Monday, November 23, 2015

Give a Little Grace

This morning as I waited at the school's doors waiting for them to open so that my daughter could enter I noticed a long line of cars in the parent loop.  The idea is that the parents drop off their children and then move on allowing the cars behind them to pull up and do the same.  This morning there was a car in the first slot in line and she was just idling. The cars behind her became impatient and started to honk. They couldn't get around her as there were large orange cones blocking their path and for good reason. If they weren't there the parents tend not to pay attention zoom around the car that is "too slow" and it's a recipe for disaster.  However, as it was still early and the staff member that monitors the parent loop wasn't out yet. Impatient cars were honking and the cars were lining up. Looking out into the street you could see the long line of cars in either direction. Without the cars moving through the parent loop, other cars could not get in and well, it results in loooooong lines of cars, impatient parents, and antsy children.

My friend and I were watching the increasingly angry event and decided to give a hand. While my friend spoke to the parent, I moved the cones and started directing cars to move forward and around. Mind you, I was holding my one year old and I was praying that the frustrated parents wouldn't be in such a rush to move around the waiting car that they would zoom too quickly by and nick us.  One parent was hesitant to move forward I asked if he had enough room to get by. He assured me he did, but I could see that he was debating about whether or not to approach the parent. I wished him a Happy Monday and encouraged him to keep moving. One parent pulled up to me and told me that the waiting car shouldn't be there and someone needed to tell her to move. My friend already had and I told him I was just a parent like him and not staff so "Have a happy Monday and move on."

Finally the assistant principal came out and spoke to the mother. Come to find out this was her first day of doing drop off and her little preschooler needed a one on one to escort him in.  She looked and sounded frazzled, there was miscommunication, and she was getting increasingly upset as she waited for the staff member (who never came out) to assist her.  It was all a miscommunication.

All I could think was, "Oh, that poor woman. She must be frazzled and slightly embarrassed and frustrated." She is dropping off her most precious heart to school and the long line of cars behind her were showing her their irritation and frustration.  And I thought, "Folks, grant each other grace."  How often do we move through the day irritated and frustrated with the person in front of us in line who is taking too long, the child who is moving too slowly because he wants to do "by himself!" the person crossing the crosswalk with 4 children and doing it slowly as the 4 year old wants to hop across instead of walking briskly...and the list could go on.

As we get ready for Thanksgiving and head into the Advent season where the stores will be crowded, the lines will be longer, and the sugared up children will be slightly more off as they are overstimulated by the lights  and sounds that accompanies the Christmas season, remember to grant each other grace. Greet each other with a smile and friendly hello. Hold the doors open for each other, be patient with one another, and grant each other grace.

Peace be with you as we head into the preparation of celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  2 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mama's Heart Breaks Just a Little

My sweet and goofy Boogie
We've been through some big transitions in the last year.  Bean was born just a little over a year ago and while I was learning to navigate post-partum and mothering 4 children I had to learn to navigate the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) process from the other side of the table. Being an educator, I knew the process, being a mother who has a child who may need an IEP is a whole different story.  Since preschool I had had some concerns over my son's development.  Things weren't clicking for him as I thought they should. More than once I was told that he's doing "just fine." But that didn't work for  me. You see, I could tell that he was bright, but there was a disconnect. Even though he was reading and processing and comprehending above grade level texts, he was still doing letter reversals in his writing. His handwriting was horrible and he had a hell of a time with executive functioning and following multi-step directions.  So in my 2nd month of pregnancy we started down the road of having him tested.  More than once I was told that he could be on the spectrum.  What spectrum you ask? The autism spectrum.  And quite frankly the developmental pediatrician said that my sweet Boogie walks a fine line.  He said if Aspberger's was still an independent diagnosis and not lumped under the very wide umbrella of autism, there would have been a chance he would have diagnosed Boogs as having Aspberger's. But now the diagnosis would be high functioning autism because of the way it's defined in the DSM.  But at the time, the pediatrician didn't have enough data to make that diagnosis.  He said that Boogie definitely has dysgraphia (difficulty with writing) and he is diagnosed with that.  We will have to do further testing and evaluation if we want to determine definitely if Boogs is on the spectrum.  Right now, we decided to wait.

I bring this up because this has been a tough year trying to understand my son a little more and trying to support and guide him a little more. Meeting his needs and giving him the tools and skills he needs to navigate life.  Academically he's aces.  Socially and emotionally he needs a lot more help.  So we did the IEP process. We had him assessed through the school and from their point of view he came up with NOT being on the spectrum, but having a lot of difficulty with executive functioning.  His writing disability came up. We also found out he's effing brilliant. I don't say that easily. I knew he was bright, but it came up over and over again, "Do you have any idea how intelligent your son is?" I nodded and said, "Well, I know he's bright." It wasn't until I had in my hand his results that I realized that my son is not typical. Not in any way.  And as my husband says, "Why be normal?"  He can't tie his shoes, but he can give you every single detail from every single book he has ever read. He can give you specific stats on just about every animal.  His background knowledge blows me away and often I have to say, "I don't know the answer to that, let me look it up." But he can't follow more than one direction at a time. He can't put together legos. He can't see the forest for the trees. As a result of the testing and giant discrepancy between his cognitive abilities and his writing abilities Boogie was given an IEP. So that we're clear, they (being the school system) don't hand out IEP's like they're candy. They are actually hard to come by and the school systems have a lot of keeper of the keys and they are kind of stingy about handing those out. So imagine my shock when we didn't get a 504 plan, which is lot easier to receive, but an actual IEP. My son has goals, a case manager, accommodation, and support where he needs it most.  Not only that, he was also tested as part of his application to attend a program for the highly gifted students.  So Boogs is academically in the top 3% of 4th graders in the county. (I had no idea until someone else told me the stats). So now we have an IEP and now we are switching schools to meet my son's academic needs because as it was gently put to us, they can't meet his needs at his home school because his academic needs are above his peers.  So we accepted his acceptance and now Boogs attends a school that is a 20 minute bus ride away.

I thought it would be easier. I thought that since he had an IEP he would get the support he needed while his learning was enriched. I LOVED his old school. I loved the teachers and the administration.  I felt supported, I felt like they KNEW and UNDERSTOOD my child. And they did.  They still ask about him when I go to pick up my daughter.  But every school is different. My husband will tell you our home school is like a warm hug. It is welcoming. The new school is all business. No warm hug there.  It's just very different.  We struggled this first quarter to get this case manager to follow Boog's IEP. I was told over and over again, he doesn't need the support as outlined. Nonetheless, they need to follow the IEP until we review and deem it unnecessary. After a meeting and some strongly worded emails, we are getting a little more support. Not a lot, but more.

And then, my son missed his bus this week. Not once, but twice. He missed the bus coming home.  Because of Boog's difficulty with executive functioning he has come to rely heavily on his peers. He observes routines and situations and sets into place things that will help him. When those variables change, he has difficulty going with the flow and putting in new support systems. So this week the teacher changed the seating in the classroom. End of the 1st quarter so everyone got new seats. No big deal, right? Well unbeknownst to her and to us Boogie has been relying on the two girls at his table to know when to leave for the bus. They never told him to get up, but he noticed when they left the table and he would just follow them to make it to his bus. Well now no one at his current table takes his bus. His cues are no longer there and as a result he missed it when his bus was called. TWICE this week. The second time he was just beside himself sobbing on the phone.  I calmed him down and drove the 20 minutes to go pick him up.  And here, this where my heart breaks just a little. So Boogie needs help. When Hubby and I asked him what he could do to ensure that he could make it on the bus he said he could ask his classmates/bus mates to tap him when they leave to catch their bus. Okay, so it's not taking full responsibility, it's still relying on others to help him. But it was a strategy. I found out last night that he asked a bunch of kids and most of them said, "no." They said "no." That's where my heart broke. They just said, "no."  Some had after school clubs and wouldn't be taking the bus everyday. But others who don't just said, "no." "No, I won't help you." What?  So my heart broke.  And today while relaying the story to a friend I broke. I cried. The tears that had been threatening since last night spilled.

I realize I hate the new school. I hate the lack of support. I miss the warm hug and welcoming smile.  It's so closed off and business like. So my heart breaks and I struggle with how to best help my son and support him.  In my head I go back and forth about whether or not to pull him from school. For now, I won't. He belongs in that program. He needs that enrichment. He needs that higher level of learning.  He needs that push.  But he also needs compassion, support, and guidance. I will strive to give that to him from home.  I will strive to teach him to be that kind of person who says, "Yes, I'll help you" when someone asks for help because, quite frankly, I don't want to raise an asshole. And boy it is hard to raise kids who are kind, caring, and compassionate. To some it comes quite easily, and to others, it's a skill that needs to be taught.  So I pray that I will have the tools and skill to raise my children so that they are not assholes. Don't we all want that? So let's do it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bean at 6 months old

Our Bean at 6 months
I don't know how it's possible that I haven't blogged in almost 6 months except, well I have four kids and one is a baby. We keep busy and I try to document as much as I can on my phone.  Thank goodness for social media and that I can look back on pictures on my phone and share the experiences of the past 6 months.

I have to say that Bean has been a great baby and life is going really well. It doesn't stop, it doesn't slow down, and if anything it seems to go by faster with the more children we have.  I attribute it to the big kids and all of their activities. The more they do, the less I'm home. But I will say that while I'm not blogging everything, I am experiencing it and really trying to be in the moment.

My brother and I with our little ladies.
Six months was a busy time for the Bean. She took her first plane ride and she and I went to visit her brand new cousin A., my brother's baby.  It was the first time since college that I have traveled by myself.  My husband and I have been together over 13 years and we usually travel together except when he travels for work.  I was really nervous about the plane flight and all the stuff I had to bring (stroller, carseat carrier, diaper bag, my carryon).  I had so much help on the way to Omaha.  There was a man traveling by himself and offered to help me load up the stroller onto the belt at security. He told me he has 3 kids and he was traveling alone this time on business and he knew all the ins and out of traveling with little ones. He flipped down the stroller like a pro and flipped it back up in the right position after it went through security. He made sure I had everything before he went on his way to his own gate. I noticed he was wearing a St. Michael's medal and I felt that God was giving me a helping hand on my journey. Bean and I had great seat mates and when it was time to leave the plane the gentlemen behind me not only helped me pull my stuff out of the overhead bin, but walked me off the plane and helped me load up the stroller.  My brother met me outside and I was able to spend three days cuddling my niece, giving my brother a chance to sleep while I took care of night time feedings, buying some furniture to help them with all the extra clothes, and decorating A's wall with fun wall clings.  I enjoyed spending time with my sweet niece and loving on her while I could.

Bean and her cousin A. meeting for the first time
My brother and I aren't very close and in a way I pushed my way into a trip to visit him. He wasn't ready for me to visit, but I desperately wanted to be of some help to him. I wish he would accept it more often, but he and I are very different people I think me being the older sibling makes him feel like he is being judged all the time. I wish he would see that my help was what it I remember the days of having a first baby and learning the ropes.  He is my only sibling and I just wish we were closer.  I spent the 6 months I knew of A's impending arrival extending the olive branch with regular and frequent phone calls to check up and to offer emotional support. My visit was the same.  I'd like to say the regular phone calls and visit made us closer, but for whatever reason it didn't.  We are back to status quo. Sigh. I continue to extend the olive branch, but I don't think it is being accepted. So I pray and I keep trying.

Six months was also marked by Bean's first Easter and celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  As always we make it to my in-laws house for the annual Easter egg hunt. Next year I see her giving it a go. This year she was happy to observe.

If you look closely you can see her newly adorned ears.
We also had her ears pierced!  This is a cultural custom. In the Philippines baby girls always have their ears pierced. I think mine were done at 3 weeks old. Here in the States they like for you to wait until you are 6 months old.  I love my husband. He knew her 6 month birthday was coming up and said, "So when are we getting Beanie's ears pierced?"  He was also the one to sit with her and hold her. My heart did stop for a second when the gun became stuck and they had to pull a little harder to remove it from the earring and the ear attached!  Bean was a trooper and after a few tears and a nursing session, she recovered quickly and her ears are adorned with pretty gold balls.

At 6 months she continues to sleep in her co-sleeper and she sleeps well. She is sitting up in her Bumbo and had her first try of baby cereal. She is not a fan of any kind of baby food and would much prefer to eat what we eat.  But the child needs some teeth first. In the meantime she is eating mushed bananas, mushed sweet potatoes, and anything else we can mush.  She is a delight and I can't believe that she is well on her way to becoming a year old.

Happy Easter!

Bean and A. shared a crib while we visited my brother.
Bean just turned 5 months and A. just turned a month old.

Hanging out with the girls after a late night feeding.

After I decorated A's wall. Not too bad if I say so myself

A milestone is that Bean learned how to give kisses.
I LOVE her kisses.

Mr. Bananas and Bean hanging out together.
Mr. Bananas loves sharing the iPad with his sister.
He really can't get enough of her.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Bean at 5 months Old

The Bean turned 5 months old in March and it was pretty uneventful in a good way.  She continues to laugh, grow, smile, and loved by everyone.  Her big blue eyes take in everything and she loves adores her older siblings.  She is the one thing that they can all agree on.  They all love her and want to be with her.  It's like she has always belonged and we were just waiting for her to show up in our family. I can't imagine our family without her.

She likes being in her carseat and running errands with me. I know that she is exhausted and should nap, but it's like she wants to take everything in and it's just too good to miss. So my curious girl stays awake, coos, and smiles.  I try to go to the gym when I can and go on the days that my aunt works. Bean spends most of that time happily in my aunt's arms.  She likes the walk to school and the walk home. She loves hanging out with us. She is starting to sit up more and more and likes when the big kids talk and play with her.  Mr. Bananas has discovered that he can recall the words to books and will sit and read to her. He is so good about sharing his books with her. Most times when he's playing on the iPad he'll sit with her and angle the screen towards her so that she isn't left out.  She just loves being next to him and spending time with him. I see another friendship in the making.  I thought by now that he would grow tired and move on, but no.  He proudly proclaims to all that she is HIS baby.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?
Buggy is a fantastic helper and will sit with The Bean while I make dinner, help Boogie with his homework, or take a quick shower.  She anticipates her needs pretty easily and helps with wiping her nose, changing her diapers, or sitting and chatting with her.

Boogie wants to hold her, but is nervous about dropping her or jostling her too much. So he admires her from afar. Boogie can be sensitive to noise and I thought for sure that he would complain about her squeals and cries, but no. He is able to block it out when he needs to...I just wish he would do the same with his younger brother.

Celebrating with the Epitos at their
50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration
Life is good. Some days are harder than others.  Some are easier. I forgot how tiring it can be to have an infant in the house.  I think our biggest challenge these days is getting on a good napping schedule.  I didn't really care in the past because 3 other kids were fairly good nappers and could nap anywhere. But not our Bean. Comfort is everything and right now she would rather nap on me. Second best is in the cosleeper next to our bed. I've tried transitioning her to her crib for nap time while keeping her in the cosleeper at night. Nothing doing. She isn't buying it.  So I'm going to appreciate the sweet quiet moments, read a lot of books while the baby naps on me, and try really, really hard to let everything else go.  The one good thing is that I've been pretty good at saying no to volunteer activities and not feeling terribly guilty about it.  It's hard for me, but I feel like time continues to slip by and my days of the baby napping on me are numbered.  So if you're looking for me, I'll be on the couch, cuddling a baby, and reading a good book.

Sporting a beautiful hat

Love this sweetness

I actually managed to get all 4 kids in green for St. Patrick's Day.
It will probably never happen again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bean is 4 months old

I can't believe I forgot to post Bean's 4 month update.  She continues to grow healthy and strong. The doctor says that she is lean and tall and to hold off on solids until 6 months since she is doing a fantastic job with nursing.  I think she is in the 90th percentile for height and the 19th percentile for weight.  Bean is quite the trooper and goes on all of my errands with me.  We have found, though, that as a result, she does not nap.  She'll take cat naps in her carrier, but she is utterly exhausted by dinner time and inconsolable. The child needs a real nap in her crib. At this stage she is learning to sit in the Bumbo and will do it for a short amount of time. She will play on her playmat, but prefers if her siblings are nearby.  If they play near her, she'll stay there longer without crying to be picked up. She is still the favorite sibling among the older kids.

Bean loves hanging out in the Bumbo.

This about sums it up with these two.

Bean is helping me make her cousin A's blanket.

Boogie is 9!

9 Years ago this sweet boy made me a mama.

Happy 9th birthday to my Boogie
My sweet Boogie is 9 years old. I can't even believe it. And I'm pretty sure that I didn't post about his last birthday or about his first communion last year. I feel like the last year has been a blur.  And I am really trying to catch life before it just flies right by me.

This year Boogie was invited to celebrate a friend's birthday with a trip to a local museum. The trip just happened to also land on Boogie's birthday. Intrigued with the idea of going to a museum, he excitedly accepted the invitation. However, the closer the date came, the more apprehensive he became. He didn't want his birthday to get lost.  So we made a plan to celebrate with his special birthday breakfast and dinner the day before his birthday so that he could enjoy the outing with his friend. We also planned that Daddy would go with him. More than anything in the world, Boogie wants to hang out with his Daddy. So we were able to give him that, and a day at the museum where he geeked it out with his friend.

We were fortunate that both his and his sister's soccer games were canceled and we were able to have our traditional birthday breakfast with him.  We allowed him to open one of his presents and spent the morning playing "Settlers of Catan" which, by the way, is a game that many of the Green Bay Packers play together.  That night we let him choose the restaurant and my parents joined us for dinner.

The next day we went to church and right after he and Hubby left with their friends to visit the museum.  When they came back exhausted we ordered pizza and Hubby picked up a yummy ice cream cake.  And we topped it off with presents. It was awesome.  He was thrilled to get his very own tablet. He is an avid reader and it made sense to get him his on tablet where all of his books are in one place and not all over our house.  I am happy I can set the timers on it, but he's been pretty compliant on when to give it to us and when to turn it off.  This will make packing for our beach vacation a little easier this year. He'll have all of his books at his fingertips.
Camp Half-Blood versus Camp Jupiter

We celebrated with a birthday party with friends today.  Boogie finally decided on a Camp Half-Blood birthday party.  Anybody who has read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series will understand the reference.  With the help of Boogie's godmother, I made Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter t-shirts. Hubby organized the games between the two camps. Boogie's godmother came to the rescue to help me clean the house because I realized that having a nursing infant makes it really, really difficult to get anything done in a timely manner. Thank you, A!  We served camp food: hot dogs, hamburgers, watermelon, and lemonade.  Almost all of the friends that we were invited were able to come.  It was a lot of fun. Most of all Boogie had a great time. Hubby was pretty amazing getting everything coordinated for the games and I am very grateful he took the day off so he could help out with the birthday party during spring break.

9 years of friendship for these two campers.

Boogie with his best friend since birth on his 8th birthday.

7th birthday
5th Birthday and excited about dragons.
6th Birthday
4 and excited about dinosaurs

3 and still loved trains

2 years old and almost a big brother

1st Birthday and learning to walk

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Bean is 3 Months Old

With each of the kids I came up with a nickname. Before The Bean was born I threw some names out there. We thought Boo and I really liked Batty taken from the series The Penderwick Sisters. They were cute, but none seemed to take.  Then while checking out our precious girl the lactation consultant called her bean and well it stuck. She has become The Bean.  Even the kids call her The Bean. "Hi Mama, how's The Bean?"  So after 3 months, we have finally found a nickname that sticks.

A friend gave Bean this adorable hat
I still like to sing her full name to her because she gives me the most beautiful smile.  We refer to her by her nickname E., but more often than not she has become The Bean.  And we love it.  

She is growing so quickly.  She is starting to outgrow her first set of outfits and the more I try to savor her littleness, her infancy, our snuggles she seems to grow even faster. The more I want to slow down time, the faster it goes.

The Bean is a trooper. The poor girl does not get a set nap schedule because of her siblings' schedules. As a result she often naps in her carrier while she is being carted hither and yon.  She spends her mornings at the gym with me after we drop off the kids at their schools and her afternoons in the stroller picking them up at school. It's winter and it doesn't make sense for me to drive the half mile to the school because I have to get out of the car with the two little kids to pick up the big kids.  So more often than not I bundle us all up really well and the little kids and I walk to pick up the big kids.  There are days where I will put The Bean in a front carrier and then put one of my husbands fleece jacket over us and zip her in.  She likes it, it keeps us both warm, and I get a workout.  If it's particularly windy she blinks her eyes like an owl when we finally make it indoors.

We finally have a formal family picture of the six of us.  I was not thinking ahead and put the flowered headband on the wrong side of her head and when you see our picture, Bean's face is obscured. Even so you can tell she is screaming her head off in the picture. I still really like the picture and you know what? It's real. This is life. Screaming babies and goofy kids.

Christmas Eve
Christmas day was fun for me.  I loved having a newborn in the house for Christmas. While she won't really appreciate it until next year, I still enjoyed putting up her new ornaments, having Buggy help in choosing the The Bean's stocking, and having a sweet morning with my favorite people. We spent the night before at my SIL's house for our annual Christmas Eve open house and mass after.  It truly is one of my most favorite family gatherings.  This year Hubby and I hosted our families for Christmas. It was a little nutty after just having a baby, but I love a full house during the holidays. My husband makes our families sing for dessert and we all joined in for the 12 Days of Christmas.  Again, I love having a newborn in the festivities. It's also a nice reminder of how Mary might have felt when welcoming her son, Jesus, into the world.  The newness of life, the celebration to come.

We're still working on schedules and the kids have been really good about trying to sit with her while I make dinner. Even though I have been through this 3 times before, I'm still trying to find a routine that works with us.  It's slowly happening, but life is unpredictable and life with 4 kids is really unpredictable, but we just keep swimming.

Another adorable hat for The Bean

My favorite thing to do with her. I love having her sleep on my chest

Epita and The Bean checking each other out

Epita with The Bean

Christmas Eve at my SIL's house.
This is just a sampling of the awesomeness of having 22 grandchildren in one house
Hubby displaying his handiwork.
He done good.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2 months Old

Our sweet little girl turned two months old. She weighed in at 10 pounds and and had grown another 1/2 inch. She was 15% for weight and 79% percentile for height. She is tall and skinny with the chubbiest of cheeks.  I was happy that she had gained weight. There was a lot of concern at her two week check up that she had dropped a pound since birth so we were on a rigorous schedule for pumping and nursing. I was so happy she showed growth at her 2 month appointment so that we could resume a regular nursing schedule without the additional pumping. It also meant that Mama got to sleep a little more. I took more naps with our little bean and we both relaxed into a good feeding/napping schedule.

She is doing so well and smiles whenever we smile at her, talk to her, or sing to her.  Mr. Bananas adores her more than ever.  He is constantly by her side.  When we get into our van he wants to check on her before he gets into his seat. At church he wants to sit next to her and hold her hand. He is her greatest fan. I hope it is something that continues for years to come. He has really enjoyed his big brother role. I thought that there would be some jealousy, but no. He loves her too much to be jealous. It reminds me of when he was born our Buggy took over a maternal role when it came to him. Buggy is still pretty protective and helpful when it comes to Mr. Bananas. She has been a good role model for him and he is enjoying his new role.

Bean's Baptism
Our little girl enjoyed her first Christmas.  We received a beautiful photo album from one of her aunts filled with pictures of her baptism. I had forgotten my phone and could not take any pictures. Thanks to my sister in law and my best friend, I have some pictures to remind me of the day of her baptism. My father-in-law was able to perform the baptism at our church. He proudly told the congregation that he was baptizing his 22nd grandchild.  Beans's godparents are her aunt L. whom she is named after and her uncle E.  We are blessed that they agreed to be her godparents.

One of my former students stopped by to
visit with Bean.
I was touched by the number of family and friends that shared our special day with us. One of my very best friends from school traveled from a state away to join us for Bean's baptism.  After the baptism we invited everyone to our house. I invited quite a few people to our house to celebrate. But like the parable of the loaves and the fish, God provided and we had enough food and room to accommodate everyone.

So many friends have come by to visit Bean in her first couple of months of life. I am so blessed by their presence in our lives. We are humbled by their love and friendship.

Sweet dreams

Bean snuggling with Mrs. M during our almost weekly breakfast.

Big sister soothing Baby Sister

Celebrating Lola's birthday

I am so very blessed to have our newest angel in our lives.