Friday, March 28, 2008

Size 1

In a small burst of energy last night I went into a bit of an organizing tizzy. Hang up jackets. Open mail. Clean out diaper bag. Hidden at the bottom of the bag, among the wadded tissue and gum wrappers, beneath the orange sippy cup, I uncover a sweet relic, a Huggies diaper, size 1. I stopped and indulged myself in a moment of melancholy. I know I'm going to have these moments over and over again as my boys navigate their way through childhood, leaving yesterday's playthings behind. That size 1 diaper, so tiny, no bigger than the size of my hand. Two sizes and five fat rolls later, my newborn is no longer a newborn. I often get this same wistful feeling when I see pictures of them and wish I could go back to that moment and hold them again and pray I held them enough.

How many times have you heard "They grow up so fast"? Now we know, don't we? We're a part of the "enjoy this time while they're young" club. Oh how we know. Kids mark the passage of time with a big, fat metaphorical Sharpie. I can't think of much else that displays time in quite such a marked fashion.

Today, in keeping with that state of mind, I decided to go ahead and do the dreaded kids' clothes season switch. I sat in the middle of the room surrounded by piles of season, old season, Goodwill, Louie's to be passed on to Ace, and then the ones Ace has outgrown. Lump in my throat.

The night feedings are gone. Of course, I'm pleased to be getting full nights of sleep again, but there is a tiny (I said tiny) part of me that will miss those moments when the house is dark and silent, after I feed him and he lies heavy and limp in my arms. Nuzzled into my neck, his soft breath rhythmic and warm.

I am awestruck by the ability these little ones have to reduce us to fragile skeletons of our former selves. It's a vulnerability like no other. Stripped clean and heart in our hands, we offer it to them. And say, "Take's yours. All yours."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Peanut Butter and Honey. To Eat or Not to Eat?

Labor and delivery - $7,500.
Nursing bra - $20
Worry and Guilt - FREE

We all know it. We all feel it. And none of us know how to get rid of it. We worry about many things when it comes to our kids. One of my worries is that my boys are cold at night. Another mommy friend worries hers are hot. We worry that they're thirsty, hungry, unstimulated, watching too much TV, that they are not getting enough "socialization", not enough time outside, too much time inside, you haven't read to them enough and to top it all off their sheets are dirty.

Food is a hot button for most. My friend's twin girls have never had peanut butter because she swears somewhere along the way someone told her they can't have peanut butter until age 3. Even at their last appointment her pediatrician mentioned something about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But she's sure that the doctor must have been mistaken. She's got the same notion about honey. To the point where she's got her husband so paranoid that he shouts "Clear the room! I've dropped some Honeycombs! I repeat, alert, alert, Honeycombs are on the floor!" (as in the Honeycomb cereal). Maybe it's true. Maybe they shouldn't have peanut butter or honey until they're 5! And that's another reason why we worry...because for most things when it comes to kids, you hear a zillion different opinions. 

You hear it all the time. "All he ate yesterday was Goldfish" or "She used to love broccoli but now just the smell makes her gag." Pretty much every conversation I have with another mommy includes at least a ten minute discussion about our kids' latest eating habits. What they're eating and how much, what they're not eating, what we may try feeding them, what we wish they'd eat, how they're eating...with a spoon or finger foods, what their favorite food is and so on. I think the reason it gets to us on so many levels is because ultimately we believe this should be the simplest of motherly duties. We give our children food to sustain life. Simple. Or so we think. But really, it's not simple. It's not simple at all.

This begins way before solids as you take your little one to their first well-check and you are quizzed by the nurse dutifully documenting all your answers. And in your postpartum haze you start feeling like the questions are accusations, "So, did he nurse on both sides? How long did he nurse? How many times? How many wet diapers? How many dirty diapers? Did he spit up? Did he seem satisfied?" Stop the madness, you think! I can't take it any more!  Maybe I am a bad, bad mommy!

And what if your child is not measuring up on the percentile chart? The ole' percentiles. How we struggled with those with Louie. Not only do we need our children to eat the right foods in the right quanities at the right times, we then need them to measure up to all the other kids the same age. No wonder we're stressed about it. It's a long running worry, though. Maybe we can take comfort in knowing that it's something innate in all mothers, this worry, this guilt... our grandmothers worried about it and probably their grandmothers too. Of course the worrying does no good. The kids will eat what they want to eat. And in the meantime, we'll continue to talk about it, worry about it and stick another couple of chicken nuggets in the microwave. We're moms. That's what we do.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Retarded": A Medical Diagnosis

Isaiah Washington was more or less fired because of his anti-gay remark on the set of Grey's anatomy. Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame will forever be known for his racial attack on African-Americans during one of his comedic performances. Mel Gibson goes to rehab for anti-Semitic slurs. Every news outlet in America and around the world reported these incidents. We live in a world where being "politically correct" is not just an expectation, it is a rule and it is what's right. The Jewish community, African-Americans, gays and other groups have organized themselves and fought a long and difficult social war to free themselves of hurtful labels and prejudice.

So, I have to ask, why do we still use the word "retard" as negative slang, as a word to hurt someone, to call them out as stupid or to describe ourselves when we've done something forgetful or absent-minded? What many don't understand is that the word "retarded" is a real word used to psychologically describe someone with an IQ of less than 70. It's a real diagnosis. It's not some pretend word like "dufus" made up to insult another person.

I don't choose that label for my son. But he is on the medical waiver list with the Department of Mental Retardation. His diagnosis states that he may have "mental retardation". His IEP documents that he has "mental retardation." In these instances, again, while it's not the word I would choose, the word is being used appropriately. And it's being used to describe my sweet boy.

When I hear people use the word in ways that are inappropriate, and believe me, it's quite a bit, it stings a little. But the thing is, I am sure I said it too, before I had the pleasure of loving someone like Louie. And therein lies the problem. We don't become aware of this word and its sometimes painful associations until we find ourselves close to someone labeled "mentally retarded".

It shouldn't surprise us that the word is used as frequently as it is and by people from old to young. Because the people who are labeled as "retarded" aren't going to bring it up. They're not going to say "hey, that actually is my medical diagnosis and it hurts when you use it that way."

So, let's start spreading the word and increase awareness. Soeren Palumbo gets it (beautifully). And so does Katie Couric. We need to do this for ourselves and for the ones that have this diagnosis. We should stop feeling angry and victimized when someone says it. And stop casting the shadow of judgment upon them when they probably mean no harm. And start teaching... show society that it is not acceptable and explain the reason why.

What everyone must understand is that we're talking about a group of people, society calls the "mentally retarded", who cannot, who simply do not have the skills to organize themselves into groups to fight for what is right. In fact, it is this particular group of people who will never harm another person, never insult another person, but who will know simply how to love (maybe not the display of love we typically expect but love nevertheless). It is our social responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves. This is not their fight to fight. Because they can't. It's ours; so let us begin today...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Columbus and the Constant

We're all crowded around the computer. I am typing...and feeling guilty about the heaping pile of laundry in the other room waiting to be folded. Louie is playing with a strand of pearls (clearly, fake). A good example of irresponsible parenting...they're probably coated with some chemical and I'm absolutely sure they are a choking hazard. Better get those pearls. Meanwhile, Ace is gripping the mirror on his excersaucer tightly with both hands, face pressed against it like a preteen practicing kissing. Not yet. Please, not yet!

Anyways, I can't wait to report on all the clever things they say when they start talking but for now I can only guess as to what their thoughts might be. Completely subject to my interpretation: Ace, our resident discoverer...the Columbus of the home front, "So this is a spatula? Ahhhh...perfect for beating against this shape sorter." or "Are you kidding? I love this mattelaise bedspread! It feels so good when I open and close my hands fast against it." The world is a wonder. And a wonder for me to watch him.

Ace is a brave little man - prepare to be awed - he silent cries. Yes, you heard me right, a cry with no volume. At one of Lucas' class parties Ace was sitting quietly in his car seat carrier while Chris took pictures and I assisted Louie in gluing cotton balls to a paper plate...or maybe the glue was on a paper plate. I can't remember. I think we were making a snowman. One of the other parents came over to let me know my baby looked upset. And there he was, silent crying, tears running down his face, bottom lip stuck out, his distress indicator (stork mark on forehead in between eyes that turns red when distraught) bright with color, but no sound. Not a even a whimper.

Ace is developing right along. He knows how to bang two blocks together, take off his socks, babble the 'm' consonant and is getting up on hands and knees. He's reaching well out of mid-line and developing his pincer grasp quite nicely. Check, check and check on my child development mental check list. In this family, in my house, in my mind, this is completely normal. The reality check was talking to my mother-in-law on the phone last night..."you wouldn't believe what Ace did today! He took two blocks, and he banged one against the other...". She really tried hard to share in my enthusiasm but I could see through her pretend excitement. And that's okay. Not everyone has been in the early intervention system for over two years. Along the way we've picked up our share of how this whole child development thing should go. This awareness is almost second nature at this point. Doesn't everyone celebrate the development of their child's pincer grasp?

Louie is our constant. We can count on him to wake up at 7am, to drink his milk, to request his ball toy, and to fast-crawl into the kitchen whenever he hears the microwave with hopes one of us will lift him up and let him push the buttons. He loves digital lettering and numbers on anything...clocks, signs, the DVR on pause (it shows the number of minutes it's been on pause on the screen) and he loves pushing buttons on electronic devices such as cell phones, DVD players, printers and so on. Therefore, isn't it obvious that the microwave should deserve the fast-crawl since it has all aforementioned beloved items in one smart white machine? "What? Have they started that silly food machine without my help? Wait, wait! Here I am! Lift me up! I'll help you!" Thank you, Louie. Because we need your help. Truly, we do.

Louie's development is slow. It is. But, one thing Chris and I have definitely learned is to celebrate each and every new development, major milestone or not. Which is probably another reason we are so in tune with Ace's development, big things and small. No matter who is doing it, it is reason to shout with joy and jump up and down. There will never be a word, a step, a letter written, an art project completed that won't be a big deal around here.

In the meantime, until they can actually verbalize their affection, we'll take their sweet gestures - those sloppy (and I mean sloppy) wet kisses from Louie and Ace's arm-flapping, leg-kicking excitement when we go to pick him up - as the expression of love every parent craves from their children.

Who knew I had so much to say? Who knew?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Will Survive. Right?

Can someone come over here and scrape me off the floor please? Seems like I'm just surviving these days, doing what is required to live. Make coffee. Feed children. Change diaper. Get dressed. Feed children. Change diaper. Drive through Starbucks. Feed children. So, you see the routine. There is no "pay bills", no "fold laundry", no "wash hair". Well, that's a lie. I haven't stopped showering. Completely. It's an every other day thing. Mostly. What's the deal? How can two tiny people be beating me? I'm the one in control here, right? And the sad, sad thing is that they're really good. They seldom cry. Ace is not completely mobile yet so it's not like I'm chasing him all over the place. Louie doesn't get into too much. But they are definitely beating me on the energy game.

I'm beginning to worry something is wrong. Can Jenny ever get her groove back? Can Jenny even remember a day when the word 'groove' could actually be applied to some part of her life? I have had the luxury of two extra long naps this weekend and as I sit here Sunday night looking at my calendar I wonder how I'll do it. Not to mention the list of extras that I keep putting off - make hotel reservations, birthday gift for friend, set up college-savings plan. You know, that list.

Most rantings such as these wind down by saying how it's all worth it. Well, I'm not going to disappoint. Because I agree. It's all worth it. When two boys, one with starry blue eyes and one with Pete Rose hair look at you like you made the sunshine and the rain, well then yeah, it's worth it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Question I Couldn't Answer. Until Now.

Last week one of Louie's language therapists asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. She asked who I thought Louie was taking after - me or my husband. I stammered around and finally told her I couldn't answer the question. I couldn't answer it because I, his own mother, have been viewing him through the lens of his disability which is exactly what we ask the rest of the world not to do. I have been judging him and attributing everything about him, his appearance, his personality, his habits, all around this label of Williams syndrome.

I emailed the therapist to let her know what an impact her question had on me and suggested she ask this question of all the families she works with. She has a brother with Down syndrome and this was her response:

"I used to think of my brother in the same way. Carter looks like a kid with Down syndrome. It wasn't until the past few years that I started noticing the similarities between him and the "rest of us". It was kind of cool. I had the exact same realization you did. It was kind of an ah-ha moment when I realized he was made up of so much more than a kid with Down syndrome. He's the son of a shy farm girl from NC and a Type A retired marine. He has fair skin like my mom, a hairy back like my dad, and an affinity for sweets like me! Each year I can see more and more of my parents' and my personalities and physical features in him. Anyways, I'm rambling. Just something fun and valuable to think about."

And how right she is. It is a very valuable thought. It brings tears to my eyes. Knowing that I, the person who is supposed to be completely tuned in and sensitive to Louie, has judged him in the worst of ways. The nice thing is that beginning today, I can change that. I can see that he got his beautiful crazy blond hair from his father. And his love of books from his mother. And his sensitivity to others from his great-grandfather. Louie is not just a genetic anomaly. He too has a heritage and we must honor that. Starting with me.

Hub Loses Blog Privileges

You may not have noticed, but I'll take it upon myself to point this out...if you read my previous blog entry yesterday you will have read a much different post than what is there today. The hubster was quite hurt over this post. He said "For those that don't know me, how will they know what a heckuva guy I am?". He moped around last night complaining about what a jerk it made him out to be. So, this morning, the kind and loving wife that I am, I asked him if he would like me to delete the entry. He said yes, he would really like that. So, I decided to edit it and take out most of the things that shed him in a less than flattering light and include a picture of him being an involved daddy. Which in essence ruined my whole point. Jeez, I didn't know he would get so upset and take things so literally. Beginning today, he has lost all blog reading privileges.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blog You! No, Blog You!

We've all complained about this at some time or another, except those of you with annoyingly perfect husbands (Summer C.). It's the age old who does more, who works harder, when will I get a break argument that couples with kids have. Hub recently commented one morning "When do I get a morning?" (meaning to sleep in, I guess?!).
Me: Ummm...we have kids, we have to take care of them (yes, this is sarcasm).
Hub: I always get up with Louie.
Me: Well, I always get up with Ace, and sometimes in the middle of the night. When do I get a morning or what about a night for that matter, a night not to feed them dinner, not to have to bathe them and put them to bed? That's it! I'm blogging about you! (I jump out of bed and slam the door).

He does work hard and he is a great husband and father and we do appreciate all that he does. It's all true. He's a gem. I'll try to keep that in mind when he's on the lake fishing this weekend and I'm wiping spit up off my second clean shirt and changing the 6th poopy diaper of the day. Just kidding...he'll be home with us changing the diapers, fixing lunches and everything else. I'm led to believe that this is the physically difficult stage of parenting...the infant and toddler days. Later, it will be more emotionally and mentally challenging, or so I'm told. I guess that makes me feel better. But at times it makes us all a little crazy.