Love Letter from my Daughter

Last night was a great night!  I went up the street to have a drink with my neighbor.  Well, one neighbor turned into 2 or 3 neighbors, and one drink turned into 3 or 4 drinks.  So, I came home around 10:30 pm with my need for “girlfriend chatter” completely fulfilled, and my house was totally quiet.  (Thank you to my hubby for putting 4 kids to bed!)  I pulled back the covers to crawl into bed, and I found a note/card from my almost 8 year old daughter.  It was beautifully decorated, but the words are what struck me the most.  Here it is, misspellings (very few of them!) and all:

“Thank you mom for Doing My Laundry.  thank you for making me Dinner and thank you for buying me Lots of things.  I (heart) u mom.  thank you for being a great mom.  I (heart) u mom.  You Are the Best.  When I’m sad you make me happy because u are the greatest mom on erth.  your the gratest girlfriend their ever was.  I (heart) u.  I (heart) U.  Thank you mommy.”

My heart was bursting, my eyes were watering, and I felt warm and fuzzy all over.  The interesting thing is that my husband and I had an argument this morning (after last night’s note), and I drolled on and on about how I don’t get paid for my job, the fact that no one ever thanks me for the things I do, etc.  (you know the drill, ladies)  As I let the words spill out of me faster than a roaring-fast-flowing-white-water-river, I realized what I schmuck I was . . . because my daughter had JUST thanked me the night before.  And thanked me for some very specific things as well!  Shame on me!

Well, I can use the excuse that has become my good ol’ standby . . . “I have 4 kids under the age of 8, with no help, and I’m just a crazy lady, so give me a break!”  But, alas, I am realizing that the more I let go of things in my life, the more “life” I am able to soak up.  So, here’s to basking in the amazing things my children do and say that make my choice to be a “crazy lady” all worth it!  : )

P.S.  To my amazing, almost 8 year old daughter — Thank you.  I (heart) u, too!

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July 11, 2007 at 3:09 am 2 comments

I Never . . . the Parent Game

So, how many of us have played “I Never” — as in, the drinking game? Granted, it’s been years, but I bet many of you know the game. So, I was thinking about it today . . . as I watched my 3 year old (yes, the special needs child) running through my backyard NAKED, with slippers from the movie Cars on his feet, his sister’s pink headband on his head, his mouth full of string cheese, applesauce all over his face and in his hair. He was yelling unintelligibly as he ran from one end of yard to the next, and was pulling a small wagon with only 2 yellow markers in it. I was laughing. I ran to get the camera. As soon as I got it turned on and aimed at him, he stopped, promptly removed the slippers and the headband, and proceeded to smile and wave. Crap. He’s figured out the camera thing.

So, all of this got me to musing about all of the things I was “never going to do when I became a parent”. Where shall I begin? I remember when my husband’s aunt was visiting, and my first child, a daughter, was wearing a well-put-together-and-totally-matching-outfit. She said, “So, do you always match the pacifier color with the outfit color?” I enthusiastically replied, “yes”!! Which, by the way, was totally, and embarrassingly, true. This brings me to my first point.

Clothing: My children were never going to look ridiculous. Or wear dirty clothes. They were going to wear clean clothes that matched. Every day. Period. If they spit up on their outfit, they would be changed into another, just as cute, outfit. Well, ha ha ha ha ha . . . the joke was on me.

My firstborn is a girl, and girls are so much fun to dress! (no offense to boys/sons, I have 3 boys, too, but come on . . . girl clothes are the bomb!) As SOON as she started to have some idea of what an “opinion” was, she started picking out her clothes. Lucky for me, this came later for her than many of her girlfriends and school mates. Unlucky for me, part of her Tourette’s Syndrome, includes TONS of sensory issues. So, everything bothers her: seams, tags, elastic waistbands, button closures, zippers, anything fitted, rubberbands in her hair, et. al. So, when a pair of pants fit her, I buy every color! My point is this: I had to let the whole “cute outfits” thing go. A LONG time ago! Right now, she has 2 pairs of shorts that she likes . . . just 2! She does not care if they’re clean or dirty. (And when I say dirt, I mean ALL of yesterday’s food remnants, plus dirt and sand…) She wants to wear them every day!! She also has sundresses. That’s about it. I always try a quick, “honey, you just wore them yesterday, and they’re filthy.” But then, guess what? I have way too much going on to stress out about the clothes my daughter wears. Ya know? So, she wears the same thing over and over and over and over again. And sometimes they’re dirty. And she frequently does not “match” at ALL! I used to have minor rules: church, certain family functions, etc. “mattered”. Guess what? Almost nothing does anymore! (I’m still psycho about the Christmas card photo, though . . .)

My second point: hair. My children were never going to go out of the house with unkempt hair. Okay, a double HA HA on me for this one! Whatever! My daughter has a mop of a head half the time. She loves going to bed with wet hair from the shower and waking up all medusa-like, and just going to school. Again, whatever. I reserve the right to brush it, straighten it, or put it up for the grandparents, the school performances, etc. But, overall, I never care . . . anymore! And as for the boys, buzz cuts are the best thing ever! No maintenance!

My third point: cleanliness. I was never going to have dirty kids. Or kids with snotty, unwiped noses, or food on their faces. My mom told me that I had a bath every day of my life from birth until junior high, when I simply stopped doing the every day shower/bathing thing. Okay, so who does this anymore? Who has the time and/or energy for daily baths?!?!? My older kids, at 8 and 5 and 3 are pretty much on an every other day schedule. Folks, I use the term “every other day” loosely, if you know what I mean. As far as my newborn . . . well, when he starts to smell, I bathe him. I won’t put down in writing how infrequent that is . . . because I was never going to have “dirty” kids. Really folks, what is one to do when you don’t have a wipe or tissue on hand? Or when you just don’t feel like battling your kid over the constant drip coming out of their nose? And in the summer, doesn’t the pool count as a bath??

My fourth point: tv. So, didn’t all of us swear our children were never going to watch too much tv? Well, I don’t have nannies, and this is not the 1950’s anymore, where we can just shove our kids out the door to “play outside” for hours at a time without supervision, is it? I mean, I am just now letting my 8 and 5 year old go out to the front yard without me . . . and only if they stay together! So, when I’m cooking dinner and need peace and quiet, it’s tv time. When my special needs child is going gangbusters on his siblings, I say the magic words, “Dragon Tales”. He heads straight for the tv room. When they come home from school and need “down time”, it’s tv, at least for a little while. When I need to shower, I put the young ones in front of the tv. So, I guess I “parent-by-tv” when I need to. So much for my kids not watching tv . . .

My fifth point: public tantrums. I was never going to let my kids have public tantrums. (notice the word “let”) Okay, as a former-business-traveler, I used to get so annoyed at crying and restless kids on airplanes. I always thought, “come on, please just deal with your kid.” Same thoughts in the grocery store, the movie theater, etc. Now that reality has settled in to my life, in the shape of one girl and three boys . . . well, let’s just say that this has been the biggest HA HA of them all. Especially with a non-verbal special needs child who sometimes just yells, for no apparent reason. Just to hear himself? To get attention? For fun? To watch his mom freak out? Who knows? I have learned to let go of people’s stares and judgments. Whatever. If it’s an inappropriate place, like a movie theater or church, we leave. If it’s the grocery store, sorry folks. Needless to say, now when I see a kid having a public tantrum, I think, “Oh, that poor mom…” My how things have changed . . .

I suppose my next point is: food. I’m not sure exactly what the I never is on this one. I just know I was going to be healthy. I mean, I homemade my first child’s baby food!! Yes, I’m totally serious. And I breastfed her for 9 months. And I was working. Whew! Give me a medal! I mean, look how far I’ve come — did you read my blog on Pirate Booty? Every time we get a sitter, it’s mac n’ cheese or pizza. When my husband travels, it might be pb&j or McD’s for dinner. Yes, most nights we do have family dinner — because my husband is a phenomenal cook, and he enjoys it. I enjoy it too, when I don’t feel pressured to do it every night. So, once again, the joke is on me . . . and my kids!

So, to all of those who judge me . . . shame on you! And for all of those I probably (most certainly) judged before I became a parent . . . shame on me! We’re all in this together, folks. It seriously does take a village!

June 22, 2007 at 2:54 am 1 comment

Cry, Cry, Cry, Cry, Cry . . . . and Cry!

So, do we ever get used to the sound of crying?  I’m starting to wonder.  As I write this, my 4 month old has been at it for an hour and 13 minutes . . . with a couple of 5 minute breaks.  I walked around holding him for about a half hour, and then I just gave up and put him in the swing.  I mean, what’s the point?  He’s gonna cry anyway, ya know?

With my first child, I would freak out, take her temperature, walk around our shoebox-sized condo bobbing her up and down, gently put the binky in her mouth, sing to her, cry with her, and generally freak out, sometimes even calling the pediatrician.

With my second child, I was better, but I had post-partum depression (PPD) pretty badly, so I’d yell a lot.  And a couple of times I called my husband at the office and told him he needed to get home because I was “on the edge”.   No, I never did anything “bad”  because I had a great network of family and friends to help me.

With my third child, he never cried a whole lot.  We didn’t find out that something was “wrong” with him until 4 months.  He is special needs.  He is just starting to make speech sounds — my newborn is going to pass him up.  So, he really wasn’t a big crier, but he was also my third kid, and I was feeling like a pro at this point.  (or so I thought…)

So, if I’m such a pro, why can’t I get this one to shut up?  He’s so darn cute!  And I am honestly proud of myself for NOT freaking out when he cries nonstop.  But, wow!  He was such a good baby, and now, at 4 months, he decides to be a crier.  Everyday at about 4:30 pm he starts . . . and doesn’t stop until almost 6 pm.  And if he does get a moments relief, my special needs son manages to get a smack or a poke or a yell in his face, which starts him all over again.  I’m losing my mind!  Would anyone like to trade places with me?  Just kidding!  (sort of . . . )

So, this whole PPD thing (post partum depression) . . . it’s weird.  I mean, it comes and goes.  The crying, however, does NOT stop.  I am on some medication for the PPD, which, as we know, the Tom Cruises of the world are totally against.  And, for the record, I find that soooooooooooo interesting.  How can a multi-millionaire, with tons of help (I’m guessing nannies, cooks, drivers, family living with him, etc.) judge people with NO help.  I have NO local family and no nannies AND I have 2 kids with special needs, and usually, I do okay . . . with a little help from what my husband calls “the happy pills”.  But seriously folks, don’t you find it amusing when really famous and wealthy people spout off about stuff that normal folks deal with on a daily basis?  Like when Madonna said that her kids never watch t.v.  Well, if I had nannies to entertain my kids, maybe they wouldn’t either — but I think of “Dragon Tales” and “Dora the Explorer” as super-helpers!!  But, I digress . . . back to the crying.  It appears to have stopped for the evening, which means, I think I’ll stop blogging, and go cook dinner . . .

June 21, 2007 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

Thank GOD for Church Camp!

Well, today I was in tears again, but “happy” tears!  Two of my sons are in Vacation Bible School, which is a camp that many churches have for one week in the summer — entirely run on a volunteer basis.  They get the curriculum from a national organization, so the same program is being run all over the country, all by volunteers.

I talked to the Director about taking my special needs son for the week at camp.  (They sort of know him from Sunday school;  we just started attending this church.)  She was more than willing to try.  I convinced her that he needed his own “person/aide” for it to be a successful week, but that it could be an 11 or 12 year old, not necessarily an adult.  He just needs that little bit extra supervision, or he will throw off the adult-to-child-ratios.   They arranged for him to have an aide, and she was about 12 to 14 years old.  She looked a bit nervous as I explained my son to her . . . but when I came to pick him up, she was all smiles!  She said that he had a fabulous time!  (which is nice to know, since he can’t talk and tell me that himself)  He even danced up on stage with his group!

So, thank God for VBS!  I am so grateful for the volunteers, the church, the whole thing!!  I am grateful for a week of sanity, where my son gets to do something organized and social and away from mommy.  Thank you, Lord, for fabulous people with big, caring hearts!!!

(By the way, my older “normal” son, had a fabulous time, too!)

June 19, 2007 at 3:44 am 1 comment

Courting Couples

My husband and I plucked our family from the midwest 3 years ago to come live in sunny Colorado.  It has been a fantastic decision for a million reasons.  We did, however, leave lots of family and friends behind.  So, we’ve been looking, and finding, some great friends here.  We often muse at the funny “process” couples go through in becoming friends.  It’s completely natural, and most people do it, we just think it’s funny to talk about it.  So, here goes:

One of you meets someone at some event;  usually it’s me (the woman/mom), because I’m at all the kids’ stuff, and quite frankly, I’m an off-the-charts extrovert.  I crave companionship, conversation, and  . . . just . . . people.  So, I meet someone.   We’ll talk, maybe run into each other at one of the schools, the grocery store, the soccer field, etc.  Eventually, one of us will throw out the idea of “getting together”.  {That’s Step 1.}  Sometimes it’s a coffee and kid thing, it might be a bike thing (cycling is HUGE in Colorado), it might even be a ski-during-the-week thing (another benefit of living here…), and sometimes it’s even a lets-meet-at-the-McDonald’s Playland-with-the-kids thing.  Whatever form it takes, it’s a “thing”, a “gathering”, and a chance to get to know each other.

Let’s say it goes well.  You’re on to Step 2, which is either to do it again, or, if you’re feeling really good about each other, you might move on to  . . . Happy Hour.  That way, you get a few drinks in you, you really relax, the conversation might go a little deeper and a bit riskier, and you’re in each other’s home.  The husband might even come home from work and meet the “new” woman in your life.  Then, you can get his feedback on her after she leaves.  (What did you think of her?  Wasn’t she cool?  Did you notice how well our kids played with each other?)

You’re ready for Step 3.  Involving the husbands.  Sometimes, it’s a group/party situation, where you say, “hey, let’s invite the _______’s to join us at ________.”  In these situations, there are always “buffer couples” to help out, just in case your husband doesn’t click with her husband.

Sometimes, however, you’re feeling really good about the other woman, and you skip the party/buffer thing, and go right for dinner — one couple with one couple.  Restaurants can be a safer choice, because dinner can go quickly if you need it to.  Yet, the benefit to the home is that you can involve the children;  this works well if you already know that the kids get along.  In this case, if it’s not going well for the men, you can always pull the old “we’ve got to get going — the kids are melting down and need to go to bed.”  So, either way, restaurant or home, the evening can be a long one or a short one.

Keep in mind that whether or not the evening works — there are absolutely NO hard feelings, here, it’s just that not all men click with each other just because their wives do.  (and it’s SUCH a bummer when you do, and they don’t…)  The question is, are you ready for Step 4?

Step 4 is simple.  If they invited you to dinner, are you going to return the invite and have them over — as a couple?  If you invited them, are they going to, in turn, invite you over — as a couple?   Or, is the relationship going to turn into a great, daytime, woman-to-woman and kid-to-kid relationship.  Either way, you’ve made a great friend, and so have your kids.  So, it’s not like anyone really loses in these situations.  It’s just that it’s so much fun to find that “couple” that you can really hang out with as families.  (I’m not even going to get into when you want to move on to Step 4, and they don’t  . . . that can be an awkward situation, and I don’t think it happens that often.  Usually, if you think you all clicked, you did.)

We have had the benefit of moving on to Step 4 many times since moving here.  We have truly met some fantastic people!  Some of my women friends are just that —  women friends whom I adore, and I treasure spending time with them.  Some of my friends are couple friends, and I/we adore and treasure them, too!  People have all kinds of friends in their lives:  work friends, mommy friends, neighbor friends, church friends, athletic-team friends, parents-of-your-kids-friends’ friends, school friends, etc., etc.  . . . and of course there are those lifelong friends from growing up, high school, college, etc.  We’re not all meant to be BFFs, but it sure is nice to have at least one or two of those in my life.

Right now, in the stage of life that I am in, we really love having “couple friends”.  So, here’s to making it through Step 4!!

June 16, 2007 at 2:41 pm 1 comment

Propping Bottles

So, I’m really trying to stop nursing my 4 month old son.  We’re almost “weaned”.  I just can’t handle the hormone surges, on top of the PPD and all.  I hope my son understands.  : )  I’ve already found it easier to sleep without a bra and bra pads, but this morning was the first morning that I awoke without rock-hard breasts.  Many of you know what I mean by that . . . Anyways, I’m already finding, after just a few days, that bottle feeding simply works better with 4 kids for me.  {I’m emphasizing the “for me”, because you need to know one thing about me before we go any further:  after having a “biter” in child #1 ~ later to find out she has Tourette’s Syndrome ~ and now, a special needs child whose #1 hobby is hitting, kicking, and knocking kids over, on top of the craziness of having 4 kids with no help  — I do NOT judge!!  Although, I do reserve the right to be opinionated . . .}

So, I’m bottle feeding my 4 month old.  Here’s the interesting thing — I’m already “propping up” bottles with blankets.  It’s awesome!  I can handle child #3 (the special needs child) going after the other two kids, among other things;  I can handle the older 2 kids fighting, I can actually, physically intervene without yelling.  (pan the camera to me sitting on the couch nursing & yelling at my other kids to STOP _______!)  So, I’m finding relief in bottle feeding.  BUT . . . I find it interesting that I went from this totally intimate and bonding thing like feeding my baby from my own body, to propping up bottles.  Isn’t that weird?  I mean, there’s nothing special or sacred about sucking down formula from a bottle that’s propped up on a baby blanket, is there?  It’s not like he doesn’t see me all day long or anything, it’s just that, I don’t know . . . I’m so replaceable.   We get so hung up on the breast-feeding thing, and other than “nipple confusion”, he doesn’t really care how he gets fed.  He just wants to eat!  Sometimes it scares me just how “trainable” our children are . . .

In any event, I’ll check in about the PPD in a few days.  Maybe the lack of nursing will help??  Propping bottles sure has!

June 14, 2007 at 11:56 pm 1 comment

Does Pirate Booty meet a food group?

My 3 year old is obsessed with Pirate Booty. (For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s an organic cheese puff — basically, snack food.) We were introduced to it by the therapists at his special needs camp because it dissolves so quickly in your mouth. You see, when my special needs son was starting to eat, he puked up EVERYTHING! I mean, everything!! Baby food, cereal, cheerios . . . you name it, I cleaned it up off of the floor, off of his clothes, off of my clothes, etc. (I suppose my dogs helped with the floor . . .) So, these therapists suggested trying Pirate Booty, because it was highly unlikely he would even swallow it, before it dissolved. They were right. So, we fed him Pirate Booty. Again and again and again and AGAIN. Now, almost 2 years later, it’s still one of his favorite snacks.

The thing is, even thought my son is almost 4 years old, he can’t talk. So, we were thrilled when he showed absolutely ANY attempt at communication, even if it was just to ask for Pirate Booty. We did sign language for a while, but now he refuses to sign. He WANTS to talk. We have tried picture cards. (That’s where the speech therapist took pictures of every “regular” thing in his life: foods, people, toys, etc. ) We put the picture cards on a magnetic board for him to use. Well, every half hour or so, my son would go to the board, pick the card with Pirate Booty on it, and bring it to mommy or daddy. Being good parents who do exactly what the therapists tell us to do, we’d get it for him. (We’re supposed to reward proper behavior . . . and encourage/teach him that by using the cards, we understand him.) So, after a while, we took the Pirate Booty card off of the board. No go for my son. He’d stare at the board, point at it, and then whine with a confused look on his face. (yes, we all know he was thinking, “where the hell did they put the booty card?”) So much for using picture cards. And so much for trying to avoid Pirate Booty.

So, my question is this, if we give our kids cereal in the morning, can’t Pirate Booty be considered a cereal? If we give our kids crackers for snacks, can’t Pirate Booty be a snack? If we give our kids a starch with every meal, can’t Pirate Booty be a starch? If we give them a “treat” or a “sanity-for-mom-snack”, can’t Pirate Booty be that? I mean, when you really stop and think about it (or not), isn’t it okay that Pirate Booty is a staple in his diet?

By the way, if he could talk, we would probably be “discussing” the disadvantages of living on Pirate Booty, or bribing him into eating his vegetables with Pirate Booty. As it stands, we struggle with protein, but he does like fruits and vegetables . . . and Pirate Booty.

June 14, 2007 at 12:52 pm Leave a comment

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