.  But when the proverbial poop hits the fan, I switch into “take-charge” mode, and I become the calm in the midst of chaos.  I’m the one who takes a deep breath & coordinates everything when everyone else is falling apart.  This was one of those times.  I knew that I didn’t have the luxury of breaking down right now.  I needed to be strong.

I shuffled The Boy into the tv room & put on a show that would engross him, as I took The Husband into our bedroom and told him that he needed to say good-bye to Ozzy.  I would take him to the emergency hospital, but I wasn’t expecting to return with our cat.  The Husband couldn’t really handle the magnitude of the situation, and didn’t want to believe that this was happening.  He stayed with The Boy and I rushed Ozzy to the hospital.

My fears were confirmed and the ER Doctor told me that Ozzy had a saddle thrombus in the worst possible place, and recommended euthanasia.  I was devastated and for the first time, I started to crack a little.  My emotion caught up in my throat and I couldn’t stop the tears from spilling out.  I signed the papers and held him for the last time, stroking his head and telling him about The Rainbow Bridge – a place where he would be able to run and chase squirrels and birds, eat steaks and chicken nuggets – and I would meet up with him again someday.  I tried so hard not to cry – I wanted to be strong for him and brave, but I couldn’t help it.  I wept as I watched him go.

When I got back home, The Boy was just about to go to bed, and I couldn’t tell him then.  We decided to wait until the following day after he got out of school.  I baked him a batch of his favorite chocolate chip cookies, and The Husband & I sat at the kitchen table and explained that Ozzy had been really sick for a while, and the doctors tried everything, but he had passed away.  At first, The Boy took it pretty well – asked us a few questions in between bites of cookie: “is he coming back?” No, sweetie. “Will I ever see him again?” No, love.  And then he ran off to play …

But at bedtime, that’s when he really broke down.  After I kissed him goodnight & closed the door, I heard him quietly crying and calling out for Ozzy.  My heart broke, and I rushed back in.  The Boy came undone, asking me questions like “is everyone I love going to die?”  “Why couldn’t you save him, mama?  Why did you let him die? He was only thirteen years old!” “I miss him, I don’t want him to be gone, why can’t he ever come back?”

The Husband is an atheist, and I’m (for lack of a better label,) a witch.  And I don’t want to get off on a tangent about religion, but suffice it to say The Husband and I have agreed to raise a child who is curious about the world around him, while supporting him in his search for whatever spirituality (religious, or not) works best for him.  We expose him to the Pagan holidays, (and Hanukkah too, since The Husband is Jewish by blood.)  But all of our celebrations are based around tradition, family & food, and not anything religious.  We focus more on nature, the changing of the seasons, and less on theology.

Answering these big life questions for a five-year old were tough for me, but here’s some of what I told him:

You know how at Halloween, I talk about the veil between the two worlds?  This world here where we are, and then a world where the spirits and ghosts live?  Well, some people think that the other world is a place that animals and people go after they pass away from this world.  It’s beautiful and magical, there’s no sadness, no pain, no sickness, and there’s just love.  I would like to believe that Ozzy is now in that world, playing with other animals and running after silly squirrels and eating all the steak and salmon he wants to.  We won’t be able to see him anytime soon, but I like to believe that someday we’ll meet up with him again.  And you know how I talk about my grandma and grandpa who aren’t alive?  I told you that I think they’re my angels, and they look out for me and watch over me?  I would like to think that Ozzy is now one of our angels, too.  And even though he isn’t alive here on earth anymore, he is still alive in our hearts.  We can talk about him and remember all the funny, silly, sweet things he did and all the good times we had with him.  And it’s ok to be sad and to miss him.  It’s ok to ask questions and talk about him, and it’s ok to be confused.  It’s going to take some time for all of us – you, me, Daddy & the other kitties – to get used to not having Ozzy in our house anymore, so we need to be kind to one another and be gentle with each other because it’s a big change to lose someone we love so much.  And I know that thirteen is a small number and that must scare you, but for cats and dogs, time is much faster – one year for humans is 7 years for cats and dogs, so Ozzy was really ninety-one years old in human years!  That’s a good, long life, sweet boy.  No one lives forever, but usually people don’t die until they’re very old and have lived a long life.  So you don’t need to worry about losing anyone else in your life, because no one is sick, everyone is healthy and just because one bad, sad thing happened, it doesn’t mean a lot of other bad, sad things are going to happen to.  Ok?

As I grappled with explaining the unexplainable, I could hear the Husband crying in the room next to us.  He later told me that he was sorry that he couldn’t be stronger & couldn’t come to help, but that he was in such pain from listening to our son sob about the loss of his sweet pet, it caused him to completely lose it.  He said that I did a beautiful job of helping him understand & work through his grief.  I hope so.  I know it must the an instinctual mothering-type thing to want to shelter your children from any pain of the real world, but I also cannot lie to him.  I tried my best to explain it as honestly as I could while still trying to bring him some comfort.

The following day, on the suggestion of a friend, I bought The Boy a small stuffed kitty cat that resembled Ozzy.  I  can’t believe that the toy store had exactly what I was looking for – it was kismet.  I put a name tag on its collar that read “Ozzy,” and presented it to him after he came home from school.  He hugged it tightly and said, “the real Ozzy will live in my heart, but this Ozzy will come with me everywhere now.”  I smiled, proud that I had brought him some bit of happiness in the wake of a truly sad tragedy.

a sweet stuffed friend to help with healing

And we have been taking it one day at a time, as we’ll continue to do.  In fact, just yesterday The Boy proclaimed that “Emmy just moved up a notch” to his “second favorite cat.”  Of course, his best buddy, Sniper, has always held top spot …  But, Ozzy, we’ll miss you so much, and we’ll think of you fondly & remember all the silly, sweet things you did, and all the joy you brought to our lives.

 

Advertisements

Giving Up On The IEP & Putting Faith In Me

overcomeWell, we’ve been in school for almost 3 months now, and I’ve already had to call an IEP.  This is the wrong placement, but it’s the best one we can get right now, all things considered.  Not only is The Boy on the spectrum, (High-Functioning Autism / Aspergers,) but he’s also very intelligent & tests way above average, so that’s called a “Twice Exceptional” “2e” or “Twice Gifted” child.

He’s only 5, so he’s technically in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) because he has a late September birthday, and that’s the law here – kids have to be 5 by September 1st to enter Kindergarten no matter your intellectual ability.  He is currently placed in a Core Autism classroom with 10 boys (all boys) ranging in severity, (the majority are non-verbal, low-functioning kids.)  The ages of the kids range from 5, (The Boy is the youngest one in class,) to age 8.  TK – 2nd grade.  Wrong placement for him because of the severity of the behaviors in his class, but the best available option because he is able to work above his grade level with the 1st & 2nd graders.  In his current IEP, The Boy is supposed to push out to general-ed, but for what?  He would tear a “typical” “gen-ed classroom” apart in about 30 seconds if left to his own devices.  He’s way beyond “A makes the ‘aaaaahhh’ sound.”  He’s reading, spelling, doing math, learning geography, etc.

He needs a one-to-one aide, someone who can be with him in a typical (but advanced) classroom … not forever, but for the time being until he can learn to self-regulate.  He’s over-stimualated & easily influenced by these low-functioning kids.  He’s picking up behaviors and trying them on for size.  Behaviors that had taken a long time to eradicate are now resurfacing.  He needs to be around his more typical, higher-functioning, bright peers.  I have told the school district this for over a year now, and my assertions fall on deaf ears.  I know what they hear when I ask them for an aide, they hear the sound of money being pried out of their sweaty, bureaucratic hands.  It costs approximately $100,000 a year to have an aide for a child.  It’s no wonder they have denied me time and again.

This was my 4th IEP and I’m pretty much a pro at these now.  I read several very helpful, (and very dense,) special education books from “Wrights Law.” I have my notebooks all properly prepared, each paper at the ready in case I need to reference something.  I have my secret advisors within the district, who, (of course,) shall forever remain nameless.  I have my outline of what I’m going to discuss placed in front of me, I’m dressed professionally, and I am ready to confront them, even though “we’re all on the same team.”And, sorry, but I don’t buy that for a second.  Sure, they all say they have The Boy’s best interest at heart. And I believe that they want to believe that, but at the end of the day I’m not the person signing their paycheck.  Their loyalty lies with the school district.

We’re at an impasse here.  They basically told me that they don’t think he needs an aide, and to even get to the point where they will even consider an aide, they would have to do (another) Functional Behavior Assessment, (FBA.) Which is a time consuming process of collecting data on The Boy – what triggers behaviors, and why. So, let’s just assume they do this FBA & determine he IS eligible for an aide, the placement of an aide would not even happen until the end of this school year.  And that’s IF they decide he qualifies, which I’m here to tell you that will not ever happen without me taking them to due process.  They’re just stalling for time, trying to wear me down & honestly, I can’t deny that it’s working.  I’m tired of dealing with them!

See where I’m going with this?  How much longer do I give them to get it right?  How much longer does The Boy have to suffer from their lackadaisical, bureaucratic gridlock?  I don’t have the resources to fight them – we cannot really afford to hire a high-powered attorney & sue them, (even though I threaten that time and again.) And even if we did – who is to say that having an aide would even solve the problems he is facing?  He is riddled with anxiety that manifests itself in various ways – physical outbursts, nail-biting, aggression toward himself and others.

I can see the toll that daily “failures” are taking on The Boy.  His teacher uses a star-sheet for the day where the kids have to earn a certain number of stars for making safe choices, respecting others, participating in group activities, completing assignments, etc., and if they earn a specific number of stars, they are rewarded by being allowed to choose a treat from the treasure box.  After 60 days of school, he has had 8 treasure box days where he’s earned enough stars to be rewarded.  EIGHT.  Out of SIXTY.  Tell me that isn’t destroying his self-esteem.

I can’t fault him for not having good days – he doesn’t have the tools to be successful!  I mean, of course I will reprimand him for acting out physically toward his teachers or peers – I think he is smart enough to know how to control his impulsivity.  But how can I punish him when a big part of it isn’t his fault?  This is really wearing all of us down: The Boy, The Husband & Me.

I’ve been pondering homeschooling for a little while now – the past few months it’s been rolling around the old brain cage, as sort of a last resort option.  But I’ve been thinking about it more and more lately.  A few friends of mine home school their (typical) kids, but they seem much more cut out for the challenge – both are a lot more laid back than I am, and make it look easier than it probably is.

Well, as I was driving this weekend, (alone,) I was flipping through satellite radio, and on one of the channels, a woman was talking about homeschooling.  And, it just really struck me, that, with all the blood, tears and sweat I’ve put into fighting the school district to try and get The Boy the tools he needs to be successful in school, I’m still not even close to accomplishing this!  And all the time I spend fretting about Common Core & IEP’s, I could be teaching him myself instead of trying to find ways to convince the district to try my ideas.  steve_jobs_quote_Think_Different

Instead of fighting them, why not throw the towel in & flip the script?  Why not remove the obstacle (The School District) & empower myself to be in control of the way my child is educated?  Educated in my comfortable, loving, supportive home environment, where he could focus & receive 100% of my attention.  And, bonus: I could kick Common Core to the curb.  It’s not that I don’t have the fight left in me to battle the school district, but for what?  And for how long until I have to do it again?  It just struck me so deeply that I may be fighting the wrong battle, I may be spinning my wheels, I may be wasting my energy.  And that maybe homeschooling is something I need to seriously consider.

I sat on this idea for a day.  I didn’t tell anyone because I thought maybe it was a fleeting feeling, maybe it was a hormonal thing, maybe I was fired up by the talk radio segment I had heard.  I mean, I was on my period – maybe this wild hair would work its way back out of  me, but instead the thought of homeschooling kept gnawing at me.

Without alerting him to my objective, I started a casual conversation with The Boy about school.  Lately, he has been complaining that he doesn’t want to go … he doesn’t like that they do the same thing every day, he feels overwhelmed with all of the distractions in class, he wishes it was just him alone with me as his teacher.  I explained that I wasn’t his teacher, and he relented and said, then he would be better off alone with his 5 teachers.  So, wow, he said it, he wants to be homeschooled.  That was another a-ha moment.

Then, I went to The Husband.  He’s heard me talk about the possibility of homeschooling before, but between him and my mom, they pretty much dismissed it as a passing thought, brought about by my frustration with the school district.  They thoughtfully pointed out that homeschooling would be really, really tough & I would be exhausted by the end of the day, probably not up for the task … After all, dealing with a very willful Aspie is really hard to do all day.

The thought is actually frightening, I’ll be honest here.  I have no idea what I’m doing, true. And selfishly, where’s my “me time” going to go? I can kiss coffee with the girls good-bye.  Our entire lives will have to change – our routines, our priorities.  I’m petrified, nervous, overwhelmed … and excited.  I feel like this is the beginning of an amazing adventure & I can chart the course.  I feel like this could be really great.  Or be really awful.

outsidethbox

But, don’t I owe it to him to try a different approach?  Even if it is going to be challenging for me?  He is my only child & he deserves this.  I cannot think of anything more important than the well-being, overall health and education of my child. There is no job, no hobby, no community service that I can think of that inspires my passion more than my only little boy.

I’ve been reading some stories from parents who waited too long, and now in a crisis are forced to realize, all too late, that their child would be better off being educated at home.  I don’t want to wait until it becomes a tragedy.  I want to be that intelligent woman who sees the writing on the wall early enough on, and says, “let’s do this.”  If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work and we will know that we gave it our best effort.  But if I don’t try it, it will continue to gnaw away at me, this feeling that we can do better.  Maybe it won’t be forever, maybe it’s only for a little while, and maybe it won’t work.  But shouldn’t I at least try?

Courage

Friends, mommies, homeschoolers, teachers, anyone who wants to chime in, please do!  I’m looking for input from those of you in the trenches.  Give me a shout out!  I need some words of wisdom & inspiration 🙂

Love, The Fairly Good Mother

 

Summer Camp Blues

This has proved to be a tough day for no real terrible reason.  Lots of tears have been tumbling out of my reddened eyes & I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied, (luckily, Ikea has been a good annoying distraction – more on that in another post.)  I didn’t bother even putting on make-up today, because I knew it would be another emotional day.

Like I said, it’s not anything tragic, but I’m a big sobbing mess.  Why?  The Boy started summer camp today, and was away from me from SEVEN excruciating hours!  It was harder on me than it was on him.  And it’s not just that camp started, it’s that preschool is finished, kindergarten looms in the very near future, and he is almost 5 … time is moving way too fast for me.

Wasn’t it just yesterday when he and I were taking Mommy & Me swim classes at the YMCA?  Wasn’t it just last week that we hatched caterpillars that grew into butterflies and set them free in the front yard, caught up in the magic of the moment?  Wasn’t it just last month when we would have long periods of quiet bonding time, me relishing in the way he discovered the world around him?

Where did the time go?

Now he’s ready to spread his wings & fly away from the nest – not too far, but far enough to cause me to hold my breath.  Will he be ok?  Will he remember to re-apply his sunscreen?  Will someone help him if he is having sensory issues peeling his banana?  Will the camp counselors remember what I told them & help him with social interactions, or will they leave him to fend for himself?  What if a kid is mean to him, pushes him, hurts his feelings & I’m not there to intervene?  My mind was swirling with a thousand “what-ifs” all morning long.  I mean, I would feel like this if he were an NT kid, but he’s not & although he seems typical, he still is an Aspie & has special needs.

My job is to protect him.  Besides The Husband, (and his Grandparents) no one else in the world takes this job as seriously as I do … and then the control freak in me just felt so uncomfortable with all the variables that are absolutely OUT of my control.  And bottom line, it’s really hard for me to trust – especially to trust that someone else will care for my child the way I expect them to.

The Boy & I talked the entire ride to summer camp; role-played on how to make new friends, what to say, what to ask, talked about how to keep our hands to ourself, talked about asking a counselor for help if and when The Boy needed to take a break because there were going to be a lot of kids around him, we went over his home phone number, my cell number, our address and a slew of other things … WITHOUT freaking him out.  Just casual conversation.  And then, after a lull in our conversation, he said:

“Mommy, I’m a bit nervous.”  My heart leaped, but I had this.

“Honey, that’s ok, it’s normal to feel nervous when you’re starting a new adventure.  I feel nervous too when I am trying something for the first time, so does Daddy.”

“What if I don’t like it?” He wondered.

“Well,” I swallowed & searched for just the right thing to say.  “I think you’re probably going to have so much fun and make lots and lots of friends, but if you try it for a week or so and you decide you don’t like it, then you don’t have to go back.  But you do have to be brave and give it a try … doing new things & meeting new people is part of growing up.”

“But I miss my friends from my old school – I want to go back there.”  Now, here’s where my heart sank … This poor child has been shuffled around to 3 different schools now & it’s been tough to put down any kind of ‘roots’ and make lasting friendships – every time he bonds with someone over the school year, we’re off to another program, never to see them again.

“Honey, your pre-k school is closed for the summer,” I explained, “everyone is going to different summer camps or they’re on summer vacation, but we will see your friend Dani for play dates, and you will make new friends here – it is going to be a lot of fun.”

He accepted my explanation and we got out of the car and walked in to this new, unfamiliar world of summer camp. We checked him in, dropped off his backpack & he was excited and happy as I took his picture for the purpose of documenting his first day of summer camp in 2014.

I walked him to the door that led to the play yard outside, and he kissed me good-bye & ran outside, full of hope and excited energy.  It was all so fast – I wanted him to linger for a minute, but knew that wouldn’t be a good thing – better to rip the bandaid off quickly.

I watched him from a window where he couldn’t see me … he wandered around aimlessly for a few moments, as I held myself back from running out to his rescue.  He was just about to strike up a conversation with a couple of older girls as a basketball slammed into the side of his head!  I had to resist the instinct to intervene – I waited to see what he’d do.  He shook it off & shortly thereafter he started a game of race with another older boy.  A camp counselor was nearby and monitoring the interaction.  I felt better, but still uneasy.  I crept out, and then found another vantage point to spy from … I spied for another 10 minutes and then I had to force myself to go.

The truth is this … I don’t want to miss one moment of his life.  Selfishly I want to be there for every little thing, I love seeing the world through his eyes – he’s always filled with wonderment & awe over all the discoveries he makes during the day.  But I know that the right thing to do is to give him some space to grow & explore the world without me right there on top of his every move narrating the story, but that’s really difficult for me.  I also want to protect him, help him, guide him, and monitor everything.

But it’s not about me – it’s about letting him drift away from the nest a little bit & letting him put into practice all of the things we’ve been working so hard on, (social skills, self-help skills,) and not ever letting him see how much it affects me.  He can’t know that it breaks my heart to have him away from me for more than a few hours, otherwise, he would want to comfort me and take care of me & never leave my side.  I will never be that kind of burdensome mother.  I’ve seen them in action & they disable their children to the point of a role-reversal. And Typical or NT, I think this kind of a transition (the growing up & letting go) is hard on any (good) parent.

So, I suck it up, I walked back to the car, losing the fight with the tears that were distorting my vision.  I got into the car, shut the door and just sobbed for a good ten minutes.  I’m not ready for this transition. If I had a magic potion, I would keep him little for a while longer.  Though I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready for him to grow up … It’s my job to prepare him for what lies ahead in this great big world.  And as with pretty much every job I’ve ever had, there are some things about the job that are not easy.  Letting go just a little bit & letting your little bird spread his wings is not easy to do, but it is the right thing to do.

When I went back to get him (and believe me, my eye was on that clock every other minute, counting down!)  He was happy to see me, gave me a hug & said “Mommy, I had so much fun!  And I made lots and lots of new friends, just like you said.”

That made me feel a little better.  A little.

I hope tomorrow is easier.  (Update: IT WAS!  I feel much better today … )

The Adventure Begins Here Photo Credit: http://stage.bsaboston.org/camp/

The Adventure Begins Here
Photo Credit: http://stage.bsaboston.org/camp/

The Karate Kid

I think we’ve finally found the key to The Boy, and slowly we’re unlocking a serious breakthrough.  The breakthrough comes with a hearty “Hi-YA!” and a karate kick in the face of Autism.

Aye-Yah!

Aye-Yah!

A little over a month ago, I called the local karate studio & spoke with the instructor of the class.  I explained that The Boy had been diagnosed with Aspergers but we were in the middle of getting him re-assessed & aren’t certain it’s AS.  We think he’s definitely somewhere on the spectrum, and thought that karate might be right up his alley.  We tried gymnastics & soccer, too much waiting around, not enough discipline.

“We have a couple of guys here with Autism who are black belts now.  Bring him in – we’ll run him through a trial and see if it’s a fit.”  The Instructor said.  I was careful not to get my hopes up.  This program didn’t accept everyone.

That Saturday, we brought him to the studio.  He was full of energy & a little unorganized, but he seemed to enjoy the physicality of karate, and he caught on to the routine pretty quickly.  I loved the structure & discipline that this class offered, and it was only 30 minutes – perfect for my little guy with the short-attention span.

The Instructor was a tough guy.  Just as The Boy began to act out & I hissed his name, The Instructor walked over to me and said “No, let me handle him.  You just sit here and watch.  He needs to know that I’m the boss here & if you’re doing the discipline in my studio, he won’t ever respect me.”  Word.  I was totally on board, but also on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how much of a spectacle this would turn into.  To my delight, The Boy didn’t buck too much, just tested the waters a little, but I loved that The Instructor didn’t let him (or any of the other kids) get away with a single shenanigan!

The Instructor told us to bring The Boy back again to the next class.  And again, and again, and again.  The Boy was in try-outs for almost 3 weeks!  He had to “earn” his “jacket.”  That totally motivated him.  He loved the challenge, he got the hang of things, (addressing his instructors as “Ma’am & Sir,” keeping his hands to himself, staying quiet & following directions – for the most part.) And although he struggled with controlling his body, he really made an effort.  After 9 sessions, he had finally earned his jacket!  He was a proud little boy, and I was a proud mama.

Yeah, I cried a little.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the distinct look of pure pride on The Boy’s face.  He had accomplished this all on his own & he knew it! He glanced over at me & smiled, we exchanged the “thumbs up” sign.

I know it might sound silly, but I think he may have found his place.  This might be his sport.  I can’t see soccer as his sport, or baseball … He needs something that is more of a solo “team” sport.  In this class, he’s part of a team, but his success is solely based on his own merits.  And quite frankly, I’m a little relieved about this for several reasons – I mean, of course, I’m happy for him, but selfishly, I’m happy for me, too.  The thought of early Saturday soccer games out in the hot sun & weekday practices out in the hot sun don’t appeal to me.  I would do it, sure, and I even had envisioned him having the “All-American” childhood, replete with a position on the soccer & little league teams when he was growing inside of me.  But  maybe I’m not going to be a soccer mom.  Maybe I’m going to be a Karate Mom … or a Tennis Mom … or a Golf Mom.  I’m cool with that.

It’s been really spectacular to see the change in him … And it’s not just me & The Husband who see a change, his teachers commented to me that The Boy has been making big strides lately.  It’s a tough class & it’s three times a week, but it’s something that The Boy looks forward to – he enjoys the challenge & the routine, knows what’s expected of him & when he pushed back (which the instructor said he’d do,) he got his belt taken away for 2 classes!  He earned it back & learned the lesson: can’t clown around in karate.  There’s a time & a place for messing about, but in karate class, you act professionally, take it seriously & do your best.

Warning: MOMMY BRAG Ahead!

Yesterday, after being in this class for less than 6 weeks, he did this entire series called “Appreciation Form” which is a 12-step series of different hand movements FLAWLESSLY without any assistance from an instructor!  He even showed up a camouflage belt (highest belt in the class!)  The Instructor praised him “never seen a white belt do that series all on his own without any help!  Well done!”

We’ll see how it goes, but I think we’ve finally found his sport 🙂

 

 

Easter Egg-citement … and a Life Lesson on the side

Oh that title is sooooo cheesy, but it’s late & you get what you get at this point. And by the by – this post has not been “proofed.” I still have to make a basket, hide eggs tonight, and gnaw out chunks of a carrot that The Boy left for the bunny.

On Thursday, The Boy & I made Chickadee Cupcakes!

chickadee_cupcakes_platter

 

I was inspired by this post.  Mine are nowhere near as perfect & pretty as hers, but then again, I’m just a “fairly good mother,” so what do you expect?

Let me see if I can impress you with this little tidbit of info:  I did all of this WHILE working from home, juggling calls, making deals & doing laundry, AFTER running errands in the morning.  Impressed?  *huffs on knuckles & brushes off the shoulder dust*  Yeah, I’m a badass mama sometimes.

We took the easy route – got a box yellow cake instead of making from scratch, BUT I did make whipped cream frosting (my own concoction using heavy cream & powdered sugar & vanilla – don’t measure, just add to taste,) and then added yellow gel.  I bought pre-made eyes & used some orange icing that was leftover from Halloween.  It was Wilton’s – the kind in the air canister & it had a mind of it’s own, very difficult to deal with! I piped on some frosting to the sides for their wings.  Note: You need to refrigerate these because of the cream frosting.  Just let them stand at room temp for 15 minutes or so before you scarf one down.

The Boy had fun making some of the chickadees into “silly chickadees” with one eye or three, and since I didn’t want 2 dozen chickadees, so we used the rest of the batter to make a mama chick.  We used chocolate chips for her eyes & The Boy, my little choc-o-holic, ate enough chips to make 5 more chicks!

mama_chickadee_cakeWe took some of the cupcakes to the neighbor kids & then went to karate.

On Friday, we tackled the eggs!  And let’s be honest here, it was a less than perfect undertaking.

Take one rambunctious 4 year old, add 6 flimsy PAAS cups filled with colored water & of course your chances for a disaster are like 97% … Add to that the fact that I had dressed him in a new outfit that was partially white & the chances increased to 99.9999%.

No worries, I’m a chilled out mama regardless of my self-diagnosed mild OCD.  I had prepared for this event: laid out paper towels & put an apron on him.  But two seconds after this picture was taken …. the green egg disaster commenced.

Green will be all over the kitchen in 5-4-3-2 ...

Green will be all over the kitchen in 5-4-3-2 ..

The Boy accidentally tipped over the flimsy PAAS cup (we were using the whisk to hold the egg since that’s an easier way for kids to maneuver the eggs.)

The Boy immediately freaked out & hopped off his stool to retreat in the far end of the kitchen.  Before I even went to clean it, I consoled him.  My little sensitive guy was obviously pretty upset that he had spilled the green all over the counter, cabinets & himself.

“Guess what?”  I told him … “Accidents happen & I’m not mad.  I know I told you to be careful, but it’s no big deal – do I look mad?  No.  I’m not mad at all & it’s ok!  Let’s take off your apron & get you a new one.”  But he was still pretty shaken by the whole thing & ran off to his playroom.  This was a great teaching moment (yes, those are actual real things for the fairly good mothers of the world.) I went to get him & we had a nice little talk about how important it is to forgive ourselves when we’re not perfect.

He came back to do a couple more eggs, but I could see that he was a little timid & still pretty mad at himself, and it broke my heart into about a thousand pieces when I asked him why he was still upset & he said “I’m mad at myself for making an accident & I don’t want to color eggs anymore because I’m afraid I’ll do it again.”

I choked back my tears.  Give me a break, friends, I’m PMDD’d & I love this kid.   I got right down next to him & told him “hey it’s totally ok if you do it again … I might even do it this time!  I’m not perfect, no one is.  If we make a mess, we’ll clean it up!  No big deal.  Right?   And listen to me … You know when a friend does something that makes you sad & they apologize to you & you say ‘I forgive you?’ well, it’s important to forgive yourself when you do something that makes you sad or frustrated.”  He got that.  And we finished the eggs.

Tie_DyeEasterEggs

We used the PAAS Tie-Dye Easter Egg Kit, which I have used in past years, and had so-so results, but apparently my fairly good brain forgot that we tried this before & I bought the kit again.  This time they had included this gloss to polish the eggs, which seemingly made some difference.  And I guess I perfected my technique … or maybe it was just luck 🙂

 

I think I like this one the best: Pink_TieDyeEgg

Or maybe it was the super bright pink egg that I did just for The Boy since it’s his favorite color & I knew it would make him happy.

And we read this book before bed – one of MY childhood faves: The Country Bunny & the Little Gold Shoes.

the country bunnyIt’s about a Country Bunny who becomes one of the 5 Easter Bunnies.  Was written in 1939 & still holds up seventy-five years later!

I hope you have a great Easter, and I hope you can remember the wonderment you felt as you woke up on Easter morning to discover a basket filled with goodies & eggs hidden around the house.

Childhood is a magical time where reality is kind of suspended … at least if you have fairly good parents who will do that for you.

I hope The Boy looks back on his childhood and forgets the accidents & the struggles, and only remembers the magic, the wonderment, the joy of his life.

P.S. Tell me that the addition of the text to my pictures was worth it! Thanks Picmonkey.

xo 🙂

 

 

Tumbleweeds

 

 

Cue Western Gun Song from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Cue Western Gun Song from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

 

Hello?  Anyone here?  *Looks around, almost gets knocked down by a tumbleweed.*

Wow, hang on a sec, let me dust off the monitor and pick out the bramble from between my keys  …

Oh, my poor little blog!  You are so neglected!  I’m so sorry … but it’s not you, it’s me.  It’s my fault & my crazy working-mom-running-a-household schedule & my awful procrastination & all of my many excuses.  I think about you all the time, I even have a vault of half-cooked posts!

I just backspaced over my lengthy, in-depth excuse, because I respect you enough to not  to play you like that.  You already know how challenging it is to juggle being a fairly good mother, a fairly good wife, a fairly good daughter, a fairly good worker & a fairly good friend, so I won’t repeat myself.

You’re so sweet to forgive me for abandoning you for so long … It reminds me of the time that my bikini waxer looked at my own bushy bramble in horror after 2 months of neglect & went to work anyway.  Too much information?  Yeah, I thought so.

I’ll be back with a new post in two shakes of a lambs tail …

Happy New Year!

It’s the first day of a whole new year … lots of life waiting to happen.  2013 was fun, interesting, full of growth & discovery … but I’m ready for a new blank book to make fresh memories & create more traditions.

Last year I created a new tradition for our family: The Good Memories Jar.  Every time one of us had a fun day, we wrote it down & put it in the jar.  Then, on December 31st we read them, remembering all the fun we had this past year.

The Good Memories Jar

The Good Memories Jar

Another tradition is our NYE Dinner: Shrimp Cocktail, Filet Mignon, Burgundy Mushrooms, a Wedge Salad & bread with Champagne Cocktails beforehand & a beautiful Syrah or Cab with dinner.  Then more champagne as we ring in the new year.  Most years we celebrate the east coast new year, but this year we went all out & stayed up past midnight!  (I’m paying for it dearly this morning)

So I took a look at my Bake-It List & looks like I came up short!  Well, guess what?  One of my resolutions, (which I don’t generally like to subscribe to,) is I’m not gonna sweat the small stuff & I won’t be too hard on myself.  I will roll over the things I didn’t bake in 2013 to 2014!  Yes, I will make an updated Bake-It List soon!  Stay tuned 🙂

I got busy in 2013 – I unexpectedly started a new venture & had to figure out how to juggle being a working mom.  It was not as easy as you working moms make it look!!!  I think I finally got into a rhythm & figured out how to fit everything in … things that fall to the last on the list?  Things for me.  And that’s just not cool, but that’s what good moms do.

Speaking of being a good mom — here are some things I’m looking forward to doing with The Boy this coming year:

  1. Take him to see the snow (this is difficult when it’s so warm here!)
  2. Finger paint more often & do more crafts
  3. Write more books with him (he just finished two picture books all on his own!)
  4. Go on more hikes with him & explore the outdoors
  5. Star gaze & cloud burst

What are you looking forward to doing in 2014?

Wanna be a mom??? BIRTH-CONTROL HERE!!!

All the commercials & all the reality shows & all the magazines make motherhood look so absolutely adorable, perfect and happy.  It is actually NONE of that.  And I’m not exaggerating.  I mean, NONE.  It’s not adorable, it’s not perfect and it’s rarely happy.  It’s stressful, hectic and insane.  Arguing with a 3 year old is the definition of insanity.  And I find myself doing that DAILY.

Wanna be a mom??  Let’s review some facts …. Gone are the days of sleeping in. GONE.  Despite what your husband promises you.  GONE. Gone are the days of perfectly coiffed hair, adorable, stain-free outfits & languid lunches, with giggling girlfriends.  GONE GONE GONE.

BUT, if you like frazzled, sleepless nights and hurried showers followed by mismatched outfits & no time for eating your own breakfast, well, you’re in luck!  Perhaps motherhood is for you.  Do you like poop, piss and puke?  Oh, you do?  Well, then, sign up right here – because we have plenty of that to go around!

We’ll skip right past pregnancy where shit, piss & puke are a regular occurrence, and we can fast forward to you having the baby & having a gaping hole for a vagina, (well, unless you have my OB/GYN who will stitch you up with an extra “virgin” stitch if you ask real nicely, or your hubby slips him a fifsky.) Or, perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to have major abdomnial surgery and get a c-setion!  Good News: Your baby will have a nice, round head!  Bad news: You’re connected to a catheter for 3 days & you can’t laugh or roll out of bed without feeling like your intestines are going to fall out for 14 days post surgery!!!!

No seriously, there are some upsides to being a mother …but, hmm … right now, I’m at a loss.  I’m sorry, I’m looking through the Victoria’s Secret catalog at udder covers for my 36D’s!!!  Before I gave birth I had B’s.  Perfectly pert B’s – the kind that looked perfect in every shirt WITHOUT a bra.  They swelled to C’s in my pregnancy & then The Boy claimed them as his own when they became full of milk and turned into D’s.  They deflated after he finished nursing, but not without my warwounds: STRETCH MARKS.  Yippe freakig skippee!  No stretch marks anywhere else but on my boobs.  I cried many nights about that, but I guess I should be thankful because every time I look at them I’m reminded that I was lucky enough to have a child and nurse him.  A fleeting moment of gratitude, but gratitude nonetheless!

Now back to my poop, piss and puke rant … So, if you still need reasons to NOT get pregnant, here are a few more:

I thought that I had already experienced the grossest part of motherhood back when The Boy was nearly 3 months old.  It was Christmas morning and I had us both all dressed in adorable Christmas outfits, (because motherhood is adorable, remember?!?) And I was playing with the baby and laying on the floor, holding him above my head and giggling at him as though we were in a Johnson & Johnson commercial, when SPLAT!  All of the sudden, he spit up, or down, rather – ALL OVER ME — IN MY MOUTH, ALL OVER HIMSELF – All over EVERYWHERE!  How much breast milk did this kid drink!?!?  It was so gross – I gagged and thought I was going to lose it.  So, I thought that had to have been the pinnacle of gross mom stuff I’d deal with in his early youth.  Oh, how wrong I was …

... said no person ever

… said no person ever

Cut to Wednesday, after his swim lesson … when he crapped in his swim diaper & in an effort to clean it up I proceeded to, as gently as possible, pull his swim diaper down.  This swim diaper is not the disposable kind – it’s the reusable kind, but for a moment there, I thought about trashing that thing since this was the 2nd time in a week this had occurred.  I’m pulling it down and out plops the warm, wet poop right into my hand.  Gag reflexes kick in and I’m in shock.  WHAT DO I DO WITH A HANDFUL OF SHIT???????  Well, what would you do?  Probably what I did.  I freaked out!  I said a few choice curse words under my breath – not the bad ones, (well, depending on who you are – but they weren’t any of the top 5 ones that the FCC banned.)  And then as calmly as possible I walked that handful of poop over to the trashcan.  I tell you … THAT right there, folks, THAT is the grossest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life.  Carrying someone else’s poop in my hand.

Holding poop was by far worse than being spit up on, or being puked on (I forgot to regale you with that little story of the stomach flu,) or having a booger wiped on your arm, (which oddly enough happened to me today.)  Oh, the things we do for love.

So my point here is this: Motherhood is a dirty job, baby.  A dirty job with crappy pay and no vacations or sick days.  The perks are where you find them … in the hand-picked flowers that are held out by a small, chubby little hand attached to a three-year old who says “Here mama, it’s ‘just because I love you day.'” Or the out of the blue, impromptu kisses and hugs … or the long gazes with the sweet smiles.  Those are actually worth it, and now that it’s been a couple of days, I can say yeah, it’s worth holding someone else’s shit in your hand in order to get the sweet little perks of motherhood.  free happy snoopy.jpg

Max & Ruby … More Debauchery

I should really be outraged, but instead I’m mildly amused.  And semi-outraged.  Semi-mildly-outraged-amused-like.  And you already know the disdain I have in my heart for these wayward, parentless rabbits, Max & Ruby.

The Boy has this book “Max’s Halloween.”  (That’s my fault.  I bought it before I read it!)  I feel that it sends a terrible message & I’ve tried to hide the book, (though I’ve learned my lesson about straight up trashing things of his that I don’t like – I end up having to deal with a sobbing mess of a child and then repurchase whatever it was that I had originally gotten rid of, not to mention the wrath of The Husband who fails to understand why we don’t need 29 tiny plastic dollar store slinkies.)  Well, this time I simply hid the book. Yeah, that didn’t work.  The Boy is like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Max & Ruby.

When The Boy cannot have something he becomes singularly fixated, and will make it his sole purpose in life to attain whatever it is he is not able to have.  Gee, I wonder where he got THAT from?

So, here’s a little excerpt from this wanton book … YOU TELL ME!!!!

Highly inappropriate teachings!  | The Fairly Good Mother

Highly inappropriate teachings from Rosemary Wells! | The Fairly Good Mother

The text to the left of this page reads: “Mr. Huffington filled their jack-o’-lanterns with gummy toads.  Then he stuffed a few extra toads in Max’s costume.”

I’m sorry …  WHAT???   I’m so NOT a prude, but Come.The Hell.On!  This is teaching my child, A) to accept gummy toads from some crazed looking rabbit-man wearing a bow tie, with his eyes rolled to the back of his head in ecstasy, and B) to allow crazed rabbit-man to stuff said toads into his fricking halloween costume!!!!  All while his clueless sister counts her candy!!!!!  WTF!?!?  The whole scenario screams inappropriate!!!  The whole situation is unacceptable!!!

Yeah, I’m outraged, but amusingly so.  I mean, I would be simply amused if only The Boy wasn’t so fixated on this book.  He is reading this book as though it were Halloween gospel.  I have since had to drill into his head that we should: A) NEVER accept candy from strange looking bunnies dressed in pin-striped suits;  & B) never let anyone put candy in our costumes & C) never put candy in our costumes in general because it will ruin our costume.  (***NOTE:  The entire premise of the book is that people are stuffing extra candies in Max’s costume throughout his Halloween escapades. Seriously. I can come up with better story lines than this!!)

Thank you, once again, Rosemary Wells, for your tainted debauchery!  Burn books??  Never thought I’d be on THAT bandwagon, but yeah, let’s start with Max & Ruby books!!

Mothers Day – Reality vs. Fantasy

So … You all know what I was expecting to happen on Mother’s Day.  And believe me, my expectations were low – and I don’t mean that in a negative way, I  mean that I had managed my own expectations.  I kept them in check & I didn’t think they were unreasonable.  Looking back, I realize that what I was expecting was a fantasy Mother’s Day, albeit a fantasy that was seemingly within reach.  And the fact that The Husband had a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to me on Friday was a sure sign that my expectations were right on the mark.  Um, yeah.

In my fantasy, I would wake up to a the smells of breakfast cooking, and in The Boy and The Husband would stroll, (The Boy would be dressed,) breakfast tray carried by The Husband, small gift bag containing a mystery gift, and/or cards carried by The Boy.  They would watch me open them up, telling me what an amazing mother I am, how much they loved me, yada yada yada, and I would nibble lazily on my griddle cakes whilst sipping my coffee …

In reality, I woke up & couldn’t really make out any smells.  I called out that I was awake, but no one answered.  I grabbed my iPhone and texted The Husband that his lovely wife was now awake & ready for some pampering.  Surely I didn’t want to spoil their surprises by getting OUT of bed & coming to find them!

Minutes went by and I could hear The Husband negotiating with The Boy to bring in my cards.  There was bribing and threats.  Then more minutes went by, and the door flung open followed by a very rambunctious Boy, half naked, hair wild, running toward me, waving cards in his hand and screaming.  Too early for screaming unless alcohol was involved, and it wasn’t.

I opened the card from The Boy and he grabbed it away, nearly ripping the card.  I retrieved it and thanked him, kissed him, and we discussed the card at length.  There was a blue dog on the front & The Boy was very impressed with this dog.  I was impressed that he had chosen the card himself.

Then I opened the card from The Husband.  Out fell a lottery ticket that The Boy tried to confiscate!  I seized the ticket and he fought me, in tears, nearly ripping it into pieces!  All I could think was “this is the winning ticket and this kid is going to destroy it and I will never forgive him … and I’ll never be able to afford his college tuition without this winning ticket!!”  It was stressful to say the least.  The Husband was nowhere to be found at this juncture.

Then came the breakfast tray carried by The Husband with room temperature griddle cakes & a bowl of berries.  The bowl was not filled to the brim with berries, rather, it was a like a ration of berries.  As though berries were some very expensive commodity & we could only afford to purchase 3 strawberries a month.  No juice, no coffee.  Syrup and butter on the side.  Question: How are you supposed to spread butter on a nearly cold griddle cake?  It doesn’t melt.  So either you skip the butter altogether, OR you eat a thin layer of butter on top of your chilly griddle cake.  I know, I know, “First World Problems.”  I should praise the effort, and I did.

The husband left me alone with the tray full of food and The Boy while he went to get me some beverages.

During this time, The (wild) Boy was jumping around the bed, trying to crawl under the breakfast tray, wanted to lay on my lap & also stole all of my raspberries!  NOT RELAXING!

I ended up hand-feeding him a griddle cake to avoid getting syrup all over my bed and us.  The Husband made his entrance again with coffee in hand and there was NO WAY I could drink it with this crazy kid flailing about – I nearly spilled twice while trying to get enough of it in my gullet to deal with the situation!  When I asked The Husband if he could remove said child so that I could eat, Husband, (on the verge of a meltdown,) proclaimed that he needed to nap because he had been up for hours.  So I was on my own.

Not that I’m complaining … Ok, maybe I am.

I will spare you the details about needing to make brownies & discovering that we were out of  eggs and The Husband nearly having a stroke because I asked him to run to the store, and all that nonsense.  I will skip right to when we get in the car and head to The Grandparents house for more festivities.  The Husband & I “restarted” the day, kissed, made up and smiled as we drove off for our 90 minute trip to my parents’ house.

I had The Boy all dressed in a cute outfit, hair perfectly gelled and iPad, water, snacks and other accoutrements at the ready for our trip down the 405 on a Mother’s Day Sunday.

Cut to: The Boy eating a PB&J.  Then barfing.  ALL. OVER. THE. @#($&% CAR.  Off the road we pull, strip him down, clean him up, change his clothes, clean up the car seat, put him back in, stop at Del Taco to pee & continue on with our journey.  Ok.  I don’t know about you, but puke was NOT in my Mother’s Day directive!  Thankfully the fact that it was Mother’s Day relieved me from clean-up duty, and when I got to my parent’s house I was greeted with a large glass of Chardonnay.

We then proceeded to have fun, grill ribs, open gifts, hug and kiss and laugh.  Ah, that’s motherhood.  That’s life.

So, in summary,  although Mother’s Day did not go as planned, as expected or  as fantasized, it was all in all a pretty good day. May have gotten off to a rocky start, but at the end of the day, when I looked back over all of it, I smiled, chuckled lightly and thought this was one I would never forget.  All that really matters is having your family around you … and family is imperfect.  Well, at least mine is imperfect.  And I wouldn’t change that for the world.  Because you know what I say: You don’t have to be perfect to be awesome.