Broken Lightsaber

The rule is C walks or he rides on my shoulders. He always chooses to ride. I should be making him walk, he is three. But he is my last baby which means he’ll always be my baby. Also we run late every damn morning. Hoisting him onto my shoulders means the walk from the car to T’s school takes half the time. He often begs to be carried. I tell him he is a big boy (nothing like mixed messages!) so he can walk or he can do the shoulders, being carried isn’t an option.

And yet, on the way back to the car this morning I found myself carrying him in my arms without really knowing how he got there. His head was nestled into my neck and it just felt so good. I ignored the strain on my back and enjoyed the feeling of holding him close.

“Mama?” his muffled voice came from my shoulder.

“Mmmhmm?”

“I broke my lightsaber.”

“Mmmhmm.” This morning he did break his lightsaber. Broke it beyond repair.

“It was my fault.”

My heart stuttered and I held him tighter. I thought back to this morning. The rule in our house is if you break or lose something that is it. The thing is gone. We aren’t buying another one. The boys need to take responsibility for their actions, even as little kids.

On C’s occupational therapy evaluation it was noted that his inclination to be destructive towards books and toys and basically anything he can get his hands on is tied to the fact he is seeking sensory input. When Z and I read the report earlier this fall we were relieved. It was in line with the evaluation C received over the summer and it provided a reason behind some of his more frustrating behaviors.

Not only has preschool special education explained some of C’s behaviors, it is providing an opportunity to improve those behaviors. He is starting O/T this week. Z and I are attending a two night class on using sensory strategies with preschoolers that starts Wednesday. We aren’t expecting a magic bullet, but we are ready to do the work.

C has an extra set of challenges, but that does not mean he is off the hook when it comes to behaving. We will support him and give him some latitude, but at the end of the day his difficulties cannot be an excuse for him to do whatever the hell he wants to do.

My heart stuttered, not just because he was facing hard things, but because I was simultaneously flooded with joy. Weird, I know. But hear me out.

I have never heard him take responsibility for his actions before. He simply hasn’t had the words to do it. Speech therapy has done wonders for him. Just over a year ago he was basically non-verbal. He is a different kid these days. The leaps in verbal development are positively influencing his social and emotional behavior. He is engaging in imaginative play with his peers, he has special friends that he seeks out at school. His teacher actually used the word blossoming to describe his progress. It meant so much that I had to blink back tears when she said it to me.

He broke a toy this morning. And he articulated that it was his responsibility. I am proud of my kid.

sweet yoda

Fourth year one of the boys has been Yoda. We sure got our money’s worth out of the costume.

Blast Off!

me and my boy

He is a snuggler.

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A Horror Story

Friends, I cannot sugar coat this. Just need to come out and say it. C took a dump on my pillow this evening.

While I’m sure he was just looking for a soft place for his shit to land, I can’t help but take it a little personally.

C spends much of his time naked from the waist down these days. We are potty training. Or he is potty training. He doesn’t really want Z and me involved. He pees on the floor. Panics. Cries. Runs to the bathroom. When he is wearing a pull up he pees. Shouts, “I poop! I poop!” while standing there bow-legged. Cries. Takes off his pants and pull ups and runs to the bathroom. We have hardwood floors throughout the entire house. Peeing on them isn’t a huge deal to clean up. It is part of potty training. We are cool with it.

Bottom line: progress is being made. He has only actually peed on the pot a handful of times, but he willingly goes to the bathroom himself about a dozen times a day. He sits there. Shouts, “I peed!” Wipes his balls with a square of toilet paper (yeah, not sure what that is about). Flushes the toilet. Except for the fact that we are wasting a horrifying amount of water, and he is completely delusional about actually peeing, things are going well.

Cut to tonight. The fam got home from a stroll to our friends’ house to drop off a food container. C ran inside. I started weeding. T and Z collected helicopter seeds from our maple tree into Z’s hat and took turns climbing into the treehouse and throwing them on each other’s heads.

C really likes to do his own thing. T ran towards the house and told us C was watching TV. Not ideal while the rest of us were enjoying being outside, but whatever.

And here is why you never “whatever” when a two and a half year old is involved. We came inside and the TV was off. C wasn’t on the first floor. Ominously his pull up and pants were on the floor of the downstairs bathroom. We headed upstairs as C sauntered out of Z and my bedroom. “I pooped!” he crowed.

Being he confuses poop and pee on the regular I wasn’t alarmed. Just annoyed that I’d be cleaning pee in my bedroom. Z was ahead of me and I heard, “Oh man. Charlie! Oh no.” I picked up the pace. Two turds. Two. Glistening on my pillowcase. C with some unnecessary bravado, “I pooped!”

After bathing the boys I noticed some shit on my pants and on my hands. Still not sure where and when the point of transfer was. Just washed my hands throughly, threw the jeans in the washing machine, and felt thoroughly defeated by life. And by poop.

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This is the face of a woman who has spent too much time cleaning poop.

tiny hiney

Moments later he peed all over the porch.

happy t

One of his teachers sent this to Z. He was proud of the magnet bundle he made. I’m proud because he didn’t poop on any of my belongings today.

 

Fun Run

Years ago a friend who was moving back to her small hometown from Brooklyn said to us, “I’m a city mouse or a country mouse, not a suburb mouse.” For some reason it really stuck with me.

The suburbs were where I was raised and my childhood was pretty great. But as an adult I’ve found I’m a city mouse. Period. In fact, since moving to Manhattan in 1998 I’ve only lived in cities – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Providence, Syracuse. When we moved to Syracuse Z wanted to live on a big piece of land with a barn in the middle of nowhere. I had visions of being snowbound with a newborn and no chance of making friends. I mean, it is hard enough for someone with an anxiety disorder and a side of agoraphobic tendencies to meet people without throwing a remote location into the mix. If there wasn’t a small business district I could walk to it would be all over for me.

Every place has its pro and cons, city living is no different. But Syracuse has been pretty ideal for our family. We have the privacy of a single family home with a lovely yard, there are close parks, a library just 2 blocks away, several restaurants and coffee shops nearby, hell there is a live music venue. And we are surrounded by friends. If Z and I sit on the porch after putting the boys to bed within a couple of minutes someone we know will walk by.

It’s idyllic (right, Jeff?), but not perfect. There is crime — folks in the neighborhood have had break ins and cars stolen. We have had several alarming run ins with drunk college students that made me feel pretty unsafe. We get tons of folks trying to sell stuff — religion, natural gas, politics, floor cleaners, knocking on our door. For the snowiest city in America the street plowing sucks compared to the ‘burbs. Alternate side of the street parking is a pain in the ass to begin with, ours bizarrely switches over at 6pm.

It’s not perfect. The bottom line is the pros heavily outweigh the cons. We love it here.

There is a University Neighborhood Preservation Association that arranged a neighborhood kids fun run at a local park this morning. They plan on doing it annually, this year was the maiden run. The small kids (mostly with parent accompaniment) did half a mile and older kids did a 3K. T has been making noises about going running with me, when I saw the email last week this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

We got to the park in time to snag a t-shirt and number for T. He told me he didn’t want to run with me so I let him stand up front and moved back and to the side a bit. He took off like a bat out of hell. I caught up to him about a 10th of a mile in. And we ran together. He started to slow just as we reached the half way point but I told him it would be awesome to say he’d run a quarter of a mile so he kept on going. He did walk a few steps several times on the back quarter, but dude ran most of it. He even seemed to be trying to keep pace with a family a bit ahead of us. He ran across the finish line and got his medal. I was absolutely bursting with joy and pride.

We found Z and C and were chatting with friends when T turned to me, “Mom? I need to talk to the lady with the medals again!” “Oh, ok.” We set off to find her. I was a bit distracted and didn’t ask him why he needed to speak to her. I was assuming he was unhappy with the color of the ribbon that the medal was on.

He approached her and said, “Excuse me. Can I have a medal for my little brother?” All that joy and pride I felt when he finished a few minutes earlier? It was nothing compared to how I felt at that moment. I do not think I have ever been more proud of my son.

I explained to him that we only paid for him to race and we couldn’t take another medal. The lady fished around in her jacket pocket and pulled out a bag full of toy medals, probably from Party City. She said they got them for younger siblings and she handed one to C who had wandered over.

This morning was wonderful. It was the exact reason this whole exhausting, frustrating roller coaster of a ride called parenthood is worth it.

pre race

Pre race. All the kiddos got number 1.

http://web.stagram.com/p/723443296559264241_28315859

Race action! YouTube won’t upload my video and though I have been called a computer savant (lies) I can’t figure out to embed a video from instagram. Or why the video restarts weirdly at the end. Sorry to make seeing the video one more step. These dang computer boxes scare the hell out of me with their high falutin’ ways and their…what do ya call it? Technology.

post race

We facetimed with my folks while the boys were in the tub tonight. My father asked T how far the race was. “50 miles!” he shouted. I laughed so hard. It probably did feel like 50 miles to him.

When Motherhood Can Bite Me

C is nearing 3. The age when T actually grew horns. T’s 4th year has been so great it has sort of erased some of the horror of his 3rd year from our memory. But the fog is lifting and we are starting to remember how rough T was. Um, yeah, we actually decided that we weren’t going to have a third kid when T was three.

The whole terrible twos thing is a joke. At least for our kids. Three is a fucking beast of an age. I get it that sucks for the kid as well. Three year olds are desperately trying to assert their independence while scrabbling for a modicum of control over their lives. They are told no all day long. They are expected to start behaving themselves at preschool and in public. So they rebel.

C was exhausted after school. So he refused to nap. Therefore he was an absolute delight at Wegmans. By which I mean he was a raging asshole to the woman who checked us out and was trying really hard to be nice to him. T had a T-ball game tonight. Z is in Baltimore overnight so I was flying solo. Naturally I got us lost on the way to the game. Naturally C screamed, “NO! NO! NO!” every time I asked him to do something or tried to prevent him from doing stuff he shouldn’t have been doing. Let me tell you, that kid can scream. If I picked him up he’d scratch at my face or hit me.

We are doing a fantastic job raising our little gentlemen.

Actually, it’s pretty humiliating. I feel like everyone must think I’m the shittiest mom in the world when he throws tantrums in public. Sometimes I am scared to take him places he is such a loose cannon.

The game mercifully ended and we headed home. C was drinking a juice box, his newest fascination. T doesn’t like juice boxes so we don’t have them hanging around. Now, let’s be real. I shouldn’t have trusted him to have the box in the car. Sure enough and with T’s encouragement I caught him spraying juice everywhere.

Finally we were back home, the juice got cleaned up, I called Z so he could say goodnight to the boys. I sank into the sofa, not really paying attention to what C was doing.

I felt an explosion of pain on the side of my face.

C climbed on the arm of the sofa, turned around, and basically trust falled the back of his skull into my cheekbone.

So here is what I learned about motherhood today. Sometimes you are so mad at your kid you have trouble looking them in the face. Sometimes you are embarrassed because you know tomorrow morning you are going to have a prominent shiner that you will have to explain to the world. Sometimes you are fed up and exhausted and want to scream, “FUCK YOU CHILDREN! FUCK YOU! PUT YOURSELVES TO BED GOD DAMN IT! I’M GOING TO THE BAR FOR A DRINK OR SIX!”

And I’m a little ashamed to admit how hard this was for me. With difficulty I didn’t scream at him. Instead I bathed him, read to him, sang to him, and cuddled with him. I wanted to just dump C in his room and walk away. But I explained why I was upset that he hurt me (and I understand he was not actively trying to bust up my face, he probably thought he’d fall in my lap). Then we did stories and songs and cuddles like usual. Did I have to fake it? Um, yes. Did I want to be vindictive and deny him his routine? Um, yes. My face really hurt and the day was really shitty.

What I learned tonight is when you are alone with the kids it doesn’t matter what happens. You have to keep it together and be a mom. Now, you wise folks probably figured that out ages ago. I’m slow. And selfish. But I did it tonight. I didn’t do it gracefully. There might have been some serious muttering under my breath.

But I did it. Maybe I don’t get a gold star today. At least I didn’t fail.

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My cheekbone doesn’t usually look like you could use it to cut glass.

IMG_1963

This is what T was doing in Baltimore. Pretty fucking amazing.

IMG_1962

Process shot. And Pain shot. I’d never have enough courage to do ribs. My dude is hard core.

Boobies

Five months ago today I nursed C for the last time. I miss it. I miss it almost every day.

For the first while I was careful to not be topless around C. Listen, we are a cool-with-nudity family. It is important to Z and me to teach the boys that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their bodies. That nudity does not always equal sexuality. Not to say we aren’t realistic. We teach boundaries. There was a frightening situation in which the child of an acquaintance was seemingly being groomed for sexual abuse by a childcare provider. Since that time we have quizzed T every month or so, “Who may touch your penis?” we ask. “Me, you guys when you are washing me, Doctor M when she is examining me.” he answers. We remind him that is it. He needs to tell us if anyone else tries, if anyone is making him uncomfortable when they touch his body. It sickens me that we have to have the conversation with him, that people who would prey on children exist, but better face the ugliness in this world than ignore it and not equip him to identify dangerous situations.

More than a month after C was weaned I was stepping into the shower when I heard a great crash, a moment of silence, a wail of pain. I pelted to the sound, dripping water everywhere and found C in a heap on the floor of his room. I swept him into my arms, checking for bumps and blood. He immediately tried to latch on. “No, no, no!” I told him as I laughed and cried and struggled to finish the check to make sure he wasn’t hurt. Dude was scared and looking for comfort and my boobs were right there. Old habits die hard. He was fine, I got him calm and headed back to the shower. That is the last time I remember him trying to nurse.

In the ensuing months my no toplessness rule relaxed. He didn’t have a reaction to seeing my boobs anymore.

Mom left for home early this morning. It is the first day I’m up and about. Still feel like shit, but definitely feel way better than I did just a few days ago. I do not recommend the flu, it really sucks ass.

Z and I were in the basement futzing with a load of laundry. I’d changed pants when I got out of bed, but was still in gross sweaty flu clothes from the waist up so throwing that crap in the wash seemed like a good plan. I grabbed the empty laundry basket and braced my weak legs for the walk from the basement to the second floor. C met me on the staircase coming down from his brother’s room engulfed in a cloud of poop stink. He’s been sneaking off to hide behind the curtain in that room to take a crap these days. I opened with the obvious “Did you poop?” “I pooped!” he crowed. And then he started pointing at my boob. I turned to look at Z. When I turned back his little face was upturned and he was working his mouth, suckling the air. “Mama! Mama!” he cried, pointing at my boobs again. “Baby. There is no more milk in them. No more. All gone.” He was still pointing and on the verge of tears. “Mine!” he shouted in frustration.

I burst out laughing. Had been near tears myself, but seriously? Mine? “Um, no.” I told him. “They are mine” I walked past him and his poop stink (worry not, his Daddo changed him) and got into the shower.

Old habits really do die hard. For both of us. I miss it too, C.

Mom C T

Last Sunday the family went to the Zoo. C ran up to this display and pointed to the skulls shouting, “Mama! Charlie! Thomas!” I get his confusion, those skulls look just like us.

treehouse breastfeeding

Reposting this one. C nursing in our treehouse last summer. When T was tiny Z took photos while I was nursing. I made him delete them. It is such a huge regret. My ideas about nursing and the importance of normalization have evolved so much since then. I regret not documenting that time.

Mom Hypocrisy

“Have you received the packet in the mail yet?” C’s speech therapist asked me. When kids in Early Intervention turn three they are re-evaluated not only to assess if they still qualify for services, but because care shifts from the state to the school district.

“Nope.” I replied, “The case worker said she wasn’t submitting it till the end of the month.”

“Ok. So when the time comes I suggest you ask that a teacher be part of the team performing the actual evaluation. You are allowed to do that.”

“Oh….Ok….”

“A teacher will be able to figure out if there are behavioral issues that qualify for services.”

I froze. And then I blinked back tears. And then I plastered a stupid grin on my face.

“Oh….Um…Do you think his behavioral issues aren’t typical?” This conversation happened after I unloaded on her about how incredibly difficult he has been in the last week.

“I’m not sure, that really isn’t my area. Why don’t you talk to the special ed teacher in his classroom at school?”

It was hard to make the call to Early Intervention late last summer. Hard to admit I couldn’t teach my kid to talk. Hard to admit he was behind his peers. Hard to get over my own prejudices about what it means to have a kid in Early Intervention. But C’s struggles with speech were not about me. The best option for him was to get him help.

It has been amazing. I am in love with Early Intervention. His speech therapist is absolutely amazing. We adore her and she has helped C so much. Dude is rocking the three word sentences. He initiates conversation. His Star Wars related vocabulary is bizarrely gigantic. Hell, he barely squeaked by to qualify for six more months of therapy when he was re-evaluated last month.

His issues tested as strictly communication based. All the professionals think he is late to talk due to his health problems and the ear infections that took place the winter he was about 18 months old. I was secretly relieved. He isn’t unintelligent. In all other areas he tests as a typical child including emotional life and relationships. We identified a problem and we got our kid help. Was it hard to take that step? Fuck yeah. But the reasons behind his delay were reassuring and made the whole situation easier to accept. And he is responding so well to the speech therapy–the proof was right there when he crawled into our bed a few mornings ago and said to me, “Mommy! Wake up!”

Well, I’m an asshole.

The reasons behind his delay were reassuring and made the whole situation easier to accept?

Seriously? Who the fuck do I think I am?

Turns out I’m ok with early intervention when he only needs it for communication. The mere suggestion that there might be behavior issues freaked me out, horrified me, embarrassed me.

Not my kid. My kid is normal.

The next morning I asked the special ed teacher about C’s behavior. Turns out she and the lead teacher had been talking about it that very day. C is hitting. C is scratching (that morning T went to class with two wicked welts slashed across his neck care of his little brother).

Fuck.

The special ed teacher feels it is linked to the frustration that has accompanied his communication issues. He can’t ask for his turn fast enough when he is with his peers. He can’t speak up for himself before the conversation has moved forward.

The thoughts running through my head make me even more ashamed. I can’t bear to have my kid be a hitter. I can’t wrap my mind around having a kid with behavioral problems. Didn’t I always swear my kids would be respectful and well behaved? Me! Me! Me!

This is not about me. Duh. Obviously. DO YOU HEAR THAT KAREN?

This is not about me. This is about C and what he needs. This is about following through with our beliefs. Since C has been in early intervention I have self righteously said many times that if parents know their kid is behind developmentally or behaviorally they are making a costly mistake by not getting them help. Service are free for god’s sake. Who cares about labels, just get your kid help.

Who cares about labels? Evidently I do.

C deserves better.

Perhaps I should climb off my high horse.

Yes, we will make sure C is tested for behavioral issues. It is the right thing to do for him. But I will have that fake and rather alarming smile plastered to my face the whole time.

The team surrounding C both in school and in services is extraordinary. He is so lucky to be in a situation in which so many qualified and compassionate professionals have his best interests at heart. I am grateful to each one of them. And I could learn so much from them.

This early intervention thing is still surrounded with stigma. There is the worry that if you were a better parent your kid wouldn’t need them. Entering services is an admission that your family is not perfect. We look at the other families that do appear to be perfect, but we have no idea what goes on in their homes. That they might be looking at other families just as enviously as we look at them. And we can’t remember that perfection does not exist. The pressure our generation puts on itself to be perfect at this parenting gig is toxic.

Once again I find myself lacking as a Mom. Once again I vow to try and do better, to be the mother that my boy deserves. Jesus fucking christ this is hard. But those two boys of mine, they are worth every single moment.

c hugs yoda

He has so much love in him. We are going to keep working with him to get him on track with communication, and if he gets help from the school system for behavioral issues we will embrace it. His needs are what matters.

the other one

The other one. When T was sick with strep last week he and I were hard core cuddling on the sofa. He looked at me and said, “I think our family is perfect.” He was right. We might not be perfect in the textbook sense. But we are perfect for us. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anyone. And I still feel lucky to be married to Z. Perfect for us. The new definition of perfect.

Boy In A Drawer

The boys ran up to T’s room and seemed to be occupying themselves without threat of imminent injury so Z and I took advantage, sipping our coffee and chatting in the family room. Z sat on the sofa, I crouched on a heating register that never quite gets hot enough to burn my butt. Not nearly as satisfying as the one next to the fireplace. Eventually Z hollered for the boys to come down for Super Hugs, part of our silly family routine when Z leaves for work. I quickly ran to the bathroom as Z gathered his things. T thundered down the stairs, but C did not. I heard him calling out and after finishing I ran upstairs to grab him. I threw open T’s bedroom door and saw this:

crazy c

“Help! Help! I’m stuck!” he cried. The huge grin on his face assured me he wasn’t in actual distress, so I yelled for Z to come upstairs-this was too good to miss-and I snapped a picture.

How did he even get in there? How did he not pull the whole dresser on top of himself? Why have we not attached every piece of furniture we own to the walls? How long is it before these wild boys actually give me a heart attack?

After Super Hugs were successfully executed and the goodbye wave happened at the window over the sofa (seriously, we are people of involved ritual) I called my parents to tell them the story. Since I’ve become a parent they are who I call nine times out of ten. I call when one of the boys has done something wonderful or hilarious or insane or awful, I call when I’m struggling, or when I’m worried I am a terrible Mother. I sincerely don’t know what I’d do without them. I get to laugh with them, they listen to me cry. And when I feel like I’m in over my head they believe in me. This different closeness with them is one of the biggest and best surprises of becoming a Mom.

Dad checked out the photo I’d posted on instagram on his phone as we chatted and he and Mom got a major chuckle from it. “There was a very tall dresser in my room when I was little.” Dad started. “It was about six feet. I would climb to the top of it and jump off onto my bed. My Mom told me that if I kept on doing it I would catch polio.”

“What?”

“She said I’d catch polio.”

“Um. Why didn’t she say that it could fall over and kill you?”

“Because polio was a really big deal then. There wasn’t a cure.”

“Dad. There isn’t a cure for death either.”

These little glimpses into my father’s childhood are another bonus of our evolving relationship. My Grandmother sounded like a real character. I never knew her. She died shortly after my parents got engaged. My Grandfather died when I was two, there are pictures of the two of us, but I don’t have any memories of him.

My Mom’s Mom will be 93 this June. She is one hell of a lady, my sister and I have always adored her. She is a great storyteller, and we eat those stories up. How she and her siblings used to stoke the stove though they promised not to when her parents went to church in the evening so they could make taffy. How the chickens and garden in their backyard kept the family from starving during the depression. How Grandpa saw her outside of church when they were teens and told his friends he would marry her, the ensuing secret courtship of an Irish Protestant girl and an Irish Catholic boy. These stories are part of my family’s DNA. We’ve heard them a million times and would happily listen to her tell them a million more.

Throughout our lives my sister and I have nagged our Dad for stories of his childhood. His parents and his upbringing are largely a mystery to us. But since I’ve had the boys I’ve noticed he lets stories like this one slip. Is it because we aren’t actively pestering him? He only had girls. Are his wild grandsons making him remember his own boyhood?

Who knows?

I simply am grateful. For the stories and for my parents.

doorway climber

He got up there himself. As Z was taking the picture T said, “Will you send it to Grandma?”

T first communion

Big T’s first communion. It is crazy how much the boys look like my Dad.

Fred and Helen Cordano

Fred and Helen Cordano. So many holes in our knowledge of them. We don’t know if my Grandfather’s given name was Alfredo or Frederico-one name was my Grandfather’s one was my Great-Grandfather’s both anglicized to Fred. The pictures give the date of their marriage as November 28th, but the year is missing. Sometime in the 1930s I believe.