A family's story


Last week, Cole’s teacher celebrated her birthday. Typically, the head room parent spearheads an effort to get a card signed for the teacher. Considering that kindergarteners have 2.5 hours a day in class, I decided to send an email to the parents in Cole’s class encouraging everyone to MAKE a card for the fabulous Mrs. Kinder. I also told the parents that I’d buy some flowers or a plant for our children’s beloved teacher.

The afternoon class’s head room mom had emailed me about the birthday. She asked if we should go in on something together, or what our class was planning. I told her our plans. She said that their class was doing the same. Great!

Mrs. Kinder’s birthday was on Thursday. Friday, Cole came home with a thank you note typed up from the teacher. My jaw dropped. First, I will wholeheartedly admit that I am competitive and can be Type A. I like to win. I do. Second, this sealed the deal for me that the Mommy Wars are SO VERY REAL.

Mrs. Kinder’s note expressed her gratitude to both classes for showering her with attention. She thanked the parents and students for their cards and for the gifts. She listed the gifts. I knew what our class had given her. I thought that maybe some parents had gone all out. I felt a little sheepish that our class had *just* given her an orchid and balloon.

Over the long weekend I had some time to chat with a fellow parent. Her son is in the afternoon class, and we had a play date. She showed me the picture of the gifts that the afternoon class had given to Mrs. Kinder. Holy moly!!

Apparently the wife of the co-head room dad got her Pinterest on last week. They presented Mrs. Kinder with a basket of flowers….the flowers had the face of each one of the afternoon class’s students. She artfully arranged them, with pipe cleaners, foam grass, etc. In the basket, she included not one, not two, but three gift cards to Mrs. Kinder’s favorite stores. To top it off, she sent in gluten free, peanut/tree nut free cupcakes for the class to eat to celebrate.

The competitor in me was angry. I lost. I totally, unequivocally, lost this one. The little orchid, while a beautiful token of appreciation, could in no way, shape or form be as great as that. It isn’t sentimental. It isn’t personal. Dang!

This is how Mommy Wars are formed. It didn’t help that the mom with whom I was chatting was beaming and talking about how Mrs. Kinder said that the flower arrangement would be on her shelves when these kids are 5th graders. In Head-Room-Parent-Land, ‘dem is fighting words!!!!!

There are a lot of things I could do. I could scour Pinterest to find the perfect End of the Year extravaganza. I could whine. I could call in my troops of other competitive mommies and get something rolling. I could blog about the injustices of it all. But I won’t. Instead, I will admit that the other mom did a bang-up job on this birthday gift. She is clearly talented and spent loads of her free time on this one. Kudos to her.

I hope Cole’s teacher knows that our class is incredibly appreciative of her, and that we do wish her the happiest of birthdays.

Mother’s Day is in two days. I look forward to celebrating with my boys. I’m beyond blessed to be their mom. It is truly a privilege to be a part of their journey in this world. I love how each of my boys is different, and how my parenting experience with each is unique.

Of course, Mother’s Day also conjures up so many memories of my mom. That was the ONE day a year that she wanted to spend with us. That she wanted us to acknowledge. She wanted her day on THAT day more than even her birthday. I’ll never fully know why, but we girls all knew that Mother’s Day was sacred.

This is my fifth Mother’s Day without my mom. Mother’s Day is…it’s hard. So. Damn. Hard. Her absence is profoundly felt as I walk past the displays in stores that scream, “Celebrate Mom!”, or as I choose cards for my mother-in-law. On Sunday, when I look on Facebook and see friends having brunch with mom. Or when I see their kids sitting on Grandma’s lap. Or when I see “generation” pictures. My throat constricts. My voice catches in my throat. I feel a pit in my stomach. I get just the slightest bit jealous. I don’t have time to wallow in my grief, as I have three beautiful blessings to show me how wonderful my present is…but..well..How I long for one more conversation. One more embrace. One more sniff of the essence that made Mom…Mom. The hardest part about not having a mom anymore is that I can’t ever have those again.

This time of year, I think of all of the parenting questions that come like rapid fire in my mind, none of which occurred to me back when she was so sick, and when we were squeezing in every last ounce of time we had with her. I think about asking her how she handled sassiness. How she handled a struggling student. How she handled BALANCE. She made it seem so easy…and so many days I feel like I’m floundering.

I’d love to ask her questions about tweens entering puberty. And middle school. I want to ask how she let go? Was it easy? Was it as difficult as I’m tending to find it? Was she as worried out of her mind as I am right now? I want to know if she ever struggled with watching us enter a new phase, or hitting a milestone. I wonder if she was ever reluctant to go with the flow and see what the future brought.  I want to know if she was really as strong and confident as she seemed…or if there was an inner 12 year old in there second guessing her every move.

I would love to get her opinion about turning 40. Did she feel more confident? Care less about what others think? Did she own her quirks and passions? What did she do when she started to notice the gray hairs woven in her dark brunette hair? What about the wrinkles that started to sprinkle around her eyes? Did she worry about some of her freckles and beauty marks? Was she ever freaked out about finding a lump or worse?

Sunday will be a day with my boys. I’m grateful that I have them on that day, because without them, I would feel every bit of the being broken as I feel about missing my mom on that day. They have definitely helped me manage the grief and the pain of missing my own mother on Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you and miss you always.


Mother’s Day, 2010 (Cole 10 months, Jake 6.5 years, Tate 4 years)

With Appreciation…

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Yesterday, the boys brought their teachers flowers. Because it does take a literal village to help the boys succeed in school, we were very grateful that Costco sells big bouquets for cheap! With one bouquet, we were able to cover each teacher and specialist!

Thankfully the PTO reigned in the Teacher Appreciation Week festivities a couple of years ago. Back in the day we parents were asked to send in flowers, candy, school supplies, games and more to shower the teachers with thanks. Gratefully, we now just provide flowers and a gift, if we choose. Today the kids are wearing neon because the teachers have made their future so bright. Tomorrow they are dressing to impress (wear ‘nice’ clothes). Thursday they can make their teachers and specialists home made cards. Friday they can wear their teacher’s favorite color or school spirit colors.

Because we are grateful and appreciative of all that the boys’ teachers and specialists do for them, we provide gifts for them during Teacher Appreciation Week. I have to buy twelve gifts. And then, in another 5 weeks, we give end of the year tokens of thanks to our teachers and staff. I know that I don’t HAVE to give them anything. However, I know that my children each have their own set of challenges, and I want to thank the teachers and staff for their hard work during the school year to motivate my children to learn and grow. This year, particularly, has been a good year.  I can’t let that go unrecognized.

I’m grateful that most of the teachers enjoy a good gift card to Target or Starbucks. Those are easy to find, and I know that they will be used! The hard part comes with creating the “presentation”. Again, I know I don’t have to do anything big, but at the same time, my marketing background comes out, and I want to make it look good. To make it memorable.

So, off I go to figure that out…but really, I know that it’s not about the presentation. It’s about appreciating those whom work with my children to grow, progress, and learn. I am incredibly grateful for the good people out there whom treat my children with respect and dignity and let them see how much they can do in life and in school.

April 29th. How the heck is it already April 29th?! This year really seems to have moved full speed ahead!!! The boys are done with this school year in 6 weeks. I am ironing out therapy, summer school, and summer activity schedules right now. It seems so far away, and yet, so close.

I also can’t believe that we are nearing the end of the school year. Big changes loom ahead. Jake heads off to middle school in the fall. MIDDLE SCHOOL. I hated middle school…well, back then it was called Junior High. And who am I kidding, I went to a K-8 parochial school…but the 6-8 graders did have their own area of the school. It was the armpit of my educational experience. Yuck. I am trying not to project that too much upon him.

This is another step closer to his independence, to him being a “big” kid. Middle schoolers are required to know their schedules, juggle locker combinations, dress in a PE uniform for gym, and switch classrooms for every period. That’s a lot of moving around and keeping things straight for any child, let alone for a kiddo with executive functioning issues, focus and attention issues, and anxiety. I need to calm my own anxiety so that I will be able to help him with strategies as the struggles occur. And they will occur…but hopefully we can work through them and stop struggles from taking over.

Middle School also means a new IEP team. A new group of teachers, specialists, and the like. We are currently in the process of re-evaluation. It’s time for his 3-year reassessment. I know he’ll still qualify for services, but I’m also nervous about what may come out of this meeting. Unfortunately, we had already had his yearly review meeting in February, in which it was recommended that he take Instructional Math and Instructional Reading/Language Arts, which are smaller classes. We worry that he will lose ground on the curriculum. He is in a co-taught classroom for other subjects.

With the reevaluation, I’m hoping that he will score higher in language arts/reading to justify a co-taught experience. I really do think he can handle it. It’s not like he doesn’t get support at home. We have tutors, he works with me, he works with Hubz. I just think he CAN do it, if that is what we expect of him. The math, well, the math I understand. He is floundering. It would help if he used his tools…and if the teachers reinforced that he should use his tools. I understand that he needs to be independent and needs to figure some things out on his own, but seriously, give the kid a checklist so that he has a reminder of what he CAN use in class to help him.

As much as Jake continues to have academic struggles, it has been a banger year for social/emotional growth. He is doing amazingly well. We had to make some tough decisions, but ultimately, our choices have worked well. He is happier, more well-adjusted, and able to address triggers and cope with them. He is playing with the boys on the playground and eating lunch with them in the cafeteria. He is a part of it…instead of being mothered by the girls, he has friends…and his confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

Middle school also means new friends. Two and a half elementary schools feed into our middle school. The kids that he’s grown up with over the past 6 years know him and his quirks. They know they have to wait and be patient. They know he talks too much when he’s nervous, and that he will defer to talking about animals when he doesn’t know what else to say. They help him a lot, too. But the other 100+ new sixth graders don’t know him like that…and what happens then? I am not even going to let myself think about 7th and 8th graders. I just may faint.

I know it’s a right of passage. I know that we all have had to figure these things out..and that we have all had our share of failure and success. I just hope beyond hope that he is okay…and that we’ve given him enough tools to be successful.

Bumbling Through

We’re still keeping on keeping on here. It’s been almost 2 and a half months since I last blogged. I’ve been working on being healthy, working on being informed about my kids and their needs, and working on keeping my house from being an episode of Hoarders. (I’m not winning that last battle so much, but I am working to chip away at all of our accumulated crap, so that’s a plus.)

All three of our boys are doing fairly well. We have progress, we have frustrations, we have successes and misses. But we are moving forward through this school year, and thankfully, for the most part, we are coming through relatively unscathed.

Jake is powering through 5th grade. All of our end of elementary school activities are starting to occur. I’m not sure if I’m ready for my child to be in middle school. I worry about this next step a lot. Is he going to be able to handle it academically? Socially? Emotionally? He’s quirky and awesome, but will kids see him that way? He started Boy Scouts last month. So far, he enjoys it. But he’s so small compared to some of the other boys. I just want him to be happy and to stay afloat…I hope we don’t lose momentum going into middle school.

Tate is hanging in there. We’ve seen some great progress. We are coping with some behaviors. I wish I knew the way to handle some of the hard stuff better. I want him to be happy. I want him to be him. I wish that certain things were easier for him, and I wish that he was less frustrated by social interactions and expectations. I wish he had a few friends. Maybe some day he will. Right now he has “friends”, but no real true friend. Makes my momma heart heavy. On the other hand, he is reading and comprehending better. He is impulsive, but with certain activities, he is slowing down and we see such gains.

Cole is coming into his own as he works through kindergarten. For a child whom struggled with letter recognition in August, he is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was. He is reading, writing, doing math, and is so intuitive. He amazes me every day with his ability to comprehend and predict and learn. He is also a social butterfly. He cares about his friends and he is often the center of a group of kids. He’s enjoying school.

The boys are getting along relatively well, and they truly have a brotherly love. It isn’t what some would say is typical, but I absolutely love being privy to their interactions and support of each other. If anything, I know that my boys have each others’ backs, and that is a marvelous thing…to be able to have comfort in knowing that family is always there for you.

I know this is a ramble and a jumble. I just have a lot on my mind, and I knew I’d feel better coming over here to get some of it out. I do.

Winter Doldrums

Ugh. January is such an ugly, gray bucket of suck. I feel like I’m allowed to say that because my birthday is in January, so I can badmouth this month because I kind of own it. I know, it’s not mine to own, but I pretend sometimes.

Last year, January was an unbelievably difficult time for our family. We had 4 emergency “cold” days that the school district called. We couldn’t get into a groove. Jake was struggling greatly due to a bully. We had the IEP meeting from hell, where they dropped a placement change bomb on us. Back then, it felt like we couldn’t get out of there.

Today, I am experiencing some winter doldrums. It’s been fairly cold here again. Last week the boys missed two days of school due to “extreme cold”. It wasn’t as bad as last year’s cold, but it was bad. We’re trying to get back into our groove after the let down of the holidays and so forth.

I have another birthday coming up. 2 weeks from today, actually. I always get a bit reflective and pensive around this time. What did I do with my life in the past year? What can I do better? How do I find my happy place? How do I stop losing my cool with the antics of three boys? How the hell am I already pushing 40?! When did that happen? I swear, there is a decade or so of my life that is floating around in the ether.

Instead of wallowing, I forced myself to drudge through the fog and the doldrums. As I exercised and ran a few errands, I began to sing and hum. It helped make me a bit more cheery. I came to a realization. I am in a better place than I was a year ago. We are in a better place than we were a year ago. I may have lost and gained the same 7 pounds all year (and now I need to lose them again), but I am healthier. I exercise more. I am making more real food. We have purged a bit of the stuff we have amassed in our 14+ years of marriage. We are supporting the boys and getting them through some of the rough patches. THEY are doing an exemplary job of using their tools and making them work for themselves in difficult situations. We aren’t letting the bastards keep us down!!!

And to top it off, in 10 days we are going to be in the “Happiest Place on Earth”. That is enough to pull anyone out of the winter doldrums. So, as I sit here and look outside at the gray skies and the snow-covered ground, and shiver as I sip on my green tea (a New Year’s Resolution….drink more healthy stuff!), and pull my sweater more tightly around my not-so-svelte middle, I know that in 10 short days I’ll be in the land of sun, fun, and all things Mickey!

Be gone, doldrums….

Happy New Year 2015

2015. Wow. How is it 2015?! Wasn’t it just 2009???

We rang in the New Year at 11:00 last night….hey, at least it was midnight on the East Coast!!!  Hubz and I enjoyed spending the night with the boys, eating appetizers and watching How To Train Your Dragon 2. The quiet and comfort of our own home was much needed as we start to wind down this winter break.

Speaking of break, we have managed to make it through most of winter break here in the House of Hope without too much melting down. The bickering and annoyances have been minimal, too…although, today they were high. I just kept telling myself, “Only 3 more days”!!!

I spent the time I used to fold laundry today contemplating this year’s resolutions. I’m a resolution or goal kinda gal. I may not keep them all, but I do try to change a few bad habits or begin some better ones. I always have the perennial quest to lose weight and get healthy. This year is no different. I have a list of resolutions…goals, if you will. My most important resolution this year is to find my happy. It’s not that I’m UN-happy, but I think I tend to get wrapped up in minutea and get stuck in my loops of people pleasing. That’s fine, but I need to make sure that I am happy and satisfied…if I can ensure that, then I think some of the angst I have been feeling will slip away.

A few of my other resolutions include:

-regular exercise

-better food choices/more balanced diet (I love vegetables and fruit…I need to remember to make those a part of every meal!)

-becoming more comfortable and familiar with the new Macbook Pro I got for Christmas

-taking more pictures of my family that include me and Hubz

-putting away the electronic distractions and having unplugged meals and family time

-writing more

-reading more

-trying to understand life from my boys’ perspectives rather than just relying on my own, when trying to give them tools for navigating the world

So, that’s my start for 2015. Hope you all had a marvelous holiday season and are ready for this new year, the new experiences, the new opportunities.

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