Turning Tables

Do you know the Adele song Turning Tables?  I love that song.  It speaks to me about some relationships and friendships I have had in my life.  But I think for me what makes it sad is that I see it in some relationships my son has encountered this year.  I feel bad for him.  He has such a big heart and he wants to be friends with every one!  This year other children have told him they hate him, they have said they don’t like him, they have told him he is stupid and they have made him feel bad about himself.  It breaks my heart that he has faced these things.  It all came to a head about a month ago when he started saying some things of a similar nature to other kids in his class. We had a big talk about why he said those things, where he heard them.  It was one of the hardest talks I have had to have with him.  How do you teach your child to protect their heart when their heart is so large and open?  I don’t want him to close himself off.  I want him to be the loving funny little boy I know!  I love that he lets his little sister tag along when he goes to play with the neighborhood kids.  I love that he wants to be friends with everyone.  I hope he keeps that heart, but I need to teach him that not everyone is as wonderful as he is or knows how to be kind.  Its such a tough thing for young children and I am always surprised at young it starts.

BK has also encountered some of the interpersonal drama of friendship this year.  But in her case she seems to take it more in stride.  She was adamant about who she would or would not invite to her birthday party from school because of it.  The funny thing is a few months later it all worked out and now the girls who she could not stand are some of her best friends.  I expected the drama early with her, she is full of drama herself and you expect this kind of interplay between girls.  I also think its been a lot more superficial with BK.  She has not internalized it the way TD has.  It makes me wonder what kind of heart JK has, what kind of friend will she be?

In preschool and in Kindergarten I have found the teachers say things like “everyone is friends with everyone” or “we all have to be nice to one another”.  Unfortunately this does not play out on the playground or the school bus where adults are not there to listen to every conversation.  I know I can’t shelter my children forever but it is tempting some times.

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How do you inspire a child to write?

So the question of the week is how do you inspire a child to write?  TD has had an amazing year so far in Kindergarten.  He has far exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways.  His diagnosis with ADHD this winter came as no suprise to us.  He has always been very active and has been becoming more and more impulsive over the last 3 years.  His teachers have done an amazing job helping him and we started a non-stimulant medication to help him.  His classroom teacher sees an amazing amount of improvement in his behavior as do we.  But one area that he is really not enjoying in school and therefore struggling a bit with is writing.  He doesn’t like to write, he does not see the point in it.  He thinks it’s a lot of work.  And I get that.  I happen to have a writing based learning disability called Dysgraphia.  I struggled a lot with writing as a child and did not really find a writing voice of my own til high school;  at first in poetry and eventually in other forms once I learned to type.  So I get that TD is not wild about the writing, but it’s still important.  He and I have been brainstorming some new ideas on ways to practice his writing.  Our latest discussion was about letter writing.  Until this discussion I had not really thought about the impact of technology on the lives of the kids really.  I knew that they would see the world very differently because so much is automated, and so much happens inside these magic little boxes, but I had not really processed it.  So we were talking about letter writing and TD says “so its like e-mail” and I explained that yes it was like email but people would sit down and write them out by hand and mail them and the mail carrier would take them to the post office and they would go on a truck or a plane to get to the city where they were going and onto another mail truck where another mail carrier would deliver them.  “but that takes a LONG time, why can’t I just call Nonna?”  Well some people think it’s really special to write letters TD, so if you write to Nonna, or Gra-Gra, or Pop-Pop or Granny I am sure they would write back to you!  “But we could just call them, or you could e-mail them for me and they could write me back TODAY”  Don’t you like to get a letter or a birthday card in the mail? “Yea its ok” So then lets write a letter to one of your grandparents you could write and tell Granny all about school!  And it went on from there.  Needless to say no letters were written out of this.  I am still working on him.  I now understand why people say the US Mail service is going to go away.  Yikes!

I am still trying to figure out how to inspire my son to want to write.  I am planning some activities for over the summer and now know that at least once a week we need a writing project to keep him in practice.  It makes me wonder though when kids do catch the writing bug.  I remember when my brother was about 10 or 11 he saw an old desk chair out for trash pick up and brought it home, I think he also may have snagged a type writer from another trash pile.  He told my mom he was going to be a writer when he grew up.  I know he did a lot more creative writing than I did as a kid.  He still loves books and movies and went to school for film editing.  He has a very creative mind.  I wonder if he ever thinks back about that ambition to be a writer?  I wonder what sparked that in him?  How did he get the writing bug?   It happened late for me and I want the writing bug to hit my son young.  There are so many wonderful things about writing.  You can share your inner thoughts and feelings with others, while still hiding behind your pen or keyboard.  You can put down your thoughts and feelings on something and go back and re-live them later.  You can share all your creative ideas even when no one has time to listen to them!  TD has so many thoughts and ideas in his head, he talks a mile a minute and is such a funny guy!  I think if I could just help him open up his writing voice and give him a place to put all that creative energy it would be really good for him.  So I come back to the question, how do you inspire a child to write?   This may be a returning topic for me.   Hopefully if I am successful I will have some things to share with you from TD in the coming weeks and months.

Simple Joy

I think the simple joy that kids take in things is one of the best parts of parenting.  Yesterday was Valentines day and the kids got cards in the mail from the grandmothers and they got a tiny box of chocolates that I picked up for them.  But you would have thought it was Christmas watching them tear into all of it.  It really made me smile.  Even though I know that day is manufactured by the greeting card business it was a nice bright spot in the middle of all the winter illness stress and cold weather yuck.  It hasn’t been a super cold winter thankfully but we have had a little cold snap this week that has me really wishing for spring so a little bright spot in the day filled with warmth and love was just what I needed!

15 minutes of fame?

No way!  Ill take my 15 minutes of peace in the morning.  This year I started getting up before the kids so I had time to have a cup of coffee in peace before the craziness of the day started.  When I was a new mom with only one child I used to hear about mom’s getting up at 6am to enjoy some personal time while their children slept till 7 or 8.  I could not imagine at that point why on earth anyone would do this to themselves!  I didn’t mind eating breakfast with my child, so it did not seem like something to loose precious sleep over.  Even with two children and preschool drop offs I still stuck strong to not getting up any earlier than I had to.  JK came along, nope I was still not getting up till I had to.  But this year with each of them having their own schedules and all the craziness in the morning, I finally got it.  There is a reason those mom’s were up so early!  Those 15 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours or whatever you take are PRECIOUS!  They let me start my day awake and with a level head.  The caffeine has had a chance to start its work on me, I am slowly transforming into super mom!   So, yup 5 ish years into this Mom thing I finally understand why people choose peace over sleep.  You can keep your 15 minutes of fame, Ill keep my peace.

I don’t have to apologize

Bet you are wondering what I am apologizing for.  Nothing.  Yes there are probably some things I have done or said in the past 6 years that I should apologize for, maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.  But one thing I am not apologizing for is suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.  Didn’t know that about me?  Then you are probably not a member of my local moms group www.chesapeakemommies.com a part of www.themommiesnetwork.org.  Chesapeake Mommies has been a major support for me in the last 3 and a half years.  It has connected me with many other moms, introduced my children to new friends and new experiences.  It has been an invaluable resource for us!  It has also been a safe place for me to open up about having PPD.  But the reality is I feel like I should not have to hide my struggle with PPD.  Lots of people suffer from depression.  But one thing about PPD that is hard for many to understand is that during a time people assume is one of the happiest in your life you have trouble facing the day, may have paralyzing fears or compulsions that drive you to do things you know are not rational.  Most people know about the “baby blues” when the hormone shift after birth causes the mom to become a little sad, a little sentimental and usually a good laugh with friends or just the joy of spending time with her husband and new child are enough to lift her out of it.  But PPD is different.  I know you didn’t ask but I thought I would give you a glimpse into my world with PPD.

It’s 8pm, my mom has made a wonderful dinner, I am fed, loved and should be happy.  I go up to take a hot bath while my mom, dad and husband look after our newborn son.  He has just been fed and I should have at least an hour if not two till he needs me again.  I sit in the hot water pretending to read and contemplating how to take my own life.  I know one thing for sure, I don’t want anything to happen to my son, but I need out.  The unexplainable pain needs to go away and I can’t figure out anyway to stop it but to no longer be alive.  It went on like this with me being able to put up a good show for a couple of weeks.  None of them had a clue.  My mom was actually pleasantly surprised with how well I was doing.  Eventually it came out though.  I was starting to lose my ability to care for my son.  To care for myself.  I had also started to develop anxiety.  The only way I could get myself to leave the house was for his doctors appointments and for the breastfeeding support group at our local hospital.  That support group was my life line.  Though that group I was able to connect with other new moms.  I met a group of women who became my life line.  We started a play group and we met weekly for over 3 years.  I am still friends with many of those women, though we don’t see each other much.  Life gets in the way.   They were there for me when we had BK and they were again my life line.  I had the support of friends, we had a busy social schedule and we were so ecstatic that BK had survived her traumatic birth that I was blessed not to suffer PPD in the early days with BK.  With BK I probably have a touch of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I have developed a severe anxiety over her getting sick.  To the point that I some times can’t function.  It’s very embarrassing when she needs me so much I often have to call for outside help.  Vomit is a huge source of that anxiety for me.  I had trouble dealing with it before BK, but now that most of her seizures seem to have been triggered by Stomach Viruses I become particularly unhinged when any of the kids vomit.  Fortunately my husband has been very good about stepping in when I need help.

JK was born 15 months ago.  I had lost a lot of my support by this time.  I no longer had a weekly play group we were attending and while I had Chesapeake Mommies the lack of face to face contact with other adults has been hard.  We also have had some major changes in the past year.  BK changed preschools this fall.  TD started kindergarten.  JK is growing up.  I have had to face the last of the firsts as I think of them.  The last child I will breastfeed, the last child I will watch take her fist steps, the last child I will feed her first solids.  It feels good to know we are done having kids some times.  But it’s also a source of sadness.  What Mommy doesn’t want to hold forever those precious tiny moments when your newborn is so tiny, sweet and quiet.  They smell delicious, they are beautiful and when you have the time to snuggle with them it is priceless.   Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss middle of the night feedings, I won’t miss diapers and I won’t miss the tantrums for no reason I can’t figure out.  But its all bitter-sweet.  It has led me in and out of depression over the last year.  I have had some really dark days.  But now 6 years into fighting this monster I am better able to formulate my thoughts and better able to figure out what I need to do to help myself.  This self discovery has led me to realize that my PPD is feeding itself.  I need interests outside my home, I can not let my anxiety and my PPD imprison me in my home and force the cycle to continue.  But it’s hard!  I mean really hard.

The bus stop has become over the last 4+ months my biggest challenge.  In some ways its awesome, I get out, I see other adults and I have 5 minutes every morning that I feel normal.  But it is also a huge source of stress for me.  I don’t know many of my neighbors well and I honestly don’t know how to get to know them better.  We moved into an established neighborhood almost 3 years ago.  Most of the kids here are older than my own so our oldest is younger than or the same age as many youngest children around here.  Many of the neighbors are very nice!  But I don’t know them.  I don’t know how to reach outside of my comfort zone to say “come on in for a cup of coffee” I don’t know how to get the kids around here to accept my son (or my daughters) and include them in things.  I feel like I am back in high school some days.  I am on the outside looking in at that bus stop.  Even though I am standing right there in the middle of it all, I still feel like an outsider.  I know part of it is the depression talking.  Whispering its evil poisonous thoughts.  But it’s persuasive, I some times can’t help but listen.

Maybe in reading this you recognize some of this in yourself?  In your wife? In a friend?   Reach out to them.  Tell them you are there for them that it is OK to admit they need help.  The best thing you can do for any mom that first year is just check in periodically see if everything is going ok.  They will appreciate it.

For more info on PPD and Postpartum Anxiety I recommend this site, it has good info.

M’s P’s and B’s

Those letters, M, P and B, represent some of the first sounds that most children make.  Early on they start with goo and gaa sounds as tiny infants.  But when children start to babble and intentionaly put speach sounds together they are usualy playing with those M, P and B inital sounds.  Words like Mama, Pop, Ba-ba or Baby are often early words children can master.  Ball is another popular word in the toddler set.  Today I watched my 15 month old in her weekly speech tharapy session struggle to figure out how to put her lips together.  She has been seeing Ms.Amy weekly since she turned one.

JK is a happy, social and funny child.  She loves party’s and other social functions, she loves the grocery store and getting to people watch and she loves the bus stop. The bus stop has people watching, the social interaction and seeing the big yellow bus come and go taking the kids to and from school.  But JK is not saying much.  She has master some form of “Hi” and “Yea” and she can say Da-Da but because its one of her few sounds it means a lot more than just her Daddy.  She uses it in diffrent settings with diffrent infelctions to mean diffrent things.  To us we can usualy use her cues and her vocalizations to figure out whats going on, but in terms of communication and speech development she is behind.  After 3 months of weekly sessions with a speech therapist we had a huge break though today.  JK said “-all.”  She was trying to say “Ball”  but could not figure out how her therapist could make the B sound.  I watched Ms.Amy take JK’s little hand and put it over her lips and make various B, P and M sounds and JK would put her hand over her own lips and say “-all.”  To JK’s credit she never got frustrated.  She just kept trying.  Show her a ball and she would smile and say “-all”  she is a smart cookie and knew she had figure out something major.  But she also relized that our version of the word and hers were not the same.  It was heartbreaking to watch.

TD was almost an entire year older when he started speech therapy.  He saw Ms.Karen for 3 and a half years.  Its hard to compare the two any more because while as infants they were both so quiet we started JK’s intervention so much sooner.  I am hoping that is one of the reasons for the differences.  The difficulty with the Bilabial Consonant sound (M,P and B) really is concerning though.  I wish I knew when TD developed those sounds.

Though JK has not been formally diagnosed at this point the therapist has on more than one occasion mentioned Child Apraxia of Speech.  This is a little more involved than just a simple “speech delay.”  CAS is actually a Motor Planning disorder and though it is not usually diagnosed under the age of 2 its sessions like this that remind me that the therapist is trying to quietly let me see that JK’s speech is not just delayed, it is developing outside the normal progression.  I have faith that she will make a lot of progress in the coming year.  And I can see how much progress we have already made in just 3 months.  But it’s frustrating to watch your child struggle with something that comes so naturally to others.

That darn elf!

No I am not talking about the big fat one who my children are waiting for at the end of the week.  He is not so hard, I bake him some cookies, put out a little egg nogg, or milk, maybe some shots if he has been really good this year, and let him take all my glory.  I along with Moms everywhere really don’t mind that a guy in a big red suit who plays with elves gets all the credit every year.  Its all good.  However his little helper, he is a royal pain the . . .

I had mixed feelings about Santa for a long time.  As a child I loved the magic of him.  When directly asked my mother never answered if he was real.  She told me “he is the spirit of loving and giving” I drew my own conclusions.  I have no idea how old I was.  But old enough to be ok with it, its not like someone ruined it for me, I just kind of knew and liked that she was willing to let me draw my own conclusions.  I have never directly hyped Santa.  In fact I rearly if ever talk about him.  I don’t have to.  My parents, my husbands parents, our siblings, mass media, strangers on the street, they all take care of it for me.  We could make it an entire season with out me even saying his name.  My children occasonaly ask questions.  I answer.  We talk about Jesus and what Christmas is all about, why we give presents and things like this.  My one mistake was falling for that stupid little elf on the shelf.  TD named him “N” and at least once a week “N” forgets to move in the night and I either have to get up at 3am and come do it, try to remember while I drink my coffee before getting the kids up or explain to them why he did not move.  This year at just turned 4 and getting ready to turn 6 my kiddo’s are happy with “Guess he really liked that spot!”  but I do worry about what I will need to come up with in the years to come.

There are lots of blogs out there by slightly high strung, over achieving moms out there.  And some of them this year (or maybe years past) have come up with some really intresting things to do with these elves.  I on the other hand am left scratching my head.  I don’t want my elf to be naughty, so that eliminates about half of the ideas out there.  If the elf is naughty how is that incentive for my children to behave well?  The whole point to this elf is to inspire a new found desire to be GOOD!  I am pretty sure that a naughty elf does not equal good kids.

This whole Santa and the Elves thing is not all bad.  I get the point behind it.  But as the person who shops for 90% of the gifts here and wraps 99% of them (the jewelry store usually wraps for my husband) I some times want to wring the necks of Santa an his Elves.  And the Elf on the Shelf is not a bad guy (or girl this year, if you bought the skirt at Target!) but he has swept the nation in a fit of creating “better” memories for our children.  And while I get that, it was marketing genius, some days I just want to say “you make more work for me!”  Because, lets face it, he does.