in june 2010, our lives got turned upside down in the best possible way: the birth of our awesome kiddo, john. in october 2013, brother charlie charged into our life to change the status quo again. i'm proud to have "mom" at the top of the list of titles on my resume, but i'm also still a hard-working professional. how does a working mom juggle work and family? ride along with me and see if i can figure it out!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

light is beautiful

these boys in their "boats."

i'm not going to lie: there are days when i go to bed defeated and exhausted. there are days when i feel like there is no way i am possibly up to being the mom of these two boys, and also a wife and a professional and a friend and whatever else i am. those days are rough.

today, though - today is NOT one of those days.

these boys rocked my world today, and i couldn't be more grateful. daddy's at a football game tonight, so i've been "single parenting" (in big ol' fat quotes because i can't pretend to know even a piece of what that's really like).

this is not a coherently themed blog post. it's just a collection of stories of ways my children amazed me today.

#1: light is beautiful.
after charlie and i dropped john off at school this morning, we were cruising the additional mile or two up the road to charlie's school. we were talking about his friends, and the stuffed dog he was holding.

and suddenly, he says in a dumbfounded voice, "mommy! light is BEAUTIFUL!"

and i looked to the east, and there was a gorgeous bright sunrise. and a huge arch of a cloud sweeping across the expanse of the sky, reflecting gold.

charlie was spot on: the light was beautiful. 

and if my two year old hadn't pointed it out, i might've kept my traffic/stoplight/life blinders on and not ever glanced to my left.

thanks, charlie.

#2: good days, report cards, and more
john had a great day at school today - another day with just a star on his calendar, and no mention of rules broken or behavior reminders needed. in fact, when his teacher helped him into the car at pickup, she said, "another great day! i think this might just be the way things are now!"

i am sure they won't ALL be good days. but this is 10 (count 'em) in a row, and we're going to go ahead and celebrate that.

more to celebrate: it was report card day. and john's was way better than i expected. they don't do grades, of course, in kindergarten - just checks for skills used independently, and asterisks for "emerging skills." and he got almost all checks. and several of the asterisks will already start being better as his use of his hand improves, as they are writing and writing-related things.

but the report card wasn't the best part. the best part was the note from his teacher that brought me to tears. a note to john. that said that his smile makes her day, and that she's so proud of him for working hard to learn and to follow the school rules. that she is glad that they are together in kindergarten.

and i know she wrote a similar type of note for every child, because she's a great teacher and loves her kids. but damn. i might just frame that note.

#3: celebration time
after we picked charlie up from school, we decided to go to chick fil a for dinner and to play on their playplace. the boys had a blast. they played well with others, came out of the play area when they were overwhelmed (there were some big, loud, brash kids in there for a while that might've overwhelmed even me).

and charlie got brave, climbing the stairs to the slide with the big kids, exploring the car elevated in the air, and crawling happily through the tubes.

but then charlie tumbled in the tubes and banged his lip. he was bleeding. not a lot, but he was crying.

and a little girl they were playing with came to tell me charlie was crying. but before i could get into the door, john was up the stairs to help his brother. he found him, he held him and helped him stop crying, he wiped the little bit off blood of his face. and then he held him in his lap and they came down the slide together, john's arms wrapped protectively around his baby brother.

in that moment, they were both at their best. brave charlie, trying new things and dealing with the licks he took. hero john, compassionately looking out for his baby brother. both of them handling what was to them a challenging situation, with aplomb and love for each other.

these boys. i am so grateful for these boys.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

my amazing john

spelling his sight words with cereal

so much of the "public" attention i've paid john lately has been about our challenges - how to cope with sensory processing disorder, how to behave in kindergarten, etc.

but every single day, john reminds me what a blessing he is to me. he has a perspective on life, and the world around him, that brings me into focus. he has a way of saying things that changes me and makes me better, every single day.

last night about ten minutes after he'd gone to bed, i heard a slightly angst-ridden "mommy?" from upstairs. expecting a normal "i need some more water" or "my sheets aren't straight," i went to check on him.

instead, he explained that he kept hearing "the mountain king" song from his music class in his brain. the sounds his diffuser made were "changing into the music" and it was a scary song and it wouldn't go away.

i immediately understood, because his brain is a small version of my own. "oh, john," i said, "the EXACT same thing happens to mommy. all the time, the sounds around me turn into music in my brain. there is nothing to be afraid of," i assured him.

i explained to him that the cool thing is, since the music is in his brain, he can control what it is. i laid with him in bed and we invented new, cheerful songs to the sounds of the diffuser. i told him that i hear music everywhere, and that it's a special way our brains organize things. we find patterns in things, and it makes music in our minds. i told him that if he sang the cheerful song to himself as he fell asleep, he'd be dreaming sweet dreams in no time.

"but i WAS asleep when i heard the mountain king song!" he said.

so i explained that there's a tiny place in between sleeping and waking, where our brains can have crazy dreams. i told him that very frequently, in that little gap, i dream that i'm walking on a curb and i fall down, and i jump myself awake. 

we laughed at the idea of jumping in your sleep. but then in a very concerned voice, john asked me, "but mommy, why is my brain's one eye open when the other one is closed?"

so we talked a little about how there's just a very brief moment when your brain is partway but not all the way asleep. and i showed him with my eyes how they can close a split second apart, but that in that brief split second is where we have our falling-off-a-curb and mountain-king-song dreams.

john asked me to stay with him a few minutes longer, and we snuggled and sang the cheerful songs along with the diffuser. then he told me i could go, and pulled his covers up to his ears "to keep the scary songs out," and within moments he was fast asleep.

it never ceases to amaze me, to experience these idiosyncrasies of my own brain through the lens of his innocence - and his precociousness. my brain is a strange place, and it seems the landscape of john's mind is similar to mine ... with the addition of my husband's idiosyncrasies, too, he says. that's a lot in a special little brain.

i am so grateful, though, that john can ask these questions, and he and i can walk through it all together. i am so grateful for the opportunity to understand myself a little better as i help john understand the world.

and i am grateful for the sweet little voice that whispers, "you're the best mommy ever" as he pulls his comforter up to his head.

Monday, October 26, 2015



in the video above, charlie is dramatically re-enacting a fall that never actually happened. see how deliberately he steps on the cup he didn't actually trip over? and tumbles to the ground he didn't actually land on?

we've been talking about drama a lot in our family the past couple days. here are a couple of things we're in agreement ARE drama:
  • yelling really loud when you barely bump your toe
  • screaming at your brother when he takes a toy you were playing with
  • pretending to cry when you don't get what you want for dinner
  • grunting at a parent who won't cave in to your every desire
  • squealing "mommmmyyyyy" at the top of your lungs from the playroom because you want some water
if you thought little girls had a corner on drama, i can assure you they do not.

on the plus side, when we talk about drama, there is usually some laughter to come. as in the video below ... where charlie dramatically re-re-enacts a fall that never actually happened. 


now that giggle is a sound i could listen to all day long.

Friday, October 23, 2015

dancing monkeys in jammies

pajamaed monkeys ham it up.

it's friday. are you dancing yet?

i'm dancing. not only is our whole family maybe finally getting over the various cruddy illnesses we have had for the past two weeks, but ... drumroll please ...

john had another great day at kindergarten today. for those of you not keeping track as diligently as i am (which is, you know, like the whole world), that's SIX straight days of awesome. which is a NEW RECORD. and i'm dancing.

i'm also dancing because of that little pup on the left in the pic up there. his conversations on the way to school in the morning make my day so much brighter.

yesterday, he told me all the things he misses when he's at school: "i miss my couch. i miss my chair. i miss my elle belle." but then he paused. "i ... see my friends? see amy? see halle? see 'livia? i have GREAT day!" what a skill, to talk yourself out of an i-don't-wanna-leave-the-house funk.

and today was a singing day. he brought his little puppy dog who sings a bunch of children's songs, and he kept making the puppy sing "head, shoulders knees and toes." and as he sang about his toes, i danced. i'm still dancing.

happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

my OWN fireman

this kid ...
on sunday, we paid a much overdue visit to see our friends at the eight house fire station in mckinney. the b shift guys were the ones who delivered charlie two years ago in the back of their now-retired ambulance. (see charlie's birth story here and the story of our first visit to the eight house here).

it never ceases to amaze me how happy these guys are to see charlie - and their hospitality extends to john, too. the boys got to play ping pong in the bay of the fire house, get on and off the ambulance and fire truck, turn on lights and ring bells. every time, charlie's firefighter "uncles" give them hats and temporary tattoos and just seem to be so happy to see my boys.

and two years later, i am still so grateful that i had the support of the b shift that crazy day. i think often about how charlie's birth story could be one fraught with isolation and fear. i was, after all, in the antiseptic back of an ambulance with strangers - all men - and without my support network.

but a birth can be beautiful even when nothing about it goes to plan. i will never forget these guys cheering me on in between contractions, and telling me i could DO this. i felt lifted up, even though it wasn't the way i expected it to go.

a great fireman named matt was the one to catch charlie, and the first face charlie ever saw in this world. he checked out my baby and handed him to me so i could hold him the rest of the way to the hospital. our lives were in the hands of these first responders who took such good care of us. and it is the coolest thing ever to get to know them more, to let them get to know charlie as he grows, and to know that it meant something to them, too, to be a part of charlie's grand entrance.

later that day, charlie said to me, "mommy, matt my fireman. my OWN fireman."

we'll have to work on that possessiveness sometime - you know, when he's not two. but for now, it tickles me that on some level charlie knows how important matt and the rest of the b shift guys are to our family.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

what success looks like

he's a handsome little sucker.

a disclaimer right up front: i am SO PROUD of all of my friends whose little kindergartners and other young ones who are sharing their kids' academic and citizenship successes after the first quarter of school. please don't read any bitterness into this blog, because i feel none. i am excited for your straight a's and certificates, and i leap for joy at how well your babies are adjusting.

in fact i always figured i would be that mom - oh, like my friends, i would tone it down and not be TOO ridiculous. but i'd be trumpeting the great grades and awards. my kid's hands full of stickers and signs, grinning ear to ear at how well he's performed. he's smart enough, after all, and a hard worker and a sweet fellow. of COURSE he'd be in the top of everything.

this summer, when we were discovering john's sensory processing disorder and just beginning to understand how it would impact him, a good friend said this to me:

"you will learn that a good day looks different for john than it might for other kids."

and she was right.

john's academic report wasn't great this quarter. he's got the brains, for sure - but his behavioral struggles, not to mention his still-not-fully-recovered dominant hand, mean that even if his kindergarten gave letter grades, i doubt he'd have a lot of a's to show for his efforts.

he's gotten a referral or two. he's spent time in the principal's and assistant principal's offices. he's lost his "wow sticks" for blurting out in class. he's hit friends. he's used inappropriate language. he's struggled to listen when he is supposed to and do as he is asked.

so what can we celebrate? what does success for us look like?

SO MUCH. we can celebrate so much.
- just yesterday, john had an amazing day at kindergarten. that makes two in a row. who knows what today holds, but we've had two AWESOME days.
- his hand is recovering fast. he's writing more and better. his handwriting will improve, so his writing and language grades will go nowhere but up.
- the percentage of good days is getting so much higher. and he wants it to be even higher. he is working hard and knows the things he needs to do so he doesn't get into the "yellow zone" (a descriptor for the body state where he is in fight or flight mode based on his sensory issues)
- on the occasions when his strategies aren't quite enough, the length of time he spends in the yellow zone is getting shorter and shorter. he gets it together faster. that's huge.
- this kid is a READER. he loves to read and reads me hard books in addition to the early readers they're working on for school. i am SO PROUD of his reading.
- he's also a math whiz. he has trouble during that time of day at school and his performance there doesn't always show it - but he comes home with amazing skills every day. he's learning. and he loves to learn.
- and perhaps the biggest one of all: he has a community of love and support around him. his teacher, the counselors at school, the administration, his therapists - he has a team of people who love on him and lift him up and celebrate his successes and help navigate his tough spots.

so no, i don't have awesome grades and certificates to share with you just yet. but for john, success looks a little different: it looks like that happy kid at the top of this blog, wearing the button down and coat that he chose for picture day, excited to engage in another day and dancing down the stairs telling me "i'm going to have another five star day, mommy!"

THAT is a good day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


this guy right here ...

i tell a lot of stories on this blog, sharing ups and downs of these two beautiful blond boys we’re lucky enough to share our lives with. and there are lots of stories to share, because they are active and awesome kids who make us laugh and cry, make us rue our weaknesses and be so proud of our strengths.

no stories today, though. today i want to talk about transparency.

there’s a strangeness to the era of social media. we share the most intimate details of some parts of our lives, yet edit heavily to portray the “best” of our selves.

but the best of our selves is truly that we are human, and multifaceted, and dimensional – that we do not fit into happy smiley boxes of vacation pictures and beautifully decorated walls and immaculate homes and elaborately cooked meals. (tho there is nothing wrong with any of those things – but we are more.)

shew, that’s an elaborate preface for a little blog entry.

(another little preface here: i'm writing all of this from my point of view and with my emotions. please know that i am not alone. my husband is hand in hand with me on this journey, and struggling with his own emotions about it. i would not presume to write his perspective, but rest assured we're in this very much together.)

i've been pretty open that we’ve been challenged with john’s behavior lately. the behavioral tendencies he’s battled for the past year or so at school have escalated intensely in the past month. what used to be periodic episodes of anger or frustration expressed through yelling or inappropriate silliness have turned into near-daily bursts of rage and uncontrollable behavior.

between incidents - and the majority of the day - he is still my sweet, mannerly, engaging, charming john. but in the two weeks previous to this one, he was removed from his classroom twice for removing his clothing and urinating in class; twice for throwing blocks or toys; once for throwing chairs; once for hitting a parent and younger sibling there to pick up a friend. his school and teachers have been supportive and amazing, but there is a limit, and he is near to being asked to leave.

thursday morning was the breaking point, for me. john had another incident early in the day. usually his tough times are afternoons, but the excitement of the fourth of july parade they were doing or the visiting parents or the birthday party for america or SOMETHING overwhelmed him, and they called me to come get him.

there is nothing quite like entering a daycare in tears against the tide of preschoolers pouring out for their patriotic parade - their teachers happily shuffling them along, their parents snapping pictures and cheering, their red white and blue paper hats and signs fluttering - to hit home that your child is not ok.

my child is not ok.

that's a terrible thing to say out loud.

i made a tearful call that morning to john's behavioral therapist - we just started seeing her three weeks ago - and told her what was happening. i had a conference with the school scheduled for 2pm, and i feared that john was done. the therapist listened - they're great at that - and suggested i go ahead and call an occupational therapist for an evaluation of john. she hears a lot of things in his behavior that suggest sensory processing disorder, and an aval with an ot would help identify the issues and start the development of a plan for john.

later that day, i had the tough conference at school that they wanted john to take a week off of school until that plan was in place. they would then allow him back and they are willing to do anything recommended by the occupational or behavioral therapists to help ... but if things don't improve, he will be disenrolled.

my child is not ok.

i have spent the past several days beginning to make peace with the fact that john is not "normal." there are big quotes around normal, because who is? but there are degrees, like with everything, and MOST kids are never in danger of being kicked out of pre k. MOST kids have temper outbursts but don't throw chairs at their friends. MOST kids don't have to have a cadre of therapists helping them figure things out.

and that's all ok. it really is - and intellectually i recognize that with that coaching and assistance and the toolbox we're building john will be just fine. he'll grow to be "normal" or whatever passes for it - i am no expert on that!

but in my heart, in my soul, i am crying and rending my clothes. because my beautiful child is not ok. my amazing little boy is not ok right now.

and i do feel guilt about even thinking that, because there are kids out there who are way less ok than john. his condition is not life threatening. he is healthy and well. he is (presumably) neurotypical and able to recognize his behaviors and learn coping mechanisms and be fine. and even if he wasn't - those non neurotypical kids are ok too! he's alive. he's running and jumping and laughing.

but as my friends will remind me that i tell them all the time - it's not a competition of who has it worse. this is our path and it's really hard right now. i'm struggling. john's struggling. our family is struggling. and you know what?

that's ok. 

that's part of life.

so instead of sharing a pinteresting craft or an amazing dinner idea, i am sharing this: my child is not ok. i am not ok. but we will be, and your love means the world.

i'm gonna finish this up on a brighter note. let's count a few amazing blessings:
1) my oh-so-flexible work from home job with an amazing dear friend as my boss means i can make this work - i can shuttle to appointments, work with my husband to cover john's week off of school, and still crank out some great work in the quiet moments
2) my oh-so-supportive husband who is on my team and is my partner in all of this and loves these kids with all his soul
3) my funny smart john whose company i cherish even in these rough spells
4) my funny smart charlie who chugs along happily with our family (and has thankfully fully recovered from his viral rash from last week)
5) the resources and drive that our family has to seek out the help that john needs
6) the friends who love us and understand when i don't return calls or schedule meetups or manage to shower on a given day
7) the parents of john's friends who still see the good in him and want to arrange playdates with my son even though he's going through a tough spell

i could go on and on. 

we will be ok.