. With Love, From The Mother 'Hood: October 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

China, Peanuts, Flip Flops and Hot Coffee

**Note this entry was edited post-publication to include further explanation of "Hot Coffee" since so many of you asked so nicely; other minor changes were made for continuity.

Oh the things kids say! I am sick right now, and Jack must have sensed I needed some comic relief this morning. He had one sock on and asked me to help him find a match in the mountain of unfolded laundry on the couch. I quickly located one and handed it to him. Jack followed me into the kitchen and said "Thanks for finding it Mom, I didn't want to be "One Sock Jack" and without missing a beat he said "It is a really good thing my name isn't Scott; "One Sock Scott". Now maybe this isn't the funniest thing you have ever read, but in that moment it was very funny to the two of us and was exactly what I needed.

All of the kids make us laugh and each seems to be developing their own sense of humor, even the baby who laughs at just the right moment with the rest of us when we joke around at the dinner table. Marley though has been on a roll lately, and rarely does a day go by that I don't say to Marc "listen to what she said today!" At 2.5 years her language and speech are still developing, so not everything is crystal clear but her pronunciations and train of thought (when you can follow it) have provided endless laughs. In a previous post I mentioned her new boots or in Marley-speak "boobs!" and her favorite, her bright pink flip flops - well, lets just say that "flops" sounds distinctly like another "F" word (which we definitely don't say lest anyone sick the potty mouth police on me ((ok, we are both guilty of the occasional "F" bomb, but only said under duress and not in front of the kids (((well, except for that one time Marc slipped and Jack ran around saying "F?" "What "F" Daddy?" Good job, Honey))) but being the not always PC mommy I am, I find endless amusement in asking her about them.
"What are those on your feet?" I ask, "My Flip F@!#&!!" she proudly proclaims (I know, bad mommy, but I only do this at home).

Recently while changing the baby, (whom Marley insists on calling "she", as in "she needs hers diaper changed, Mommy" even though "She" is Sam and he is definitely a boy; we're working on pronouns) Marley looked at Sam's penis and said "what is that?" I don't believe in assigning silly names to body parts, so we call things what they are. "His penis" I told her to which she promptly replied, "His peanuts?" and then proceeded to point to her own diaper and said "My china?" (These are the mispronunciations I LIVE for!) Stifling my giggles all I could manage was a "mmmm-hmmmm" until Marley said "His peanuts, for Patches?" and with this I let out a whoop of a laugh. Marley's mispronunciation and thought process in that moment were comedy perfection. Patches, you see, is our hamster and the kids feed her peanuts as a treat - it took me a minute or two to stop laughing at that one.

As I sit here sipping my coffee, writing this I remember when Jack was learning to talk and we were teaching him "hot". I had coffee every morning back then too, and often I would say "hot coffee". Jack said "hot" perfectly, but "coffee" didn't come out quite right, in fact the word that came out of his mouth was nowhere near coffee. It was a word no mom wants to hear her child say. **Now, I wasn't going to tell you what "coffee" sounded like when Jack said it, because I worried it may be a bit too vulgar for some readers, but my friend Andrea pointed out to me "it's what it sounded like, not what you were teaching him to say," so here goes: "Coffee" sounded just like a slang term for a certain female body part, rhymes with "wussy". My husband found it hilarious and he was the bad, not PC daddy saying "say, coffee!" and then "say, Hot Coffee!" (part of why we are still together after all these years - we share the same twisted, sarcastic sense of humor).

Who knew when Marc and I set out on this amazing journey years ago that everyday things would bring such laughter into our lives? So often we get caught up in looking for more or focusing on what's not right when directly in front of us are these amazing moments that are "just right", moments that I think too many miss. With that, before I get too sappy, from The Land of China, Peanuts, Flip Flops and Hot Coffee I say, laugh with your kids it is good great for the soul or as my dear Dad would say "it's good for what ails ya". Indeed it is.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

May The Force Be With You

"Boys will be boys" and I know this all too well. Besides having three boys of my own, growing up it was me and my dear brother (I also have a sister, but she wasn't born until I was 13, and off in my own teen world). I could write a short book about our adventures, and living in a neighborhood full of boys. My brother was "all boy" which in short means he didn't own a pair of pants without holes in the knees (of which I was reminded this morning, looking at my son's brand new jeans with a gaping hole) and saw more than his fair share of our hospital's E.R. (thankfully we haven't seen as much of this, but among our few visits there was "the bean incident" - another post to come). I would wear a dress my mom had made, but no guarantees that I would act like a lady in said dress. Dress or not, I was likely on a bike, up a tree or racing my brother around the neighborhood or through the nearby field of milkweed (which I now know is poisonous if ingested; thankfully we didn't eat it and just made a mess by releasing all of the seeds). Usually I was dressed like the boys though, and hanging tough, dirty as any of them, and so far because of all my tomboy days, my boys haven't surprised me, too much.

As I sit here in my pajamas, sweaty and slightly feverish battling a nasty upper respiratory infection, I know two little boys I can thank for it. As a matter of fact, there is an entire school of little boys I should thank. With the recent flu outbreak, the school staff has done a great job of telling the children to wash hands, cough into a tissue and discard, or into the crook of the elbow, etc., but if most boys are like mine (and I'll bet they are) they need to be told to do these things, repeatedly. Little boys do things, gross things, when we aren't looking. Sometimes we catch them and tell them "GO WASH YOUR HANDS!!", but apparently at school this year there was a new game that went unnoticed by staff. Jack gleefully told me about it one day after school:

Me: "How was school - Do anything fun?"
Jack: "Well, everyone played a new game called "The Force".
I was intrigued - Max loves Star Wars, so this could be good; something they could bond over.
Me:"Cool, how do you play?"
Jack looked at me with a huge grin, promptly LICKED his unwashed hand, and shoved it in my face. "May the Force Be With You!" he shouted in triumph. Score one for the boys.

"GO WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!" was my immediate response. Score one for Mom. Before you start thinking I have a severe germ phobia, I don't, but with five kids it makes sense to prevent blatant spreading when possible. While he was in the bathroom I giggled to myself, and shook my head, remembering some of the far more dangerous things my brother and I did as kids. When Jack emerged, clearly disappointed I didn't see the greatness of "The Force", I explained why it wasn't such a good idea. "Ohhh-kaaay" was his glum response. If you read this story or have little boys yourself then you know as well as I do, the moment his little 8 year old body was on that playground with his friends again, everything that ol' Mom told him was out the window. I would bet my house that they were right back at their game, licking dirty hands and shoving them in faces, "May the Force Be With You!!" Oh, it is with me all right.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Greenest Grass

I was talking to a dear friend today about the struggles that can come with being a wife and mother and how as women we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. Perfection is overrated, and exhausting to try to achieve. Marc has taught me to see that at the end of the day if my kids are fed, all snug in their beds and relatively happy and clean we are doing ok. Through a lot of effort (14years together has given us lots to work on!)we have learned what a huge difference effective communication makes. I once equated a successful marriage to a beautiful garden; both require a lot of love and care and sometimes the work is hard, (especially the darn weeding part), but the results can be fabulous. So often we get caught up in the day to day things with kids, work, and just LIFE that we can lose sight of our role as partners, and our sense of self. Inevitably at times stress rises,and communication can falter. Throw anything extra in the mix - unexpected shtuff like an ill child, a partner who has to work long hours or constantly travel for work, financial problems - anything that you weren't really signing up for when you said your "Happily Ever Afters" - and things can go downhill quickly. Suddenly, the grass is looking greener everywhere else.

I don't think anybody takes their marriage vows and thinks about the real situations we are promising to stand by each other through (really, would anybody get married then!?): "I promise to stand by you through countless weird medical issues with our family, autism, AD/HD, ungodly work hours that come with trying to build your own business, being poorer long before richer, and some whopper arguments that nobody wins, proving just how strong headed we both are". Marc and I probably would have looked at each other and calculated how quickly we could make a break for it - see ya! Thankfully we have weathered a lot and learned to find the good, even in the bad, or at least to let the laughs carry us through the stress. Our kids do make us laugh - Marley with her new boots running around saying "my boobs!" and Max running into the kitchen when I blew my nose saying "What sounds like [whipped] cream?" - these are the moments that make the hard ones easier. We have fought hard to be where we are and things look pretty good these days, but I know we have to keep an eye on those weeds.

One thing I want to share that has worked tremendously for us during times we are really disagreeing (in addition to our fabulous therapist) is email. It may sound really impersonal at first, but it cuts out a lot of reactivity. Marc tends to have "angry eyes" and my hands fly around as if I was born Italian instead of marrying one, and we both tend to shout. Email cuts all of that out, and allows you to really take your time to say things thoughtfully in a way that can be heard. The whole point is to communicate without inflicting further hurt - too often the message is lost in the hurt and anger of an argument.

With that I will say Happy Days! and for my dear friend - I love you and when you read this know that you inspired me. You are beautiful and worthy of happiness and you do have it within yourself to find it. Sometimes the greenest grass is right where you are, you just don't see it under your feet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, With All My Love

Today is my husband's birthday, and I have a gift for him - something he will enjoy, but it just doesn't convey everything he deserves on his special day. Birthdays are important to me - we are celebrating the day we entered the world after all! I think birthdays should be a celebration of all that person has brought with them into the world and reflected upon with some reverence. Racking my brain for a perfect gift, I thought what better way to tell him how I feel than to shout it out for all the world to "hear"? So here goes:

Marc, I am so grateful for this day! Because of you my life has known great joy and love. You are an amazing father and husband and I am so proud of the family we have created together. Things certainly rarely go "as planned" for us, but after all these years I think we have found our own rhythm and have learned that laughter can carry us through a lot, along with the hugs and more than a few tears. We have grown immensely because of each other both as a couple and as individuals and you have brought me strength through countless challenges. We have shared the amazing joy of our five children and I have no doubt that many more moments with them are waiting for us.

I love all of the thoughtful things you do, like helping so much with the kids or cooking fabulous meals (go ahead ladies, be jealous, he is a fantastic cook!! (Lest you think I don't contribute I can and do cook, although I would much rather get my hands dirty with spackle and paint - I paint a mean wall!) and especially for acknowledging how hard I fight for our kids needs. Most of all I want to tell you I am proud to call you my husband, my friend and the one I will spend my life with. I am so grateful for you in my world! Happy Birthday Sweetheart, With All My Love!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Grand Mal Tantrums and Life on Mars

Marley was the sweetest baby - chubby cheeked and happy with a thick crop of auburn hair. She slept through the night at about 7 weeks (before you hate me here, let me say I have paid my dues in spades with regards to lost sleep with my three boys) and she smiled and laughed more than she cried. Marley (as in Bob, not the dog) seemed like such a happy, laid back choice for a name. Marley at 2.5 years old still has tons of auburn hair, but now her sole mission in life seems to be world domination, at least of our world and her nickname "Mars"(as in the Roman God of War) is so much more fitting to her strong personality. Yep, "Mars" completely fits the bill, and let me tell you there are days with this girl I wish I could escape to Mars, just for some peace and quiet from her tantrums (never mind the fact that life isn't supported there - I am just imagining quiet!). I have warned Marc, "If you come home and I am gone, you know I couldn't take it anymore". Humor is what gets us through a lot of days with this crew.

In the seven years since Max was born, I have seen some whopper tantrums, especially when he was younger and experiencing a lot of sensory processing difficulties (very common in kids with autism; so thankful he has very few tantrums these days and the sensory processing is a lot easier to figure out). I have carried that child out of many a place kicking and screaming "I want my mom!" I am your mom! I was often worried someone would think I was kidnapping him, but people probably thought "why would anyone other than his mother try so hard to take a kid that is pulling her hair out and clawing at her face?!", and that was before I tried to put him in the car - sometimes that took up to half an hour, ending with me battered and sweaty and Max screaming all the way home from wherever I was leaving. Unfortunately, the same was true of getting in the car at home, and he would scream from home to wherever I was crazy enough to attempt going to. Max's tantrums make typical two year old tantrums look like a party, but what doesn't kill us, right?

Marley's tantrums are thankfully not sensory induced, but they are still frustrating and challenging, although at times definitely humorous. I am calling the big ones - the meltdowns when she looks like she is attempting to break dance and do "the worm" across the kitchen floor (she does a mean version) - her "Grand Mal Tantrums" (told you I'm not always PC, but it's my own kid I'm making fun of, so....). She has seen more time-outs in the last couple of months than her oldest sister saw during her entire childhood, and if what someone told me about toddler behavior being a predictor for adolescence is true, then we are in for a wild ride with this one. She looked right at Marc one recent morning and said "You shut up right now Daddy!" - at 2.5!! I think her butt landed in the time out chair at mach speed that day. She also has the ability to scream at a pitch that I am convinced could be harnessed into a weapon of mass destruction should the sound fall into the wrong hands. Very challenging, indeed.

Maybe it's Karma - I was also a tough kid (although maybe not quite this tough!) and my Dad finds endless pleasure in the tales of our adventures with Mars, which we often refer to as "little Missy". One of my mantras is "she will be a strong woman someday", knowing that my strong personality has served me well, and has carried me through a lot of challenges, especially when it comes to parenting kids who are "more" everything. So, you go ahead Marley Grace - make your presence known in our world - Your mom is one tough cookie, and I can take it. These shoulders have carried far more weight than your 80's dance moves bring, but the world at large better look out - I have no doubt your already big voice will be huge someday, and if I do my job right, you will learn to harness all of that power and make a positive difference, loud and clear. I love you Mars - my little warrior.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Evolution and Elusive Binkies

"Ma-MAAA". He was awake again. Our one year old, Sam, loves his binky (for those of you not in the know a binky is a pacifier, but if you are reading my rambles you probably have kids, so you most likely know what a binky is). Anyway, during the last two months, since I've stopped nursing, Marc has been AWESOME about getting up with the kids, morning and night, trying to help me catch up on some zzzz's - the first 10 months with Sam were not filled with sleep for me. During that time, even more than his beloved binkies, Sam loved to nurse (big surprise, another boob man) ALL THE TIME, with no regard to the fact that this mama bear does not do well with less than 8 hours of sleep. When my mother heard of his sleeping habits (how could this child be genetically mine!?), my mom's instant reply was, "Oh honey, you so aren't a person that can function on less than 8 hours!" She knows me well, and at that point I was getting by on a meager 4-5 hours of uninterrupted slumber, fantasizing about running away to the closest place with a bed, sans baby and the responsibilities of being a mommy to five. Thankfully, at some point Sam realized the binky was a good second to the boob.

"Ma-mahhh". I was still up and Marc had already gone to bed, so I trudged in there to begin the search for the elusive binky. I gently moved my hands around inside the crib, hoping it had just fallen out of his mouth. Nope. Down on my hands and knees to begin the blind, in the dark carpet sweep. Even though he loves the binks, Sam has a bad habit of chucking them all over the room and under his crib. I shoved my hand and head under the crib (didn't we have about a dozen of these in here?! Where did they all go!?) and all I came up with was a lone sock and carpet fuzz stuck to my lips.

As I started the full body search of the floor, trying to find the darn thing before he woke into full blown Ma- MAHHHH Mecca Lecca Hi, Mecca Hiney Ho mode (maybe I'll get in trouble for my reference, but really what mom couldn't beat up Pee Wee Herman and Jambi? (I could just drop kick Jambi - Look Jambi, you can fly, too! - I know, totally warped), my thoughts turned to evolution (Yes, really - this is exactly how my tired, mommy brain operates, but if you live in the 'hood you'll keep up), and why, for instance, don't moms have night vision? Just "Blink!", night vision on, oh there is that pesky little binky" I mean, our bodies can do all this cool stuff - creating other people, and then producing enough milk to feed a small country in my case (I'm not a big girl up top, but grew to a DD this time around, and probably will write at some point about my amazing ability to reproduce and lactate; now that we are done nursing those DD's have skipped town though, so I guess I can strike "stripper" off my list of ways to earn some extra cash ). Or, another thought, why can't we just generate a couple extra arms when we are trying to juggle more than one child? - but maybe that is becoming a little clone creepy. Perfect for the older boys - they love creepy. I can hear them now, "Cool mom! Do the arm thing again!" Not the baby though, my little "shy guy" is quiet and sweet, except when he loses the binky in the night.
Sammy, I'd like to share a little about evolution with you here, buddy - we have developed these wonderful things called THUMBS! They are right there on your beautiful little hands, and they are soooooo much better than a binky because you can't lose them in the night. We love you so much and we would do anything for you, but Daddy and I want to sleep, so why don't you give it a try? All your siblings did it, but no pressure. I have to warn you, Mommy is tough love with things like pacifiers - one day I will say "all done", but for now sweet dreams, buddy. Oh, and here is your binky, right where you left it in the one spot I missed during the crib sweep.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Taking the Plunge

So, here I go "taking the plunge": Putting my words, life, dirty laundry and all, out there for all the world to see. Will I regret it? Maybe, but probably not. At this point in my life I try to not have regrets - We can't change the past; what's done is done, and really, either you get me and like me or you don't. Instead of regretting what isn't, I think aspiring to what may be is a better way to go about things. No point in beating yourself up about life - vent and move on. It isn't always easy to do this, but I'm working on it. (Let me say here that my therapist is worth every penny I pay her for helping me to attempt to get my shtuff together!)

A Little About Me:
I was going to say I am a blogger virgin, but I don't think "virgin" works as a descriptor for a mom of five kids in any capacity. I'm a perfectionist, but far from perfect. I tend to be sarcastic, and you may or may not get my sense of humor ( you definitely need one to live in this 'hood) and sometimes I may not be completely PC, but I mean no offense. I speak my mind, and when it comes to my kids those closest to me would probably tell you I have a "mama bear"ness about me. I have 5 kiddos ages 15, 8, 7.5, 2.5 and 1, so all in one day I know everything and yet, I know nothing. Each child is beautiful and unique, a little piece of my heart that I gave birth to, and love so much that it hurts sometimes. Then, there are days I wish I could gather them up and shove them back in my uterus, like one of those nesting dolls, in you go! for some peace and quiet, but that is what bedtime is for. I am truly thankful for a glass or two of good wine at the end of most days. My husband Marc jokes (to me folks, not the kids), "Mommy drinks because you cry".

The two older kiddos have what I would call "mild" AD/HD (no meds) and our third has autism (PDD-NOS or PDD depending on the day and who examines him, also no meds;), and we are watching the youngest two closely for any issues. We are very fortunate that our son with autism is "high functioning", and extremely verbal; a lot of people say "I would never know". You will see me write a lot about our journey, and see that if you lived it you would know all too well. We are so lucky that he has made the progress he has, and I am grateful that I have been able to appreciate the good things autism has brought into my life (yes, I said "good" - more on that later), but autism, and the struggles our life presented in the past tested our marriage on more than one occasion to a near breaking point. Thankfully, Marc and I both fight for what we believe in, and we believe in us and our family. I hope this doesn't come across as "woe is me" or hackneyed - it's my life and it is what it is. We try to make the best of it and have fun along the way, often poking fun and laughing at ourselves (better watch out for mama bear if you try to poke fun, though). I guess the first thing I will share (this is a big leap for me!), is a poem I wrote about my son with autism. I hope you enjoy!

Maxwell's Dance

Tip toe, to and fro-
Your hands flutter through the air,
jubilant butterflies
tethered at your wrists-
Hickory, dickory
try as they might
true flight denied.

Mind's eye tapestry woven,
gossamer wings whispering,
Light trip fantastic,
swirls of dust above your golden head,
a sunlight crown
streaming through the window,
sparkling shards winking,
a teasing spotlight on your world,
little king.

Perpetual puzzle,
born of my body,
longing for more than a glimpse
I imagine the creations of your mind,
rare, fine lace;
A spider's web adorned with morning dew,
unexpected jewels hang in offering,
as you dance your beauty
through my world.