Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Death of Expectation

With one final, excruciating push he flew into the world. All the pressure was released and for the first time in so long I am able to take in a deep inhale. In that same very instant a brick house of expectation was also born. 

He was perfect. Ten finger and toes and I sighed, and fell in love with every single blessed detail. Soaked him up and felt it- the sweetest, purest love. I didn't know it existed quite so lucidly. My expectations already had his life all planned out for him. 

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He will smile and sit and crawl and one day even walk. He will say Momma, and love ice cream. He will dress up for Halloween. He will love his birthday. He will say the funniest things. I will read him books at night and scare the monsters away from under his bed. He will ask for extra pancakes and wrap me around his currently teeny tiny finger. 

He will go to school. He will be smart. I will help him with science projects and pretend to be annoyed but  actually love it. He will play sports, and be a humble winner and the very best loser. He will be fast. He will be brave. He will be kind. He will go to college and get married and have babies.

I had great expectations. And then right before his third birthday, I heard the words, "Your son fits the diagnostic criteria for autism" and I thought he died- my precious son. In an instant, my boy's life vanished right before me.

I didn't realize at the time, but he didn't die at all. It was really just the death of expectation. You see, I confused the two; my real boy and the son I expected him to be. And mourning expectation is so very hard. Letting go of years worth of day dreams doesn't happen in a day or a week. And like many before me, I deeply grieved the loss of that expectation. Some of what I expected for me. Some of what I expected for him. I ached for each and every single one of those experiences I might not ever have. I couldn't really relate to Welcome to Holland, an essay written in 1987 by special needs parent Emily Perl Kingsley. Kingsley describes her parenting journey as being excited while preparing for a vacation to Italy (her expectations) only to find that she actually lands in the country of Holland (reality of special needs parenting). You see our reality didn't really feel like vacation at all. It felt like a death. 

And the more I shed the pain of expectation, the better I got to know my boy. The real one I got, not the made-up one I expected. He doesn't deserve to be expected to be anyone other than who he is, and who he is- is amazing. It took time and strength and a determination to willingly let my expectations go, without throwing hope out at the same time. To wake up every day still, and decide to let go again and again. And the truth is that my real boy is alive and better than any of my wildest expectations- in ways completely different than I could have even imagined.

And as far as his future - anything is still possible. I just don't need certain things to happen in certain order to be happy and to measure the worth of my parenting experience.  

The truth is, for most of us, reality is nothing like we expected. It is only in the letting go of our expectations that we are able to realize that our reality may not be so bad at all. When you are living an unexpected life it is easy to focus what you don't have. But there is also incredible beauty, perspective, love and experiences that come with the unexpected. It's so important that we notice those gifts too.

Sometimes I have moments when I still focus on the death of the expected. But now I remind myself how awful it would feel if someone constantly expected me to be different- and to be someone I'm not. I've learned the very definition of unconditional love is choosing to love someone exactly for who they are. A love not based on expectations, but on reality. I've finally knocked down that brick house of expectations. Turns out it was hiding the most incredible view.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

the beginning

The date was March 13, 2012

Of all the days the dogs could get loose, I mutter curse words mixed with anxiety under my breath. My heart is thumping and my jaw is clenched tightly. I can’t be late. I’m always late. Why am I always late? I hold them both by their collars, and walk hunched over back into the house. Despite the cool March breeze, I’m sweating from pounding up and down our street, insanely yelling and ridiculously waving lunch meat around as dog bait. Of all the times Michael could be out of town for entire week, this time is the worst. This work trip was out of his control but I’m still angry at him. I’m angry at life. I have no energy for angry at this moment though, my focus is only on Greyson.

I need to call them and let them know we are running behind. 

“Hello, this is Chrissy Kelly. My son Greyson has an appointment with Dr. Glazer at 1:30 this afternoon. I’m so sorry, I left the front door open and my dogs got loose, and, well… anyway, we are running about fifteen minutes behind. Will you please let Dr. Glazer know, and please tell him I’m so sorry?”

This appointment took months to set. I can’t risk missing it. I hang up the phone and turn to Sally, a woman who will be watching Parker while I’m gone. She’s older, profoundly plain and so quiet it fills me with an unease that makes me talk much too much. I feel panicked about leaving. We’ve lived in the Central Valley of California for almost two years, and I’ve only left the boys with a sitter a handful of times. We have no family or long-term friends here and I’m left with no other options.

“Parker just fell asleep about thirty minutes ago. He will sleep anywhere from 1-3 hours. He will want something to drink as soon as he wakes up. Juice is fine,” I tell her, pointing out the sippy cup already filled and stored in the fridge. I gather preferred snack items from the pantry and place them on the counter. “If he’s hungry, he can have any of these things too.” 

Sally nods. I feel guilty that my face will not be the first Parker sees upon waking. “Greyson has an appointment with... We have a doctor’s appointment and I don’t know how long it will last. I’m guessing a couple of hours but I was told it might take longer.” 

Sally responds with another wordless nod. More unease. I’m so sick of silence.

“Greyson, time to go bye bye”, I call out to 33-month old Greyson sitting in front of the television, switching his focus between watching his favorite television show Blue’s Clues and intently playing with the collection of hot wheels at his feet. The little yellow ‘69 Ford Mustang is his favorite.

“Grey, time to go.” I get down on his level and brush a golden, lopsided curl away from his stormy blue eyes. I hold the yellow car up towards my face to get him to look at me. “Mommy and Greyson go bye-bye in car,” I say feigning excitement with eyebrows raised. His eyes offer no recognition.

Greyson is a late talker, which from what I have heard is pretty common in boys. I really need today’s appointment to confirm that he has nothing more than a simple delay in speech. Sometimes the demons come out at night and tell me otherwise. They tell me horrible, awful, suffocating things that suck the life out of me, leaving me exhausted but unable to sleep. I shake my head to stop these thoughts. Right now I cannot let them seep into my brain.  I take a deep breath in, certain it’s my first one today. Today I am rational, focused and strong. We’ve been instructed to speak to Greyson in 2-3 word sentences in order for him to comprehend. I talk to him constantly, hoping it will help kick start the language explosion I wait for daily. “Mommy is opening the door.” “Mommy and Greyson are going for a walk.” Actually- mommy is going crazy from all the fucking silence. Grey grabs the tiny yellow car from me and remains silent, intensely focused on spinning the wheels of the car he holds in his almost three year old, perfect dimpled hand. Greyson is wearing a shirt I selected specifically for today, his name is stamped  across the front in big, bold letters. G-R-E-Y-S-O-N. I want to send a message to Dr. Glazer. I don’t want him to forget for one second that he is dealing with a real boy who loves trucks and ice cream and running around outside. He is not another name on a chart, he’s not a statistic - he is Greyson Michael Kelly and he is my heart. Greyson stands up and grabs his yellow car from my hands. Together we walk towards the garage door.

I am on cruise control, a mothering robot. I can’t think about today’s appointment or I will lose muscle function and crumble to the floor. I focus on breathing in and out. I drive clutching the steering wheel tight, foot pressed sternly on the gas. The expansive foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains wrap around our neighborhood and I am scared to leave their safe hug. I notice Greyson through the rear view mirror, watching the world blur by from his window, I long to know what he is thinking. “Love you Grey”, I call out like I do a hundred times a day, reaching my hand back until he grabs it for the briefest of moments before letting go. He always lets go first.

We arrive and check in; we are the only people in the waiting room and silence is echoing off the walls. I start to swallow rapidly; I feel my stomach in my throat and hope I don’t throw up. I stand up, restless. I can’t sit and do nothing. I can’t stand with my legs shaking so I sit back down. Why do I have to be here? I hate that I have to be here. Why can’t we be anywhere but here? I just focus on breathing. I can’t get a full breath in.

A door opens and a smiling head pops out. “Hi, we are ready for Greyson now. Would you guys like to come on back?” A woman assaults me with a chipper smile and leads us through a keypad locked door, down a hallway and into a make shift office with a desk. The walls are stark, bare of customary doctor diplomas. Dr. Glazer has his own private practice, and one day a week consults for the Central Valley Regional Center, a local non-profit organization that provides assistance for children and adults with developmental disabilities, the dreaded place we are today. He is a Clinical Neuropsychologist, and I have already memorized his Curriculum Vitae. I needed to know everything I could before today so I could be completely prepared. I traded in my usual outfit of yoga pants and T-shirt in order to look the part of the stylish, together Mom. I am wearing my favorite comfortable jeans and a new green chain-patterned shirt that I bought because this particular shade of green makes me happy. I smile and focus my full attention on Dr. Glazer while turning myself into the Chrissy Kelly of my past life in Los Angeles, confident pharmaceutical salesperson extraordinaire. 

“It’s so nice to meet you, Dr. Glazer,” I say with a firm handshake. “Thank you for meeting with us. I’m so sorry we were late. I heard you were thorough and attentive, so I specifically requested you for this evaluation.” 

He is a handsome man in his mid 50’s with medium-brown hair, and a mustache that reminds me of a younger version of my dad. I am comforted by this piece of home. His hand reaches out to meet mine and I see his eyes crinkle on the sides as he smiles,. 

“What brings you here today?”

Wow, no bullshitting around. He’s going to make me say it. 

“I’m here to see if my son Greyson has autism.” Autism: there, I said it like I was okay with the word, summoning a confidence that isn’t real. I still can’t believe any of this is happening. I want to throw up. Why did I have to become a grown up? Dr. Glazer gestures toward the black leather armchair on the opposite side of his desk and asks me to have a seat. Greyson has already found a bin of toys behind me in the corner of the room and is happily entertained by pushing a green truck back and forth in front of him. I hear the faint buzz of the harsh florescent lights overhead, and I stick to the chair and make awkward noises as I try to get comfortable. The room is freezing cold.

“Okay, let’s begin. I’ll start out by asking you a few questions,” Dr. Glazer says. 

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He asks detailed questions about everything from my pregnancy to Greyson’s birth and details about our life today. I answer on autopilot. I answer these questions at least once a month and I’m annoyed because I know they contain no answers. He makes notes in the yellow CVRC-issued chart which was began at our first hint of concern almost a year ago.

40 weeks and one day
7 lbs 1oz, 21 inches
He will turn 3 in June

Weight, siblings, pets, current therapy and schooling - hundreds of details gathered. I begin to answer impatiently. I want to get directly to the real questions - the ones that will allow him to tell me a YES or NO. Finally we get to a more relevant topic- Greyson of today.

“How does he act around other children?” 

“Really good”, I’m relieved to say, because I know it’s the right answer. Kids with autism hate being around people, a fact that has often brought me relief in the thinking spaces at night. Grey is fine. “He plays with other kids side by side, but that’s not unusual for children his age. It’s called parallel play, right?” 

When you have a child with potential developmental delays, you get your Google PhD in early childhood development. 

“Yes, but does he interact with them? Does he repeat what they are doing? Is he curious about them? Or, is he afraid of them? Does he come to you for comfort? Does he ever seek other children out?”

The hollow in my stomach grows. I have never looked at his social interactions from this particular angle before. Greyson doesn’t do any of that. I so desperately want to lie, but I’m here for the truth. Even if it isn’t the truth I want to hear. 

“No,” I slowly shake my head back and forth, thinking painfully hard for a single recollection. “He’s okay being around them, but he doesn’t initiate interactions.” I feel like I need to explain more, but there is nothing else to say. I began to bite the inside of my lower lip nervously. I feel like I am losing control.

“How is he with his brother? “

Greyson looks through Parker as if he’s a ghost. “He doesn’t seem to notice him. A couple of times he has come up and grabbed his foot and looked at it curiously.” I say hoping it doesn’t sound as ridiculous as it feels to say. I’m angry because that sums up the depth of their brotherly relations. In Parker’s eleven months on earth, there have been precious few interactions between my two boys. Motherhood looks nothing like I expected.

“Does he interact with your pets? I think you mentioned you have two dogs?”

“No. But Belle my dog, she’s a Puggle - she loves him and is always trying to play with him. She’s really annoying. She doesn’t let anyone ignore her.” 

“Does he ever point out things he likes, or bring you items and show them to you?”

“Well - he… No.” I am trying desperately to make my answers fit, but there is just no room. I begin to panic, I know I am giving all the wrong responses and my fear kicks up a notch. My hands shake harder and the hope I came with is quickly spilling out onto the floor in front of me. 

“Since Greyson is so young, a lot of what we go over today is based on your feedback. You are going to fill out something called the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, referred to as “Whipsy” and The Adaptive Behavior Assessment System - ABAS. While you fill out these forms, I’m going to work with Greyson. Let me know if you have any questions about any of it.” 

I begin to complete the detailed, fill-in-the-circle, empirically validated tests. I pause to think, rubbing my fingers over the glossy cherry wood desk. I can’t focus, my eyes jump over words and I can barely remember how to read. I burn with concentration- I don’t want to mistakenly give the wrong answer and create a horrible false fate for Greyson. I am a mix of adrenaline and exhaustion. Dr. Glazer gets down onto the floor with Greyson. I am hyperaware of Greyson’s lack of response. Dr. Glazer places three puzzle pieces on the floor randomly, which together clearly form a bird. 

“Greyson, can you put the puzzle together for me?” I hold my breath knowing we have arrived. This is the real part of the test, please, God, make him perform. Why did Dr. Glazer use so many words? Greyson isn’t going to understand him. Greyson touches one of the pieces with interest and then immediately goes back to focusing on the toy truck. Dr. Glazer tries again. Greyson ignores him. I grab my paperwork and get down on the floor too, hoping my presence and coaxing will motivate Greyson. I wish I could just do it for him. “Grey- do puzzle,” I plead.

“Let’s try something else.” Dr. Glazer pulls out a laminated spiral book of pictures. He flips to a page with a turtle, a baby bottle and a bear. “Greyson, which one do babies drink from?” I silently beg Greyson to answer, already knowing he doesn’t comprehend what’s being asked of him. He stares off in the distance blankly.

I have to stop this crash before it happens but I don’t know how. I am in a nightmare and my legs won’t work and my mouth can’t speak. “Greyson was mostly breast-fed,” I finally spit out. “And he hasn’t had a bottle for a year,” I explain. “We don’t have any friends with new babies either.” Coming up with excuses is getting exhausting, especially because I make myself believe them. But in the spaces of quiet at night, my excuses no longer make sense to me and the demons are right. And here at this appointment, everything feels like an excuse. 

After a few more mostly unsuccessful exercises, Dr. Glazer returns to his desk and begins to flip through our chart. While I am deeply engrossed filling out my last questionnaire, the opening of the office door startles me. I whip my head around and see Greyson attempting to leave and already half way out the door. 

“GREYSON.” I stand up and walk to the door, Greyson is already out in the hall now, quickly moving ahead. “STOP.” He wants me to chase him. He thinks we are playing a game. “Come here right now,” I say sternly. Greyson hesitates and his forward movement stops. He slowly turns around and as soon as he catches my eye he breaks into a sly smile. We stand together in a draw. I hold my ground and after a few seconds he walks back to me and we reenter the room. Greyson grabs his truck and climbs up onto the chair right next to mine. I sit back down and finish the remainder of the questions. I hand the final report back to Dr. Glazer, who is busily reviewing the first form I filled out. I was told by our caseworker that it would take months for Dr. Glazer to review the data in order to issue a diagnosis and a report so I begin to gather our things.

“So, once you have figured everything out, will you just mail your report to me, or will I need to get it from our caseworker at CVRC?” I’m relieved our appointment is over because I need to get out of this room before all the oxygen is completely gone. 

Time stops and Dr. Glazer answers, “Actually, just give me a minute, I can tell you today. I know you mentioned your husband is out of town though, so if you would like to wait a few months until I issue a formal report, that’s fine too.”

Now that I know it’s an option, I realize how desperately I need to know right now. For a brief second I am afraid he won’t tell me, and I need to know as if my life depends on it. I will grab him and beg and shake him if I have to. If he already knows, then I must know too. The sound in the room is gone and all I hear is my heart pounding.

“No, you can tell me,” I say boldly with a confidence that’s real this time. “Trust me, I have super powers, I can handle it.” He finishes up his marking and flips back to the notes section of Greyson’s chart. He sets down his pen and looks up into my waiting and hopeful eyes. 

“Chrissy, your son fits the diagnostic criteria for autism,” he says gently with the kindest eyes. 

His words slice through the air and cut me. I can’t hear what he says next, I just sit there and bleed. He ruined it. He said it out loud and now we can never go back. I hate him. At least I want to hate him except I know he is right. My face is stinging and all my energy and fear and anxiety flies out of my body, and I am left only with unbearable sad. A couple of angry tears fly out of my eyes before I can stop them. DO NOT CRY UNTIL YOU GET TO THE CAR, I scold myself. I hate that I am so weak. I hate that I am so na├»ve. THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU CHRISSY. THIS IS ABOUT GREYSON. My skin is too tight and in flames and I want to rip it off. This isn’t what I signed up for. This is not the motherhood I wanted. I’m shocked at how crushed I am. I thought I was prepared for anything today, but I wasn’t at all. I could have never prepared myself for this. WHYMEWHYMEWHYMEWHYME? runs on a loop in my mind.

I secretly hoped the Doctor would tell me Greyson was actually allergic to the color green at today’s appointment. He and I would laugh at how hard of a struggle it has been for the past year and how easy it was going to be to fix. “I can't believe I didn't think of that- GREEN! ” I’d say slapping myself on the forehead. And I would go home and eliminate green from our life, and the light in Greyson's eyes that used to sparkle and stop strangers would come back to me. 

But that is never ever going to happen because Greyson has autism. 

If people could die from sad, these would be my last moments on earth. My gums tingle, my brain zings and my fingers feel numb. I focus on breathing in and out. I can’t look at Greyson, content on the floor because I failed him. I didn’t protect him from everything like I’ve always promised. “Greyson has autism.” The words feel foreign and metallic in my mouth. I want to fall onto the ground and push myself into a corner and scream over and over until I wake up from this dream. I want to die. Instead I pretend to be a functioning human. I stay in my chair and look down at the triangular pattern in the navy commercial grade carpet and stare until my vision goes blurry from tears, Dr. Glazer's voice is faint in the background and sounds like a foreign language. I beg myself to focus and listen.

“Basically to get an autism diagnosis someone needs to have a communication delay, trouble with social interactions and rigid and repetitive and behaviors. According to the information you gave me that sounds like Grey. Right?” I nod my head yes, for once the silent one. “It’s really that simple. Now I know the guy who wrote the DSM-IV - that’s the bible we use for diagnosing mental disorders, and I’ll tell you it’s bullshit. Your son doesn’t have autism the same way I see other kids with it - kids that slam their head against a wall and aren’t able to learn from Behavior Therapy. But still he fits the diagnostic criteria, so I don’t feel bad about giving him the diagnosis. Besides, he actually needs the services that come along with it in order to learn. Greyson does what you tell him to do; like when you got him to come back in this room. I don’t know why he does - maybe to please you or maybe to avoid punishment, but either way he listens to you. You are really lucky. He’s good, and with the hard work and results you have already seen, he’s gonna be really good. You gotta work your ass off, and so will he. But this kid is gonna be good.”

I can’t help but feel if the circumstances were completely different, I would really like this guy. Greyson crawls from his chair onto my lap. I hold him tight to ease the unbearable ache and to stop my hands from shaking. The stupid shirt didn’t save him from an autism diagnosis, because he has autism. He couldn’t point out a baby bottle because he has autism. He doesn’t talk to me because he has autism. I can’t believe all the answers to all the questions all along is autism. I gave birth to him, I spend every single day with him, and I didn’t even know he has autism. I don’t deserve to be his mother. I don’t deserve to be a mother at all.

I finally am able to take a deep breath in. I need to concentrate for my son. I need to stop this or fix this or make it go away.I am amazed by this man’s ability to simplify hours of Googleing and a stack of books on my nightstand so succinctly. For thirty minutes we just sit and talk. We discuss studies, therapies and brain scans, fishing and cameras. In another life this might have been an enjoyable conversation. I look down at my paper to see the notes I have taken, and all that is there are three squiggly lines. 

I rise and shake Dr. Glazer's hand: “It was nice to meet you…well kind of.” I smile. “Minus the whole ‘you diagnosed my son with autism’ part. And although it was a pleasure, I hope I never have to see you again.” Parker’s face flashes before my eyes. There is no way I can go through any of this ever again. It would kill me.

We walk out of the building, my little buddy and me, and stand before the wall of reflective windows. I see the image of Greyson and I looking back. He looks so little, so innocent, so perfect. He has no idea what just happened inside this building. I hoped the past year of Early Intervention preschool, Speech Therapy and Behavior Therapy would stop this particular inevitability, and the fact I couldn’t stop it is unforgivable. We look exactly the same as we did when walked in, yet everything has changed. There is the smallest part of me that is lighter inside and feels a strange sense of relief. Like I found the missing body so now I have permission to move on. The past year of painful and haunting worry at least has a name now- autism.  I mostly feel a massive and suffocating grief, and then guilt for feeling such disappointment, as if I am disappointed in my son. I take a picture of our reflection, wondering if some day these details will be foggy and I may want to remember them. 

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Somewhere deep inside in the place where things make sense, I know that despite a medical and scholastic label on a chart he is still the exact same wonderful boy I am crazy in love with. He teaches me about patience and different, unconditional love and determination. He is so perfect and so beautiful that I still can’t believe that he really belongs to me. He makes me believe in God and in magic. He doesn't talk much, but when he does, he lights up my whole world. This is my son, Greyson, and he has autism. I can’t change that fact, so I am just going to have to find a way to change the world for him.  

We walk to our car and I snap Greyson safely into his car seat, feeling exceedingly ironic that I am attempting to keep him safe right now, yet I didn’t save him from autism. I get into the driver’s seat and I shatter. I lose the spine of composure that had been holding me together. I break apart, forcefully shaking, whimpering in pain and sobbing into too many scattered pieces to count, and I know I will never be able to put them back together the same again.

Monday, September 28, 2015

proud helicopter mom

I'm the mom you see at the park, following closely behind my child. Sometimes I play with him and follow his lead. Like really play. Stomp in the puddles and walk up the slide and swing so high that terror dances with exhilaration. He reminds me how good it feels to do things that us adults call pointless. Sometimes I am simply a shadow, making sure he stays safe and is well behaved. Either way I am always close behind.

I have heard it referred to as a helicopter parenting.  It's not a new term, yet one that has resurfaced as of late. The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist calls it "overparenting." "It means being involved in a child's life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting," Dr. Dunnewold explains. So you see, it's supposed to be a bad thing, but as far as parenting goes- it's one that is necessary for me.

I don't go to the park to relax. In fact, I frequently have to talk myself into even going, and I pep talk myself the whole drive there. You can do this. You will not let your fear compromise their childhood joys.  And I often make a pact with myself -30 minutes. No matter what you can handle thirty minutes.

I do not mind if you sit on the sidelines. This parenting thing is tough, and if you have a minute or twenty that you can sit and relax, by golly go for it. Heck, I don't even care if you paint your nails while eating a turkey sandwich. I do not mind of you are like me, following close behind. Unless it's dangerous, how you parent is absolutely none of my business. When it comes to parenting there is no one size fits all. There are often two extremes and a million grays in between.

I've seen a surge of- "Dear Helicopter Moms, You're Ruining it for Everyone Else" articles. I feel sad for anyone who would witness my behavior and interactions with my boys and simply see helicopter mom. They are missing out on all the beauty in our gray. Many of us parents doing our best have our gray stories too.

You see, both of my boys have autism. A walk in the park is anything but. I leave often leave the park ponytail undone and speckled with earth and sweat. On rare occasions even tears.

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My youngest has trouble following simple directions. STOP. Come here. Wait. 

We work on it daily in therapy- but it is best reinforced through real life experiences. He still tries to run by himself into dangerous parking lots and streets. He would hop into a strangers car without a glance back at me. It would be safer and easier at home, but that wouldn't be fair to him at all. 

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My oldest has a hard time sharing and waiting his turn. He has problems with proprioreception- the ability to "feel" his body and what it's doing. I have to make sure he doesn't knock over your little one on his way to the slide. He frequently runs into people. He also thinks as long as he says "my turn"- he can have something instantly. The swing, your ball. Your chips.

I love my precious two, and parenting them is an honor. I just wanted to share some gray with you today. Because it's easier to love more and judge less when we know someone's story.  And everyone, everysingleone has a story that has created us into the person we are and the choices we make today. My boys taught me that if all we see is the cover, we are missing out on the very best parts of what makes up the book. I keep that in mind when I feel that pang of unfamiliarity when watching people interact in the world.

The way my children view the world isn't wrong, but it IS very very different. And because they view the world differently, so do I. And that is a gift. It's given me a better perspective and given us a beautiful story. 

Signed a proud helicopter parent,


Thursday, September 24, 2015

hypocritical parenting

Parenting has made me into a gigantic hypocrite.

The word hypocrite is rooted in the Greek word hypokrites, which means “stage actor, pretender, dissembler.” So a hypocrite is a person who pretends to be a certain way, but really acts and believes the total opposite. Kinda like a self-proclaimed vegetarian that eats bacon.

I can't even believe the stuff that comes out of my mouth at times, but in my defense, there are moments that I actually BELIEVE my own BS. The other day I was in the middle of a doozie, and I started to reflect on the things I say, and teach. Then I started to think about the things I actually DO. And really, I was shocked. I hate hypocrites- when did I actually BECOME one?!

If I had just done a little detective work when I was a child I would probably realize that my parents were big fat liars too. Here are my top offenses. 

1. WHAT I SAY: You're hungry? How about you eat some carrots?

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STOP CRYING. They are good for you. I love carrots! Look- I'll eat one. No, you can't have any cookies. You've had enough sugar today.


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Stand by the pantry every night and shove cookies into my mouth like there's a famine and I'm about to pass out from low blood sugar. At first there's an inner debate. 
DON'T EAT THAT! You did so good all day! You will feel guilty tomorrow. 
SHUT UP. I'm eating the cookies. I'll just buy bigger pants. 

I want to stop, but I can't. The cookies are so delicious. And then I need salty, so bring on the chips. And while I'm eating those I remember the peanut butter cups hidden and decide it's most politically correct to eat those to end on a salty/sweet note. I take my snacking seriously, and at approximately 9:32pm-the more sugar- the better.

2. WHAT I SAY: Ok, enough TV. Let's go outside and run around. You've been glued to the screen all day!

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It's a beautiful day outside. Let's go burn some daylight.


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Binge watch Mad Men and Real Housewives of pretty much anywhere and everywhere, or anything that makes me feel really good about my life or really deprived about my life. You see, at the end of the day my brain is overcooked oatmeal hours later, sticking to the side of the bowl. I can't function. I can't think. I can't go to bed yet without ME time. Me without ME time is tightly wound, exhausted, empty, starving. Copious amounts of television seems to help.

3. WHAT I SAY: Time for bed, boys. You need sleep. You have a big day tomorrow and you need your rest.

WHAT I DO: Break every single attempted bedtime I've ever attempted to place on myself. I get the smallest dose of alone time and I'm a kid at Disney Land. I don't know which way to go first. Watch TV! Pluck my eyebrows! Stare at my pores in the magnification mirror! EAT THOSE COOKIES! Search Facebook, Craigslist, Ebay! Straighten up! Read! Learn to crochet! Learn Spanish! I want to do ALL the things. 

Suddenly, I check the clock expecting five minutes to have passed, and somehow it's 11pm. AGAIN. And I haven't even learned Spanish yet. Oh mierda. 

4. WHAT I SAY: You have enough cars. In fact, you have at least eleventy hundred Lightning McQueens alone!

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We don't need to buy any more. I wish I could buy you everything you wanted, but then you would rely on stuff to make you happy, and then you would be miserable because there's never enough stuff. So I'm not buying it for you because I'm doing you a favor.

WHAT I DO: Buy multiple versions of my own Lightning McQueens- which for me equals shoes, shirts, lipsticks, books, pants. Stuff, stuff, stuff. I love stuff. Never ever enough stuff.

5. WHAT I SAY: You are beautiful. I love you EXACTLY the way you are. There's nothing you could do to make me not love you. You make my life happy, purposeful, complete.

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I love that you try your best. I love watching you learn. I love your spirit and tenacity. I love watching you make mistakes because it means you are trying.

WHAT I DO: Say nothing of the sort while inside my mind. Why the heck aren't we as nice to ourselves as we are to our kids? You aren't enough. You did it wrong. You screwed up. I wouldn't dream of talking to my children that way- why is it ok to take to me that way? I would be destroyed if their inner voice was as mean spirited as mine.

I don't know everything about parenting, but I'm learning to believe that a little hypocrisy is necessary to raising little humans. At least until they get older and are able to make choices for themselves. Then they can do exactly what I'm pretending not to do now. However, I am gonna work on number 5. That's something I need to learn how to do so I can show them by example. I don't ever want that mean inner voice taking up space in their brain. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

gratitude of now

We are often a society of past grateful. 

Which is actually the opposite of gratitude if you really think about it. It isn't until we move forward that we realize just how good it was. And right at this moment, we aren't even noticing the things that one day we will ache for and cherish. But not until they pass.

We look bad at old pictures and ache. My body was great in college! Why didn't I think so then?! My skin had no wrinkles, but I didn't appreciate it because all I noticed was the occasional zit. 

I look at newborn pictures of Greyson and Parker. What I wouldn't do to have them that tiny in my arms, breathing in their sweet smell of powder and hope and life. Why wasn't I more present then? Why can't I go back for just a day? It was all so fast and I was always so tired. Exhausted from being responsible for every single aspect of their life. Assuming that life would get easier as they got older and I could be just a little less responsible. Which it did in many physical ways. But the older our children get, the less physical parenting is, but the more mental. There are bigger decisions to make for them. There are outside influences we have to let in. There are more aspects of their life have to let go of. So I am back, feeling grateful for the "easier" past when every aspect of their life was up to me. A fact I didn't cherish at all when it was my present.

We often long for an easier time- but the truth is- Parenting is never ever easy. It's not supposed to be. With love comes worry and work. It's the price we pay to love. It's a small one really, compared to our ability to love.

Why is it so hard to be satisfied with what we have? I often wish I had what the other guy ordered. I second guess most purchases. It would be perfect if it was a little more this and a little less that. The truth is, that perfect doesn't exist because I change it before I can keep up.

Today I will practice being grateful in the present state. Sometimes the only thing standing between us and current gratitude is the recognition that we want it and remembering that we must pay attention to the good that is happening right now. 

Some day in the future, when I look back at my now, I'm sure there will be a tinge of sadness because of how fast time passes. But I will also know I was doing my best to live in that very moment and noticing all the gifts around me.

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Sometimes he tries to eat the bubbles for the sport

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It's not always rainbows and butterflies... but some moments- it is.

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And there are so, (SO) many gifts to notice.

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Grateful, grateful, grateful.

I think to practice gratitude- all we have to do is be willing to see our own life for all it already holds.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

compare not

Comparative thinking is one of our first and most natural forms of thought. When we are babies, one of the first differences we must identify is that between our mother and everyone else. Without the ability to make comparisons—to set one object or idea against another and take note of similarities and differences—much of what we call learning would quite literally be impossible.

Comparing is an important part of learning and comprehension as we continue to grow. It plays a big part in how we figure out and make sense of the world. Compare and contrast work sheets and essays are a fundamental part of our education from grade school all the way through college.

Comparing isn't inherently bad. Until we make it as such. As grown ups we often use those innocent skills to feel inadequate. Incomplete. Or equally as bad- better than someone else.
Comparison no longer only helps as it was intended to. It becomes a gateway to other negative feelings like entitlement, inadequacy, anger, judgement, and jealousy. 

Social Media really gets me comparing. That's one reason I can't be on it too much- I compare without even realizing it. I just don't feel good about my life or myself while I'm comparing. I'll judge the mom in the inappropriate bikini. Or the over-poster. The desperate for attention'er. The "I just made this amazing meal" mom. The "I just ran 40 miles and did yoga" girl. I get sad about the, "My kid just said the funniest thing" posts. And the vacationers. And the people who are doing everything better and funnier and faster and slower and smarter than me. 

Sometimes I wonder what the whole of life is about. I can say pretty confidently it's not about judgement, anger or comparison. It's about focusing on the unique one of a kind gifts we have been blessed with. It's impossible to discover what those are while you are focusing on someone else's gifts. We can't be amazing at everything. We also can't be awful at everything either. 

The older I get the more I can truly accept that no one has an even close to perfect life. And the people who are desperate to make others think their life is perfect is usually hiding their actual truth the most. Our biggest struggles are also our greatest teachers. They are also a bridge that directly connects us to other people. We isolate ourselves because we are certain that no one else can understand our struggles or our heart. We don't have to compare the situation. Feeling the same feelings are enough. Fear, inadequacy, pain, loss those are as universal as a smile or tears.

I thought long and hard about why I compare. What am I getting out of it? Clearly it's something or I wouldn't do it at all. I think it's an important yet hard question to ask yourself. I got near the heart of it. 
Because I want to be the... Best? I answered. 

To make other people feel bad? I asked myself. NO! Of course not. Because I want to feel... worthy. 

Because I want to feel worthy. Enough. Loved. Accepted. And that very truth made me instantly understand myself just a little better. I'm always going to find someone who does more. Who has more. "Oh precious girl", I answered, realizing how hungry I am to be kind to myself. "You are already worthy. Not because you do anything the best. But because you do YOUR best. Because you love like there's no tomorrow. Because you notice things like golden sunlight and God in the grapes that grew in your yard."

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Comparison is only human, but when it causes nothing but pain it's important to relearn how to think. Comparison puts the focus on the wrong person- someone else. We have to bring a kind and non-judgemental focus back to ourselves. Whether you are a writer, teacher, doctor, landscaper, or mother, you have a important perspective built on your unique experiences and unique gifts. You have the capacity to love your people better than anyone else. Chances are you have everything you need to accomplish happiness in your little section of the world. All you need to do is realize it. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

my in between

Life is extremely simple. And easy. And beautiful. 

And even more complicated and busy and clutter and chaotic and so so hard and messy. 

And here's the thing- feeling that first list of stuff up there makes me feel like writing and taking pictures and just marinating in the beauty of everything. And the second sentence makes me process and figure out and feel high and low. And during that during part- I don't feel like writing. I don't feel like taking pictures. I feel like taking care of business or not doing a damn thing. I feel like being private and hiding. Not because I'm depressed or sad or miserable, but because all of my energy goes into making my world feel like home. Making my head and my boys feel ok. The past few weeks we are working hard at transitioning into the new school year. My days are jam packed with pick up and drop off and therapy, therapy, therapy. Speech, Behavior- even Marriage Therapy. It's all important, and it's all overwhelming.

I like to tell stories. True ones. Sad ones that make tears plop onto my computer and clean out my brain clutter. Ones that make my heart soar. But I don't know how to write stories without endings. I've seen a few movies and read a few books with no endings. And afterwards I feel some mixture of disappoint and even a little anger. You know- when the credits are rolling and you yell at the screen- WHAT DO YOU MEAN OVER?! What about his job? Her baby? The dead guy?! You know- whatever mystery is hanging there totally unfinished. It's rude when every question isn't answered, and every stone is turned the exact same way that it started out.

But here I come to you during the in between. When life is not blissful. Or awful. Where all the questions do not yet have answers. It is here that you and I meet somewhere in the middle of real life. Because every story that we are living does not have a conclusion and morale and Van Morrison song playing while credits roll. And that's ok. Because sometimes I know what I'm doing, but mostly I'm stumbling along in the dark, waiting for someone to turn on the light. It's easy to think that writery people have their shit together- because you see the good stuff- the output. Most writers figure out life as it unfolds on the screen. The complicated becomes a little more simple. What you don't see is the in between. I don't tell you the in between because it's boring and not fun to write about and although you wouldn't enjoy reading it- you may realize- oh yes, I am that too

You see, I am complicated and moody. I get my feelings hurt easily. I obsess over things that I don't like, things I said, things I didn't say and things I can't control- plus about four million trillion other things. Sometimes I get take out all week long, my stove and oven left untouched. Sometimes I feel confused about religion and the Bible. I frequently go 2-3 days without washing my hair. Sometimes I sleep in a shirt and wear it the next day. Sometimes I am scared. Ok- I'm scared a lot. I'm scared about how fast time goes. I'm scared that I'm not present enough. I'm scared that my parents will die any day. I'm scared when I don't speak up for myself and I'm scared when I do. I'm afraid I'm not enough for my boys. I'm scared when my marriage feels even harder than parenting. I'm scared when it's too loud sometimes, like I'm just going to start screaming and go crazy. I'm scared when it's too quiet and it's just me and my marathon of thoughts. I'm scared that I'll be so distracted that I will completely miss out on everything meaningful and most sacredly important in life. I'm scared at how scared I feel sometimes. Why can't I just decide to be relaxed and happy?

Tonight I pulled out a brand spanking new box of sidewalk chalk for Grey. Full of possibility. My boy who barely speaks, and can only write his name after months and months and months (and special pencils and special boxes drawn on paper and worksheets and grids and screaming and throwing and trying again and again and again.

Wrote this...

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He only watches Pixar movies. They are his favorite. This evening I watched him unfold in front of me, like a spellbinding dance, and I start to cry. I feel the warmed sidewalk below me. My chest feels light for the first time all day. Because for just a moment I remember, Oh yes, everything is going to be just fine. Because sometimes life IS simple, and easy, and beautiful. 

And just like that- there's my ending. Or maybe just my in between.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

letting go

As soon as your baby bursts into the world they teach you as their parent all about how to help your child grow. 

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You mark a chart with feeding frequency and duration while in the hospital to ensure they are being fed adequately. And then you go home and you feed them around the clock. On demand or by a schedule. All with the hopes of optimal growth and development. I can still practically feel the drain of marathon nursing sessions until my boobs were raw and I was sucked dry of energy. There were days I was scared and convinced he was starving. Each visit and weight check at the Pediatrician rested my concerned mind. But it was worth it- because my baby was growing, filling out. 

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Little round wrists and dimpled hands were the mark of a job well done. When it came to parenting- I didn't always know if I was doing the right thing, but I knew I was helping them grow.

And then we started solids. Introducing foods just as the books and my doctors recommended- single grain cereal, sweet potatoes, applesauce. For at least an ENTIRE WEEK I made baby food from organic produce. And it was too much work so instead I bought store bought and felt guilty. He grew just the same.

And boy did my baby grow. So fast I couldn't keep up. He filled out. He grew. He got longer. He crawled. It was amazing to watch their little bodies and minds that seemed to just know what to do next. It was impossible to comprehend. God, DNA, my blood, oxygen and genetics made this incredible little creature here in my arms, staring into my eyes, making to believe it was impossible that a moment existed before he came into the world.

He grew and grew and grew. He started to walk. A little drunken sailor walk that made me squeal and clap and jump up and down. He grew so good, my boy. Too fast really. I finally understood why the little old ladies would stare into my eyes and beg me to enjoy every little moment. So I tried, I really did. Even the awful ones were somehow better than the days before he was around.

And then he grew and he grew some more. His waddle walk turned almost instantly into a run. And then a jump and a climb too. He now had favorite foods- spaghetti and mac and cheese. It was so fun to watch him explore and play and eat and grow.He outgrew his clothes and shoes at a rapid pace. Every time his growth was charted and plotted at the pediatrician's office, I felt so relieved. So proud. Growing this little human was the most important job I ever had.

And now my first little baby is six years old. I've had my ups and our downs, but deep inside I've always felt equipped to do what's right to help him grow.

But there is one thing I still can't seem to grasp. Something that pains me and keeps me up some nights-- I just don't know how to let go. I'm just not cut out for it. I can't breathe just thinking about it. 

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Last week my six year old boy started First Grade.  I still feel a little lost. I'm angry that it's not getting easier as the years go by. I don't get how I'm supposed to give this moving, breathing, incredible shiny part of my soul away every single day six hours a day. 

And although I know I have to let go, I really have absolutely no idea how. I don't know what it looks like. The baby books never mentioned it. There's no prescribed ointment or pill given at the doctor that will help me detach. It feels like lost and homesick and lovesick and sad. I'm envious of the parents who are nothing but joyful at the beginning of each school year. 

I always always want what's best for him. How can what is best sometimes hurt so much?
For now I can't deny or control my feelings so I feel them. Entertain the uncomfortable bastards. I can control my behavior. I will not not rent a car and wear a wig and drive by his school at recess eleventy-hundred times a day. 

I think parenthood is a mixture of holding on and letting go. Teaching them to grow and letting them grow all on their own then. Of doing and letting them do. Teaching them- and learning from them. It's crazy- the gauntlet of feelings we feel every day. Fear, joy, anger, frustration, pain, joy so big it flies out or your heart and can make you cry. The funny thing is- watching him grow and adapt and let go of me, is helping to show me the way.