Fire & Rain – The Remix

April 20, 2013 at 7:25 am | Posted in Kids, Parenting | 3 Comments
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Those of you who know me know that I love music. When I had children, I vowed not to get sucked into today’s tween rock and kiddie music. No Justin Roberts & The Not Ready for Naptime Players or Naked Brothers Brand for me and my kids. And certainly no Teletubbies! They would listen to some of my favorites – mostly gentle folk and acoustic rock music from the 1970s up to today. And this has gone over pretty well so far.

But after last night, I’m not so sure.

On the way home from a busy evening of karate, dinner with friends and an early-in-the-season ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s, my two little darlings decided to dissect James Taylor’s Fire & Rain on the way home. Maybe they were over-stimulated. Maybe it was the sugar. Maybe I need to re-consider my music choices after all. But this is how the conversation went:

JT: Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone…

“Where did she go, Mommy?”

“She died, Michael.”

“Why, Mommy?”

“I don’t know, Michael.” (Even though I do know – she died of a drug overdose. How does one explain this to a 4-year-old?)

“Maybe she ate too much candy.”

“I don’t think so, Michael.”

“Yeah, maybe she choked on a Tootsie Roll!”

“No, Brady, I don’t think that’s quite it.”

“Well, maybe she didn’t take very good care of her body.”

“Probably right, Michael.”

Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you. I walked out this morning, and I wrote down this song. I just can’t remember who to send it to…

“Why can’t he remember where to send it, Mom?”

“I’m not sure, Michael.”

“He’s stupid!!”

“That’s enough, Brady.”

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny times that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. But I always thought that I’d see you again.

“Why doesn’t he have any friends, Mommy?”

“Well, I don’t know if he…”

“Hey, Mom, why can’t he see her anymore?”

“Because she died, Brady.”

“Who?”

“The person James Taylor wrote this song about.”

“What was her name?”

“Suzanne.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because he says it in the song, if anyone was listening, boys.”

“Why did she die?”

“Haven’t we already been through this, guys?”

Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned toward the sun. Lord knows when the cold wind blows itll turn your head around

“Why is it cold where James Taylor is, Mom?”

“It’s a metaphor, Michael…”

“Maybe he’s on the moon! It’s really cold on the moon!”

“Brady!! He is NOT on the moon! You can’t even go there and you can’t breathe, so how could he sing? I think he’s in Antarctica.”

“Michael, he’s just trying to say that he’s sad about his friend.”

“No, Mom, he’s probably at the North Pole. It’s really cold up there and windy. Does he have to wear gloves to play the guitar?”

“He’s NOT at the North Pole!”

“Whatever, Mom.”

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus, you’ve gotta help me make a stand. You’ve just got to see me through another day

“Is he saying a prayer to Jesus, Mom?”

“Sort of.”

“Why, what does he want?”

“Well, he just needs help with…”

“Hey Mom, if you say ‘Oh Jesus’ and you are not saying a prayer, Jesus won’t listen, right? He’ll be all like, ‘Oh no! Here comes that Brady again with his fake prayers! Don’t listen to him!’ And you won’t get what you want. Right Mom?”

“Uh, it’s a little more complicated than that….”

“Hey, Mom, does Santa need help from Jesus?”

“Santa?”

“Is he all ‘Hey, Jesus! I need to make some toys here! Can you help me?’ Next Christmas I’m going to leave Santa one of my dollars because it costs a lot of money to make all those toys. Then he’ll have more money to make toys. And he can help Jesus.”

“Ok, sure, guys. Why don’t we listen to some Iron Maiden?”

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Sweet Honey Pony

April 10, 2013 at 11:35 am | Posted in Honey Pony, Horses, Kids | 7 Comments
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Well, this is a post I didn’t want to have to write so soon.

Our beloved pony, Honey, finally succumbed to the laminitis caused by the Cushing’s Disease, Lyme2011-07-27_16-17-23_828 Disease, and year and a half of neglect she had suffered. My goal when I adopted her was to give her the best retirement I possibly could and to ease any pain she had along the way. We did everything we could for her, but in the end her hoof and joint issues got the best of her and we simply couldn’t ask her to go on.

As every pet owner knows, this is the most difficult aspect of owning (do we really “own” them?) an animal. We almost always outlive them. And it leaves us with this awful responsibility and choice that we must make for our four-legged babies.

Honey was one of those really special ponies you don’t come across too often. Not only was she cute (never met a pony who wasn’t), she was incredibly sweet and willing (met a lot of ponies who weren’t). Oh, she had her moments… a warm summer day when she didn’t really feel like going for a walk and would plant her feet in the ground and let you tug on her head as if she were a 50-ton rock and you were an ant. But if you were patient and gentle and gave her time to think about it, she’d always decide to come with you.

She loved children and would get the sweetest look in her eye when they came around. Every single one of them seemed to fall in love with her, and the girls especially would spend hours braiding her super-thick mane and tail. If I had given them glitter and pink hair dye that pony would have been covered in it.

Roundpen StandingI loved how Honey would throw her scruffy-maned little head up at the sound of my voice or sight of me coming around the corner and shriek that sweet little pony whinny. I guess she had me pegged – carrots and scritches coming up.

So when she didn’t want to get up to eat anymore (although she would take her meal lying down if you put it in front of her) and I had to make the decision to let her go, it really was heart-wrenching. A friend who was trying to comfort me gave me some advice:

“What was Honey’s place in your life?” my friend asked,
“What doors did she open in your heart?
Think about why you two were brought together.”

I had never thought about losing an animal in this light before. Sometimes we think about why certain people come in and out of our lives, but seldom do we think about animals in those terms. Aren’t they just as important to us? Don’t they touch our hearts in the same way?

I thought about it… and I think Honey was brought into my life to remind me what it’s like to love unconditionally in difficult circumstances. Honey was sweet, but she wasn’t an easy pony to keep. She had numerous health issues and needed to be managed very carefully on a day-to-day basis. We were constantly checking and changing her supplement/vitamin/medication intake trying to find just the right balance. She had to be kept off grass and away from regular hay, and sometimes she would have mysterious stomach issues. I’d hoped she could be used as a regular mount for my children – especially Brady, who seemed to be much more grounded and relaxed when riding her. But that only proved to be possible for the first summer she was home. After that she was never consistently sound enough for regular riding. And of course I couldn’t ride her. I’ve always been the type that loves my horses but kind of wants to rush through all the custodial care and get to the riding. The only thing I could do with Honey was take care of her and love her. And somehow, she made this easy. She taught me a lot about patience, kindness and how to deal with chronic pain (I have a bit of that myself). She showed me that sometimes just being present is enough. And that a darling, damaged little body can hold a whole lot of love.

Honey 1So when it came time to let Honey go, I knelt in the thick bed of shavings next to her and put my forehead on hers. I thanked her for all she had done for me and my boys, and I told her the next place she would be going would be free of pain, free of limitations and free of fear. I know she heard me. I’m pretty sure she understood.

You touched everyone you met, little Honey-bear, and we will miss you very much. We’re all thankful for the gifts you gave us and the time we had with you. There will never be another one like you.

xo

P.S. We have now found a way to immortalize Honey by telling her story in a series of children’s books. Go to www.HoneyPonyBooks.com or check out Honey’s FaceBook page.

Parking Lot Angels

March 17, 2013 at 7:50 am | Posted in Parenting | 1 Comment
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I started this blog thinking I would write a lot about my horses, my obsession with the Real Housewives franchise, all things beauty-related, and other light-hearted topics. But what I’ve found is that I often write about what is in my mind and heart at the time, and very often that is parenting. I find parenting to be daunting, demanding and unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I thought since I could boss a 1,200-pound horse around and keep my business clients in line I could easily handle a couple of kids.

Haha, good one, universe.

As any dedicated parent knows, raising your children will challenge you on every level. And if you are blessed with one who doesn’t fit the “typical” mold – like my Brady – then you need even more patience, love and skill. These things don’t come naturally to me. Ok, well certainly love does, but patience, not so much. And skills have to be learned. I have so much to learn.

But apparently I have lots of help from above. Because just when I think I am the worst parent ever, when I am down in the dumps about my ability to deal, thinking no one could do a worse job… the strangest thing happens. An angel finds me. And this seems to happen most often in the supermarket parking lot. I’m not kidding. Four times now, I have had someone – generally an elderly person – walk up to me out of nowhere in two different Hannaford parking lots and say something like this:

Angel: “Hi! Was that you and your little one laughing just then?”
Me: “Yes ??”
Angel: “I worked in child welfare services for over 30 years, and it is so good to see someone taking care of their child in the right way.”
Me: “Thank you ??”  “Thank you!!”

Or

Angel: “How old is your little boy?”
Me: “3.”
Angel: “I can see you really love being a mother. Just by the way you’re talking to him and laughing with him. I see too many mothers acting like they can’t stand their own kids. You’re doing a great job!”
Me: (thinks: “I guess you didn’t see me losing it 20 minutes ago in the car.”) Says: “Thank you so much! You made my day!”

And the truth is, she really did. Because God knows I am trying! I guess He knows, so He sends me some angels to help me.

Even this blog has become a source of inspiration. A while back I posted an article about my struggle to restart my childrens’ book, which had stalled out creatively and energetically. Out of the blue, an old friend whom I hadn’t heard from in 20 years appeared in my Comments section with the most amazing advice on how to jumpstart my efforts. I took the advice, it worked, and now I am nearing completion on the book. Angel.

Where will you see or hear your angels today?  Will a random stranger approach you, or will someone close to you say just the right thing? Will you simply hear a whisper on the breeze or the muffled rumble of the ice shifting on the lake to tell you that change is coming, however subtle? If you are open to it, somehow you’ll get the message that everything is going to be ok and that life goes on, despite what may feel like small tragedies or giant victories.

Listen. Look. Pay attention. It’s there, it’s powerful, and you don’t want to miss it.

xo

So Crazy Right Now

February 9, 2013 at 8:23 am | Posted in Kids, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Do I have to get slapped in the face with crazy the second I wake up?

“Oh, Michelle, you’re not crazy. Don’t say that about yourself!”

It’s not me I’m talking about, people.

Let’s start with the first thing I see/hear if I make the mistake of not getting up before everyone else in the house does: Monty the licker. Don’t get too excited. Monty is a CAT. He’s a crazy, obsessive-compulsive, over-bearing, hyper-demanding CAT who will come into my bedroom first thing in the morning screaming like a banshee and start LICKING… me, the comforter, the sheets, the pillows… anything he can get his tongue on. I have no idea why he does this and I have never met a cat like him. He came from the shelter as a “stray” (although after years of having him we’re pretty sure someone dropped his nutty ass off) and now he lives with us. Lucky, lucky us.

That’s crazy #1 to start my day.iPhone Download 2012 057

Next comes a whole heap of hooey from number-one son, who leaps into my bed (risking a severe licking from said cat) ranting about the dream he just had. You know, the one about the talking buffalo from Bugaboo Creek (I can’t believe I was stupid enough to take him there. I thought it would be fun. I thought he would get a kick out of it. [I certainly didn’t go for the gourmet food, although I’m still fantasizing about the 10,000 lb. chocolate cake we had for dessert.] I must have forgotten for 5 1/2 seconds that kids with Asberger’s Syndrome are anxious and literal and the first questions he would ask about the giant talking buffalo head on the wall was, “Can he get out of there? Is he going to come over here? Can he see me? Is he talking to me? When is he going to talk again? Does he know my name? How did he get up there? Where’s his owner? When can we go home?” And that a trip to the bathroom would entail hands clapped over ears [even though the buffalo was not talking] and a 20-minutes-out-of-our-way walk to successfully circumnavigate said buffalo without a chance encounter.). And so, of course, the mania about the talking buffalo continued on the 30-minute car ride home and then right into the night, where Brady insisted he had spent his dream time wandering the house trying to save himself and our family from it. And all this because “Trick”, his giant stuffed horse (whom he regularly pretends is a stuffed cat even though he has 26 stuffed cats), was pretending to be a giant talking Buffalo all night long and continually bamboolzing Brady with his shenanigans.

And that, my friends, was crazy #2 to start my day.Brady Michael Buck Teeth

Then, number-two son, being fascinated and flummoxed by all things big brother, picks up on Brady’s train of thought (if you can call it that) and is high-tailing it through the house shrieking that there’s a buffalo in their room and we should head for the hills. Brady screams back that it is only TRICK (the giant stuffed horse/cat) PRETENDING to be a buffalo, and so a bellowing fight ensues between the boy in my bed and the boy in the hall. This goes on until Michael can be convinced to join us and take his licking like a man. Meanwhile, I’m still just trying to wipe the sleep out of my eyes and shake off the dream I had about frozen margaritas at a swim-up bar in Cozumel. As if.

That was crazy #3.Michael Kissing

And so eventually we all stumble downstairs, where my wound-just-a-little-too-tight husband is insisting that there’s a strange red light on in the back-up power generator and since there’s a BLIZZARD coming (Or maybe it’s just 4 inches of snow, I never know for sure with his overreactive nature. Also, have you ever noticed how men over-call the number of inches something is? Like snow or… other stuff? That’s a topic for another day.) I’d better cancel all my plans and hunker down to wait for the generator company to make an emergency service call. Now. Today. Before it’s too late.

Come on. Red wine keeps. Is it really an emergency if the power goes out?

Hello, crazy #4.Boys2Men

And finally, the chaos in my own mind, whirling and swirling about what needs to get done today, what can’t possibly get done today, and how much Advil it’s going to take to get me through the day. And, course, what color eye shadow I am going to wear. Priorities, people.

So now you see why I always try to get up before everyone else. A mother’s work is never done, but at least she can fend off the crazy a little better when fortified by a cup of tea and a few minutes of pre-dawn silence. Here’s to 5:30 a.m. May it arrive free of wet beds and bad dreams. Those are for 6:10 a.m.

xo

Model Behavior

January 26, 2013 at 7:58 am | Posted in Kids | 10 Comments
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“Children with Asperger’s Syndrome need very clear and concise social guidelines,” said Brady’s wonderful and well-meaning therapist. “Social norms and behaviors are like a foreign language to them. They need to be taught very specifically how to handle social situations. Brady will mirror your behaviors and reactions to the world at large. YOU are his best and more important role model.”

Oh great.

Maybe that’s why my kid can swear like a truck driver. (But honestly, why give truck drivers the bad rap? The expression should be “swear-like-a-Catholic-school-raised-middle-aged-marketing-professional-turned-housewife” because really, I am amazing at it.)
Monty

Or maybe that’s why he falls apart at the slightest frustration. Demands perfection from himself. Lies in bed and worries at night. Falls in love with every animal he meets and then frets about them for the rest of his life.

But I can’t say I’ve ever thrown myself on the floor when a stranger in a store smiled at me. Or shouted “Nipples!!” when someone asked me how I am today. Those are pure Brady.

This behavior modeling thing is a lot of pressure to put on a mother who already puts a lot of pressure on herself. I’m back to that perfection thing again: If I’m not a perfect mother, how can I raise incredible kids? Notice I didn’t say “perfect” kids. I don’t need my kids to be perfect, just me. Something about having no regrets. How will I live with myself if they don’t turn out all right?

And what is the ‘perfect’ behavior to model for your kids anyway? Is it ok to show them your weaker side? Like that you get completely pissed off, too, when you can’t get that last drop of (organic) ketchup out of the squeeze bottle? (You paid about $4 more for it, you damn well better get to enjoy it on your locally-grown bison burger. Or your Ballpark Frank. Whatever gets you through the meal.) Is it a bad thing for them to see that you lose your patience while driving and drop a few choice words?

(Recent conversation in the car:
Brady: “Cut it out, you jerk-off!”
Me: “Jerk-off?? Where did you hear that?”
Brady: “You say it, Mom, when you’re mad at some idiot in front of you who’s not going fast enough.”
Me: “Oh… uh… Well, don’t say it, it’s not nice.”
Better than some of the other words I’ve chosen in the past, I guess.)

What about when I’m tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted? How about when I’m Cute Bradyhormonal? Are you trying to tell me that my kid’s going to grow up to be a chocolate-gobbling, wine-swilling, weep-at-Hallmark-commercials wussy boy? Or what?

This parenting stuff is hard, and it’s totally compounded by having a child you needs a lot more from you than your average kid. And don’t most parents hand down a whole heap of crazy to their kids anyway? Haven’t we seen some of the best and brightest come from really screwed up homes? And vice versa – nuts from seemingly perfect backgrounds? I know we’re dealing with something different when it comes to Asperger’s because these beautiful children are so very literal and need such clear and complete guidance. But really, how badly can I mess it up? (Ok, probably pretty badly if I’m not careful. Maybe Mommy needs a little more herbal tea…)

So I ask you, how did your parents contribute to your complete and total insanity? And what are you doing to wreck your kids’ lives? Also, if it takes a village to raise a child, can I send Brady over to your house when he’s really driving me nuts? Then you can explain why it’s not ok to leap into the chair of an unsuspecting guest, rake your fingers through her long dark hair, and throw your blanket over her head in a crazed giggling fit. I’m sure you can handle it.

xo

Where Did the Time Go?

November 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Kids | 8 Comments
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I am a stay-at-home Mom. Although “stay at home” is not really the right term for what I do. I’m more like a drive-everyone-everywhere-keep-30-appointments-a-day-put-100,000-miles-on-my-car-per-year Mom. But on the rare days when I actually do stay at home, I have a lot to get done. A LOT. So, I get out my little To Do list, the one I make each week (No, I don’t want to talk about how many weeks “fix my pedicure” has been on this list. You do the math.), and choose a few items to get accomplished. You know, easy stuff, like shave the cat and re-spackle the dining room. I might as well choose these types of things for all that I seem to be able to get done.

Before I was a stay-at-home Mom, I was a work-at-the-office marketing professional. I handled many projects on a daily basis for a number of different clients and managed millions of dollars in marketing budgets. I was well-known for my ability to create successful campaigns, rally the team and get the job done. Now I can barely get the dishes in the dishwasher.

Why is that?

And I’ll admit it: when I was a working woman, I scoffed – actually scoffed – at the stay-at-home Moms, especially the ones who complained about how busy they were. I mean, how much could they possibly have to do in a day?? What was so hard about juggling a couple of kids, their laundry, and a grocery list? Well, karma has a funny way of giving you a good swift kick in the ass, and I guess I’m learning my lesson. The woman who used to be able to do it all now celebrates actually having enough clean underwear to get through the week.

For those of you who have small children, you know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t (or whose kids are so old you’ve forgotten and now you’re scoffing at me and thinking I’m completely incoherent and incapable), here’s a little sneak peek at where the time goes:

Today’s Schedule:

5:30 a.m. – Rise early – an hour before the kids – to fold yesterday’s laundry and put in a new batch, look over some paperwork from Brady’s school, and take a quick shower.
5:45 a.m. – 3-year-old Michael wakes up 45 minutes early, crying because he has wet his bed.
5:50 a.m. – Drop early morning projects to strip both Michael and his bed. Carry Michael out of his room, shushing him the whole time not to wake up his brother.
6:02 a.m. – He woke up his brother.
6:05 a.m. – Put wet bedclothes and jammies in washer. Break up fight between kids over whether or not Snoopy really flies his doghouse in “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. Commence making school lunch and breakfast.
6:15 a.m. – Fix broken dump truck. Hug crying child who brought it to you. Fill request to “Snuggle with me, Mommy?”. Forget grilled cheese is cooking for lunch.
6:30 a.m. – Leap off the couch to the smell of smoke. Chuck charred cheese sandwich. Check for more cheese – nope, there isn’t any. Make PB&J instead. Remember that the school has banned peanuts. Decide that Lunchables might not be such a bad thing after all.
6:35 a.m. – Fulfill request for juice x2.
6:45 a.m. – Finish making kids’ lunch. Start making breakfast.
6:47 a.m. – Feed whining cats.
6:48 a.m. – Break up physical fight between boys over whether or not the toy crane they are playing with can talk. Remove crane. Argue in circles with 6-year-old about removed crane. Threaten to throw crane out window.
7:00 a.m. – Continue to attempt to make breakfast.
7:05 a.m. – Answer question about how many Quarter Horses can fit on a cruise ship. Discuss.
7:10 a.m. – Call kids to table for breakfast.
7:11 a.m. – Call kids to table for breakfast.
7:12 a.m. – Call kids to table for breakfast.
7:13 a.m. – Threaten to flush breakfast down toilet.
7:14 a.m. – See two little faces appear at the table.
7:20 a.m. – Remind kids to eat.
7:30 a.m. – Remind kids to eat.
7:35 a.m. – Remind kids to eat.
7:40 a.m. – Remove plates from table to cries of, “HEY!!! I was eating that!!”. Shoo kids upstairs to get dressed.
7:42 a.m. – Check the clock and realize there is no time for that shower. Try to make the best of it with extra make-up and deodorant.
7:58 a.m. – Realize you have not made the best of it.
7:59 a.m. – Sigh.
8:00 a.m. – Prod the kids to put on the clothes that are laid out for them.
8:01 a.m. – Break up a pillow fight gone bad. Remove cat from bathtub. Retrieve stray Advil from under vanity.
8:05 a.m. – Scream that if they don’t get dressed RIGHT NOW they will be late for school.
8:08 a.m. – Threaten to send them to school in their pajamas.
8:09 a.m. – Answer the question, “Is it pajama day today?” with your dirtiest look. Explain to befuddled child that no, in fact, it is NOT pajama day, and everyone will laugh at him if he wears his Sleepy Cuddle Bear top and Thomas the Train bottoms to school.
8:12 a.m. – Answer whining cries by helping with shirts, socks and other difficult geometry problems.
8:15 a.m. – Manage to complete the final 15 minutes of morning routine (teeth brushing, shoe tying, backpack packing, coat-finding) only by growling orders through clenched teeth and/or roaring.
8:30 a.m. – Rip out of driveway, only to find you have left your cell phone behind. Back up to the door and run in. Come back out to find anxious 6-year-old on front step because he “missed you”.
8:35 a.m. – Strap 6-year-old back into seat and tear out of driveway again.

Now, at this point, I have been up for over 3 hours, and here is what I have accomplished:

  • 2 kids dressed, fed and teeth brushed
  • 2 cats fed their first can of food; the second can was forgotten, so I will return to find a fresh set of scratch marks on the new dining room table leg
  • 1 bad make-up job and possibly still-stinky underarms
  • 1 bed stripped to the mattress which will be forgotten until bedtime, at which point kids will use the 5 minutes it takes to make the bed as the perfect excuse to jump on the trampoline until they are so wound up it will take an extra hour for them to fall asleep
  • 1 load of laundry in the washer with soap and fabric softener added, but not turned on
  • 8 pillows – decorative, therapeutic and sleeping – on the floor in my bedroom, along with my comforter and top sheet
  • Countless breakfast dishes littering the kitchen
  • Pile of paperwork from Brady’s school that was due today but that I was unable to address due to wet bed emergency
  • 2 freshly poured cups of juice that we forgot to take with us in the last-minute hustle

I won’t bore you with the list of occurrences that will come about when I later try to make a few appointments over the phone and check my email, but suffice it to say that this mother, who was “never going to use TV as a babysitter I mean come on how hard can it be to keep things going in a simple 4-person household and my kids will be busy with their creative play and engaging activities anyway” now turns to the DVD player as the ONLY WAY to get dinner made on a daily basis. And even then, I have to stop what I’m doing to skip the scary parts. You know, when Snoopy cries over Schroeder’s sad music or when Lightning McQueen the race car gets chased by a tractor.

And that, my friends, is where the time goes. Gotta run.

xo

Bedazzled

October 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Posted in Beauty, Kids, The Real Housewives | 6 Comments
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I wore sparkly, bedazzled jeans to school drop-off, gymnastics, karate, and the grocery store today.

I know they were completely out of place in those venues. I realize they might have been a bit over-the-top. Even 6-year-old Brady, after rubbing my bejeweled butt for a minute, proclaimed them to be “weird”. But I just got them and I love them, so shut UP!

I also love make-up and hairspray (raised in the 80s, anyone?), and those things are hard to love here in Maine. There’s a whole juggernaut of plain-Janes running around. A regulation-sized soccer field full of Sporty Spices. Hey, I’m sporty. I mountain bike. I ride horses, and that is a dirty-ass sporty sport! But I still like spangled jeans and sparkly eye shadow.

This is probably an ongoing surprise to my Mom, who had to fight me into every dress I ever wore as a little girl. They were mostly reserved for Sundays at church, and I can still remember asking her why God cared if we were dressed up or not. Could He even see us? “Of course He can,” she replied, “It’s HIS HOUSE!” And now I’m appalled at what I see in church – spaghetti-strap tank tops that show your titty tattoos and short-shorts that would make Daisy Duke blush (are you even wearing underwear??).

But I digress.

The thing is just that… I love BEAUTY and everything that goes with it! Putting on make-up every day is like my own personal art project. Can I wear green eye shadow with this purple top? Does this shade of lipstick make my skin look grey? Will I ever be brave enough to wear those false eyelashes out in public?

I guess the real question is: How much is too much for a stay-at-home mom?

This is probably very dependent on where you live. Those babes on The Real Housewives of Orange County/Beverly Hills/NYC/New Jersey are always dripping with double-decker glam. Whether it be for a trip to the opera or a quick jaunt to the grocery store (as if they actually EAT), it seems sequins and 5-inch heels are never off limits. How do they tend to their kids in those get-ups? With small children, I have to bend over constantly, and this is no small feat in low-slung jeans (hello, butt-crack), short skirts (um, other crack) or low-cut tops (that’s technically not a crack). And try doing that while maintaining your composure (and dignity and modesty) while wearing platform wedges! Of course, if you’re lucky, your kid will throw a fit in whatever public place you happen to be and you’ll have to pick up all 38 pounds of whirling, writhing, screaming child in your razor-thin stilettos and carry him out. Meanwhile, you were wondering if those shoes could actually hold YOUR post-baby poundage, never mind you plus the butterball that is your 3-year-old. Good luck with that.

It’s tough being a Mom who still wants to look hot. Or at least human. I was recently at a 5-year-old’s birthday party that was held at a gym. I thought I looked cute and somewhat appropriate in my embroidered sleeveless top and white capris. Then in walked a mother ‘from away’ (Mainer talk for ‘you don’t live here’) wearing a tight black top and jeans with carefully placed rips all up and down the front of them. And in the rips were…. wait for it… GOLD BEADS!!! Rows and rows of them!! I scoffed and turned away. Clearly this woman did not know what to wear to a child’s birthday party! But on the inside, I died a little. I wanted to wear jeans like that and get away with it!!

So how to marry the two? Here is what I propose:

– The false eyelashes and red patent-leather handbag make the cut when you’re going out to dinner, not to the soccer field.

– Save the heavy glitter eye make-up and over-the-top lipliner for drinks with the girls, but don’t be afraid to dust on a little shimmer here and there on a daily basis.

– If you’re going to wear high heels of any type with your kids in tow, make sure you have the hubs with you to handle any “Pick me UUUPPPP!!!!”s that come your way.

– Bouffe (I think I made that word up) up your hair like crazy for weddings, evening parties and trips to the big city, but let’s keep it casual for the girls’ softball team, ok?

– And never, ever, under any circumstances does mascara make your butt look big. So slather it on, girls. Every day, all the time.

xo

Perfection

September 26, 2012 at 10:24 am | Posted in Horses, Kids | 2 Comments
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I’m watching my son try to become “king of the hill” in his karate class. They’re practicing Jujitsu wrestling, so this means he has to find a way to disengage and flip the kid on top of him over, then hold him down for a few seconds. I’m watching calmly, nodding and smiling at Brady and the Sensei, while my inner narrative goes something like this, “Come ON, Brady!! Get him! Just trap that arm – TRAP IT! Now bridge… BRIDGE!! You can flip him! You can win! You can be the best!!!” Meanwhile, I’m talking to a dad standing next to me about how it’s ok for our boys to not do it perfectly, and he’s telling me how hard it is for his wife to watch the class because she gets so frustrated when their son doesn’t do exactly what he’s supposed to do. I share this feeling and cringe inwardly all the time – especially with a child like Brady who doesn’t always go with the flow.

What is all this pressure, desire, demand to be perfect? Where does it come from, and why do we try so hard to achieve it and want it so badly for our kids?

I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist in that down-to-every-last-detail sort of way. That would be my husband. I strive for things to be very well done, but they don’t have to be perfect. Such as, I’ll make the bed because it looks nice and is lovely to slide into at the end of the day, but every sheet corner doesn’t have to be tucked in and the comforter doesn’t have to be flawlessly smooth. Of course, I do feel guilty if the bed isn’t made (bad mother, wife, housekeeper!).

My husband, on the other hand, will not even begin a task unless he can see it through to ultimate completion. Every single tiny cobweb must be off the exterior of the house, every flake of snow removed from the walkway/driveway/deck, every speck of dirt lifted from the interior of his car (Oh, you should SEE his car!! It’s 6 years old with over 100k miles on it and it looks and smells brand new! The man is super-human.).

So what of my boys?

Brady and I see a behavioral therapist once/week who has helped us immensely with his anxiety and other difficult aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome. Her philosophy is “We play games to have fun, not to win. Who cares who wins?” Who cares who wins?? I care!! What is that? It doesn’t matter who wins? Isn’t that half the fun of playing? Winning? And if I teach my kids that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose (I know, I know, ‘it’s how you play the game’ – I agree, that’s important, too), will they be slovenly couch potatoes with no drive? Is this something that comes from personality or programming? So many questions about perfection…

Back in the days when I used to show my horses, I started out wanting to win every class and getting really upset if I didn’t get a trophy or at least place. Over time, I realized that the important thing was that I had the best possible ride. If the judge didn’t see us or didn’t like my horse, I couldn’t really help that. I could only control what and how we did in the ring. But the important distinction here is that I still went in with the intention to win. I trained and practiced and hoped for it. I TRIED to win. And working that hard made me a better rider. What changed was my attitude. I learned to pet my horse on the neck, thank him for the great ride, and smile on my way through the outgate because my equine companion gave me everything I wanted, even if the judge didn’t.

I can see when Brady is practicing karate that he’s a lover, not a fighter. After wrestling for a few minutes, he’ll lie there and pat the kids’ head with whom he’s practicing. I can tell now by the way he glances at me as they play “king of the hill” that he’s trying to win for me, because he knows I want him to, not because he wants to. Maybe he’s just not that competitive. So what I’ve told him is that he doesn’t have to be the best, he just has to give it his best. Try his hardest. I suppose that’s all we can ask from any of us. I’m still going to try to win. But I don’t have to be perfect. And neither do my boys.

xo

Atten-HUT!!!

August 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Posted in Kids | 2 Comments
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I used to speak ever so softly and sweetly to my children. I’d cajole and coo, whispering in their ears and smiling while I spoke. Gentle tones and calm demeanor were my forte.

Now I sound like I live in a fort.

What exactly happened? Boyhood kicked in, that’s what. They went from soft and sweet and so-so cuddly to big and boney and rambunctious. Now my quiet crooning is replaced by drill-sergeant-like barking. I’m always shouting out orders, guiding their little heads back into line with my hands when they stray (like every 5 seconds), and sounding out the days’ itinerary:

“Brady! Michael! Front and center! NOW HEAR THIS: It is TIME to get DRESSED! Here is what is going to happen: BRADY, you are going to come here NOW and put on your PANTS! NO, you may NOT jump on the trampoline naked! LISTEN UP, boys! MICHAEL, you are going to STOP sitting on the cat and take your jammies OFF! And no more namby-pamby whining! I used to have to get dressed while walking uphill in the SNOW! Barefoot!! In JUNE!!!”

None of this is spoken in mean or angry tones, just in a loud, instructional format. Ok, more like a muffled roar, but you get the picture. I am not screaming at my children, just trying to get their ever-shifting attention.

Out in public, mothers of only children shoot me sideways glances as I dole out directives to my brood of two. They’re probably thinking, “What’s wrong with her? Too much caffeine? A bit high-strung, are we? Take it easy on those two! A little kindness goes a long way. You catch more flies with honey. Blah blah blah blah.”

HA! They have no idea. Two kids might as well be ten! A couple of little boys may not look like much, but trust me, if these two get even one step ahead of me, it’s anarchy. They will completely overthrow the current Nanny State (Mommy State, in this case) and leave me quivering and whimpering as I try to explain just how the purple-maned horse from the carousel got into the fun park’s wishing well. I can’t imagine what they’ll do when they’re teenagers.

My husband tells horror stories of he and his brother (also 3 years apart) concocting such stunts as drizzling gasoline down the driveway (where exactly did they find an unattended can of gas?), taking the tires off their bikes and skidding down the driveway so the metal rims/gas combination created sparks and a nice little whip of flame. They also managed to drive their bikes off the garage roof without breaking any limbs. But they did break a set of antique beds that belonged to their grandmother. Thank God we have no pavement at our house in the woods. But we do have roofs. And beds.

Maybe their mother didn’t bark enough orders? What about corporal punishment? Or maybe it’s just a boy thing and it’s inevitable. Either way, you’re sure to hear me if we’re in the same supermarket/mall/parking lot/kids’ party/fun park/war. I’m the one shouting, “Hey! You two! Pete & Re-Pete! Cut that out! No, stop it! Sit down! Drop that! Get down from there! If you two don’t stop, you are in big trouble! Come over here! RIGHT HERE!! Now, forward MARCH!!”

I think you get the idea.

xo

All I Can Handle

August 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Kids | 18 Comments
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When I found out my son, Brady, has Asperger’s Syndrome, it knocked the wind right out of me. We had been working with a “Generalized Anxiety” diagnosis for some time, and I knew he had some sensory and social issues, but I was still unprepared to hear the words “These test results strongly point to Asperger’s.”

Finding out that life is going to be harder for your child is devastating. I know we are not talking about cancer or another life-threatening illness, but we are talking about a life-long condition that can be debilitating. My husband and I were (and still are) prepared to give our kids every advantage we could afford them in life, but a condition like Asperger’s Syndrome means a few giant steps backward to just getting the everyday stuff under control.

I know this might ruffle some feathers, but I just need to indulge myself and vent a little: It really annoys the hell out of me when I read posts and blogs from mothers who swear they are totally fine with their kids’ autism. They claim their child is a treasure and they wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sure their children are wonderful and sweet and funny and endearing, but the disorder that is autism certainly is not. Do they mean to tell me that they jumped for joy when they found out their kid was going to struggle way more than the average child with normal, everyday events, such as saying ‘hi’ to a little boy on the playground or going to the supermarket?

That they thought, “Oh, delightful!” when it occurred to them that their child would likely be ostracized by other kids and would find it nearly impossible to read the expressions on their teachers’ faces?  Is it perfectly all right with them when the following scenario takes place?:

“Brady, we’re going to a birthday party tomorrow!”

You should see the panic on his face.

“NO, Mommy!! I don’t want to go! I’ll stay with Daddy! Or Miss Sheyla! (trusted babysitter) I don’t want to go to the party!”

“But Brady, it’s your friend, Jimmy, from school. He invited you!”

“I don’t want to GO, Mom! It won’t be fun. I’ll run away from the car when we get there!”

He runs for his blanket and scrunches it up over his face and neck.

“It won’t be scary, honey. You’ll have a good time with the kids and party games. There will be a bounce house!”

“But there will be other kids there! And they’ll sing stupid Happy Birthday TOO LOUD!!”

Fetal position on the couch.

“Oh, sweetie, can’t we just go, and if you’re not having fun then we’ll leave?”

“No, Mom, NO! I don’t want to go!”

Is this what we had in mind when we were carrying that luscious little bundle in our bellies? That we would be forcing them to go to amusement parks and dreading family dinners out and agonizing over the days’ schedule because a single bump in the road sends them reeling?

I love my son with all my heart, and I understand that he is who he is, flaws and all, but I really can’t “embrace” his autism. It’s not the road I had planned. It’s not the journey I wanted him or I to make. It’s certainly not going to be easy.

We’re lucky enough to live in a state that offers many services to children with these types of disabilities. And through research and referrals, we’ve found a number of wonderful private practitioners as well. Brady receives occupational therapy, social (play) therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy (sessions that I am involved in and learning from as well), homeopathic remedies, naturopathic remedies, and osteopathic treatments. If it seems like a ridiculous amount of intervention, it probably is, but we want to give him every opportunity to thrive.

Some days he does so well his behavior is nearly that of a “typical” child. Other days, it’s obvious that he is struggling, fraught with anxiety and over-stimulation, and it’s so hard on all of us. I often lie in bed at night and worry about him – whether or not he’ll make friends in first grade, how he’ll ever manage to ride the school bus, if he’ll be able to form a long-term relationship or get married someday. And I’d like to be like those other mothers who seem just fine with it all. Perhaps they didn’t have super-high hopes for their kids or aren’t crazy Type-A over-achievers like me. Or maybe they’re just calmer and more accepting than I am. Having a kid with autism teaches you a lot about autism, but it also teaches you so much about yourself and what you can handle.

I hope I can handle it.

xo

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