Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Driver Ed

Warning: rant ahead. It really bugs me that people move their shopping carts the way they drive. They are on phones, wandering aimlessly, and completely oblivious to everyone else. Why is that? How hard is it really, to just watch where you’re going? I’m hard pressed to decide which is worse: the grocery store, Costco or the freeways . At Costco, the aisles, carts and items are bigger than at the grocery store. This might lead a person to believe that there is more room for you to move around. In actuality, it leads people to believe there is more room for you to move around THEM.

Seriously folks. Every time I go to Costco there are people who stop for no reason in the middle of the aisle. People push the oversize carts with one hand while talking on a cell phone and simultaneously trying to push their way to the front of a sample line (not sure which hand they will grab food with), and people who weave back and forth across the aisle, unsure of which way they want to go. Then there are those who decide to stop in the middle of the aisle, or go soooo s-l-o-w because, well, who knows. These very same people are out there on the roads, with the exact same behavior behind the wheel. They run stop signs, lights and crosswalks, don’t signal when they should, signal when they ought not, and weave around when they can’t decide which way to go.

Now, in all fairness, I am the first to admit I am far from perfect. I was such a horrendous driver when I was younger that I probably should have had my license revoked. No lie. Ask my parents. No wait. Don’t. I am ashamed to say I had an average of one speeding ticket per year the first eleven years I drove. Yes, I said “average”. You do the math. But the point is, as a reformed speed demon, I did wrong for so long that I have a heightened sense of where people are going when I am driving, and I see the very same things from people attempting to maneuver shopping carts. It’s not ok to crash into the cereal aisle, drop their phones and spill their wonder juice samples. It’s REALLY not ok to crash into my car and injure my children, or force me to stop suddenly (and if I spill my coffee there’ll be hell to pay).

Why is it that they MUST take their purse out of the cart and leave it blocking the way while they step across the space that’s left of the aisle to sift through the newest t shirt pile? What is it that causes them to stop mid stream with no care that anyone is behind them?

You might think I haven’t really gotten past my speeding urges, but it’s not that I want to go fast. In fact, I enjoy going slow too. Sometimes I go slow on purpose because grocery shopping may be my only outing of the day. It just seems like the courteous thing to do is to PULL OVER. Don’t we have enough gridlock in our lives? I don’t mind if you want to go slow. I don’t mind if you want a sample of that new fat free nut and raisin bar. I don’t mind if you have to have that t shirt for $15.99 that only Costco sells. It’s just that when you go get it, step aside and let the rest of us pass by. Please.

140 Characters

I did it. I signed off. I actually signed off Facebook. Omigodnowwhat? It’s only been a few minutes, but already I am wondering what to do. It’s truly ridiculous. I mean, I have no time for Facebook, but somehow I manage to be signed on all day long. The thing is, I leave my laptop open on the table and jump on the computer whenever my kids are playing with each other or sleeping. It’s a very effective way for me to get things done during the day. I can write, I can email, keep in touch with everyone, and not miss anyone’s birthday. It makes me feel efficient since I am home most of the day with my little ones. I don’t spend much time on the phone because it’s too darn loud here, so Facebook has turned out to be the perfect solution.

So why do I feel guilty? I suppose that’s a part of parenting. I pay attention to my kids, I play with them, love them, care for them. They are good kids, we have fun together. I am allowed to have some social time, albeit at arm’s length via the electronic world. But now it’s truth time. I am not just a Facebook user. I am a major addict. When my internet connection goes down I refresh the page to see if I missed any new posts. I wonder at the beginning of the day what I might post as my status. Something interesting, truthful, but not too revealing. It is after all potentially seen by people other than those on my friend list. Besides, is it so wrong to want to know what everyone else is up to? It’s the modern day version of Gladys Kravitz peeking out the window to see what the neighbors are doing. Yes, yes, I admit, that was me before Facebook, but I’m far too in touch with my inner and online Gladys to stop.

Wait, there’s more. Not only am I addicted to just being on Facebook, I am addicted to playing a game. Bejeweled Blitz. There, I said it. I am competitive about it, and I tried to stop once, but I’m no quitter. I tried to quit coffee too. Ok, I didn’t try very hard. But I did stop playing Bejeweled for a week (read: the game was overrun with users and Facebook shut it down). I thought I was free of it, but then someone on my friend list started making high scores and I HAD to beat her. I even joked about needing to un-friend her in order to be in first place each week. She thought I was kidding.

This is when I realized I needed to change things up. Twitter limits the characters you can write to 140. Maybe I should limit my friend list to 140 friends/characters? And my posts too? Maybe I need a time limit of 140 minutes a day. Clearly I am getting carried away. But it’s like buying a new dress or a purse. You like it so much you start to wonder what you wore before you bought it. Come to think of it. I don’t spend much time on what I wear these days either. I’m in too much of a rush to sign on and see what my east coast friends posted while I was still asleep.

Ok, ok. I can should just close my computer. I was about to start this next sentence with “But” when I realized I have already used the word nine times. Clearly I am full of excuses. So here’s my last statement in 140 characters or less:

I’m addicted to Facebook. I could close my computer BUT my Blackberry has a Facebook app. Anyone know if Facebook has a support group?

Hurry Up and Wait


Hurry and wait I used to be a very go, go, go person. Inside I think I still am. I’m not sure my old self always knows that this is not how my new self’s life goes now. With four kids running around the house, life has sped up in some ways, and seriously slowed down in others.

Tending to their needs means whatever I’m doing at any given moment, like writing this blog . . . .

. . . sorry, kid fell off a toy and screamed.

Anyway, (sigh), it means my thoughts are constantly interrupted and I have to drop whatever I’m doing and come back to it. I’d like to say come back to it later, but later has a very different definition these days. It could be a week depending on how urgent it is, and how urgent whatever it is that takes me away from it is. In between the kids’ needs, my husband’s needs and letting go of the need to have everything in order, I find myself waiting, waiting, waiting, for what? Oh, right, for my thought(s) to come back. As soon as that happens however, another crisis needing my immediate attention is sure to occur. God forbid my children wait to steal each other’s bottles until I am sitting on the floor playing with them five minutes from now. No. They must do so when I am elbow deep in dishes or a poopy diaper.

Turning your brain on and off this way is perhaps a talent for some. But it is definitely a skill that moms need. I’m not one to let the dishes pile up or laundry sit. Maybe I should be. We have a regular routine, though I am not super strict with it, and I try to “get it all done” by day’s end. Maybe I try too hard, but I’m not sure I have a middle ground. How to reconcile this, how to reconcile this . . . wait, I know! Don’t. Do. Anything. Else. Ever.

Riiight. If I stop having any thoughts at all, I can sit around and wait forever for toy stealing, hitting, falling off couches, time outs and hair pulling to happen. I will have all the time in the world for that. But is it so wrong to sneak over to the computer for a few minutes at a time during the day and drain my thoughts quickly onto a page? At least if I can do that my head will be empty. That will leave room for the screaming to reverberate.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

August, 2009

As I started writing this, it was as though my son sensed he was blog fodder. He started a battle with the couch that he just could not win. Yesterday he got the stitches out. His first two. I say that knowing it will very likely not be the last, but rather the first of many similar ‘battles’. This little guy is one going on ten. I swear he doesn’t know he hasn’t been here long. He will climb on anything, reach for anything, and peer into anything.

So far he has fallen head first off a trampoline, pinched his fingers in doors, hung off of the ‘safety’ gates in our house, stopped a fall on concrete with his forehead, and gouged out his eyebrow (the stitches). We got a bench with cubby holes underneath and had to turn it on its side because he was on top of it within seconds and playing with the light switch (his favorite thing, only second to opening and closing doors). Once on its side, he decided it was a place in which to play, and promptly climbed in and out of each cubby until he got stuck straddling one and almost ruined the family jewels. I can just see explaining that one to the doctor. “Well you see doc . . .” Sigh.

I have toddler proofed the house the best I can, but he seems to be . . . SuperToddler!

“Faster than a panicked Mommy!”
“Able to leap small siblings in a single bound!”
“Look! Up on the stairs! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s . . . OHMYGOD! It’s my one year old!”

Pant, pant, pant . . . I am out of breath just writing this. I shudder daily at what his next ‘adventure’ will be. You know those plastic covers that go on doorknobs? The ones that keep kids from opening doors? He snapped the first one off a door while I was putting the second on another door. He figured out how to close the buckles on the high chairs, and I am holding my breath for the day he figures out how to UN-buckle them. He can’t sit too close to the other two kids while in the chairs, because he knows how to unhook their trays and send them crashing to the floor. And I have to let him out of his chair last, or he will unclip their trays from the underside.

While I really want him to have the freedom to run around, it makes me extra nervous when I must help one of the other two and I can’t watch him. Sometimes I have to put him in a bouncer just to have peace of mind while I tie someone else’s shoe or God forbid, go to the bathroom. If I don’t, I will either find him getting onto the shelf above the sofa gunning for the remote, or see his little fingers wiggling under the bathroom door.

My daughter on the other hand, wants to copy everything my son does, though she is not as aggressive or as able. The other day I said I wished she would be a little more independent. My husband raised his eyebrows and said, “Be careful what you wish for”. I immediately pictured the new room our local ER would undoubtedly be setting up for me for those long nights ahead as I patted my daughter on the back and said, “Honey, where’s your brother?”

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

August, 2009

I love to read. One summer when I was in perhaps fourth or fifth grade, I won a contest at the library to see who could read the most books over the summer. Call me a teacher’s pet, I didn’t care. I loved to read then and still do. I have less time to read now with all these tiny people running around my house. So I have a stack of books that I mean to get to, and I try to read a few pages every night before I go to sleep. With less time I have to be picky about what I read, and I tend to favor the lighter themed books and things that will make me laugh. I started this summer with the best of intentions. My kids sleep longer now, so I hoped that I would actually be able to take my mind elsewhere in the pages of a good book.

As luck would have it, I made my way through “Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind”. Since the birth of my kids, I find that my reaction to things is very different. While this book is about the adventures of a teacher’s journey through his career, I saw in it as an unlikely parenting guide. Let me explain.

You see, I really enjoyed school as a kid (see the first paragraph above). What I loved so much about reading this was twofold. First, in looking back, I was the kid craning to get the teacher’s attention to answer the question (unless it was math). Then I averted my eyes and appeared to intently study my desk. Second, I can only hope for my children to have a teacher like Mr. Done when they get to school. In his 25 years of teaching, he seems to have amassed a wealth of kid knowledge. Like, a child’s favorite multiplication problem will never be 8x7, how to dodge questions and send the class out to recess early, and how to preserve Santa Claus. I want that for my children.

I get the feeling that Phil Done is a pied piper of sorts. His genuine love for his students and his profession are so obvious that it is almost painful, but in a good way. Although much has changed in the last several decades, I couldn’t help but reminisce more about my childhood right along with Mr. Done and the creative projects in his classroom. The most touching chapters were “Angel” and “The Second Curriculum”. I tied these together as I read the bittersweet passing of a student all too soon, along with Mr. Done’s list of thing all children should do. Again as a parent, I cannot fathom the first happening, and the rest not happening. I cried through both of those chapters, and laughed through the rest.

When I finished, summer was almost over, and I realized I had actually made it through an entire book in less than eight weeks. For me that is a huge accomplishment. Last year at this time I was writing, yes, but I was also breastfeeding triplets, getting almost zero sleep, and wondering if I had enough energy to stumble to the coffee machine before someone cried again. Most of the time that was me. This year, my summer vacation actually had a vacation in it. I visited third grade. Do I get a gold star?? Huh Mr. Done? Huh?

Originally posted at LA Moms Blog. I occasionally muses about what my kids will tell their third grade teacher about me one day.

Tiptoeing Through the Tulips

August 03, 2009

I’d like to say it all started with a t shirt. But it didn’t. It started way before I bought the shirt. I knew it was coming, but nothing can really prepare you. I like to say that I understand that you cannot understand anything at all until you are there. And at the risk of sounding vague, even understanding that is true in itself.

The t shirt was something I found online. It says, “Things may be complicated at my house, but hey, at least they’re unpredictable.” It resonated with me and continued from there. What I am talking about is my kids. Two of them were recently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. It sounds horrible when I see the words on paper, but not when I look at my sweet little babies, it’s actually not so bad. But it sure felt like it on diagnosis day.

My son’s diagnosis was expected. He had a severe brain bleed the day after they were born, 11 weeks early, resulting in a myriad of conditions that eventually arrived at CP. For the grade of bleed he had, he is doing remarkably well. No surprises. My daughter is the one that blindsided me. Her right leg turns in, and I only took her along to the neurologist to rule out CP. Ultimately it is not something that will prevent her from living a normal life, but it added to the laundry list of things to which we will need to adjust over time. The kids will grow and require various things like casts, braces, gait trainers, etc., and of course, more therapy. Though I love the doctors and professionals that make up our ‘team’, it is a constant flow of people in our lives. For someone who is used to being alone, it has been an adjustment for me. I am so very grateful for these caring people who help me and my children daily. But over time, I have come to realize that my time is slowly becoming everyone else’s - not only my children’s, but the whole team’s.

Fortunately CP is not an advancing condition. It is what it is, and can be improved for later years with early intervention/therapy. It is also not a cognitive impairing condition, thus, my kids are able to communicate and think well. We are very lucky. In the midst of feeling alternately overwhelmed and relieved, I came across a few blogs and sites that helped tremendously. A beautiful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley called ‘Welcome to Holland’ sums it up well. Now, Holland has always seemed like an interesting place to go. But I speak French. I like Brie and wine. Paris would almost always be my choice over other destinations. Ironically, I don’t like heavy perfume or cigarette smoke, and tulips happen to be my favorite flower. So what did we do? We got off the plane in Holland. And as we try to take in our new surroundings, we are tiptoeing oh so delicately through the tulips and realizing just how beautiful these large, bright and simple flowers really are.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Feeding Frenzy

Eating takes on a whole new meaning with kids. I suppose this is true though with any given stage of life. For example: as a kid, you have a distaste for all things healthy preferring instead to eat peanut butter and jelly, cinnamon toast and sugared cereals whenever you can get your grubby little hands on them. I know I used to do my best to trade my tuna sandwich or carrot sticks for things like chocolate pudding, Fritos or Jell-o. Stuff the other kids brought and I was never allowed to have. Perhaps that’s a part of my dietary issues now, but, that’s a whole other Oprah.

Experimenting with food combinations is another step towards culinary development. Like when I ate only peanut butter and pickle sandwiches all through sixth grade. What was I thinking??

For teens, candy, soda and other junk foods have much appeal, though different tastes can begin to develop. Tastes that include burgers, fries, milkshakes, movie theater popcorn and anything parent types don’t eat (at least in front of the kids). College brings an entirely different dimension of eating into play when, rather than asking for money from mom and dad, maxing out the gas card on mini mart delectables becomes a bridge into adulthood. Living on your own can sure make you think twice about spending that extra money on something you don’t even like if the tasty stuff is so much cheaper. Professional life improves habits, when eating salads and not touching the pizza in front of other women prevails so at least the impression that you care about your weight is obvious. Man that ice cream does taste good later on though while watching Letterman.

And then, one day, you find yourself living in suburbia, trying to make healthy eating choices and set a good example for the grubby little hands beating down the door to the pantry and trying to get at the cookies. Is this hypocrisy? Maturity? Irony? All of the above?

I find myself very irked when my kids throw ‘perfectly good food’ off their high chair trays. The floor becomes a giant plate when they are let down from their chairs, fascinated by and suddenly ravenous for what seems like tasty treats. WTH?? Once I gave up and just put their trays on the floor, which only served to egg them on. BIG MISTAKE. Then they started purposely tossing everything, telling me they were “all done” and immediately stuffing their faces once on the floor. You would think I learned that lesson after one of my sons made “raspberries” while eating yogurt. We laughed and took video because it was ‘just so cute!’. Until he started spitting at every meal. Sigh. Why can’t I just giggle and enjoy these moments? Oh, right. I’m supposed to set an example and teach them proper etiquette. I can just see it now – “Your son cannot play at our house anymore. He taught Billy to string spaghetti through his nose. And, he threw vegetables on the floor.”

Each of my kids approaches food differently. One son is very picky and hates to get messy. The other one spits and throws (see above), and my daughter, well, she is just a complete mess. I’m talking total wardrobe change after every meal. Now I just undress her altogether before eating. I don’t so much mind the messy kids, it’s their job. But I’m so darn tired of cleaning up all the wasted, and might I add, healthy food I try to feed them. I’m just about ready to give them each a gas card and point them toward town.

Kinder Gym – Who’s Doing the Learning?

A couple of weeks ago we went to our first out of the house play date. Finally. It was also the first day of kinder gym class with one of the kids. Admittedly, I’m a homebody, and the first year I was super paranoid about my kids getting sick. So we stayed in a lot. That made this week quite the whirlwind. I expected to be busy packing the kids in and out of the car. I expected to have fun being social with other parents. I even expected my kids to be cranky in new settings, though surprisingly, they weren’t.

What I didn’t expect, was that kinder gym class was such a busy place! Kids and parents were crawling all over the place, up and down equipment, making ribbon sticks to wave during song time, and occasionally listening to the teacher. I broke a sweat chasing him around. But did I chase him onto and off of the climbing apparatus? No. All over the mats? No. My kid is obsessed with doors. If there is one open, he must shut it. If it is shut, he must attempt to open it. Rather than climbing on the equipment, he went to every door in the room, pushed, pulled and knocked (in case anyone was going to open it from the other side). Once he was satisfied, he stood in front of each one, waved and said, “Bub-bye”.

My son was easily the youngest one there, and I was a little worried about that. But my normally shy kid who clings to me in his own home, decided he was going to be the circle time entertainment. Bounding out of my lap, he charged into the middle of the circle time, waving, laughing and giggling at the group of thirty plus people. And though he never puts toys or anything in his mouth at home (his sister eats enough books for all of us), he chose that hour to sample the fine taste of purple and brown crayons. Mmm.

It was a rapid paced hour for me, following him all over the room. He wanted to be picked up, but I realized if I kept doing that, he would never learn to play. Once he (finally) began to play, another kid decided mine was the one he HAD to hug. Over and over again. My son didn’t want that so much, preferring instead to wave up at another little boy’s tall, blond, Russian model looking mother. Several times during the hour.

The second week was better in terms of my son playing on the equipment. Until he went head first off the side of the trampoline. My heart skipped beats and jumped into my throat as he suddenly ran across the trampoline and I rushed the two steps needed to get to the short side. But it was too late. Down he went, fortunately landing on the padding and only a little startled. I started to wonder if this was indeed the right class for him when the teacher casually said, “Huh, that is usually so safe. I’ve never seen anyone fall off”. I was shocked that she would not immediately ask if he was ok. I would never turn over responsibility of my child to someone else, but this class is pretty big, and though although there are parents everywhere, the teacher is the only official supervision. I suppose I have much to learn about these classes. But why aren’t there assistants? At one and a half, is my son actually too young?

So let’s recap. I had hoped and expected my kid to like climbing, playing and singing with other kids. Instead, he likes doors, entertaining, and older, tall, blond Russian women. I can only wonder what next week’s class will teach me . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I have worked with kids for so many years I cannot remember a time when I didn’t. I always heard people say, “It’s toooootally different when they’re your own”. But of course I believed that my experiences would lead me to a good place in handling my own kids one day.

Fast forward, umm . . . a bunch of years. Three one and a half year olds have taken over my house and are running around babbling about who knows what. Currently we have a house full with the little ones, a seventh grader and a college student, plus us. All stages of life, all varied approaches to communication. As you might imagine, it can drive a person to drink. I wish someone would drive me to drink. However, if I’m not sober, nothing gets done. But I digress. I started teaching the kids sign language very early because it was obvious communication was going to be a challenge in our house. They sweetly signed “more”, “eat” and “love”, and amazed us with how much babies and toddlers can actually understand, long before they are able to articulate and pronounce actual words. This is where sign language was helpful. Then - they opened their adorable little mouths. At first it was cute. “Oh look, she’s cooing!” and “Awww, he is saying ‘Ma Ma!”. Many weeks passed in this manner. We were enthralled.

Unintelligible sounds and crying are now uttered rapid-fire in three directions. Conversations to which we are not privy are carried on in all corners of the house and behind couches. Chatter emulates from the video monitor after we leave them at bed time, our daughter playing emcee as she walks from one side of her crib to the other between the boys, encouraging them to play along.

Then, there are the tantrums. I swear they are working on their first Oscar. This is when the decibel level goes sky high. There is screaming, the bottle stealing begins, fighting over toys, hitting and inevitably someone, usually my daughter, lands in baby jail. They get a minute behind “bars”, and usually find their way out in that amount of time and resume their suspect behavior. In the meantime, other babbling is taking place across the room, coupled with laughter from the two who are tumbling around together and thrilled at their ‘freedom’.

My husband and I have taken up shouting to have any communication with each other, though sentences rarely get finished. We shake our heads halfway through and give each other knowing looks that whatever it is we are trying to say will become drowned out and lost in the sea of noise and the ocean of small, sticky beings that reside here. Kids need repetition right? I do this all day long. I don’t so much need the repetition. I could do with an infusion of, say, QUIET TIME. Sorry, did I yell that out to you over the noise? I must be losing my hearing.

Spelling has also come in handy now that the kids know what some words mean. One day our babysitter and I thought it was funny that one of my boys was spitting. We videotaped it, chuckling. Her name begins with “K”, so the kids call her “K-K”. To her dismay, they pronounce it “Ka-Ka”. Now, whenever I say, “K-K”, they spit. Good one Ma-Ma. But it doesn’t stop there. I say, “Don’t spit”, they spit. I say, “Thank you”, they say “Donk ooo”. I say “Darn” (or something similar), they say “duhn”. I say “Oh crap!” they say, “Doh aahhh”. Ooops. It’s no wonder that the utterances of these small people are beginning to arrive with more clarity. They hear us loud and clear.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The post below was written by my friend Ed Chasteen, of Hatebusters. I liked it so much he gave me permission to re-post it here. Enjoy!

* * * *

by Ed Chasteen

Seventh month of the year, eighth day of the month, ninth year of the century. Makes for an interesting sequence of numbers. But I’ve never been able to read any larger meaning into such things. Some people can. And do. Perhaps they know more than I do or have a better mind. That’s entirely possible. But to me such oddities are simply momentary conversation pieces, devoid of any significance other than what we give them.

A thing defined as real is real in its consequences. So if these numbers are thought by some to have a larger significance, they do. For them. We all live in a world of our own making. Whatever is out there in the world is made real to us by what is in our mind and heart. No two of us understand the world in exactly the same way. Most of our understanding is much like that of our family, our friends, our culture. But not all. Each of us is tailor made in an off-the-rack world.

To live peacefully and productively together, we all make an unconscious bargain to be more or less like those we live among. While we look and think and act much like those we know well, we all reserve, whether we’re aware of it or not, a part of ourselves to ourselves. And that private self may venture far afield in search of meaning in things not considered meaningful by most others. This is good. It keeps us from being clones of one another. It lends zest to our interactions with one another. It produces humor. Sometimes conflict. That conflict, though, has at least the potential to expand and elevate our minds as we seek solutions which all parties can embrace.

I had no intention when I came to my word processor this morning of writing any of this. I was not even aware of today being 07-08-09 until my son, Brian, sent me an email telling me and suggesting it might make a good story. His email prompted these thoughts.

It’s Brian’s fault.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SuperWhy . . .why not?!

Attending the PBS SuperWhy event was interesting. My kids are too young to understand the show yet, but I am happy to know shows like it exist for web they are ready. My niece and nephew are four and six, and they LOVE this show. When they found out I went to PBS and was given ‘cool stuff’, they couldn’t get their hands on it fast enough. Their mother, a kindergarten teacher for 15 years, was eager to do the lesson plans with her kids that Creator and Executive Producer Angela Santomero (also the creator of Blue's Clues) gave us. This creative/production team is so sharp, led by Lesli Rotenberg, PBS' Senior Vice President of Children's Media, and Sandra Sheppard, Executive Producer and Director of Children's Educational Programming, at Wnet.org. It was truly inspiring and interesting to me to listen to other moms and the PBS team, and think about what is ahead for my family.

For kids, fantasy and imagination are powerful tools in learning and developing creativity. My six year old niece loves princesses and fairies, so Princess Presto has much appeal. SuperWhy himself of course is my nephew’s hero. Wyatt can solve anything with words. This is especially significant as my nephew was either speech delayed or very shy, so when he started to speak, we were all thrilled. Watching a show that comes from a word perspective reinforces and encourages his confidence in speaking and reading.

I tried watching the show with my little ones, but for the time being they are still stuck on Barney and Signing Time. These too are PBS Kids offerings, and I love that there are no commercials. I don’t want to wish any time away, but I was so impressed with the SuperWhy team, that I almost wish my kids were old enough to watch and understand. For me, I do not want the TV to be a babysitter, though we do love to watch it in our home. The detail and passion with which this show was created is so evident though, that I know even if this show is not n the air by the time we can watch it, other shows will have been developed by this team that offer equally strong learning assistance.

I like to think I can do it all with my kids, but that is just not always the case. With young triplets I find shows like this effective in assisting me through my day as I choose which little one needs me at any given moment. The others can enjoy something I need not worry about while I tend to the third one. Show like SuperWhy help me feel like a SuperMom!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ground Floor Opportunities

I believed fiercely that my child would make it. I never once wavered in this thought. We were told by the NICU doctor he could have little to no problems at all. OR – he could be completely retarded, disabled and require a lifetime of care. We asked if it could be something in between. The doctor allowed himself to show a knowing smile, and I saw a brief spark of compassion in his eyes. The fear that gripped our hearts that day was like no other. I suddenly felt bad for him, and wiped my eyes. “It must be difficult for you”, I said, leaning back in my chair. He tilted his head toward me as a question. “Every time you have to say these things to parents”, I said. “It probably doesn’t get easier.” He was surprised to hear this as a response to the bad news he had just delivered. But in that moment, I felt for him as much as I did for us.

Fast forward 16 months. Seeing our son move his limbs, feed himself, watching him use sign language, I am filled with hope that is the complete antithesis of the fear I felt that day. But I am on a roller coaster of questions and feelings. One minute everything feels normal. The normal you want for your children and your life. The next minute is filled with making doctor appointments, scheduling three therapists, helmet fittings and trying out gait trainers. My son giggles in his bouncer and I laugh along with him. He screams during therapy because his body is being stretched in ways to which his brain wants to say no. The first time I saw my son in a gait trainer three times his size, I wanted to cry. Though I know he has limitations, it was all too real in that moment.

I only want two things for him: to be able to take care of himself when he is older, and to fit in socially. This is not different from what we all want for our children. I have so many questions. Will he be able to be in a regular classroom? Will he be sad if he cannot run and jump and play? Will the other kids tease him? Will he be in therapy forever? Will he walk? Will he need a wheelchair? Will we need a one story house? How will he feel about his body not working the same as other kids?

I know he was born healthy. How will I keep my sadness and feelings out of what I must do? I must teach him to reach for his best, be all he can be, and go for what he wants. It may all sound cliché, but it never sounded so necessary to me before now. He cannot know my pain. He must believe deep down that he is capable.

This quote from “For the Love of Rachel: A Father's Story”, hit me square in the face one day: “Accepting the limitations of a child whose life was supposed to be imbued with endless possibilities requires us to come to terms with expectations of ourselves and the world around us.”

None of this occurred to me before. I was not patient. I am good at being alone. Now we must always wait – for results, appointments, diagnoses. And I will never again be alone. I have never needed as many people as I do now. I was never so grateful for people who care. People who will help my son live a life that I cannot possibly give him alone.

The other day while his brother and sister walked around fighting over toys and playing, I lay down on the floor next to him. This is his vantage point on the world. I put my face close to his and stayed next to him for a long time. We looked in each others' eyes and his small fingers gripped mine. This little guy has personality to spare, he is smart, with a sweet face, bright blue eyes and a smile to beat the band. In his eyes I could see possibility. Laying there on the ground, I knew that this child is blessed with something that will carry him toward opportunities. They may not be my possibilities, but even if he never gets off of the floor, he will rise.

Traveling Circus

A few weeks ago I had been stressing about an upcoming trip. I was worried about how hard it would be to leave my kids for the first time. A year ago I could not get on a plane for an annual skating competition. I don’t know what I was thinking last year to have thought that I could do it. But this year, I made myself do it. It was still difficult at best, and made harder when one of my sons climbed on top of my suitcase when I was ready to leave, screaming bloody murder. My baby sitter assured me that the second I left he would be fine, and he was. I left with tears in my eyes and a pounding heart full of anxiety and anticipation.

A few days later however, I returned, unscathed, and felt better about it all. I had actually enjoyed myself! I began to prepare for the next trip, a skating meeting, just a few days later. This time though, the plan was for me to take my daughter and my babysitter on the first leg of the trip, and my husband, his aunt and the boys would meet up with afterward for a visit with his parents who live near where my meeting was being held. Now, you might have thought I was nuts to think I could have taken a trip when my kids had just come home from the NICU. But now that you know I planned to take three one year olds, a 12 year old and an aunt along on a semi-business trip/family vacation, I’m quite sure you KNOW I’m nuts. Never fear - I know this now too.

I was hoping my daughter would not scream the whole plane ride, and luckily, she turned out to be a great little traveler. She slept the whole way, fell right into the Eastern time zone and slept well each night. My husband was not so lucky. To the passengers who endured the screaming on that flight – sorry. My husband’s un-rested and flat out exhausted expression when I picked them up was no joke.

Back when I planned the trip meticulously, I thought planning would alleviate the stress of traveling with small children. Who the heck was I kidding?!? I don’t care how organized you are, or I am. And I really, really am. Nothing can conquer the lungs of three tired, out of sorts one year olds. As a first time mom, I try not to be naïve and paranoid about everything. Sometimes it even works. I can honestly say I expected the trip would be hard. But that’s like saying you know what sleep deprivation is like before you actually have kids.

It took a couple of the four days we were there for things to settle. I was so attracted to the open space and large properties back east, I offhandedly remarked to my husband that it would be so nice to live somewhere like this. His response? “It may happen today. I’m not sure if this is a vacation or a relocation. I’m afraid to get back on a plane with the kids.”

We did manage to get on our flights home, and the requisite screaming resumed. At one point I was in the bathroom and began to wonder how long I could hide out in there before anyone noticed I was missing. Perhaps I could ‘accidentally’ end up in New Zealand or points beyond. Oops. Then I remembered I left my passport back at my seat, and resigned myself to the noise. We did our best to keep the munchkins occupied, and rotated them between the four of us as needed. The flight seemed to take forever, but finally, the kids fell asleep. Aaaah. But wouldn’t you know, it was just as we landed in L.A.

A Good Guy To Know

This was my second Mother’s Day. It took awhile to hear myself say, “My son”, or, “My daughter”, and not have it feel surreal. after trying to get pregnant for so long. Now with one year old triplets running around, almost literally, Mother’s Day is truly special. But one of the most unexpected blessings of my life is my 12 year old stepson.

Reflecting on a time when I thought I might never end up getting married, I recall having dated a couple of men who already had a child. Though it was never something I thought would be for me, it seemed fine at that time, when I had no imminent intention of getting married. I was sure that when the time came, I would want to marry someone with whom I could experience a child together for the first time. I also never thought I would be the second wife.

Marrying someone with a child however, proved to be a great thing. I discovered that moving forward became easier when I let go of the past. Meeting my husband gave me the courage to do just that, at a time in my life when I was less than hopeful about relationships.

Seeing your future spouse in action with their child before you have one with them is pretty telling. My husband is a great dad, and it is no surprise to me that his son is also a great kid. Meeting my stepson at kindergarten age was good timing perhaps, and fortunately the divorce is a harmonious situation, which is helpful. But what truly makes it work is my husband’s allowance of my participation with his son. I have tried to be very conscious of the appropriate boundaries, given our circumstances. I know I am not his mother. He has one. That frees me up to be a parental figure with less pressure. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to do things with him like go to the movies, go shopping, take him to play dates, play video games and more. Having time to talk with him, help him with homework and get to know him has been wonderful. Electronic Arts invited us to a couple of pre-market video game events in the past six months. Going to them, just the two of us, was so much fun. We ate junk food, played video games that no one else has played yet and just chatted about nothing in particular.

My husband and his son took a trip when his son was about four years old. His son commented during the plane's descent into Los Angeles that it seemed like it might rain. It did turn out to rain a short time later, and my husband told him he had been right. His son turned his face up to my husband and very seriouly said, "I'm a good guy to know!".

I had no idea how things would turn out back in the beginning. But I knew my husband was right for me, and I knew that whatever our circumstances, we could make it work. Having ‘parent practice time’ with my husband and stepson before we had our babies was a bonus. This (now) young man is a fabulous older brother. The triplets ADORE him and light up when he walks into the room. He was important to me before we had babies, and now is even more important as their sibling.

So although this was my second Mother’s Day, it feels like my sixth. I am grateful to call this good guy family.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane 4/2009

A year ago I had hoped to go on a work related trip. The timing however, coincided with my children coming home from their lengthy stay in the NICU. My husband was supportive, and told me to book the trip if I wanted to go. It might be good for me to get away for a couple of days. Mind you, I work at home, it wasn’t a long trip, and the flight was only a couple of hours. The time zone was not even that drastic. I waited until the last minute, my colleagues bugging me to know whether or not to expect me. I finally lined up my babysitters, who were still relatively new to us, took a deep breath and booked my trip with mileage.

A few nights later, I had packed and was up late running around stuffing last minute things into my carry on, when I had a full blown melt down. It was 11pm and I was due to leave for the airport at 3am to make a 6am flight. My husband’s aunt was visiting us, and as we sat on the couch, I began to cry. I became a fountain of “what ifs”, spouting one thing after another about what could go wrong while I was away. Things that could happen to me, things that could happen to my babies. The more I talked about it, the more I cried. One of my sons had the sniffles and I extrapolated that into a head cold, ear infection, etc. and worried that if I didn’t stay home to go to the doctor with him, that no one else would be able to explain properly to the doctor what was wrong with him.

I finally decided around midnight that there was no way I could leave. I called the airline, had my mileage credited back (for a whopping $100, ouch), and canceled my hotel and rental car. I went to bed, unable to sleep. That didn’t really matter so much, as we weren’t really sleeping at that point anyway. I managed to close my eyes. A few hours later, I woke up, called the doctor, and babies and Aunt Eleanor in tow, headed to see the pediatrician. As it turned out, my son needed antibiotics, but he was ok. I felt my feelings had been validated, patted myself on the back for being true to my instincts, but secretly wondered if I had given in to fear.

Is this a fear that all parents feel, new parents or not? I have since come to understand that it is, and once I began to get more rest, was able to start dealing with it better. I can’t remember ever feeling so totally afraid and so totally hopeful about life all at once, as I imagine my children's future.

Tomorrow I will get on a plane and go to the same meeting I missed last year. I talked my mother into coming along so I would not be alone. But this will be the first time I have been away from my children for more than about 20 hours. I will be away for THREE. WHOLE. DAYS. I have been too busy to think about it until now. But tonight, my chest filled with that butterfly-anxiety-excitement that I always get before I fly. I know it’s ok for me to go. But I feel like I am stepping off a cliff into a new world. And I wonder . . . will I feel better about it all or more guilty when I return?

This Too Shall Piss 3/2009

In the course of buying supplies for our babies, I discovered that upping the diaper size also means more cost for less diapers per box. And as it turns out, six kidneys a lot of pee makes. My kids are peeing machines. I started to second guess myself at one point on whether or not I fastened their diapers correctly when they woke up damp to the neck on their backsides. I mean, how hard is it to attach a piece of fake Velcro across their hips?? I know I’m new, but gee whiz. Have I lost my coordination?

If we aren’t quick enough, well, let’s just say with two boys, we have discovered the fountain of youth. Once I took the time to marvel at the weight of my son’s pee-filled diaper. He was giggling away (sometimes I wonder what they find funny), and ended up with an impromptu drink from the fountain. Is this what they mean by ‘potty mouth’? Our couch has gotten watered pretty well too, as it resides near the changing table. I keep wondering if it will grow or sprout weeds.

Speaking of potty mouth, I was never big on cussing – in front of other people. Though I grew up in L.A., and learned to drive on the freeways just as the population, and hence the traffic, grew in epic proportions, in my own car and space on the road, I cultivated my inner truck driver to not be so inner. I couldn’t hear my passengers or the radio for the words that swirled in my head and sometimes exited my mouth if someone dared to change lanes – in front of me. What does this have to do with poop?

Well, despite my aptitude in temperamental vocabulary, my husband encouraged me to express my language abilities more freely. He chuckled as I timidly blurted out occasional curse words. Six years and four children later, there is far too much crap flying in our home. Literally. Many a foul word perches on my lips with the threat of escape as I often find myself nauseated by our odiferous disgusting! diaper pail. It makes me want to drop a bomb myself (one that starts with “F”). I hold back a little by nature, so all I can bring myself to say is, “P-U!” My son finds this very, very funny.

Having read (and experienced) your share of “Adventures in Excrement”, I am sure you are all cringing by now. Sorry, but I can’t stop. Everything here is exponential. My husband mocks me that for someone who hates touching toilets and cleaning bathrooms, my ability to wipe asses and help the babies poop without blinking is shocking. Really I just want to get it over with as fast as possible. I told him I hope I never have to do it for him. He stopped laughing.

Mom, interrupted. 3/2009

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids. Sing songs, play games, jump up and down. You name it. Nice mom. Good mom. But sometimes, this other side of me comes out, for various reasons, but mostly lack of sleep, and I just don’t have patience any more. I just want to throw something, anything, at the wall. Bad mom. Weak mom.

As I write this, it is 1:30am, and I sat down to vent so I would NOT throw something and wake up the other umpteen people in my house. One of my sons has woken up repeatedly and it is my turn to get up with him. I used to ponder how much sleep I could squeeze in before the first blood curdling scream. Now I don’t even bother to try to get to sleep early when they go down for their first “night nap”. I clean the kitchen, play on Facebook a bit, and eventually saunter off to bed. Sure enough, as soon as my head hits the pillow, or when I actually feel like reading for a few minutes to distract me from my ever churning thoughts, “Waaaaahhhh!!” He is crying. UH-GEHN.

It is 11:30pm on the nose. At least the kid is consistent. It is a nightly ritual at this point. What the hell?!??! It is such a crapshoot as to whether or not he will go back to sleep. Is it so wrong to want a peaceful night of slumber? We have tried everything from getting him to eat more before bed, less before bed, late baths, early baths, filled bottles, less filled bottles, music, quiet . . . nothing seems to work. If we get lucky and can get him back to sleep before 2am, it feels like winning the lottery. (Ohh, the ear plugs and sound proof rooms I could build with THAT dough.)

Of course, being up at this hour means a quiet house, the TV all to myself, and no interruptions while writing (read: venting). But it also means that come daylight, I will have even less patience when the crying starts. AND. IT. ALWAYS. STARTS. By the day’s end I am so fried from hearing my three little darlings cry that I just want to hide. With seven people in our house, I think that will never again be possible. I adore them, don’t get me wrong. And they don’t cry all day long. It’s just that once in awhile it would be nice to be alone with my thoughts long enough to complete at least one. Even if they are in the same room. Do kids come equipped with built in radar? I can play with them for hours and have so much fun. But if I dare to talk on the phone or get a glass of water, it’s over. It seems they know just when to talk, cry, call out for you and interrupt an otherwise perfectly good moment. Huh, maybe one day they will be good waiters.

Out of the Past, Into the Closet 2/2009

Outofthecloset I like to clean. There, I said it. I get some weird satisfaction out of cleaning and organizing my house. But it’s more than just an obsession. It’s truly a hobby. When I have the time (read: almost never these days), I feel like getting rid of old stuff is a chance to reinvent myself. Hanging on to things from the past reminds us of who and what we were at given points in time. And while it is nice to have bookmarks of my old selves, when I begin to feel weighed down and the need to lighten the load and move forward, I go through my relics and weed out things that no longer need to have a presence in my life (read: overflowing bins in my garage and closets).

Journeying through souvenirs of my past, I find that although I may be attached to the teddy bear I had when I was seven, my dad brought it home for me from a business trip after all, (read: airport gift shop), I am not as attached to the spin art I made in fourth grade art class. Does this represent the fourth grade me? I didn’t think much of myself back then, so why do I still have this? Perhaps because I am different now and it is a gauge of that difference. I would be embarrassed after all if I hadn’t at least changed somewhat in 31 years. But do I still need a gauge?

With four kidlets (plus hubby), I need to make room for their junk. Thank goodness we don’t have pets. My junk seems so much less important as time goes by. I enjoy looking at old stuff less and less as time goes on, and I don’t feel quite as attached to ‘things’ any longer. Is this a common feeling among all parents? Or do most people just keep stockpiling? Despite the items of which I divest our family through eBay, Craigslist or Goodwill, I find myself starting the trend all over again by saving little tidbits of the kids’ milestones to create mementos for them. But will they like what I have chosen to save? Will they care? When my mother cleaned her garage I received some of my mementos (read: countless hefty bags of REALLY old stuff). I was baffled as to why she would save so many of my third grade math tests, ninth grade art drawings and sixth grade history projects. Not to mention the clay figures and pots (now indistinguishable from unformed lumps of pressed together dust), string art, hair bows and paper Christmas trees.

I remember being there. I remember inscribing “useful pot” on a badly formed jar and lid in summer art class. I remember learning how to make an “Ojo de Dios” at camp. I remember making a travel brochure about New Zealand on large orange construction paper (my first attempt at writing marketing lingo). But sorting through it all I felt no real connection to them. I eagerly dumped it all (mostly) in the trash, ferreting out a few mother’s day cards and fifth grade stories I had written.

Then I went into the house, gingerly placed a bag of ribbons, wrapping paper scraps from my baby shower (a year ago), and some baby clothes that no longer fit the babies into my kids’ closet, and shut the door.

Raising Vidiots? Or Baby Einsteins? 1/2009

I was recently with a small group of mom bloggers, and the topic of TV time for children came up. It seems there are many views (pun intended) on this subject. Here’s what I said: “The TV is on in my house all the time. I am ok with that.”

Now, now . . . drop your rocks and listen to the rest. ‘Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone’ and all that. Kids’ screen time is one of those subjects like your drivers’ license weight. There is your real weight, and the one on your license. People say their children watch appropriate amounts of TV, but how much are they actually watching? Screen time for kiddies is controversial. The reality is that we live in an electronic age. That doesn’t mean we must watch TV or be on the computer all the time. But it does mean it is more available as regular entertainment. The University of Washington’s 2007 study specifically slams many infant focused DVDs, claiming a higher chance of problems beginning around age seven. And, of course, there is a lot of judging that goes on between moms, creating intimidation and one-upping scenarios at every local park.

I am a parent of one year old triplets and a 12 year old boy. If I am alone with the trio during the day and they are all screaming and crying, how do I choose? Who do I choose? If a Baby Einstein or Signing Time show can entertain two of them while I feed, bottle, or change the third, it makes my day so much more manageable. They are not watching CSI or Gangland, and they are not alone with the TV ever. They are watching something with classical music, sign language and beautiful imagery. I often leave the main menu on to replay the classical music (which does not have flashing imagery), and I enjoy it as well. Frequently I see my kids bouncing to the beat or trying to mimic the signs when they see hands on the screen. How can this be a bad thing?

I understand the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation on screen time. However, they failed to come to my house and observe multiples and one mom trying to get through the day. I also understand neural pathway development (to the degree that I am not a neurologist), and, admittedly I’m stubborn. “You may not tell me what to do or how to do it in my house, with my family. Don’t judge me.”

Perhaps I am not the norm. I don’t know. And yes, my children watch TV often. However, we do not, nor will we ever, have TVs in any other room but the living room. Our children must watch with us if they are to watch at all. Homework has to be done first (for our 12 year old). How much TV do your children watch?

Parents are marketed to aggressively. Do some products make your kids smarter? The word “Einstein” certainly inspires the perception of intelligence. Who doesn’t want that for their child? Personally, I love Baby Einstein. They are a smart company, with a sincere intention to provide meaningful, authentic programs and products. My children love it. My four and six year old nephew and niece are still fascinated by it when they come over. My sister in-law who has taught kindergarten for 14 years, loves it. My mother has taught elementary and preschool for 40 years. She is a fan.

The real distinction is that no matter the amount of TV, parents must be involved with their children. I know I cannot be everything and teach everything to my children. To the degree that I can, I will. Then there is school, friends, family and life, all from which they will learn much. I have no fear that seven years from now my children will have behavior problems in school. I have no fear that they are being set up for failure. We are involved, intelligent parents. We read to and interact with our kids. After 12 years of TV, our son is in the gifted program, is socially adjusted, and in several instances already had knowledge of historical events which my husband stopped to explain. From where? An unlikely source - parodies on the Simpsons. Surprisingly, he has developed quite a sharp sense of humor as well – and knows how to use it.

What I want for my children in the way of toys and TV, are seeds planted and inspiration of their imaginations, not a room full of too many toys and too many choices. I do not want them to watch violence. I do want them to watch interesting programs, and listen to a variety of music and language. I hope they learn the beauty that is Led Zeppelin, the genius that is Eric Clapton, the great music of the Beatles, Billy Joel, Carol King, Pink Floyd and more.

My babies have social interaction with each other, and we get out occasionally. If I only had one baby, I would likely be able to be more socially interactive with other babies and moms. Maybe we wouldn’t have as much screen time. Then I could be that judgmental mom. “Tsk, tsk. Your child watches HOW much TV??”

My Children’s President 1/2009

I am not a political person. Don’t get me wrong. I have opinions on issues. Admittedly though, they are mostly rooted in emotions. Some might call that ignorant. Perhaps. I am an intelligent person, and I read the news, I pay attention to elections, wars and global situations. I am aware of local problems. But largely I try to pay attention to my own family and my local community.

I can safely say that I did not react to things as profoundly as I do now, before the birth if my children. So when watching the inauguration of Barack Obama, I was both surprised and not surprised to find myself welling up with tears. The ceremony of it all is elegant and compelling. But back to my local community, which now includes my one year old triplets, I realized that though the babies were born under George W. Bush, Barack Obama is the first president of whom they will be cognizant. When they are four years old in 2012, there will be another election. Obama will run, no doubt, and we will discuss it in our house. Being the little sponges kids are, they will hear his name, know the word president, and ask what an election is.

Good, bad and neutral, this is part of my children’s future. I usually only allow them to watch one of two children’s programs on TV. But today, I had the inauguration on, and they were silent. They watched, they listened, and one fell asleep.

Watching the hopeful eyes of so many in the Washington DC crowd, and in Kenya, it would be easy to say they are caught up in the drama of it all. But I do believe it goes beyond that. It’s impossible as a parent not to think about what lies ahead for our children. When Pastor Rick Warren spoke about the freedom by which we are all united, not race, not religion, but by freedom, I have never been more grateful. That freedom allows me personally to have triplets, to have choices, for my children to have choices.

I hope as Obama said, that my children and others “. . . will all have a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness”. Our country chose this man to lead. I have hope that my children's president will be every bit as successful as the hope in all of those eyes.

Sleep Easy 12/2008

I hear all the time about how if you let your children sleep in your bed, you will never get them out. Before having children I had very strong opinions about nearly everything I wanted to do or have for and with my future offspring. Once they were born though, I became a marshmallow overnight. Suddenly the word discipline sounded like it belonged to a foreign language. I laughed at myself thinking that the idea of telling these tiny, precious beings “no” to anything was unthinkable. I told my husband that he would have to take over as the hard ass, that I could no longer fill that role. I was toast.

He laughed knowingly and said I would get over it. I was indignant! How could he say that? How could he tell me how I would feel? Never mind that he has a twelve year old and he’s been through it all already. What did he, or anyone for that matter, know about me and these babies?? Am I naïve, idealistic, or both? Likely both. Maybe I will get over it, but I am so elated that they are healthy, I feel as though whatever they can dream up is theirs for the taking. I talk a lot about sleep and lack of it a lot. But you don’t realize how valuable it is until you aren’t getting any.

We couch camped for a long time to be near the kitchen for middle of the night bottles. Eventually we reached our breaking point and finally made it back into our own bed (aaahhh, soooo comfortable!), and were getting the babies used to sleeping in their cribs. Then they all got colds and needed to sleep upright. It quickly escalated to me finding any excuse to sleep next to them. I would hear them crying and go to ‘check on them’ and ‘oops, they need a diaper change’, and ‘oh, they needed a bottle and I wanted to feed it to them’. Anything to pick them up. I know, I know, the ‘experts’ say not to pick them up. Teach them to soothe themselves, among other solutions. My husband would go peek in on them to ‘help’ me not break down and pick them up.

But of course I would find those excuses and next thing you know, they were fast asleep – in the guest bedroom – with me. Is it really that bad to hold them and sleep with them? I find myself craving that cuddle time so often. My poor husband just wants a good night’s sleep. As do I. These tiny humans have me right where they want me. They have overpowered me with their sweet smell (well, most of the time) and wiley ways. With three we have little to no alone time, and believe you me, I am not giving up on that. But if holding them helps the wee ones sleep and we all get some shuteye, how bad can that be?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

All Done.

I don’t have a lot of time to read these days. So when I was offered the opportunity to read 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny”, I almost said no. Boy am I glad I did not pass this one up! Since having my triplets, not only do I not have much time to read, but I can only read or watch things that are not bittersweet and/or sad or too dramatic. I don’t know what it is about hormones from pregnancy, but they have had an effect on me physically, and in turn, emotionally. Having children changes your perspective in ways you cannot imagine. It’s one of those things that you just cannot know until you are there.
Reading through Phillip Done’s book, I could feel his love for teaching and for his students leaping out at me from the pages. In one chapter, he humorously but poignantly describes to a student what goes on in ‘teacher school’. Learning how to put stars on papers, how to read upside down during story time and how to write in a straight line on the chalkboard. I have no doubt Mr. Done was the valedictorian.
Helping others seems the natural outcome of teaching. But through Done’s career, he realizes that he is also a student of those he teaches and their families. Done’s humor is evident in all of his well written and chuckle producing chapters. But more than humor, his heartfelt passion for teaching and making a difference to and for those around him shines through clearly. Done’s “Frog and Toad” chapter is inspiring to readers, during which the illiterate mother of a student learns to read due to Done’s efforts with her child. But more deeply, it is evident that Done is the one who was surprised by how he himself was inspired.
His passion is also there on a journey outside of the classroom when Done encourages experiential learning while teaching his third graders to write. Rather than put words to paper, Done leads them outside on a drizzly autumn day to “feel” what is happening in their world.
Teachers are sometimes vilified by parents as not doing ‘enough’ for their children. But what those parents do not understand is that learning begins at home. Amidst the chaos of a daily classroom full of someone else’s children, a teacher can easily become stressed. It can be hectic spending nine months with a group of children every day. But teachers like Done lead and enhance students’ lives in ways that need to be appreciated. Inspired by his own childhood teachers, a teacher like Mr. Done offers a relationship with learning to small children, creating imaginative thoughts and inspiring mental growth. He believes that “teachers are the third parent”, reflecting on what he has taught his students, and pondering what they will retain as his chronicle of a year in third grade concludes.
Often teachers do not have the benefit of seeing the results of their work. It can take years for their lessons to sink in. Recognizing the gift a teacher like this is, is a parent’s first step in helping their child succeed. I can only hope as a mother of four that my children are lucky enough to experience even one teacher like Mr. Done during their academic years.