Sunday, November 16, 2014

Not Even an . . .

 . . . Ant Farm. I was emphatic about that.

Once we discovered we were having triplets, our lives became consumed with details about how we would manage everything. We survived the laundry list of medical issues that swallowed our existence initially. The kids started to grow, they seemed to turn into real little people. People that ate, slept and pooped all over us.

We started getting asked if we thought we might have more children. They tried, (not well), to stifles chuckles as they asked. And when I said 'they', I mean strangers who decided it was ok to say and ask such things to and of persons they had never before met.

“And the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.”  ― Maurice SendakWhere the Wild Things Are

And by that I mean, we politely said things like, "Have a nice day", and continued dragging our way through Costco.

Fast forward a year when our neighbor had a friend whose dog had created a litter of out of dog-wedlock puppies, and asked my husband if my kids would like one. In front of the kids. He rapidly assessed the situation and steered her back toward her garage. He then share with her a philosophy that he knew I had adamantly stamped on our lives, and rightly knew I would say in response.

"Not ONE MORE living thing in my house. Not EVEN an Ant Farm!"

In my overzealous online shopping (because I need to compete with myself every year to complete my holiday shopping at least as early as I have the previous year), I came acros 'vintage' (does this make me old??) things like the pull-along phone, and a Viewmaster (I still have my original, but that's a whole other post). I ams came across, wait for it . . . an Ant Farm. I did not pay the price that is listed in this link, far below it, which may have contributed to the delinquency of my shopping habits, again, another post another time. So I figured, my kids are almost seven, this could be fun!

When it arrived, I explained what it was, and texted a picture to my
husband. I reminded him of my statement threaded through the years, and he responded, "And yet it appears to be sitting on our counter". Indeed it was. but the devil is in the details, or the beauty is in the semantics. However you want to spin it.

Ants. Sold. Separately. 

Mean Little Girls

I knew it would happen. I knew six years old was a possibility. But knowing it doesn't take the sting out of it. It wasn't my child - this time around. But it could have been and might be at some point. It's really all of ours when it happens, and it really doesn't matter if it's mine, or yours. I'm talking about bullying, in this case, specifically mean girl bullying.

A classmate of my daughter's was teased about her body, and the gossip spread rapidly amongst the first grade girls. When my daughter related it to me, she had heard it and asked me what it meant, and why the other little girl said it. It was a moment that hung in the air between us, and I knew what I said next would have an impact. My husband stood nearby and the hanging moment slowly floated down over us.

I looked at my daughter and told her this:

"People come in all shapes and sizes. If this little girl was mean to your friend, there are some things you need to know.

First, you can say anything to Mama and Daddy. We are so so glad you are sharing this with us. If you hear something said about someone else, you must not repeat it to anyone else though. If you do, you are being just as mean as the person who started it.

Second, you should feel sad for the little girl who is saying mean things. She may not understand why anyone is the way they are. She is only looking at your friend on the outside, and she will never get to know her heart, and what a beautiful person she is. She is losing that opportunity.

Third, it is always ok to stick up for your friends. When you make something important to a bully, they will keep doing it. If you see mean things happening, you can tell a grown up. But you can also go to your friend, take her hand, act as though the mean behavior is not important and lead her away to do something else."

I held my breath, hoping that wasn't too much for her to take in. She stared back at us, then looked to my husband for confirmation. He nodded at her. She went back to eating her dinner, seemingly satisfied.

I know this will occur again, but I hope it doesn't.

There are a wide variety of books available to support teaching children about anti-bullying. This one has a list of questions girls may ask about friendships, and suggested talking points.

An article I recently read touted the benefits and detriments of various school sizes and diversity in populations. I see the perspectives from both sides, and sit on the fence as to what is best. We each have to decide for our own children, and it is never easy when anyone is singled out.

To that end, I borrow trouble more regarding my son than my daughter and whether or not he will experience bullying. He is less physically able than his peers with his CP, and even now as young as he is, he is starting to be isolated on the playground. Despite encouragement to do more, he cannot run, jump and play sports the same as other 6 year olds, so he hangs back and plays with girls who are less energetic, or stays with his aide. I can see the effect this is having as he is a super social child. It pains me, but I know he has to find his way. He has the distinct benefit of being a triplet, which disallows him self-pity. He wants to do what they do. I am also of the opinion determination that the relationships he develops today with female classmates will eventually be rewarded by in-demand relationships with male classmates later on. It will be the smart boys who realize Cole knows all the girls. Those girls will close ranks when anyone bullies him. The main thing I try to instill in our kids is to try to be kind.

For now, I try to allow the conversations to be organic at our house. I don't want to present issues to my children and have them worry in advance. I'm unable to escape it, so that's my department.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Red, Red Whine

I don't drink much, but I do enjoy a good glass of wine now and again.

However, this morning, my car, my down coat and my children now smell like they've been bathed in a 2010 Petite Sirah. Let me back up . . .

"Would you like a glass of wine?"
"Why yes, thank you!"

 . . .and lovely conversation amongst myself and four other mom & writing friends ensued. We chatted, snacked, wrote and left.

The wine stopper had ONE.JOB.

Aptly, this 'Four Vines' label bottle is called 'The Seducer", which I am sure I thought, well, seductive at the time it was purchased. Then again, perhaps I simply latched onto the word 'petite', hoping that would rub off. And the stopper, well, I claim marketing foul for making me believe the stopper would be effective because, umm, pink.

So there I was, getting out of my car at midnight, dripping red all over the driveway and feeling the liquid against my skin. I momentarily panicked, thinking maybe I cut myself and couldn't feel it. In the movies no one ever knows they've been shot right away. They just keep talking. I hadn't heard any loud noises, so I was pretty sure I hadn't been shot and my car hadn't backfired. Especially while I was outside of the car with the keys in my hand. All this in a matter of seconds. And then, "Oh shit!" My down coat was covered in the Petite Sirah that refused to stay bottled, and I realized it had begun leaking while I drove home. I had barely had a few sips hours earlier, so I wasn't concerned about my driving. But try telling that to Officer Friendly at midnight with a mom car that wreaks of likely much needed indulgence. While that, no doubt, would have made this story far more interesting, it didn't happen. 

What did happen is I dripped murder and injury looking blood red liquid all up the driveway, and front walk, and into the house. The 409 my husband had bought at my request the previous day had as of yet been unopened, despite my intention to have cleaned the tub after my kid pooped in it earlier. And on the floor. (See, I did need that indulgence.) I 409'd the entryway, the hall, the front door mat, the outside of the bottle and anything else in the vicinity that appeared to be a red splat. I even sprayed the cement out front. I dumped my jacket and any other darks in the laundry, and prayed that my 17 year old stepson would not overhear that he showered in a poop tub, and that no one would smell wine when they woke up the next day. 

All seemed well until we got in the car to head for school this morning. My son climbed up into the car, and his shoes stepped right in - a stream of red wine that somehow remained on my car's running board. 

How this is possible on a slanted driveway defies physics. But there it was, and it went into the car and to school with his shoe. This picture does not do it justice. Oh, and the wine on his shoe was nothing compared to the wine smell on my front passenger side floor mat. The place where I set the bottle, stopper in place, inside a shopping tote, nestled on top of my jacket, so it wouldn't spill on my two minute drive home. 

This is what I get for not just leaving the bottle with my hostess. Like a civilized person. The lesson here is, Karma isn't just a bitch. She's a bitch who clearly prefers vodka.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not the Happy You Expect

When we first signed our son up to play baseball on a special needs team, we had no idea what would happen. A friend told us her daughter had played the previous season, and we trusted her. So we showed up and crossed our fingers. It turned out to be amazing.

Cole had only just begun walking, so we didn't think much would happen. He refused to wear the jersey, wouldn't put on the hat and cried and screamed when we told him he was going to play baseball. He cried and resisted all the way out to the field. 

We held out his arm to his assigned buddies, a pair of incredibly kind 12 year olds, and sat in the bleachers anxiously watching and waiting. What happened was nothing short of a miracle. But then, we've come to expect those when we expect nothing. It didn't happen right away, but little by little, game by game, Cole came around. First he wore the jersey, then the hat. Now, this is a kid who loves him some audience attention. When he realized he was being watched suddenly he cared more about what he was doing. Season one was about discovering the audience. His buddies helped him bat and run the bases. Season two was the turning point - for all of us. Our oldest son, my stepson, found that he had some friends who volunteered as buddies for the teams. So he joined, since he was with us anyway. Cole was thrilled that his big brother was on the field, and we all cheered them on. And then, one day - Cole hit the ball by himself. I fell apart in all kinds of ways, just like I had when he sat up, when he scooted, and when he finally began walking around age 4 1/2. I always harbored hope he would walk. But hit a baseball? Absolutely icing on the cake. We couldn't take enough videos and pictures. That first ball connecting with the bat, and the
realization that no one was helping him do it. I replay it in slow motion in my head often. I sobbed quietly in the stands, surrounded by parents and friends of players and buddies. Then I also realized that this was a place here no one would laugh or judge. They just patted me on the back or hugged me and nodded in true understanding.

At the beginning of Season three the coach could not fulfill the commitment, and my stepson stepped up to take over the role. We were proud but we could not predict the emotions that overtook us the first time Sam pitched to Cole. I am the most fortunate stepmom ever with Sam. I had the opportunity to be part of his young life and watch him become the young man he now is. He is an amazing big brother. 

This past weekend we began season four for Cole. Shortly after the first game of the season began, a beautiful young girl in a wheelchair took home plate. Her buddies helped her bat and maneuver the bases. Faintly at first, then increasingly less so, a woman was weeping in the stands to my left. When I looked over at her she claimed embarrassment. With three new families on our team this year, tears are sure to be expected. We all chimed in to let her know it was ok. After all, we've each had that moment. "I can't believe what I'm seeing!" she said through her tears. "I never thought I'd see this!"

Parents are proud when their child achieves something. We all want happiness for our children. We want to feel happy watching them. But this, this is the moment when your child does something that defies what doctors and professionals said they couldn't do. Like live. 

It's the moment when you experience a happiness you could not have
anticipated when you were forced to divest yourself of the expectations you had of what your life as a parent would be.

A happiness your child also realizes in their own way when they suddenly do something new and exciting. When they discover an audience cheering them on. You can see it in their eyes, even when they cannot speak. "Mom! Did you see me??" 

I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pieds Frais Chic! (Cool, Stylish Feet)

I hate being barefoot at the gym. Obviously on the treadmill, elliptical, etc., I wear sneakers. But I don't like being barefoot for classes like pilates, yoga or barre. Did I mention I really can't stand being barefoot at the gym?

I have taken to not even wearing socks with my sneakers in the past year or so, much to the unhappiness of my heels. I thought I had tough skin and callouses from figure skating. But try a gym work out for, oh, say, a few years without socks, et voila! Hardened, tough feet that could be their own sneakers. The amount of lotion, Eucerin and night socks I have tried and worn to soften my feet is extensive. I thought being off my feet for the past almost year after hip surgery would help. But it hasn't. Now that I am skating again and ready for the gym, I dreaded digging out socks that slip down into my shoes. I cleaned out my sock drawer but I haven't yet hit the gym.

I was then offered a chance to try Shashi socks. I was intrigued by the around the house, then a pair with my sneakers. Although they are meant for the gym floor and yoga mats, they worked great with my sneakers!
design, with mesh on top and grips on the bottom. They feel like the nylon-think socks/tights I wear for skating, but with underneath grips like you would find on house socks/slippers. They are not meant for dance, as you need to be able to slide across the floor and these will now allow that. I first tried them

Shashi founder, Natalie, wanted the same things I have wanted:

"Regardless of the workout, I found there to be a common thread:

  • My preference is for my feet to be protected in a studio environment.
  • While exercising, the heat became stifling, especially with your feet covered.
  • I wanted my workout accessories, including socks, to be a stylish addition to my outfit.
  • I desired different grips."

Shashi socks come in three different styles:

They are definitely more pricey than gym socks, I love these and I can't wait to wear them at the gym!

** I received a review copy of "Small Talk" to facilitate this feature. **

Friday, August 15, 2014


From the time my children were born, we used sign language with them. Actually, we started learning sign language before they were born. When we found out we were pregnant with triplets, I immediately looked up how to begin learning ASL. I was so afraid I'd have three screaming infants on my hands, and I knew they would be able to communicate long before they could actually articulate with words. So I dove into Signing Time. My then 10 year old
stepson and I watched it frequently, bragging to my husband what we had learned, and egging him on to join us. He did eventually. And boy was he glad.

Once they babies arrived, we had a significant period of time where they were hospitalized due to prematurity. They had a laundry list of medical complications, not the least of which included one having a large scale stroke and two of them suffering pulmonary hemorrhages. Thus, we had no idea what would happen when they finally came home.

Fast forward to age two - my son who suffered the stroke had a vocabulary of over 100 signs and over 50 spoken words. I was amazed at what had occurred, and so encouraged, I began teaching them French. I had them watch things in French, like Little Pim, which had a similar
format to Signing Time, and listen to music, but then I had an idea I hoped would work. And it did. I began signing using words they already knew, while speaking in French. I aimed low, only looking to develop their accent and vocabulary. Suddenly, they began spouting out all kinds of things, randomly, at various times of the day. I was incredulous that it worked, and very excited! I began responding to them in French when they asked questions, using directions in French when crossing the street and while eating. The doctors had said that it was possible for new synapses to grow around the brain injury. It seemed that either the language center in his brain had not been damaged, or new pathways grew to accommodate it. Either way, I was thrilled.

My other two children were only slightly behind him, but I was in awe that the despite a traumatic brain injury, he was leading the way in so much of their development. A miracle! I believe strongly in doing things to stimulate brain growth, even if you have not had a TBI. I enjoy languages and music, both of which are known to do this. So we did as much of both as possible with the kids.

I came across Nicola Lathey's and Tracey Blake's book, "Small Talk" more recently. It focuses on developing language in babies up to four years old. It also divides lays out the chronology of language development with age categories divided into chapters, making it easy to start reading at whatever age your child is at the time. What I liked about it is the simplistic mission: to identify where your child's communication is, and encourage the natural stages of language development.

Supporting what I discovered in my own experiment with my children, "Small Talk points out the positive results from the visual cues signing offers to small children who cannot yet speak. I am convinced that had we not used this approach, we would have endured far more crying. And we heard PLENTY. But understanding that crying is a baby's method of communicating helped us remain motivated to sign. Today, my son still signs while talking, and sometimes when he is too tired to speak.

With two of children ultimately diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, we had no way of knowing just how valuable our decision to focus on language would be. Our daughter's CP is mild. But our son had a stroke, and his entire right side was affected more severely.

"The left hemisphere of the brain controls the movement of the right side of the body, plus speech and language. A child who has a stroke on the left side of the brain may have trouble moving the right side of his body and may have difficulty reading or talking." ~ National Stroke Association

Sign encouraged the use of his right hand, which encouraged his brain, which encouraged his oral motor skills. By the time they were three, they could count to 30 in six languages. Today he watches his favorite shows in many different languages. At a theme park visit a year ago, he began mimicking some other visitors in their own language. They turned and began speaking to him and he looked surprised that anyone understood him. Giving a child early language skills allows them to communicate more effectively with you, the parent. I was selfish. I just didn't want three crying babies. I was outnumbered! What it was however, was a gift that made a bigger difference than we knew possible.

** I received a review copy of "Small Talk" to facilitate this feature. **

Size Up for Fall?

It's already time for school to start. 
It seems like it begins earlier every year. So be ready!

Each year I sort through clothes my children have outgrown. Each year it gets harder to imagine they were ever as small as they once were. Once the old clothes are out, I have to figure out what they will wear in larger sizes. That has been fairly easy to do so far. But that's because I got to choose. It seems they now have opinions on what goes on their bodies. Hmm. I always operated under the philosophy of, "If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you". Despite my best intentions to remain true to that,  they now ask for certain things to wear, like belts or hats, or specific types of shirts or dresses. 

I didn't need a lot, but what I did need I was fortunate enough to find in one place before the school year begins. I truly like shopping at Children's Place. They offer low prices you might find in a discount store, but always feels like a department store. 

My horse loving daughter went to sleep with glitter on her face from hugging  this shirt . It's very important to have soft textured clothing for her sensory challenges. With very few exceptions, I find much of the fabrics at The Children's Place to be soft enough for her.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan in our house was so excited to see this shirt he could not stop jumping up and down.

And this guy is eager to get on a skateboard like his older brother, so this shirt was perfect. He just doesn't know he'll have to wait awhile for the actual board experience. 

I even found a cute purse for my niece and a shirt for my nephew for their birthdays, and they are several years older than my children. 

The equine fan cannot get enough of her horse toys, and has begged for 'western' boots for quite some time. She has no idea these will 'appear' under the tree this Christmas. I'm not sure I can wait that long to see her face. 

** I received store credit at The Children’s Place to facilitate this feature. **