24 February, 2011

When You're Doing it Right

When you're doing it right, no one notices.

I used to work for an awesome company that was Very Big and Iconic, and when I first went to headquarters I remember feeling like no one really noticed when I was doing my job the right way, or the best way, or the smartest way... what got you noticed? When you messed up.

I think parenting might be a little like this.  We always know the kid at the party who has bad manners, but do we praise those kids who pleased and thank-you'd their way around our house for two hours, then thank their parents for doing their job. Probably not.

Anyway, I am taking this moment to praise myself because my daughter had to do an "All about ME!" poster for school and she chose "broccoli" as her favorite food. Actually she chose "meat" first, but when I asked her to be more specific, she just switched to broccoli.

The mere fact that she did not offer up: cotton candy, ice cream, doughnuts, pixie stix, or powdered sugar made me feel that, at the very least, in this one category, we are doing just fine.

16 February, 2011

Bad for My Health-Good for my Spirit

  • Going to Dairy Queen with my kids (even better if my husband surprises us there.)
  • Drinking a bottle of champagne with my sister.
  • Napping on the couch, my feet tangled with my son's, his body having just learned to sit still long enough to cuddle.
  • Talking late into the night with girlfriends who live too far away to see at my local coffee shop.
  • Trying at least seven kinds of bold coffee in my new "Pod Canchine" (Single cup coffee maker)
  • Licking the frosting off my fingers as we decorate Valentine's day cookies.
  • Beating Critter Crunch (do NOT start playing this game on your iPad)
  • Watching a movie with my husband "past bedtime on a school night."
  • Sneaking candy before dinner with my daughter.
  • Skipping the umbrella because -it's only water

14 February, 2011

A (prim) Rose by any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

Sixteen years ago today, that guy, who is now my husband, gave me a little wooden box with four little pots. Each pot had a little primrose in it.

He was dating my roommate, and brought her a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and his handsome smile and his invitation to dinner, but somehow in the midst of being a great boyfriend, he remembered me, the lonely roommate who, I think had just stopped dating the guy who would eventually be the best man at our wedding. Life was so simple then.

It was a very sweet of him. So sweet that after they left, I randomly, plucked three flowers from the plants and pressed them into the largest book I had at the time, "The Riverside Shakespeare," which is a ginormous book of works.

I had never pressed a flower in my life, and for some reason, I plucked those flowers and pressed them in the middle of Antony and Cleopatra which is sort of a strange love story. It's too bad I didn't choose Taming of the Shrew, or Romeo and Juliet because it might make the story better, but our story's not bad. I've never pressed a flower since that night.

I've wondered many times why I chose to save that memory. I thought he was a nice guy, and even at 25 it was obvious that he was a good guy-that he would be "grow up" to be a good man, and as it turns out, a great father as well. Did I know, even then, that we'd be here, nearly 13 years of marriage later?

What is it that makes us stick? What makes any marriage stay together? Perhaps it's facing adversity together and coming out on the other side-not that we're done facing challenges, Lucy is only 4! And I know we're still figuring out how to support each other, because what I need to "feel okay" is different than what my husband needs.  I've recognized that it might be unreasonable to expect my spouse to be my everything, which is why I cherish my relationships with my sister, my moms, my girlfriends, and my online community. My husband and I laugh a lot; we share a dark humor. We have a few secrets together, which may be surprising to some because I do tend to share quite a bit. Maybe this is something: I really like my husband. If we weren't married I would still want to know him, hang out with him, and probably still choose him as someone on my island (do you ever play that game?). He's very smart, and says nice things about me to other people, and we parent the same way without really trying. We have finally figured out that date night is a very smart thing to do on a very regular basis, and without much complaint, he eats everything I cook even if it's terrible. and he's handsome. I am a very lucky woman.

Happy Valentine's Day sweet man.

and thank you again to my roommate for finding such a great guy; I can never thank you enough.

08 February, 2011

The Old Red Barn

Grocery shopping this morning,  a mom and her son passed by me in the floral department. She is probably in her 50's because her son looked about 10 years older than mine... and yes, her boy plays for our team: Autism. Right down to the 6 foot 2 inches of young man flapping his hands next to the strawberries and "oooo--Wheeeeing" in the dairy section. I could tell before the stims though, it's amazing how quickly I can spot a child with autism who's in the same part of the spectrum as Jake.

When I see another family with a special needs child, I ALWAYS try to smile, at the child, or the parent, hopefully both, and even though I don't have a badge, a stamp on my forehead or my son with me to prove to her that I understand a little bit about her life, I always hope that a friendly smile will make her feel there is more good than ill-will in this world. I know there are days when I just hope that we can get through one single transaction without a struggle, and knowing that there are compassionate strangers nearby can make all the difference for me. But she wouldn't make eye contact with me, or anyone else for that matter, except her son.

And while I thought it was precious that she spoke to him so clearly, looking directly into his face, in an undistracted and meaningful way, I also found it a little distressing to think that perhaps she has had to block the rest of us out. I felt compelled to go over to her, and make some benign comment about her shoes to initiate a conversation, just to make sure she knew that there are those of us out here, who would help if we could, and know a lot of resources, and could take the cart if things got a little hairy in the parking lot (even though her son was doing an awesome job), and ugh,  I just wanted to take care of her...jeesh. Which then made me feel like a creepy stalker, because maybe she just isn't that social to begin with, but I think what I really wanted to know is this: will I become like her? and will Jake be like her son?

Will I be so over other people staring at us by then that I will stop bothering to make eye contact? Will I look a little more resigned, but braver just the same. Will I look that tired, which is even more tired that I look now? Will my shoulders be that hunched? Will I look like I *really* need a break?

and will my son be pushing the cart? Helping a bit, pausing for a little stim, then back to the cart, not running anyone over, not escaping? Will Jake still be with me, daily, when he's 20? 30? (and will he be that handsome?)

Jake wears a size 6 shoe already (that's an 8 woman's shoe in case you need a little frame of reference.) He is taller and stronger and more like a young man every day. It's getting harder to pretend that he is going to stay a little boy forever when you're shopping for shoes that big. And like so many parents, the future seems so far away right now.

For awhile things were so hard I couldn't wait for Jake to get older, and grow out of whatever those troubles were. Then he got older and surprise! that age had its own pile of troubles. And certainly we experienced a lot of joy in there too, but it always seemed like a better version of our family was just around the corner. I am trying to be more aware, and happy with exactly where I am at any given time, and now that we've gained some stability (aside from some childcare dilemmas which are offline stories only), I've been been neither looking back or looking forward. We've just sort of been living, and enjoying, which I think is okay as long as I get back to that planning for the future thing, fairly soon. Sniff some flowers, but stay on the trail. And I want to make sure there's a plan for me too; maintaining my friendships, increasing the vegetable intake, getting more sleep.  I don't really want to end up looking like that old red barn we pass on our way to the coast: confident, but beaten down, still in use but possibly not structurally sound anymore.

Of course I went to the grocery store without a shopping list and came home with 8 bags of groceries, and no plan for dinner, so perhaps I'll start with feeding my family before I move on to the rest of my life.

04 February, 2011

Give Me A Little Sugar

I went to Jake's school yesterday for the parent group meeting. I love going on his campus.. it is so filled with great people and interesting kids (and adults).. and friendly office staff. Each time I step on that campus I am reminded how lucky I am to have my son at such a great school, and grateful that he is thriving there.

Jake's been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. I'm not sure if it's growing pains or nightmares or pre-teen angst, but he's been up and out of bed as many as ten times a night. Sometimes I hear his feet patter across the hardwood, other times he whoops and hollers (which his little sister just loooooves.) It doesn't really matter because unless I am really, really sick,  I can hear my children through closed doors with the television blaring... I can hear when a blanket has slipped off the bed leaving a little tushie uncovered. Is this a mom thing? or a skill I have picked up because Jake requires such constant monitoring?

Lately if I hear him all the way out of bed and coming down the hall I will greet him and lead him back to bed. He usually dives back in, but more recently he's been leaping in to bed, then sitting back up and looking right at me, as if he is asking for me to sit with him, or lay down and sing to him, or pet his hair.

He has added a new level of relationship to his repertoire, and with these new developments we are experiencing more snuggling, more hand holding, more gentle swishing the hand across a person's back, and, at school, I saw him lean in for a hug from a peer. Not a class aide, because he is generally pretty friendly with his aides.. but another child in his class! Apparently the boys have mutually decided that they are best buds, and the other little boy hugs Jake and speaks to him in sign language, and Jake laughs and reaches out to hold on to him...and there's smiling, so much smiling!

And Squid and I had a good laugh because she had heard that her son had become best buds with Jake in another classroom. She was surprised to learn that it was our Jake! Our boys are seeking each other out, standing near each other...hugging?

Our nonverbal, English-as-a-native-language in a predominantly Spanish-speaking school (previously), Jake has still had friends, he even had a girlfriend in first grade (the daughter of a class aide fell madly in love with him!), and everyone seems to know he has a good sense of humor. I'm not surprised really, because as not-nice as I think I am, I have managed to collect a lot of wonderful friends, and I don't think there's a person yet who hasn't liked my smart, kind, always-does-the-right-thing, husband.

I didn't know I had a check-box on my "Life List for Jake" that had anything about ensuring he could establish friendships on his own, but of course I did, I think that must be normal, because I know I have it on Lucy's list. Nice to be able to check a few things off now and then
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