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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why Parenting Two Different Children is Like Running Two Different Races

"Let's race," you propose as we are on our walk.

Your big sister eyes the trail in front of you both. There are twists and turns that are sure to trick your feet, and there are hills that will tire your muscles. But nothing can quite tire your spirit. And your big sister has a big heart, but she also really likes to win.

"Whoever wins gets to decide the movie we watch tonight, okay?"  Your big sister looks down at her legs, suddenly aware of her advantage.


And just like that, you are both off -- on the same path but on totally different journeys.

The rocks scattered before you both may look different, but you will each understand the character and fearlessness it takes to face your own obstacles.

You may skin your knee. Your sister may scrape an elbow. But you will both learn about the enormous amount of strength and commitment it takes to stand back up and keep going.

Your hills may be taller; hers may seem smaller. But you will both realize that no hill is a match for the drive and determination you each possess within yourselves.

One of you may reach the finish line before the other -- heart racing, muscles aching, hands lifted in victory. But you will both know the beauty of accomplishment in your own time.

And today, before you both could reach that finish line, you stop. "My legs hurt, sissy! I'm tired" You shout at your big sister who is now far ahead of you.

I watch your body slowly turn to jello as your shoulders droop down in exhaustion. Your big sister stops her sprint, turns around, and hoists you on her back.

Even though you are on different journeys, more than once your paths will intertwine.

Today, you crossed the finish line together.

#hypotonia #sisters

On Bed Sharing

The little one crept into my bed in the middle of the night and slowly inched me to the very edge. She flipped and flopped and tossed and turned. She threw an elbow a time or two. She kicked her legs. She twirled my hair in her fingers. "I love you, mommy," she said, and she sighed a big sigh, looked at me and smiled, and drifted off into sweet sleep.

The big one snuck into my bed as daylight broke.  She tiptoed in and quietly closed the door. She struggled for a small square of covers to call her own. She kissed her sister's forehead and gently held her hand. She closed her eyes, spread her limbs out as far as possible and fell asleep just like that.

And there I was with one leg off the bed and one leg on, one arm numb and the other sore, entirely exhausted and somehow completely satisfied. I laid in the stillness of that room, until they began to stir, wondering how someone who can take up so much of your bed can also take up so much of your heart.


What My Daughter Will See When She Looks at a Picture of Me

It is a sunny, breezy, uncharacteristically non-humid, Midwestern summer day. We've spent the afternoon exploring the county fair -- looking at crafts, listening to music, and petting horses. As we walk back to our car, my daughter slips her hand into mine. A strong breeze blows as the sun kisses our skin. My husband fumbles in an attempt to quickly snap a picture of this very moment.

There are many things about the mom in the picture that I don't necessarily like. In fact, I normally wouldn't even share a picture like this. But I'm so thankful my husband took the time to take it. Because someday, my husband and I won't be here, and my daughter may look at this very image in an attempt to remember us.

And you know what?

She won't comment on how thick my thighs are or how soft my stomach looks or the width of my hips. She won't remember what size jeans I wore. She won't care about how flabby my arms may be, and she surely won't be bothered by my double chin.

Instead, she will see a mom who is truly happy.  Who smiles in her prescence and laughs loudly and without apology. A mom who wouldn't want to be anywhere but there, in that very moment, holding her hand as the breeze dances around them.

And she won't mind the blurriness -- not one bit. Instead, she will remember a dad fumbling for a phone because he loved her and her mom so much, he took the time to snap the picture.


In Celebration of Big Sisters

"She thinks you hung the moon," I tell you as she reaches for your hand to cross the street.

"She thinks I what?" you ask.

"Hung the moon. You're the best thing  since sliced bread. The bees knees! 🐝 She thinks your awesome."

"Oh, that's nice," you reply. "I am a pretty great big sister."

And it is true. It is so very nice to mean that much to someone else, and you are a very great big sister, but you are so much more.

You are her happy when she is sad and the comforting hug she needs to keep going.

You are the ready smile and assuring words that encourage her to try something new and master something she never knew she could accomplish.

You are her willing playmate when the other children ignore her on the playground.

You are her voice when others don't understand her, and you are a constant source of love at times when she thinks she is unlovable.

You are her strength when her mind and spirit want to keep up but her body cannot.

You are the finder of things that are still too high up for her to reach and a soft place to land when she is tired.

You are the light that guides her when she is lost and the hand she holds when her feet are on unsteady ground.

You are the keeper of her secrets that she whispers to you at bedtime.

You are her protector when she is scared of monsters under the bed and the first face she sees in the morning light.

You are the calm to her wild and the quiet voice of reason to her spirited soul seeking adventure.

You are the giver of piggyback rides, the cause of belly laughs and the reason she squeals in delight.

You are the peaceful place she can retreat to when the world and the people it in become too much for her to bear.

Dear child, you are so much more than just her big sister.

And I can only imagine how special it must be to be the hanger of the moon for someone who I know means so much to you too.

#hypotonia #siblings #sisters #bigsister

To the Lady at the Library Watching My Daughter's Meltdown

Today, I took the girls to our local library's storytime like I do every Tuesday.  They enjoy the elevator ride up to the top of the library where all the children's books are stored. They love snuggling next to one another on worn carpet squares as stories about frogs and princesses and super heroes drift around them. They get a kick out of checking out their own books with their very own library cards. "We are like big girls, mommy," C tells me each time she reaches her hand into the pocket of my purse to retrieve her library card.

But, today was different.

In the middle of storytime, C had a meltdown. It started with tears. I swooped her up into my lap, doing my best to comfort her. Screaming soon followed. The eyes in the room shifted from the librarian to us. I knew that was our cue to exit.

I carried C to the elevator doors to remove her from what was bothering her and hopefully calm her. As I reached for the elevator button, she started hitting me and managed to slip out of my hands. She ran to a bookshelf -- still screaming and threw herself on the floor.

That's when I saw you. Seated on the couch near the elevator, you looked up from your book, and your gaze met mine for a moment. If you've ever tried to lift a child with low muscle tone from the floor while in the middle of a meltdown, you know it is next to impossible. So, you saw me kneel down next to my daughter.  For a few moments she was inconsolable. I even asked her if I needed to call her therapist to talk to her, because I was lost and all alone. You watched me calm her to the best of my ability, and once she was calmer, you saw me sternly tell her to stand up. "You have two choices," I said. "If you feel better we can go back to storytime or we can go to the lobby, but you can't scream and ruin storytime for everyone else." She pointed that she wanted to return to storytime, and she calmly did just that.

But, I saw you as we walked back to our seats. I saw the look you gave me, and it made my insides crawl and tears well up in my eyes. I tried my best to brush it off as the girls and I made our crafts and looked at books.

I had almost completely forgotten about you until we ran into you again as we were stepping into the elevator. We were all in good spirits; I smiled at you as you left the elevator that we were walking into. You didn't smile back. In fact, before the elevator doors closed, you actually turned around, faced me and stared again.

Your stare broke me. And as the elevator doors closed on your stare, I felt doubt sink in. Maybe I didn't say the right thing to my kiddo. Maybe I should have been more comforting. Maybe I should have been more stern. Maybe I'm a terrible mom. Maybe we shouldn't have even stepped foot in the library at all today. Hindsight is 20/20, right?!

I did my best to hide my tears from my kids. As I drove home, I kept trying to unearth the meaning of your stare. It unnerved me. It made me question myself. It felt judgy.

But I like to believe people are good. That no one would condescendingly stare at a mom who was obviously trying to do her best or judge her if her best wasn't good enough.

Instead of staring in judgement, I like to believe that when you first saw me carrying my child to the elevator door, you were thinking, "I've been there. I've done that. I know how this feels. You're doing good, mom."

And when you watched my daughter melt into a puddle on the floor, I like to think you said to yourself, "I wish I still had a little one to sit next to on the floor and comfort and wipe away tears. You're doing good, mom."

While you stared on as I helped my daughter stand back up, make her choices, and rejoin the group, maybe you thought, "Setting boundaries isn't easy, and going back to a problem to fix it isn't for the feint of heart. You are both brave. You're doing good, mom."

And maybe none of these things were the reason behind your stare. In reality, maybe you were just judging me.

But, I'd like to think that as we met at the elevator, you looked at us to say, "Today may not have been perfect. That's okay. You don't have to be perfect. That's okay too. And your kid doesn't have to be perfect either. That's even more okay. You're doing good, mom."

And as those elevator doors closed and you turned around for one last look, I hope it was to wish us well, "Motherhood isn't easy. You will stumble, and you will fall. Just keep trying. Always keep loving. That's all that matters. You're doing good, mom."

#hypotonia #momlife

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why I Correct Other People's Kids at the Playground

Talking to another mom friend the other day, I unleashed something I have been keeping secret since I became a mom myself: I correct kids on the playground -- my kids, your kids, other random kids who may need correcting.
It wasn't until the other weekend at the park, when I realized I was a "kid corrector." C has always been rather intimidated by the playground. Climbing and sliding have never really been her thing, and for a kiddo with hypotonia, that totally makes sense. However, the other weekend, she actually climbed to the top of the playground. She waved to me, smiling and giggling uncontrollably.
There were only two ways down -- the steps she had just climbed up or an enclosed spiral slide. I held my breath as I watched her make her choice. She pointed hesitantly to the slide, and I did my best to force a smile. I wasn't sure how this would go, but I've been trying hard to not let my own fears and doubts about her abilities affect her from trying new things. She walked over to slide, as if preparing to go down, but stopped.
It took me a minute to realize why she wasn't on her way down -- a group of bigger kids had set up shop in the middle of the slide and we're refusing to budge. No one could go down the slide.
Sure that the kids would eventually tire of their spot or overheat from it's sauna-like qualities shortly, I encouraged C to come down the steps and promised her we would try the slide again.
But they didn't.
Other kids tried to use the slide but were also unable -- the big kids screamed at them that they "better not come down." It was like they had squatter's rights on the slide.
I watched as little kid after little kid walked away from the slide defeated. I secretly hoped some bigger kid with some super strong legs would go down the slide and knock the whole lot out, but a quick glimpse around the playground left me less than hopeful.
It had been at least 10 minutes, and with no bigger kid in sight, I went to the bottom of slide and -- in the best teacher voice I could conjure -- told them to get off the slide so other people could use it. Slowly, one-by-one, they exited the slide making sure to avoid eye contact with me.
One mother on a bench gave me a smile and a thumbs-up. Another gave me a dirty look. I get it. Correcting other people's kids isn't popular -- especially at the park. But before your totally disown me, hear me out.
I am not forever hovering with my megaphone correcting kids. I am all for kiddos resolving conflicts on their own, and I fully embrace that accidents can and do happen...or I'm learning to at least. But when I see a teachable moment, I am prone to seize it. Maybe it's the non-stop mom in me or maybe it's the teacher in me who has had too long of a summer break. Either way, my intentions are good. My corrections aren't meant to offend.
The truth is: I believe it takes a village. If I correct your kid, isn't because I think he is terrible...or even worse, you are. It's because I value our village. I want to make it stronger and kinder and more accepting. I want you to know you aren't alone in this whole parenting gig, and I want to know that maybe I'm not alone too. Yes, you can correct my children.
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While the park playground is a place for kids to be free and to play and to explore and to make mistakes, I still believe that parents need to be active facilitators and encourage appropriate behaviors.
In today's climate a simple glimpse at the comment section on a Facebook post shows the amount of hate spewing out of those around us. I have also met my fair share of adults who believe they can say and do whatever they please and are above any repercussions. I don't think teaching our children to be respectful and considerate of others is too much to ask -- at home and at school.
Why not start on the playground?

11 Signs Summer Is Drawing to a Close

If you live in my neck of the woods, then you are fully aware summer is quickly coming to a close. There is only about four weeks left till school is back in session. How do I know? Well, it isn't because I glanced at my overpriced Erin Condren Life Planner or because the back to school items are spilling out of their homes on the shelves of Target and Walmart. I know summer is almost over when:

1. I don't know what day of the week it is, and there is absolutely no way I can tell you the date. Maybe I need an Erin Condren planner after all?!
2. I can't recall the last time I gave my kids a bath...unless, of course, swimming in the pool or running through the sprinklers count?!
3. I've been wearing the same t-shirt for the last three days, and I don't care who knows it.
4. My go-to beauty look is a highly disheveled ponytail and an ample amount of sunscreen. Okay, the t-shirt, the ponytail is also probably about three days old.
5. I contemplated feeding my kids Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner. Again. Enough said.
6. I no longer care how I look in a swimsuit. That start of the swim season when I feel super self-conscious has passed. I'm officially Tyra Banks catwalking it like a boss...chasing after two kids at the Splash pad.
7. I forgot what time bedtime is supposed to be, and my kids are totally taking advantage of it.
8. I've pulled out all the stops, done all the summer fun summer stuff, vacationed, and now my kids are entertaining themselves with an empty vacuum cleaner box.
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9. I've watched every episode of "Fixer Upper" on Netflix and Pinned no less than 110 home improvements. None of which I have actually completed...much less attempted.
10. I no longer respond to "mom" or "mommy" or any other variation of the word.
11. I've seen at least five teacher friends lament the arrival of back to school commercials and ads on their social media pages.
And while I understand their disappointment that all good things must come to an end. I won't lie. I'm kinda ready to head back to school. Because I know -- as well as anyone -- that in-between Parent-Teacher Conferences and Field Trips, state testing and early mornings, math homework and after school activities there is the promise of another beautiful summer just over the horizon. And that's more than enough for me.