February 2012 archive

18 Months

Dear Abraham,
When you were born, an innate love for you was born at the same time. There were plenty of days that I didn’t like you and I wasn’t even sure that I could be a mom; maybe this had all been a huge mistake. But the love wasn’t ever in question.
Today you are 18 months old. A year and a half. And there aren’t enough words, enough letters on this keyboard, to express how much I love you. It got bigger. It’s become a part of my DNA. You’re in my bones. And when I’m not near you, you’re still there…like we’re still attached without the physical. It’s pretty much the most overwhelming feeling I’ve ever experienced. So thanks, for that.
You are interested. Interested in everything. You take your time and examine your surroundings and the subjects around you. You already demonstrate a propensity for liking things, “Just so.” I wonder where you get that from?
You love cars. Real cars, toy cars, matchbox cars, any kind of car. You will spend 30 minutes in the garage just inspecting every square inch of the cars we own. And, obviously, you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty.
Being outside is the greatest. If you are inside for too long, you tell me. If you could spend an entire day running in grass, exploring dirt, or eating leaves, you would do it. I have to leave the front door open and the porch gate locked so that you can wander in and out as you please during the day. Your dad and I are having a separate fence gate built in the back yard so you can wander freely back there, too.
Contrary to your father and I at younger ages, you love books. You bring us books to read and, sometimes, you gather up a few and sit on the dog beds to “read” them to yourself. We hope you continue that love of books and stories, as it now plays such a huge part in your dad and I’s life.
Animals! You love animals! We went to the science museum and you weren’t even particularly interested in the hands-on sciency type things. You wanted to hang out in the reptile room to watch the snakes! You loved your first visit to the zoo and every dog or cat you meet is your new best friend. Just remember to be gentle.
I could go on and on about your smile that lights up your whole face, you words that are just starting to creep out (“eat!”), and your willingness to go with just about any flow. You learn so quickly and practice often. I think my favorite time of day is when I pick you up from school and walk with you to the car. You seem older each time I get you. You eat well, sleep well, and play hard. I hope you do that forever.
Congratulations on becoming a little boy. As I tell you every morning, I love you too much. And always will.


Challenge – Climb (out) Part 2

(First of all, you read what happened while David and I were climbing, right?)
…I walked into my first PowerYoga class and felt pretty good about the fact that I was going to do well. Yoga’s a friend of mine. We go way back.
Of course, we hadn’t talking in about 2 and a half years, but it’s fine. We will just pick right up where we left off. We always do.
Hmm. Kinda warm in here. I double checked the schedule to ensure I didn’t walk into a Bikram class. Nope. Normal, plain old PowerYoga. Weird. Still very weird how hot it is.
Why is everyone putting towels on their mats? Is this a new Yoga thing they started doing since I’ve been away?
I neatly laid out  my mat towards the back of the class. I’m new here and feeling a little like a sore thumb with just a mat and no towel. I’m not going to tread on someone’s front-row turf, you know? It’s rude. If I just waltzed up to the front…
“It’s Erin, right?”
“And you said you’ve done yoga before, right?”
“Is it cool if I move your mat to the front of the room? Just to balance it out in terms of numbers.”
“Uuuummm suuuure.”
Oh crap. I have no idea what I’m doing. I haven’t done any of this in so long – there is no WAY I can hang at the front of the room. But there goes the instructor, with my mat. To the front of the room. Allllriiiiight.
I started following along the instructor’s pose-calling, because she wasn’t really demonstrating but rather calling out pose after pose. She had a very pleasing voice so I didn’t mind her technique, and sometimes they way she drew out her 2’s made me smile. “Hold it for three, twoooooooooooo, one aaaaand relax.”
About 15 minutes in to the class I felt sweat down my back. Niiiice. I’m sweating. I’m clearly working hard. New body here I come!
Another 15 minutes and I was literally drenched. Water was pouring out of my body. Aaaand that’s why everyone brought towels. Because it’s 90 degrees in here and this is POWERyoga. POWER. And because I have short hair I automatically assumed I wouldnt’t need some sort of hair clip or band. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
So by the end of the class I was a mere puddle on the floor, but I did it. I completed the class and I felt energized and, frankly, really proud. This is the beginning of my reclaiming my body. First climbing and now walking out of a PowerYoga class alive.
Later that night my husband suggested I try CrossFit. A newcomers class began the coming week and I could join to learn a little more about how it all works. With no gym membership and no real commitment to climbing or yoga, I agreed it might be a good idea to try something with a little more regularity. Now it’s about to get real…

Side Note About the Climbing

David and I had to take a belay class to learn how to control each other ropes (and keep each other from falling 30 feet to our deaths) before we started climbing. We took it with one other guy who didn’t appear to be very talkative. I later started assuming he actually didn’t speak English very well. He followed along and seemed to understand all the directions so it was no problem for the instructor.

The last step was to belay each other within the class for practice. David belayed me, I belayed the other guy, and the other guy got up to belay David. It was suddenly as if the other guy NEVER took the class and this was his first time ever actually using his arms in front of other people. David was strapped in and ready to climb when he turned around and saw what I can only assume was the most terrified look ever to cross my face. He gave me the “what?” look and I nodded towards New Arms over here trying to figure out how to hold the ropes. I looked at the instructor like, “Seriously? You’re going to leave my husband’s life in this guy’s hands?” All the while, New Arms is flipping the rope around while the instructor repeats, “Grab that part with your left hand. Your left hand. Left. No, your left hand…”
“Is he, um…”
“He’ll be fine,” the instructor responded while New Arms discovered yet another way to incorrectly hold the rope. “Remember, you were doing fine before, just hold it like you were when we started…” New Arms literally started shaking. SHAKING. Sweat started dripping down his cheek. If my eyes could have gotten any bigger I would have popped them out, handed them to New Arms and asked, “Do you see yourself right now??”
It took a good 5 minutes of New Arms treating the ropes like they were reigns with a wild horse at the other end before he got himself situated. David climbed while I held my breath and the instructor kept a close hold on New Arms because our $15 day pass didn’t mention anything about paying for our medical bills.



Challenge – Climb (out) Part 1

So I read a blog about eating primal (grain-free) and about a guy who changed his life by doing so. He also found an exercise routine he loved – climbing. I told David then and there that I was going to join the local climbing gym and become someone who climbs. It’s a full body work out, stretches your brain as you think in mid-air, and encourages relationship-building as you trust whoever is at the other end of your rope.

Six months later I hadn’t even Google-Mapped the gym.

And a year later, I felt really stupid for even having the thought that I was going to be some big, bad climber.

Until Groupon had a special.

I bought the Groupon and told my husband we had surprise plans on Sunday. We showed up at the rock climbing gym and I can’t really explain to you the anxiety I felt watching these people in the lobby strut around in harnesses, their junk all pulled up to the top of their pants, and looking like they just found the secret to all of life’s happiness in the other room. IN-TIM-I-DATING. We took a short class in order to learn how to belay each other, and we were off. I faced the first wall and started climbing like I knew what I was doing.

I didn’t.

I struggled, I panicked, and I constantly forgot that someone was on the other end of that rope ready to catch me if I fell. My heart started pounding, beads of “you’re-totally-freaked-out” sweat started forming on my temples. My vision blurred a little bit and I truly panicked from my soul. It wasn’t the heights. It wasn’t the fear of failing. It was a strange, visceral of fear of….mortality? I still haven’t put my finger on it, but I got hot and cold and fast-breathey when I hit the floor. I told David I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it again.

I held David’s rope as he climbed and smiled. I watched little kids scurry up the walls without any trace of anxiety. Overall it was pretty humiliating. We sat on the floor for a few minutes until I worked up the courage to try a kiddie wall. I waited, behind a line of children, and when I got to the front of the line, a little kid cut me. I’m not kidding. Finally, it was my turn and I took it before another little scrub could grab the hook. I climbed pretty easily and without concern to the top. A little bit of confidence found it’s way into my head and I kept going. Wall after wall, I got more and more comfortable. With my husband’s support, and encouragement from the floor, I found more courage than I thought I had left for the day. I finished the day on such a high it was unbelievable.

I’ve been wanting to get my body back into a shape I’m happy with and climbing felt like one way to do it. I’ve always enjoyed yoga in the past and when I saw a PowerYoga class at a studio near my home, I signed up for my first class. I never tried PowerYoga before…

Ooh La La!

I listened to a guest named Pamela Druckerman on NPR this morning talking about her new book, “Bringing up Bebe – One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.” It was fascinating and the entire interview I pictured myself sitting next to Pamela nodding and saying, “Mmhm! Oh, yes! Interesting! I love that!” She and I are friends now.
French parenting is a little like the French diet crazes. While suddenly people thought they could eat croissants all day long, in truth, it was all about balance and moderation. Pamela said the first time she took her toddler daughter to a restaurant in France, she was shocked to see children all over the restaurant sitting and eating. There was no arguing or deciding between menu items. Kids weren’t making messes or being distractions. They were simply a part of the dining experience, seated with their families, eating and talking. She was embarrassed as she tried to encourage her daughter to eat the only thing on the menu she agreed to try, white pasta, while watching other children her age eating vegetables and fish and blue cheese! (As it turns out she later learned her own daughters loves blue cheese.)
She soon gathered from a French mommy group that the French assume most healthy babies will sleep through the night between 3 and 4 months of age (go ahead and vomit now if you spent a moment beyond 4 months praying to the sleep gods to show mercy). There’s no such thing as a sleep regression or a cry-it-out method. They sleep in all the varied situations we do (family-bed, separate sleeping spaces, separate rooms, etc.) but somehow they just decided their kids would all sleep and then they do. And that’s it. I haven’t read this book but I can’t wait to get it to find out how much wine they put in the bottles to achieve this affect.
The biggest difference Pamela pointed out was the way society views children and childcare in France. Daycare and nannies are subsidized by the government for moms who go back to work. Pre-school is free from the age of 3 and it’s very good. And none of the schools focus on education in the sense that we do until the children are nearly 6! That’s right, kids aren’t reading when they’re 2 in France. Instead, they focus on social and emotional intellect. They help them understand how to entertain themselves, make conversation with adults and peers, and function in society day-t0-day. Pamela foolishly brought a giant bag of toys to the park for a play date with another French mommy, who of course brought nothing but a blanket, a ball, and a magazine to read while her daughter entertained herself. She was more concerned that her child find a way to have fun without toys that analyzing and learning how to use complicated ones.
I think this is true of many Western European countries: they’re just more aware of balance in general. We in America have an inborn desire to be the best, make our children the best, assume some kind of rank in terms of motherhood. I know I feel it. And of course I want Abe to be smart. But I want him to be a pleasant human being first, with a general respect for the world that turns without him. And I want to survive motherhood without losing myself!
My favorite quote of the interview: “The French view is really one of balance, I think. … What French women would tell me over and over is, it’s very important that no part of your life — not being a mom, not being a worker, not being a wife — overwhelms the other part,” Druckerman says.
Ready everybody? Saaaay BALANCE!!!


Sometimes I get asked to speak at high schools about developmental disorders. (Bet you didn’t know I actually have a degree in something, did you?) Today I was talking to juniors and seniors about Autism Spectrum Disorders. And as I walked around the circle of chairs I set up for my presentation, I cracked up at all the kids’ comments and questions. They were smart, interesting questions but most of them started with a jokey face or a, “So like um…” and then everyone laughed. It was so refreshing.
Then I realized that, someday, my itty bitty teeny weeny still needs me to change his diaper baby is going to be that old. I mean, the first 18 months flew by. Do that a few more times and I’ve got a 7 year old. Talk about how fast the 7 years went and I’ve got a high schooler. And suddenly my baby boy is going to be sitting in a psychology classroom watching a presentation by a 30-something woman and I’m going to be 45!!! WHAT?!
Look at that kid. That’s what Abe is going to be like, I’ll bet. Tall and smart and…Nope, wait…he’s falling asleep. Wow, falling asleep sitting up perfectly straight. That’s kind of amazing. 
Oh, the funny one! That’s the funny kid! Abe is funny, I wonder if he’ll be the funny one? And this funny one is particularly funny!  Good on ya, funny one! Listen to him cracking intelligent jokes about…ok is he making fun of me to his neighbor? Rude. 
Now this strapping young man, he has Abe written all over him. He’s obviously a baseball player, or a swimmer. Participating in the conversation, making eye contact, oh I just love this kid. Wait, is that…does he smell like that or is it the kid next to him? Ok, well, Abe can’t be the smelly kid so that’s not him…
I had these daydreams as I talked about whether Abe would be tall and have the curly mop on his head, or shorter and wearing a preppy cardigan, or the class clown who forgot his homework but everybody loves anyway. And I don’t mean to get ahead of myself but I just couldn’t help imagining that Abe is going to grow up and have one of these personalities while I’m busy getting old.
I picked Abe up from preschool after I was finished speaking and saw my smiley-faced happy boy sitting at the miniature table in a miniature chair eating cut-up grapes with a little friend. He gave me a HUGE hug and then guided me around the room, showing me how he plays with different toys. We walked together, very slowly, to the car and then chatted all the way home, mostly about dadas and babas. I’ll bet those high school boys didn’t go home to their moms and show them around their back packs or their cars. They probably didn’t even talk. I’m going to miss this little boy when he grows up.
This is going to be over really fast, isn’t it?


Today, my dogs got out of control. I finally lost it and I shouted, “SIT! JUST SIT DOWN BOTH OF YOU!”
My son began screaming from another room. He’s been sick for a few days and hasn’t had his usual energy so this surprised me. He screamed all the way to the foyer where I stood in front of the dogs. Then, he sat down between the two dogs and looked up at me. Because I was shouting, “Sit.”
Then, as if the cuteness factor wasn’t high enough, he said, “Seet.”
I paused because I was completely nauseous from how unbelievably adorable and smart my child is. I asked, “Sit? Did you say sit?”
He did a sitting floor dance in a circle and then, once again, announced, “Seet,” and then smiled.
Top it. I dare you.

Find Your Tribe (or) I Can’t Handle to MOSH Alone

This is an actual transcript of text messages between myself and a mommy friend (I’m calling her Eunice because, why not?). We try to get together once a week with our boys. It’s a great example of how IMPORTANT your tribe is. Without mine, I may never get out of the house…
Wednesday Night
Eunice: What do you want to do tomorrow? Here or there or someplace else?
Me: We can come to you and then maybe to the park or a walk? I dunno what fun stuff do you guys like to do?
Eunice: That’s fine with me. We aren’t really very much fun at all.
Me: Aah, I see.
We should go to MOSH (Museum of Science and History) one day. Is that expensive?
I just looked it up. $10 for adults, free for the kids.
Eunice: Yes we should! I’ve never been there. Only dropped families off there.
Me: Judging by the pictures there doesn’t look like there’s a ton of stuff the boys could break there.
Eunice: Sounds great.
Me: Thats the main criteria I use to judge  whether or not we visit a place. They open at 10am. Should we try it??
Eunice: Sure, why not? I usually judge activities by whether or not I know how to get there. And I know how to get there.
Me: Double win! I’ll text you around 9am to make sure neither of us have chickened out.
Eunice: Super duper.
Me: I was supposed to have a pap smear tomorrow morning but I cancelled it. MOSH can’t be worse than a pap, right?
Eunice: Oh god hopefully it beats out a pap.
Me: Yeah. I’m sure it will. Although I have a great OB.
Eunice: It’s amazing how I used to have panic attacks about pap smears and then after childbirth it’s like, “Anyone else need to take a look before I take my feet out of the stirrups?”
Me: Ha! Right?!


Thursday Morning, 7:15am
Me: We were up all night with molars. He’s going to pass out way too early for MOSH. Let’s just go to the park or something. Maybe eat an early lunch?
Eunice: Sure. What time?
Me: Shoot me in the face o’clock.
Seriously, I have a conference call at 9am so maybe 9:45? Which park is good?
Eunice: Doesn’t matter. We can go to the same one as last time.


Thursday Morning, 8:15am
Me: Ok, so there’s a remote possibility that I’m completely irrational and over-reacty before I’ve had my coffee. I’m a cup and a half in and think he might be find going to MOSH. If I ever text you before 8am again, just respond COFFEE.
Eunice: If we go and either one of them get cranky we just leave. No big deal. We are both mothers of the always unpredictable toddler. You still want to meet at 10am?
Me: I’ll take a shot or something so I’m tolerable.
Eunice: Ha! Let’s do it now so we’ve had it in our systems for an hour or so before we go. That way I’ll be tolerable, too.


Pulling in to MOSH
Me: There are 6 school busses here. Not exaggerating.
Eunice: Oh shit. Another one might be pulling in now.
Me: FML.
The moral of the story? We went. We dragged our drooly, loud, unruly children through MOSH with about 300 of their closest elementary school aged friends. And we went to lunch afterwards. There were many moments throughout this conversation that could easily have led us to call off the whole day, and if I was making the decision on my own I can PROMISE you we would have stayed home and Abe would have been miserable. This is why we all need tribes. Because when you face taking your 18 month old to the Museum of Science and History, it’s much easier to do it with a friend.
And a shot of Cuervo.

Results – Round 2 (PCOS)

After waiting weeks for an appointment I finally got in to see my nutritionist. He was all a flutter, like a kid on Christmas, waiting to give me the results. He dove in, describing hormones and physical processes the way one would their first trip to a carnival. “And then, we went on the ferris wheel and when we were at the top it stopped and I wasn’t sure we would ever come DOWN! but we did and then this man asked me to guess his weight and I guessed wrong but he gave me this goldfish and…”
The results of my spit and poop test lasted for 10 pages, lots of graphs and numbers. I could go through each page to tell you what all the figures meant but you would be bored. If you’re an old reader you’ll recall my reactions when I learned I had PCOS…it was a basic punch in the face. This felt similarly. My husband looked on as our nutritionist read off page after page of information deeming me completely broken and abnormal in every category. There is no hormone or hormone-producing organ in my body that works correctly. My cortisol, my progesterone, my hippocampus, my thyroid, my adrenal glands…The levels were all wrong and the even the ones that were right weren’t that right. All the while my nutritionist was thrilled, which was both terrifying and reassuring. He did find that I had some extra gluten antibodies floating around my body that suggest I have some difficulty with gluten but truth be told, it’s not clear that the gluten is the problem. It is more clear, more reasonable to believe that I actually have an autoimmune disease that causes my hormones to go haywire; or haywire hormones that have caused an autoimmune disease. We can’t be sure which came first. And we can’t be sure when it all started. Maybe it’s genetics? Maybe my body experienced a trauma and went off-kilter. When he finally finished his 45 minute monologue about my body and all that is wrong with it, he asked me if I had any questions.
Hmm. Yes. Am I going to die and can you save me?
It was at this point he noticed my concern. “This is nothing to be worried about. We can deal with all of this.” The look on my face told him that two sentences could not erase the hour of fear-invoking big-word language I’d just endured. “Look, you had all of these issues yesterday. Today you just know about them. And there are all types of things I’m going to propose we do.”
He proceeded to offer me a 9 month plan of supplements that will give my body a break and help it to reset itself so that, by the end, I won’t need any supplements at all. He cited several other cases like mine he’s dealt with and the success he had. And to be fair, since I started working with him in October I’ve had a regular period every 34 days (UNHEARD of for a woman with infertility and/or PCOS). So something he’s got me doing is working.
I agreed and began a new regime this week. It’s more supplements, some creams, and more avoiding gluten. The results more or less exhausted me and left me so depleted that I woke up with a cold the next day. Which of course reminded me of my auto-immune disease. Overall I’m feeling nervous and scared, but hopeful that the next 9 months will provide better numbers, prettier graphs, and me feeling like a new woman. Maybe a new woman who can eat bread, wouldn’t hurt.

Bloody Murder

I’ve been reading lots of Dr. Brazleton lately (http://www.brazeltontouchpoints.org/) trying to figure out who this child is that moved in last month. He’s really kind of rude, not to mention self-centered. And he never cleans up after himself.
Abe has been getting straight A’s in preschool so far. He gets a daily “report card” and he shines all day while he’s there. He loves every activity and even attempts to nap. He’s a wonderful boy in school for all of his teachers, which is why it is so puzzling to me when he comes home and screams his face off in my general direction until bedtime (and then sometimes long after). He’s excited to see me when I pick him up, babbles all about his day on the way to the car (to which he walks now while holding my hand because his teacher lovingly reminded me, “He’s not a baby anymore, he doesn’t need to be held all the time.”), and he sings or hums all the way home in the back seat. What’s more? He’s even thrilled to reunite with his dogs, petting them and snuggling them when he gets home.

Bloody. Freaking. Murder.

It’s not until I get ready to feed him that the screaming begins. It’s the kind of screaming that goes straight to your ear drums, through your skull, and into your eyeballs. Everything gets blurry unless you close your eyes, and even then your brain goes blank and you have to take a few deep breaths to regain your balance. If you already have a headache, you have to excuse yourself from life and try again later.
Did your child do this?!
I ran to Dr. Brazleton, pleading with him to give me a sign that this was (how could it be?) normal! As always, he obliged, telling me that not only is it normal, it is a blessing and a gift to me as his mother. I graciously thanked him, closed the book, and went to sleep.
Back in the 18-month-old section of Touchpoints I re-read this obviously mis-written section. As it turns out, children at Abe’s age store up their anxiety and frustrations to share with only those with whom they are closest. Abe doesn’t yet feel comfortable showing his true colors to his teacher, Jingle (not her real name) ,and therefore waits until he’s home so that he can tell me all about the things that he had trouble doing or didn’t understand or frightened him. I guess this is, in fact, a good thing. I don’t want my teenager going out into the world and taking out all of his anger and frustration on teachers either.
I’m also proud and honored that I am already a safe place for Abraham. I want him to know that no matter how bad it is, he can come home and tell me all about it without judgement. And, in essence, this is what he’s asking of me right now. Just let me come home and feel safe enough to let it all out. Only, “letting it out” doesn’t happen with words yet. It’s just screams.
This has not made my head hurt any less. My eyeballs still vibrate when he shrills. But I don’t feel nearly as frustrated because this is my first opportunity to show Abe my unconditional love for him. I’m setting the stage for the conversation we have when he calls me and tells me the study group he promised he’d finish with by 9pm is in fact a rager and he needs me to come pick him up because his friends got too drunk to drive. He’s going to make mistakes and I’m going to be there to support him every step of the way. And also ground him.
And I have an economy-sized bottle of ibuprofen. So we’re good there, too.


1 2