Monday, February 28, 2011

Congratulations! It's a Blog!

So, I have many great things to say about Sweet Girl and Little Man and the really great visit we had from Nana, Papa, and Aunt Carrie this past weekend.  But that'll have to wait until Sweet Girl gets back to school (2 hour delay for severe thunderstorms equals no pre-k equals boo!) and Little Man decides to take a vacation from my hip.  Today I'm here to promote myself.  Yay!

My sister, Carrie, my lobster-in-law, Amy, and I have started a book blog.  We all read entirely too much and therefore felt the need to share that with the rest of the world.  It's going to be great, I promise.  And I am going to take all the credit for it.  I kind of had to twist Carrie's arm.  She is not a blogger as of yet, but I know she will become quite adept and addicted rather quickly.  We're cut from the same cloth so I know she'll realize that being this right about so many things, in this case books, brings with it a moral obligation to tell others how right you are about so many things, in this case books.  I mean, really, it's the least we can do.

Amy is already a great blogger.  You can read so for yourself here.  She has several friends with their own little digital corners of the world, and through them it came to our attention that some bloggers receive things from companies/people/the universe............FOR FREE!  We were talking about that and I was dreaming of all the things I'd like to get FOR FREE, and books were near the top of my list.  Also at the top of my list were gluten-free Bisquick, So Delicious coconut milk yogurt, 1-2-3 Gluten Free muffin mix, and Kinnikinnick gluten-free pizza crusts.  Yes, that's an unabashed attempt to solicit free items.  I would say I've sold myself out, but (let's be honest) I never had any principles to begin with.

I digress.  We started a book blog called The Family Addiction.  At least once a week, one of us will post a review of a book we've read.  And we'll be covering a wide variety of genres as we all have different tastes.  Carrie reads anything in English, Amy keeps up with the more current trends, and the only commonality I could find in the books I read is that they're all mostly depressing (yay!).  As a disclaimer, I won't be reviewing any of the books on autism/behavioral interventions/biomedical treatments that I have read.  I'm not sure there's enough room on one blog. But we really hope you'll drop by over there and I'm sure you'll love it so much you'll want to follow us too.  And then you'll want to buy the books (which will be conveniently linked) and then we will become vastly popular and books will magically show up at our doors!  That is how it works, right?

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Shove with Love

When Sean and I got married, I vowed to love him for better or worse.  And I meant it. So far, I have held up my end of the deal:  better=Sweet Girl and Little Man, worse=Sean becoming a Tar Heel, worse than that=people assuming that I am also a Tar Heel or Tar Heel fan.  If I'm willing to put up with that, then it's clearly a deep love and strong dedication.  So I wonder why we have two adults (who can opt out should they so choose) publicly proclaim their intentions to one another and yet we don't have something similar for when one becomes a parent.  Shouldn't we have to declare our intentions for the raising of a helpless baby before they actually let us take it home from the hospital?  Sure it might be empty promises-like some marriages-but at least there would be a public record that the one (or two) bumbling idiot (or idiots) to whom this new kid is permanently attached are aware that they must do more than just throw the kid in the backseat and drive away.  Honestly, there should be a committment ceremony right after they make you watch the "Don't Shake the Baby" video.  Again.  For the fifth time.

Because we've had a rough patch around here mother-childrenwise, I thought I would affirm my vows to my children.  Actually, Little Man has been doing much better since he finally recovered from whatever upper-respiratory funk he was sharing with his sister.  Which means he'll probably wake up at some point today in full Exorcist mode; 360 degree split-pea vomit and all.  I truly hope not because I have my hands full with his sister.  Sweet Girl went to school all last week (hurray, hurray, hurray!) but came home Friday a little puny.  As the evening progresed, she laid down on the couch signaling all was not right in her world.  The next day she had a high fever and though that's all but gone, her attitude remains less than healthy.  She is overly emotional.  Yesterday she was putting on her rain boots (one was backwards) and came to tears over the fact that her foot wouldn't go in the boot (the foot was not backwards hence the problem).  Her communication skills, which were already severely impaired, have taken a huge step backwards.  Instead of telling me she's hungry she has taken to pulling on the refrigerator door until I hear her grunts and come to rescue the appliance.  A million other little things aren't quite right either, all of which lead to the breakdown she and I just had. 

I was putting laundry away in her room and she was playing with her books.  I was going over verbal communication/conversation prompts - basic information like name, age, likes/dislikes - and though I didn't expect a reply, I expected her to take at least 10 seconds of interest.  She didn't.  She continued to look at her books and sing various Wonder Pets songs.  I stopped putting away the laundry and got eye level with her, which I should have been doing in the first place.  I asked her the same question.  "What's your name?"  She knows the answer.  She places possession to her yogurt daily ("That's Sweet Girl's yogurt!" And at $1.99 a container no one else is getting any, trust me) and can identify the letters in her written name.  "What's your name?"  Nothing.  "What's your name?"  No more eye contact.  "What's your name?"  She dissolves into screams and tears and sits on the floor.  She had given up and called a retreat.  And that is what undid me. 

I can accept slow progress.  I can accept steps backward when we're sick.  I can accept an uncertain future in terms of cognitive development.  I can accept Sweet Girl just as she is, if this is the place where we find we can climb no higher.  I can accept frustration and screams and tears.  But I cannot accept quitting.  She has shown she is capable of so much more than I was asking, so it is unacceptable to me that she give up on it so easily.  We have too much ground to cover for something this basic to shut down the works.  This ended with both of us in tears and me apologizing for not properly demonstrating my emotions - ahem, I think some stuffed animals may have taken some inadvertent flying lessons on their way to her bed - which is always a humbling experience.  She has forgiven me for my meltdown and I have forgiven her for being human and needing a break, and now we are in the midst of The Great Chicken Impasse.  *By the way, she likes chicken so it's not quite the Death by White Meat that she is making it out to be.* It would be so easy to give in to what she wants.  She would be happy and I would have a lot less crying in the house, but ultimately that doesn't help her.  So I push.  Somedays I shove.  Sweet Girl and Little Man may truly never understand why I'm so pushy, but I swear it's because I love them.

I'm taking time out of The Great Chicken Impasse (no chips, no hot dog, no tv, no swing until she eats four bites of her baked chicken and, never fear I have back up chicken that's not covered in salmonella) to publicly declare my love for my children.  To record some solemn vows to them.  That way when I need to remind myself not to shake the baby or the toddler (again, for the fifth time), I'll have something to fall back on.

I promise to never put conditions on my love for you.  It will always be here for you when you need it or want it and even when you don't.  I promise that I will never give up on you; that the further you may retreat in to a world all your own, the harder I will fight to pull you out.  I promise to remember that a love this big can be too heavy for little shoulders to carry, and so I promise to remember to also give you space to be who you are.  I promise I will always see you and not a label whether that label is good or bad, true or false.  I promise that I will publicly humiliate you with inappropriate emotional outbursts at least four times in your life.  And to shorthand the argument that is bound to follow those instances:  Yes, I know I'm embarrassing you.  No, I won't stop.  Yes, I see other people are looking.  And if you can find someone else willing to have you in their house, fine by me. I promise to know your laugh without seeing you.  I promise I will not eat organic uncured hot dogs and organic potato crisps in front of you (for several different reasons) when I won't let you eat them yourself. I promise that when I screw this up, in approximately 30 seconds from now, I will start over and you get that opportunity as well.  I promise to encourage you to grow beyond and away from me even if it hurts me to do so.  And I promise in order to do that, I will push and shove but I will do so with love.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Snow Days are unAmerican! And other love matters.

Last week, I lost my patriotic spirit.  I didn't take our flag down or anything, but I was pretty annoyed with the oppressive regime I was being forced to negotiate with around here.  Therefore I was dreaming of Canada.  That oppressive regime I had to deal with wasn't actually comprised of elected officials and politicians.  But it is, however, full of hot air and gas.  That's right.  Last week during the uncharacteristically wintry weather of Tennessee, I was being oppressed by my children.  Sweet Girl and Little Man have both been sick for the better part of January and February, and when you add in four snow days in a row it becomes nearly unbearable to be the one adult responsible for them.  During Sweet Girl and Little Man's Reign of Terror, I lost most of my rights.  My right to eat balanced meals (or even sit down while eating), my right to wear clothes free of general detritus and bodily fluids not my own, my right to sleep more than four hours in a row, my right to shower, my right to SIT DOWN AND HAVE SOME QUIET FOR TEN FLIPPING MINUTES ALREADY!, all went out the window into the fresh snow. 

It would have been easier with another adult.  But the adult who usually helps with the parenting around here, is currently serving his country in a far away location.  Great.  In order to help preserve everyone's right to hygiene on demand, I had to give up my own.  For the most part, the weather actually was bad enough to warrant the time off from school but Friday was another matter.  The sun was shining and the roads had been cleared (because it had stopped snowing on Wednesday).....and yet the phone call came anyway.  As I heard the recorded message prattle on about road conditions and dangerous conditions on some school campuses, I kept thinking "Really?  You feel comfortable missing one more day of school because there's a shadow of some snow covering an inch of one road in the county?"  Please.  Doesn't anyone walkbarefootuphillbothways anymore? 

What has happened to our American spirit to conquer all things that stand in our way?  Did our founding fathers let a little cold and snow defeat them?  No!  George Washington even gets his own scene at the American Adventure in Epcot thanks to cold weather bravery!  I was more than willing to bundle Sweet Girl up in her snow suit, pack her backpack, and give her a laminated map and Oreo (the first for guidance as land navigation is not her strong point, and because everything seems to get inexplicably wet in Sweet Girl's possession, and the second for company on the journey) and send her on her way to school Thursday evening (her legs are short, it's going to take her awhile to get there not to mention that I know she'll stop at Sonic for a lemonade) so she can be present for school on Friday.  But I can't do that if no one is willing to embrace the American cold-weather spirit anymore and actually call school into session.  Snow: it's more than a meteorologic phenomenon, it's communist weaponry.  And it nearly found the limit of this mother's love.

Which brings up Valentine's Day.  I feel obligated to mention something about love, as well as something nice about Sweet Girl and Little Man.  While others have waxed poetically about love for a spouse/significant other/booty call, I'm going to keep this short and sweet (like my children today).  I love my family.  They are often loud, obnoxious (looking at you Joshua) and opinionated. which means I fit right in.  I love my husband.  He is also loud, obnoxious and opinionated, which means I get the opportunity to be right to his wrong on a daily basis.  I love Sweet Girl.  As we walked into school this morning, her little hand in mine made my heart melt.  And while there is a distinct possibility that her hand will be in mine for a longer time than others, that does not make the love there any less.  So what if we're on the wishing side of Someday a little longer?  I'm used to the scenery here.  I love Little Man.  He is giggly and smiley and doesn't seem to mind that almost all of his toys have been "gently" used by his sister before him.  His life is terrifically and terribly wide open, and so is my love for him.  And, of course, I love America (especially when school is in session)!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

SGALM: The Prequel

And before anyone starts to think this is going to be some reminiscing about how Sweet Girl and Little Man came to be, let me assure that they were created in the same manner as me and my siblings; through the utmost respect and admiration and very cordial hand shaking.  And I will delete anyone who comments anything to the contrary.  No, this is a love letter for my husband on his birthday.  Because without that, there would be no Sweet Girl and Little Man.

Sean should've been in Times Square and I should have had a cooler brother but neither of us got what we originally planned on New Year's of 2000/2001.  Well I should've had a cooler brother throughout this lifetime, but that's neither here nor there.  There was a blizzard in the New York/New Jersey area and Carrie and I were hanging with my brother and Amy for the third NYE in a row.  Sean knew a friend of Joshua and Amy's.  I knew Joshua and Amy and they were the ones having the party in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  It was New Year's; there was beer and kissing at midnight and oddly a trip to the dumpster in a "classic" Toyota.  And then Sean went to Kosovo for six months and I felt badly about that so I emailed him.  He emailed back.  Write, Send, Repeat.  Then about ten months after we met, we had a real date.  Phone, Fly, Repeat.  We had a really great party with a whole lot of really great people about three years after our first date to celebrate our wedding.  The aforementioned brother wasn't even there and still made me cry.  In spite of that, it was a great beginning to a life I never would have planned but wouldn't have any other way.

At some point during the time I spent in airports and on planes while Sean and I were dating, I fell for him before I could help myself.  We are not cut from the same cloth.  Actually I'm not sure we were cut in the same fabric store, but somehow that doesn't matter.  Dissimilar backgrounds aside (suburban Jersey Catholic vs. rural Illinois decidedly Protestant), our personalities also fall apart from one another.  Sean has never met a stranger and I'm a natural introvert.  He is historical non-fiction to my classic literature sprinkled with US Weekly.  He watches Fox News and The Weather Channel religiously, while I'd rather have Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert bring me current events.  If you were to judge us based solely upon iTunes libraries you would think Sean was in a time warp as most of his music predates actual iPods, or he's an eight year old girl whose dad sometimes uses the account.  And you would probably think I have multiple personalities. We are an odd couple to say the least.  But I suppose love has brought further separates together.

But there are many reasons my heart recognized Sean even when my head didn't.  He is extraordinarily loyal to his friends.  He would truly give them the shirt off his back if he thought you really needed it. (And to show off his Irish tan.)  You can not go anywhere-I'm not kidding about this-without running into someone he knows, and he is capable of recalling the smallest details about that person's life regardless of the fact they haven't seen or talked in a couple of years.  Once you are Sean's friend, you are always his friend unless you choose not to be.  In my worst moments as a person, wife, and mother he lets me be terrible with the confidence that I will return from WickedWitchville soon.  He loves me, though wisely from a distance, even when I am "Mean and Nasty, Party of 1!"  And when I feel like I've lost myself somewhere between the 56th book on autism and the 56th poopy diaper to change, he always seems to know exactly who I am. 

Sean has weathered some great tragedies in his lifetime and he carries that with him every moment of every day.  But he never lets the weight of that slow down his marching forward.  While many people get paralyzed by the fact that some things will forever be in the past tense, Sean shoulders that weight carefully and more gracefully than most.  If you didn't know his personal story then his sunny disposition would never let on to the things that could derail a life.  He is smart enough to know that we are more than our losses and he is strong enough to live with that - not everyone is.  And if you want to see Sean at his sunniest, just watch him hanging out with his children.  Sweet Girl and Little Man may never know how lucky they are to have a dad that feels more complete because they are in the world.  Unconsciously, he accepts them as they are and recognizes all they can become.  He smiles brighter when he smiles at them; the hallmark of a good dad.

So that's how The Adventures of Sweet Girl and Little Man came to be.  Sean is a good man and luck, fate, or the mischief-maker brought us together.  And why do I feel the need to share this?  It's his birthday (and this is faster than sending something to his current location).  I'm not a total fool though, there is an actual present on its way to him.  I'd hate for him to think something like this is an acceptable gift when my birthday rolls around.  Cause it's not, Sean.  :)  Happy Birthday!  Be safe.  Sweet Girl, Little Man, and I are sending our love (and an actual gift!) through the distance.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Boogie Wipes, One Hand, and Ice Cream: A Mother's Tale

Sweet Girl and Little Man have been sick.  Sweet Girl came home from school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (they had to go to school to make up a snow day - apparently weather cares little for civil rights) and fell asleep on the couch.  Sweet Girl does not nap.  Ever since she discovered how to climb out of her crib at 19 months, it's been game on all day long.  So her falling asleep was either a sign of the Apocalypse or a sign that she was getting very sick.  I carried her to bed and my arms nearly burst in to flames from the heat rolling off her body.  Sick it is; 24 hours of a high fever, followed by massive amounts of drainage, followed by a 3 pack-a-day smoker's cough.  She rode out her illness with the help of Motrin, a cool mist humidifier, and the Wonder Pets.  And then she passed it on to Little Man. 

Little Man has inherited the overly dramatic gene (from his father, to be sure).  His illness followed the same pattern, and to be fair he's only 10 months old so some of the diva behavior is to be expected, however he was not nearly as accommodating as his sister.  She asked for drinks and spent the rest of the day under "blanket, nother blanket, and this blanket" on the couch watching movies.  Little Man would have none of that.  He has to be held.  Constantly. OK, fine.  But he has to be held constantly in constant motion.  There will be no sitting down, no rocking in the glider, no sleeping in the crib.  He will be held by his mother and his mother will move.  He could be asleep in my arms and the moment I sit down he would wake up to voice his displeasure.  Or I might even try to put him in his crib (the nerve!) and he'd let me know immediately that he had other plans.  I believe I summed this up when talking to Aunt Carrie as such; oy, the schlepping.

So what is a lone mother to do?  She must learn to do everything with one arm, that's what.  Refill a humidifier tank in the bathtub with one hand - did it.  Pack school lunch with one hand - did it.  Do laundry with one hand - did it.  Vacuum - yep.  Load the dishwasher - yep.  Text - yep.  Waste time on facebook - of course my kid is sick I'm not dieing.  My point being is that I'm afraid I may have created a hip riding-one arm stealing-boogie barnacled monster.  Little Man is feeling better, but I think he likes the view better from up here.  So while his sister got better and went on to do amazing things this week, he's still hanging out in schlepville hitching free rides.  And while I'm now very accomplished at this one-handed thing, I'm not terribly fast at it.  So when Sweet Girl is 42 years old and is being sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, I'll be 10 minutes late to the ceremony because her 39 year old brother wants me to carry him in and I hear the doors in the Halls of Justice (right?) are weighty.

In the midst of all this, there was an amazing discovery.  It was during this viral phase at the house that I discovered Boogie Wipes.  They're magical.  As both Sweet Girl and Little Man purged their mucous build-ups, some nastiness was bound to happen.  Even with the help of humidifiers, noses crusted up.  Boogie Wipes to the rescue.  Thin cloth wipes with saline make the boogie barnacles easier to scrape off little noses.  And the packaging is easy enough to manipulate you can do it with one hand (and I would know). The fact that I am so moved by a wet kleenex to actually write about it is a glowing commendation in and of itself. 

Speaking of amazing, Sweet Girl has done it again.  The day before Christmas break - note the timing - I received a ConnectEd message letting me know that my daughter would have to transition to another school after break.  Livid is the nicest way I can describe how I felt about all that.  But after I did my due diligence in terms of strongly worded letters and mean thoughts in the general direction of those in charge, I started to get anxious.  And if you don't know how anxious I can get about Sweet Girl and school, check out Just Another Manic Mom-Day.  A million thoughts go through my mind about transitioning, anxiety, another person to explain the diet to, new routine, ad nauseum (then add Valium).  So I started talking about a New School! and a New Teacher! (add waving pompoms, confetti, glitter, and a thousand more exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).  I pretty much got the brush off from Sweet Girl.  She just kind of gave me the hairy eyeball and continued about her business.  I hope that some of this is sinking in and pray a lot.  And promise ice cream after school on Monday.  And by ice cream, I mean sorbet but it's ice cream to her and she loves it.

Monday comes.  New School!  New Teacher! Ice Cream!  And I brace myself for the look of panic, leg clinging, and unsavory behavior that will probably occur.  I should have learned by now not to underestimate Sweet Girl.  She did not hesitate to get out of the car.  We marched in to the school like we owned the place, and when she saw her name above a coat hook in her New Room!, she started to unzip her coat.  Everything all put away, she went looking for her picture to move it to her desk - a PECS system they used at her old school - and was a little confused about where to put it.  But then she decided she's pick her own desk and plopped it down close to the window and went to explore the New Toys!  I (unnecessarily) hung out for about 10 minutes talking to the other moms and Mrs. Shelly (New Teacher!) and then went to say bye to Sweet Girl.  She looked at me and Little Man and saidasthoughwewerecrampingherstylealready "Bye, Mommy.  Bye, Brother."  And we were off.

I waited for a phone call to let me know she finally had a meltdown, and that phone call never came.  Little Man and I picked Sweet Girl up from school and it was the same as it always was.  Sweet Girl was there with her peeps, smiling, and itching to jump in the puddle at the end of the sidewalk.  Mrs. Shelly said she had an "awesome day" and today was more of the same.  After school yesterday, we did indeed get Sweet Girl her ice cream and I was so happy I even relented to rainbow sprinkles.  So today when I picked her up from school she gave me a sly look and said "Go to get ice cream?"  Um, no.  But nice try.  If I ever let Sweet Girl actually have what she wanted, she'd be the first person in history to develop Type 2 diabetes under the age of 5.  Mostly due to the fact she would spend all day snorting Pixie Stix and free basing Fun Dip.  So for now I'll be the one packing her lunch.  Even if it is with just one hand.