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Posts tagged ‘love’

Fade to Black

watching fireworks

As 2012 fades to black, I think back on how blessed we have been this year and in previous years. Life hasn’t been perfect or stress-free. All-in-all, though, it’s been darn good.

I had a glorious time in SC with my immediate and extended families during our short winter vacation. We had a Christmas party on the Saturday before the holiday. The food was good, the games were fun, and spirits were high. One of the things I love most about my big (my mother is one of eleven), crazy family is that we manage to consistently have a genuinely good time, without the drama that is typically associated with big gatherings and without the help of alcohol (LOL).

Mae and Jay got to see all of their first cousins. They played well together, and I’m especially proud of Mae. I think she managed to avoid falling out with her big cousin, who is just 9 months older, even once. Usually, Mae whines or has a meltdown about not being able to play with her cousin’s things or something along those lines. No meltdowns at all on the trip. Growth is a beautiful thing, and she’s been doing plenty of it physically and otherwise.  Lately, she’s been asking questions on topics like periods and the N-word.  She’s becoming less and less of a “little girl,” a term she now detests.

Last week, Mae told me that she wonders if she should tell her friends that she has Asperger’s.  She said, “I don’t know what they’ll think of me.”  I told Mae that she can tell her friends if she feels comfortable, and that it’s more important to focus on what she wants her friends to understand about her and show them who she is without using a label.  I told her that the doctor said she’s barely on the spectrum, so Asperger’s may not be the best way to explain who she is.   Her question is an interesting question given recent media coverage of Asperger’s in relation to the Newtown tragedy.  Mae is aware of the tragedy because her school principal made an announcement the next school day.  She’s unaware of the media coverage and how some have attributed the shooter’s behavior to Asperger’s.  We’re not much of a news-watching household, and that’s a good thing.

After we returned home from SC, we buckled down to Mae’s homework.  She actually completed some of it while we were in SC, bless her heart, with little resistance. She has had so much homework over the past few weeks, more than I could have ever imagined for a 3rd grader.  We spent hours each day last Thursday through Sunday working on a book about the planets. There is a required 15-page minimum with limited use of illustrations, which Mae had to create herself. (Thank you, Microsoft, for Insert>Shapes.)

Last night, as Mae put the finishing touches on the book,  she told me that she enjoyed working on it, that she had looked forward to it.  She’s really had a good attitude about this homework business.  Hubby and I have been the ones grumbling for weeks.  I’ve been trying to think of a way to complain to the school, but I don’t know if it’s me or them that’s being unreasonable.  I wanted an accelerated and advanced curriculum, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut. What I didn’t know was that we’d be trading loads of personal time and family time, weekends and holidays included.

Mae worked so hard on her planets book and still needs to make progress on her science fair project, so much so that I can’t even bring myself to ask her to write thank-you notes for Christmas gifts.  That’s normally one of our projects over the winter break.  I may saddle Jay with writing for both of them, if I can get him to be still long enough. He has been a ball of energy, literally running in circles around the house, for no apparent reason.  He’ll go round and round the kitchen table.  He’s in constant motion, still at five and a half.  I don’t remember his sister being this way.

Yesterday, I surprised him when I told him that I like candy cereal too, but I don’t eat it.   He said, slowly, “That’s strange.”  Then, he added, “If you like something, you should just eat it.”  Oh, my dear boy, I have fillings in the double digits and a pouch to prove that I have done plenty of that.

I’ve got to work on my “just eat it” problem in 2013.  I’m not big on resolutions, but I do need to create a new exercise plan and cut back on sugar.  This year was not good for me in terms of healthy living.  I tried to eat healthy (though the green smoothie project didn’t work for me; I decided that eating should involve chewing.  I like chewing.) and exercise (I quit yoga after one session because one full hour of yoga is just too much).  I got off track, mostly due to exhaustion in the evenings from hard, long days at the job I started in March, and then curtailing weeknight gym visits to help with homework in the evenings.  On too many evenings, I ate salty or sweet snacks for dinner instead of a proper meal.

Despite exercising less and eating more than I should have, I’m ending 2012 with a pat on the back for myself.  I’ve already ordered our photo album for 2012, a year’s worth of pictures bound in a hard cover book.   It’s an annual project that I sometimes don’t get to until the spring.  And, I’ve ordered our Happy New Year photo cards to send to family and friends.  I think our 2012 cards went out in February last year.  I feel like I was more organized in 2012.  Also, I spent more time with the kids, making more of an effort to do fun stuff on the weekends whenever we could.  House and yardwork suffered, but I have no regrets about that.

So, I’m good.  We’re good.  2013 will be good.

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“You Have Two Amazing Kids”

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That’s a great opener for a parent-teacher conference.  Ms. M had Mae as a student, and now has Jay in her preschool-4 classroom.  He is doing well, despite what she describes as trouble sitting still during circle time.  And, when he gets upset about something, he cries strongly for a while, but it doesn’t happen often.  I can live with that.  I’m so proud of how he is growing as a reader.  Ms. M told me that he’s “chunking” words, and I said, yes, his dad taught him how.  Ms. M is now sending home reading material for him so that we can listen to him and note what he reads easily and where he needs help.   So far, he reads the books and word lists easily, which is a great confidence builder for him.  It’s a beautiful sight.

Mae had another outstanding academic semester, and even better, we had no emails or calls from her teacher or the office about behavioral problems.  I’m not naive; I know that doesn’t mean there were no issues.  However, I think it means the teacher has figured out how to work with Mae.  And, that’s a beautiful thing too.

In the teachers’ classrooms and in the office, where I chatted with some administrators between conferences, I heard how they look forward to watching my kids grow and seeing what paths they take, what they become.

As I left the school, I was reminded of a book  about successful African American women, No Mountain High Enough by Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison.  She interviewed a number of black women on the secrets of their success.  One common theme was high expectations from their families and members of their communities.  Knowing that others expected certain behavior and educational pursuit and success from them, they felt motivated to achieve so that they wouldn’t disappoint.  These women spoke of high expectations not as pressure but as confidence in their abilities and potential.  I hope my kids will appreciate the expectations of them as expressions of confidence and hope and feel esteemed enough to rise up.

Now that I’ve typed that I remember how this week Jay gave me a scary crystal ball moment in which I had a vision of him living upstairs at age 40, still sleeping in his twin bed.  One of his classmates asked me why it is that Jay can’t watch “Spongebob” and whether he’ll be able to watch it when he grows up.  I told her that when Jay grows up and gets his on place, he can watch whatever he likes.  Jay turned to me and said that when he grows up, he wants to stay at home with me and Hubby.  I was a little surprised; his sister picked out a condo building for her future home  a couple of years ago.  Isn’t that normal?  So, I asked Jay, “Don’t you want to have your own place so you don’t have to listen to Mommy and Daddy’s rules anymore?”  His bottom lip went out a little and he said, “Mom, I just love you.”  Since he only recently started using the “l” word comfortably (thanks to his teachers making it a classroom theme leading up to Valentine’s day), my heart softened and I said, “Ok, you can stay with us. ”  I hope this is a conversation he forgets we had.  Goodness gracious.

Heat, Snakes, Heros, and Love

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We woke up Saturday morning to a blanket of icy snow. It was enough to get Mae and Jay to whooping and donning their boots. They stomped around the front yard, enjoying the sound and feel of crunching their footprints into the sheet of ice-snow. And, on the very weekend that Ole Man Winter settled into the DC area, our furnace went kaput. I think we’ve lost heat at least once every winter since we moved into this house over six years ago. I am so hoping that the technician will declare the unit a total loss so that we can get a new one under our home warranty. I know, I know . . . but I can dream.

On Saturday, we took Mae and Jay to an area children’s museum. It boggles my mind that Mae can ask the curator to take the boa constrictor out of the cage so that she can pet it, yet, she calls for her dad when she sees an ant or spider in the house. Maybe the latter is a damsel in distress thing. Maybe she enjoys seeing her dad in the hero role, which is cool because he’s awesome like that.

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On Sunday, Hubby and I made a delicious spinach and lentil soup. He came into the kitchen and said, “Can I help you cook?” Best words I heard all day. I enjoy cooking, so I was happy not in terms of relief, but that he chose me over football during playoff season! Cooking is something we enjoy doing together and hadn’t done in a while. Bonus: while the lentils simmered, we made guacamole for the first time. Well, it was something like guacamole because we added a tomato, which I think made it salsa. Also, we don’t have a proper stone mortar and pestle set, so we mashed the avocado and other ingredients together with a fork. We stood right at the counter and devoured the whole bowl. For the record, we are not totally greedy and selfish. We did try to convince the kids to try some. No dice on the guaca-salsa, but Jay, starch lover that he is, did try the multigrain chips and asked to have some with his lunch.

Then, I tried to convince them to try ants on a log. A few weeks earlier, Jay had asked us to buy celery so that he could try it (Thank you, Wonder Pets). I thought it unlikely that he would actually eat the celery. Since he likes peanut butter and raisins already, I thought maybe he would take at least one bite of the combination. He and Mae were tickled by the name, and uninterested in a taste. Frankly, I had trouble keeping my mouth from twisting as I demonstrated how fun it would be to eat “ants.” Unable to get them on board, I went back to the kitchen and gave the rest of the log to Hubby. Yuck.

When the soup was done, Hubby and I had a taste test — one bowl, two spoons, standing face-to-face with the soup between us, heads bent into the steam, taking turns with our spoons. Yummy! Best.soup.ever.

Our kitchen adventures over, I took Mae to one of her friend’s birthday party. Yes, she was invited to a girl’s birthday party, and a girl that she likes! Even better, Mae got to sit by K, the little girl whose friendship she seems to value the most. So, Mae was really happy while she painted her ceramic mug. In the down time between the ceramics painting and cake serving, Mae got antsy and started jostling with K. It was the kind of horseplay that can easily and quickly turn and led to someone getting hurt. As I walked over to remind Mae that she can play without touching, I heard her explaining, “I’m using your own power against you” (Thanks, Avatar). I took her on a tour of the ceramics shop to look for gift ideas. After a few minutes, she was ready to go back to the party room and I reminded her again to keep her hands to herself, and warned that if she couldn’t, we would go home. Others were still eating cake when Mae went back in, and since she only eats chocolate cake, she had nothing to do. Idle time is not my girl’s friend. When she and K got to jostling playfully again and I heard another mom telling them to cut it out, I got Mae’s attention with my hands and motioned for her to get ready to go home. The party was winding down anyway as there were no other activities planned. Mae was disappointed, but she came over without complaining. As we walked to the car, she put her head down and said that she always messes up. I told her that’s not true, and that she often makes smart choices.

In retrospect, I think I should have just pulled her out of the party room for a few minutes to make the point. Maybe I was too hard on her. The funky thing is that I know such horseplay is more acceptable among boys. I feel like I’m forced to play to a double-standard. I want Mae to be seen as a good playmate in front of other parents and kids so that they will be more accepting and inclusive, and that means I have to encourage her to “play like a girl” when truth be told, she prefers to “play like a boy” with girls. My sense is that K would rather not horseplay, and that she goes along because Mae has a strong personality. Leaving the party early allowed Mae to get out before she got on K’s nerves or got into any serious trouble. I realize that Mae may not be able to appreciate that, but I like to think I saved her from something. K came over to give her a big hug before we left, and I call that ending on a good note.

I’m no spider-squishing hero, but hopefully, one day Mae will understand that I tried to make her life a little less scarey, even if I didn’t always go about it the best way.

Who Is This Kid?

I can't give her more than one instruction at once, yet she can read while she waits for the next game to upload.

There was this strange little person with me on Wednesday.  She had impeccable manners.  She offered her brother some water in such a loving voice, gave him comforting words when he complained about being hungry and thirsty, and said lots of thank you’s and excuse me’s.

I commented on how polite she was being and she said, “You told me to.”

Is that all it takes?  Why didn’t you tell me earlier?

Mae was referring to a conversation we’d had when I picked her up that day from aftercare.  When I arrived, the Director was helping resolve a dispute between her and another little girl, R, about R having picked up Mae’s book without permission.  R apologized, and Mae accepted the apology (after I prompted her three times) by saying coldly, “I accept, but don’t do it again.”  (I would not have insisted had R not been looking at Mae expectantly).  R and Mae walked away, Mae to retrieve their backpack.  Within seconds, R was back at me.  She tattled, “She was laughing at me.  She said,  ‘Haha, you forgot your jacket.'”  Mae tried to hide a grin and denied saying it.  Sigh.

Once we were outside, Mae admitted that she had teased R and didn’t want to get in trouble for it.  I told her to treat others as she wants to be treated and to be polite.  So, for the rest of the evening, Mae was super nice.  And, Jay followed her lead, returning the kindnesses.  They had their own little lovefest.  I gushed and praised and added mickeys to their banks.  At one point, Mae was telling me her ideas for how we could donate more toys and food to those in need.  Oh, if I could only have frozen her in that state.  And, her brother too, for that matter.  He has a new “best friend” at school, someone he describes as a new kid who is always being put on the yellow chair.  The yellow chair is where kids are sent to think after they have made a sad choice.  I hope Jay rubs off on him before he rubs off on Jay.

I LOVE My Family

Before I talk about Jay’s birthday party, I have to tell about our family reunion.  The kids and I participated on Friday at a good ol’ fashioned cookout and Saturday at a dinner banquet (Hubby had to work).  I am one of five, my mom was one of eleven, and her father was one of thirteen.  For the past consecutive thirty-six years, my mother’s family has celebrated the lineage beginning from the parents of those thirteen (that is, my great-grandparents).  We’re up to six generations now, and this year, some new cousins by way of my great-great grandfather’s brother found their way to us.

I mention it here because I realized on Friday at the cookout how lucky my kids are to be a part of this long, strong, proud tradition.  A first-time attendee used the word “extended” to describe her connection, and my cousin Sharon quickly corrected her, “Don’t say ‘extended.’  You’re family.”  Other words you will rarely, if ever, hear are “half” and “step.”  And, exes hang on for decades.  One of my cousins introduced her new husband to an aunt at a family gathering last summer, and the aunt told him that he is welcome to still come around even if things don’t work out between them.  He was a little mortified, but Auntie was quite serious.  There are more than enough examples to prove she was speaking truthfully.  Not only are exes still welcome, but there is at least one who has brought his second wife and their children to family events.  And, his children from his second marriage have been listed in our annual family reunion program booklet.  For many years, I thought the kids were my blood cousins.

Are we perfect?  No.  We keep secrets, gossip, fuss, fight, and have some drama now and then.  Sometimes, we annoy the heck out of each other.  During the banquet, three of my aunts sent me to get second plates for them.  Yes, I said three.  One had the photographer get my attention from across the room.  I was flattered, thinking that she wanted to have her picture taken with me, and all she really wanted was more carrots.  Later, I was complaining to some cousins who are also in the late 30s, and we joked that by now, with kids of our own, we should be past the age of having to fetch stuff.

For the most part, though,there is a tremendous amount of love and support.  This family is a big, loving, enveloping organism, and I’m glad that my kids are seeing and experiencing what it’s like to be a part of something so big.

To Mae and Jay, right now, reunion may be about fun and games, and adults patting their heads and remarking about how much they have grown and from where they get that stubborn streak. 😉  They will realize one day that there is much more to it.  I always feel a tinge of pity for people who describe their families as small or say that they don’t know their cousins.  In my mind, that’s a form of poverty.  One of my great-aunts will turn 100 on July 10 and she asks about my children by name whenever I talk to her, which is about once every other week.  That is rich — to be known and asked about, to have your name spoken and stretched over a bridge 96 years long.

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

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Four days after the kids’ vacation with Nonny, and we are trying to get settled back into a routine.  The kids are resisting, complaining that they don’t have enough play time in the evenings, which I don’t understand because they play all day at camp.  During the school year, baths began at 7:45 pm, with reading and bed immediately after.  This week, the earliest they have gone upstairs is 8:40 pm.  I do feel kind of bad ending their play time while there is still sunlight outside.  However, they wake up more easily and they tend to be more cooperative when they get more rest (although more rest is no guarantee for more cooperation).

Mae seems to be doing ok at camp.  This is her first time at a camp outside of their school since she started there at age three.  She is not raving about camp, but she hasn’t complained yet either.  I exchanged emails with the camp director last Friday about some of Mae’s biggest challenges — transitioning to new or highly stimulating environments, heavy crying if play doesn’t go her way, and speaking or acting without thinking first, and tips on what seems to help her manage better.  The head counselor for Mae’s group is an early childhood education major and has a younger brother with ADD, a disorder that shares several characteristics with Asperger’s.  So, I have some confidence that he and the camp director know what to expect and how to manage.

While the kids were in SC, I managed to write six social stories for Mae, including ones on speaking with respect and unexpected changes, and mailed them to her at Nonny’s.  I wanted to introduce the stories before camp began.  She said the storybook I made was “great,” and, unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to sit and talk about it or go over the stories in detail.  I have not been the most attentive parent this week as I’m trying to get the house ready for company and for Jay’s birthday party this weekend.

Jay is still being a little snarky.  On Monday evening, he told me, for no apparent reason, that I can’t come to his birthday party.  Then, he expanded the ban to all moms and dads, which made me feel a little better.  My first thought was, “Mmm, cake all to myself.”  When I’ve picked him up from camp this week, he has been sooo disinterested in seeing me whereas I used to get a run-up-and-hug and huge grin, kind of the way he got all excited last night when I told him that Nonny wanted to speak to him on the phone.  All that aside, we had a major breakthrough last night at bedtime.  I told him, “I love you” and started to walk away from his bed.   He said, with his monkey pillow half covering his face, “I love you too.”  Because I’m accustomed to not receiving a response to “I love you,” I had to do a double-take.  I almost asked him to repeat it in case I didn’t hear him correctly.  Then, I decided to just go with what I think I heard.   I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Then, I got out of his room quickly before he could change his mind or tell me that I still can’t come to his party.

 

How’s That for Changing the Subject?

This evening, I was saying good night to Jay, telling him that he’s a great son and I’m glad he’s a part of our family.  I ended with, “I love you.”  His response?  “This is ‘T’ week.”

His preschool class is studying the letter T this week.  Of course, he knew that I knew that already because on the way home today we talked about words that begin with T.  From the moment I buckled him in until we pulled into the driveway, I gave him clues about T words and he had to guess the word.  After he guessed the correct word, he’d say, “Let’s talk about some more T words.”  It was actually getting a little tiresome (heehee), but I went along because I know it’s good practice for him.  Usually, we talk about his day for a few minutes and then he asks if the radio is on Fresh FM.  If it’s not, I change the station and we listen quietly to music for the rest of the 15-20 minute ride.  He must really love the letter T.

I think it’s odd and funny that a three-and-a-half-year-old doesn’t like to say “I love you” and never has.  He was better than 3 years old before I heard him utter (more like mutter) the words.  Mae says it all the time to me and Hubby, randomly throws it into any conversation or just tells us out of the blue.  This past Saturday, she and Jay were eating lunch at the kitchen table while I was at the sink.  She turned to me and said, “Mommy, I love you.”  Jay pointed to the ceiling fan and said, “I love that.”  He pointed to Mae and said, “I love that.” And, then he pointed to me and said, “I love that.”  I laughed inside because that was actually progress over acting as if he didn’t hear someone say the “L” word.

Oh well, it’s a good thing I don’t have thin skin.  Bless his future girlfriends/wife.

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