Monday, May 24, 2010

Onto Bigger Things

I've been putting off writing this post. Mostly because it's emotional for me and also because I'm afraid my words will fall short and seem trite.

{Deep breath}

Buster Boy, or better known in these parts as #2, just wrapped up his final year of preschool and will be heading to Kindergarten in a few short months. Natural sentimental feelings surround this event for me, but something deeper too. I feel relief, gratitude and pride. And I wouldn't be a mother if I didn't feel guilt.

When #2 turned two I knew in my gut that his lack of verbal communication was serious and that despite everyone's well intentioned advice, "Oh, boys just talk later," or "Give it time, some kids just take longer," I knew something needed to be done. When I consulted with my pediatrician, she went through his chart and began counting, one, two, three, nine, ten, twelve, thirteen.... ear infections. And those were just the ones we caught. Yes, #2 would be a prime suspect for speech delay.

Over the next year as I wrangled with Arizona Early Invention the difficulties with #2 were multiplying. He was getting bigger and stronger and increasingly more frustrated that he couldn't be understood. #2's lack of speech was effecting everything, mealtime, playtime, church time, travel time, the other children, my ability to leave him with babysitters. Although at his core he was affectionate and wanted to do right, his frustrations had turned him into an angry, defiant and often violent boy. Sometimes as I physically struggled with him my heart would be weeping for the innocent child inside.

We were blessed with a talented speech therapist who made significant progress with #2 in the 10 sessions we had with her before he turned three and was kicked out of the early intervention program. At his third birthday he could say, "I want..." "Can I try?" Just these little phrases brought much needed peace to our house.

The next step for #2 was to start special needs preschool three times a week where he would receive speech therapy. But this was not an easy step for me. #2 was not socially or emotionally prepared to spend that kind of time away from home. His behavior, although much improved, was still often volatile and I worried that his teacher would not have enough patience to deal with him lovingly. I also felt defensive and protective of my sweet boy. What if no one else could see the great potential in him? What if no one else could see past his angry exterior and into his soft soul?

Some of you long time readers may remember this post. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote on his first day of preschool:

"It was torturous to hear him crying as a I left him on the playground. He is so little! Ok, he's pretty huge, but he IS very young. I felt like I had just turned him over to the wolves. His teacher is not in fact a wolf, but a very compassionate woman. I hid in some bushes across from the play ground to watch him. Pretty soon he picked himself up from the sidewalk (where he was tantruming), got on a tricycle and started to ride around. I watched until they had gone inside the classroom and #2 seemed happy.

"Later when I picked him up, he wasn't so happy. He had had a terrible time. Uncooperative, crying; he had refused snack and recess. He ran to me and collapsed on my shoulder. Great! Now I really felt like I had made a mistake in sending him to preschool! However, I knew we had to give it another chance.

Preschool proved to be a great blessing. #2's teacher soon found his sweet nature buried beneath the defiance. She was firm but loving. She was positive and focused on #2's triumphs. The routines at school soon became routines at home and much of our daily struggles disappeared. #2's teacher and I began to compare notes about what worked at school and what worked at home so we could give him consistent expectations. It was working! #2 was happier! Our home was happier!

Over the next year #2 transformed into a polite, well mannered, happy and very social little boy. And it wasn't just me that noticed. Thank you, all you friends and family members, who took a moment to tell me that you noticed the changes in #2. It meant so much to me and gave me hope and confidence.

So last week wrapped up #2's two and a half year education at preschool. He left in a blaze of glory. Happy, attentive, social and ready for Kindergarten. I mentioned at the beginning that I feel guilt. I feel guilty that there was ever a part of me that doubted. A part of me that worried he wouldn't be ready. But far outshining my guilt, is my gratitude for a loving teacher, for the Lord's hand and for my precious #2.

Here are some pictures of his last day:

proudly displaying his hard-earned diploma

preschool buddies

snack time

Silly Sally, by Audrey Wood

#2 wrote this letter to his beloved teacher, "Thank you to be so lovely."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Number Three turns 3

For her birthday, #3 received a bubble machine. It is a parent's dream come true. You just fill it's little cavity with bubble solution, push a button and the magic happens. Hundreds of big, beautiful, bubbles blowing continuously without you exerting a single breath. Yesterday, while #1 and #2 were at school I was sitting at my computer paying bills and catching up on business. #3 was bored and begging for... I don't know what, I wasn't really listening. While I tried to focus on whatever I was doing I absently ignored her little voice, "Mommy, you wah wah wah wah ? Mommy, wah wah wah! Mommy, wah wah wah. Mommy! MA-ME!" I suddenly snapped out of my budget-fixing-induced-coma, huh? what? You want me to get your bubbles? Sure.

She took my hand and led me to the back door. We went outside and I dutifully filled her bubble machine, clicked the button and headed straight back for my computer where my excel sheet was awaiting me. Her sweet, lispy voice stopped me in my tracks, "Mommy, you want to share this with me?"

Of course I do. I want to share this moment of your childhood and watch you dance under the bubbles, smiling and laughing with joy only a three year old can feel. Bills can wait, but you, my dear, are changing faster than the earth is spinning and soon you won't be asking me to share in your small joys.

If #1 was sent to our family to give me confidence as a mother, then #2 was sent to challenge that confidence. And #3 was sent to slow me down and ask me to cherish my motherhood.

Here are some pictures of the little rat's birthday party:

Spouse creating the "under the sea" theme chalk mural on our back wall.

buckets of Goldfish for snacking

a sand pile full of treasures

urban artists

Monday, May 10, 2010

How Spouse Fared While I was in the U.T.

While I was gone for four days, Spouse was large and in charge. I left him a detailed schedule of who needed to be where and how to get there and what to eat and how to make it. It's not that I doubt his fathering abilities, it's just that the man is never home and doesn't know the day to day stuff.

So you can bet that I was surprised by our phone conversation Thursday night.

"Yeah, so I think I'm gonna go camping with Mike tomorrow night."

"What are you going to do with the kids?"

"Bring 'em."

The idea was so absurd I had to keep myself from laughing at his naivete. Taking three kids camping ALONE is not an easy task. Especially if you've never packed for or prepared for any family vacation, trip or outing. Or camping trip. But I wasn't about to burst his bubble. I figured once reality hit, he would come to his senses.

Friday afternoon I found I had missed 4 frantic calls and one text message from Spouse.

"Where is #1's swim suit? It is not in her drawer. It is not anywhere! Call me back quick!"

When I called him back it was too late, he was already on the road. He was really doing it. They were going camping.

Turns out Spouse is much more capable than I ever gave him credit for. Not only did he take the kids camping, but he cleaned up all traces of the camping trip. Laundry, done. Equipment, neatly stowed. In fact, I wouldn't believe it had actually happened if it weren't for this hard evidence:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Matter of Heaven or Heck

A week ago I was outside the Marriot Center, waiting in line to register for Womens Conference. My sisters and mom were already inside and had just texted me, "Portal E, sec 112" so I could find them once I got in. The line went quickly, but by the time I stepped through the doors, the opening song was already in progress. But, what was this?!? A bathroom door without a trail of impatient women waiting to enter? My sisters could wait another two minutes, this opportunity was too rare to pass up!

Having lived in Utah for 15 years, three of those at BYU, I am well accustomed to Mormon cultural habits. Some of them inexplicable, but when everyone else is doing it, why question why? Take for instance, the big bow phenomenon. It is bad enough that all sense of proportion and fashionable symmetry are ignored when it's a newborn baby wearing those big blossoms. But it certainly doesn't end there. Little girls, big girls, mamas and grandmas are all wearing big flowers without discretion! Mom jeans and a Merona t-shirt? Just add a big pink flower head band. Long khaki skirt and blazer? An oversize daisy pin is the answer. See? Inexplicable.

Back to the bathroom. Don't worry, my story will not get too dirty.

I hardly noticed that the opening song followed me into the bathroom. But I did notice when the song stopped and suddenly the opening prayer was being broadcast through the speakers in the bathroom.

I consider myself well-bred in matters of religious courtesy, but I was totally caught unaware of what to do when you are listening to a prayer while inside a bathroom stall. Fold my arms? Stop the flow? Seriously, how are you supposed to be reverent in the bathroom?!?

Unrighteous, that I apparently am, I decided the most honest course of action would be to continue in my business and get out of the bathroom ASAP. So I flushed and went to wash my hands. Boy, was I surprised to find three or four other women at the sinks with their arms folded, heads bowed and listening to the prayer...... in the bathroom. The sound of the water splashing into the sink reverberated off the tile floor and walls and broke the silence. There were several stall doors closed, with no noise issuing forth. For a moment, I faltered. Is this right? Is this what I'm supposed to do? Freeze in my inconvenient tracks and put on all the signs of reverence? But, unrighteous that I apparently am, I just went ahead and washed up, reaching past a frozen woman to grab a paper towel. By now I was chuckling to myself at the awkwardness of it all, imagining what this scene might look like from above. Was Heavenly Father judging us or laughing too? The amen was said and as if it were common courtesy, several toilets flushed. Suddenly the bathroom was humming with conversation and activity. I got out of there as quickly as I could so all the righteous ladies could gasp about the rude woman who kept peeing during the prayer.

It was my freshman year at BYU all over again.

What would you do?