Saturday, April 25, 2015

The 8

This time next week, my oldest child will be making her First Holy Communion. The day after that, she'll turn eight years old. I'll have an eight year old. I'm still trying to let that sink in.

There's something about that first kid, isn't there? I look at her and I see the event that changed my life in the most miraculous and mundane ways. Having a baby is far from a rarity; most people do it. But within this most commonplace of things is the bringing forth of a new human person; unique and unrepeatable.

This firstborn showed me my imperfections and selfishness. She gave me so many opportunities to begin learning how to joyfully serve others. This one little person caused me to learn American Sign Language and moved us to a new city which we now love.

Gianna is up to my shoulders now, she's thoughtful and talkative and a night owl. She's always worried about missing out on something.

She is having some trouble seeing at night. She is excited to get her service dog, "February!!" She tells anyone who asks. She is so patient with her siblings; generally tolerant of reading them stories over and over. How can it be that this tiny baby is now so big? How can it be that she has overcome so many challenges? How can it be that she will have many more?

How can it be, that she is mine? There are times she makes me lose my patience, times when she exhausts me, times when I cannot sleep for worrying. But there are still so many times that I look at her and am amazed. There are so many thoughts and dreams in the head of an eight year old. It seems that, year after year, Gianna is being slowly revealed to me. I am beginning to see the complexities of her person. How incredible that this person who grew within me is so different; so her own. I love learning more about her every year.

She's the one who made me a mother and who has brought me tears and laughter. She's the one who has challenged my faith and strengthened it. She's the one who has brought me through adventures I never even knew to dream of. Here's to being eight!
8 months old
perilously close to 8 years old

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Improve Your Self-Esteem Today

 I'm trying to divest myself from comparisons to other mothers and what they do or don't do unless it's to assuage my own guilt or inspire me to try something different.

So I offer this little itty bit post to all the moms out there, momming away and trying to do it right. I'm about to make you feel so much better about yourself.

Would you like to know when I last bathed my children? Of course you do. You're feeling bad because you skipped their daily-mandated bath last night. Get this: I can't remember. I am fairly certain I supervised Gianna while she showered within the last two weeks, I'm fairly certain that during a snow day within the same time period the younger two took a little bath/swim in the tub and got passably clean. Additionally, I have a hard to time finding combs and brushes with which to brush their hair, so rarely does this occur.

I like to use articles like this one to justify the long stretches my kids will go without a bath but in reality, I'm just lazy and they seem to be okay, so....I let it go. In some bizarre twist of fate (maybe even more bizarre than marrying a man who had a DIFFERENT MUTATION OF THE SAME MUTATED GENE AS ME) I married a man who hates giving children baths. This is unfortunate because I hate it, too. All the pregnancy books suggested bath time as dad time, because I would have the job of nursing the baby and dads bond by bathing their progeny. Lies. Anyways. I'm relying on the honesty of my friends to tell me if my kids begin to smell and I need to up my efforts in this area.

Bathing them is a lot of work. I am slowly teaching Gianna how to shower on her own but my efforts are complicated by neuroticism on my part (vestibular impairment+standing up in slippery bath tub=dangerous) and inability to hear instructions on her part when her devices are off. Of the other two, Dominic shuns the shower and Pia is very splashy and there's water everywhere and I'm sweating and it's awful.

So there. If you're laboring under the assumption that you were a bad mom for bathing your kids less than once a day, you've been liberated. You are excellent at keeping your children clean.

You're feeling good now but I'm about to step it up. I begin by saying that I cloth diapered my three kids and that sounds a bit pretentious but just wait. Oh, just wait.

By the time Pia was 20 months old I was so done with the diapers that all my kids had worn. So. done. Most of them smelled and no amount of stripping and sunning and soap nuts and whatever else was changing the fact that when they were wet, they smelled. At that point, we were out at therapy appointments multiple times a week and I no longer wanted every load of diaper laundry to be a science experiment. I switched to disposables (what up Target brand?) and then, a couple months later, began potty training with Pia because I very much dislike changing toddler diapers.

Anyways, the point is not that I dropped the cloth diapers like a bad habit, but that I left them in the diaper pail. I intended to wash them and put them away one last time but somehow I didn't get around to it. Guess what?

They're still there. In the pail. For a year. Actually, a bit more at this point. My car keys got lost a couple weeks ago (not pointing fingers but it WASN'T ME) and while I was ransacking my bedroom during the search I thought, "It's crazy but I'll just peek in the diaper pail, just in case somehow the keys fell in there." I really thought that I'd left a handful of unwashed diapers in there for a year, but actually the pail is full to the top. Not that the amount of dirty diapers left makes it any less insane but in my mind, a smaller amount would be less offensive. It doesn't even smell in there anymore, it's been so long.

Don't you feel better about that load of pee pee laundry you left in front of your washer last week? It's not so bad! You could be like me, and leave it there for a year or more. You're doing just fine at this mom thing. Juuuuust fine.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Every parent faces this moment at some point in their parenting career. We all dread it, fear it, and maybe, if we're really honest with ourselves: we look forward to it. Your young child looks at you with great longing, sighs, and says tearfully from the depths of their soul, "I wish I had a pet."

You can't breathe for a second. You fight with your own childhood baggage; how quickly you can go back to that time in the 2nd grade when a bunch of your friends had hamsters in their rooms, their very own rooms! and your dad proclaimed, "No rodents! Ever!"

You want to rush immediately to the pet store and purchase whatever little critter your child desires. You can imagine the delight on their small, upturned face. The joy! The responsibility beginning to bloom in their life! The lessons they'll learn! The-

And then you return to the actual present moment. You look around your five-year-old's room and notice things. Toys strewn all over the floor, pieces of half-eaten bagel squirreled away and stale as a rock. The fact that the child in question has been wearing the same pair of shorts in zero degree weather for the last 3 days; bedtime included. It dawns on you that YOU will likely end up doing most of the work, and even if you manage with all your parenting skill to groom your child into one who cares for their own little pet; even this tutelage will pull from your essentially non-existent energy stores.

Your next thought is, "Hell, no. No pets." Then you remember that you are getting a dog in about a year. You offer this dog as a consolation prize, but your typically developing five year old knows the dog is not a pet; the dog is slated for work for his older sister and he counters with this knowledge.

You feel stuck; most of this child's life has been spent taking his siblings to appointments, therapy, activities, things that are all orchestrated for them, and he has never actually complained in any way. You feel like, maybe a little pet would allow him to have a corner of something that is his alone. So you ask.

"What sort of pet would you like?" And the volley begins.
"A cat!" he returns.
"Well...a cat is not a good choice for our family because daddy would never breathe again."
"A dog!" he suggests.
"We're already getting one, and besides...they are a lot of work," I demure.
"Maybe...something small?" he ventures.
"No rodents. Ever," The voice of my father enters the conversation through my mouth. Incredible how that happens.

"What would you feel about a reptile? A nice turtle that lives in a small, glass cage and eats lettuce? I could handle helping you with that."
The child furrows his brow. "Mmm. No. Too slow."
"A frog?"
"Too bouncy."
"A lizard! That...doesn't eat live bugs. Maybe we could find one that doesn't eat bugs."
"A venomous one! I would like a venomous lizard!" He is triumphant.
"I is not...the best choice...."
"A Gila monster! I would like a Gila monster!"
"What do they eat?" I feel much trepidation.
"Just road runners," he replies simply.

he's probably really gentle. and legal to own.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Simple Expectations

Are you listening to Invisibilia? You should be.

If you only listen to one episode, let is be this one. The central question is whether or not our expectations of others can have an impact on what they are physically able to do. Amazingly, they can. This idea has had my mind churning the last few weeks, turning it over, looking at it from every angle, contemplating what it could mean for my children.

Dr. Haim Ginott, the child psychologist who inspired Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish's book, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, said that "we treat the child not as they are, but as we wish them to become." That quote has been on my fridge since Gianna was two years old but until listening to this podcast, I don't think I truly understood what he meant, or even believed it was possible. But science has proved that our expectations of each other influences behavior in a real and measurable way. What power, then, we have as parents with such proximity to our budding children, to influence them to become good people.

The episode features a blind man, Daniel Kish, and his ability to navigate independently through his use of echolocation. When he lost his eyes to retinoblastoma as a toddler, his mother decided to banish her fear and raise him as a sighted child. Wild statements are made; that blindness is a social construct; that the reason that people with visual impairments have such a high unemployment rate is due to the low expectations of those around them.

A researcher in Germany studies Daniel's brain, and the brains of other blind people who use echolocation, and discovers through fMRI that the areas of the brain that are implicated in vision show activity in a similar way that a sighted person's would. For years, researchers assumed that those parts of the brain would be dark; but they're not. The researcher makes an astonishing assertion: "You might not need eyes to see."

"You might not need eyes to see." I scribbled this quote on an index card and hung it above my sink. In my darkest moments, I have begun to repeat this phrase to myself. I don't think echolocation is a good option for my deaf children, but I do love the idea that our brain can receive the information it needs to create images without the presence of vision. In all truth, vision is a complex system; we don't really "see' with our eyes, we "see" with our brain. Our just eyes collect the information.

I've been thinking and thinking about this. How can I be sure my expectations for my children; that my daughters know they can do whatever they want despite their vision loss and that my son can, in fact, express his anger without a major meltdown, are influencing them for the good and not holding them back? My initial thought was that it was fear that would cause me to shelter them; fear that would convince me to limit activities, to be nervous and overbearing. The various people interviewed on the podcast, though, think it is is something else. They think my love for my children is what could hold them back. As I've turned this over in my mind, I've realized the reason I feel fear is because I love them so immensely.

How can I overcome this? I once heard a priest giving a homily on self-denial say that we must start small, to exercise our self-control in little ways until we gain the grace and strength to say no to the big stuff. Things like, putting one less teaspoon of sugar in your coffee or waking up just ten minutes earlier. I wonder, can I banish my fear this way? Can I find the small moments where fear threatens to take over and choose to push it away?

Could I push away my panic when Gianna struggles with her math homework? Could I stop telling her that she's always the last one to finish because she's working so much harder on a basic level than other people and instead assert that she not worry how long something takes but only concentrate only on finishing? Could I stop anxiously asking her every time we're outside at night, "Can you see the stars?" and dreading the day when she'll say no? I'm going to try. I have to try.

I wish my children, sighted or blind, deaf or hearing, to become holy people who seek the Lord and will the good for every person they meet. I have no idea what the future holds for any of them but I can arm them now with the knowledge that I, their mother, expect great and simple things for them.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Well, Well, Well

Category: Best Under-Appreciated Blog

I checked my email for the first time in days (sorry..shout out to the peeps trying to schedule IEPs and what not. also. I shut off my home phone. Call me. Or don't. I'll call you.) to discover I'd been nominated for a Sheenazing Award. It made me smile. It also made me commit to check my email with greater frequency.

If you want to vote for me, pay a little visit to A Knotted Life and be sure to check out the other amazing blogs nominated!

And of course thanks to the three people who nominated me, whoever you are!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Perfectly Reasonable Request

Do you have a five year old? Today, I do. On this day, five years ago, Dominic made a speedy entrance, before my water broke, before my midwife arrived, before I could really prepare myself for the ride.

He's my only boy so far, and he's also my only hearing kid so far. While Gianna and Pia have been shuffled off to school at ages younger than I'd have thought ideal, he's been hanging out with me full time. Dom has crazy hair and he can be explosive and shy. He's the kid who will refute whatever you say; he has a penchant for taking something that should be enjoyable and peaceful and making it fraught with an argument.

He also comes up with the most interesting thoughts, usually too early in the morning for me to fully process them.

"The earth is in the sky, mom, but we can't touch the sky." What am I supposed to do with this observation at six in the morning?

Everyday, he wakes from a dead sleep by literally jumping out of bed. He always asks, "Is it morning yet?" and when I reply that it is, he always responds with, "Yes!" Like the world is his oyster, like he just can't wait to pepper me with confusing questions.

"Mom, is a cheetah faster than a cheetah?" I never know what the correct answer is.

It's a good thing his personality demands attention; sandwiched between my two medically managed girls, he could get lost in the shuffle, but he generally doesn't. He needs me to play football and tag with him, to watch him "curve" around the yard while he's running fast, to snuggle him on the couch.

He also needs a birthday cake for tomorrow's party. I've made him a dinosaur cake, and a cake shaped like a hammerhead shark, and last year a cake with an ocean scene on it complete with mini plastic sea life embedded in frosting. (What did mothers do before Pinterest I ask you?) So I suppose it wasn't fair to be shocked when asked what sort of cake he wanted, he said, "A caracal cake."

A caracal? A caracal. Do you even KNOW what a caracal is, dear reader? I do, because lately the interest in sharks has shifted to predatory, large cats, and I've been reading a lot of books regarding such creatures. I expressed my fear to him that my cake creating skills may have reached their zenith a few birthdays ago and maybe we should think of something else. Only the Dom can use such a reassuring tone while saying something completely unhelpful,

"It's ok, mom. I know all the features. I will just tell them to you. It needs long legs, tall ears, and a fierce face." Got it.

Happy Birthday to The Dom, life sure is more interesting with you around!