Monday, July 15, 2019

Fortune Teller. Chapter 2.

You know how my left foot is covered with a giant tattoo of the ocean, all done in black and grey, and then there's that pink floating lotus flower on my outer ankle and a snow flake on my inner ankle??? Of course when I got it, it had plenty of meaning, but I never knew I was getting a tattoo of the future.

I had absolutely no clue my snow flake was the tip of an iceberg. I had not an inkling my dark waves were going to be the waves of constant struggles and emotions my future son would endure. I had no idea what my lotus flower was going to withstand, holding it's form and color no matter what. 

If everyone knew the future and what their personal journey of parenthood embodied for them, they might never take the plunge. ALL I can remember worrying about in reference to parenthood was losing precious sleep. That's it. I never considered a single other struggle that could come my way. It makes me chuckle just to think about that.

I am brave. I am strong. I am a mama bear. 

Dillon has a really good grasp on language now (yay). It's been a year since the last time I counted how many words were in his sentence, or sighed because the only brief sentences he muttered were scripted or a repeat of what I had just said. He still scripts some and repeats himself a lot, but he also has plenty of original thought language, great functional language, can process and express his emotional state with language, and even cracks a joke every now and then.

Patrick and I laughed so hard at the beach when I was stretching on the sand, and Dillon came up to me, squirting me in the head with his water gun while giggling and saying, "Oh! Sorry about your hat, Mommy!!" It was such a totally normal 5 year old boy thing to do, I couldn't even be mad. 

He doesn't always want to, though; it takes so much more effort for him to think in words. Often he just wants to completely zone out and watch his favorite show, Oscar's Oasis (that has zero's kinda like a modern day Roadrunner and Coyote). He can reenact every scene down to the tiniest detail from any show he watches (as he does all the time), and do a puzzle in record speed (especially those really hard slide puzzles), but it takes bribery to get a detail out of him about his day, and the detail is usually such a strange or small piece of information that I don't know what do with it.

As a word oriented person in a word oriented world, this is difficult for me. 

It's not countable the amount of times I've heard, "I'm frustrated" and "I can't do it" lately. It breaks my heart to hear him say this so many times a day. How terrible is it to have so many negative emotions all day long? I know his brain is working overtime, that all these "typical" moments take extra effort, and he gets tired, but what is he going to remember about these days?

As an internal optimist and someone who always has the feeling of "I can totally do that", I don't understand. 

He worries. Oh, he worries and frets. His latest worry is about his teeth. He saw Llama Llama lose a tooth on t.v. and now he's been holding onto his teeth for the last 3 weeks, to make sure they aren't falling out.....not in a funny way. Even when he's having fun, he may stop for a few seconds to hold onto his teeth and go deep in thought about it.

I've never been a worrier. I don't worry about much. But now this kid has me mulling over things all the time.

Every single month I ask myself, "Am I doing the right things? Am I doing everything I can to help my children grow up to be happy, thriving adults? Are they happy today? What school should Dillon go to? Do I further complicate our lives for quiet childcare that he loves or send him to a place everyone else goes to that he might hate? Do I keep him in all his therapies? Am I scaring him for life with this whole feeding therapy thing? Should I change the times of everything so he doesn't miss any school? How the heck am I going to get him everywhere? Am I being selfish or unfair for not wanting to send Mabel to school yet, even though I had already sent Dillon somewhere at her same age?"

The hard days hit really hard, crashing on everyone. No one goes emotionally untouched by them. And then the good moments come and they're joyful- even the most mundane of things- and I think, "Ah ha. Is this what it's like to be normal??" We get to feel almost normal so much more than we used to, and I'm utterly grateful for each savory minute. But that doesn't stop me from wanting more. Wanting more is what's gotten us this far.

I hope I saw the future when I got my latest tattoo. You know, that one with the vibrant geometric Mama bear and her happy buzzing busy bees working hard to pollinate and do their part in the world? Ya. That one. Like Dillon says with great confidence and excitement in reference to a chocolate glazed donut behind the glass counter, "I want THAT one, please!!!!"

Monday, June 4, 2018

Miss Mabel 18 Months: A Toddler at her Finest

Our Mabel is 18 months old and I could not have imagined a more beautiful little soul such as hers. Insert her "I'm trying to cooperate, but this is extremely boring, Mom" face.
She loves to tease. She thinks it's hilarious to lean in and pucker her lips for a kiss (making the "mmmmmmm" sound), and then when she's lured you about an inch from her mouth, she'll abort mission, shake her head "no", and laugh hysterically. She knows when I call her "Miss Mabel" that things are cool and casual, and when I call her "Mabel Jane" she is being ornery or rebellious. One of her favorite things to do is break free in her birthday suit and raid the house, squealing in delight as I run after her and yell, "Mabel Jane, you get back here!! I'm going to get you!" To which she runs faster and squeals louder. And diaper changes?? Forget it. She flips so fast on the changing table that most of the time I'm trying to put them on her standing up and on the go. 
She is the mediator. If Patrick is tickling me too much, all I have to do is call out her name and she immediately turns on the extremely dramatic waterworks to cut deep into her Daddy's empathy card, which gets him to stop. If Dillon and I are having a standoff because he refuses to pick something up off the floor, she runs to his rescue and picks it up. 
She may be a total girly girl and insist on a "bow" and "necklay" every single day and cry when she has to take her necklace off for sleep, but she doesn't take crap from anyone. This girl. This girl is the sweetest, but if she needs to stand up for herself, there's no hesitation. She knows when she's getting duped (as little sisters often do) and will fight back, but thankfully she is also quick to forgive. 
Her level of understanding is almost always surpassing my expectations. She laughs when we laugh and sometimes I wonder if she really knows why were are laughing. A couple of months ago I was standing in the bathroom braiding my hair. Mabel thought this was the ideal time for me to hold her, and when I didn't grant her wishes right away, she starting whining and pulling on my pajama pants. She eventually pulled so hard, they dropped to the floor and I was left naked from the waist down. Her interest then changed to what was directly in front of her and she just stood there, staring inquisitively. I looked down at her and said, "Yes. That is Mommy's vagina. You have a vagina too." After thinking about that for about 20 seconds, she looked down at herself, pulled her shirt up and sucked her belly in, trying diligently to locate her own lady parts. I never thought when I said that to her, she would actually comprehend what I was saying! My Nana has been calling her "wise" since she was only a few months old, and I think she hit the nail on the head.
Uncle Dusty thinks she speaks Chinese, but I try to tell him if he would listen really close, she is talking in sentences. Her vocabulary is outstanding (also evidenced by her receptive language skills), but we struggle on the daily with the words "Daddy vs. Dolly vs. Callie vs. Doggie" and "Mommy vs. Mine"......because those all kinda sound the same. At her 18 month checkup, when we were in the room alone, I burped. She looked up at me with this giant smile on her face and said, "Excuse me". Although her ability to repeat anything may be dangerous for a few reasons (like when Patrick or I slip up and say stuff we shouldn't around the kids), it's so releiving to have hope that we wont have to relive the struggles of delayed language. Having an older child with delayed language and a younger child with normal to advanced language is quite the interesting experience. We literally just finished the "no" stage with Dillon, and before we could catch our breath are going through it with Mabel. Mabel, being the character that she is, is switching things up, of course, and adding (and let's be clear, she doesn't use it lightly), "No. Stop it." Insert: Mind blown. Flabbergasted. What did you just say to me? Let's take the sass down a few notches before Mommy starts implementing grounding early. 
I'm sure anyone would have guessed after reading this much about her: she loves to practice independence. Maybe it's because I decorated her room with so many birds. Maybe it's because she knows I need her to be. Maybe it's because she's her Mama's daughter. She will walk anywhere by herself; I have to ask her to hold my hand. She is self content when we go to new and unusual places. She's adaptable and charming and daring and doesn't want me to help her too much.
She enjoys long talks with her best friend Dolly, who doesn't go anywhere without her tiny purple blanket known as Lovey. They both spend hours in Mabel's shopping cart, being pushed around the house, and help line up all the other baby's to feed and manage diaper changes.
And lastly, she loves her Daddy dearly, but I'm still her favorite (just how I like it). But even though I'm her favorite and she gives me kisses all day long, she refused to give me a single kiss during this photoshoot.....because she knew I REALLY wanted her to and apparently that's what my kids do when I really want them to do something.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Confusing Times, Indeed

Kudos to you parents who remember the really hard stuff about your their birthdays down to the exact day and year they were born along with their birthing stats, or what antibiotic they took last and when and for how long. I just remember all the good stuff like how they very first thing I noticed about Dillon when they handed him to me is he had invisible eyebrows/eyelashes, and how Mabel was the exact opposite (but they were both perfect in every way), and their favorite foods or (hopefully) to bring water when we go out to the park. Every single time I sit down to fill out another dang patient portal to get Dillon in with a specialist or for therapy, I'm racking my brain all over again about the fine details in his life that everyone wants to know. "Is she really his mother?" they probably think. "If so, why can't she remember all these things about her kid?" I think I'm just going to create a resume for him and then tattoo it to his back, like that girl in the movie Waterworld.
When I'm not arguing with our insurance company or making one hundred other phone calls to try and utilize as many recourses for Dillon as possible, I'm making sure to hardwire the most important memories into my brain; the memories of my kids being kids. 
Toddlers and preschoolers. They are their own species; a fun and very confusing set of alien-mammals.......maybe even more confusing than men find women to be. I mean, I think everyone is familiar with the whole saying "no" when they mean "yes" thing.........But sometimes they’ll do anything just to spite you, like scream for "Marshall" pull-ups when you try to put on the "Chase" pull-up, and when you grab the "Chase" pull-up scream for the "Marshall" pull-up.........or add a "no" to your "no" to make a "no no", and when you repeat it, adding another negative to make a "triple no". This of course, always means "yes"....or "maybe".....or "no".....or "I'm too tired to know what I want", and as their parents, you're just somehow suppose to know the answer while remaining a stoic rock solid voice of reason.......even though the inside you is slowly curling up into fetal position.
 And then there are the sweet times with a twist of grossness, like when you’re outside scooping up all the dog poop with the popper scooper so your kids can run as wild and free as a kid can be in a metro-yard in the fresh air without stepping in feces and your son runs up to you and says, “Here you go mommy. I found one!” and hands you a handful of dog which you do your best to hide your horror and gently reply,” Thank you, sweetie. That was very helpful and thoughtful. Now let’s go wash your hands and don’t touch ANYTHING. Poopoo is yucky, “ treading carefully not to crush his spirits or discourage his help......and thank your lucky stars that at least it wasn't fresh!
And let's not forget their constant state of denial until it's compellingly urgent, like realizing they are the living-breathing-tiny-versions of that snicker's commercial "You're just not you when you're hungry." Or lately our boy has been literally bouncing off the walls before bed (no matter how much gross motor play we do during the day) and when either of us finally get him to sit in the rocking chair he dramatically yells, “My eyes!” as he rubs his fists into them and we say, “They’re burning because you’re so tired,” and he is in REM sleep about 15 seconds later. And on the occasion that he crawls into bed with us in the wee hours of the morning, I'm awoken to, "ROOOOAAAARRR. Shark monster!" which is startling, but still preferred over the sound of an alarm clock.
 How in the world are we suppose to know how to handle every situation?!?!? A couple of weeks ago, Dillon fell asleep on the couch while I was still at work. Patrick, scared to wake him, took the opportunity to give Mabel a bath and start putting her to bed, and when I got home, that boy was still sound asleep. We diligently debated all angles of waking him up verses letting him sleep and ultimately decided to gamble with everyone's night by transferring him to bed, fully clothed and all, crossing our fingers for the best. Ahhh, we were so close to waking him, in fear that if we didn't, he would wake up at 2 am from a great nap, ready to rumble..........but as luck would have it, he slept the entire night!!!! 
Maybe the most confusing part about being a parent is the lacking of individualized owners manuals for each child, since they're all completely unique.......and within themselves react differently to every situation based on their unstable moods. What would the manual be called? "Instructions for what MIGHT work during impossible situations. Full disclosure: As fore-mentioned, we called it an impossible situation for a reason because their frontal lobes aren't fully developed yet and there's nothing you can do about it."
But that's what makes it an adventure, right? It's like they say, "It was no mistake that God made them cute." And it's also probably why they invented Yoga and wine. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

This is my Circus: Mommin' Ain't Easy

Reflecting on our Roller-coaster Life of Victories VS Failures

I'm not a perfect Mom, but I'm learning all the time. Nor am I usually the type of person to care about what people think. I'm comfortable with who and what I am, but as a mother, there IS a part of me that cares a little bit about what people think in relation to my children, because they are still learning how to be themselves in this world. They don't deserve awkward stares or harsh judgment yet, especially not based on one moment in time (sometimes not the most show-case worthy moment). But the funny thing is, even though a moment can be perceived to be horrific by general standards, it really may be a breakthrough juncture with victory lurking around the corner. 
In order to talk, you must first be able to make noise and WANT to communicate. A year ago, when Dillon was virtually non-verbal and only yelling at us in frustration, Patrick and I thought, "This is terrible." But a therapist convinced us it was wonderful news, because he was indeed communicating, just in-effectively. She taught us how to replace his yelling with words. Flashing forward 6 months, instead of screaming at me when I sing, he says, "No sing." Flashing forward almost 6 more months into the present, not only can Dillon talk in simple but complete sentences, he says, "Sing with me, Mommy!" "Sing louder, Mommy!" "Sing faster, Mommy." "Sing slower, Mommy" "Sing regular, Mommy" he comes to get close enough to look me in the eyes, anxiously anticipating the words about to escape my lips.  All this stemmed from yelling, a mechanism perceived as something negative.
For the longest, I thought Dillon wanting me to hold him all the time was a fleeting moment......and then he turned 3 and still wanted me to carry him everywhere and I realized we had some work to do. But in order to walk with me in a public place, Dillon must first have the drive and the confidence to walk in public. Up until about 3 months ago, that boy had never set so much as a toe on the ground in public unless it was at a park and even then, he wanted me to hold his hand at all times. Imagine me wearing Mabel and balancing my gigantic 45 lb 3 year old on my hip.......Then imagine tiny little Mabel walking everywhere and me still either carrying Dillon, or hoisting him up into a shopping cart......
The other day we had a break-through incident at Trader Joe's. It was wonderful, yet also terrible, chaotic, and confusing. To preface, my boy is an all or nothing kind of kid with a tenacity that can impress even the most experienced of therapists, who has a voice that can carry through a jungle clearer than Tarzan. 

Flexibility adjustment #1: I pick him up from school. He says, "Let's go to the zoo!!" I break the news to him that the closest we are getting to zoo animals today is looking at the painted farm animals on the walls of the grocery store. (This is an eggshell moment, since altering his expectations is always scary. In the past it would 100% trigger a meltdown, but we are making improvements in this area.)

Victory #1:  He gets out of the car all by himself for the very first time in his life!!! I'm so proud and sing him praises.

De-regulation incident #1: While he's waiting on me to get Mabel out of the car, he ootches over to the median and observes some bugs. "AHHHH!!! THERE'S AUNTS!!!" he screams, as he races around a couple of parked cars and back to me. During this time a by-stander thinks she's "helping me.......or society in general" by lecturing him, "No running in the parking lot, young man. You need to stay by your Mother." (to which he is terrified and runs even more to get away from her.....)

Victory #2: He walks up to the store with me (our newest normal), we get to the cart and I ask him as always, "Do you want to walk or ride in the cart?" To my surprise he opts to walk! (I almost fell over and died from shock, right there.)

De-regulation incident #2: While I was picking out some veggies, he decides it would be good time to push the cart himself, swiftly knocking several groceries off the shelf, and almost hitting two different shoppers. (It may have taken 30 seconds or less for this is to transpire.) I gently redirect him, which of course ruined his fun and crushed his new found confidence. "I just want to go home!! Let's just go to the red car!" he yells at the top of his lungs as he darts for the doors. I manage to catch him in the middle of the automatic entrance and convince him to stay and count the cows on the wall (to which he reluctantly agreed), and he demanded I put Mabel in the cart (to which I reluctantly agreed). 

De-regulation incident #3: Things were going great, until they abruptly weren't anymore and he again decided it was definitely time to go home, to which he bolted, then stopped and started whimpering. When he wouldn't come back, I had to retrieve him and he started yelling at the top of his lungs to go home, threw himself onto the floor in the middle of the aisle and grew roots. Carts were being forced to dodge the planted boy on the floor and after a few minutes I was forced pick him up. "We are going to pay for our groceries and then go home, " I promised. But his emotions where already too high for reason. "Just go home! Just go home!" Everyone was concerned or annoyed at this point. About 3 different people came up to us and tried to offer Dillon a source of distraction, which to most kids would probably work, but this only increased his stress and anxiety, since he is terrified of strangers talking to him and invading his space. A cashier then approaches us to pull us to her open register and get us the heck out of the store. ("Whew, it's almost over", I thought to myself, "We can do this."

De-regulation incident #4: While the groceries were being ringed up, a well meaning older lady who was probably in her 80's got about 4 inches away from Dillon's face and asked, "Would you like to me tell you a story?" and immediately proceeded into her story as if she didn't hear Dillon screaming, "No! No! NO!!!!!!" I gave her the "thanks but no thanks" response and tried to move on. But the damage had already been done. He jumped from my hip and sprinted for the door AGAIN. Concerned for his safety, everyone in a 10 foot radius started to corral him like a wild animal, to which he responded with horror and ping-ponged his way back to me out of pure terror. (At this point of de-regulation, Dillon loses ability to receive or express most verbal language.......Yay for Autism.........So scolding him would not only be further emotionally devastating, but he would also have no idea what I was saying. We are working on getting visual aids to help for situations like this.)

Comedic Relief (probably only appreciated by me at this point): I pay for the bill with cash, and while the cashier is attempting to count my change back, Dillon decides this is a good time to very loudly count backwards, "10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5!.........." And Mabel is crying. The cashier's fingers are fumbling around and she's looking very stressed and attempting to recount the money, with much trouble. "You're not the boss of me; stop rushing me" she kind of jokingly directs to my little heathen. (I guess at this point it would have been more appropriate of me to pay with my card.)

Have you ever been on either side of this scenerio?
To digress, it was not what most people would call a successful trip to the grocery store, but it was the cracking open of a door that needs to be traveled through. A step in the right direction. The peeping of a skill that can be built upon, and build we will, I have no doubt. But since he has never walked in public before, we didn't even have a starting point until now. And in the in mean time, we will be breaking all sorts of social standard rules that lots of people wont understand. But some people will, like the sweet Mom of 4 at the mall this week who offered to watch Mabel for me while I chased Dillon down in the overcrowded food court and figured out a way to help him tune out the over-stimulating noise by focusing on a water fountain. I can't explain how much that gesture meant to me in a time of vulnerable desperation. 
Do me a favor, in honor of Mother's Day, let's all just offer non-judgmental support for one another and lift each other up in praise, because DANG, "Mommin' Ain't Easy".........and you never know..........that lady with the out of control kid at the store could be me.......and that out of control kid could just be a really sweet (most of the time), adorable pre-schooler with sensory processing issues who is trying to navigate through some really scary stuff in his world. And dammit; I needed some fruits and vegetables!!!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Letting Go of Expectations

I read once that the number one reason for being disappointed with anything in life is not because of the lack of quality of an experience in itself, but almost always because we tend to set unrealistic expectations. By limiting expectations and comparisons, life naturally happens and is appreciated for what it is.
Oh man, this has helped me in so many areas of my life, but was especially true when it came to feeding my babies. So there is this giant movement of "Breast is Best"; in my line of work, I'm completely submerged in it. And although it's true that breast milk is amazing and there will never be anything quite as complete, it's not for everyone for a multitude of reasons, moms and babies alike. It’s supposed to be easy, and for some people it is, but life is complicated. My favorite mantra is "Fed is Best", because let's face it, there's already plenty of reasons a parent can feel like they're failing, but being able to provide nutrition for their brand new mini to thrive shouldn't be one of them.
I mourned a little bit when breastfeeding didn't work out for Dillon and I. Let's be real, when those hormone levels are flourishing and intimate decisions need to be made quickly, emotional stakes are high. But then I held my head up and pumped every cubic centimeter of milk I could until it practically turned into powder 8.5 months later. Leading up to Mabel's delivery I tried to mentally prepare myself for a similar scenario. I decided no matter what happened, I was not going to be disappointed with how I fed my darling daughter. 
As it turns out, Mabel was the most patient yet determined little breast-feeder I have ever met. She ate and slept so good I actually had to set an alarm clock to wake her up to eat every 3 hours, which takes a ton a self-control to keep up! Patrick had it super easy (I.M.O.) and slept all night while this was going on, so I was sure to make it a wee bit harder on him by turning on the light with every session (he always says I’m mean…..maybe he’s right). Knowing much more about my body this go around, it was easier to fall into an effective routine (and SNS is a fantastic tool if you can figure out how to use it), but let’s be clear: there was nothing EASY about waking up every 3 hours to breast-feed AND pump for who knows how many days in a row (nature blurs all those lines for a reason), but Mabel totally loved it, which totally made it worth all the effort. She practically lived to latch. If she could be latched 23 hours a day, she would would have been, and I was completely okay with that, because I knew one day I would miss it. I'll never forget that one day after Dillon watched Mabel breastfeed so many times, he decided to try it out for himself to see what all the fuss was about and got dangerously close before I figured out what was happening and redirected him!! Ahhhh, the gift of imitation. 
Mabel co-slept with us until she 5 months old (I loved every second of it), and remained an avid breast-feeder (with supplementation) until 11.5 months old, when a nasty stomach bug robbed us of any remaining time we had left. My goal was 12 months and it drove me crazy that we didn’t make it! A great deal of determination and support is needed to sustain a milk supply and I am thankful for every single person who helped us be successful. I cherished every moment, took way too many pictures (that she will probably never want to see or even know about), and cried several tears when I knew that particular section of our lives was over. 

Why I loved it so:
1.    Convenience. I had warm milk ready and available to feed my baby anytime, anywhere. We nicknamed Mabel "Goldy Locks" for a while (definitely not because of her hair), because if she did take a bottle, it had to be the PERFECT bottle (that took a few painful weeks to figure out) and the PERFECT temperature (since she was so spoiled to her milk always being just right). And when I say “anywhere”, I mean she literally wanted to eat everywhere we went……. probably because it was one of her favorite things combined with the bonus of shutting out the world for a little bit, just to be with me.
2.    Instant comfort. Any time Mabel was upset or cranky or tired or overwhelmed, a boob was the magic solution. It really was enchanting for both of us. I bought about 6 different styles of pacifiers and she would never take to any of them, so comfort nursing was a big deal for us. When she was tiny and going through the witching hour?? Breastfeeding for the win! That time we spent the entire day in the ER under florescent lighting with constant interruptions for Dillon’s transient synovitis episode???? Breastfeeding for the win!
3.     Sleep. In the mornings when she woke up to eat, I would pull her into bed with me for "breakfast" and she’d always let me sleep until at least 11 am. Breast-feeding was also the way I put her to sleep every nap time (we took lots of naps together as well) and every bedtime (a great excuse to get to put the baby to bed every single night.....Patrick was so jealous). Sure, I had to stay up late to pump and wake up early before work for more pumping, but such is life.
4.     Bonding. How can I explain this part in a way to serve it justice? We went through so many stages together. Some were the sweetest times of authentic tenderness, like how she always melted into my arms and curled up around me like we were two interlocked puzzle pieces. Every occasion we were connected in this way radiated contentedness. Some moments were more playful, like her amused attempts at molding my face as if it was made of modeling clay or efforts at sticking her fingers in my mouth, then my nose, then forcing them back to my mouth and giggling about it (I think she has my sense of humor). Sometimes she would accidentally burp or make a funny slurping sound which would set us off into a laughing fit. The more I laughed, the more she laughed and then we would be laughing so hard, all prospects of eating were postponed for a while. She has spent many an hour perfecting her fine motor skills by isolating only 2-3 strands of my hair and running her fingers through it from end to end. Some stages were a little less sweet, like the biting and the pinching, but luckily we were able to find a way around those!
5. Confidence. My boobs were rockin' and not stoppin', if you know what I mean (but sometimes there were so rockin' that they were literally rock hard, and that wasn't as cool)! It's not that bigger boobs are the only quality that exert confidence, but the post baby body didn't exactly make me feel as comfortable in my skin as I usually do, and anything that helped was welcomed with open arms!
6.     Pride. I know it's just suppose to be a part of nature and nothing to brag about, but I really felt proud to be able to provide for my baby. Our bodies can do some pretty cool things!


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