What a difference 10 mg makes

Confession: I no longer wake up in the mornings to see my son off to school. There, I said it. Javi's 10 years old and he gets himself on the bus.

Now, Javi doesn't fully fend for himself in the mornings. The Mountain Man wakes him up and feeds him breakfast, medication, and vitamins. MM then supervises him getting dressed and teeth and hair brushed. That's when MM leaves for work and Javi has a good 15 minutes before the bus arrives.

It used to be that this was the time I'd wake up and then I'd stumble around getting coffee while Javi talked at me for all 15 of those minutes. He'd leave and then I'd stand in the doorway to ensure he got on the bus without incident. It totally used to be that way. Now? Now I wake up when Bella flounces in the bed and yells into my ear, "It's wakin' up time, Mama!" By that time, Javi is long gone.

Before we increased his medication, I'd wake up to clothes, paper, and toys strewn everywhere and the tv in the living room turned up. My mornings are different now that The Diplomat has taken over. Since he can't ramble on to me and his impulses are better managed (so he doesn't tear through the house), he only leaves me notes. Sometimes they are more elaborate than others.

Javi took this picture himself. It read "Me and Mom at the fair" at the bottom.
I had no idea how to interpret it when I woke up, but he later explained
that it was from a dream he had the night before. This was his first iteration
of the note. Words take the place of pictures now!

The signature is to prove it's a Javi original. The flowers
are because he loves me. The half friend is "a friend who
you only like some of the time and the rest of the time
they're really annoying." So says The Diplomat.

Our first annotated note. I chuckled at this one. He must
have been in a hurry, but not so much of a hurry that he
couldn't comment on his own comment.

I know it's wrong to sleep through your child's morning routine -- especially when that child has a neurological disorder that causes him to be impulsive and anxious. But how cool are these notes? And how funny that this is how Javi chooses to express his morning verbosity.

Plus, he doesn't miss the bus and he likes the feeling of independence. So don't expect me to reveal I'm waking up any earlier (for now).

Alright, spill it. What's your confession for today?

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Smooth Moves and Groob(ies)

So far, the absolute best gift our kids received for Christmas was Just Dance 2 for the Wii. We are definitely a Wii family, but this game really takes the cake.

I use it to work out, the kids use it to rock out, the Mountain Man uses it to laugh out loud. It's a win-win-win.

If you've considered getting it, but aren't sure whether your family will enjoy it, allow me to demonstrate:

You know you need some baby-booty shaking and bony-boy dancing in your house! (And, yes, my child now openly hopes for "groobies" when she grows up.)

So easy (and fun) a three year old can do it. Needless to say, we give it 8 thumbs up!

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Cluck of the Week: Back to Life

You might have heard that I've been sick. Therefore, I was totally not expecting the wonderful life lesson I got this morning.

While going about our daily routine, I heard clucking and tapping at the deck door. Outside, like no time had passed and no hawks might be plotting a horrible death, were Fancy and Lulu. Just as pretty as you please. I had to reward them with a lid full of oatmeal. Bella and I then laid in the floor and admired them as they fought each other for dominance over the pile.

That's life, isn't it? Just when you think you're down and people start counting you out, you dig deep and find the strength you need to keep going. Your feathers may fall out, you may lose (or gain) weight, and you may need to hide out for awhile.

But in the end, in time, if our hearts are in it, we all strut our stuff again. And just look at Fancy show us how it's done!

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Marching On

I've been sick every day of 2011. Every single day. It's easy to count your sick days when they correspond with January 1 (or December 31 in my case); not so easy to think of them as sick days when life marches on anyway.

Sick days can still be full of great stuff though. Like a little girl who shines like sun when you turn the camera on her.

And getting a quirky photo of yourself when you hand that little shining star your camera. (Posting the photo means ignoring that you can see how I was covered in a full-body rash [day 3 of fever] and all the clutter in the background...)

And your 10 year old in footed camouflage pajamas ... which you have no photo of because he refuses to let you take one and you're too busy coughing to chase him down.

That's life. Marching on.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday.***

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On parenting

I stumbled across an announcement from our local theatre about a winter conservatory for children Javi's age. Immediately, I was bumrushed with memories of wanting so badly as a child to be up on stage singing and dancing and accepting flowers from an adoring crowd. When Javi got home, I raced to show him the information and raved about how fun it would be for him to be in one of the plays we love attending so much.

He had zero interest. And by zero interest, I mean barely even looked at me as he muttered No, thanks and went back to playing his video game.

A few months back when I found out about low-cost ballet classes, I spent half a day driving around my town piecing together the perfect ballerina-pink tights, shoes, and leotard for Bella. I took photos of her purchasing her own shoes and twirling through the tights aisle. I daydreamed about sitting in a dark auditorium as she pranced through The Nutcracker as either Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy (naturally), her arms a flurry of grace and precision, her legs long and purposeful as she effortlessly sailed across the stage. I looked down at my plump, graceless body and grinned with delight that my daughter's future would hold a drastically different shape.

She lasted two sessions before she let me know she no longer held any desire to "'ticipate" in ballet.

Notice a trend?

There are a string of moments going all the way back to the first moment I held my big kid so many years ago and whispered to him, "I will always protect you. You are safe, here." In that moment, I wasn't thinking about my child -- I was thinking about my childhood, about how slippery the feeling of loved can become, about how at some point I became a child who no longer felt safe and protected and loved unconditionally. That red, smoosh-faced newborn was a second chance at the perfect childhood.

Amplify that urge times a thousand when I birthed an eerily quiet and observant little girl six years later. Where my son was a child, my daughter was a clone. Dark hair and brown eyes and a nose just like mine. A daughter with a father who'd die for her ... unlike mine. Looking at our actions without the emotion of here's my chance, I can see that every move I've made -- including the mate I chose -- has been motivated by bone-deep grief over a childhood no one could've predicted or controlled.

I am parenting my children to heal my childhood. And it's wrong.

Sure, ballet classes and youth theatre are harmless ... but I also fail to encourage intense relationships between my children and the trusted adults in their lives in favor of proving to them that their father and I are the adults who love them most, fiercely and reliably -- no matter what. I cater to their perceived sensitivities and treat them like fragile works of art that could shatter at any time.

I overanalyze and judge and choose paths that I wish my original family had traveled, not the ones that make sense for the family I have now. I make choices based on unhealed hurts and anger from my childhood, not based on the needs and quirks of my children.

I've been thinking about this for awhile. And then ck's comment on my previous post pushed those thoughts further. "Every mama needs a little blonde warrior. How else would we be able to let go of who we once were and live in the present?" she wrote -- cutting straight to the heart of me and shining a clarifying light on the murky thoughts that were already swirling toward epiphany.

On this week's Parenthood, Sarah poured her mothering heart out to her daughter and I found myself rewinding over and over again: When you have kids -- if you have kids -- there's something you should know. It's a very confusing thing they don't tell you. You see so much of yourself in them. You see your ironic take on the world, you see your smile, your walk, your sense of humor ... whatever ... and you think they're you. But they're not you. And they shouldn't have all of your baggage -- your fear and your insecurity and your life experience -- because that's not fair. They have their own. I'm so in awe of you. I want you to go out there and fly. You can fly.

My children aren't me and they don't need protection from the things that hurt me -- an absentee and drug-addicted father, one abusive sister and one chronically sick one, a mother who was stretched too thin despite possessing a love for her daughters that continues to amaze me. My children don't need me to push them in the directions I would've loved to explore. They are strong, resilient creatures with their own songs to sing and their own wings to test.

"We don't deserve these kids, that's for certain. I'm sure I'll mess mine up, and they were so perfect when I got them," Amy observed. Wouldn't that be the greatest hurt of them all?

I can create limitations and false boundaries for my children or I can recognize and respect the perfection and trajectory of two lives that will (hopefully) be dramatically different than mine. I can stay mired in the mess that was my foundation, or I can let go and enjoy the fresh truth of my children's reality.

I am choosing to step away from the baggage I've dragged around for too long. I am choosing to acknowledge my children's gorgeous, unique wings and let them fly.

This feels like healing.

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Cluck of the Week: Stress

We love our chickens. Really. And that means we were all freaked out and shaky when, during Javi's 10th birthday party, we heard a horrible shrieking coming from the back yard.

The Mountain Man ran out with the BB gun and found Here's Your Last Chance Fancy Don't Let Me Down wedged between a fence post and the corner of our house ... with a huge brown hawk attached to her back trying to pull her out. After a brief tug-of-war, the hawk flew up to a branch and watched us try to calm Fancy down (and find a safe place for her to hide).

Then MM tried to scare the hawk off with the BB gun, but the thing didn't even flinch. After traumatizing everyone involved, it finally flew off and left us hopeful that the Fancy and Lulu would both be safe until we did what we didn't want to do -- cage the chickens.

We love having free range chickens. They hang out on the front steps, greet us in the front yard when we come home, bang on the deck doors when they want a treat. It's like having a pet. But when your pets keep getting picked off, you have to do what you can to protect them.

Unfortunately, Fancy hasn't handled the transition from free range to cage very well. Losing her freedom, combined with the stress of almost being eaten by a hawk, has caused her to lose most of her tail feathers and a hunk of her back feathers. She's lost weight and gotten even more skittish around humans. In short, she's pitiful -- especially when compared to how large and glorious she was when we first brought her home.

Lulu, on the other hand, is proving to be our survivor. Where Fancy is falling apart, Lulu is stunning in both size and color despite the frigid cold and multiple snows she's endured so far this winter. Fancy makes us feel like failures, but one glance at Lulu and we want a whole other brood of chicks come spring.

Life with chickens continues to go up and down, but I suppose there's a balance in there. And the girls seem to like the safety of their coop. We opened the door this weekend to allow them so free range time and they refused to come out. I'm taking that as a sign that though roaming free is no longer a real option, at least they enjoy the home we've given them.

And I've been told Fancy's feathers will grow back. Bless her heart.

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Heart and Soul

I looked in the rear view mirror this morning and saw my sweet little Bay-Bay singing with her eyes closed. She wasn't belting out the lyrics (as she usually does). Her voice was quiet and her face was still as she sang along to Tim McGraw's "My Little Girl."

My heart seized up. I don't know what I did to deserve this fiesty-soft little creature with her flashing eyes and super-star smile. This morning she sang "Firework" to me while I brushed her hair and then threatened to cut my fingers off when I took away Javi's favorite toy.

I kept watching her sing, watched her feel the music and fumble with the words. And then she opened her eyes and laughed and said, "My daddy sure does sing me some good songs!" And I laughed with her.

This girl is a gift I don't deserve. She's perfect and stubborn and completely full of herself and mine. My billy goat mountain girl. My fart-joke-loving belly-always-out such-a-little-sister. My tiny blonde warrior.

My heart and soul.

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Three months ago my darling Mountain Man requested that I bring the kids up to his work so the whole family could get a flu shot. And I laughed -- guffawed, really -- at the idea of me or the kids injecting that silly vaccine into our bodies. MM may have the immune system of a newborn, but the kids and I are tough cookies.

One month ago I took my precious children for new patient visits at the practice I switched them to after being forgotten and ignored by the pediatrician's office I've used for the past nine years. The new doc poked and prodded and pushed and cajoled. I walked out with two kids who were mumbledy-grumbledy, but damned if they didn't have flu shots.

That left me. And five days ago I fell. Like a damn brick.

Fever, chills, sleep. More fever, more chills, more sleeping. My joints swelled to the point I couldn't bend my body parts and my body erupted in a splotchy rash from chest to toe tip. And through all of it, the ol' mountain goat and his rough-neck kids remained robustly flu-free.

Which spawns these types of conversations:

Me: My mama's convinced I have scarlet fever.

MM: You want me to look it up?

Me: I don't have scarlet fever!

MM: So you want me to look it up?

Me: Yeah, I guess we should.

MM: Says here scarlet fever does come with a rash. It's supposed to feel like sandpaper.

Me: Nope, I don't have it. My skin still feels soft. Not that you'd know since you haven't touched me in days.

MM: Hell no I haven't! And I ain't goin' to!

Me: Asshole.

MM: Yeah, but I'm a healthy asshole.

Moral of the story: Just buck up and get the damn flu shot.

Hope you had a fantastic new year's weekend. I was half dead and rashy. But I don't have scarlet fever (No, mama, I really don't) and my tum-tum never got sick, so it's all good. I'm slowly crawling back to full-speed but am currently operating at about 1/4th speed ... and so it goes.

Happy 2011!

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