Monday, September 29, 2008


Dear Dean,

It was another rough weekend for us. I have to admit that I was at the end of my rope this morning. Your friend Frank came over for a playdate on Sunday and you were just miserable. I think you had a very specific idea of what you and Frank would do and I suspect you weren't factoring your brother into any of your plans. When Frank wanted to play with Jack, well that really upset your apple cart and it was very hard to get you past it. You spent most of the playdate angry and screaming in your room. Finally, when Frank was nearly ready to leave you came out of your room and Frank said to you, "Did you throw your bad mood in the trash Dean?" and that was about the best thing anyone could have said to you. Gosh, I wish I had known that trick ages ago. You chirped "yep!" and skipped over to the table to get in on the snack action. From then on it was all love and smiles and a sicky sweet voice that left me shaking my head - partly in awe and partly in exhaustion.

I was all ready to peck out a testy little post this morning about what a difficult weekend we had. Then I read a post by this American woman who lives in Jordan with her husband and three daughters. The post was to her youngest daughter, to honor her on her third birthday and it was the sweetest post about how she thought when she found out that she was pregnant that this third child would be the cherry - the first was the ice cream, the second the hot fudge and now the third, the cherry. But she has turned out to be so much more than just a cherry. She's the whole 31 flavors. I was suddenly struck with the terrible feeling that I haven't been honoring you very much lately. In fact, it seems like all I ever do is complain and that has to somehow seep into your consciousness. What a terrible burden to lay at your feet.

I vow to do better. It is true Dean that you are a boy of extremes and that you sometimes make things more difficult for yourself. But, that doesn't negate the power behind your high wattage smile. It is during challenging times that I need to tune into the depth of your soul and remember the softness of your heart. I need to be mindful that your anger masks a deep sensitivity, that you are independent and spirited and those qualities will serve you well when you become an adult and those same qualities require of me a greater understanding and deeper commitment to nurture. To soothe anger with love, understanding and caring rather than trying to stamp it out with more anger. Throwing fire on a fire only builds a bigger fire.

This is my promise to you, Dean. That I will respond to your fears with calm understanding, your anger will be met with love and nurturing, and I will have a tank of patience on reserve. You deserve my very best - nothing less.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Looking Up

The days are getting easier now that we're nearing the end of the 3rd full week of kindergarten. According to Tom, drop offs are getting easier and quicker. This week has been great for pickups. Moods have improved, the boys aren't so grumpy and it's just generally easier when we get home. They're doing well with their homework and starting to recognize their 'high frequency' words (here, is, the, a, an, see - for example). Dean has figured out how to buy lunch and now they both want to buy their lunch and I just pack a snack for them. It's easier on all of us.

I am relieved. It was a rough couple of weeks. But this week I feel like I got my sweet boys back. I hope it lasts.

I'm tired. Tom is sick with a bad cold. Yesterday Dean complained that his ear hurt and his throat was scratchy. Tonight Jack said he had a headache which is always the symptom he has before he gets a fever. My nose is itchy, my throat is scratchy and my eyes feel sore. I should go to bed but after watching The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher I still haven't had my fill of snark so I'm staying up to watch The Colbert Report.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Miracle bones

A mere 2 1/2 weeks after he broke his arm, Dean is already in just an elbow pad.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Today is my birthday! We celebrated last night by going to Wilshire Restaurant with Paul and Colleen. I had the black mussels in red coconut curry broth for an appetizer and the miso marinated black cod for my entree. Oh my, it was good. I had the appropriately named 'birthday cake' for dessert. The waitress told me that I didn't need to order the birthday cake just because it was my birthday. I know, I replied and for a second wondered if I should choose the homemade ice cream trio instead. But, in the end I made the right choice. The cake was delicate and light, thin layers of white cake alternating with deliciously sweet and tart lemon cream. The frosting was sweet but not cloying, decorated on top with white chocolate filigree. Accompanied by a swirl of raspberry sauce it was the perfect ending to a delicious meal.

Today I'm taking it easy. There is laundry to do and the usual chores of cleaning, straightening, etc. but for right now, I am going to sip my coffee, browse the internet, and just relax.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


This transition from preschool to kindergarten is harder than I thought it would be. And now that I re-read that, because of course I'm re-reading it I can't ever stop self editing, it isn't so much the transition from preschool work to kindergarten work that is difficult. It's the transition from a small, intimate caregiving situation to a large scale, institutional caretaking situation that I'm having a hard time with. I remember my friend Lisa worrying when her son Frank was about to enter kindergarten, not about the work and whether he'd be able to keep up, but rather she was worried that he wouldn't be loved or valued for the unique, special boy that he is. I find myself worried about the same thing. I know they are capable of the work, I know they have the fine motor skills for writing and I'm not worried about them learning how to read or tie their shoes. I know those skills will come in time. Instead, I wonder if Dean's teacher finds him charming and sweet or thinks he's too mouthy and disruptive. I am also more worried about Dean than Jack which is a little surprising to me. I was concerned that Jack would have a hard time being separated from Dean. I reasoned that Dean is so independent and just as happy to play on his own as not and figured that he would get along fine. And he is and the surprise is that Jack is fine being on his own. Which is great! So why am I obsessing?

Because I have no direct connection to either of their teachers and I feel out of the loop about how they are managing the work, the rules, and mostly the change from the organic and holistic philosophy to an institutional one.

I do like their school and everyday when I arrive, they ask for 5 more minutes so they are clearly enjoying their after-school care.

I know this is good for them. I know this experience is less traumatic for them than it is for me. I know that learning to navigate in this larger environment will provide the building blocks for their ability to manage change in their future. I know, I know.

Somehow I have to resolve myself to this new phase of our lives and embrace the challenges.

I'm working on it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Some Accounting

Remember this post?

Well, the competition has been going pretty well. I owe my boss about $25 in itunes gift cards but she owes me the same amount in sephora, so there.

We are in a dead heat, she and I. We've both lost 3 pounds since we started our little contest. I haven't exactly stuck to my exercise everyday goal but I'm making very good food choices and I am exercising at least 3-4 days per week.

October 31st is the deadline. So far, so good.

The Weekend so far

School is exhausting. The boys have been tired, whiny and complainy every night but they are having a good time. Every night that I've picked them up they've gotten mad that it was time to go already so that's a good sign. Doesn't make it easier on us but that's ok.

We have a special visitor this week - Grandfather came into town on Tuesday. We haven't been able do much with the boys in school so all our hopes were pinned on the weekend. Then the birthday party that we were supposed to go to on Saturday night got cancelled. So we decided we'd try to get tickets to the Hollywood Bowl for Saturday night but the computer wasn't working Friday night so we couldn't get online to get tickets. No problem though, we figured we'd just get tickets Saturday morning. A little after midnight, Jack stood next to my bed and complained that he was hot. I lifted my head off the pillow and then he threw up on it. The pillow, not my head. Thank God. I ushered him into the bathroom with him throwing up on the floor and in his hands along the way. I got him cleaned up while Tom worked on the mess in the bedroom and I went into Grandfather's room to get Jack some clean boxers. Dean was sleeping with Grandfather and he heard me come in. He climbed out of bed and started complaining that his stomach hurt. I walked him into the bathroom and to the toilet where he proceeded to throw up. Whew - disaster narrowly averted with him. The two of them sat on the side of the tub looking a little green and I wondered who was next. I'll spare the suspense and just tell you - Tom. Tom was next. But thankfully, he was also last. We got everyone cleaned up and settled down and I decided to leave all the sickees in my room and I camped out on the couch. I didn't sleep well because I was just sure I would be next and I hate getting sick. Luckily, aside from a little heartburn and slight nausea, I felt ok.

Surprisingly, the boys woke up Saturday morning feeling fine. They put on their soccer clothes and we headed off to the game. After a brief practice session which Dean got to participate in, they started the game. We played the "sharks" and I began to get a little worried when I heard their coach say "Sharks - ATTACK" just before kick off. Attack? They're 5! I needn't have worried though. Jack sat out the first quarter but our team scored anyway. In the second quarter Jack and his teammate each scored a goal. Then we scored another goal in the third. Coach told the kids to stop trying to score when we were up 4-1 so when his son was about to score again he suddenly turned the ball around and ran it the other way, accidentally scoring for the other team! But it didn't matter because it was the end of the game. Even though there is never a winner declared, the kids know the score. Each team did a cheer for the other and then they shook hands and said 'good game'. Dean dribbled the ball all the way back to the car.

After all the excitement of the previous night and the early morning game, we were all pretty beat. We ran a few errands and then went home to take naps and veg in front of the tv. The boys didn't take naps but they played fairly quietly so the rest of us could. Jack opened his rock store and Grandfather and I each bought some rocks. I went out to Target to treat myself to a new pillow and while I was at it, I decided to treat myself to some new sheets, too. I thought I deserved a treat.

Grandfather is leaving tomorrow and we haven't shown him much of a time. But we've had a nice visit with him and the boys are really going to miss him.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Arm Recap and Soccer

I'm worn out. I should finish up the kitchen but first I want to fill in the blanks here.

I was standing on the playground 10 feet from Dean when he made his ill-fated jump on Thursday. I couldn't figure out at the time what happened. It looked like he jumped but then why did he crumple to the ground? Why wouldn't he have landed on his feet? Was he pushed? I racked my brain trying to remember if there was another little kid behind him. Did he just lose his balance and fall? He complained that his head hurt, too. Did he hit it on the platform as he fell? I couldn't figure it out. The entire time we were at urgent care I had these questions running through my head. Dean wasn't much help because while most of the time he said he jumped, there were a couple of times that he said he was pushed. He also, in typical dramatic fashion, wailed that "I knew there was a reason I didn't like this school". As you read that sentence, make sure you elongate the 'ool' in school and add a little whine to it.

It wasn't until hours later when Dean and I finally made it to the restaurant to get a bite to eat and I was talking to my friend Janet, who was also there when it happened and who was a huge help in getting all our stuff out to the car so we could go to urgent care, when I finally realized what happened. He wasn't pushed, he didn't lose his balance - he jumped. But the missing link is that above the platform from which he jumped is a bar that snakes away from the platform to another part of the playstructure. It's so kids can swing like monkeys from bar to bar. Except, Dean didn't pay attention to those bars so when he jumped, he hit his head on the bar. That startled him and he drew himself up into a ball and reached up to rub his head, then realized he was in mid-air so started to put his feet down but by then it was too late - he landed on his left side and the left elbow took the brunt. He immediately started screaming and it was the kind of sound that you know means something bad. He was trying to rub his head but it became clear really quickly that the main problem was his arm. He had his shoulder pulled up high against his ear and he was holding his arm with his right hand. My initial thought was that he dislocated his shoulder. In fact, I held onto that thought right through the first round of xrays until we got the results which showed no problem in the shoulder. Then we took off his shirt and I noticed immediately the swelling near his elbow and that's when I thought "oh shit".

Luckily, the doc said it was a simple, clean fracture and he didn't expect any complications.

Throughout all this, I somehow managed to stay super calm. Like, extremely calm. My voice stayed low and quiet, I didn't shake, I didn't have to fight back tears. I held him, soothed him, even carried him when he asked me to. Jack was like my little sherpa. He carried our bottles of water and our snacks. He didn't hesitate, never tried to argue - just did what I asked. When their friend Draeghan (from the daycare) came into urgent care with a cut on his chin and then came into our room to play with Jack, I managed to stay completely calm despite the noise and chaos. Getting the final diagnosis was a huge relief and once Dean had a temporary cast to protect his arm, I could finally relax.

Ever since? I've been an anxious mess. My heart's racing, I can't catch my breath. It's so like me to fall apart once the crisis is over.

I gave myself a time out today. I told the boys that sometimes mommys need to take a time out too. That sometimes I just need to take a moment to find the good in me again. It worked well.


And, in other news . . .

The boys had their first soccer game on Saturday. Dean couldn't play in the game but I had him "suit up" and while Jack practiced with his teammates, I practiced with Dean. The coach included him when he could, too.

Jack did really well. He listened to the coach and he hustled after that ball. He had a blast.

Here's Dean getting ready to start practicing.Jack had just finished the practice session and was ready to play the game. He was also really hot and had just dumped half his water bottle on his head.

Jack is ecstatic after scoring his first goal!

Jack kicks it out to his teammates to run down field.

Dean shoots and scores!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Casting call

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Kindergarten day 2

Well the 2nd day of kindergarten brought an unexpected twist. As I stood on the playground talking to another mom, Dean leapt off the playstructure platform, bonked his head on the bar above and fell to the ground landing on his left elbow which resulted in a humerus distal fracture - fancy talk for he broke his elbow. We spent a couple of hours in the urgent care clinic and he is now resting comfortably. Poor kid really went through it tonight and was a trooper. Jack was great too - very helpful and understanding. Tomorrow, I will take dean to the orthopedist to have a permanent cast put on. Luckily, it is a small, simple fracture that should heal without any complications. We're really grateful for that.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First Day of School

Today was a big day for the boys. It was their first day of kindergarten. Jack was really excited. He got up right away, got dressed, and ate his breakfast. Then, he cleaned his bedroom. Dean was a little quiet, didn't seem as excited. We got to the school just as Dean's class was filing into his room and Jack's class was lining up outside his room. I kissed them both goodbye, told them to find each other at recess and lunchtime, told them I love them and they're going to do great. Jack went in by himself only glancing at me twice. Tom walked Dean into his room and got him settled. Then we went back to check on Jack. He was sitting at the end of the table with his head in his hands, face red, clearly trying so hard not to cry.

Oh, it just broke my heart.

We waved at him through the window, blew him kisses, flashed him the OK sign and thumbs up. It was really hard to walk away.

I was thinking about them all day - wondering if they were ok, were they making friends, were they still feeling scared and nervous. Finally, it was time to pick them up. Of course they were fine. They both like their teachers. I had an opportunity to talk to Jack's teacher and she said he did just fine. She said he paid attention really well. They are in the after school care and they both liked that too.

We went out for ice cream after and then had our first soccer meeting. The boys got their uniforms, met their coach and got to kick the ball around a little. Then we picked up Tom at the bus station and went to dinner.

Tonight as the boys were falling asleep, Jack told me that he liked kindergarten but that he almost cried. We talked about how it's ok to cry, it's ok to be nervous. Tom came in and told him that his assignment for tomorrow is to go to another kid in his class, introduce yourself and ask what their name is.

I thought I was ready. I didn't cry when it was our last day at the daycare, the boys are well prepared, we've been prepping them and so did the daycare. Even as we walked into the schoolyard I felt fine, they were ready. It wasn't until I saw Jack sitting in that room with his hands in his face that I thought, no, I'm not ready for this. I can't take not being there to help him navigate this.

Can you imagine how I'll feel when they go off to college?

But today, they made me so incredibly proud.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

I have a lot to tell about our Labor Day Weekend but my self-editing button is on so I'm going to just power through this without thinking.

We got to the campsite (near the Sequoia Nat'l Forest) at about dusk. Our friends had just gotten there and set up their tent so they helped us put up ours. We had stopped for dinner along the way so all we had to do was set up and then chill. The boys played with glow sticks and ran around the campground while we caught up with our friends. We didn't pay much attention to the other campers around us. There was music playing at every campsite but it didn't seem intrusive. Finally, at about 11:00 the boys and I went into the tent to get some sleep. We all fell asleep pretty fast despite the competing Metal bands. Sometime later though, the noise from the surrounded camps seemed to get louder. Then, I heard this collective intake of breath followed by the sickening sound of a truck braking fast and skidding (as well as one can) on dirt and grass. Then a girl started screaming that the driver of the truck ran into her tent and could have killed her. Another couple of guys chimed in and told the driver that that's just not cool - he could have killed her and he should go over and apologize.

That's when I got the first inkling that maybe this wouldn't be the quiet, restorative commune with nature that I so anticipated.

But, everything looks better with morning light. So we got up, had some breakfast and prepared for our afternoon on the lake. Which. Was. Great. There were about 18 of us on a pontoon boat and we just hung out on the lake, floated on rafts, did a little fishing. It was really relaxing. We went back to the campground just before dinner and relaxed by the pool for a few minutes. Jack learned he could float on his back. He started out by swimming on his stomach and then he'd spin to his back and finish swimming on his back. It was pretty awesome. The boys played on the playground while I made dinner. We had a great dinner under the stars and even managed to make some s'mores despite not having a true campfire. We played The Guy game and watched the stars. Soon it was time for bed. We tucked ourselves in and I hoped that we'd have a nice, quiet night. Once again we fell asleep quickly. At some point I was awakened by really boisterous from the camp on my right, a TNT Saturday night movie roared from the camp behind me (yes, a TV was brought into camp and even a satellite dish - how completely sad), and ridiculous rap music blaring from the camp to my left. Somehow all the camps got louder the later it got. Kids walking to and from the bathroom chattering all the way walked right through our campsite. It was the worst camping etiquette possible. Dean and I woke up bleary eyed (just me really, he slept right through it all) and while we were getting dressed a group of giggly girls walked right by our tent, giggling and being annoying and Tom yelled out this very guttural "GET AWAY FROM THIS TENT!". I looked over and him and saw his shoulders shaking with laughter and then our friend Brian chimed in from his tent "Tell 'em brother!". It seemed to work though because they stopped walking in front of our tent after that.

After everyone got up and we had breakfast, we took off for the Sequoia National Forest. We drove into the park and hiked down to see General Sherman, the world's largest tree. It was incredible. We also saw a bear cub and his mama. He was really cute. Then we went to the Crystal Cave. We had a 20 minute hike down to the cave and then we had a 30 minute tour of the cave. It was amazing. It was about 50 degrees in the cave which felt really good after the 90 degree heat of the campground. After the tour, we had a little snack down by the waterfall and then began the big hike back up to the parking area. The guide told us it was equivalent to walking up a 30 story building and he wasn't kidding. Then, back to the campground for dinner and stories under the stars. We had high expectations this night. Surely, everyone must be tired, too tired for loud music, tv and chit chat.

As usual, we hit the sack at about 11:00 and I swear I'm not kidding about this but as soon as we got in there, the men from the camp to our right suddenly started telling stories - loud, raucous voices telling stories of their own stupidity. It's like they were waiting to raise their voices until we went to bed. I know that sounds very egotistical of me as if the world revolved around us but seriously, they were speaking in hushed tones until we went to bed. It took me about an hour but I finally fell asleep.

And now we're home and I'm really looking forward to a quiet, full night of uninterrupted sleep.

I loved camping and I can't wait to do it again but we will definitely choose a more remote area the next time.