Friday, May 30, 2014

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends...

Can't help but think of The Wonder Years when I think of that song. Best show on TV in the 80s/90s. I loved me some Fred Savage.

It's a universal truth that, as a woman, you have different kinds of friends during different stages of life.  You have your childhood friends, and then your high school friends. You have your college friends--the ones who hold your hair the first time you overdo it at an off-campus party--and your first work friends from your first real job.  As you go through life experiences, your friend groups change. You have single friends, mama friends. Urban friends and rural friends. And if you're lucky, you hold on to all types of friends throughout all of the craziness that being an adult brings.

I am fortunate. I have a WIDE variety of friends, and they each bring something different and special to my life. I have single friends, the ones who are always up for an impromptu night out and are always willing to listen to my whining about life in general.  I have mama friends, people I know will text me back immediately when one of the kids has a funky rash, or when I need to vent because Tofu disappeared for the millionth time (that little *@#%*@!!). I have special needs mama friends, the ones who talk me down when I'm having a rough ASD day or when I'm suddenly blindsided with worry about my girl and her future. I have high school friends, people I can not see for years at a time and yet always manage to pick up exactly where we left off when we finally get together. I have guy friends (yes, I know that's controversial...I know some people believe that women and men, especially *gasp* MARRIED women and men, can't be friends. I whole-heartedly disagree...) who are like brothers. I have work friends who are there for me when I need to vent about "The Gray Box", but who are equally supportive and caring when my husband is in the hospital. I have friends who are older than me by more than a decade, and friends who are younger than me by over a decade. And each and every one of those friends is important to me, special in different ways but no less significant.

So, to all of my wonderful friends out there--old, young, mamas, single, men, women, gay, straight,--you are what gets me through the days. Thank you so much for supporting this busy, overtired, overstressed, overweight mama. I couldn't do it without you. Feeling so grateful for you all today.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Developmental Developments

Lately, the kids have been doing and saying some things that really indicate how much they're changing, developmentally-speaking. It's fascinating to watch them develop their sense of empathy, cause and effect, loyalty,  their sibling relationship.

Amelia is just working out what it means to be loyal, to have that fierce love for her family.  Last week, Anderson wanted something that I had taken away--I think it was a digital thermometer, which he had been using as a camera in some little game they had been playing. We were on our way out the door and needed to leave quickly, so I just kind of grabbed it and put it away, which made Anderson cry.  Amelia grew very indignant, emphasizing to me that "he was just playing with it, just pretending it's a camera", and ending with "you should give it back to my brother!"  'My brother', as in ownership, not in the way of property, but in a way that meant she claimed him--he was hers. Although I stuck to my guns (and offered some other toy as a camera, which completely pacified him), the moment was tender, one that I filed away in the little box of precious memories that occupies a corner of my heart. A few days later, Anderson was upset with me about something or other, I forget what. He yelled at me, ordering me to do something (don't worry; I don't respond to demands made by five-year-olds. I most certainly did not submit to his request...). Amelia winced and immediately piped up with, "Hey! You don't talk to my mother like that!"  Loyalty. Love. Family. She really gets it.

They've also been playing together much more meaningfully lately.  Instead of just playing near each other, they're playing detailed games, during which they come up with the rules. It's very cool to watch. One unintended side-effect of this increase in playing together is the development of a more "normal" sibling relationship. And by normal I mean they're getting on each others' nerves.  And by 'they' I mean Anderson is acting like a typical brother and intentionally irritating Amelia, who never fails to whine very LOUDLY about whatever it is that he's doing. Yesterday,  they were playing some little game, and Anderson started running away from her whenever she would get near. Now, he's faster than her--he outweighs her by almost twenty pounds and is just bigger in general--so he would run into another room, slam the door, and not let her in. Incessant whining/yelling would ensue. He would CRACK UP, open the door, and let her in only to repeat the same process over again. I actually uttered the words, "Anderson, stop irritating your sister."  Those words, while possibly annoying to any other mama, are music to my own ears. There was a time when I wasn't sure they'd form this relationship. I wasn't sure he'd form any obvious relationships at all. So to see him annoying his sister, like any brother would? Sure, it's a tad frustrating (mostly because of the decibel of her whining), but mostly it's wonderful.  Last night I had to get on him for squeezing her cheeks before running out of his room, cackling like a mad man. Ahhh, the joys of parenting. :-)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Heart

He comes in from a walk to the bridges, all tears and screams. He did NOT want to come in, he wanted to play outside after his bath. Blood-curdling screams on the rug by the door. Amelia holding her ears, begging him to stop. Me threatening him with no treats or elevator videos if he doesn't quiet down, parenting in the desperate, punishing way that I hate so much. He calms enough to stand up and take his clothes off for his bath. He takes his pants off before his socks, and they get stuck at his ankles, reigniting the fire that burns within him when he's so angry.

I wince, help Amelia out of her dress and tights, guide her to the tub and pray that he just stops. He continues to script negative things....the door is dirty, the bath would be too hot, it's just too much. They get in the tub, and I put Pandora Yoga station on the radio and announce that we are having a bath with "nice calm music".

He argues, voice rising. I quietly tell him that it hurts our ears when he yells, that if he is upset he needs to use a quiet voice. Amelia agrees. A song comes on with a soft, soothing sound and he turns his head to listen, giving in to the warm water of the bath and the entrancing melody. We are wordless for a few minutes, all of us lost in our own thoughts.

My mind drifts to him. What causes him to have such strong reactions? Why does he scream so loud? Are we heading through another rough patch with him? How will these incidents change as he gets older? Will he ever become violent? And then to more broad thoughts...does he understand the emotion of love? Does he know how much we love him--how much I love him? How much it hurts when he's so upset?

He stands up. He walks slowly through the tub water to the front of the tub, carrying a cup in his hand. I watch curiously, not sure what he's doing.  Then he says, "I've got you, I've got you. I'm not going to let go. I promise. I'm not going to let go."  And he leans over and takes a palmful of water, rubs it on the cup gently.

And it hits me.  He is ME.

He is imitating me, holding him at swim lessons. How I slowly walk with him through the pool, holding him as close as he needs.  Telling him that I will not let go.  Taking one hand and rubbing warm water on his back.  Whispering songs in his ear, songs that he loves. Soothing him. Encouraging him. He's talking softly to his own child, saying all of the calming things that I say to him.

And I realize. He knows. He knows I love him, that I will keep him safe and comfort him. And I'm left to watch in awe of the amazing boy that, along with his sister, completed my life.

My heart.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

I've had some pretty good Mother's Days in the past, but I think yesterday was my favorite. It was so low key and relaxing!  Marty told me I could do whatever I wanted all day long (within reason...I mean the urge to catch the next flight to Florida was tempting but you know..the finances..). I requested two things on Saturday night--that I be allowed to sleep in and that breakfast be ready when I woke up--cream of wheat and toast.  I crawled out of bed at almost 8 (which is sleeping in, believe me) to discover a delicious bowl of cream of wheat and coffee waiting for me. I leisurely ate breakfast, as all others had been fed.  Then, I took a 2nd cup of coffee to the recliner and relaxed.  Sidebar:  I'm absolutely convinced that our recliner is laced with Benadryl or some other sleep-inducing agent. I swear, I sit in it and ten minutes later, I'm ready to pass out! It doesn't matter how much sleep I've had prior; my rear hits that soft, pillow-like chair and it is ALL. OVER.  So, that morning, I dozed in the recliner for about an hour while all sorts of craziness ensued around me. Ahhhh.

Next, I dragged my sorry self out of the chair and decided to go for a walk--ALONE. No dog, no kids. I took a nice long stroll and ended up jogging a little bit, just because I love running and sometimes walking gets boring. Came home, cooled off, and decided to run some necessary errands, which included getting Amelia some new pajamas and hitting Costco.  I asked Amelia if she wanted to come with me and to my great surprise, she agreed.  You all--we had the BEST time.  She is such a funny little girl! She kept me laughing the entire time, and was just so good. She's growing up, that one. She definitely acts like a 5-year-old. If you're talking to her, or reading a book, and she doesn't know what one of the words means, she asks. Sometimes a lot.  Most of the time, I feel prepared to answer her--being a teacher has given me years of practice coming up with kid-friendly definitions.  However, after singing a rousing rendition of "Fixer-Upper" from Frozen, she asked me what "flaws" are. Try explaining that one to a kid in a way that they actually understand it. Anyway, she was just a delight the entire time we shopped.

When we got home, I decided I wanted to take a REAL nap. So I did! I mean, this was at 2:00! That's pretty much unheard of...but the man said I could do whatever I wanted all day and I was determined to take full advantage of it! I woke up about an hour and a half later. Anderson was wanting to go to "the big hill"--aka McConnell Springs--to hike a little. So...I took him! Why not?  He was also just so much fun. He loves being outside in nature--he truly has a respect for it. We walked some of his favorite trails, watched some turtles swim lazily around, saw a goose that was bigger than Anderson. When we left, we decided that we needed a cake for Mother's Day--his idea, I swear--so we went to Kroger to find something appropriate.  He helped me choose some cupcakes and I'm telling you, he had every person in a five foot radius eating out of the palm of his hand. He was exceptionally cute and talkative, and just so good.

We came home, ate a lovely dinner of grilled chicken and grilled zucchini and squash, and had our cupcakes. I wrapped up my special day by running to Best Buy to get an armband for my iPhone, so that I can use it when I work out.

Mother's Day is an interesting holiday for me. My own mother passed away when I was 12. I spent many years being depressed when Mother's Day rolled around, because everyone I knew was celebrating their mothers. It's hard to describe, but it's just an empty, lonely feeling.  Then, that feeling changed to something even more dark and depressing when we learned we had fertility issues. I'm telling you...Mother's Day can be the equivalent of hitting rock bottom when you're dealing with infertility. I can honestly say I'm grateful that I wasn't involved with social media during that time. I don't think I could have survived seeing all of the Facebook posts and Instagram pictures. I was incredibly fragile;  I think my heart would've shattered into pieces. It was hard.

 Now, I'm fortunate enough to have the two lights of my life. I know what an absolute miracle they are, and how lucky I am to have them. I take absolutely none of it for granted. They're my light and joy. Sure, there are tough times. Okay, there are lots of tough times, Like right now, as I'm trying to get them to brush their teeth for bed and they're chasing each other around the house and completely acting like I don't exist. Being grateful doesn't negate the fact that parenting is hard stuff.  I joke here about the complications and difficulties, because that's what I do--when things get too serious, I joke. Given the opportunity to laugh or cry, I choose laughter every time. So as I'm lamenting the loss of Tofu for the millionth time (that *&@*@&$*@!!!) or dealing with Ms. SassyPants, don't misunderstand. It's hard, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the entire world. Not one thing.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Swim Lessons and Spider Monkeys

This Monday, the kids started taking swim lessons at the YMCA.  I'd had a conversation with the assistant aquatics director prior to them starting, because I wanted to let her know about Anderson and to see what our options were, should it not work out for him. The Y is such a special organization because it supports ALL people--old, young, low SES, high SES, special needs, superb athletes. There really is something for everyone there (insert Village People song here). She assured me that if he wasn't quite up for participating in a group class, we could either switch to a special-needs swim class (which I'm not sure is the answer) or put lessons on hold for a bit.

I prepped them both pretty well, I think. Before our first lesson, I took them to the Y, showed them all of the locker rooms and pools, and talked about exactly what would happen. They were fascinated with the idea of a lifeguard, who would be like a teacher in the pool.  They seemed to be pretty interested and we left feeling good about it all.

The morning of the first lesson, Anderson kept saying, "We're just going to sit on the steps" and "We're just going to put our feet in--we are not going to get in the pool". I made no promises, just said that we'd see what happened.

When we arrived at the Y, it was kind of adorable. Amelia ran in saying, "I"m SOOO excited!"  We couldn't get into the pool area fast enough. Anderson was leery but not upset. We got there early and watched the class before ours--an infant class, so they enjoyed watching the babies splashing around. They were kind of precious.

When it was time for their class, we went right into the warm-water pool area and they waited anxiously for their teacher.  A young guy came over and said he was the teacher--and I have to admit, I was nervous. I was worried that a guy would be a bit...brusque...with the kids and that Anderson wouldn't respond to it very well.  I'm sure you know by now, if you've read this blog at all, that Anderson isn't really a "guy's guy" kind of kid. He's just...well, he's just Anderson...just a unique little man, and typical "boy" talk doesn't really work.  However, when the kids sat down and the lesson started, I was shocked.  This guy was so very calm, quiet, and gentle with the kids. I'm pretty sure Amelia immediately developed a huge crush on him--she told me today that he is "a really cool guy" and "a great guardlife". Anderson was very happy and excited to start out. He willingly got in with him, up to his belly, and even put his face in the water and blew bubbles.

The next part of the lesson involved the kids holding onto the huge fishy kickboard and letting the guard pull them through the pool. A seemingly fun activity, right? Except he LOST. HIS. MIND.  I could see the panic on his face, but couldn't make out what he was saying. I'm sure the guard got an earful of something special.  He didn't immediately cry, he was just terrified.  The guard brought him back, sat him on the side, and took Amelia--who was of course enthralled with Mr. Guardlife taking her for a ride.  She was pretty fearless. 
After the kickboard, he put the floaty belt on them and did the same thing. Anderson looked back at me and mouthed "I'm not going to do it!!", but when the guard reached for him, he allowed him to put the belt on him and take him out.  This time the cries turned into tears, despite the guard's calm demeanor.  When he got back to the side, he was pretty well done.  He kept telling me he didn't want to do it. I stayed strong and told him he needed to try.  The last part of the lesson involved the kids jumping in while holding the guard's hands. I wasn't sure what he would do.
He did it, though, and I was so proud.  We of course made a huge deal out of it and once he got his clothes on and we were out of the pool area, he was proud too.

We returned for lesson 2 on Wednesday, and he was just having none of it. I'd already decided if he was super anxious, I wasn't making him try.  I want him to learn to love the water, not be deathly afraid.  The sweet assistant aquatics director tried to talk him into trying, but it was just not going to happen. So, I talked to Mr. Guardlife and asked if he minded if I took Anderson to the other side of the pool where there were no lessons and got in while Amelia had her lesson.  I wasn't sure he'd go for it, because it took me a good distance from the sis, but he was totally fine, and of course Amelia was more than happy to spend some quality time with Mr. Guardlife. So, as Amelia started, I climbed in and slowly got Anderson in the pool.

You all--he was a literal SPIDER MONKEY! He climbed me and hung onto me with a death grip.  He cried in my ear and shook--he was legit terrified. I kept whispering that I would NOT let go of him. Over and over. We finally got to the center of the pool where we could watch the class. He wouldn't let go enough to watch the class, so I had to turn my body so that he could see over my shoulder.  He finally settled in enough to comment on how Amelia was doing with her lesson, but every single time I moved even a little, he would stiffen up and start over again with the crying.  SO, I did what all great mothers do. I sang some lovely alt-indie songs in his ear.  Songs that I know he loves. And slowly, he loosened the death grip on my neck. Sank into me, relaxed a little. I started swaying with the beat of the music, and he allowed it. By the end of the lesson, he was pretty comfortable. Amelia did fabulous again, and Anderson was sure to congratulate her on her great lesson. He was also very proud of himself. I was proud, too.

He will get there. I am sure of it. I think it's just going to take some time for him to get used to the sensation of being in water. My theory is that his vestibular system is so messed up (hence the elevator phobia) that the sensation of the floating, the bobbing, scares him to death. But as long as he will get in with me, I'll keep scaring the other parents with the sight of me in my bathing suit and keep taking him in. And maybe he will be ready for the next round of lessons that starts this summer.