Thursday, December 25, 2014

Emerson's First Christmas

Emerson's first Christmas was filled with new family traditions. Brenton and GiGi baked a pie together. They had so much fun together adding the ingredients to the bowl and using the big mixer.

We kicked off the formal festivities at our new church with the service for all ages. It was filled with familiar songs and the obligatory pageant complete with children dressed as animals as cute as cute can be. When we arrived a young girl walked right up to Brenton and I said hello little lamb to which she replied "baaa". A toddler bear stole the show and I couldnt help but wonder what the boys would be next year when they were in the pagent. The service concluded with passing of the light and Emerson and Brenton were mesmerized by the candlelight.  We sang Silent night and Joy to the world. It was simply wonderful.

We made our way home and had lasagna which is a revived tradition. Emerson ate so much lasagna. He earned his Big Beefy title with all he has eaten in the past two days. Then it was time for Christmas jammies and bedtime.

We decided to skip the wrapping paper to be kinder to the earth and to the tiny humans who would have to tear it open. We arranged all the toys neatly around the tree after putting everything together and adding batteries. Then it was off to bed for us as well.

Morning came quickly with Brenton waking before 5. We waited for Emerson who woke at 530 then we marched down stairs. Greeted by two vacuums, one upright the other a canister, Brenton was so very excited he could not contain himself and immediately began cleaning.

Emerson made a beeline for the tree crawling as fast as he could. He got to his toys and promptly began putting them all in his mouth. It was the test to find the best of the bunch. He really could not seem to decide. I like to think they were all a big hit.

We all loved our presents. It was so much fun watching everyone check out their loot. My parents make it complete. We are so lucky to spend this time together enjoying the day.

Next we ate our big Christmas breakfast of eggs and bacon and a cinnamon butter braid. Emerson had so many scrambled eggs. He just loves to feed himself.

Then it was naptime. Brenton napped with his canister vacuum and watched a Land Before Time one of his new movies. Emerson was just too excited to sleep and barely slept. It was ok because we got ready for our special Christmas dinner with Great Nanny.

She arrived at one and we had wine and cheese while she opened all of her gifts. Then it was time to eat again. Just before we sat down Rolston said "He is standing" and I turned quickly to watch my sweet baby just stand there for almost 10 whole seconds. At 8 months old I find him so impressive.

This new feat apparently made him quite hungry and he thoroughly enjoyed his twice baked potato and filet mignon. Brenton barely ate and vacuumed the whole time. He is obsessed.

We chatted and ate and then had profiteroles for dessert and Emerson finally succumbed to sleep for a bit in his high chair. It was time to take Nanny home after dessert and Papa and GiGi took her and her big pile of presents.

We relaxed together in the playroom with the boys playing with their new toys. Then moved into the family room as the sun went down and it got colder. We watched Frozen and folded some laundry. Brenton still vacuuming and Emerson in his walker.

The day is not over yet but I can say this, for me it was a wonderful family filled day and I think Papa and GiGi will be back soon. I heard prior rumors that Brenton and GiGi may bake chocolate chip cookies. Just what we need some more food but next week we will head to upstate NY to hang out with my aunt and my cousins for the new year so we will just bring some cookies to share.

Until then I am sure there will be more vacuuming and more family fun. This was a great day and I know I will look back fondly on Emerson's first Christmas which just so happens to be our first Christmas in the new house! I am the luckiest girl in the world.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The First Day of School

As Brenton’s third birthday approached we anxiously awaited news from the school district to determine if he would qualify for an IEP and continue his speech therapy through preschool in the district.  We had 3 separate meetings two involved testing and the final session was the determination meeting.  The whole way to the meeting the day prior to Brenton’s third birthday I did not take a full deep breath.  As we waited to hear the determination from the child study team I clenched my fists and worried that my sweet boy would not continue to get the services he needed to continue to find his words.  I worried he would stumble and that I would not be able to help him in the way he needed.  Then the lead said the words I had been hoping to hear for weeks and months…he qualifies for the program!  I let out all the air in my body with a sigh of relief.  They took notice and actually commented and I expressed how worried I had been and how relieved I was.

The news was he would start on December 2nd , a Tuesday, after the Thanksgiving holiday it would give the students a chance to regroup before his arrival.  We would have a meeting with the teacher and also see his classroom and the other students.  He would receive speech therapy twice a week just as he had been in our home for the past year and a half first with Lori until we moved and then with Suzanne his beloved “Aunt” as he called her who gave him dinosaurs and a special book for his birthday and graduation from early intervention. Even Aunt was relieved to hear he was in the preschool program and reassured us he would be just fine.

He would take the bus.  The bus?  Yes the bus.  I was assured that he would love the bus and I was confident that this would be the case, but I did not love the bus.  It was an idea that truly frightened me that my 3 year old could possibly get on a bus each day and go over 10 miles away from me each day.  I knew I would cry on the first day, but I would not let him see me.  I would smile and be excited for him and send him off with love in my heart.

On December 2nd with his new jacket, mittens, R2D2 backpack and specially selected first day snack, he boarded the bus and there were a few tears when he realized we were not coming with him.  I turned as the bus pulled away and cried until I got into the house and then called to check on him and his wonderful teacher told me when she took him off the bus he was all smiles and ready for the day. As the days passed the tears became fewer and the resistance melted into small smiles and then waves and then “Bye Mommy” accompanied by a huge smile.  It did not take long for him to get acclimated to the routine.

His teacher Miss Cheryl communicates with us daily via an old school composition book and I write back snippets about his nights or the happenings when he arrives home.  We receive updates on the week ahead and what he has accomplished each day.  She told us he quickly became the class greeter learning all the children’s names and waving as they arrived.  He also claps for his classmates when they complete a task.  These are the things I cherish because I hear it more and more how he is a warm and loving child.

He says hello and he smiles and he makes people feel good.  We have heard this from people occasionally before and now we really see our gregarious boy with his amazing confidence blossoming before our eyes.  Apparently when he gets off the bus in the morning he tells the bus driver to have a good day.  She commented that he is a wonderful child and so happy. Of course he presents us with more challenges at home on occasion, but it is wonderful to see him succeeding in a new and social environment.

He is doing so many new things.  He is saying a few small sentences.  He says please and thank you or well “doh” his word for thank you.  He is counting to five.  He can match shapes and colors.  He also pees on the potty at school.   He is singing.  He is finding so many new words and so much more confidence.  He is truly blossoming.

He is also asserting his independence.  He is willful and stubborn.  He tests us.  He pushes limits and boundaries.  He loves his brother and he shows his emotions.  He hides from us and refuses to brush his teeth or pee on the potty or put on his shoes.  He is a three year old boy.  He is full of energy and laughter and hugs and tears and so many more things.  He is complex.

He is a person not just a child and I am realizing more and more what it means to raise a person.  It is an abstract concept until you have children.  It is daunting in many ways.  I try to embrace it and do the best I can.

To me he is brilliant and special and I realize that he always will be to me no matter if he is the last to do something or the first or somewhere in between.  He is my handsome smiling happy boy that I see as he gets on the bus each day when he turns and smiles and says bye Mommy. That is the face I will remember when he is older and a sullen teenager who is embarrassed by my mere presence.  I will tell him when he gets older about his first day of school when he was 3 and how I knew then that he could do anything because he amazed me with his courage that day. 

I am grateful I get to be there each day to put him on and get him off the bus and ask him how his day went.  We play king of the mountain in the morning while we wait for the bus or chase each other around the yard or climb the tree or say hi to the neighbors walking their dog and in the afternoon I hold his hand as we walk toward the house where I have his lunch waiting.  I know these times are precious and few.  I will cherish them all as he grows up.  Each day he shows me more and more of what he is capable of and I am so proud of him.  I will carry these memories with me always especially that first day of school.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Grateful

A few days ago I heard a news story that a young woman age 32 passed away from cancer.  I did not know her but she was on television and I watched parts of her life because it was reality television. She seemed to lead a very interesting full life and in many ways has seen and done many more things than I will likely ever do.

Still it haunts me. Her death. The thing that strikes me is she was not married and did not have children. She mentioned wanting that at some point and when I was watching my two boys giggle at each other making silly faces I welled up with tears at the fact that I am so very lucky to experience these moments with my boys.

Lately I have been struggling with a loss of self that many parents of small children go through. I don't really sleep well. I don't see my friends too much. My husband and I don't get to go out on dates anymore. Still I am reminded how lucky I am.

I am alive. I experience motherhood on a daily basis in all its puke and poop filled glory. In all the tears and tantrums and very unglamorous moments where you hope no one is watching you shove the kids in the car mumbling under your breath or are on the verge of collapsing in a heap yourself after another toddler fit over attempting to pee on the potty.

All of this is erased when I think about the blessings of seeing their faces look at me or my husband or their grandparents or each other adoringly. Being pregnant and having them live with me for 9 special months. I got to experience it all with them.

Now I have bath time when they laugh and splash. There is that time on the couch watching television covered in small children so engrossed they forget they have their foot on your face. When they tug your arm and ask for some juice or a snack and you know you will get that special smile when you hand them the item of their desire.

When they clap. When they look up at you with sleepy eyes after nursing before bedtime. Rocking them. Washing their hands. Wiping their noses. Getting them dressed.

That look of surprise. That smile. That laugh. That voice. Those words only they say in the way only they say them. It is all priceless. Those moments with your children that everyone who has them gets but are unique in their own ways and no one would trade.

Looking at the lives of others is relatively meaningless when you compare yours to theirs. Every once and a while you get the privilidge of looking in the mirror at your own life and being pleasantly surprised. For all the pain and disappointment in the world I am incredibly lucky. Each moment I have is so precious. Nothing strikes me in my heart more than the fact that I am just incredibly grateful for all of it each and every day.

Big Rawr!

As Halloween approached I asked Brenton what he wanted to be. His response...big rawr. This is code for dinosaur his new favorite thing. He can say dino but why say that when big rawr is so much more fun?

Of course this was Emerson's first Halloween so he went as little rawr to match his big bro. I was lucky enough to snag a triceratops costume on my online yardsale site to go with the T Rex Rolston obtained for Brenton. They were quite the cute little pair.

He sure was excited and when Brenton really had an understanding of the candy aspect of trick or treating he was all for it. We worked tirelessly on the perfect way to say trick or treat. Usually he just said trick or the word treat. Can you blame him? I can't. He was the sweetest T Rex I had ever seen except on Halloween.

After so much excitement and even a trial run at the local library in his Elmo costume with his father the sith Lord and little yoda, he cried when it was time to put on the costume we had to hide so he wouldn't wear it out before the big day. He did not want to be a big rawr not anymore. Instead he wanted to throw himself on the floor and cry.

Well somehow I got the costume on him and he did not want to wear the hat and he did not want his brother to wear his hat either. He did not want candy he did not want anything. He definitely did not want me to take any pictures.

After all the fuss we decided maybe we should scrap it and then in that moment as if it was magic I said once more are you sure you don't want candy. It was if I had flipped a switch and the light bulb went on. He put the hat on and got his bag and said simply "yes tandy". I said I wanted to take a picture and he agreed as long as I promised there would be candy.

We set off and the first few houses there was no luck and Brenton gave me the side eye. No one was home and there was no candy. Then we ran into the neighbors we had not yet met and they have two boys. Older boys who were also very excited about candy. They were so sweet to Emerson and to Brenton as well.

It was about 3 more houses up the street when the candy promise was confirmed and then Brenton began to run with the older boys. This was quite clearly the best night of his young life so far. I have never seen such a big smile in his eyes as he ran past me to get to each new door.

Still in all the excitement he was sweet and kind. He tried to give some candy to his brother. Occasionally he was slightly frightened by the large inflatables some have on their lawns. He was brave and mostly pushed past the small fear all for the candy.

Then we made the loop back to the house and the younger neighbor boy asked to take Brenton with them to grandma's house. We said our farewells and told Brenton he could have some of his candy when we got home. He buzzed with excitement. It was time!

We spilled the bag on the table and showed him his haul. He carefully selected 4 pieces.  Kit Kat his favorite and 3 others twix, snickers and some skittles. It was such a fun night after the slow miserable start.

I was so happy watching them both still in their dino costumes minus hats and gloves. Emerson content chewing on his teether and Brenton so happy with his candy. He looked at me he was eating his kit kat and smiled and said "tandy big rawr tandy". Yes big rawr it is all for you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On the Neuse


Brenton absolutely adores his GiGi. She has a special place in his heart and not only because she lets him eat cookies for breakfast.  He asks where she is almost every day and we responded for a long time by saying she was at her house.  This was insufficient for Brenton, so GiGi explained during one of her visits that she lives in north Carolina on a river called the Neuse.

One morning GiGi explained it and asked where do I live?  And he responded “Neuse”.  It was quite spectacular to all of us and he just loves it when we ask “Where is GiGi?” and he responds Neuse.

At some point I was called to go to work in Charlotte for a 4 day training session, so we decided to make it a family affair and then head out to visit Papa and GiGi on the Neuse.  For weeks we told Brenton he was going and he was filled with excitement for the journey.  I explained he had been there before when he was about Emerson’s age and showed him a few pictures.

When we got into the car to drive all the way to Charlotte the very first thing Brenton said was “Papa GiGi Neuse”.  This would become his mantra for the journey and we would respond yes each time he said it.  He was thrilled.  We had to explain that Charlotte was first, but he didn’t care.  He was headed to the Neuse.

In Charlotte, my parents joined us and I went to work and the rest of the family went to different attractions around the city.  First was the Discovery place where Brenton got a dinosaur sword that lit up.  He watched a science experiment presentation and even sat still the whole time.  He was enthralled. Even Emerson was intrigued and was good the whole time or so I heard and saw from pictures and video shared with me later in the day.

Then it was the NASCAAR Hall of Fame!  Oh this was a place where even Rolston was able to have fun.  I have a picture next to his bed from our first time in Charlotte. Brenton in his infant seat and Rolston with a huge smile at the NASCAAR Hall of Fame.  This time Brenton could enjoy it while Emerson was in the infant seat.  In a few years we will have to return so everyone can enjoy it.  The pictures this time were priceless.  Fun was had by all while I was at work.

Then work was done and after swimming in the hotel pool and eating lots of pancakes from the free hot breakfast each morning it was really time.  We were headed to the Neuse.

When we arrived it was as if I had arrived home.  Brenton felt it too.  He was calm and it seemed as if he was comfortable immediately.  Even Emerson who had never seen the house on the Neuse was relaxed.  Papa and GiGi got Emerson his very own jumperoo.  He was spoiled from the moment he arrived and so was Brenton.  We all were. I think the reason we all felt so at home is because the house is so my mom in the decorating scheme.  It just feels like GiGi’s home.

Family dinners and relaxation and lots and lots of play time and hugs were the plans for each day.  I was on vacation after all so I deserved the break from the routine.  Admittedly I slept quite a bit on the Neuse.  It was luxurious and so warm and comfortable.

We did have a few high points of the visit.  The boat.  My father has had so many boats and going out on the new boat was so much fun for Brenton.  He even got a turn to take the wheel.  The bike.  My mother got a new bike and there is a basket on the back perfect for a small boy to fit right in.  The beach.  My parents have a small beach across from the house right on the river.  It is perfect for a small boy to dig in the sand and wade and swim in the water.

There were other things too.  The dinner with my parents friends for burgers at the Toucan.  The fallen chocolate cake that we all could not get enough of.  The coins Brenton hid in every possible cushion on the couch and in his hands and in jars and glasses and under the coffee table.  The trundle bed where Brenton slept in a real bed for the first time on his own.  Mornings spent with GiGi making “taff” which is his word for coffee. Emerson trying sweet potatoes.  It was all splendid.

We got in the car on Wednesday morning in the pouring rain and said good bye to Papa and GiGi and the Neuse.  As we rounded the corner the rain tapered off.  The sky was only crying at their house. We would miss it, but we will be back.  The plan is to return in April.  Brenton will be so happy to be back there...on the Neuse.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy

My sweet Brenton has a speech delay also known as expressive language disorder. Now at almost 3 he is really blossoming. He can not only say a word or two, he can express his emotions. It is a new world of lower levels of frustration for all of us.

A few months back we were in the car and of course he was in the back seat and said, "Brenton happy." It makes my heart melt when he tells me anything. Even when he says poop or something that perhaps parents of more verbal children would be embarrassed by, because he has come so far I am proud of him. To hear him articulate that he is happy is enough to bring me to tears of joy!

Instead of weeping and causing any confusion, I smiled and asked so you are happy and he said yes. Then something magical happened. He asked me. He said in a questioning tone, "Mama happy?"

I was so ecstatic at the prospect that he can understand what it really means to be happy, I did a little dance in my heart. It has always been my hope that we would raise empathetic children who are self aware and emotionally intelligent. The world can be a tough place but it can also be filled with warmth and kindness.

Now he is concerned with the happiness of those around him. He asks if Gigi and Papa are happy after he asks me where they are. He talks about his brother and when he smiles he points and says happy. He does what he can to get that smile from his brother. He talks about his friends. When he sees them for playdates now, he says he is happy.

I hope he surrounds himself with happy people as he grows up. I hope he finds joy in many things. Right now he loves the movie Frozen, the TV show Zou and lollipops. Visits with Gigi to see his Nana where they play in the garden, playdates with friends and even simple trips in the car can bring exultations. He smiles great big smiles about playdough, wearing the Superman costume, swimming in the pool, big hugs and eating apples and cheese. Juice on a hot day has also made him very happy or so he told me. The happiness of others also makes him happy.

As he gets older the prospects for happiness will increase and I can only hope he embraces them.  What I want most is for him to be happy. Now I can ask if he is happy and he can tell me and that makes me really happy!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Outrage

The first time I heard about Trayvon Martin I was completely and totally in a state of raw emotion and outrage. This was before the trial and before the acquittal, but my eyes were open and I was paying more attention. Then came Jordan Davis. Now it is not only at the hands of certain fearful white men with guns, but the police with the murder of Michael Brown. I have now seen a borage of articles about the clear discrepancies with which unarmed black men are killed by police in comparison to white men. In certain communities it is astounding. All this time there have been statistics that have been clearly swept under the rug regarding these incidents.

When Obama was elected, I had a rush of emotion as a white woman who loved a black man that if we were to one day have children I could look them in the eye and tell them they can be anything they want to be just like I could if I had married a white man. Recalling tears of joy streaming down my cheeks and taking a deep breath and embracing with hope the new world we lived in. I believed times were truly changing and I like to believe they still are and this time it is for the sake of the two sons I have had since the election in 2008.

Not knowing what to do with my anger and frustration that has been bubbling since Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted as the murders continue and more mothers bury their young sons, I have chosen to do my best to keep my sons safe. We moved from a place where I worried they may be in danger of experiencing racially motivated incidents. I do not wish to shelter them, but I certainly do want to do all I can to ensure their safety. In our new town they require police to wear cameras on their uniforms. A measure that should be applied everywhere, but until that happens we will have to explain the realities of being a black man in America.

Also we will have to have conversations with our children that in some ways are almost more complex than the children of parents of the same race. Not only do we have to explain they may face bigotry, prejudice and perhaps overt racism and fear for their lives or perhaps lose their lives, we must explain that this could happen at the hands of someone who looks like me. This powerful realization has brought me to my knees with the force of a punch to the gut.

I have always been open and honest about my fears about intolerance and racism and willful ignorance toward the existence of both. Not knowing how they will impact my children is very difficult. I am struggling a lot with my emotions as tensions escalate in Ferguson, MO after the murder of Michael Brown. I am compelled to speak out and ask for people to pay attention to these events. Mostly I am asking white people, my family and my friends, to read articles or to look at video of these events with empathy. Saying things like if this was your child or something similar to induce understanding and concern. Instead I feel a push back from white America where they would prefer to not be faced with these issues. Some go so far as to deny their existence overtly, but others simply prefer to turn a blind eye because it is simply too painful to believe that someone who is unarmed could be gunned down without some sort of reason.

I do not have that luxury to ignore. In this awareness I am compelled to find other mothers who have an understanding similar to mine. I know black mothers and white mothers primarily, but I do not know any white mothers of black children. I say they are black only because the world will regard them as black. No one looks at Obama and refers to him as interracial. To the world he is black.

Lately I am seeking out mothers who share my experience in a way that is deeply personal. I look for them in articles, in blogs, and on Facebook to see them speaking up in a way that makes me say…yes that is exactly how I feel. So far I have not found them, but I will keep looking. The truth for me still remains I am a white mother to black children. I am afraid for them, saddened by these events and most of all outraged!