February 25, 2010

The Gift of an Ordinary Day

If you have not yet seen the YouTube video of Katrina Kenison and her speech "The Gift of an Ordinary Day" you need to stop reading this right now, get a box of tissues, watch it, and then come back to finish reading.

Ok, watch it? Because I did and I was bawling.

Life is made up of these moments. One quote I've always loved is "the days are long and the years are short"...and how true that is! I cannot believe that D is almost 6 and in the final months of kindergarten. I cannot believe that A is soon-to-be-4 and in the final months of her first year of preschool.

Every stage DOES feel like "that's it"....that I'll never get past it, that life will be like that forever (both the good parts AND the bad parts). It felt like D would be an infant forever, yet here he is reading 2 chapter books to himself in one day and has lost his first tooth. It felt like I would NEVER be able to learn how to care for Aviva's medical needs, yet here I am suctioning her trach while chatting on the phone, helping D with homework and making dinner at the same time. It felt like D would never potty train, yet of course by now he goes potty like he should. It felt like A would never eat, drink, talk or walk, yet here she is eating, drinking, talking and walking.

When I reflect on my life (post-kids, that is) it is easy to get caught up in the moments that I had BIG decisions to make: when to stop nursing, where to send the kids to preschool, whether or not to get A's tracheostomy, what sport to put D in. Those decisions can seem agonizing. But really, life is made up of the smaller moments: the countless lunches I prepare, baths I give, books I read, and billions upon billions of hugs and kisses I heap on both my children each day. It's days home sick with a cold, the days spent at the zoo, the days playing dollhouse and Wii, the days running errands...THOSE are the days, the moments, that life is truly built on. I remember a scene, a montage, in the movie "The Story of Us" that poignantly showed that as well.

It is important, as the YouTube video beautifully illustrated, not to take those moments for granted. Because, quicker than you can blink, those moments (again, both the good and the bad) will be gone and new moments (good and bad) will be there to take their places. One day my kids may not let me shower them with kisses, may not want their bedtime lulluby, may not ask me to play a game with them. I need to savor each moment now, as they occur.

Savor your moments, too.

February 20, 2010

Special Needs Rant

I hate the term "special needs".

There, I said it.

To me, "special needs" brings up images that scare me....and make me sad. It focuses on what a child (or adult) is lacking, or unable to do. I've never heard someone say "that boy has special needs because he is so smart" or "that girl has special needs because she is too darned healthy".
The term "special needs" is such a wide term: it can refer to mental or physical "disabilities", or issues in the medical, behavioral, developmental or emotional realm. So in reality, "special needs" can refer to someone who lisps and needs speech therapy; has food allergies; can't walk and uses a wheelchair; has profound mental retardation; has ADHD; etc, etc, etc.

It's such a catch-all phrase, and rarely does it cover the positives.

I NEVER say that A has "special needs". I say that she has "special medical needs". This differentiation is important to me. Yes, she has a breathing tube. Yes, she has (although is not currently using) a feeding tube. Yes, she is profoundly deaf in one ear and mildly deaf in the other ear. Yes, she JUST started walking at age 3 1/2. But these issues don't define her. A is NOT her medical chart, her medical history, or her medical future. A is a bright, curious, gorgeous, fun, amazing little girl who just happens to have some medical issues.

One of my favorite quotes is "all children have special needs". And isn't this true? My kindergartner, D, who is as typically developing as they come, and is as healthy as a horse, has some (mild) behavioral issues at home and at school. I truly believe that EVERYONE in this world will have an issue to deal with. Some examples are medical issues (needing glasses or fighting cancer), emotional issues (battling depression), behavioral issues (having impulse control problems), addiction issues (needing food or alcohol), social issues (having a hard time making friends), or learning issue (having dyslexia), just to name a few. No one in this world gets through life unscathed, without having a challenge to overcome. NO ONE.

And that's why I hate the term "special needs". It singles someone out for lacking something, when truly aren't we all? Don't we ALL have special needs?

Blogs! Blogs! Blogs!

I am very new to the world of blogging (as you can see I just started this blog a few weeks ago). Before I started blogging, I rarely looked at other blogs....I have some friends that blog, and I read theirs, but would never think to look at blogs of strangers.

The other night, on a whim, I typed in "special needs moms blogs". And--WOW!--was I shocked at what I found.

There are HUNDREDS of blogs out there, written by moms like me, raising children with some sort of special need. Many blogs I found talk about kids with autism, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADHD. I found a few that talk about issues that my daughter, A, is dealing with (tracheostomy, feeding tube, developmental delays, hearing loss, etc). I cannot tell you how relieved I feel.

You see, most of my friends can't relate to what I'm going through. I do have some friends with children with challenges--g-tubes, autism, etc--but no one else I know has a child with exactly what WE are dealing with. So to read other mom's thoughts, putting thoughts that I have had myself into words, made me smile hugely from ear to ear.

I will most likely link to some of the blogs that inspire me most. And now I am inspired to find other blogs that may resonate with me: women that cook, run, read. What a fantastic way to connect.

February 15, 2010

The Point of No Return

Last week, my 5 1/2 year old son, D, lost his first tooth. It had been loose for about 6 months, and he would often talk about how excited he was.

The night before he lost it, the tooth (one of his top front teeth) was extremely wiggly, and started to bleed during dinner. The blood frightened him very much. He sat on my lap, hysterically crying. "Mama," he cried, "I don't want to lose my tooth. I'm scared." My husband and I tried to talk him through it, how everyone loses their teeth, that it's a natural rite of passage. Luckily, it came out the next day, with no more blood to show for it.

I remember having that exact same feeling D was experiencing, when I was about six months pregnant with him. Being that it was my first pregnancy, my husband and I took one of those classes at the hospital where they teach labor methods, breathing techniques, and show videos of both vaginal and c-section births. After the class with the videos, I was frightened. Of course, I had KNOWN where babies come from, and KNEW where my son would make his exit....but seeing it on video was very scary. I remember thinking that I was in a position where I was at the point of no return...I was pregnant, and I was going to deliver this baby, by one method or another. No going back.

Of course, we are ALL in this predicament...the point of no return. It's called life. Just the mere fact that we are alive means that we are aging every day....every day brings us one step closer to toddlerhood, adolescence, to adulthood, to middle age, to being a senior citizen and beyond. At some point, if we live long enough, we all get gray hair, wrinkles, and an increase of health-related issues. It's part of life. The only way not to progress is not to be on this crazy ride called life. It is scary. Just as my son was scared to lose his first tooth, I am nervous about turning forty (FORTY!!) in a few weeks. I am not afraid of the number; I don't look forty, and God only knows I don't ACT middle-aged. It's more of the idea of being past that point of no return...I will no longer be in my 30s, which definitely sounds younger.

Luckily, we all go through this process. My parents did, and still are; their parents did, and their parents did. Just as my son and daughter are, and their future children will as well. Many of the choices we make (diet, exercise, relationships, etc) can positively or negatively impact the aging process, but at the end, we all end up at the same place.

February 10, 2010

The Toughest Job

This parenting stuff is hard.

Don't get me wrong. I love it. I am thrilled to be a mom, and am truly content being a stay-at-home one at that. But it's hard work. I know it's meant to be hard, and that there are many approaches to parenting. I know that there is no one "right" way to parent, although there are a few "wrong" ways (being physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive, as well as neglectful, come to mind). Heck, if there were one right way to parent, there would be one book in the bookstore called "This Is The Parenting Book You're Looking For", instead of THOUSANDS of titles offering different perspectives and approaches.

I doubt myself a lot. My son, D, who is in kindergarten and almost 6, challenges me almost daily. He is a GREAT kid; for those of my readers who know us personally, I know you'd agree. He's a sweet boy, brilliant, kind, curious and the biggest cuddle I know. He truly is a GOOD kid. But boy, does he challenge me! He is a bit immature for his age, and because of that, can get squirrelly (you know how 5 year old boys can be!) He gets the wiggles in school, and can challenge authority by not listening to directions, both at home and at school. It's only February of his kindergarten year and already he's been sent to the principal's office 3 times (for nothing terrible, but still!) I managed to get through 13 years of public school and never once met the principal!

I have taken him 3 times to a psychologist to get evaluated for ADHD; his impulse control has me worried sometimes. Every visit the psychologist told me I had nothing to worry about; he does NOT have ADHD, and he is just a typical, albeit slightly immature, boy. Every teacher, friend, etc who has met him confirm that. Yet I still worry. If he's challenging authority now, how will he be in 10 years? 20 years?

To add to my concern, I myself tend to be an inconsistent parent. I am the type of mom to give many "chances" before I follow through. I have recently changed this, however, and am MUCH more consistent than I used to be. For example, D had a terrible week in school right before Halloween, and I took away trick-or-treating. And I really did! He stayed home that night. That was a turning point for me, proving to myself (and to D) that I can be a consistent parent.

I was raised on Eastern European parenting, and tend to fall back on that in my own approach. Additionally, I tend to react fast (too fast), going from 0 to 60 in no time at all. I need to learn to slow down with my parenting, not to react as fast, to take my time with doling out consequences and rewards. I know this will help with my quest to be a more consistent mom.

I have a fear that I'm not doing it right...that I'm being too harsh...or too lenient. That whatever mistakes I make with him now will come back to bite us both in the ass in years to come. That in 20 years he'll be sitting on a shrink's couch telling her that his issues stemmed from not being able to go trick-or-treating in 2009. Or worse.

God, this parenting stuff is tough.

February 4, 2010

A Chef in the Making

I love to cook.

That statement, while seemingly innocuous, is huge for me. I spent 37 of my first 40 years actively not cooking. I hated it. I remember when I was little, my mother would sometimes ask me to help her make dinner. I would opt to make the salad! I never really learned how to cook anything at the hands of my mother (which I now regret) and went to college not knowing how.

I have no idea what I ate in college and beyond. I must have blocked those memories out. Lots of take-out, frozen dinners, sandwiches, and ramen noodles, I suppose. Even when I met J, I never cooked. He jokes that the one meal I made for him when we were dating was a tuna melt (simply made by putting tuna and cheese on bread and sticking it in my sandwich maker)...although that really wasn't a joke. I never cooked for him.

Not that I COULDN'T cook, mind you. I was able to follow a recipe, and certainly made some things over the years when needed: food for a Passover seder, a meal to bring to a friend's house for dinner, dessert for a party. I COULD cook, I just hated it. I found it boring, pointless, and a waste of time.

After we had our first child, D, I still never really cooked. J would come home from work and cook dinner for us. Once in a while I would make a Boboli pizza, and think I was Julia Child. It wasn't until after our second child, A, was born, that I developed an interest in cooking.

When A was born, and in the NICU for 12 weeks (and then hospitalized for another month after that) my dear friends brought my family dinner about 4 times a week. It was amazing, and I felt so cared for and loved. Most of the meals were homemade by my friends, which stunned me: my friends COOKED? What? Was I the only non-cooker in the bunch?

After A was stabilized, I decided to try a recipe. It was winter 2007, just about 3 years ago exactly. I clearly remember my first recipe I tried on my cooking renaissance: jumbalaya. It was so fun to chop all the vegetables, measure my ingredients, and prepare a tasty meal. I was hooked, and haven't stopped since.

Why do I like cooking?
  • It challenges my brain. Since becoming a full-time stay-at home mom, sometimes I feel like my mind has become mush. Managing cooking times, trying different recipes, etc makes me feel like I'm actually using my brain!
  • It gives me a creative outlet.
  • I like knowing what is IN my food, and take comfort knowing that everything I eat is 100% vegetarian.
  • It give me "alone" time without being alone. I usually cook while the kids watch tv or play in the next room (which is attached to the kitchen). I can watch them, and still be by myself. Better yet, sometimes I put on my iPod and cook to my favorite tunes.
I have found that I am a good cook! I am not the sort of cook that can make up recipes in her head; actually, I need a recipe to follow, and will seldom deviate from it. But I have made more "advanced" food such as risotto, wontons, (vegetarian) sushi, and souffles. It's fun! Just this month I took a pasta-making class through our local adult ed, and now have a pasta maker to make my own ribbon pastas and raviolis.

My main audience is my husband. He is who I cook for. On days when he's not home for dinner, you can be sure I'm making something low-key such as spaghetti. I love to see his reaction when we eat dinner; it feels good to have him enjoy what I make.

I welcome all vegetarian recipes, and would love to hear from any of my readers!