A family's story

Where I ditch perfection…

Today I turn 40. There were no trumpets. No confetti. No big proclamations or cabana boys jumping out of cakes. Really, it has been “just another day”. And that is okay. I don’t need the flashy kind of birthday. I’m not flashy. I like quiet. It’s really just enough that my family and friends remembered and wished me well. And, well, Jake gave me the biggest hug this morning and a sweet happy birthday wish. (Considering that he’s 12 and most days I annoy him more than anything, that was one of the best gifts ever.)

I always get a bit retrospective on my birthday. With this being a “milestone” birthday and all, I have been thinking about my 30’s quite a bit. What did I learn? Did I come out ahead? One thing for sure, my 30’s had a lot of change, experience, and pivotal moments.

I started out that decade with a plan. I always had a plan. I was going to carpe me some diem. Or whatever. I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to work, we were going to add to our family, I was going to rock the professional and personal work/life balance thing. It was going to be amazing.

Looking back, my 30’s reminds me a lot of the game Perfection. Remember that game? I was going to get all the pieces put in just the right spots, with plenty of time to spare, beat the buzzer and win!

 

Jake had been born a couple years before. His arrival threw me because he was early. I was expecting Tate a few months after my 30th birthday. I was prepared. Even if he came early, we’d be okay. Nursery was done early. Clothes were washed. Bag was pack–EEEEEEH!!! The buzzer went off before I got those pieces put all together. Tate came 3 weeks and 1 day early, I had an emergency c-section because he was breech, and he was diagnosed with a heart murmur the day after he was born.

Tate’s first couple of months were the typical blur of having a newborn. We threw in some specialist appointments (turned out the heart murmur was minor and he would be okay). But damn, that kid WOULD NOT SLEEP. EVER. He was a fussy little guy, and hated to be snuggled. Hated being on his tummy. He threw up at seemingly odd intervals. I went back to work, barely getting enough sleep at night.

We moved on. The boys grew. We were finding our way. It wasn’t smooth, but it felt like the pieces were starting to fit a bit better. I was going to beat that buzzer. Yea—EEEEEEH! Buzzer went off. Damn! The head of our daycare called and expressed concerns about both Jake and Tate and their development. Whaaaaa?! She suggested autism in relation to Tate. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, listen. How? Why? Not my baby!!

We made appointments with Early Intervention. Tate was evaluated. He was severely delayed in speech, both receptive and expressive. His pragmatic skills were nil. What did that even mean?! Jake was speech delayed. He started services with the school. Tate started meeting with a speech pathologist. He then was evaluated for OT and developmental therapy. I felt like some new pieces were added to the game, but we were playing, and just about winning.

In 2009 we found out we were expecting another little boy. We were prepping for our transition to a family of five. Hubz finished the basement. The game of Perfection was getting closer to comple—. EEEEEH! Buzzer went off again. I went into pre-term labor at 33 weeks. It couldn’t be stopped. I had excessive amniotic fluid. I wanted to have a VBAC and, well, the baby was on his umbilical cord. A c-section was going to have to happen. Our little guy, Cole, was born 7 weeks early. He was small. But he was strong. He spent 3 weeks in the NICU. It was a rocky period, but we made it through.

I picked up those pieces, organized them differently, and started again. One piece went in so easily. Cole was flourishing. He was meeting milestones ahead of schedule, which was a relief. Tate was in Early Childhood preschool and was talking more and more. Jake was doing pretty well in kindergarten. I decided to stay home with the boys for a year or two, and I quit my job. I became a room mom for Jake’s class. I was figuring out how to navigate the parent gig with school and being home. My mom and I were talking about how much fun we were going to have once Jake and Tate were in school full days. Yes! I was figuring it out. These pieces weren’t so hard, after all…only a few more, and I’d wi—-EEEEEEEH!

My mom got sick. So, so sick. She was hospitalized. Then a stroke. Then a diagnosis…Pancreatic cancer. Terminal. How was I ever going to get through life without her?! The summer of 2010 was, and remains, a blur. I shuffled between caring for the boys and caring for my mom. I was truly sandwiched. The pieces of were scattered everywhere. I couldn’t even remember how to put them in the right way. That damn buzzer was going off. September 2010. The buzzer blew so loud and so fast. Mom was gone.

The pieces were everywhere. I think I lost a piece or two. I had enough to attempt to start over, so slowly, ever so slowly , I picked them up, and started placing them gingerly into their places. One. At. A. Time. I learned about things that were important. And I learned to let go of some things that weren’t. We also realized that as much progress as Tate was making, something wasn’t quite…typical. Six months after my mom died, we found out that our Tater Tot was autistic. No one I knew had a kiddo with needs like his. Hubz and I thought our game was totally busted. During that time the game sat on a shelf. The buzzer was jammed. I had other things to worry about.

Once we had a diagnosis for Tate, we got things moving. I figured out insurance. Hubz dealt with HR. We found ABA. Tate got more services. His IEP was beefed up. He started to make REAL progress. I pulled out the game, looked at it to decide whether I should try again. I flipped the pieces between my fingers. I could do this. Those pieces could fit. I could still win at Perfection. I got pretty close, but then, as usual, the buzzer went off, again, and I was no where near perfection.

As is the norm, the buzzer sounded a few more times in my later 30’s. I’d get SO. DAMN. CLOSE. Then…EEEEEH! Buzzer would go off. I kept trying, though. Then, one day, while I was putting those pieces in, I started to realize that maybe this game of perfection wasn’t where it was at. At 39, I put that perfection on the shelf. As it collected dust, I realized that I have friends whom get this roller coaster life that we lead. They have helped me see that perfection isn’t always the end goal. My family is fantastic the way it is. We can always work for BETTERING ourselves, but perfection??? It doesn’t have to be the end all, be all.

So, as I turn 40, I am chucking that stupid game into the garbage. I have finally realized that those pieces will NEVER all quite fit into their precise spots in a dictated timeframe. Life just doesn’t work that way.

This decade, I hope to work to achieve a balance. I know that there will be joy. There will be pain. Perfection is a word in the dictionary. I cannot and will not use it to dictate how my life should be. Perfection isn’t how I will measure my children’s successes, either. We are perfectly imperfect, and it suits us well.

 

Fabulous at 40?

So, in 20 days I will be 40 years old.  I’ve seen so many memes lately about “I don’t feel 40 until I go out with people who are 20 and then, yep, I feel 40”. Okay, maybe not EXACTLY that wording, but you get the gist. You guys, it is SO true. When I am THINKING and PONDERING and possibly PERSEVERATING on various things, I don’t feel a day over 25. For real. But then I try to do something physical, like, oh, I don’t know, open a jar of pickles, and gosh darn it, I FEEL the pain. That twinge in my thumb. A creak in my wrist. Oh, man…..

In my efforts to “get fit by 40” (which, news flash, I didn’t), I have been walking for 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. I’m proud of myself for having walked more than 10,000 steps a day most days of the week, and for maintaining regular exercise. However, it isn’t the most rigorous. And I definitely eat too many calories. (Sidebar: Why do bread, bagels and cheese have to be soooo damn delicious?!)

So, I find myself sitting at the higher weight (holiday candy and cookies be damned!) and needing to step up my fitness game. Sooooooo, I am taking the 21 Day Fix plunge. Eeeek! I did it last year and felt better. This year, I will do it again, but I will remember to do the MODIFIED workouts to start. Even with modified workouts, I know that for the first week, possibly two, I will be so sore, and Advil will be my friend. If you see me hobbling around, or having trouble getting down into a chair, no need to worry. It’s just that I’m so out of shape. I just need to tell myself that this is better for my body in the long run!!! I will also try to aim for the 10,000 steps a day. It keeps me active, even if I am slightly a slave to the Fitbit. ;)

Also, I keep reading about the devil that sugar is to us humans. C’mon, man! In addition to bread, bagels and cheese,  I also love candy, ice cream, flavored lattes, etc. But, I am sure that sugar in the amounts that I consume it is not the best, so I will work on cutting down on that sugar consumption. I’m not happy about it, but I will. I will work to appreciate fruit as a dessert. (Insert eye roll here.)

Part of being fabulous means working the mind, along with the body. To achieve this, I plan on writing more this year. It is a good outlet, and I love rereading some of my old posts. It’s like a diary that I share with the world. But it is a good record of my life and happenings. I think I may also try my hand at writing a book. It may never be published or shared for public consumption, but really, I just want to see if I can do it. Wish me luck!!!

Last year I worked at trying to find my happy. I lost my way a few times, but overall, I think I did find it more than I had been in the past. That is my goal for my 40’s. I want to find my happy. (And for this conflict-averse, people pleaser, that is going to be HARD. But I’m going to do it. Just watch me!!!)

So, yeah, I may not be “fabulous by 40”, but I’m hoping to work on being fabulous IN my 40’s. That’s a good goal, right? I have 10 years to get it right.

 

Status

Oh, December. How is it almost the end of 2015..and the beginning of 2016?! As much as I want to stop time and savor certain moments, it keeps ticking forward. Pesky thing, time.

I’m going to be turning 40 soon. That seems odd. 40 used to seem so old. So wise. And I don’t really feel either of those things. I mean, I definitely have a few more aches in my knees and several more gray hairs than I used to have, but my mind and my spirits are what they always were. I definitely don’t feel any more wise, either. Huh.

The boys keep on truckin’. We are skating through the 6th grade, 4th grade and 1st grade. Each of the kiddos did well academically in the first grading period. Each has had his bumps. Each is resilient and moving forward.

The house is decorated for Christmas. Tree and lights are up. My village is up, various little accent decorations pepper our living areas. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care…all that jazz. This year, Tate has been really into our elf, Alfie. He looks for him every morning and find his shenanigans amusing. Last year he was curious about the elf, so it’s a lot of fun to watch him get into it this year!

Something not so fun is the bickering over our Lego Advent Calendar. A few years back, Alfie started to bring our family a Lego Advent Calendar on December 1st. The first 2 years, Cole was the only one who really seemed to care. Last year Jake got into it more. This year, all 3 boys want some of that action. Cole is struggling to share the Legos. It’s good for him to share, but he isn’t liking it. He has awaken a bit too early some mornings to make sure he has a fair shake at that calendar. We have an established schedule right now, so I hope it works. I’d hate to stop that tradition next year because they can’t handle it.

Is my Jake the only 6th grade boy clinging to the belief that Santa is real? He hasn’t outright asked, and he likes to believe in magic and mystery. My guess is that he’s heard his peers at school talk about parents giving gifts and keeping the hope alive..but he hasn’t said anything..and if he isn’t going to say anything, I’m certainly not going to say anything. I’m happy to have him playing along to keep the magic alive for a while longer for the other two. Of course, Cole has already started asking a few of the more pointed questions. My guess is that he’ll figure it out next year.

Hope everyone out there is doing well. We continue to plug along. Welp, I’m off to get a few more shopping items crossed off of my list. Happy Holidays to all!!

I am “here”.

I saw that a friend from high school got published on Scary Mommy. Her post was brave. It was powerful. It inspired me to write again–thanks, Jeanine! (You can sneak a peak here: http://www.scarymommy.com/dear-college-boys-in-the-school-bookstore/)

Oh, my poor, neglected blog. I don’t come here as often as I used to. Raising 3 boys, maintaining a steady level of chaos and balance, volunteering and experiencing life as a family do that. I’m an almost 40-year-old stay-at-home mom to a middle schooler, a fourth grader and a first grader. I don’t even know how I got “here”, but “here” I am.

Just to keep everyone abreast of the boys’ lives, they are doing well. We have our bumps, but overall, they are growing and learning and finding their way. Jake is navigating middle school. Tate is embracing his status as “the oldest Hope boy” so well at the elementary school. And Cole is just so damn typical. Seriously. I love it and want to rip my hair out at the same time.

Anyway, getting back to being “here”. I have three boys in school full time. Six years ago my plan was to be back in the workforce by now, earning a paycheck, and having a career. Then, well, life happened. So, I scrapped my original plan, and Hubz and I moved ahead with a new one. I’m living the life of a mom whose work lies within the confines of being a parent and probably the only non-ADHD member of the home, so at least one of us has some good executive functioning skills!

If anyone thinks that I “just” stay at home, well, don’t I wish!!! With my “free” time, I volunteer at the elementary school. I am able to help in Cole’s class with literacy stations and with teacher projects. I’m able to run PTO events and assist my friends with their endeavors at the school, as well. I’m even able to have lunch, on occasion, with other moms whom work flexible schedules or are still at home, themselves. Additionally, I run errands, grocery shop, shuttle kids and their friends to therapy, practices and games, and I still manage to find time to grab a latte most days!

I have a sixth grader. In our district, sixth grade is in a middle school. His schedule reminds me of my high school schedule. It’s likely as demanding as my life was in ninth grade, although, I never had to contend with ADHD nor learning difficulties. And yet, my kid is still kicking butt! I am so proud of the maturity with which he is handling this new phase in his life. I, on the other hand, feel as insecure as I did when I was 12. I mean, 10 different teachers, 10 periods, homework every night, gaah!!!

I have a fourth grader. He’s also going to be 10 in six months. How is my Tater “going on 10”?! I remember “going on 10”. I love watching his expanding experiences. He’s learning so much. And he’s doing it rather successfully. I’m not sure if I would have been able to handle as much as he has to handle every day, and he does it with few complaints, and often, with a smile and a giggle.

I have a first grader. Scratch that. My BABY is a first grader. I can’t even. This is the one that tends to blow my mind. Wasn’t Jake just my trailblazing first grader?! It’s amazing to see how much has changed in just 5 years. The curriculum is more rigorous. The demands are high. And my little Cole is doing first grade like.a.boss. Not that I would think he would handle it any other way, as he’s always taken on experiences and tasks that are clearly above his age level. But he is. And he makes me so proud every day as he learns to make the choices that are right, but not always easy.

I am almost forty. For serious. In three and a half months I join the “Fabulous at 40” club. I have some friends that are already reaching this milestone birthday. How did we get here?! I remember the year MY mom turned 40. It was a big joke about how old she was. I really never understood it until it started to happen to me, but holy cow, I completely feel no older than 25, and many times, in terms of being awkward or unsure of myself, I still feel 15. My birth certificate and driver’s license beg to differ, however. Guess I’ll just keep on practicing “fake it ’til I make it”.

I have been working on being healthy and taking care of myself. When I peaked the scales this summer, I realized that I can’t continue to gain weight every year. I no longer felt comfortable in my skin, and I was achy and exhausted all of the time. The diet of cheese, bread, and ice cream (which I really, really, REALLY wish I could sustain) was catching up to me. I took charge. I work out five days a week. I eat relatively healthily most days. I have cut out most processed carbs. I have reduced my cheese intake. I feel so much better. My knees don’t hurt when I sit down. My back isn’t achy every night. My jeans fit again. And, AND, I went in a belt notch. Wooohooooo!

Hubz and I will be celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary in a month. FIFTEEN YEARS. How the heck did that happen? Weren’t we just planning our wedding? We have grown up together, he and I. We’ve learned a thing, or ten, about commitment, love, communication, parenting, home ownership, sump pumps, purchasing a HOUSE, finding a good doctor, finding a second opinion, navigating school-aged children, navigating IEPs, coping with loss. We may not be as young (or as thin) as we used to be, but we are definitely still as in love. I don’t mean that as a cheesy statement. I really mean it. I know that he’s got my back. He knows I’ve got his. We’ve worked on so much together..and our lives are so intertwined. I love that. Neither of us would be the person we are today if it weren’t for the other.

When I started this blog, I used it as a way to process through Tate’s autism diagnosis and all that goes with that. Back then, I was trying to find a way to figure out what autism meant to our family, what it meant for Tate, and I felt the need to share everything with the world as a way to process through it. Today, autism is still a part of our lives, but I am not able to share everything. I know what MY experience with raising a son with autism is like, but I know that for all of the similarities, there are so many differences. I also know that if anyone has a question about autism, they are likely much better served by asking someone who is autistic, rather than a mom of an autistic kid. I mean, I have experiences AS A PARENT that I am happy to share, but I can’t tell anyone what it’s like to be autistic. I’ll leave that to many others…including Tate, whom says, “it is what I do.”

Often, I still find myself “between hope and a hard place”. Sometimes that hard place comes from a parenting moment, or watching my children navigate their worlds, and sometimes it comes from my being pulled into umpteen different directions. I am going to try to write more. I MISS that. But my writing may often focus on topics not autism related. Sometimes the topics may not even be parenting-related. But they will be Lisa-life-related, and THAT is my expertise.

Out-Pinterested!!!

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.

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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.

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