Monday, December 20, 2010

New Year's Resolutions, 2011

It's been a long, challenging fall this year. In September I returned to work and we resumed the challenge and struggle of juggling home responsibilities with two parents in the workforce. This challenge was further complicated by Julia's start in full-time, real-deal school as a kindergartner, and an extensive therapy schedule for Mister Man. At the time I returned to the classroom in September, it was OT 2x per week, PT 2x per week, and Speech and Feeding 2x per week as well.

We headed back to the state for our 6 month review and to request an increase in his speech therapy in November. At almost 18 months, he still wasn't really talking, and he (and we) were getting increasingly frustrated. The state requested a psych evaluation, to determine if anything else was going on to impede his language development. We were sure it was just a technicality. Our speech therapist and our OT assured us it was just a technicality. Imagine how overwhelmed we were when the psychologist showed up, observed our son for about 20-30 minutes, and diagnosed him as PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Delay, Not Otherwise Specified - read: on the autistic spectrum). Now let me qualify, the psychologist was supposed to come at 5:30 PM, didn't show until 7 PM because of traffic and delays, and by that time Oliver was tired, cranky, hungry and running around like a tornado on crack. Anyone with children knows that is the PERFECT time to assess an 18 month old. HA.

We weren't sure about this diagnosis, so we sought out a developmental pediatrician at Cornell Medical Center on our own, and within 5 minutes she assured us he wasn't PDD-NOS, that his eye contact was too good, he was visually referencing everything that was going on in the room, looking from person to person during a conversation, etc. So a relief to be sure. However, with the new 'diagnosis' on Oliver's chart, his speech therapy increased to 5x per week, which we were thrilled about, and he received a behavioral therapist who would focus solely on helping him develop communication and life skills, and also help him develop self-soothing strategies. Right now his self-soothing strategy is... Mama. So Mister Man has 15+ hours of therapy a week. That's a lot of therapy for a little boy.

However, he has made TERRIFIC gains in the past 6 months. He has gone from sitting unsteadily to running, and pushing himself to stand in the middle of a room. He is signing please by clapping, saying 'Mo' for more, waving good bye and saying "Buh!" for bye, and announcing "HI!" when he walks into a room. He calls me Mama, Dave Daddy, and Julia is Oo-ah. Chloe, the cat, is 'Me-ow!" He is eating, though in the last three months he has grown 2 1/2 inches and lost 1/2 a pound... so we have work to do there.

As if all of these assessments, therapists and sessions weren't challenging enough, back in the early fall, I started noticing some staining on Oliver's teeth. While at Julia's 6 month cleaning, I asked the dentist to look in Oliver's mouth. She asked me to make an appointment to have a full cleaning done. THAT was fun. I took a full day off from work in anticipation of the mental recovery we would both need. It was necessary. Long story short? Oliver has cavities in EVERY ONE OF HIS SIXTEEN TEETH. Seems the acid reflux, the months of throwing / spitting up, the esophagitis, the medicine for the esophagitis all destroyed his teeth. In January, poor little boy will undergo anesthesia for the SECOND TIME in his short life, this time for 4-6 baby root canals, at least 4 crowns (two stainless and two polymer) and 10-12 fillings. Add to this the fact that Dave's dental insurance maxes out at $2,500 per patient per year, and you can imagine this is all pretty anxiety provoking. Our beach vacation may end up in Oliver's mouth this year. We are waiting on the estimate and crossing our fingers that our medical insurance will cover the anesthesia and not deem Oliver's dental work as 'elective.' You know, because cavities in EVERY ONE OF HIS TEETH caused by a MEDICAL CONDITION is elective.

Dave and I joke that Oliver is going to be crossing old ladies across the street in his teen years, be the captain of the basketball team, and get a full ride to Yale, while running drug abuse prevention programs in lower schools across NYC. Because he is using up his quota of parental worry before his second birthday.

Well, the countdown is on to the New Year, and this year instead of resolving the usual (you know, eat healthier, lose 10 pounds, run 4x per week, take time for me...) I am resolving to be a better Mom.

I have those moments where self-doubt creep in... (Did I do something / not do something / expose him to something / etc. etc. etc. _____ fill in the blank - when I was pregnant? Did he not get the stimulation that Julia did? Did I not have enough one on one time?)

And the moments where I compare... (When Julia was 12, 14, 18 months old she was ______)

And the moments when I struggle to find the patience... (I don't know if I can handle five more minutes of the whining... can you PLEASE FIND SOME WORDS TO TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT.)

And the moments of deflected frustration... (JULIA WHAT DO YOU WANT?? - as Oliver is hanging from my leg crying and I am trying to brush my teeth).

So this year, my resolutions are simple:
  • Celebrate, savor the small moments, the small accomplishments, the tiny milestones.
  • Live in the moment, banish the 'if-only's' from my mind and my vocabulary.
  • Don't compare, celebrate the uniqueness and individuality of each child.
  • Spend quality time with each child, every day, and find a moment, even if it is just a moment, for my husband and for myself. It makes me a better Mom.
  • Breathe. Breathe again. And once more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Last Day of Preschool

So, today is Julia's last day of preschool. It’s hard to believe three years have flown by so quickly. I remember sitting in our new parent orientation session three years ago and feeling incredibly nervous. Our girl was so big yet so tiny. She wasn’t even two yet, but we were enrolling her in preschool? It was so beyond our frame of reference – Dave and I both started preschool when we were four years old. Did we really need to enroll Julia at the age of two? How would she make it through 2 ½ hours without her lovey, Puppy? She was still in diapers, how would that be managed? She really hadn’t spent any extended time with any adult other than the two of us and Sherrie, her nanny. Would these teachers at Cobble Hill Playgroup appreciate her energy, her spunk, her quirkiness, her sensitivity? We decided to view Julia’s first two years of preschool as an organized playdate, and if nothing else, hope she learned that there were expectations and rules for working together in a classroom environment. What happened was beyond our wildest expectations.

First day of phase in, Julia was so excited to be at school, though she still wasn’t quite sure what school was. A bigger boy was building an intricate tower of blocks. Julia marched over to him, and smacked the tower down. When the bigger boy protested, she then proceeded to hit HIM. I watched, a little horror stricken, but interested to see how the teachers would react. A teacher walked over to Julia, removed her from the situation, and got her set up with another activity, away from the clearly upset older boy. In that moment I was sold. Age appropriate, gentle, but effective classroom management. The message was clearly sent that hitting and knocking down someone else’s work is not acceptable, but not with an admonishing, demeaning tone.

The routine of school quickly became a part of our family’s week. Daddy walked Julia to school (rather, strolled her to school those first two years), our sitter picked her up. After a while, we forgot we were writing tuition checks. It was just a place Julia went twice a week. Most days the only information we got about school was that she sang “Old-De-Donald” and that she pooped in her diaper. And then magic happened. Julia and I were waiting on the train around December. The train pulled into the station and Julia said, “Look, the 4 train!” and it was. And I hadn’t taught her what a four looked like.

Many moments have happened since then that have reinforced our choice to send Julia to preschool at the tender age of two. She has thought about her role in the world, learned about recycling and holidays, and owl pellets and words. She has learned to spell, learned to read, and overcome her intense phobia of worms through a worm study. She has learned to get along with others and that school has a routine and a predictability to it. She has learned to ask questions and satisfy her curiosity. She has learned to LOVE school and LOVE her teachers.

I am dreading pick up today, dreading the final good-byes, dreading the heartfelt words that I know I will hear from her preschool head and teachers, dreading the tears that will inevitably come, dreading the end of this phase. Closing a chapter of your life is difficult, particularly when closing that chapter of your life means your baby girl is growing up and becoming more and more independent each day. I joke with Julia that I am going to strap a cinder block to her head because she is getting so big and tall and self-sufficient. But it's all relative. I remember thinking my big preschool girl was HUGE back in 2007. And look at her now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dear Oliver...

Dear Oliver -

Well, your big day has arrived. You (and we!) have made it your first trip around the sun, and what a wild trip it has been! A little over a year ago, as we brought the baby infrastructure up from the basement (the diaper champ, the crib, etc.) and the waves of realization hit me (we are going to have someone in DIAPERS again? We are going to be woken up at all hours? The early nursing... so hard! Labor and delivery... SO HARD!) I wondered how we were going to do it. I mean, my only frame of reference for having a baby was your sister, and for 3 1/2 years she'd had my undivided attention. When she was a newborn I didn't have to figure out how to take care of her and also parent a three year-old. How was this all going to work? How was I going to take care of a tiny, nursing around the clock, waking at all hours newborn and also be a Mommy to Julia?

I won't lie, there were some preposterous moments - some moments that made me feel like someone had stolen my very organized, in control life and given me this new, out of control, chaotic one in exchange. But somehow as a Mommy, as a FAMILY, we muddled on through and figured out how to expand our home, our life and our hearts as we transitioned from a family of three to a family of four. Looking back now, I can hardly remember what it was like to only have one child, because your arrival has made our family and our lives so much richer and more complete.

It has been amazing to watch you grow and develop from a little baby to a little boy, and I sometimes find myself staring at you in amazement as you sleep, amazed that your tiny body is not so tiny anymore, amazed that your little face looks like a little boy and not my little newborn. When did that happen? Did I blink a little too long? Find myself occupied by other things and forgot to notice when your body grew a little longer and your face grew a little older? I can't believe you are already one year old.

You have developed clear preferences at this point. You love Mama over everyone else. When you get fussy, 9 times out of 10 it is because you want Mama. When Daddy reaches his hands out to take you from me, you either turn and grip onto me like a little monkey, or you smack his hands away. You love your Daddy and Julia too - you squeal when you see them and your face lights up, but you LOVE your Mama. You love to bounce (whether on someone's arm or in your bumper jumper). You love to dance - the second you hear music, you start bouncing up and down on my hip and start squealing. You love your music class as well. And you love love love Chloe, the cat. When you see her, your little eyes sparkle and you beam!

You have favorite toys as well. Your very favorite toy is a set of stacking plastic cups. You love to have them stacked up into a tower so you can smack them down. You love anything you can knock over, anything that makes noise. You love sirens, wheels and balls. As though you innately know you are a boy and you are supposed to love those things.

We have had our ups and downs this year. You still aren't eating very much, after an endoscopy and two swallow assessments, and you are undergoing behavioral feeding therapy at NYU's swallow center. You haven't started to crawl or pull up either and you have also qualified for 7 therapy sessions per week under New York City's Early Intervention program. You will have physical therapy 2x per week, feeding therapy 2x per week, play therapy 2x per week, and occupational therapy 1x per week. You are growing and thriving, but you need a little help moving forward in some areas to become mobile, develop an appetite for solid foods, and explore and learn from your world. Your Daddy and I are going to see to it that you get all the help you need to become the best boy you can be.

Little boy, I am so privileged to be your mother, and am so thankful you chose me. I can't imagine my life and our family without you. You and your sister make me a better person each and every day. I can't wait to see what you have in store for the coming year, and can't wait to watch you continue to grow, thrive, and discover the world around you... I love you, my best boy. Happy First Birthday.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Report

So... Oliver's evaluation report arrived yesterday. While I was bracing myself for it, it was still hard to digest and process. The therapists unanimously evaluated him as 'delayed' on all fronts. He was even graded with letter grades in one section of the report, and received several 'Fs'. While Dave and I have known for a while now that he was behind in several areas (I mean, this is our second go-round as parents, and what parents don't compare the second experience to the first), it was hard to read the report with his name at the top and 'delayed' in every evaluation, gross motor, fine motor, cognition, speech and language and feeding. To read that he could be in danger of failure to thrive if he doesn't start eating soon, as breast milk will no longer meet his needs when he becomes more active. To read he is weak. To read he isn't playing like a one year-old should. To read he doesn't understand simple commands, or mimic back sounds or imitate signs. It's true. All of it is true.

It's also difficult to not assign blame to myself. I am the one that is with him 24 hours a day, I am the one that spends the most time with him, I am the one, I am the one, I am the one. And as much as I would like to figure out a cause, or assign blame, or really determine what we did and didn't do in order to figure out how to 'fix' this, more than likely this is just Oliver, the lot he was cast, and now we move forward from here.

Our big meeting is May 20th, where we go in and discuss his challenges, set goals, and find out what services the state is willing to pay for, and where we develop our plan. And for those people that know me, I am a woman that likes to set goals, make a plan, and move forward. We find out our therapy schedule, and we will know what we are looking at for the next 6 months. Then we go in and review his progress and make a new plan.

Tuesday we head to NYU Hospital's Swallow Center to have a swallow assessment done and to make a plan to start behavioral feeding therapy to get this boy interested in some solid foods beyond just a couple of rice puffs, a few crumbs of bread and miniscule amounts of dried fruit. His birthday party is next weekend, and realistically he won't even eat the dairy free / soy free cupcakes that I plan to make... because he won't be interested.

As his first birthday approaches, I have found myself willing him to meet any major milestone, just to send up a flare that he is okay and making progress - crawl, move to all fours, clap, wave, ANYTHING. As if he could sense my increasing anxiety and panic, he has made some major progress in his gross-motor skills in the last week or so. He has learned to sit up from a prone position (HUGE), has learned how to roll from back to front, not just front to back, and is correcting himself more consistently when he leans too far to one side and loses his balance. Additionally, he seems to be understanding a little more lately. Day before yesterday when I asked him if he wanted to nurse, he grabbed my shirt and started pulling at it. We are moving forward, just not according to any milestone chart. We are moving forward at Oliver's pace.

So that's it. We find out our plan in the next few weeks, a plan of action, a plan of therapy, and we will see what our lives will look like for the next 6 months. And hopefully Oliver's progress will begin to move forward at a more expedited pace and he will come up to curve. We may not know for years what it is that we are dealing with, or even if there is any big picture challenge we are facing. For now, he continues to be our perfect little boy, my little love, and we will work to get him the help he needs to continue to grow, learn and thrive. And remind me when he is crawling all over my apartment and destroying our home that I wished for him to become mobile!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Reclaiming Adult Space

Julia is an artist extraordinaire. She is constantly working on her 'projects' in her play area, cutting and taping, and drawing and glittering, and wrapping... She brings projects home from school every day. She makes projects at home every day. Our small Brooklyn apartment is overrun with art, notes, pictures, and projects. AND, she wants to post these projects all over our home. She gets out her tape and tapes them up in the living room, her playroom, the kitchen, her bedroom, our bedroom, even the bathroom has displayed an occasional piece of her art.

This weekend Dave and I made a small effort to reclaim a little space of our own, moving some display shelves from her play area to the dining area of our living room (yup, no dining room, no living room, this is NYC we are talking about, where real estate is a premium), and putting up an art gallery wall in her play area. She insisted on having it written in German (a nod to our bilingual household) so it says "Cates-Addison Art Gallery" on the wall.

Compromise achieved. Our dining area now looks like a dining area, free of the 30 pieces of paper scotch taped to the wall, and her play area has a designated space for us to oohhh and ahhhh over all of her masterpieces...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Early Intervention...

Yesterday was Oliver's 11 month birthday. And he isn't eating. He will take a couple of crumbs of bagel, a couple of dried blueberries and that's all she wrote. For all intents and purposes, he isn't eating. He is still getting about 99% of his calories from nursing. After the swallow assessment and the endoscopy last month, we were directed to NYC's Early Intervention program to see if he would qualify for behavioral feeding therapy services. In order to qualify, he had to have a delay in at least one other area, so we have had a troupe of therapists parading through our home in the last two weeks. We've been assigned a case worker, and he's been assessed by a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech and language therapist, and a teacher has done a general assessment and parent interview.

So here's where we freak out. Not only has he qualified for the feeding therapy, but it turns out he is delayed on ALL fronts - gross and fine motor skills, receptive and expressive language AND feeding, and he is also being recommended for play therapy. His final assessment took place yesterday - the most important one, the feeding assessment - and now we just hurry up and wait. Our big meeting with the Department of Health and Hygiene (yes, that's what the department is called... how could I make this stuff up?) happens May 20th, but time is of the essence. I go back to work in 4 1/2 months now, and each day that he doesn't eat is another day closer to the day I return to the classroom... and take the food source with me.

All sorts of irrational thoughts are flooding my brain and making me crazy. Have I failed him in some way? What have I done / not done with Oliver that I did / didn't do for Julia? Could I have prevented these delays in some way? What can we do differently now? What is causing these delays? Will he always be delayed, or will he at some point catch up and be on par with his peers? What's the long term prognosis here?

Of course there are the logistical questions too - seriously, FIVE therapists? What is our life going to look like? How will I parent Julia in any kind of an enriching way when our entire life is taken over by Oliver's therapy schedule? And by the same token, is Oliver's entire life going to be therapy? What about tumbling, and music, and swimming and all the fun things Julia got to do when she was a toddler, or just a trip to the playground? What about downtime? While we can't afford for me NOT to go back to work in the fall, how CAN we afford for me to go back to work? Clearly our son needs his Mama to be home?

I look at my boy and know he is a beautiful, happy little boy. I know he is bright and curious because I see the sparkle in his eyes. However, I an consumed by worry... what is going on in his little head and in his little body? And what can I do? Once again, I remind myself to breeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaattttttthhhhhheeeeeee, and take this one step at a time. But then the crazy seeps back in, the panic starts to rise in my chest, and I leap ahead 53 steps...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Eve of 38

So, it's the eve of my 38th birthday... hard to believe. There are so many moments where that Talking Heads song runs through my head - you know the one... Once in a lifetime... truly... how DID I get here? How am I 38 years-old racing towards 40? Where did those crow's feet around my eyes come from? How have I been married almost 12 years? How do I have a child who is entering kindergarten in the fall? How is my baby almost a year old? How am I responsible for two other people?

I feel I spend so much time watching the clock, watching the calendar, making plans, looking towards the future. I can't wait for nap time so I can have a moment of down time. I can't wait until 7 PM until the relief shift comes home. GOD LET THIS HORRIBLE NIGHT OF TORTURED SLEEP BE OVER. I can't wait until the cold weather is over. Can't wait until summer. Can't wait until the beach. Can't wait until the heat is over. Can't wait until Christmas. Can't wait until my glass of wine after the kids go to bed. Can't wait to go for a run later... Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait...

I forget I am living in the present, that the little moments here and now are my LIFE. They are guaranteed, not the ones 6 months from now, or even 6 minutes from now. It's so hard to appreciate the little moments, to live in the moment, to enjoy the NOW, when you are constantly looking forward, looking forward, looking forward, and essentially wishing your life away.

The end of my maternity leave is in sight... As I look at my huge girl, my almost real-deal school girl, and my little boy who is very quickly losing his baby look and racing toward 'little boy,' I just want to slow down this crazy ride. I know I only have a few more months at home with my littles, and I want to appreciate those crazy moments, good, bad, and ugly. And try to remember to live for the NOW, not the THEN. Easier said than done, but no time like this beautiful 80 degree springtime day to give it a go.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going Under... and resurfacing...

Phew. The week is over. Well, at least it's over for all intents and purposes. Too many procedures, too many appointments, too much stress. Tomorrow, we breathe.

Our day started at 4:45 this morning. That was the time we set the alarm to go off, because Oliver couldn't nurse beyond 5:00 AM. You see, today was his dreaded endoscopy. We got to New York Presbyterian around 8:00 AM for paperwork and consultations with the anesthesiologist and the gastroenterologist. Oliver was given super cute scrubs to wear. We tried to keep him happy. And we started to panic. With each passing minute, I just wanted to get it over with. We hadn't anticipated that he would have to be on a respirator during the procedure. The idea of my little boy being put under anesthesia was enough for me to digest, but the fact that his body couldn't breathe on its own while he was under? Terrifying.

9 AM, they were ready. Was I ready? I felt like we were marching to the gallows as we walked back to the procedure room. They put monitor sticky pads on his back and chest. They put an oxygen monitor on his toe. They asked me to lay my baby boy down on an inflated, heated pad on the bed. They put a mask on his face and he started to cry. And then he stopped and became eerily calm. And then his eyes grew blurry and rolled back. And they told me to kiss him and leave the room. And I cried.

And we waited. 30 minutes. 35 minutes. They came to get us to bring us back to the recovery room. And we waited. Then I heard his cries. The anesthesiologist carried him to me and placed him in my arms. He flailed and cried, all the while his eyes were closed. They brought a warm blanket and wrapped it around his little body, and he fell into a deep, calm sleep in my arms.

So, nothing really to report. We survived it, he survived it. The waking up process was pretty grueling, with more tears, vomit, and some blood, but the good news is there are no major obstructions in his digestive tract. We should get the pathology report in another week. So no real answers as to why my otherwise healthy 25 pound 10 month old won't eat, but also no real bad news... so do we call it a draw?

Tonight, he splashed around in his bath, happy as a clam. The bruises on his foot from his IV and the red square marks on his chest and back from the monitors stuck to his tender skin were the only reminders of our morning. But PHEW. It's over.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How do people do it all?

How do people do it all? I know there are people who manage to look put together, have children who are clean and eat organic, home-cooked meals every day, keep on top of laundry, errands, cleaning, take the time to exercise and do things for themselves and also spend quality, engaging time with their children. HOW?

My uniform every day is jeans and a sweater. If I apply make-up, it's because I have a funeral to attend. Moreoften than not, I have some errant body fluid on me - spit up, poop, drool... Lookin' good Mama. I spend little time without one or two children hanging off me and demanding things from me. Time for me? What's that?

At home, I feel like I spend the majority of my life moving things. Moving things from one point in my apartment to another - much of this migration is caused by my four year-old, who brings things out of her play area or bedroom and then leaves them elsewhere, but there is also the clutter of things that are dropped somewhere in the moment when we arrive home and there is a bathroom emergency or a nursing emergency, etc... and then they stay there.

Since Oliver was born 10 months ago, our laundry has EXPLODED. There is ALWAYS something in the washer and dryer, and I would venture that we probably do about 10+ loads of laundry a week. That's 10+ loads of washing, drying, folding, sorting, and putting away.

Because of Oliver's food sensitivities, we have to go to two different grocery stores each week - Trader Joe's and then an organic health food store that carries milk free / soy free alternatives to a lot of products so I can actually eat more than twigs and berries. I have to bake my own bread each week, because almost EVERY major brand of bread on the market has soy flour or soybean oil or soy lecithin in it.

And then there is the shuttling - pick ups, drop offs, etc. School, German School, ballet, tumbling, playdates, etc. etc. etc. It feels like we always should have left for somewhere about 5 minutes ago.

This morning as I was walking to Julia's room with a huge basket of laundry to put away, I noticed the clutter in other parts of the apartment, the tumbleweeds rolling underneath the bookshelf, the layer of dust on the television cabinet. Don't get me wrong - I am not sitting around eating bon bons and watching TV all day, but HOW do people get it all done without support staff? Or do we just resign ourselves to the fact that this time, this time when my children are small is a very intense time and that SOME day I will go back to being able to accomplish it all? Do I lower the bar and my expectations, or is it actually within reach and I am just doing a poor job of time management?

Well, off to punch down the bread dough and scarf down some lunch in the time I have while Oliver is napping. And yes, there is a basket of laundry calling my name... sigh.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now... or later...

I know she is asleep in there. There is precious little noise coming from Julia's bedroom, and it is her 'rest' period. And to tell you the truth, I am ambivalent about that fact. On the one hand... Ahhhhhhhhhhh... a momentary break, I can exhale, and drink a cup of desperately needed coffee - normally I am not an afternoon coffee drinker, but it's been a hectic crazy day. I started the day at a funeral for a colleague, and came home to find out Oliver had only napped 30 minutes for his morning nap... suffice it to say that ain't enough.

Friday right after school, Julia has a yoga class taught by one of her teachers who is also yoga certified. That means I pick up, take her to yoga, figure out what to do with the boy for an hour smack during his nap when he is exhausted, go pick her up, and everyone gets home at 2, WAY later than usual. Because of the funeral this morning and worried I wouldn't make it to pick up, I asked a friend if she could grab Julia if she didn't see me in the lobby at dismissal and I would catch up with them. I prepared Julia that this could be a possibility. Well, I got there a moment after my friend did, and Julia PITCHED A FIT. A HUGE one in the lobby, which then continued up on the sidewalk where she ran away from me screaming I could walk by myself and she wanted to walk with my friend. She almost got a 1 1/4 mile schlep home for that Oscar-worthy performance.

While Julia was in yoga, my little man decided he wasn't going to nap in the stroller, wasn't going to nap in the carrier, and fought sleep until we were almost home, and THEN, after a 30 minute nap this morning, took a 17 minute afternoon nap. A SEVENTEEN MINUTE NAP. AND THEN, it took me another hour to get him back to sleep in his crib, FINALLY at 3:15.

As a side note, ironically, my teaching contract for the fall arrived in the mail today. After the day I have had, I might just drag the two kids into Manhattan and personally hand my contract to the principal TODAY.

Sooooooooooooo... I know she is asleep in there. But I am going to enjoy this cup of coffee, and know I will pay for this later at bedtime - but for now, a moment of peace.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


It's predictable. By February every year, I start to question why we ever left the sunny south. Pummeled by one snow storm after another, exposed to the elements, walking (as Julia's former sitter puts it) the 'Bhutan Death March' - AKA 1 1/4 miles - to pick her up from school three times a week in sub freezing temperatures and being housebound with two young children is enough to make you crazy.

However, sitting on the lawn with friends overlooking the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges today and basking in the 70 degree spring sunshine, I fell in love with Brooklyn all over again. It's a relationship that waxes and wanes with the seasons, but my love always returns with the spring sunshine. And, it appears spring is returning to the Big Apple.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Taking Nothing For Granted

Oliver is a terrible sleeper. We were sure we would get a champ of a sleeper this go-round because we put in more than two years in the trenches with his sister. He duped us at the beginning. As a newborn he consistently woke up twice a night, around 1 AM and 4 AM every night. We thought we had hit the jackpot in the sleep department. Julia was waking 5, 6, 7 times a night as a newborn. The only place she would sleep any substantial amount of time was on her Daddy's chest. We were spent, and felt like we had been hit by a mack truck.

As Oliver has gotten older, his sleep has gotten worse and worse and worse and worse... ultimately as a survival tactic, he ends up in bed with us every night... just because it is easier to just nurse him lying down than it is to get out of bed and sit in the glider 5 times a night. And if we were cry-it-out kind of people (which I don't think I have the heart to do... thus the 2+ years in the trenches with his sister) we couldn't really do it anyhow because he is still in our bedroom, YAY tiny New York City apartments. Last night he went to bed at 7:45, woke at 9:15, again at 10:45, again at 12:30 and at that time decided it would be a good idea to hang out with Mommy and Daddy. For two hours and 15 minutes. In fact, I just got off the phone with Eddie, from Wall-2-Wall, a company that installs temporary tension walls to cordon off a room into two separate spaces. Will it help? Who knows, but it helps me to think we might have a plan.

Now I have perspective. I know that at some point he will go to bed and SLEEP. Despite her AWFUL sleep beginnings, Julia now goes down around 7:30 and SLEEPS until about 7 in the morning. I also have a different perspective as I head down the path of x-rays and endoscopies. Is his poor sleep caused by some sort of a physical challenge? Is he waking because he is truly hungry and needs to nurse? I know it must take a terrific amount of calories to sustain his 25 pound body weight on a liquid diet. And he is just nursing. Period. So as a result, I am loathe to night wean a 25-pound exclusively nursing baby, even though we are heading to about the time I forced the issue with his sister.

But taking these two things into account, somehow I muddle through and somehow I find myself far more compassionate and far less frustrated at 2 in the morning when he has been in our bed, in his bed, rocked in the glider and back in our bed over the course of 1 1/2 hours and still is WIDE AWAKE. And I dig deeper. And I find patience. And I get out of bed and rock with him once again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's all okay... until it isn't...

Funny how you coast through life, making your grand plans and dreaming your big dreams. It's easy to do that when all the pieces are in place... when the bills are being paid, when the family is happy, and when everyone is HEALTHY.

About 3 months ago, Oliver started exhibiting the same food sensitivity symptoms as his sister did when she was 6 months old (read: blood in his diaper). We started down the road of pediatric gastroenterology, Mama had to give up all dairy and soy, and we thought that was the end of it. Here we are at 9 1/2 months, and I spent the morning at Cornell Medical Center with Oliver doing a swallow assessment, following up with the pediatric GI, and subjecting my little man to a barium esophageal x-ray. What a sad sight that was - Oliver screaming at the top of his lungs, chalky white liquid staining his face as they tried to pump it into his mouth with a syringe, and tears staining his little cheeks. The esophageal x-ray was to rule out any obstructions to doing a (GASP) endoscopy on my little guy to see if there are any obstructions impeding his solid food intake. I am getting anxious just writing the word and thinking about it.

Words were thrown around this morning - ones that I hadn't anticipated hearing... therapy... services... early intervention... I feel like I am just at the tip of the iceberg here, and starting a looooooooooooong road ahead.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sibling Sweetness

I will not say the first 4-6 months of having Oliver around we easy in terms of Julia's behavior. We had some SERIOUS testing and some HORRIBLE tantrums. One in particular that comes to mind happened about a week after Oliver was born. Dave was still home on paternity leave and we had to go to a local baby/kids' store to get a couple of new covers for the changing table, because poor Oliver hosed himself and the changing table down every time a little air hit his package during a diaper change.

We were in the store and Julia saw some sparkly red shoes she wanted. I told her she didn't need shoes at that moment in time, especially not $50 sparkly red shoes. She stood her ground, refusing to leave the store. Finally, Dave had to pick her and take her outside. He gave her the benefit of the doubt. It was late afternoon. Was she hungry? Did we need to stop for a bagel or something on the way home? Julia glowered at him and ran back into the store. What followed was a 15 block walk home where Dave carried a flailing and screaming child, all the while she was smacking him in the face. Good times.

However, this post is not about the hellacious time we had at the beginning. The one thing that has been true since day one is how much Julia ADORES her baby brother. Yesterday we were walking to German school, a language immersion program Julia does every Thursday afternoon to help support our decision to raise her bilingually. We were talking about a friend who is pregnant with her second baby. This friend was part of a moms' group I met when Julia was a baby. We were six women who all sought out a formal support group because we were having a difficult time with one baby / parenting issue or another. Ironically, we all had little girls. Three of us have gone on to have second children, ironically all boys. This fourth mom is pregnant with her second, a girl. Julia was remarking how funny it is that all of her other little friends from that group have little brothers and how Thalia is going to have a little sister.

I reminded Julia of something she said about 2 weeks before Oliver was born. We didn't know what we were going to have, a boy or a girl. Julia said to me, "Mama, if this baby is a boy I am going to be SO FRUSTRATED." Julia looked at me and was quiet for about a block. Then she turned to me and said, "Mama, you know what? Oliver is EXACTLY the baby I wished for."

I about cried. What an incredibly sweet sentiment from his big sister. He is one lucky little boy, to have a sister who loves him so completely. I know there will be bumps in the road, but her love and adoration for him have been present since the day he was born. He's in good hands.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Princess and Rock Star

Gender roles are alive and well among the preschool set. Just listen to any four year-old, and s/he will tell you the interests of children are already clearly divided. Boys like superheroes and Star Wars. Girls like princesses, fairies and dolls. The lines have already been drawn, and few children cross back and forth across the gender barrier.

Well, Julia has figured out a creative way to navigate the already rigid gender expectations of the four year-old preschool world: create two separate personas. Julia has two fashions / personalities if you will - princess and rock star. She has explained it to me, as best a four year-old can.

Princess: hair has barrettes, ponytails or a head band
Clothing is dress or skirt, tights or leggings
Mary janes are princess shoes
Princess colors include pink, purple, white
Princesses also move very gracefully and calmly

Rock Star: Jeans are a must
Wild hair - i.e., nothing in the hair "Because rock stars have wild hair"
t-shirt, or long sleeved shirt with a t-shirt over it
Rock star colors include black (if the shirt has a guitar on it, it is AWESOME), blue, red, and green
Vans sneakers are required to complete the rock star look
Rock stars are wild, often using the furniture as a playground

I think this is a pretty creative solution to the increasingly inflexible gender expectations. While Julia moves back and forth between the boys and the girls, she doesn't always talk the talk, so to speak. One day she came home from school emphatically saying she LOVED superheroes. When I asked her who her favorite superhero was, she hesitated and said, "Ummm... Star Wars?" Clearly we need to brush up on some superhero terminology.

I think it is great to have kids who can move back and forth from group to group, particularly kids who can debunk gender stereotypes as they start to form in the minds of young kids. Julia was the only girl in her soccer class for the better part of a year, and she kept up with little boys, some of whom were far more aggressive than she. Her ballet class had one little boy in it for about 6 months. When they had their last recital in June, the teacher said she would see some of them in the summer and some in the fall. Sadly, the little boy raised his hand and said, "Ummmmm... I'm doing soccer." It's hard to be a pioneer. However, when you have a little girl in your soccer class or a little boy in your ballet class, it's much more difficult for kids to say, "Girls don't play soccer," or "Boys don't do ballet."

Yeah, Julia's a bit of a ground-breaker at school. She even came home the other day and said she had played "Superhero Princess" with a little boy on the playground. Now that's a compromise.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sending her to the couch...

One of the things I have been struck with since becoming a mother almost 4 1/2 years ago, is how complex parental emotions can be. You love love love love love your newborn baby, but feel saddened by your own personal loss of identity. Before baby I was a wife, a runner, a teacher, a graduate student, a traveler of the world... all of that was superseded by MOMMY. You desperately want some time to yourself, but then feel guilty, indulgent and selfish when you actually find yourself alone. You love the fact that your 9 month-old son prefers you over every other person on the planet, but also feel smothered and suffocated by his whining for you when he is in his father's arms.

This past week Julia had an AWFUL week. She lost her television and computer privileges for the entire week (read: no break for Mama all week) due to poor choices and bad behavior. The real crescendo of the week happened at the YMCA when we went to have Julia observed so an instructor could identify an appropriate swim class level for her. After her observation, I told her we could swim for a bit in the family recreation lane: That is, until Oliver got fussy. That seems to be the qualifier for everything these days. Sure we can do ANYTHING you want... until your brother gets fussy.

Well, as expected, he got fussy about 20 minutes after we got into the pool. I compromised with Julia. No, we don't have to leave right now. I will sit on the edge of the pool with Oliver and you can continue to paddle around RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME, if you choose not to wear a floatation device. She was content to do that for a bit, and then she started playing with a couple of kids her age who were swimming nearby. They were clearly stronger swimmers than she was, as they were diving underwater and swimming underwater. Well, the next thing I knew, Julia had TAKEN OFF for the other end of the pool racing the little boy, doggy-paddling as fast as her little arms would go.

I was TICKED. And SCARED. And damn was I PROUD. I walked the length of the pool demanding that Julia come to the side RIGHT NOW. She defiantly kept her eyes on me as she continued paddling furiously to the other end of the pool. I watched as her pace slowed and started to get really fearful. What if she goes under water? I am walking the periphery with a 9 month-old on my hip! Do I leap in the water with him? Do I signal the lifeguard? Do I lay him down on the side of the pool and jump in after her? And of course as she was swimming the FULL LENGTH of that Olympic pool, I was overwhelmed with pride. Here was a little girl who just learned to swim about a month ago, and she was frantically swimming the full length of that pool, racing a much stronger swimmer than herself... and keeping pace.

At the far end of the pool, she finally touched the wall and I snatched her out of the pool by one arm before she even know what was happening. That was the end of her swim for the day, and any parent of a strong-willed four year old knows what happened next. Tantrum in the locker room, naked child refusing to get dressed, stepping back and forth over her baby brother who was lying on the floor and almost squashing him, well intentioned strangers offering to help by putting our wet towels in the laundry, Julia ripping clothing off her body as it was put on her... and sadly, the loss of swimming lessons. I told her if she couldn't make safe decisions in the pool and be independent in the locker room, she couldn't do swimming lessons and I couldn't bring her to the pool by myself with Oliver.

We got home and after a glass of pinot grigio, my rage had diminished to a dull roar. I was no longer ready to spit nails at my daughter, and ready to talk to her about what had happened at the pool. I decided to explain my complex emotions to her, and let her in on a little secret: adult emotions are not cut and dried, they are multi-layered and often contradictory. I told her she had made me so ANGRY at the pool by not following my clear instructions and then choosing not to listen when I told her to come to the edge. She had made me very SCARED when I watched her tire and I was afraid she was going to go under water. And she had made me so very PROUD that her swimming had improved so much that she could swim the whole length of the pool. But most of all I was scared. That water was dangerous and if you go underwater because you are too tired to keep your body above water, you can even die.

Julia looked at me, and responded in a way only a four year-old can. "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you Mommy. I didn't know it was a dangerous choice. You didn't tell me that." Great. So what Julia took away from this whole experience is not

1) I should listen to Mama.
2) Mama makes choices that keep me safe
3) Mama was proud of me because my swimming has gotten so much better.

No. Our lesson of the day is water is dangerous and it can kill you. This is CLEARLY going to be brought up on a psychiatrist's couch in about 20 years...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The ultimate act of love...

Oliver is sick... again. Poor bug, poor, poor, second child. He is getting everything his petri dish sister brings home from preschool, but as a baby it just manifests itself in so much more pitiful a package. Julia has been congested and sniffly for about 2 weeks now. However, when Oliver gets congested, it causes him to cough until he pukes. Particularly charming when he does it in the middle of the night... twice.

Last night the boy was up about once an hour, and just crying and flailing around in bed, unable to settle, just downright uncomfortable. He needed us to rock him back to sleep each time he woke. In the quiet of the middle of the night, through my exhaustion, I was also filled with wonder at what a beautiful, innocent sight it is to watch a baby slowly fall asleep, eyelids gradually getting heavy, blinks getting longer, face becoming calm, limbs becoming limp. I was also struck by what an amazing act of vulnerability, love and trust it is to fall asleep in someone else's arms.

As I held my little boy and was consumed by love and concern for him, it made me think about all of the unwanted children born in the world. Every child deserves to be welcomed and celebrated, and how lucky are my children that they are loved and cared for, their parents are concerned and consumed by providing for their well-being. Perhaps if every small person were welcomed into his or her family like my children were when they were born, maybe the world would be a slightly better place. At a minimum, every child deserves to be loved, and someone who is willing to rock them back to sleep in the wee hours of the night. Someone they love and trust enough to fall asleep in their arms.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Save the drama for your Mama

AH, four year-olds. And DOUBLE AH, four year-olds with a spunky, obstinate streak. Julia's moods can fluctuate so wildly, in an adult I think she might be diagnosed as bipolar. Yesterday we had a lovely day much of the day. In fact, I was told, "Mama, you are the best Mama in the world and I am never going to send you away." That's quite a compliment coming from a four year-old... though this begs the question, was there ever a doubt in her mind that I was going to stick around?

However, by day's end, demon child emerged. The demon child decided she didn't want to eat her salmon for dinner (she LOVES salmon), and when her Daddy asked her to take a bite, she turned to him and in a very surly voice shouted, "N, O, NO!" and dinnertime turned into time out, tantrum, throw body weight against the door, take away television privileges for two more days on top of the four days lost previously in the week, lose the CD player in your room, no stories or books before bedtime time. GOOD times.

The thing I don't get is this: Dave and I have been VERY consistent in doling out the consequences. When I say something is going to happen, you can be pretty damned sure it is going to happen. If I say we will leave the playground if X happens again, we are leaving the playground kicking, screaming, biting, and dragging a melting down child 20 blocks. So I don't understand - the testing? WHY would you test me when I say, "Julia, throw your weight against that door one more time and you will lose your show for another day" or "you won't get books this evening" WHY WHY WHY do it again? It never ends well, it's never reinforced, so SERIOUSLY, why drive your parents crazy and lose privileges???

Dave says we should honor who she is - that is is spunky, strong-willed, opinionated, and fiercely independent - all things that will translate well into adulthood. It's not that I don't honor her and love her for who she is - she's tremendously entertaining and loving and sweet. However, all of those head-strong qualities make for a VERY challenging four year-old... and cause Mommy to drink more than her fair share of pinot grigio.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The ups and downs of technology

Can we talk about technology for a minute? Our kids are INUNDATED by technology on a daily basis - Julia knows about stuff that didn't even exist when I was a child, and her experience with the world and with media is so different than mine was. Julia has no idea what commercials are but she doesn't like them. She calls them 'channels' and has only watched them twice in her life despite watching a 30 minute TV show every day, once during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and once during the Superbowl. All the television she watches is prerecorded on our DVR. We just set it to record 'Dinosaur Train' or 'Superwhy', and it automatically records all the episodes as they come on.

While those are public television shows and PBS doesn't air commercials, prior to the Superbowl I think it had been the better part of a year since I had watched commercials. We just fast-forward through them. In fact, even if we aren't busy, we wait for our shows to start and get going so we can fast forward through the commercials. The additional nice thing about having a DVR is there are no power struggles with the TV. When the show is over, a blue screen comes on and asks if you want to save or delete the show. DONE. Julia even turns the TV off herself, no questions asked. That certainly wouldn't be the case if there were an ad for the next show coming up.

Talk about instant gratification - she has known since she was younger than two that the world is at her fingertips... she just has to google it - a term she also knows about. In fact, at this point when she wants us to help her find something on the computer, she actually dictates the search she wants us to plug into the search engine when we go to google. I remember when she was about 18 months, she wanted to see a gorilla film. About 30 seconds later, we were on youtube, and she was watching a film about gorillas in the Rwandan jungle, complete with accompanying music.

About 3 weeks ago, I opened Pandora's box and introduced her to In three weeks, the child has learned to navigate the computer, move around a website, double click, drag and drop, open programs and find files. My parents can barely open their email, and my four year-old daughter can open photo booth and take a picture of herself.

Julia has her own email address (inspired by her friend in LA who has HER own email address and sent Julia an email. You never know when is going to be taken! Have to make sure to preserve it for her! - and FYI, I know that is crazy.) J has an old cell phone of ours and knows how to take pictures. She has her own kids' digital camera and can use all the functions of it. It's amazing to watch her navigate this technological world without a moment's anxiety - she views it as a source of entertainment rather than something to fear.

I do wonder how this technology is going to impact this generation of kids - the generation of instant gratification kids who can access the world and view whatever it is they have a hunkering to see (Mary Poppins, gorillas, parrots, etc.) RIGHT NOW. What will research be like when they get older? Will they appreciate the process rather than just the end product? Only time will tell. For now, however, after last night's massive temper tantrum when it was time to get off the computer, I have to figure out how to put my computer on a timer as well...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ah... the Reprieve of the Dentist's Chair

Well, the omens said it was going to be a DAY when we woke up this morning and our snowman had been peed upon by our landlord's dog. Julia and I locked horns for the first time before 8 AM. Julia is in that lovely four year-old zone where she wants to do everything BY HERSELF but isn't capable of doing everything BY HERSELF. The child has a repertoire of about 15 words she can write independently, yet she wanted to be totally autonomous in writing a message in her teachers' valentine, and 'I DON'T NEED YOU TO WRITE LINES MOMMY'. I am sorry, but I just don't think her teachers will understand what 'ST' means at the top of the valentine and 'YES YOU DO NEED LINES'.

So at 10:15, I found myself in the dentist's chair, ah, sweet escape. The irony is that 4+ years ago, I DREADED the dentist. I found it uncomfortable, painful, and downright horrid. Two natural, drug-free childbirths later, and pain is all relative. Yes, it is somewhat uncomfortable, and sure it isn't particularly charming to rinse and find yourself spitting out blood from your maimed gumline.

However, as I watched the calming fish screen saver on the computer in front of the dentist's chair, in that moment no one needed ANYTHING from me. The only thing anyone needed from me is for me to open up, rinse and spit. Compared to the day to day life of two children under the age of five without a babysitter on payroll (that's right, it's the Mommy show 24/7), open up, rinse and spit seems like a 'Calgon-take-me-away' moment. Kind of sad, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, Snow, and More Snow

Well, it appears we are going to get that blizzard they predicted after all. I probably angered Mother Nature this morning when I casually mentioned I wasn't 'impressed' by the blizzard thus far. What a difference three hours makes! White out conditions, the snow is piling up outside.

I had half a thought to go to Prospect Park to go sledding with the kids. However, I realize there is a distinct disconnect between the image in my mind of how that would go (think Norman Rockwell painting, apple cheeked, happy children playing in the snow followed by steaming mugs of hot cocoa) and the reality of what would actually happen if we were to trek out there in the snow.

HERE'S what would really transpire: 30 minutes by foot and subway to get there, followed by someone crying on the way (could be Oliver, could be Julia, could be Mama, it's a crapshoot and anyone's guess). More than likely the blowing snow would send Oliver and Julia into hysterics, as the 15 minute foray we made into the outside world this morning felt like thousands of tiny needles stinging cheeks and eyes. We might sled down the hill once, MAYBE twice if we were lucky. And THEN I would have a 30 minute trek home with two soaking wet kids. Snow days were a lot more fun when I was a student, or even when I was a teacher. Now it just feels like a lot more work... and we are stuck inside for the day. Sigh.

Maybe when Oliver goes down for his last little rest this afternoon, Julia and I will go out into our .0000000001 acre 'garden', push together some snow in the form of a snowman and call it a day.