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Software engineer turned suburban housewife tries to make sense of it all.

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April 11th, 2012

I love these girls.


Also, Julia broke her leg, but she's a badass.

February 7th, 2012

Grief-Adjacent

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A little girl in Joseph's class died on Sunday morning. I don't really even know the details except that there was some sort of bleeding in her brain and because of a "blood disease" (a clotting disorder, I assume) she was unable to recover. Jolea was a very typical first grader. She had thick, bright blond hair which she frequently wore in beautiful braids. She was a little on the quiet side at school. Because of Jol and Jos being so close alphabetically, she and Joseph were often partnered or lined up near each other. Near the beginning of the year Joseph reported to me that some of the kids at school had taken his backpack (because they wanted to play with his bike lock) and Jolea made them give it back.
Joseph has been very matter of fact about it, saying things like, "We drew pictures for Jolea today but we won't give them to her because she's dead," and "I line up behind number 8 now because Jolea was number 9 and she's dead." He choked up a little bit yesterday when he told me that he would never see Jolea again, but, overall, I think he is taking it in stride.
Of course, our whole school is reeling with the death of such a young, healthy-looking child. Everyone is comparing notes.
"How close was your child to Jolea?"
"Are you friends with her mother?"
"Which one was she?"
"When did you hear?"
"How is your child reacting?"
And then the silent questions. How much does this affect _you_? Is this more of a tragedy for me or for you? Who among us deserves the most sympathy? Who knew her best? Who was closest to her family? Who will suffer alongside these parents. These parents who were truly robbed of the most precious thing in their lives. They will live in pain for their whole lives. They will never go a day without feeling the absence of their precious girl. And yet, I sense an edge of competitiveness among the parents around me. Who is closest to feeling that first degree of grief?
This is not the first time I have seen this phenomenon. This last summer I participated in a project that involved a lot of blogging parents with disabled children. Most of the time they blog about life with a child with cancer/autism/down syndrome/etc. but, occasionally, they write about someone else's loss. Perhaps a child who shared a therapist or doctor with their child has been declared terminal. Perhaps another blogging parent's child has lost a long battle with illness. On the surface, the writing was sympathetic - showing concern for the child's parents. However, a closer read revealed a vicious competition at play. Parents listed their contacts with the deceased family - much as I outlined Joseph's relationship with Jolea at the beginning of this post.
"I was the first to hug his mother when they told her he had cancer."
"She called me first the morning of the accident."
"Our children were so close."
"We blogged together."
Why the need to prove we are so close to the center of the storm of grief? Is it for attention? Is it, for these "special needs" bloggers, for a boost in readership? I wonder if it is because when something so unbelievably awful happens, we hope that if we were among the primary people affected, we will somehow be immunized from the same tragedy striking at the center of our family.
Sure the lightning of a six year old suddenly dying can not strike two children in the same class? My child must be safe.
Safe.
What a lie.

January 17th, 2012

1. I had cryoneurolysis performed on my right foot last week. A year after injuring my already-constantly-irritated plantar fascia last January, I am nearly pain free. I am so relieved.

2. Joseph is acting like a spoiled brat. There is much demanding of fun outings and whining about things like homework, cleaning up, or being asked to transition away from projects toward other things like meals, getitng ready to leave the house, bedtime, etc. I think we've given him a life _too_ rich with super fun activities and need to tone things down a bit.

3. I met some of the local birth professionals here in Ventura County today. It was nice to put faces to names I have heard around town for years but have never met. It was a neat group of women.

4. I was the only one who had to bring little kids with me to the meeting today. Everyone was very gracious with my girls and my girls were well-behaved, but it really drove home for me that most people do not delve into this work while they are still at home with little (nursing even) babies.

5. We are night-weaning Julia. I am sleeping in another room until she sleeps through the night without a sippy or anything. Matt is dealing with the night-time monster and doing well. So far she's doing well, but I think Matt is still giving her a small cup of milk when she gets up. Baby steps.

6. Julia is 19 months old, but to me she's still a tiny baby.

7. I am taking Julia and Naomi to a sign and sing class (Kindermusik) and am loving having an activity for the two of them. It seems that most of the time I do things with all three kids or Joseph and Julia or Joseph and Naomi and have not done much to facilitate a fun relationship between the two girls. It's great to be able to do that.

8. Joseph's reading is behind for his grade level. He is seeing a reading specialist at school. Over the break I had him read for an hour every day and saw modest, but clear results. And, of course, there's a youtube video:


9. I am going to become a La Leche League leader. I'm looking forward to hopefully giving back a little to the organization that helped me find some of my best mom friends and some much needed support When Joseph and Naomi were little tiny little.

10. My godmother is coming for her annual (hopefully semi-annual) trip tomorrow. I'm hoping to paint the room that will soon be my girls' bedroom.

November 12th, 2011

Update

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I should write more. If I wrote more I would definitely feel more inclined to quickly update on all of the little things that happen every day that make this time so special/maddening.
For now. . .
Julia:
Julia is definitely out of the baby stage and a full blown toddler. She still doesn't have many words in her vocabulary, but she chatters in an animated way constantly. She can be very demanding and is rarely content to just sit and snuggle anymore. So sad for mommy.
The big highlight in her life is Kindermusik. She loves it. I love going with her. I also had a great time in Kindermusik with Naomi (NOT with Joseph - he hated it), but this has been extra fun. Julia is probably my most socially savvy child and just loves putting herself in the middle of a room and working hard to play to every person in the place.
Naomi:
I think Naomi might be really, frighteningly smart. Add this to her demanding, stubborn, manipulative personality and you have TROUBLE. She runs the show around here - no doubt.
She's been doing a lot of learning on her own. She picked up a phonics toy of Joseph's and has managed to learn all of the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make with really no adult help. The other day I handed her a book entitled "The Bug Dug" which is a level 1 reader with a lot of 3 letter words with short vowel sounds. With a very little help she read it to me. I am pretty floored. She is technically old enough to start kindergarten next year (the cutoff will be Nov 1 and she is Oct 13) but with the city moving the date further and further back I feel like I should hold her for a year. Socially that seems right, she is still easily overwhelmed and I think she needs more time to learn how to use her glasses to orient herself physically in a chaotic space. So, the question will be: How do I keep this smart girl challenged while I give her the space and time to be ready for the chaos that kindergarten will bring?
Joseph:
Sweet as ever - maybe sweeter. I got a notice from school that he is getting extra reading help from a resource teacher. I was a little floored that they hadn't told me he was having trouble reading, but of course I'm glad for him to have the extra help. The teacher says she is mostly concerned with his fluency and pacing when he reads, though when I talked to the specialist she told me that he failed to identify all of the sounds that the letters of the alphabet make in his evaluation. Again - very surprising as he can do so very easily at home - but if he can't do it at school I do want him to have the help. We've ramped up our reading work here at home. I am a terrible reader and I don't want that for him, so we're really focusing on this.
He craves scientific knowledge. He constantly wants to do experiments and build things and learn about things. He is really into satellites right now - man made, natural, etc. He loves the idea that Earth _is_ and _has_ a satellite.
Matt:
It would be hard to express what a good dad and husband this guy I married is. He works hard and then comes home full of energy to give to the kids. He is awesome. We had a great date night last week and I'm realizing that we need more - more stuff to do together and more time out. It's hard to make it happen, but I really want it.
Me:
There are so many things I _want_ to do every day. It is time to move Naomi and Julia into the big bedroom which means a painting project and such. I went to a 3 day Birthing From Within training and am contemplating whether their mentor program might be a good fit for me. I am doing a fair bit of breastfeeding work and am hoping to teach a community class soon. I am involved with the school site council and the PTO at Joseph's school. I am trying to spend more time in Naomi's classroom.
That said, I just don't have the energy. I have the time - it's just that I want to sleep with every free minute I have because I'm just not getting the sleep I need at night. It would be easy to blame the baby, who still nurses a couple of times a night and has a terrible habit of pulling my hair in her sleep, but my insomnia is just as much to blame. I can't really take anything to help me sleep because that's not safe with the baby in the bed. So. . . that's my current challenge.

August 23rd, 2011

First Day of First Grade

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Joseph got the teacher I wanted for him. She has a reputation for being especially good with kids on the spectrum. Dropoff was drama-less today. I left the girls home with Matt and I biked with Joseph. We should have left at 7:25, but we didn't get out of here until more like 7:30. The early mornings are going to be a huge adjustment for us. We got there on time but had to really push through the crowds with our bikes which was no fun. I'm sure we'll get the hang of it.
From Joseph's First Day of First Grade

Oh! While we were in San Diego (I know I know I should post about our vacation) I bought a new-to-me bike. I've been borrowing Nema's for 6 months or so and it has been great so I finally took the leap and got my own. It is beautiful and way nicer than what I planned to get, but the price was _amazing_ and I fell in love with it so Matt and I decided it could be my birthday present for this year. It is very comfortable (a must for me and my still-damaged tailbone) and is a very smooth ride. I still haven't put the girls in the trailer with it, but I'll probably do that when I pick up Joseph today.

August 3rd, 2011

Food for thought

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Joseph has been incredibly obsessive this last week. He had been with my in-laws for 4 days and last week was, as I expected, kind of a horrible adjustment back into life at home. Time with the grandparents is just really overstimulating to him and he really does not know how to shut down or take any time out to reset himself. So, last week was bad, but I really expected it. But I thought he would get better after a week and I was really wrong. This week he has been worse - prone to horrible meltdowns with every transition, crying constantly and obsessing like crazy. This week's obsession is building an electric fence. We could keep friends here for playdates forever, we could keep the baby away from the legos, we could keep the dogs in the front yard, etc. What can I build the fence out of? How many batteries do I need? Where can I get wire? It's been maddening. yesterday Matt and I told him we are not talking about electric fences anymore. It's just too much.
We went to the beach with his social skills playgroup today and his psychologist remarked that he seemed particularly wound up. We discussed what's been going on and I told him I was really worried - that I hadn't seen behavior like this since we started occupational therapy a year ago. He gave me some good suggestions for helping him regulate a little bit and then gave me this to think about:
"Is a child in your family allowed to be on the spectrum, because that's where he is and sometimes you're just going to have to meet him there and talk about electric fences for 10 minutes."
So, that's been really ringing with me tonight. I've always struggled with the balance between accepting Joseph where he's at and helping him learn how to interact with the world around him in a way that will help him have satisfying and meaningful relationships. When do we push and when do we accept? It's a tough question.

July 26th, 2011


more here

My friend Maureen's sister Bushie took those pictures. I love them. I feel like they're a good representation of what my kids are like right now.

I'm done with the shingles. It was pretty bad for about a week and then it faded quickly. I was lucky to get onto the anti-viral medication so quickly. I have never had an illness that was _so_ dramatically affected by my stress level. I had a few stressful days during the illness and the next days I woke up in significantly more pain than the day before. I was finally able to chill a bit toward the end and things faded.

What caused my stress, you might ask? So. . . to make a crazy long story short. . .
A friend of a friend has a little girl with Down Syndrome who is also a cancer survivor and a survivor of Infantile Spasms. Infantile Spasms is the term given to epilepsy occurring in a very young child (less than 3 I think). It is not always controllable with medication and frequently leads to permanent brain damage. So, this friend of a friend (we'll call her H) has an Internet friend who blogs about his daughter who suffers from IS. His blog is very popular. He runs all kinds of giveaways and she was a winner of the most recent one. She won an iPad to use as a communication tool for her child (see The Wall Street Journal for more info on that - amazing). There were 40 winners and all this blogger was asking of them was that they share links to his blog and vote for him on blog popularity sites in order to increase traffic to his site - and his donate button - on which he has raised at least $29000. Of course, there are no iPads. Anyway, my friend Maureen and I got deep into investigating this guy and trying to expose him to the community. It was stressful and difficult to see so many people defending him and holding out hope that they had not been scammed. It was hard to see such an ugly side of a parent. Not fun at all. So, H, Maureen, another blogger, and I are heading up an effort to get iPads to the kids who "won" this contest. We've only been able to identify 20 of them as real people (some of the other 20 may have been fakes created by the contest running asshat, and some just didn't want to deal with any of this crap anymore, which I can understand). So, we're working hard to raise about $11000 to get iPads to these kids. If you're interested in reading more about that you can visit our blog. Check out our first recipient using his iPad and what his parents had to say about it here:
Christopher with his iPad!

In more fun news, I've been working on finally putting up a backsplash behind my kitchen sink and counter. I'll post pictures when it's done. Turns out it's hard to cut glass mosaic tile nicely, but I'm learning.

June 27th, 2011

Summertime!

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Julia is 1. She has 6 teeth. She does not walk yet. She is awesome - sweet, funny, very very cute.
Joseph is 6. He is very funny. I see a lot of great things in his demeanor. He is learning very slowly to regulate himself a bit. It should not surprise anyone that a significant increase in physical activity really helps him regulate his tactile issues and even generally helps his social interactions. He is in a social skills playgroup with some wonderful boys. He loves it. It's a pain in the ass to get there (it is a half hour away and I have to drag the girls and then just sit there for an hour), but for now the benefit seems significant. In other news, Joseph has gone from being the most giantest baby to being a tiny child. He is about 42 inches tall and weighs just over 40 lbs. He was the second smallest in his kindergarten class.
Naomi is 3 1/2 now. She is so smart. So. Smart. She is constantly saying and doing things that take me by surprise. She seems to have really excellent spacial reasoning skills. I think she will be math minded like me. She is also a pain in the ass. Her tantrums are furious and frequent.
With three kids, I find that one is always my joy, one is my worry, and the other is my pain in the ass. Right now it's Julia, Joseph, and Naomi, respectively, but it rotates. Everyone gets to be my favorite once in a while.



My Godmother, Susan, visited us last month. This is what the monsters look like now.

April 28th, 2011

Sickos, Eyes, Car Troubles

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It started at 4:30 PM last Wednesday. Christie is one of my favorite mommy friends and her son is Joseph's best buddy. We were having a lovely playdate. She has this great backyard and we were lounging and enjoying a lovely fruit and cracker snack when Naomi lost her lunch. . . and her breakfast. . . and probably everything she ate the day before, too.
She seemed to recover by Friday but Saturday she was just horribly sick again. On Sunday she wasn't even interested in her candy. So sad.
By Tuesday Julia was sick and last night Joseph threw up.
Naomi is fully recovered. Julia is doing pretty well, but I've been losing a lot of sleep in order to nurse her frequently and keep her hydrated. Joseph seems to have (in typical Joseph style) recovered quickly, but I'm not rushing into feeding him normal food any time soon.
Naomi's glasses came today! I can't wait to see if they help her. We had her wear them tonight but we were inside and I don't think she really "gets" how to use them yet. It is a little complicated since they only offer correction for the half of her field of vision where there is a lens so there is a little learning curve. I am hopeful that her little world will get a little clearer.
Julia is wearing a patch for 2 hours a day and so far it hasn't been much of a problem to keep it on. I fear the day she figures out how to pull it off of her eye.
We were rear-ended while we were in the Bay Area taking the girls to the eye doctors. There was $11,000 damages to the minivan and it will take until mid-May to complete the repairs. Unfortunately, the other driver had not paid his insurance bill so we're out for the car rental costs which is considerable because we're renting a minivan so that I can keep up with carpooling. Super lame.

October 5th, 2010

Dinner with the Wronks

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Joseph:
Mom, how did you break your tailbone?
Me:
I fell. Over there, by the computer. It was awful.
Naomi:
I don't have a tailbone.
Me:
Yes you do. It's inside your tush.
Naomi:
I have a tailbone?
Matt:
If you had a tail, that's where it would be attached.
Joseph:
My penis is my tail!
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