Monday, April 29, 2013


I'm definitely in a little bit of a funk.  I've been in my hometown of Louisville the past two days, attending the funeral of my brother-in-law's mother.  That's kind of a mouthful, and I'm sure your first thought is that it's strange to attend all of the funeral events of someone to whom I'm not even related.  The reality is that I spent more time with her and her husband on holidays than much of my extended family.  My sister got custody of me on my 13th birthday, so from that point on, my brother-in-law's parents were sort of like my grandparents. Christmas, Thanksgiving...all of those holidays were spent with them. Even after moving to Lexington, getting married, and having kids, we still go to their house on holidays.

Amelia with Mrs. Clemmons, Christmas 2009.

Having Christmas dinner in the same chair, Christmas 2011. 

Christmas at the Clemmons', 2012.
Mrs. Clemmons was a wonderful lady.  Her eulogy today was very touching and authentic. Unlike many funerals, where the presiding minister doesn't really know the deceased, this man was truly part of the family, and so the stories and the experiences that he shared were very real and poignant.  My brother-in-law asked that he compare his mom and dad to Marie and Frank from 'Everybody Loves Raymond', and despite the somber mood, that drew a chuckle from the audience--mostly because it was true. Now, I'm sure there are stories about how the family dynamics were a on the show, but mostly I thought of how, like Marie, she loved her son and her grandchildren more than anything.  It's not an exaggeration; when the pastor asked Mr. Clemmons to talk about Mrs. Clemmons' biggest joys in life, he didn't hesitate to say it was her grandkids.  She was at every sporting event--and let me tell you, my nephews played baseball from the time they started walking until, well, now--both played college ball. Basketball games, go-cart races...anything they did, she was there. Just a very loving, kind mother and grandmother. She will be missed.

The other side to my current state of mind is that being in Louisville for the funeral brought up lots of... history. Visits from cousins I don't see very often but was incredibly close to growing up,  telling stories about our childhoods, which were anything but ordinary (and honestly, not in a good way), going to the funeral which took place in the same cemetery where my mother is buried. Lots of heavy, heavy stuff.  When you combine that with the fact that, as part of my current get-mentally-fit regime I am actually DEALING with issues from my past instead of kind of pretending it never happened, you get a person with too much on her mind and an exhausting drive back to Lexington.

Life is fragile. Nothing is guaranteed. Mrs. Clemmons was very sick for a very long time, but another family member lost her loved one in a very sudden way only a week before. Every single day is a gift, and we need to live with that in mind. I kept coming back to that thought over and over today, and I vowed to make even more of an effort to cherish each little moment with the kids.  Today, I took time to listen to every single story they wanted to tell, to give acknowledgement to even the most seemingly insignificant of moments with them. I played cars with Anderson at 7:30 this morning because he so sweetly asked me, "Wanna come in my room?" and then, "Do you want to pick out a car?"  I hit my elbow and made a noise, and Amelia said, "What happened? What hurts?"  I responded, "I hit my elbow and it hurts!!". Then, sweet little girl replied, "Sometimes I hit my elbow too, and it hurts. I'm sorry."  Nothing better than watching your children develop empathy, and it was even more meaningful to me today.  On the permanent to-do list for me right now:  make each moment count, and provide the most safe, stable childhood for my kids as humanly possible, so that they can't sit around one day and tell horrible stories at the dinner table.

Pretending his Fisher-Price bus is "The Story Bus". This little man got on the bus again today He was apparently terrified but determined.  So PROUD.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Yin and Yang

To say that I was excited when I found out I was having boy/girl twins would be an incredible understatement. I was full of rose-colored thoughts about playing trucks and playing princesses.  Blue and pink.  Getting dirty in the sandbox and painting tiny, dainty pink fingernails.  I hit the mother-lode; the best of all possible parenting scenarios. I also thought that, even though they'd be completely different, they'd be best friends--fiercely loyal to and protective of one another.  What more could I ask for?

I just didn't bank on exactly HOW different they'd be. And not necessarily in the ways I expected.

From infancy, they were so very different. What soothed one would drive the other crazy. Anderson loved the baby swing and could sit in there for hours; Amelia was unhappy after about, oh, 30 seconds. Amelia, on the other hand, loved the bouncy seat--Anderson was unimpressed. When we introduced baby food, Anderson couldn't get enough. He ate all the nasty flavors--green beans, peas, (gulp...) chicken dinner; with Amelia, it was bribery bordering on force-feeding for a very long time. Some of  those early days, while amazing, were also a bit...frustrating, shall we say?

Always Yin and Yang with food--at dinner, what one loves and eats voraciously, the other ignores. Always.
 As they got older, the trend continued.  For the longest time, Anderson loved taking a bath while Amelia fought it like a wild animal. Then they flip-flopped (which happens a lot, still). Amelia loved watching Sesame Street (yes, my children watch TV. Not excessively (most of the time)  but yes, they watch. Judge away, if you must...); Anderson wouldn't look at the screen for more than two minutes at a time. Amelia liked to color but hated Play-Dough; Anderson still hates picking up a pencil or crayon but is a Play-Dough aficionado.

They also totally threw my gender-steretypical ideas about play right out the window.  Amelia loves playing in the dirt and sand; Anderson could care less. Amelia loves to play rough, be thrown about--Anderson cannot STAND that kind of play (but probably more a vestibular issue).  Anderson is actually very gentle with baby-dolls (it's actually very cool--he's very loving)--Amelia...well, let's just say she's not yet the 'mothering type'.  She prefers stuffed animals, and Anderson hates them, with the exception of Tofu, of course. Amelia loves to play catch; Anderson has shown no interested in playing ball of any kind, much to Marty's chagrin. One common ground here is cars and trucks--they both like playing with those fairly equally. At school, when Amelia has free-choice center selection, she most often chooses to play with cars and table toys--none of that kitchen play for her! She's all women's lib like that.

It's not just outright preferences, either. It's personalities. Anderson is sweet, caring, and sensitive. Amelia is stubborn, self-assured, vocal about her wants and needs. Anderson wilts like a flower if you say his name too loudly, with an edge in your voice; Amelia will do her best to make her voice louder than yours, if she's in trouble. If she thinks she hurts you, though--either a physical or an emotional hurt--she is quick with a kiss and an apology, tears if she thinks she hurt you badly. Anderson has no clue when he hurts you, and is more likely to laugh at you than feel bad about it.

When we attended our free ballet class trial (which Anderson insisted on attending, too...and yes, we are totally fine with that! Hey, anything he wants to do that is going to require class participation and following directions is all good here...), I realized that we had never had an experience that highlighted their differences quite like this one. First of all, it was adorable--for both kids.  They were the only students in the class, which was both bad and good. Amelia was a bit shy with the teacher, and at one point even asked her when the other little girls were going to come. Anderson--well, he was clueless about that. He was clueless about most of it. And I am certain that the teacher was very glad she only had two students that night--because Anderson was enough for her. More trouble than TEN students, I'm guessing.

Amelia had a laser-focus on what she was supposed to be doing. If the teacher showed them a position, she was dead-set on getting it right, and she didn't want to move on to another pose until she mastered the first one. Anderson...well, he was more of a free spirit. He would make an attempt at doing what the teacher was asking, but if the spirit moved him to do something else, he went with it.

Amelia--focused. Anderson--I don't even know.

Amelia: thinking about getting her feet just right. Anderson: thinking about swinging on this bar, despite the teacher's constant reminders not to do it.
Amelia--perfect ballerina. Anderson--perfect free spirit.

It was fascinating. A seriously awe-inducing look into who they are as human beings.

I was completely amazed and inspired by Amelia's focus and dedication to getting it all exactly right. She leans towards being a perfectionist, something I appreciate as I have a bit of that in me, as well.  That drive? That drive is going to serve her well in life. She's going to have so many obstacles to overcome, with her size issues. There are going to be moments of both physical and emotional challenge for her, and she's going to have to persevere. Watching that 45 minute ballet lesson, I realized that she will rise to the occasion.  She can do it. She's driven and motivated and all of my worries about her not being able to handle it have been unfounded.  I know it's going to be hard, and I know she's going to have times where it becomes overwhelming and exhausting and just plain hard--but I know she can do it. I'm convinced. She blew me away that night.

And Anderson...oh, my little free spirit. I never, ever want him to lose that. He was never disrespectful to the teacher, but wow was it hard for him to focus on the precision of the ballet moves. Not because they were too hard, physically. Just because he prefers to march to the beat of his own drum. If she "waved her arms gently in the breeze, like a tree", he was the epitome of a tree in a tornado. If she asked them to "leap", he jumped like a long jumper. If she asked them to wave their ribbons gently, he was twirling them like a baton, watching the silky colors spin like a fan.  Poor teacher, she tried so hard to get him to emulate her moves. He was respectful to her but he just did his own thing, oblivious to the fact that he wasn't conforming. THAT will serve him well in life, that ability to be happy even when others aren't quite sure what the heck he is doing.  He wasn't worried that he wasn't doing it right, and he wasn't worried that she was clearly not digging his freestyling moves. He was just happy to be able to move his body, in the ways that he likes best, in a big room with music. Oh, my little love. What a sweet sight to see.

They're my two opposites. So different from what I imagined when I was pregnant and clueless. But so, so much more.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Great Vehicle Debate

If you are a Facebook friend, you might've seen my post yesterday about whether we should get a mini-van or an SUV.  We have outgrown our CR-V, and this summer, we will be in the market for a bigger vehicle. Now...I realize that a car purchase should be no big deal. I am a mom, and I should be practical at all times. I should also wear mom-jeans, be homeroom mother for both kids' classes (at the same time--I like a challenge!), make every craft on Pinterest, etc. Those things ain't happening around here, and apparently neither is the practicality.  I'm not horrible at making family-based decisions. But this one? This one is killing me, friends. Making me crazy.

I blame it on this:

THIS was the first car I ever owned. An '82 Cavalier Station Wagon (Awwwww, yeah.....).  I bought it for $800 cash; I made more than TWICE that in wrecks that were other people's fault.  My family situation growing up was unique in that my sister, who is 13 years older than me, got custody of me when I was 13.  She had her own family to raise (my darling nephews, who are now 21 and 24--I'm so damn old), so I was on my own as far as a car purchase.  This beaut was what I had the money to buy.  Ran great--never had one single real problem with it--but...yuck. I was a 16-year-old girl driving a station wagon.

Another view...just so you can get the full effect.

Now, don't get me wrong. I had some friends who started out driving some real winners, too (feel free to comment, high school friends, if you're reading! Let's reminisce about those fabulous cars..), but there were also plenty of kids who had decent cars. Nothing overly fancy, maybe a parent's discarded Toyota Corolla. And let's be real--there isn't much that's worse than a party wagon. Yeah.

I drove used cars after that. Specifically, I drove an old Mustang for awhile--a hand-me-down from Marty's sister. I shared Marty's Thunderbird (which was very nice at the time, but still used by the time we started sharing). Our first shared purchase was a used 2000 Grand Am--we thought we were riding in style then!  We got a used Explorer, which we drove for awhile. Then, we got our Honda Civic. My first NEW car. I loved that car--I still do. It was completely new, all shiny, with no smells of other people and their pets/bad habits. Still, despite the love I have for that's a Civic.  Very nice, great gas mileage, but obviously pretty un-fancy.

My history of crappy cars, along with the fact that I've never driven a car I would consider "fun" or "cool", makes me SOOOOOOO not want a van. I mean, as nice and shiny as this is, we all know it isn't considered all that hip:

I have a ton of FB friends who vowed their loyalty and love to their vans. I respect that, you all. I really do. I in no way think people who choose to drive vans are not hip. Some of my hippest (word?) friends are van-drivers. You guys rock those Siennas and Odysseys like a mutha. If anyone can be cool driving a van, it's my friends. Maybe it's a personal self-esteem issue. Maybe I already think I'm totally uncool, and that I just can't pull off the van like that. I don't know...

I also judge a car by how I feel when I listen to my music.  God, typing that makes me sound so...I don't know...selfish? Self-centered? I don't know...all I know is it's how I feel.  I can totally do my music in the Civic; I can have the windows rolled down and listen to this and not feel like a poser. The CR-V is pushing it, but it's all economical and green, so it works.  But a van? The windows down and me getting down to my music in a van?

I can't picture it yet. I mean, what if you heard this song coming from a car, and you looked in the rearview mirror and saw me--a mama in her late 30s in an Odyssey?  Actually that's a pretty funny thought.

Now, I CAN picture me listening to good stuff like this in a car that looks like this:

I'm not saying the Pilot is the coolest car out there, see.  How about this one?

Yeah. I can see that.

The logistics are that we need a 3rd row. Will we use it a lot? Definitely NOT. Only in the rare event that we might have some people in town and want to all ride together, and let's face it--people aren't lining up to come visit my crazy house. It's kind of a rarity. But eventually these kids will be out of car seats (okay, maybe not Amelia) and we might want to use that 3rd row for something.  At this point, there are obviously no more kids in the future, so needing another row for car seats isn't an issue.  Marty's tall height IS an issue. We need something that will give him the room to put his seat pretty much all the way back and not crush our children's feet in their seats.  No car seats in, and it's no big deal. Add the seats, it's tougher. Anderson is pretty squished when Marty drives. That needs to change.

If we go, and the Pilot won't work for us, I'll suck it up. Really, I will. But if there's a chance that the Pilot will meet our needs? That's the direction I want to go.  Does it make me feel horribly selfish? A little bit. But do I also think that, if cars bring us happiness (especially since I don't think I've ever really owned what I'd call a super nice car), and they also work for us, we should go with what makes us happy? Yes. Why not?

I'd love to hear some closing remarks on the issue...persuade me, friends. Help me see the light.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Things They Say...

The flip-side to the sadness of having your babies grow up is the fun of watching them develop. Specifically, it's both thrilling and hysterical to watch them process their world, and then use their developing language to share what they are thinking. I think Marty and I have laughed more with (okay...AT) the kids in the last month than ever. Part of the reason I blog is to keep running documentation of our experiences as the kids get older, so it makes sense to share some of the hilarity--these are the things I want to remember someday.

So, I give you...the things they say:


(driving home from preschool)
Anderson: "Who is that?"
Me: "Who do you think that is?"
Anderson: "That's the mail carrier..."
Me: "What does a mail carrier do?"
Anderson: "He puts mail in the mailboxes."
Me: "What does a firefighter do?"
Amelia: "He rides on a fire truck!"
Me: "What does a police officer do?"
Anderson: "He brushes his teeth."
Me: "I think maybe you're confused."


(kids are taking a bath)
Me (to Amelia): "We have to wash your body so you aren't stinky."
Amelia: "I'm not stinky! I smell good!"
Me: "Yep! You washed with soap!"
Amelia: "Teachers aren't stinky."
Me: "Yep, like Mommy. Mommy isn't stinky...I wash my body with soap."
Amelia (quietly): "You are stinky..."
Me: "WHAT? Do I stink?!"
Amelia: "Yes.."
Me (laughing loudly): "I don't stink!!"
Amelia (indignantly): "You stink just a little bit!!"
Marty (laughing): "Do I stink?"
Amelia: "You have a BIIIIG stink!"


(Marty is sleeping on the couch. He wakes up; Anderson is standing there, looking at him, smiling)

Anderson: "Are you looking at you??"

We like this one because Anderson has serious pronoun confusion--a common problem with kids who have language issues due to autism. He often interchanges me, you, I, he, she, we...he meant to say, "Am I looking at you?" because he was staring at Marty. Love that funny boy. :-)


Marty (singing loudly): "She only wants me for my Peach Juice.."
(yes, that's a play on the song "Pimp Juice" by Nelly. We drink peach juice in our house...the song comes naturally)
Anderson: "Stop! That's not very good!!"
Marty: "What's not good? My singing?"
Anderson: "You're singing isn't right! It's not very good!"

He just calls it like he sees it.


(Watching the news this morning)
Marty: "They're saying the suspects are from Russia or Chechnya."
Anderson: "Chex Mix...I want some Chex Mix!"


For each of these, there are probably 10 more that I can't remember in my Friday-exhaustion haze. They are full of funny quips and comments these days. On one hand, I love how funny they are, how much they make me laugh. On the other, I absolutely marvel at how smart they are becoming. It amazes me to watch them make connections and make observations, share opinions. I take none of it for granted.

We are watching some of the Boston coverage on the news...having young children, these kinds of tragic events affect me even more. I want to have faith in the world that will one day belong to my kids, and tragedies like this make it difficult. I am trying to focus on the goodness in humanity, the heroes that have emerged in the midst of the horror. Hug your families a little tighter this weekend, friends. Spread love into the world.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Story Bus

It all started about a month and a half ago. I picked Anderson up from school, and he was a little bit agitated. I could tell something was up with him, but his teacher in the afternoon is not his teacher during the preschool portion of the day, so it isn't always possible to get the full scoop on how his day went. Fortunately, their school has a system in place for parent/teacher communication. He has a communication log in his folder, where his teacher and I can write notes back and forth. Sure enough, when I got home and checked the folder, there was a note from the teacher. I can't remember the exact words, but it essentially described what was apparently a moment of sheer horror for the boy. It was....(insert sinister music here)...THE STORY BUS!!!

What is the story bus, you ask? Well, it's actually a part of a public library program called "Storytime to Go". A local software company donated a bus used for training transportation to the library, and thus a mobile storytime program was born. Unfortunately for Anderson, the public library shares the bus with his preschool center (Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, for anyone curious. They have a daycare, preschool, and Kindergarten program, as well as outpatient speech therapy services. A local non-profit--they're amazing). This means that the "Story Bus" comes to our preschool every other week, which is more often than other preschool centers. Now, most kids would be thrilled about this. Amelia ADORES the story bus. But Anderson? Not so much.

Here is the Story Bus. Notice the average child excited to climb aboard. Quaint, jolly, aging bus driver an added bonus. What kid wouldn't like this? 

So, the Story Bus comes to LHSC.  Anderson's class is outside, lined up all ready to get on, and the automatic steps come down.  Anderson starts to cry hysterically.  His loving classroom assistant, Ms. Anna, picks him up and tries to carry him aboard. Anderson climbs her like a spider monkey and claws at her neck, nearly drawing blood. He is visibly shaking. Needless to say, Anderson did not get on the story bus this day.  This was the gist of the note from his teacher.  She explains that they will try a social story next time, to try to prepare him.

Random, happy children on the Story Bus ( photo courtesy of local paper). Nothing scary here--just some fun decorations and books!
 Of course, I asked him immediately about the Story Bus. His comment was, "The Story Bus doesn't move..." and then "We don't have to get on the Story Bus..."  Hmmm.  Now I know my kid.  There are some situations that we can remedy with a social story.  But, for him, some things are so frightening and sensory-based that a social story ain't gonna cut it, in terms of helping him cope.  I could tell that this was one of THOSE situations. We were either going to have to completely conquer the Story Bus issue by just forcing him to get on, or we were going to have to accept that he isn't Story Bus material.

I'm a "conquer your fears" kind of girl. As a child, I had a terrible phobia of needles.  As in, at one doctor's appointment when I was about five, I fought an antibiotic injection so forcefully that the doctor, as he wrestled me like we were in a WWF match, told my dad that he should spank me...a story that was joyfully retold as I got older.  When I went to get my shots for 6th grade, I got so pale and nervous that they were too scared to administer them (not sure why...); I had to go back a 2nd time.  So...what do I do? As an adult (okay, but can we really call 18 an adult? I was 18 and clearly not really grown-up...), I get two tattoos and a belly button piercing (which I no longer have, fortunately--so you can quit trying to conjure up that frightening image). That's what I do--I try to face things head-on, when possible.

Obviously, you know what I wanted for Anderson. I wanted him to have the same opportunity as the other children--to participate in the story telling and to experience the fun of a special day at school. I felt certain that, if I could just get him ON the bus, he would calm down and enjoy himself. So, I contacted both his teacher and the director of the preschool and asked when the next Story Bus visit was scheduled. I told them I planned to come, and I would be getting him on the bus.

Well, that day was this past Monday.  Anderson's class was set to visit the bus at 9:45 am.  All weekend long, I talked to him about Mommy coming to take him on the story bus. I made sure to bring it up again Sunday night--I like for there to be no surprises, when it comes to his expectations.  Monday, I got to his school at about 9:30.  Amelia's class was actually ON the bus at the time, so I went to Anderson's room to get him, so that we could look at the bus and get comfortable with it from the outside, and then watch Amelia and her friends get off the bus completely unharmed. Great plan, in theory, right?

 When I opened the door to his classroom, and he saw me...he started crying.  Break. My. Heart.  He knew exactly why I was there.  He walked over to me, and looked up at me. With a wavering little voice and big blue eyes full of tears, he said, "We're going to go get in the big car?" (which is our car...). I looked down at him and told him no, gently asked him why I was there, and of course he remembered. Oh, was so hard. He was just so scared.  I picked him up, covered his little head and cheeks with kisses, and told him we were going to go see the Story Bus. I carried him, crying, out the back door to the school where the bus was parked.

We stood there for a long time. He cried and perseverated on many questions and facts about the bus ("The bus doesn't move", "The bus won't hurt you", "We aren't going to get on the bus, no we aren't") over and over. I just kissed him, held him close, kept telling him that we were going to get on the bus but that Mommy was there, Mommy wouldn't let anything happen, that we would be okay.  Fortunately, shortly after we got there, the steps emerged and Amelia and her class disembarked.  Of course I was pointing out how happy the kids were--and just as if they were cued to do it, many of the little ones yelled out, "HI, ANDERSON!!". He stopped crying when he saw that they were happy. Amelia, on the other hand, was completely confused. She came over to me and looked at me like, "what are you doing here?" I told her she had to stay with her class and that I'd see her later, and she went off and got in her line.  They left us, just Anderson and I staring at the bus.

I walked towards it and he started crying again, clawing at me. The cute little driver and the story tellers were kind of staring at us, so I introduced ourselves to them. I said, "Hi, this is Anderson, and I'm his mom. Anderson has autism, and he's afraid of the bus. I'm going to put him on the bus."  That was the first time I've told strangers that Anderson has autism. It was...interesting.  I wasn't telling them to make excuses for why he was so upset, but to give them some background, and possibly help make his transition to the bus a bit easier. Fortunately, they were so very kind.  As we started up the steps, he held on tighter, cried louder.  However, as soon as we got on, he stopped. He looked all around, taking it in. The bus is adorable--they decorate it according to whatever their theme for the visit is--in this case, farm life.  I pointed out the pigs, cows, and other decorations, but he was still stuck in the terror. He was calm but kept saying that it was time to get off. I told him we were going to wait for Ms. Jennifer and Ms. Anna and his friends. The driver gave him some animal stickers. He was anxious but not crying, overwhelmed but not to a breaking point.

His teachers got on the bus first, and wow did they make a big deal out of him being on the bus. His little face lit up when he saw how proud they were of him.  That's when I knew we would make it after all, and that he would come out of this experience better than he went into it.  Now, I'm not pretending that it was all lollipops and unicorns after that. He was still scared that the bus was going to take off with us in it.  He had to sit in my lap for the first half of the experience, and he was not able to listen to the story tellers at all. His little classmates were so cute, talking about the animals, singing Old MacDonald...all the while Anderson is talking a mile a minute in my ear about the bus. He pointed out the windows. He talked about the doors. He reminded me that it wasn't going to move. Over and over.

After about 15 minutes, he asked if he could sit on the floor with his friends. He looked at the readers, stood up and danced with a lot of prompting from me, smiled at his friends and teachers. But all of a sudden, he looked straight at me, and said, with an enormous smile, "Did I get on the Story Bus?"  Ohh...that was worth a million dollars. He was SO. INCREDIBLY. PROUD. So happy that he was able to do it.  That self-confidence? That's what it's all about, friends. That's what I want for him, always. I want him to accomplish things that make him feel good, proud of himself. Strong. Successful.

I left shortly after they finished their story time. According to his teachers and the preschool director, he told every single adult that he passed in the hall about getting on the Story Bus. It was the first thing he told Marty when he picked the kids up that afternoon. 

He's still talking about it. I just hope that it transfers to the next Story Bus visit. But mostly, I'm just so damn happy.  Raising Anderson is infinitely rewarding, but also very tough. I second-guess all of my parenting decisions, and making the choice to force him on the bus wasn't easy. In fact, I was so wound up about it that I cried on the way back to work that day.  The emotions of the whole experience were just overwhelming--the low of watching him literally shake and cry with fear in my arms, and the high of seeing him so happy and fulfilled. This specific event had a good ending, but I'm not naive enough to think that everything will always end on such a positive note.  I just hope and pray that I continue to be brave enough and smart enough to make choices that help him become stronger, more capable in the long run. And that I'm not too hard on myself when I screw it up. Because at some point, I'm sure I will.

Finally brave enough to sit on the floor with his friends

I'm still a little scared, but I'm doing it!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


For me, at least. Maybe not for you. :-) Because I am taking an entire blog post to talk about one of my absolute most favorite subjects. Anyone want to take a guess? I can feel my friends literally rolling their eyes right now. A few of them are about to close this window, even.  WAIT! Stay with me...humor me.

I've gotten a few inbox messages about my music. There is almost nothing I enjoy more than talking about music--it's honestly a passion of mine. Anyway, instead of writing people back individually, I decided to take to the blog to talk about it. Because hey, it's my blog, and I can do that! :-)

I've always loved music. My dad was a musician and had a strong passion for music--it's quite possible I got it from him, although I'm not really a musician myself. I'm not bad with playing instruments (orchestra for 9 years, HOLLA!!!!), and I can talk about the nuances in music, but I cannot sing to save my life. I think it's one of the world's greatest travesties--to love music as much as I do and not be able to carry a tune. Oh well.

I clearly remember my first "favorite song".  I listened to the radio at a young age, and from the very first time I heard it, this song just blew me away. I begged my parents to take me to the music store in the mall--where I bought a 45 of this song. Yep--a 45.  The music store still had RECORDS when I was little. Yikes. Anyway, I proudly brought that record home and listened to it over and over...memorized the words. Funny...that song was a little bit alt/indie in the 80s, and that's still pretty much my favorite musical style.  I had lots of other favorites as a kid--Cyndi Lauper, Madonna...all the typical girly music. I just loved it all.

I won't bore you with my entire musical past (although I want to--I'm sparing you!), but I will tell you that Steve Jobs changed my musical life. Until I got my first iPod, I listened to the radio and to select CDs, which are a pain in the ass because you actually have to go somewhere to buy them. I've always hated CDs and tapes because, even with my favorite artists, there are always songs on albums that I don't like. I hated having to buy a whole album for three good songs. Anyway...the iPod. Wow.  And iPod + Internet = music heaven.  I could google songs/artists, find new people I liked. I was out of control.

My taste is always evolving.  For the past 7, 8 years, it's stayed fairly similar--mostly alternative, indie, and acoustic. I NEVER listen to the radio. I kind of think most pop music these days is contrived crap--with a few exceptions of course. There are always exceptions. I love music for both the lyrics and the sound.  Some songs don't have the best tune, but the lyrics are magic, and some songs have terrible lyrics, but if the sound is catchy enough, I can overlook it. The best songs have both.

(Inserting a jump here--this is a long one!  Click on to hear some of my very favorites...)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Growing Up and Moving On

I've had so many moments lately where I'm just overwhelmed with how quickly the kids are growing up. It's kind of like I'll be going along, not paying attention, and then Father Time thunks me in the forehead with a hard flick (do you remember that from the 80s--when flicking each other in the forehead was cool? WTH was that all about, anyway?) and I realize that, even though I call them my "babies" frequently in conversation, there is absolutely nothing that is baby-like about them anymore.  Nothing at all.

Anderson wore shorts for the first time this season yesterday. Instead of his short baby-like legs, his legs are longer now, more grown. Even Amelia, with all of her tininess, has a body that is leaning towards that of a true 4-year-old.  Their cheeks--which have always been full, despite their small sizes--are thinning out, losing the soft curves and becoming more angular.

Their intellect is growing just as quickly.  They have real conversations with one another (although some of it is in "Anderson-ese", the 2nd language spoken in our house) and with us. Just tonight, Amelia very matter-of-factly informed me that squares have four sides, and triangles have three.  When I asked her how many sides a circle has (because I'm a teacher and I'm tricky like that!), she wrinkled up her forehead and said, "Um, it's just kind of round!"--like, duh, Mom.  Circles don't have sides.  They're starting to get the actual plot of movies and TV Shows.  They recognize when something happens that evokes strong emotions and can identify the emotions. I can't tell you how often I literally just sit back in awe of their development.  When they were in the NICU and under 3 pounds each, I would've never guessed that we would be sitting here today, discussing the kinds of things we are able to discuss.  When I say I take NONE of it for granted, I mean it. They amaze me.

For all of my amazement, though, there is a very large, very real part of me that is also just incredibly sad.  Infertility, the cruel witch that she is, robbed us of the opportunity to have more children. Amelia and Anderson are IT, and while I am eternally grateful--more grateful and blessed and fulfilled by them than I ever knew I'd be, even during the fertility treatment process--I am owning it: I am still a little bit bitter. Now, I know that in infertility circles, that statement is frowned upon. I used to frown upon it, too. In online support circles, a comment like that would get a dozen replies saying how ungrateful I am, that many women would give anything just to have ONE child.  Believe me, I get that. I WAS that woman.  But the fact that I was fortunate enough to have A & A doesn't negate the fact that I would love to have another child. Anderson and Amelia are enough--more than enough--I don't want it to sound like I need more than those two little miracles. I don't NEED more...we rarely do.  We just wish for more.  The hard part right now is that we are at the point where most first-time parents are finally feeling like they get the parenting thing, they can handle it and they're ready for another.  That's where we are...and it's not an option. It's just not financially possible, and with all of the latest "developments" in my health, even if we could afford it, I'm betting it wouldn't even work.

So...I'm trying to move on.  Trying to just take pleasure in all of the little things that make having preschoolers easier than having toddlers.  Trying to tell myself, when I see tiny babies in infant carriers, that at least I'm lucky that I'm not lugging those things around anymore. Telling myself that it's SO much easier and more fun to take the kids out in public now.  Reminding myself that it's much cheaper to feed them than when they were on preemie formula. Congratulating myself on not changing diapers anymore. Breathing a sigh of relief when the kids can solve their own disputes without violence and parental intervention.  Relishing the extra space that we have in our tiny house without bouncy seats, exersaucers, and baby swings all over the place.  And yet...yet, if someone gave me $20,000 right now and told me to try again, I would do it in a second. I wouldn't even consider it--it would be done. Because the thought of snuggling a tiny life, smelling that heavenly, ethereal baby smell, feeling my heart stretch just a little more to make room for another big love--all of that outweighs those other benefits a million times over.

So...if any of you readers live in the Lexington area and have new(ish) babies, and you need someone to just come and hold them--I'm your girl. :-)  If I can't have one, I'd love to borrow one!  In the meantime, here are some of the pictures I've been staring at lately--that show how much my "babies" (because really--aren't our kids always our babies?) have grown up:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Girls' Day Out...Or Not.

At the beginning of spring break, a few friends of mine who also have young children sent out an email about getting together over the break. We're all crazy busy, so our meet-ups are infrequent, which means that when we CAN actually all get together, I really really want to go. I can't tell you how much I enjoy hanging out with my mom friends--having people to commiserate with about things like poop, temper tantrums, and sleep deprivation is seriously so important. We agreed on a day and I put it on my calendar.

A few days before our date, we decided on a location. Lunch and the park--great day out...except that the chosen park is on the larger side, and my kids have very different interests when it comes to playing at the park. In other words, on my own, I could only manage one of the two kids. No big deal, I thought--all of the other children in this particular group are girls, we will make it a girls' day out. I'll take Amelia, Anderson can hang with Dad...done.

I need to be completely honest here.  There was a teeny tiny part of me that was relieved. Relieved that I could take Amelia and not Anderson.  See, Amelia is the POSTER CHILD for ideal adult outings. She's a fantastic shopper, infinitely patient with my meandering trips to Target.  She is a great eater--she's never picky about food. She generally follows directions in public*--really, I'm not exaggerating. She's the perfect kid to take anywhere you need to go. Anderson...well, he's more of a question mark.  He's pretty good in public but sometimes struggles with transitions--like, if it was time to leave the park but he wasn't ready to go, he might throw a holy fit. Same could go for restaurants and stores. He's also more unpredictable when it comes to what is going to irritate him, sensory-wise.  I'll never forget the time we took him to a bounce play-space, and he F-R-E-A-K-E-D. Like totally lost his shit.  The sound of the huge fans that keep the inflatables going was too much for him. Now...don't misunderstand. I'm not embarrassed when any of these things happen. Anderson very rarely does anything that truly embarrasses me--and what kid doesn't embarrass their parents from time to time? However, I'm hyper-sensitive of other people's discomfort.  In other words, I didn't want my friends to be uncomfortable in the event that something happened. I realize that this is something I need to work on--just add it to my lengthy list. So, as it stood, I was a bit relieved it was going to wind up being a girl trip.

Except, it didn't.  Sunday morning, Amelia woke up in a BEAR of a mood. The child was disagreeable from the moment her feet hit the floor.  She whined through breakfast, got pissed off at her tricycle when it didn't cooperate and threw it on the ground, screamed when I threatened to make her watch "Tangled" (another post for another time...).  When I was finished getting ready, I came out into the living room, where she resolutely announced that she didn't want to go with me. I kid you not, Anderson was right there, and he looked up with his big, blue eyes and said, "I want to go with you, Mommy!"  I felt like if I had stared at him long enough, he would have started fluttering his eyelashes like Bambi. What else could I do? Can't really attend a play-date without the kid, and ohmigosh was he adorable? So, I swallowed my nervousness and decided that was it. He'd go.

We started out by running to Home Depot to pick up the new vacuum (which is fabulous so far, by the way). On the way, I repeated the schedule for the day over and over:  first, the store to get a new vacuum, then lunch with Mommy's friends, and then the park.  I made him say it back to me several times. I wanted there to be no misunderstanding. He nodded happily, repeated  me several times, and expressed his excitement over the day in general.

You all...he was A-MAZING.  He was so freaking happy the entire day.  He was as excited in Home Depot as most kids are at an amusement park. He ogled the fans, the doors, the lights, and ohhhh the weed-eaters.  He offered his input on the vacuum cleaner situation ("I like the yellow one, Mommy."), made cute faces at the cashier. He got happily into his car seat, was a perfect angel at the restaurant. Talked to all of my friends (albeit in a shy little way), even sorta-kinda played with another kid, and had an absolute blast at the park. And lo and behold, when it was time to leave the park, he went willingly (although he did ask for french fries, which comes from our usual park habit of stopping at Culver's on the way home. Creature of habit, that one).

The day left me overwhelmed with emotions.  To my friends, it probably seemed like an ordinary day at the park with the kids. To me, it was huge.  I was so incredibly happy to have shared a special, fun day with my boy. I was so proud of him for managing all of the unpredictability. And I was ashamed of myself. I sold the boy short. I underestimated him. In a world where I pride myself on not placing limits on him, I did just that. And wow...he showed me. Lesson learned, little man.  Lesson learned.

*Public only. At home, not so much.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Back in Action!


I am going to go ahead and put it out there. I am the world's WORST long-trip passenger. I absolutely, 100% HATE long drives. With a passion. We went to Amelia Island, which isn't the farthest destination for a vacation, but wow was it long enough for me. I was tolerable for the first 6, 7 hours, but I know I was pretty unbearable by the end (SORRY, JULIE!!). Anyway, I'm kind of dealing with road hangover today. That and the fact that it's a good 20 degrees cooler here. Happy to see some 70s in the 10 day forecast, though!

First things first...the trip. I don't even know where to start. Wow. What a trip. It was everything I wanted it to be. Relaxing, stress-free heaven. No coordinating of schedules, meals, nothing. I was only responsible for myself. We did the same thing every single day--breakfast at the hotel (part of the deal), beach, nap, beach, dinner/drinks, bed. Repeat. I read some great books, took some amazing naps, laid around, ate amazing seafood, had FABULOUS margaritas, went to bed early. That is it. No crazy sight-seeing, no feeling that I had somewhere else I needed to be. Amelia Island even keeps the dining decisions simple--there really aren't all that many places to eat. It. Was. Wonderful. Julie was a great travel companion, too--so laid back. To sum it up--it was exactly what I needed after this insane year (and trust me, it has been insane...), and I feel rejuvenated and ready to go back to work for this final push before summer break. Okay, after the trip hangover dissipates.

I got home last night in time to see the kids before bed, which was just awesome. Anderson was sitting on the end table that is right in the doorway (he pretends it's a "stage"; he sees his teachers sit on the stage at school and he likes to emulate them). He may not be able to voice his missing me, but the smile on his face said it all. Such a genuine, huge smile!!! I wish I could've captured that moment, paused it and recorded it to store in my memory forever. Anderson very rarely expresses his affection. I mean, he loves to be around people and talk to them, play with them, but he's not a hugger or kisser by nature, and he certainly doesn't spontaneously tell people that he loves them. Instead of wishing that he were different, were able to communicate affection, I just focus on appreciating it even more when he DOES. This was one of those occasions. He's made a few anxious comments since, "Mommy isn't going to the trip house." He will get over it, like he always does. Happy to be missed...absence makes the heart grow fonder on both ends. Amelia gave me a huge, huge hug and lots of kisses. It was love all around.

Thank you to everyone who commented or sent me a message about the potential surgery. I appreciate the thoughts and suggestions. I'm kind of putting the whole thing on the back burner until after my 2nd opinion, which is scheduled for a week from today. I wouldn't really call it denial, more like postponing stress. Wouldn't it be great if we could always postpone stress to a better time? I know it isn't always possible. I'm taking advantage.

I feel a significant post brewing about the trip...and about the importance of being able to take small breaks, getaways without the family. My brain is too groggy to think that deeply today, but look for it in the near future. In the meantime, thanks to so many of you for donating to our Autism Speaks page! We are collecting through April, and are getting closer to reaching our goal! I'll post another link to our donations page in a bit--on my iPad and it isn't as user-friendly.

Hope my teacher friends have enjoyed the break...feels good to be home.