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!
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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
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
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.
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.
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.