Taking the risk

My girl lost the student council president election. I received a phone call at 7:40 AM as I was taking my morning run. The phone call came up from my husband. I answered assuming it was him. Instead, I heard a sobbing daughter and the following words:

“I lost, mom.”

I should have been ready. I knew she would find out today. I also had an inkling that she may not win. She was up against a girl in her class who made a good speech about being responsible and a strong leader. She also has an older brother who graduated last year and was well known by students in the school.
But I wasn’t ready because deep down inside, I just kept hoping that Ri would win and that we would not be having this conversation. I remember learning about this “wait and hope” mentality when I was learning to be a facilitator at Ohio State. It is a default thought process I go to often. Let’s not delve into what could be painful or difficult conversations now with the hope that the difficult conversation won’t have to happen. Well, inevitably, the situation arises.

So here I was abruptly stopping my gait and trying to resurrect words of consolation to Ri as cars zoomed past me. My heart ached for her because I knew how much she wanted to be president and how sad she was about losing. I did not want to discount that sadness by saying something like “it’s not a big deal – who cares about being president” or “people are stupid – they should have voted for you” – although those were all responses that were coming into my head most immediately. But I took a breath and went in a different direction. I affirmed what she was feeling and simply stated that it had to feel crappy to get this news. But after listening to her for a few minutes, I told her this:

“You should be proud and hold your head high that you went for it. You ran for president when many people would be too scared to do so knowing that they could very well lose the election. You took the risk. That is where you won.”

I really believe that, too. I know even as an adult I have avoided certain challenges because I was scared of making a fool of myself or scared of not coming out on top. It takes a lot to dive into the waters and put yourself out there. She should embrace the strength she had to even take on the challenge.

I will talk with her in due time about what she can learn from this matter. Was there something more that she could have done to prepare? Could she have thought about her speech more and went in a different direction? Are there things she could ask her friends about what they liked about her friend’s speech over hers? This can take some courage because you are going to hear constructive feedback, but it is absolutely necessary in order to grow. You will need the ability to hear such feedback as you get older. Again, something I continue to struggle with – knowing the feedback is constructive and not a slap in the face. It is the only way to excel.

But for this morning, I will simply give her hugs and reaffirm my pride in her simply going for it. Girlfriend needs to feel that power, that strength, in putting herself out there. She needs to understand that is a trait that will be so important for her in years to come.

It is worth it

Nothing more tender than having your son cuddle up against your side, place his head on your shoulder, and flip the pages of the book as you finish reading them.

Never mind that the book is “It” by Stephen King….

That’s right. My 12-year-old son is enamored with horror films and now, it seems, horror books. He doesn’t necessarily love the gore and slashing in them; rather, he seems to enjoy the storyline. At least that is what he seemed to focus on with It. I still remember having to turn on all of the lights when he came home at 10 PM from seeing the movie with a few friends. He asked if he could tell me about the movie; we sat down in our living room. I was preparing to hear about all the blood and the screaming and the disgusting scenes of death. But instead, he described every detail relating to the characters in the movie. He talked about choices they made and why they made them based on their past experiences. He described the characters’ personalities. He described scenes so precisely you felt you were there. I was amazed.

Mario cannot wait until the movie comes out on Netflix so we can watch it together. I have zero desire but cannot resist his pleas when he flashes that grin.

His teacher mandated last week that he read a fiction book. He has been reading nonfiction with me. Last night, I told him that I would run to the library and pick out some good ones. He immediately requested for me to get It. When I asked the juvenile librarian where the horror section was, she looked at me quizzically.

How old is your child?

I hesitantly replied 13. I was hoping that maybe adding a year to his age would get me in better graces with her.

Well, she grimaced, I think you may like these books.

She handed me a book with two young kids on the front cover. They were each wielding a sword with a horse behind one of them. I could tell from the picture that there was no way Mario would be interested. The other two books were part of a series that had a fanged creature on the cover. They, too, weren’t gonna do the trick.

I start to doubt my mothering skills when my son is not interested in books that most kids his age and even older are reading every day. Right or wrong, we have allowed Mario to watch and discuss mature films and issues, and there is no going back. I snuck upstairs after I checked out the books the librarian recommended so I could find It. Turns out, It is the size of a small child. Over 1000 pages.

When I arrived home, I called Mario down to review the book selection. As I surmised, he was not at all drawn to the three books provided by the librarian. Rather, he was fascinated with It. He acknowledged, nonetheless, there would be no way he could read the entire book in three weeks. He calculated out the number of pages he would need to read per day and he was not willing to do it. But that didn’t stop him from asking to read a few pages with me that evening. And although I hate horror films and books, I was happy to sit with my boy and have that time together. Even if we were about to dive into blood and gore.

Pain is your professor

Sometimes it just sucks being a mom.

Maria decided to go out for class president. She has been working on her speech and answering questions as to why she would want to be president for two weeks. A few evenings ago, she found out that the speeches were being made the next morning and that the four other classmates she was running against were bringing in donuts and candy. We made a last minute run to Big Lots to get Ziploc bags, tons of cookies, laffy taffy, and bubblegum.

Earlier in the evening, she printed out the names of all of the people in her class and made a tally of (1) who would vote for her; (2) who may vote for her but may vote for another classmate; and (3) who would not vote for her and would vote for another classmate. She chatted about her tally sheet with Jon the entire way to her PT appointment. He was impressed with her polling skills.

She also spoke to some of the girls in her class and determined that they would actually listen to the speeches and vote for the candidate who who would represent them the best. As for the boys, she determined that they would simply vote for whoever bribed them with the best treats. Hence, why she overloaded ziploc bags with cookies, laffy taffy, and gum.

We sat in the kitchen stuffing the bags while reviewing her speech and making tweaks to it. Her theme earlier in the week had been to ensure everyone felt safe at school. However, she changed her theme last minute because another girl had the same theme. I’m not sure if that girl had the theme long before Maria or Maria had it first but no matter what, I knew it was too late in the game to question her decision to change. Her new theme was that everyone should have a voice at school. She promised if she became president, she would make sure to listen to everyone and work on implementing classmates’ ideas to improve the school. She also talked about wanting their freshman year to be a lot of fun (because she has so much fun at school and wants to spread the joy). She only had under a minute to make her speech so she couldn’t get into too much detail. After numerous tweaks, she felt comfortable with it and rehearsed it several times to make sure it was under one minute. She ended her speech with a slogan she created while walking through Big Lots earlier in the evening: “Vote Maria, its a great idea!”

She snap chatted with her two girlfriends (heaven forbid they call each other) to confirm they would pass out bags with her during the morning before school.

I think she believed she would win. She seemed confident in the morning when she was making her breakfast. I told her she would do an amazing job and to just make sure she looked up from her paper and made eye contact with people. Jon and I both thought she had a good chance of winning as well.

I got a call from her an hour and a half later. I thought she was calling to tell me that she made it through her speech since the night before she had told Jon and I that she would not get the results until the day after her speech). When I clicked over from my other call to talk to her, all I heard were sobs.

My heart sank.

I thought she was going to tell me that she made a horrible speech but instead, she told me that she did not get the presidency. She could barely get out any other words to me. I tried to soothe her. I reiterated how proud her dad and I were for her running for the presidency and how this will make her stronger in the long run. I told her to be gracious to the winner. I reiterated again how proud we were of her throwing her hat in the ring. I did not want her to stop taking risks based on this loss.

I heard some girls’ voices in the background as I continued talking to her and realized she was standing in the bathroom stall. I asked if her friends were around her. She affirmed they were. I advised that she lean on them for support through the school day. She agreed. We both said “love you” and she hung up.

OK, my first instinct: slap all the kids who did not vote for her. Second instinct: tell her all the kids that did not vote for her are idiots. Third instinct: ask for a revote.

Fourth instinct: take a chill pill. Replay the Glennon Doyle podcast in your head.

Pain is your professor.

She will grow from this incident. It will make her more resilient and wise. There is conflict between the desire to protect your little one from pain and the desire to have your little one takes leaps and bounds while on this earth. But it is impossible to protect from pain so my role is to help her understand that pain is growth. Pain is not a bad thing. Pain is her professor.

Jon called me later in the day and told me that he had called Maria at lunchtime. Of course, I had tried to call her several times and she did not answer the phone. But when her dad calls…. She told him that she ended up in second place and that she would still be a representative on Council. He said that she sounded much better.

Of course she did. She is building that resilience.

Armpits

One person’s sweat stains are another person’s armpit hair. Huh?

This is going to be my new idiom if someone confides in me about being embarrassed in a situation. My 14-year-old self came back in full force on Monday night when I attended Maria’s last dance club session. It all started with the parents being called out to the cafeteria floor to dance with their kids. The first dance involved some type of shuffle moving eight pieces to the right and then eight paces to the left and then kicking your legs and then swirling your hips. I, of course, got all into it (but without being over-the-top – sometimes I hoot and holler as I’m dancing). We ended the dance with a couple of fortnight dance moves, which the dance instructor found hilarious watching the parents perform. Something came over me and I was able to crank out the orange justice like a master. When the music stopped, the dance instructor spoke into his microphone:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this mom here in the green sweatshirt has done the best orange justice moves I have ever seen!”

Yes, he was talking about me, and Maria wanted to die. She put her hands against her face and shook her head. After the shuffle, the instructor placed the parents and kids into three big circles. He started the music and called out for a female or male student or female or male parent to go in the center of the circle and dance. He called a few students first and they went in the middle and did random moves that everyone else mimicked. Then he called for a female parent. Somebody pointed at one of the moms who is very timid. She shook her head no over and over again. My one girlfriend who loves to dance as much as I do whispered to me that we should go out and dance with her. Without hesitation, we both ran out to the dance floor and pulled her into the middle. We proceeded to do the Arnold dance moves and the Saturday Night Live move. Then we held our hands high in the sky and did some type of crazy jump step move. The dance instructor called out for a father to go in the middle of the circle so me and my girlfriend skipped back to our places on the outer rim of the circle. Maria winced when I stood next to her.

“What?”

“Mom, you have sweat stains in your arm pits and everyone saw them.”

My heart dropped to my knees. There I was standing at Golf Manor pool with my friends as my mom walked in wearing her string cotton bikini and sporting her 6 inch long armpit hair for all to see.

I left Maria’s side and jetted to the bathroom. Yep, sure enough, there were my big pit stains as I raised my hands overhead. That is what happens after 15 minutes of dancing. Hell, I probably had them after the first minute. I took off my green sweatshirt and wrapped it around my middle. I had a black long sleeve shirt on underneath which did not show the stains. I always come prepared. I left the bathroom and went back to the outer rim of the circle to stand by Maria. She looked appalled. I immediately felt it and left the circle to stand with Jon. After that dance scenario, the instructor told everyone to get ready for one more fast dance sequence. As Maria walked over towards Jon and I, she mouthed “go home.” Her words were a knife stabbing me in the heart. I was both hurt and pissed. Jon was just pissed. I told him we should leave, but he kept a level head and said that we were going to stay (but he was not going to talk to her the whole way home). We stood there glaring at her as she moved with her classmates to the music. She knew she had crossed the boundaries.

The instructor turned on one last piece of music – a slow song to end the night. Maria came over to Jon and I and asked if we would dance. Jon shook his head no. A few of my girlfriends were calling me onto the dance floor and in order to avoid a big scene, I walked over with Maria. We all danced together and made small talk but when music ended, I walked away.

I had told Maria that she would have to walk home with me since she didn’t walk to the dance, and I held her to it even though I was mad at her. She apologized over and over again as we walked towards the house. I didn’t accept her apology or deny it. I just listened to her and walked in silence. I knew I was heavily affected by the exchange based on my own experience with my mom when I was her age. Of course, I was also not happy with her conduct towards us, but I could understand it having once been a 14-year-old girl in a similar situation. I knew she did not intend to be mean spirited; she was just reacting in the moment with all of her friends by her. She has always been one that is quick to embarrassment by her family. I can’t blame her at times with how unfiltered we can be.

We went into our separate rooms once we got home. I turned on some music and folded laundry. About 20 minutes later, Maria peeked her head inside my bedroom. I knew right then and there that I needed to give her a hug. We embraced and I started crying. And crying. Maria sat me on the bed next to her and we talked. We talked about my experience with my mom. We talked about how embarrassed she gets at times over me and Jon. We laughed. We hugged again. Then Mario walked in and said something ridiculous, and we added him to our embrace.

We all walked downstairs to grab a snack before bed. Jon walked in from his office and stood stoic in front of Maria. She apologized for telling him to go home. He gave her some crap for a minute or two but then he apologized, too, for embarrassing her (according to Ri, he had talked with, and jabbed at, the boys in her class for too long of a period of time and ate pizza that was for the kids).

Mario enjoyed the whole show laid out in front of him. However, he will be in the same boat in two years when he does dance club. I’m going to make sure to wear a pastel shirt so that the sweat stains are everywhere.

Ri ❤️ DC

Maria loved her eighth-grade trip to DC. She loved it so much that when she walked through the back door (after Jon picked her up from the school bus at 10 pm), she was bawling. I thought something had happened to her and glanced back at Jon to get some insight. He gave me a little smile and shook his head. Then Maria fumbled some words out amidst sobs:

“I will never have that trip with my friends again. I didn’t want to see it end. I want to be back in DC.”

This girl. She loves these types of gatherings – big groups of family or big groups of friends hanging out and talking. Meg and I had just been talking about this the other day. She was talking about how she tends to like being with one other person and not a big crowd. Jon is like that as well. I can really go either direction but tend to be more spirited when more people are around. There is no doubt about our girl though. Her joie de vivre is in direct correlation with the number of people around her. So, this trip to DC with 80 of her closest friends smashed together on a few buses infused her heart with joy. She absolutely had a blast.

When she finally settled down after heading upstairs has washing her face and getting on pjs, she came into our bedroom and laid next to Jon. She could have probably talked for the next two hours about everything they did. She gave us a brief snapshot of going to Gettysburg, going to the mall and eating with her friends, hanging out on the bus and eating their snacks. She had the widest smile in all the pictures we saw of her on Instagram.

As I put her to bed that night, I told her that she had quite a gift. She felt deeply – to the core – and that meant she could feel immense joy and love in her bones. I told her that some people don’t ever get to experience that. I also told her that because she felt deeply, she would also have to accept that she may feel negative emotions deeply, also, like the sadness she felt as she entered the house crying. I stated I’d much rather feel it all then not.

Mario and I tried to cheer her up the next morning by making her eggs, bacon and toast and playing a game with her. She gets cheered up around a big group of people; I get cheered up having just a little bit of time alone with my two babes. The moments are far and few between anymore with as much as they have going on and as many things as they want to do … with their friends. Maria was so dejected from having to come home that she didn’t even have the energy to object to a walk to the woods with me and Mario. She eventually began to come back to life only after she realized that she still has another six months as an eighth grader to hang out with all of the friends who went to DC with her.

She was so excited about the thought of going to the farm over the weekend because Meg and Dad we’re having a throng of family out to celebrate Jack returning home from Sweden. Sure enough, when I arrived, I saw her playing with a couple of the young kids in the corner. Her smile was nearly as wide as it was in the DC picture.

7th grade dance

Maria mentioned going shopping for a dress for her seventh grade dance about a month and a half before the dance. Our weekends have been replete with Mario’s basketball games and Maria’s soccer games. We finally found a Sunday to shop. We decided to hit IKEA first to buy a couch we’d been wanting for six months, and then head over to the mall. But Ikea drained the entire family and none of us wanted to go to the mall, including Maria. She was willing to find a dress on the Internet rather than brave a shopping center (our type of girl). She perused the Internet off and on and reported nothing back to me. At some point, I realized we only had another week or so before her dance.

“I’m not spending $45 on shipping fees, Maria. So you need to find a dress in order for it to get here on time.” Sigh.

She found two black dresses off two different websites that I had never heard of before. She sent the sites to me and at 10 PM one evening, I got on the sites. They were ones that infiltrated you with 20 different advertisements while you were trying to check out of the site. They also wanted me to add my email address and personal information several times over. I was getting a bit concerned with the validity of the sites. But, I did not want my girl to stress out about a dress so I continued plugging away. After I completed the sales on both sites, I received email confirmations. The confirmation for the dress that Maria really wanted informed me that although they shipped within two days they may not have the dress for another couple of weeks. Are you kidding?! They did not tell me that information as I checked out, of course. The other confirmation email confirmed that it would arrive “soon.” Seriously? I spent the next hour trying to cancel my orders but had no luck. Frustrated, I searched for the dresses on Amazon. Why did I not look at that before I made the order? Amazon had the exact same dresses and I could get them in two days. I ordered them at midnight. What we do for these kids of ours.

Amazon came through, and we received the dresses two days after I ordered them. Maria loved one of them. She made a video for me trying both of them on and sent it to me while I was at work. It made my day. The dress she liked was classy. Black, off the shoulders, knee-length. Thank goodness. Jon and I are relieved not to have to worry about short, tight skirts and dresses at this period of time.

Two days before the dance, Maria, Mario, and I drove to Target to try to find black shoes. No luck. We tried two other places with no luck. We ended up back at Target. Maria pleaded for some stilettos but compromised with me on a pair of chunky heels. I bought her a little silver chain with a silver ball in the middle; I told her the ball represented the ball of energy she carried everywhere she went.

The day of the dance, Ri got her hair done at a salon. I had said no way to the request but Jon caved. He knew my horrible hair styling skills and felt bad for Maria. After her styling session, three of her girlfriends came over to eat pizza and get ready.

Maria allowed me to do her nail polish. Wrong move. I couldn’t even get that right. We had to have a girlfriend of mine reapply. She did cave in after the nail polish debacle and allow me to try her make-up. I succeeded on that front because she only wanted minimal application. I could handle that.

Next thing we knew, the girls went from Saturday morning chill wear to glamour red-carpet wear! Were these our baby girls?!

They we’re so excited to go to the dance. However, they wanted to keep their cool so they asked me to drive them around so that they would be dropped off at 6:38 instead of 6:30 when it started. Hilarious. Sure enough, there was a group of boys sitting at the picnic table when we drove by doing one of our loops. They were thinking the same thing.

I got a call at the end of the dance informing me that the girls would walk home. When they arrived, much to Maria’s dismay, her girlfriends told me that she danced with a boy. The boy being the boy that she has been friends with since she was in third grade. His nickname is Cookie and he is the sweetest boy in her class. They had video of the two of them dancing to the last song of the night. Again, hilarious. I liked that they were arms distance apart….

The night did not end for them, however. I had agreed that I would take them to a 10 PM movie. I dropped them off in their PJs. They said the movie was awful but they had a blast drinking their Icees and eating their cookie dough treats.

Good riddance December 

This girl is a total freak. She had been looking forward to getting her tonsils out for the last three months. Jon took her to the ENT in September to get her nose looked at after she broke it, and during that consultation the doctor told her that she could get her tonsils and adenoids out. She had been wanting to hear that advice for years. Our primary care physician had referred us to an ENT when she was much younger and that ENT had told us that surgery wasn’t necessary. He told us that we should keep an eye out for any increase in strep throat infections, and any issues with her being able to sleep at night. Well, she hasn’t got a heck of a lot more strep throat infections, but she does not sleep well at all.  She wrestles around through the night and snores quite a bit. So, when she and Jon went to the ENT for her nose, she brought up her desire for the surgery. Jon does not have the concerns around surgery like I do so he went right along with it. They returned home waltzing through the door with a brochure about the surgery and a date for it – November 27. The date was a couple of months away so I did not think anything more about it. I figured we would all forget about it and there would be no surgery. But as November rolled in, she got more more excited about the surgery. She brought home a piece of paper from school that I needed to sign setting forth the days she would be absent. This is when it really hit me. Were we really going to go through with this? I am not a fan of drugs, surgeries, anything invasive to the body so I was very hesitant to agree it should move forward. However, after tons of google research and numerous talks with several of my go-to family members, it seemed fairly harmless to do now and much more problematic if we waited until later in her life. The ENT had told her that she would likely need a week off of school. Jon and I both translated that to mean Maria would be off at the most one week but would prv ably only be off two or three days. Maria is a machine when it comes to healing quickly. 

As the 27th approached, I had more and more hesitancy of going through with the surgery. I just did not like the thought of Maria going under. And I worried that nothing good would come of it. Was she really sleeping that poorly? Were taking out her tonsils and adenoids really help? But, in the end, I deferred to her wishes. And in the end, she was right. But in the beginning and in the middle, Jon and and I were regretting our decision.


Maria post – operation. 

She actually came out of the procedure in  a jolly, irreverent mood. She did not seem that drugged up but in retrospect, Jon and I could see she was pretty loopy. She would take a while to answer a question to where it seemed she was trying to think of a funny answer but then she’d say something out of the blue. Before the operation, she asked me to make videos of her. So, I took out my phone and began the video. She had some gems for us. Jon and I looked at each other after a few minutes and both thought “this is our girl, goofy as always and taking the surgery like a machine as always. She will probably be up and ready to go tomorrow.” 

She switched off belting out tunes on the way home and sleeping. A good little patient. We got her home and she laid in bed watching TV and sucking on Popsicles. She didn’t make any ruckus; she didn’t call on Jon and I hardly at all. This is going to be a piece of cake, we thought. She slept well that evening, too. Machine! The next day, she felt a little sick to her stomach but was still in good spirits. She didn’t want to eat much so she continued with the Popsicles and abided by Our charge to take sips of water every hour. I even went to work for the afternoon and left Jon with her. He reported that she didn’t need much – an occasional new glass of water or a popsicle – but most of the time she was fine watching her TV and working on some homework. I thought she may even be able to go to school on Wednesday! 

She woke up on Wednesday feeling about the same as Tuesday. She definitely was not heading to school but at least she was still not in excruciating pain and dehydrated, like I feared may happen based on my google research. We told her that she should continue to rest. I set up some books and homework for her and headed off to work again. I called in to see how she was doing and she reported that all was fine. I came home from work that evening and she looked pretty good. Her lips were a little parched so I told her to drink more water but other than that, we continue to have a great patient. I still held out hope that she may be able to get to school by the end of the week

Then all hell broke loose. It just took us thinking that all was good in order for all to turn. She could not sleep on Wednesday night. She was up several times complaining about her throat and her ears.  I gave her medicine and rubbed her back. It sucks that the only magic for those times is to hold them and tell them that it will get better. It breaks your heart. She woke up on Thursday morning still feeling awful. And so it began…. five straight days and nights of her being absolutely miserable. Her ears killed her. I called the nurse and they told me to continue her on routine heavy pain medication with Motrin (we had slowed the heavy duty meds because I did not want her to get addicted – yes, I’m the freak). We did that for 24 hours but then she got constipated from the heavy pain medication. Her stomach absolutely killed her. I had a speech to give on Saturday morning at 9am. I was up with her all night on Friday. At 6:30 am, she laid on the bathroom floor moaning. I phoned the on-call doctor and he advised to give her laxatives.  I jumped in the car and went to CVS to get some. I arrived home to Maria still laying on the floor. Poor girl. I gave her a laxative and headed off to my speech. Patty stayed home with her because she was still recovering from her neck operation on Tuesday. She had been in the hospital until Thursday afternoon and then came to stay with us. Lordy Lordy. When I got home from my speech, I found the two of them on the couch. They both looked miserable. I got them some soup and tidied up the house as much as I could. Maria finally got a poop out and I felt the same type of relief I felt when she was a baby and was constipated. It never ends, does it? 


We were supposed to head to the farm to bake cookies on Saturday, which obviously was not happening . We were hoping for Sunday but the way Saturday was going, I knew that would not happen, either. I told Maria that she and I could bake cookies at the house on Sunday. But alas, she continued to feel awful and not be able to do anything. By this time, I was getting a little pissed off. Not at her, by any means, but at the ENT who told us that she should be feeling better by this time. I kept looking at the scabs in the back of her throat and wondering if they were coming off. The nurse had told us when they start to fall off, Maria could feel more pain. But they didn’t look like they were coming off so why was she in such pain? And if she was in this much pain now, what would she be in when the scabs started coming off? Why the hell did we agree to this operation? Would I ever sleep again? Would my baby girl ever sleep again? I was losing it….

The eighth day post surgery came and went. Maria had some classmates come over to see how she was doing. They had expected that she would be back the following week. Jon and I were exhausted and distressed – would this ever get better for her? I called the nurse again and she told me the same thing she had told me the week before – some kids take longer to heal than others. Really? My girl has always healed crazy fast so what is up with this operation?  I sat with Maria on Monday night and could tell she was over it. The first week has been rather fun with her just being able to watch TV and do what she wanted but she was now antsy to get back to school. She is one who loves being at school and so this long of a break was killing her. I made some wishes to the skies above that she would start to turn it around. I must have been doing something right because on Tuesday she woke up feeling a bit better. She was able to walk around and able to eat some macaroni and cheese and soup. On Wednesday, she was feeling even better. She wanted some more substantial foods in her body and was drinking hot tea like it was out of style. As we watched our tenth Modern Family, she told me she wanted to try to head back to school on Thursday. I was hesitant but also thought it may be good for her to go for a few hours just to get up and about. I was so happy to see that she at least had the desire. School started late on Thursday morning, which was helpful. She woke up Thursday morning around 8 am and was bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and ready to go. 

“I want to try it, mom!”

I was not about to say no. After all, she is my daughter and whenever I feel sick, if I can just get up and work out, it actually makes me feel better. She survived her first day back to school and loved it. She was tired when she came home but was so glad that she could spend the day with teachers and friends.


I, on the other hand, was laid out. Waking up nearly every two hours with Ri every evening had killed me. I had a nasty headache, runny nose and cough. Nonetheless, just like I thought with Ri, I figured I’d be out for a day or two and back to life. Yet, here I am nearly two weeks later, still trying to recover. I was out of work for two days, laid in bed the entire weekend, and then went back to work on Monday still sniffling and feeling miserable. 

Needless to say, December could have just been obliterated and I would have been perfectly fine with it. Over three weeks post-surgery, Ri is back to her same goofy, crazy, irreverent self. And that makes me so happy. She’s also sleeping like a log, which is wonderful.

Here’s to a healthy holiday and restful 2018.

Learning Division and Patience

I taught Mario long division. I felt like a superhero at the end of the evening. 

In the beginning, there was an in ordinate amount of stomping and crying and yelling and affirming “I am man-trash at division!” (Yes, that is Mario’s new phrase for everything bad). I remained calm, taking deep breaths as he slammed the table with his pencil, and rose up to bang his head against the wall. I allowed him to let off steam and then gently brought him back to the table to try another problem. He would get the first number but then have trouble with what to do next. He would stare at the problem, dig the lead of the pencil into the paper, and then begin his tirade routine all over. I, in turn, was able to continue my routine of taking breaths, letting him vent, and then re-setting him. I explained to him that skills do not always come immediately – there are certain skills that need continued work to master. This is sometimes lost on him and Ri. Although he stared at me in disgust, my communication was having an affect because he continued to work on the division problems with me. Thirty minutes after we began this work, I gave him 5÷125. He asked me to not give him any hints. I stood up from the table and moved to the stove to stir the chicken in the skillet.

“ Mom, I finished. Can you come and check it?”

I gave a silent prayer up to the heavens that he got it correct. I walked over to the table and looked down at his solution. I saw two at the top of the division problem. I saw where he subtracted 10 giving him another 2. I saw that he dropped down the five and put another five by the 2 on top and then subtracted the 25 to get a remainder of zero. In other words, he had done it! All by himself with no help from me. 

I beamed like he had received the Nobel Peace Prize. But that is just how it is as a mom. You feel that exuberant no matter if the accomplishment is folding their own laundry, acing a math problem, or winning a renowned prize. I patted him on the back and gave him a new problem. He got that one right, also. He looked up at me and asked if he could be done with math for the week. I told him that I would give him one more problem and then he could be done. I gave him 4÷164 and he got it correct. Alleluia! 


As I watched him complete the last problem, I made a conscious effort to soak in the moment with him. I am not exaggerating when I say that it felt like angels flew down from the heavens when he got that final answer correct. You could see how excited he was when he looked at me and I told him he had gotten it right. There is not a better feeling than seeing your kid work hard, and get to where he needs to get. 

A few years ago, I would have been too wrapped up in work, getting the house clean, feeding the kids, etc. to be able to calm myself enough to sit down for thirty minutes and persevere through tantrums to solve math problems. But I have gotten older, read more, contemplated more, and reconstituted my priorities. And, in return, received this gift.

Back to school

How the heck do Jon and I have a 7th grader and a 4th grader? Wasn’t Ri just laying on Jon’s forearm like a baby sloth and Mario bopping on my chest in the Snugli? How many times during those first years of life did Jon and I stare at each other in our sleep-deprived states and think “when will they grow up and be able to do things on their own?!”  

I remember heading back to work, tired as all get out from being up all night. A colleague walked into my office and laughed. She had kids that were grown and in college. 

“Up all night?” She asked already knowing the answer. 

I looked across the room at her and gave her a sneer. “When does all of the joy of having a kid come?” 

I was only half kidding. Of course, there were many amazing and joyful times when the kids were very young but it was such hard work. Both kids loved to be held every second and they were not good sleepers at all. It’s amazing how parents can get by on two hours of full sleep a night. We did it for over a year with each kid.

My colleague shook her head and smiled. “Before you know it, they will be grown up and you will miss these days.” 

I smiled thinking of my two babes who had hugged me so tightly when I dropped them off at day care that morning. I missed them as we spoke but couldn’t quite grasp how I would miss these days and nights of non-stop baby work. 

And here I am years later remembering that conversation with my colleague and understanding every word she said. I look at Maria and Mario and it’s hard to remember those days when they were just little nuggets. I miss being able to pick them up whenever I wanted to and love all over them. I miss putting them on my back and carrying them around the neighborhood to point out the different trees and to find as many squirrels as we could find in one block. I miss having them on my lap and reading picture books. I completely forget how tired I was all the time.

The morning of the first day of school, the kids woke up rarin’ to go. I made chocolate chip pancakes and eggs to celebrate the beginning of a new year where both kids go to the same school! Mario has been psyched all summer to be able to walk to school. They had their new bookbags all together, lunches packed, and hair brushed. They indulged my first day of school pictures on the porch and then headed off together to school. They wanted to walk together the first day, which warmed my heart. 


They came home after their first day of school and reported all went well. The next day, they got up late, threw on some random clothes and shuffled out the door after quickly downing a bowl of cereal. They were already out of the back to school honeymoon. When I asked for a hug goodbye, they both walked over to me and hugged me. They even told me “I love you” without any prompting. Yes, indeed, they are still my nuggets, just a little taller. 

Wait until tonight when I make them read with me before bed:)

ER, ER, ER

We got to visit the ER for the fifth time in 12 months yesterday. Joyous. Mario went to bed on Tuesday night complaining that his lower abdomen hurt. He could not sit up without pain. If he turned to his left side, it does not hurt as bad. I felt around his lower abdomen to see if I could feel a hernia. I did not feel anything protruding so I rubbed his head and told him to try to get a good night of sleep. He brushed my hand away complaining that it really hurt and asking if he could skip school on Wednesday if it still hurt in the morning. The kid will do anything not to go to school. I left it that we would see in the am.
He woke up on Wednesday morning with the same pain. He could not sit directly up and his right side hurt to the touch. Luckily, Jon was home for the day so Mario could stay with him. Jon took him to the doctor’s office at 2:30, and called me at 3:30 to tell me that they were on their way to the emergency room. The doctor had checked out Mario and believed there was a “moderate risk” that he had appendicitis or a hernia. I met the boys in the ER at 4:30. They were still in the waiting room.

I walked to the check-in line with Mario to get a visitor badge. Mario wanted to cut in front of the three families before us but I held him back. As we stood in line, a mother approached us from behind. Her daughter was laying in a wagon. I said hello and she began to talk with me about her crazy drive to the hospital. I waved at her daughter and asked her name. The mother informed me that her daughter was diagnosed with cancer at seven weeks old. She was now almost 2 years old and cancer-free. But, she had lingering issues and that evening she couldn’t stop throwing up. The mother leaned down and pulled the covers over her daughter as she began to cough. She smiled at Mario and commented “at least she is loving the wagon ride.” 

Being a parent is rough. Seeing your child in pain and hurt is even rougher. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for that mother to see her child through cancer starting at seven weeks old; yet, here she was with a smile on her face and iron-clad perseverance on her sleeve. Throughout the evening, as I started to get irritated at our wait-time, I thought about that little girl and her mom. How many times have they visited the hospital in two years? How many times was the mom scared her child may die? How many times did the girl get poked with needles? I told Mario what I was thinking so that he would hopefully take some time to ponder how other children were facing tough battles and empathize with their situation. 

They called us back to the room around 5 o’clock. We sat in the room for an hour and a half before the resident doctor appeared. Poor Mario got another female doctor – he was so embarrassed at having to be checked over by a female. After looking him over, she was also concerned about appendicitis, and ordered an ultrasound. Mario started to get nervous thinking about an operation if he had appendicitis. 

What if they take out the wrong Organ when they operate?” “What if they make me lose too much blood?” 

He was really working himself up and it took all our might to calm him down. We turned on “Outrageous Science” and watched all sorts of amazing science experiments being performed. The show calmed him down a bit.

Someone eventually came to take us to the ultrasound room. Boy, did that bring back memories. I thought about being pregnant with Maria and Mario and watching their little bodies on the screen. Pure joy. 

We headed back to the room after the ultrasound and waited, and waited, and waited. We continued to watch our science program. And then, the doctor showed up. Good results. No sign of appendicitis and no sign of a hernia. She opined that it was likely a pulled abdominal muscle that was causing him the pain. Mario was at once relieved but also a little bummed out, I think. I have a feeling he was hoping to tell his friends that he would need surgery (but somehow magically without actually having to get the surgery). You can’t have it both ways, bud.

As we waited for the discharge papers, Mario asked if he could not go to school again on Thursday. I asked him what reason he had to not go to school? He responded that he needed to rest his abdominal muscles. This kid. 

I told him that if he wanted to sleep in we would take him to school late because we were getting out of the ER so late. He responded that he may just sleep in until 3 in the afternoon for the first time ever in his life. Very cute, he is. Very cute.