Saturday, April 27, 2013

Musings From Natalie #43

Natalie: "Mom, do we have school today?

Me: "No."

Natalie: "Do we have school tomorrow?

Me: "No."

Natalie: "So...we are off for two days...what a lovely sentence."

"Mom, can you find me a quiet girl song?"

She thought this one fit the bill.



"Stop!  I like this one!"

(Steve was so proud.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Deep Thoughts From Noah #28

While listening to Jumpin Jack Flash by the Stones, Noah asked, "What is he saying?"

"I know.  You've really got to listen to understand the words," I replied.

After a minute or so, he said, "I think he's talking about passing gas."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Deep Thoughts From Noah #27

Natalie: "Mom, can I be more than one thing?"
Me: "Sure!"
Natalie: "Ok, I think I want to be a vet and a mommy and an artist and an author."
Me: "I think you can do anything you set your mind to."
Natalie: "Noah, what do you want to be?"
Noah: "I be married and...also...a dad."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You Might be a Parent to a 6 Year old Girl If...

You might be a parent to a 6 year old girl if...
 * a stuffed animal is treated as a fashion accessory 
* you've been asked to find her some Chemical X so she can become a super hero
* you curse the makers of Polly Pocket on a regular basis
* pink is considered a neutral color
* high pitched squeals are particles of speech 
* you've ever called up a friend at night to say "I have a glitter emergency."

Last week Natalie just would not let go of the idea of catching a fairy.  She set another trap, but this time included a few more enticing pieces that she felt sure no sprite could resist -- like a teeny tiny wand from her Little People castle set, a few cranberries to munch and a pistachio shell filled with water to wash it all down.  She also left scraps of paper and broke several crayons into pieces to make it easy for a fairy to write - should the mood strike her.  

"I just gotta catch one tonight to prove that they are real," Natalie shared.

After I put her to bed, I realized that eating the berries and leaving a note wasn't going to cut it.  I needed to leave her more hopes of prolonging her sweet creative innocence. So, that night at 9 p.m. I actually left a voicemail for Gen, my craft-loving neighbor and friend, to say I had a glitter emergency.  I felt that since she was a mother of three girls, she'd completely understand my pickle.  Within minutes I received a call back from her.

"Glitter? Yep. Got it.  I'll bring it to your house in 15 minutes," she said.

I love my neighbors...I mean most neighbors are willing to lend a cup of sugar or spare an egg, but it takes a special one to get in their car at night after a full day of wrangling their own little gremlins to hand deliver some silver sparkles.

In the morning Natalie awoke upset with herself for falling asleep.  
"I was supposed to stay up all night to catch a fairy!" she whined.
"Hmmm...maybe we should check to see if one visited," I suggested.

Natalie immediately bolted out of bed and headed for the front porch.  She came back a couple minutes later to report that she found a note and there was this silver glitter all over everything.

"See! Fairies do exist.  Don't you think that stuff is fairy dust?" I inquired.
"No, it's not." she assured me.
"What? Of course it is!" I said
"Fairy dust is a lot smaller than this and it's gold not silver.  I've seen it on T.V." she explained.
"Well, maybe you can't believe everything you see on T.V." I countered.
"Yea, well I know it's not real fairy dust." she replied.
"How do you know?" I asked
"Because I already tried sprinkling it on my arms and it didn't make me fly," she challenged.
"That's because a fairy is tiny and only needs a little bit of dust to fly.  You are much would need a cupful!" I replied.

As Natalie paused to consider my reasoning, I held my breath that she would accept it.  She responded with a heavy sigh and turned around and headed to her room to ponder a better trap.  

I sighed too...partly out of relief, but also because I know I can't make all of her dreams come true.  As a parent you just want to make the impossible a reality for your kids.  You want them to dream big even if their dreams are far-fetched.  At that moment I just wished I could make it happen...with just one phone call...Hello Gen? Yea, I'm gonna need a lot more glitter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Musings From Natalie #42

Natalie: "Mom, do I have school today?"
Me: "Yes."
Natalie: "Um, how 'bout I cancel."
('s school, not a concert appearance.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Deep Thoughts From Noah #26

Me: "Noah, you've got 15 more minutes to play with Natalie and then you need to get in the shower."
Noah: "But why?  How can that be?"
Me: "Because time flies when you're having fun."
Noah: "But we're it can't."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Know What You Mean #15

"Mom, I can't smell my nose!" shared Natalie
(Hmmm...I think she meant she can't smell anything with her stuffy nose.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Musings from Natalie #41

Natalie: "Mom, did you know on My Little Pony, Apple Jack's little sister doesn't say excuse me when she burps."
Me: "She doesn't?  That's not very nice."
Natalie: "It's 'cause she lives on a farm."
Me: "They don't have manners.  I wouldn't like that place."
Natalie:  "I would!  They get to do whatever they want.  I'd want to live there...then I could draw on the walls n'stuff."

Me: "You have to eat at least two bites of your chicken or no dessert."
Natalie: "Ok, I'll just eat the crunchy part and leave the white part."
Me: "You have to eat the white part, too.  That's the chicken."
Natalie:  "Aww, Mom...but it's just too....chickeny."

After dinner Natalie brought me two different boxes of treats
Me: "You need to pick one."
Natalie: "And then the other?"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Musings from Natalie #40

When I picked Natalie up from school.  Her teacher shared that while he was looking at a dictionary, Natalie inquired about the type of book he was reading and when he told her what it was, she innocently asked, "So, you're reading a book all about dics?"

(It took her a teacher a minute to recover...but he told me he believed she was comparing the word with the book she and her classmates are already familiar with...pictionary)

Buyer's Remorse


Natalie: "I can't believe you took my tooth fairy money."

Me: "I didn't take it.  You wanted to buy that caterpillar toy and I told you, you'd need to pay me back with the money you just received from the tooth fairy."

Natalie: "All that wiggling...all that work!...I can't believe it's gone now."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hide n'Seek and Found

Recently I was asked to speak at my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) year-end Tea & Testimony.  MOPS is an International Christian-based organization dedicated to encouraging and developing mothers to realize their potential.
Talk about nervous. 
For weeks, I consumed boxes of Girl Scout cookies and gallons of caffeinated beverages while staring at a blank computer screen.  

Night after night I not only counted sheep, I organized them by size and color…
Immobilized by fear…with the underlying thought being, the jig is up…
now everyone is going to know…
  • after nearly 10 years of membership I still don’t know my way around a Bible
  • I still think of God as someone sitting behind a heavy piece of glass with the words “Break Only in Case of Emergency”
  • I’ve called God some pretty awful things in my time
  • I regularly question His plan for me

For almost a decade I’ve been on a quest to understand God and my mission here on Earth.  I was baffled as to why Marilyn, our Mentor Mom had asked me to speak to the group in the first place.  What could I possibly share that would be helpful, uplifting, insightful about my pursuit for understanding God.  Over the years I’ve emailed her with dozens of questions and concerns about everything from faith and God to my purpose in mothering.

I grew up in a Catholic family and attended Catholic school in which going to Mass several times a week was part of the curriculum.  All of my friends were Catholic.  I was baptized at two months and gave my first confession at eight years old.   

Lord, I agonized over that first confession. I was a basically a good kid and recall telling the priest my sins included arguing with my brother and sister and talking back to my parents (the latter sin was actually a lie I told because I couldn’t think of another sin and was afraid I’d get into trouble if I didn't at least two sins) and then I’d receive my penance of a few Hail Mary’s and maybe an Our Father.  I was just trying to follow the rules…like not eating meat on Fridays during Lent and listening to whatever the nuns and priests told me.  
I remember when our parish priest came to speak to my 2nd grade class about vocations. 

My first thought was “Yay! Maybe we’ll get to talk about Disney!" 

When I figured out what he was really talking about - I feared God would call me to become a nun…as my aspirations at the time were set on either working in a pet store or doing hair.  

But it wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized during all those years of genuflecting, reciting the prayers of the Rosary and participating in the ‘stations of the cross’ that I never felt comfortable in church or in expressing my beliefs in God outwardly to anyone…not even family and friends.  

It seemed God and my feelings about him were so private I even kept them from myself.  
Growing up, we didn’t have conversations about God in the home, nor did we pray before meals, and we certainly never owned a Bible. As a kid I just tried to be a good follower of the rules set by my parents, school and the church.  I believed good followed good.  Don’t follow the rules and look out.  God was watching and keeping track. By the time I was a teenager I was convinced that when I died I would spend several years in purgatory before entering Heaven.  When I left for college, my family’s connection with the church was reduced to attending mass on Christmas and Easter. I was at an age when I questioned everything I was ever taught and even more so when it came out that a priest who served at my elementary school was being brought up on charges for child molestation.
I was distrustful of organized religion.

Then in December 2000, I went on a blind date….set up by my mother and a friend of hers.  This wasn’t my first -- I was 28 years old and had been on plenty and did not have high hopes for anything to come of it.  I was so certain it would be a disappointment that I didn’t wear makeup. I tied my hair up in a tight bun and wore a shapeless wool sweater and a pair of baggy, corduroy, carpenter pants.  I was determined; it seemed, to not be asked out a second time. I also insisted on driving myself to the movie theater and figured I’d be back home and in my jammies before 9 o’clock.  

But, things didn’t work out that way.  It turned out the jarhead, country boy man from a town so small, you’d be hard-pressed to locate it on a map…was funny and interesting and interested in me...despite my best dressed-down efforts.  He was the first man I had ever gone out with in which the subject of religion, faith and God became a topic of conversation.  In all my years of dating, I’d never broached the subject and frankly didn’t care to… with anyone.  Now here was this guy talking about God…on our first date…and the idea of finding the nearest exit had not even crossed my mind .

Though Steve grew up Methodist, he had studied many different faiths including Catholicism and as it turned out -- knew more about it than me…someone who had been born into it.  And, he read the Bible.  He actually read it…cover to cover.  I remember on that first date, glossing over my beliefs by giving my standard “I’m not into organized religion…but I think I’m spiritual”.  But, in that moment, what I was…was completely gob-smacked I could be head over heels for this sweet, funny, honest man who wore well-worn snake-skinned cowboy boots and Dr. Huxtable-looking sweaters...who wasn’t afraid to say he believed in God.  In fact, in the first few weeks of dating, Steve told me he was sure God had brought me to him; I was the woman he had been praying to come into his life.

Huh? Say what?

Steve was patient and while we dated and even after we married – only broached the subject of going to church from time to time.  It wasn’t until after we had Noah that I felt I was ready to enter a church again. It seemed, although I was afraid, I was more fearful my child would grow up not knowing God.  We began attending contemporary services at a Methodist Church and for months I found it difficult to get through a sermon without tears streaking my face. 

Why? I don’t really know.  Maybe sometimes out of guilt for getting so angry at God and other times over my complete misunderstanding of what God really wants and expects of me. For so long I thought of God as something so important and powerful  I didn’t talk to him because I didn’t want to bother him with my petty concerns and problems.  And, honestly, I didn’t know how to pray.  I didn’t feel confident I would have the right words to say to him.  I was conditioned to recite prayers and felt like my words would sound stupid.
When I joined MOPS, I was a very sleep-deprived mom, working part time from home while caring for our persnickety 15 month old, Noah.  During this time Steve attended college two nights a week while holding down a full-time job during the day and serving as a clerk at a sporting goods store on weekends.  We had only one car because two weeks prior to me returning from maternity leave, my work told me if I wanted to keep my job, I would need to move to Sarasota, FL.  Subsequently, the following week, Steve’s car died.

So we made do, which meant I negotiated with my company to work 20 hours a week from home for several months until they could find a replacement for me.  But, with the reduced income and uncertainty with my future employment, we decided to get by with only one car. For the next 18 months, I only traveled as far as my stroller could take me.  During this time I wore the wheels off of three strollers and significantly whittled my body down in size…and was extremely lonely.  Although working from home provided us with extra income and kept my mind occupied, it left no time for me to meet other moms.  I walked a tight rope of sorts. I didn’t have the freedom to hang out and commiserate with stay-at-home moms nor did I have the ability to keep up with the full-time working moms in my field.  On top of the money stressors and loneliness, at 18 months, Noah had a history of chronic ear infections…then a seizure…then another…then another.  He was put through a battery of tests including genetic testing, an MRI and multiple sleep deprived EEG’s that gave us no answers…only more concerns and questions…like could the 103 fever I spiked during labor have caused his current health issues?

Talk about mom guilt.
By the time Noah was two, I knew something was wrong, but according to the state of Missouri not wrong enough.  When he was denied admittance into the First Steps program I went back to the neurologist who only weeks before had told me, “I don’t see autism” to share my Ah ha! moment – mainly that although Noah had more than 100 words in his vocabulary  -- much more than the 20 words needed to “pass” the development test, none of his words fell in the category of expressive language --words like no, eat, drink, out.  All of Noah’s words were labels. He could point to anything and name it. Thankfully, my concerns to him did not fall on deaf ears and with a Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD) diagnosis Noah was allowed into First Steps. 
Over the next few years my life as mother and wife took a back seat to my life as a therapist for our son.  I did everything the therapists recommended which included; swinging therapy, listening therapy (which he initially hated and sometimes made him throw up), brushing and joint compression therapy and systematic desensitization therapy every day. 
And, I suffered; my family suffered…but my marriage really suffered.  And, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel close to becoming a statistic at various points throughout my marriage. 
·    when I found myself paying for gas with a handful of loose change
·    when Noah locked me in the basement and threw his shoes in the toilet in protest of potty training
·    and I definitely considered a Thelma and Louise exit during Natalie’s first six months of life…during that time of sleep deprivation due to her chronic ear infections, eczema and reflux and Noah’s seizures and other health concerns – I racked up 30 doctor visits between the two kids. 
Over the course of motherhood, I’ve built up quite a rolodex of ISTs…neurologists, otolaryngologists, dermatologists, allergists, urologists, orthopedists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, behavioral therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists.
Today I see those times I thought I was alone – God truly was working behind the scenes.  About six months after Steve and I joined a church I met Barb - an occupational therapist…not only did she understand the basics of what I was going through with Noah, but she just got me. And, she not only cared about me, she cared about my entire family.  She was the first outsider, I ever saw my husband let his guard down with – he suffered from social anxiety terribly, but with her, he acted like the man I knew – full of dry humor and a sharp wit.  And, through the many years of bare cupboards and creative cooking that goes along with having limited means, she always made sure I had chocolate.  I imagine the two of us consumed caseloads of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups over morning play dates that ran into dinnertime. She listened with a generous heart and made me believe that I was a good mom and could get through another day.
Although while at MOPS I often felt like I was carrying a secret…because I wasn’t so sure about God as everyone else seemed to be and I felt like an outsider because my kid didn’t act like typical kids…I forced myself to go…year after year.  And, sometimes I even relaxed enough to have a little fun.  I was determined as I had been with Noah’s therapy to find and understand God.  And, I made some pretty amazing friends, like Eraka. Through the years she and I have bonded over our kids who test the boundaries of what experts believe is normal and what we have learned to view as “normal plus” or our sons and husbands would see as “misunderstood super-powers”. MOPS also brought Marilyn, our group's mentor mom, into my life.  I can’t even remember how she was able to work her way into my heart because I kept stuff locked up tight…but she did and she didn’t mind – actually she welcomed any and all questions I had about God and the bible.  I began to look forward to receiving her friendly greeting and generous hugs at meetings.  Gently and respectfully, she inquired about my family and offered ways to support us because she intuitively knew it wasn’t in my nature to ask for help.  She was creative in her quest for helping me and my family.  Sometimes it came in the form of a Christian book and a few sachets of herbal tea.  Other times, a much needed grocery gift card or her calling in a favor to an occupational therapist friend who wanted to help, too.
For me, MOPS, and the friendships I’ve forged have been the cornerstone for how I’ve been able to keep on keeping on….and to continue my pursuit in having a relationship with God.  And, up until two weeks ago, I thought that would be all I’d have to share with everyone, except one evening after Steve had put Noah to bed, I heard him calling for me.  When I went into his room, Noah said, “Mom, you’ve got pray for me.”
I was momentarily stunned.

This was a first.  For one thing, although our family regularly attends church and the kids go to Sunday school and we say grace before meals, not once had I ever prayed with my kids…mainly because I don’t even do that for myself . I often marvel at how easy it seems for others to pray so openly and freely…without worry. Now, here was my nine year old asking me to do that which I was most afraid to do and suddenly it all became clear…

All these years…
I’ve had it wrong. 
I haven’t been pursuing God. 
He has been pursuing me…relentlessly. 
He has been longing to hear from me, but it was I who would not allow it. So, this time, God decided to get creative.  I think he figured although I’d deny myself, I’d never do that to one of my children. For the past two weeks, God has been calling me to talk to him…
not in a beautiful church filled with stained glass windows...

but in a room surrounded by Darth Vader and an army of Lego guys. 
And, his voice doesn’t boom…
it’s prepubescent and always starts out the same, “Mom, you’ve got to pray for me.”

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Musings From Natalie #39

"Mom, you know what would be really great?...if you could be a kid WITH me."

"Mom, after I graduate from college...if I don't have enough money to get an apartment, can I just explore the world?"..."Then I can collect souvenirs from my travels and then get a boyfriend and then...I could babysit for money and give some of my souvenirs to the kids and then if their mom dies I can be their mom because I don't think I'm going to have kids.  I think I want to adoct. I don't have to have a husband if I adoct, right?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Musings From Natalie #38

Natalie: "Mom, what would you do if I was a bear?"
Me: "I'd probably run away?"
Natalie: "But, I'm a nice bear"
Me: "Oh, in that case I'd keep you.'
Natalie: "Where would I sleep?"
Me: "I guess I would have to make you a little home of your own."
Natalie: "I couldn't live in your house?"
Me: "Would you poop on my floor?"
Natalie: "Well..yes"
(Well, at least I'd be raising an honest little bear)

"Mom, is your love eternal?"

"Mom, I think Disneyland is like a paradise for kids."

"Mom, I'm gonna write a story without any, nah...words make stories more interesting....because they can be in different languages like Chinese and English and Ohio-an."
(Hmmm...I guess that's why Steve and I don't always understand one another...with him being from Ohio and all.)