23 November, 2010

My Tiny Babies

They were never small, either one of them. My kids have always been on the long/tall side, and while skinny compared to the rest of the family, they are both strong and healthy. They have grown a lot this year, both emotionally and physically. The big trip gave us a nice grounding moment before the school year shook us by its tail, and this week of Thanksgiving will be another touchstone to remind us of how wonderful it is to be a part of our family.

I've been purging the house. It's eight years overdue. We had a lot of things to begin with, then we had Jake and I think I just never got rid of anything that was still useful ever again. I have too many sheets, towels and pillow cases, hundreds and hundreds of books, more shoes than Imelda. I went through 13 boxes/plastic bins filled with my children's clothing, and more than two bins of their shoes shoes. I sorted them all by size first, then called friends so they could place their orders. One family wanted 2T warm clothes only, and possibly some size 8 shoes. I pulled out the next sizes for my sister's boys, the items that Princess Lucy won't wear because it looks "too much like boys." (She does love camo though!). Then I went through again quickly and picked out things from each bin that had I had little memory of a kid wearing it, or at least I knew I wasn't emotionally attached. This sounds ridiculous even as I write it. Who gets attached to a cheap Hawaiian shirt or a blue dress with apples all over it?

I can remember something about almost every single item in those 16 crates. I can remember that Jake wore the beige sweater with the little red zipper on the Golden Gate bridge. I took a picture of him, and I was so scared his little ataxic body was going to lunge and leap over the four foot barrier and land in front of a car or worse, go over the side of the bridge. The stripey sweater he wore in Montana, the last time we went vacationing with those close family friends before our marriages went in different directions. Jake got caught on the barbed-wire fence at the edge of the property. I made a new land speed record that day rushing over sage and dirt to get to him. By the time I screeched to a halt, he had slipped out of the sweater, calmly pulling his body down and out, leaving a striped scarecrow on the fence.

Lucy came home from the hospital in the pink onsie with snaps up the front, and monkeys printed on it. And the little blue and white dress with the duck embroidered on the front? Cheezy I know, but she  wore it on her first visit to feed some ducks at a nearby park. The multi-color sweater with the hood? I bought that the day the ultrasound revealed that Lucy was a girl (and then with the worst kind of buyer's remorse, I worried that I had somehow overstepped a boundary and had invited misfortune into our lives, jinxing everything.)

I remember buttoning and zipping and folding and maybe even ironing so many of those tiny clothes...but only as I look at them again. I think this is how my brain works: an event occurs, a good thing, a bad thing, any thing, and I remember the event for a very short amount of time. But apparently I really do remember it because it gets stored in a long-term memory section of my brain, only to be released again when I see the sweater, the street sign, the wedding invitation, the pen, the shoes. I use objects as external hard drives. If I don't see the object, I'm afraid all those memories will be gone.  Now I know I sound like a crazy person.

There's another thing happening as I clean out all of these things. I get closer to the corner of the closet with the baby crib.

Baby. Crib.

It is beautiful. Jake stayed in it until he was too tall and I was afraid he would tip over the rails, and Lucy jumped out the day before her first birthday, prompting a hasty trip to IKEA. We packed up the crib and put it in Jake's closet.

Every time I open Jake's closet door I have a flood of memories looking at those beautiful wood slats; Jake finally pulling to a stand in his sunny bedroom with yellow walls, when we thought he never would, and Lucy jumping up and down yelling MAMAMAMAMAMAMA to get out of bed. I remember Descartes and I putting that crib together, and arranging the room before Jake was born.

Now getting rid of that crib would hardly remove all of the beautiful memories I have of my children as tiny babies but there is something keeping me from passing it on to the next family. At least I thought there was; I thought that our family was not complete without another child.

This whole time, I've had this crib in the closet, thinking that we would change our minds and have another baby. Getting pregnant with Lucy was a big decision after Jake, and though we thought we would have three or four children, I've realized (after some long discussions) that I am not really missing having another person in our family, and I cannot actually imagine where or how another child would fit, into my heart, or our home, or our schedule. I just don't have a hollow any more, and I know I used to feel that ache, as if we were not complete--but my heart is full now. And we are whole, and happy and as hard as it feels some days, we are on track. 


What I am wanting, what I confused with wanting another child, is that idea of fresh and new, and possibility. It's that whole hope thing again...and while we're at it, I want that fearless part of me back. The woman who was carrying a perfect child and made sure we bought a house near the best elementary school. The woman who read Thoreau, and C.S. Lewis to put that beautiful boy to sleep at night. The woman I was before I broke my leg on the front stairs and had to ask for help, really, really ask for help for the first time in my life. I am trying to get some more pieces of that woman back, and somehow I mixed that up with having another baby, because while I do like myself now, I really did like the woman I was then too--she was awesome, and she knew it.

10 November, 2010

Is There a Pill for This?

I've been working on a post for The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism on why we chose to give Jake medication to address his ADHD symptoms, and how to go about it if you think your child might benefit.

The thing is, as I keep working on the post, and I've been opening it and writing, deleting, and writing again, every day for over a month, I find that it is really not my best work. The language is stilted. There is no flow. I can't seem to get the words out, or clarify my message.

Last night was a restless one for Descartes and I. I could tell at about 4:30am that neither of us was sleeping. But just in case I was wrong, I let the silence surround us, as I am NOT wont to do. Silence is so heavy for me. It forces me to think for myself, instead of bouncing my ideas off of other people, gauging their reactions. It forces me to be my own company, which makes me think about what I like and do NOT like about myself...and then how I want to change those things, which inevitably leads me to thinking about how I need to do more for my family, for my friends, for my work. I form to-do lists at 5am that I will accomplish TO-DAY! for the projects I dedicate my mind to.

So this morning in the darkness I tried to work through what was bothering me about writing what would appear to be a simple post about the medications I give my son, why we do it, and how to do it. I think I am worried about the judgment. People, myself included, are so quick to judge others. It's how we determine friend or foe, helpful or harried. We make snap decisions about people all the time. If we have grace, or empathy, or something other than outright narcissism, we might consider why another person is behaving in a certain manner, and hold our harshest judgments, or our condemnation, but sometimes we just judge and move on.

People, individuals I know, and talk show pundits, and magazines and teachers have judged my family and our choice to give Jake medication, and it is painful to think that others might view me as the type of parent who would cause my child harm. What's worse is that I judge myself. I know we've made the right decisions.. I know that we have, but a part of me questions the ethics of giving a non-verbal 10 year old medications, which alters his mood. He can't tell me when he has cotton mouth. He can't tell me if it is making him feel anxious, or if he's not eating because the medications remove his appetite, or he ate a big snack at school. And I have found myself thinking that many children are mis- or over- diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, when all they really need is some more stimulating way of teaching to keep their attention focused on learning.. or maybe they just need to have P.E. in school again to run some energy off some of those antsy legs.

But I don't want to share that part with parents who are trying to figure out if pharmacological intervention might help their child. I only want to tell them the good parts, about my son's overnight ability to sit in a chair, or go to brunch with his grandparents again. The way he can make it through a five hour flight to Hawaii, and dinner. I want parents to be unaware of those harsh judgments, so they can get to the point of helping their children, because in spite of those naysayers who tell us we have made up ADHD, some children will benefit from medications like this.

The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism is filled with fact-based information. Science. Truth. Honesty. It is already helping families and has opened communication with adults on the spectrum. I know that an honest account, of all my emotions, will be the post that reaches the most people. I just want to balance all of that negative- the negative in my own mind, and all of those harsh words around us, with all of the possible benefits, and somehow write all of it down, without being judged.

or, as I have often done in my every day, going-to-get-through-this way, I suppose I could just do what I need to do and let the critics say what they must before they move on... because they do eventually move on, and what always remains is the best decision I can make for my family at the time.

08 November, 2010

Mad Woman Takes a Pause

I am cleaning out my bookshelves and the kids' drawers trying to make room for some peace in my life, and I'm actually getting somewhere. I think I am giving away about 100 books today. I'm feeling like we need a good clean sweep of things.. of everything to keep our family headed in the right direction.

Just now I made the mistake of opening a journal from 1995. I probably should have just thrown it out without looking, but decided to read a bit instead.

Wow. I dated a lot that year, which makes sense, because it was the year before I started dating my husband. I had forgotten the drama, and the highs and lows of that young single life. It made me ever more grateful for what we have now, however hard some days are. I did a lot of dancing, at least twice a week, and a lot of falling head over heels for the wrong guys. From the looks of it, I had good friends and I worked all the time.

What was fun to find, along with poetic descriptions of rock bands and smoke-filled cafes, was a list of descriptors that I think I was putting together to use as part of a checklist for a spouse. It is interesting to see the things I valued then...not only did I find most all of them in my husband, but I actually still value those traits today.
smart outdoorsy humble
handy eloquent friendly
opinionated kind reserved
private stubborn appreciation of the arts
sense of humor passionate solid
ambitious compassionate social
strong witty dedicated
educated family oriented committed

When I made this list I had already met my future husband, and I wonder how much he influenced the list, considering how much time we spent together that year (as friends). Did I really put stubborn down as a trait to look for? Maybe I meant, not a pushover, or with conviction?

and now, back to work.

01 November, 2010

The Hat Makes the Man

I don't really like Halloween. I'm not sure when I started not to like it. Maybe it was the pressure of coming up with a great costume; jeesh, I had the kind of friends who dressed up as green m&ms and other cool things.

Maybe it's that I was raised to think that I was  destined to be hit by a car while trick-or-treating, or that by the time I got to college, it was expected that all females would dress as some sort of sexy version of normal things: sexy vampire, sexy nurse, sexy meter maid, sexy butcher, sexy Cal-trans worker...although I did the Castro thing in the late 90s, and I had fun (and yes I went as a sexy cowgirl).

and now I'm a mom, and so I do Halloween. I am anxious about it every year, that my kids won't have the right costume, that they will look back and think I didn't do enough.. it will somehow be obvious that I can't wait for October to fly by.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
scary girls, scary babies
But enough of all that... we DID do Halloween this year, and not only that, but it went well from costumes to school parties to trick-or-treating.

We went to the Halloween store a few weeks ago in the search of a costume for Jake.  We've done several years of those muscle costumes where the fabric is stuffed with filler to make the kid look big and manly. So far, he's been the Hulk, and Superman and Mr. Incredible, and Spiderman and I can't remember what else. They are great, easy costumes (which end up in the dress-up box later!), but we couldn't find one we liked.

We found a lot of scary things that someone, not us, might set up around a house, but the costume selection was not all that great for tween boys unless you want to wear a mask. We didn't find anything reasonable that night, although my daughter very sweetly let me know that I my legs would look great in this costume:
I love that my daughter thinks I look like this

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicWe carved pumpkins with Descartes' parents last Sunday, which was fun, and made me remember that I carved pumpkins with them the first year I knew them in 1995. This year the carved pumpkins didn't last until Halloween. We enjoyed, okay, I enjoyed, watching Hello Kitty slowly melt and be consumed by mold. It was less fun to clean it up, but I have a wonderful husband who took care of that.

We finally found costumes for both kids. Lucy went as Belle, and Jake went as a cowboy. Picking out Jake's costume was really very fun. Descartes, Lucy and I each picked one or two costumes we thought would work for Jake, then presented them all to him. He laughed and laughed, especially when we each tried to convince him to choose the costume we were holding. We got it down to three, then two, and he finally picked the cowboy outfit.

Both children had school parties/parades... Lucy first... my galliwompus little Belle, who could barely hold still long enough for me to brush her hair. She actually said that her head was going to pop off because she was so excited about Halloween. For trick-or-treating on Sunday night she had to put on a long sleeve tshirt under her dress. I love how Northern California kids just suck it up and wear jackets or layer to keep warm. There's no complaining like we did when I grew up...oh, all that moaning I did about how the shirt or jacket was going to ruin my costume.

The best story of Halloween may be as simple as a hat. Jake wore a hat. JAKE WORE A HAT!

He apparently wore his hat almost all day at school on Friday. Certainly he wore it the entire time Lucy and I were with him when he went from classroom to classroom collecting candy. He also wore it on Sunday trick-or-treating. This is so huge. He's also been wearing his helmet when he rides his bike at school, and all this after he wore a helmet horseback riding this summer.

I know he's getting older, that he's learning every day, gaining new skills, but I think I have just let go of some things. When we realized that Jake hated hats (and gloves) we knew that we were not going to move to any place less temperate, and I sort of stopped worrying about it, and stopped thinking about it last winter. It is exciting to be able to check that box off. We still have a long way to go before he's wearing a baseball hat to keep off the sun, or a knit cap to keep warm, but I'll take several hours of an ill-fitting cowboy hat. It's a start, and we like starts because that means at least we are on the same road.

yes, Gus has a costume on.
awake and happy the entire time!
Sunday night we went through the neighborhood with a couple of other families. Jake went in his wheelchair, for safety, our peace of mind, and the fact that he normally goes to bed around the time most kids start trick-or-treating, so we expected him to get tired. Lucy was very precious, as she asked for another piece of candy for her brother, if we couldn't easily wheel the chair to the door. Later, she just took half of whatever she had been given and put it into his bag rather than ask for more. She gets extra points for that because that girl loves candy like no one I have ever seen.

Everyone made it through the trick-or-treating..no tears, no complaining, no melt-downs...we have bags and bags of candy, and no sick stomachs. Both kids are sleeping now, (although Lucy is next to me on the couch) and I am a grateful woman who just might like Halloween a little bit more this year.
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