So Proud

For those of you who are new readers, or who don’t remember this, four year old Leah did not want any siblings. When she heard the news that we were expecting her little brother, she was angry with me. She told me that she wanted to be an only child forever. When she came to see him in the hospital, she glared defiantly at me and didn’t ask to hold him.

Our first night home, however, she gave in. I will never forget how exhausted that little girl was, after three days of being juggled around by three sets of grandparents (and spoiled, too!) She couldn’t hold up her facade of not having any interest whatsoever in the little pink, chubby faced boy peering at her from the blankets. For several weeks she would tell me that she was only pretending to love her brother to make me happy, but it was apparent that she was only trying to protect her bruised ego; she was hooked. She was smitten.

When a child has been raised as an only child for 4 1/2 years, it isn’t easy to suddenly have their world turned upside down by a new baby. And it certainly didn’t help that Christopher was no “easy baby”. He required a lot of time and attention. Leah sat quietly by, observing the small bundle that was taking over her mommy’s life and biding her time until he was old enough to play.

Play, they did! As Chris began to walk he quickly learned how to go to her bedroom door and knock relentlessly until she let him in. He learned to call her name from his crib for some extra smiles and attention, and that she could open up a popsicle almost as well as mommy could. As for Leah, she took it all in stride, learning that it’s fun to be the “boss” and to have a built in playmate who is always up for whatever adventure you have in mind.

I just want to say that I am so incredibly proud of my little girl. Raising Chris is no easy task. Even at 3 1/2 years old he still takes up a lot of my time and attention. There are appointments every week, and the infinite patience that I have had to develop to deal with his meltdowns. 99% of the time, my daughter is exceedingly patient, kind, and tolerant of her brother.

It isn’t easy to be a superstar- the oldest child with the highest expectations from mom and dad. Keep your grades up, don’t whine, be a good role model for your brother. But she does it all, most of the time without being asked. She is talented in so many ways, and yet she know how to just have fun and be a little girl as well.

I hear the patience in her voice when she explains things to Chris. Sometimes I see her getting frustrated, and there are even times when she uses her older sister status as an excuse to be bossy. But for the most part, she is just his partner in crime and most of all, his best friend. As a parent, there is nothing better than watching your children love one another.

Leah Noelle, you will be eight years old soon, but I should say eight years young. You are still so little, less than a decade old. You have many experiences yet to come and life lessons waiting to be learned. But even so, you are wise beyond your years and kind beyond anything I have ever seen. I know that it’s not easy, but I need you to know that I see you. I see everything you do to help me, and I appreciate it. I am so proud of you.

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Not Alone

When you picture your future as a kid, teenager, or young adult, most of us picture perfection. A marriage to the spouse of our dreams, a house in the suburbs, good working vehicles, family vacations, and 2.5 perfect children. As we get to that point, however, we begin to realize that life doesn’t come in a perfect little package like that. Life is hard work! Relationships take effort, even if you are with your perfect partner. You have to work hard for the career you want and advance before you can afford that dream home and those nice cars and vacations. And then there are the kids. They don’t just come out perfect.

It takes a lot of work to raise a child, and a lot of personal decisions on how you are going to do so. Even those who may be aware of this, however, usually will imagine themselves having children who are healthy. It’s so easy to think “that will never happen to me” when you hear about children with health problems, autism, etc. The term Special Needs doesn’t come up when we are thinking and looking forward to our future children.

And yet, it happens.

My daughter was an easy baby. Everything came easily from sleep-training (okay, it didn’t seem so easy at the time!) to potty-training, to acclimating her to school. She was well-behaved, even mannered, smart, and eager to please. And, she still is! For those who have followed this blog from the beginning, you will be pleased to know that Leah has turned into a lovely young lady of almost 8 years. She plays sports, sings, acts, and does extraordinarily well in school.

And then there is Christopher. As an infant, he was a little trying. He didn’t sleep much, and he would ONLY breastfeed. No bottles, not even with my pumped milk. He was stubborn. As a toddler he was ornery, but it didn’t seem more so than any other one or two year old. However, as Christopher approached the age of three, my instincts were screaming at me that there was something more, something beyond ordinary toddler issues. He was continuing to throw tantrums, yet they seemed so much more intense than anything I had ever experienced. When Chris is happy, he can be the most joyful child in the world, but when he is unhappy look out! His emotions are wrought in intensity. His meltdowns were frequent, monumental, and could stem from nothing.

Last fall I made a decision to get some help. I wondered if I was more lenient with him, but when I would go over it in my head, it seemed apparent that he was getting the same upbringing as his sister. I thought that if I sought the assistance of a behavioral therapist I could learn some strategies to deal with his behaviors.

Let me just pause here to explain something- I was burnt out, yes. Every day was a struggle, a battle of wills with my son. But you all need to know that I ADORE this child. He is my son, and I saw every side of him. My biggest fear was the world would never see the joyful, funny, sweet side of my boy if they got too caught up in the other things.

The first appointment was just me and the therapist. When I sat down I didn’t know what to say. There was so much to my son, how could I begin to describe him? As I begun to talk, however, it got easier. The therapist nodded thoughtfully as I described my days with Chris. And then it happened; I began to hear about things such as Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder. I began to hear about special needs, and IEP’s, and developmental pediatricians.

Chris has been in therapy for almost 6 months now and has made many strides. He isn’t as freaked out by certain textures as he used to be, but he continues to struggle with loud noises. His meltdowns are still intense, but they are becoming less frequent, and easier to calm. He also gets OT through the school district and has an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. I still have a lot of unanswered questions (he has no official diagnosis) and a lot of hard work ahead of me. You see, as the parent of a special needs child it will be my job to fight for him, to advocate for him to get whatever he needs. He is above average cognitively, a very smart little guy. Chris struggles mostly with anxiety and social behavior.

I am learning more every day. There is a lot to this, and I can’t possibly put it all into one blog post. But I just want you all to know that I get it now. No one has the picture perfect little family that we pictured for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that our lives are not rich and fulfilling. I would not change one thing about my son, even the challenges we face. We will face them together, head on. I will fight tooth and nail to get him whatever he needs to learn and have a good life. And, I will share my plight here, with you. If you are facing a similar situation, it so helps to know that you are not alone. Not everyone who sees your child have a meltdown is thinking that they are just a brat. I don’t. I get you. I see your child and I see your struggle. You are not alone.

Bouncy Ball Mystery

Yesterday I took the kids to get their hair cut at a place called Snip-It’s, which caters to children. If they are good during their haircut, they get a card to put into a slot and a prize comes out. The prize of the day were bouncy balls, and both children were ecstatic!

As soon as we got home, CW had to throw his ball across the house, and instantly lost it. We looked and looked, but couldn’t find the thing anywhere. After his bath time, I noticed that he was clutching Leah’s ball in his fist.

“Bud?” I asked, “What are you doing with Leah’s bouncy ball?”

“I wanna hide it from her, so it can be mine.” he replied.

I explained to him that I knew he was sad over losing his own ball, but that it doesn’t mean it would be okay to steal Leah’s without asking. I asked him how he would feel if Leah took one of his trains and hid it from him. He agreed that he would not like that very much!

So downstairs we went, and Chris went to return his sister’s ball to her, but my surprise she told him,

“It’s okay, Bud. I know you lost your ball, so you can have mine.”

My heart melted. Both of my children learned an important lesson yesterday. Chris learned that it is not okay to take things from others without asking, but that honesty can be rewarding. And Leah learned that it feels good to put others before yourself. And as for me, I could not be more proud of these amazing little humans that I am raising!

Solidarity

I have never felt more alone in a room full of people than I did yesterday morning. We were at Christopher’s preschool sports class, and he was the only one refusing to participate. In fact, he was trying to escape, which is not unusual for him to do when he finds himself in an uncomfortable situation, which is often.

In the past few months Chris has tried to run away from me in an eye doctor’s office, a house party, and many stores. The fight or flight response is strong in him, and he tends to choose flight!

So, as other moms bounced younger siblings on their knees and chatted over coffee, or even joined their children in chasing bright green tennis balls around the gym, I sat on the floor next to the door, poised to run after him if Chris managed to actually push open the heavy door. I tried gently coaxing him into playing with the other kids but his response remained steadfast- a firm “NO!”

As the other children gathered in the welcome circle and began to sing, Chris plopped himself into my lap and put my hands over his ears. I saw Coach A glance over at us and then whisper something to Coach M. I felt my face redden a bit, after all I was the mom of THAT kid. The one that wanted nothing to do with all the fun that was happening and rudely kicked at the tennis ball that had been offered up by Coach M. Still, I was determined to stay. Having just turned three, I feel that it is time for Chris to participate in activities with kids his own age, and to step outside his comfort zone. Even if it takes a ton of effort on my part.

Toward the end of class, the coaches set up the obstacle course, and that is when Chris decided to join in the fun. At first he held my hand tightly and I walked with him through the hula hoops, over the balance beam, across the rope ladder, and zig-zagging through the cones. Soon, he let go and began racing through by himself. That is when Coach A approached me.

Oh no, I thought, now is when he is going to tell me that maybe this class isn’t right for Chris.

Instead, Coach A came up to me and told me that he was going to let Coach M take the lead because she is more soft-spoken and he noticed that Christopher doesn’t like loud sounds.

“Don’t be afraid to remind me, either!” He said, “I’m naturally loud, but we will adjust to fit his needs.”

Grateful does not even begin to describe how I felt in that moment.

“Thank you so much!” I said. “He is being evaluated for a possible sensory processing problem and he gets overwhelmed very easily.”

“Yeah, I figured it was something like that,” Coach A responded. “Don’t worry. Just do what you’re doing and let him join in at his own pace. We will try to adjust to make it more comfortable for him, but he can join in or sit out as much as he wants.”

And from there, Coach A gathered up all the kids to say goodbye and let Chris hold the special hand stamp. While the toddlers waited in line for their stickers, another mom turned to me, shaking her head at something her own little guy was doing, and remarked on how unpredictable children are at this age.

“When you come to a class like this, you never know how they will react on any given day!” she said.

And so, I wasn’t alone. An awesome coach let me know that my son would not be excluded, no matter what. And another mom reminded me that toddlers are unpredictable, no matter what problems lay beneath the surface. It means the world to me to know that when I am the lone mother sitting by the door to keep her kid from escaping, I am not truly alone, but in solidarity with mothers of toddlers everywhere, and with people who just understand that kids aren’t easy, and that sometimes-extra care must be given.

Life is Happening

So much of it, in fact, that I can’t slow down long enough to write about it much! I still love to blog, even if it is just for myself and the few readers that have stuck by me and put up with my sporadic posting. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read this!

Leah just started the second grade! She is such a good student and always does her homework as soon as she gets home. She is at a 4th or 5th grade reading level. She is into so many things! She does horseback riding still, and next week she will get her horse up to a trot without her teacher holding a lead line for the first time. She also plays soccer and has a part in a local community theater production of Mary Poppins.

Christopher is a joy. He is so mischievous and funny. Have you ever heard the poem that goes:

There once was a little girl, 

who had a little curl. 

And when she was good, she was very, very good,

but when she was bad, she was very, VERY bad. 

That is Chris in a nutshell! He is such a sweetheart, handing out hugs and kisses, offering to help with chores, and just being kind. Until he’s not. And then he throws things, hits, kicks and screams. I am working with him on that, but I love that he feels things so intensely!

The hubby and I just celebrated six years of marriage! It is hard to believe, but they do say that time flies when you’re having fun. 2016 has been a year of many wonderful changes for us, and they are still coming! We are looking at houses right now and hope to be spending Christmas in our forever home. I finished school this year and did remarkably well. And finally, one last piece of news. No, I am NOT pregnant. I have begun on a weight-loss journey. After experiencing some medical issues throughout the past year, this summer I made the decision that I have had enough. Enough of struggling to lose, enough of feeling lousy, and enough of hating myself. So, I am going to be having a Sleeve Gastrectomy to help me change my lifestyle and habits and live a better life.

I am not going to promise that I will update more. I will try, but sometimes life is important as it is happening, and you have to focus on the present moment rather than reflecting after it has passed. I am trying to write more, to do more of what I enjoy, but I will just say “Until next time.”

Thanks for reading.

Sibling Love

I love watching the complex relationship that is forming between my two children. Sometimes, they love each other. They cuddle. Leah reads to Chris. He holds out a hurt finger for her to kiss it.

Other times they are co-conspirators, and I can hear them whispering plans, no doubt for some mischief. I was frosting a cake for a party the other day and Chris walked over and looked up at the counter.

“Mama,” he said, “What that?”

“It’s cake-” but before I could finish to say that it was for later, he was off and running to find his sister, yelling, “Leah! Cake!”

And then there are times, which come more often now as Chris gets older, where my kids are enemies. I referee endless arguments over who had what first. I punish Chris when he hauls off and smacks his sister. She purposely pushes his buttons, sure, but I have to teach him we can’t react with out hands (or whatever toy he whips at her head. The kid has great aim.) Even during these times, I have to turn my head away, to hide my smirk.

These children are so lucky to be born with a lifelong comrade. They may have periods where they are not friends, or even where they decide to hate each other. But still, they will always have a special bond, forged by being raised in the same environment. They will always have one another to fall back on. And deep down inside, they will always love one another.

Stop the Hate

Instead of judging other parents and jumping to conclusions, all I can do is hug my babies close and feel so utterly grateful that nothing bad has ever happened to them. The recent tragic events at Disney have left me feeling heartbroken for the family that lost their little boy. He was the same age as my son, and I can’t even imagine their grief and horror. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be on top of the world, taking your family on the perfect American vacation to Disney and thinking that things couldn’t get any better than that, only to be beaten down by what was really a freak accident.

Try to understand that most parents want to protect their children. Most parents realize that our babies are our most precious possessions and would never want anything bad to happen to them. We go to great lengths to keep them safe, but it doesn’t always work. We can’t keep them in a bubble, tucked away from the world, no matter how much we wish that we could. Accidents happen, and instead of placing blame when you weren’t even there to see how things unfolded, instead of tearing them down when they are already devastated, just show support. A fellow mother and father out there are going through the most devastating loss that anyone can ever endure right now. My heart just breaks for them.

To the family of the sweet little boy who lost his life this week- I am so sorry for your loss. No words can express the grief that I imagine you are going through right now.