themommytrials

My life as the mom of 3 crazy wonderful kids and the law partner of 1 crazy wonderful husband

Goober: A Love Story

We lost our dog today.

He would’ve been 15 years old on Valentine’s Day. My husband and I always said that a dog never had a more appropriate birthday. Given the opportunity, he would kiss you into oblivion. Seriously, he wouldn’t stop. You would have to push him off of you and then move. He was a love. When he was a puppy I wondered whether he had been weaned too early.   But he never stopped with the kissing. He just loved you furiously and joyfully and completely.

He was quirky. He was slightly afraid of shiny things. He peed like a girl. When he wanted to come in from outside he would scratch on the door three times. Exactly three times. His brother, Gomer, goes ballistic when a squirrel passes by our window. Goober would rise with Gomer, tail erect, ready to defend the yard—but instead of the frenzied barking of his brother, he would bark once. “Woof.” Then he would look at you as if to say “For this I got off the sofa? WTF? It’s a squirrel. You get one “woof” and that’s it. You are on your own now.”

He loved food and had an amazing sniffer. He probably could’ve been trained to detect bombs or find fugitives. Instead he used his sniffer for good of a different sort–to find candy or granola bars left in purses or snacks left in backpacks. It was a talent. He would pull a tablecloth off a table to get the food from the table. Many a party heard me yell, “Goooober Nooooo!!!” as I saw my appetizers hit the floor.

His penis was always a little wet. Whenever you picked him up to get him up on the sofa, to get in bed at night, to get on or off the porch, if your arm inadvertently brushed his penis, you would find it to be a little wet. It was part of his charm.

Speaking of wet penises, he once peed on my arm in the middle of the night. The smoke detector battery was low and the high pitch chirp terrified him. He kept trying to wake me up and alert me to the danger but I kept pushing him away and then he could handle it no longer. He peed on my arm, likely thinking the chirping monster had come to kill us all. It worked. I changed the smoke detector battery at three  f’ing o’clock in the morning.

When my daughter was a week old he stole a chicken carcass out of the trash can and ate it or most of it. He cried all night. A rush to the vet (and a $450 bill) later showed that he just had really bad indigestion.

He was such a sweet boy. He loved and was loved.

It was very hard to watch his decline. He lost his hearing, his eyes were clouded by cataracts and his legs were stiffened by arthritis. But still he loved food. He would still greet us tail wagging whenever we walked in the front door. We thought his symptoms were just a side effect of old age, and they were. Until they weren’t.

In late summer we noticed some weight loss, not too much though. Too soon he was unable to keep water down or control his bladder. Initial test results showed nothing alarming, so we remained hopeful. But then he started to vomit and the weight loss was more severe and a follow up test showed intestinal inflammation and thickening. A last ditch effort of medication and prescription food gave him no relief.   The vomiting continued. Then he wouldn’t eat. He was so frail. Then today he started to fall down when he was walking. And we knew it was time.

We brought him to the vet. Kissed him. Told him we loved him. Cried a million tears. We held him while the vet administered the sedative and then the euthanasia drug. It was over in seconds and was so peaceful. I am sad but I am thankful his little soul found mine. It was a joy.

So my Gooby Dog, run free now. Find the treats. Find the coziest bed to sleep in. Say hi to Nikki and Frisky and Lucky and Cheyenne and Lammy.

I’ll see you when I get there.

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What Helps, What Hurts.

The following is the text of a talk I gave as part of a panel of special needs parents to preschool educators:

Hi. Thank you for having me. I have three children. Jackson (who is 11), Noah (who is 8) and Lily (who’s 5).   My oldest son, Jack as we call him, suffered a birth injury which resulted in significant cognitive deficits, some weak gross and fine motor skills and some social and behavioral issues as well, so when it comes to special needs, we pretty much run the gamut.

When Jack started at a private Jewish preschool at the age of two, the extent of his disability wasn’t really known. Because of the circumstances which surrounded his birth, however, we knew delays and issues were likely, so Jack started physical and occupational therapy when he was just two weeks old. He reached some of his milestones right on time (for example he smiled by 7 weeks and walked by 15 months), but other milestones were quite delayed (on his second birthday, he really only had one word in his vocabulary, on his third birthday he only had about 50). By the time Jack was four, the gap between him and his peers had widened and the extent of his disability was becoming much clearer. We moved him to the public school for his last year of preschool. For kindergarten, we started him in a private school which serviced children on the spectrum and with other developmental delays.   We moved him to our local public school for the 3rd grade and that is where he’s remained. He currently is in the 5th grade in a self-contained special education classroom. He pushes into the general education population for specials like music and art and PE and he has lunch with his general ed class.

As Jack is now 11, I have encountered a large number of teachers, speech therapists, tutors, physical therapists, occupational therapists and play therapists.   I feel like I have been incredibly blessed and have worked with some of the most amazing people on the planet—on the other hand, I also feel like I have been exposed to some . . . well, let’s just say . . . some really well intentioned people who have said or done something that was really the wrong thing to say or do.

Thank you so much for allowing me this opportunity to share with you some of the things I believe help (the Do’s if you will) and things that hurt (the don’ts). Most of what I have to say is from my own experience but I have thrown in a few I have learned just from being a member of the special needs community for good measure:

First, please DO realize that as preschool educators you may be alerting parents to a problem they didn’t know existed or one they knew about but had no understanding of its significance or severity. So when you speak to a parent about a concern you have about their child, please realize their reactions may be strong. They may be in denial. They may feel surprised. They may be defensive.   A lot of times, parents will try to explain away concerning behaviors—the child doesn’t engage socially (well they’re independent); the child doesn’t attend or focus (well they’re high energy); the child has no core strength (well, our family isn’t particularly athletic).   It always makes a parent sad and scared to hear that their child is struggling, special needs parent or not. So to ease their reaction, DO try to bring them into the conversation.   “I have noticed that Johnny spends a lot of time lining up his cars–have you noticed Johnny do this at home?” “I’ve notice Susie has trouble transitioning between activities at school–how does she do with transitions at home?”   Also—it helps tremendously to have a game plan and resources available. So, for example, if there a speech delay (have the names of a speech therapist available if your school doesn’t have one on staff). If you think fine motor skills are lacking, have the name of an occupational therapist handy. If you have a child with a lot of energy and a potential focus issue, have a plan on how you can deal with that (for example taking frequent body movement breaks)?

Second.   DO NOT, if these words are even in your vocabulary, ever use the words “retarded” or “mentally retarded;” During Jack’s preschool years and when we were exploring private schools we had to subject him to all sorts of testing. We took him to a very well known and well respected but rather old-fashioned neuropsychologist. When my husband and I went to discuss the results of his testing, we were met with disappointing results. The results, though, are not really what I remember about the meeting.   What I do remember is that one of the two professionals in the room must have said the words “mentally retarded” at least five times. Every single time the words came out of her mouth, I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach—every single time it was as if the breath was drawn from my body.   Even while I was trying to understand test results and process information, all I could hear or see before me was the word “retarded.”   The same occurred when I attended Jack’s IEP meeting prior to his starting kindergarten. I was told that at a certain point he would age out of the more general “developmental delay” category and we would have to choose a disability category for him—one of which was mental retardation. Again—stomach punch.   If you were to google the definition of mental retardation—you would find that it refers to an individual with an IQ below 70 who also has a lack of skills necessary for daily living. But the word in today’s society is so much more than an IQ score. It has become so stigmatized, it has become slang for a stupid person.   It is hurled as an insult by children on playgrounds. When it is directed at a person, it diminishes that person’s worth. Please just don’t ever use it.   Fairfax County, where Jack attends school, now uses the category “intellectual disability” instead of “mental retardation.”  I’m okay with that. I’m okay with “cognitive deficits.” Intellectually challenged. Okay with that too. Severe cognitive delays—doesn’t bother me. Please just not the word retarded. Jack is not stupid. Jack may never read beyond a third grade level or do advanced math. But Jack is one of the most perceptive people I have ever known. He also can tell you the number and position of every single Washington National and the lineup of the majority of National League teams. And he’s pretty darn good with hockey and basketball too.   He is not “retarded” no matter what his IQ scores might suggest.   It may seem like a matter of semantics. But it’s not. For parents like me, it’s not.

Third, please DO NOT attribute a child’s difficult behaviors to a character flaw. When Jack was three I took him to his speech therapy session. His therapist came out after his 45 minutes were up and said, Jack had been just horrible. She told me she had “never seen behavior” like Jack’s and that she had called in another therapist to observe him. Apparently Jack’s crime was hiding under the table when he had tired of the speech therapy session.   But the therapist persisted in voicing her displeasure and suggested perhaps I should get my second son (who at the time was 11 months old) into therapy as obviously Jack was “out of control.” I left in tears. I was obviously raising a monster—one who was the WORST this therapist had ever seen (incidentally—the therapist must have been all of 25 years old—so even if Jack was the WORST she had ever seen, she was only 25—but I say that now, only with hindsight and a few more years of mom experience under my belt). Another preschool speech therapist (this one a county employee) repeatedly told Jack he was a bad boy when he would attempt to flee the room during speech therapy sessions. (He was 4 years old).   The thing to remember is this: No child with a disability WANTS to be difficult.   No child wants to struggle to make friends. No child wants to be disruptive. No child wants to be unable to sit still. No child wants to be so anxious that their skin crawls.   These are not character flaws. This is the way these children are created. The way they are wired. Jack wasn’t trying to be a jerk when he was hiding under the table or tried to escape the classroom. He was confused about what he was being asked to do. So he hid. Flight or fight.   I read something once that said “the children who need the most love and attention, often ask for it in the most unlovable ways.”     Please do keep that in mind. Also– never underestimate the value of a five minute break. Both for you and for the child.

On a related note, please DO NOT allude to or hint at giving up on my child when my child is being difficult. I look at Jack’s teachers and therapists as my team members in helping Jack learn. It is so disheartening to hear “I don’t know if I can help.”   DO ask me, though, for advice and strategies that have worked at home. Be my partner. I once had a teacher say to me “well nothing that usually works has worked with Jack.” I responded, “well then, if nothing that usually works has worked, then it’s time to try something new.” I tend to believe that there is almost always a solution—it may be hard to find. But it’s easier to find if we work together.

Finally, please DO understand that it is often scary and isolating to have a child that doesn’t fit in.   DO encourage the parents of children with extra needs to find each other. I gave a talk about a year ago about my experience being the mother of a special needs child. One of the issues I discussed was the feeling of isolation that often comes with being the parents of a special needs child. My beautiful, warm and caring extended family, all of whom love Jack, cannot truly understand what it is like to parent him—they don’t understand what it is to worry about your child’s future constantly or what it is to feel like you have to live forever because your son will always need some level of care and you fear no one will provide it if you aren’t there. They don’t fully understand the impact a special needs child has on his siblings or how truly devastating it is to have a child that hasn’t been invited on a playdate or to a birthday party of a neurotypical classmate since he was in preschool.   Of course, I realize because of privacy laws you can’t just start sharing names of other special needs parents, but one of the things that the director of my son’s preschool did that was amazing was to be supportive in the formation of a group for parents of children who receive extra services. Find someone who you think might be a good leader and ask him or her to start a group. Allow them to publicize the group in the school newsletter or talk about it at back to school night. As I mentioned, Jack is 11 years old, but I still meet with the moms from the group founded at his preschool.   We meet the first Wednesday or Thursday of every month for a glass of wine, a sharing of stories and resources, a cry if one of us needs it, a laugh when it’s appropriate (sometimes when it’s not)—in fact I am actually hosting the annual Hanukkah gift exchange at my house tonight. These women have been there for me through the hard times. They have celebrated milestones with me—big and small. They have allowed me to maintain my sanity when it was dangerously close to slipping away. They just get it.

I’ll close with one final thought:   The other night, my five year old asked my husband to read her a story. Jack stepped in and said he’d read to her.   And then he did.   Missing only one or two words, he read his little sister a story about a mouse named Maisy and a snow storm. When Jack was born, doctors told me he likely wouldn’t be able to ever walk or talk or feed himself. Now he’s reading, slowly but surely he’s learning how to read. He is able to do this because of his teachers—people like you. I understand that with kids like mine, the job may be harder-but I promise you, the success is sweeter.   Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the work you do!

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A Back to School Poem (in the spirit of Twas the Night Before Christmas combined with the style of Dr. Seuss with apologies to Clement Moore and Dr. Seuss himself)

backpacks

Twas the night before the first day of school.

New supplies and clothes and shoes, (but not really clothes for the boys because I ran out of time)—now isn’t that cool?

 

The backpacks were stuffed and hung by the door

Tomorrow it starts—summer no more.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of pencils and math long forgotten (and probably tonight’s Sponge Bob episode if we’re honest) danced in their heads.

 

Da Da in his boxers and I in my sweats

Had just settled in to watch the Nats v. the Mets (okay they’re playing the Dodgers, but Mets rhymes with sweats, so go with it).

 

When all of a sudden, in my head there arose such a clatter.

I stood, I paced—what was the matter?

Supply lists in my mind I go over, what did I fail to remember?

Oh, the chaos that reigns each year in September!

 

Do I have enough food in the house to make three lunches?

Bread, check; juice boxes check; grapes I’ve got bunches.

For the first day, at least, we’re set.

After school tomorrow, to the grocery store I’ll get.

 

Just thinking about the new year gets me tired.

Into our school routine and homework we’ll all soon be mired. (Not sure you can use that word as an adjective, but I’m going to).

On Kid 1, On Kid 2 and Kid 3

Get your shoes, get your shoes, get them on now!

Each morning soon I’ll be shouting and how.

I think about play dates and school projects and homework–is it hot in here or is it just me?

The end of summer!  How can it be?

 

And then in a twinkling, my mood turned calm.

A glass of wine in my hand, because really, what could be the harm?

I stopped and took a moment to think—the summer is over and we all survived.

Some might even argue– we thrived.

 

Vacations, camp and pool days are now through

But this is no reason, no reason at all, to be blue. 

Off to school they’ll all march, and they will learn new stuff each day.

They’ll grow and learn–each in their own little way. 

 

So as I prepare to go to bed and turn out my light,

I wish a Happy School Year to All and to All a Good Night!

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5 Reasons I May Be the Worst Mother Ever

  1. I give up on teaching basic life skills.  School starts in less than two weeks. I just ordered my sons sneakers that don’t have tie laces. I bought them the most stylish sneakers that have bungee type laces with a Velcro strap connecter that I could find. Why is this news you ask? My sons are 10 and 8 years old. They can’t tie their own shoelaces.   I’ve tried holding lace tying seminars. I’ve tried explaining bunny ears. I’ve tried cute poems. It has not worked.   I just can’t handle another school year which includes mornings where I have to wrestle my 10 year olds’ gigantic feet into his shoes and tie them up. My 8 year old is a very smart boy with no fine motor skills.  Just this summer, he learned how to tell the difference between his right and left shoe (and no, in case you’re wondering, to him it doesn’t feel wrong when his shoes are on the wrong feet). Today in my last ditch shoe tying lesson, he said to me, “Mom I am NEVER going to have to do this—there is no reason for me to learn how to.”   Um . . . actually son, you will have to learn to tie a tie and you’ll have to learn how to tie your shoelaces. I’m hoping your wife will teach you one day.   I give.

 

  1. I model really poor nutritional behavior. I always pack a nutritious lunch, and I make a nutritionally sound dinner on average 4.5 nights a week. I only let my children eat sugar cereal when we’re on vacation. But . . . you know that old adage—do what I say, not as I do. A mother must have said that first. Sunday morning, for breakfast, I had a diet coke and potato chips. My five year old asked me for a sip of my soda at 9:30 am. There is no excuse. I am not proud.

 

  1. Sometimes (and by sometimes I mean 2-3 times per day) I utter this phrase to my children: “Get off of me!” I love a good snuggle as much as the next girl. I do. And I hug and smooch my kids a lot. Every day.  But sometimes I just want to play Candy Crush or watch brain cell killing reality television with no one sitting on my legs, tapping my arm or giving me a new hairdo (my daughter likes to do makeovers).   Unfortunately, my gentle prodding to “give mommy one second” or “go play in your room for a few minutes” often turns into “GET OFF OF ME!” when my gentle prodding is ignored. Obviously, this is what they will remember and what will allow them to blame me for all their future hardships or failed relationships and what will ultimately lead to years of therapy. I can see it now, “she was a cold cold woman, my mother.”

 

  1. I buy them things to make the whining stop. Not every single time, but a lot of times, I bribe them to keep them quiet.   Let’s say, just for example, we’re in Target to buy laundry detergent, a storage bin and dog food. If I were alone, it would take me 10 minutes to navigate the aisles, find what I need and check out. With three kids in tow, it will take an hour and fifteen minutes to do the same tasks. Of course, I’ll have to stop every other minute to threaten a consequence, breakup a sibling fight, locate a child that has wandered away or discuss why we can’t purchase a new wii game and an ipad every time we walk into a store. Odds are better than even we’ll leave with laundry detergent, dog food and three $6.00 toys that I purchased to keep the peace. And yes, odds are better than even I will forget the storage bin and say a few choice words when we get to the car and I realize it.

 

  1. I think I may give them too much information. My eight year old rode the bus to camp this summer and last. Apparently, on the camp bus one of the activities of the older kids was to spell bad words. My eight year old would then ask me what the words meant. So, when he came home and asked me what d-i-c-k meant—I told him it was a nickname for Richard.   “Really?” he asked. “That’s it?” “Yep.” I said. “Like Tricky Dick, the nickname of Richard Nixon.” N really loves presidential history.   So when he responded with skeptical silence I broke like a house of cards “Okay, okay, it’s also a really crass word for a boys’ private parts and if someone is being a real jerk you might say something like ‘don’t be such a d-i-c-k.’ to that person.”    Really? Really? I had him at Richard Nixon. I didn’t have to go further! I armed my 8 year old with the meaning of a bad word and then, if that weren’t bad enough, I gave him an example on how to use it in context. Clearly I have lost my mind. To be fair, somewhere I read that you should always be honest with your children because if you lie to them about little things they won’t trust you with the big things. Upon further reflection, I don’t think this applies to swear words. I think my children should learn the meaning of bad words the same way I did–on the mean streets of suburbia.   I tried to remedy my error. I immediately threatened him. “If I ever hear you say that word, you’ll be grounded for a month and if you ever say it at school, you’ll be expelled.”

Wait. Are you supposed to make threats? Did I lie again? Maybe I should make a longer list.

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I Am a Piece of Work?! I AM? I AM A PIECE OF WORK?

Have you ever noticed that when your day starts down the wrong path and things start to go wrong and you think the world has lost its ever loving mind, that the world usually takes the opportunity to send one final metaphorical finger jab to the chest?  One final shot to confirm that yes the world has lost its ever loving mind and that things are not going to go your way no matter what you do.  You have?  Me too–that’s the kind of day I’m having.

First let’s just start by saying I’m having issues with 2/3 of my kids at summer camp.  It has not been going well.  Again today it was pointed out to me by those in charge that it is not going well. Details are really unimportant—just trust me.  2/3 of my kids are currently giving me something to worry about.

Anyhoo . . .  to make us all feel better, after camp I took the kids to the 7-11 for Slurpees and treats. What a good mom.  Right?  Right.   After herding all three kids through the store—getting three Slurpees  (and 1 Diet Coke) and candy (okay, okay 4 candies, don’t judge me it’s been a hard week) and shepherding all three kids back into my minivan, I took a deep breath—started the car, picked up my phone and decided to check my email before moving and then . . . Kaboom!   Rear-ended in the 7-11 parking lot.  I looked in my review mirror and saw a gigantic Buick or Oldsmobile or whatever.   (For your general information, I have an uncanny knack for getting into parking lot altercations.  Once around the holidays I was paged while shopping in the Barnes & Noble because the guy I parked next to couldn’t fit in his car and then when I got to my car he started yelling at me about being inconsiderate despite the fact I was entirely within in my parking space lines and when I pointed that out he called me a name and then I just kept saying “And a Merry Christmas to YOU Sir!” over and over again.  That is but one example.  There are so many more). 

Anyhoo again . . . back to the story at hand.   I uttered a few choice words, got out of my car and moved towards my bumper and the car that was still practically attached to it.  Inside the Buick or Oldmobile or whatever was an elderly woman—I’m guessing in her eighties, maybe nineties—or maybe a very very poorly aged seventies.  The following is our exchange, after she managed to unlock her door (she couldn’t figure out how to unroll the window):

Me:  You rear-ended my car.

Her:  WHAT?!?  I did NOT!

Me:  M’am-you did so.  I’m going to write down your license plate number.

Her:  Harrumph.

Me:  STOP!  (After she started to reverse into me as I stood between our two cars)

So I take a look at my bumper and it was fine—so I decide to write down the plate and get back into my car.  After a 25 point turn she manages to park next to me (I was waiting to leave as I couldn’t reverse with her maneuvering  behind me).  We then had this exchange:

Her:   SHOW ME THE DAMAGE TO YOUR CAR!

Me:  M’am there is no damage to my car, but you might want to check yours.  

Her:  OH, For heaven’s sake—this car is old!

Me:  Okay then, that’s fine.  But lady–you hit my bumper.  You might want to check your car.  I have your license plate number (I don’t know why I added this, but it seemed like the thing to say—but clearly I was wrong as she then went off as follows).

Her:  YOU ARE A PIECE OF WORK!

Me:  I AM? I AM?!  I AM A PIECE OF WORK?!??  (Picture When Harry Met Sally— “Is one of us supposed to be a dog in this scenario?”  “Yes. You are.”   “I am?  I am?  I am the dog?”)

Her:  Yes.  You are CRAZY!

 

Whereupon, I left. 

 

Me to my kids:   Am I crazy?  

N:  No.  She definitely rear ended us.  I felt it.

L:  Me too.

Little J:  I don’t like that lady.  (And then a string of inappropriate comments).

 

Here is my question.  There is a woman driving around my community who has no business driving a car.  Do I report this as a non-emergency type thing to the police?  Would you?   There were probably eight million ways to handle this better—but I’m not sure what they are.   Probably I should’ve called the police when I was there, right?

And to the world that is insistent on sending me a message—I get it.  Things are not going to go my way.  At least – not today.  I’ll try again tomorrow.  

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If You Want to Know . . .

If you want to know how embarrassing it is when your five year old daughter bounds out of the camp bus and announces she has to go potty and when you say “okay, just give me one minute and we’ll go home” she makes a face and while you’re engaged in a conversation with the bus driver your daughter decides she just can’t wait ANY longer, NOT ONE MINUTE LONGER so she pulls her pants down and says she will pee behind a tree, but seeing as how you are not in the woods, but rather at the corner of a major local intersection, there is no tree to hide behind so she squats and pees in front of God and everybody while you’re just starting to react and yelling noooooo in what feels like slow motion . . . the answer is it is EXTREMELY embarrassing.

If you want to know how badly it smells when your son makes instant mac ‘n cheese in the microwave but forgets to add water, the answer is EXTREMELY bad.  Like 150 times worse than burned popcorn bad.

If you want to know how long the smell of burned microwave mac ‘n cheese made with no water will linger in your house, the answer is I don’t know.  But I do know it is more than two days.

If you want to know the likelihood of me mastering my mother’s creamed cabbage recipe, I would say the odds are less than 45%.   If you want to know how the smell of an amateur attempt at making creamed cabbage mixes with the smell of burned microwave mac ‘n cheese made with no water, the answer is NOT well.

If you want to know how many years my son took off of my life when he did this (he’s the kid at the top):

Noah play date

The answer is probably 15.

If you want to know how good I am at mahjong having played twice in my life, the answer is freakishly good.  Like seriously, I should maybe enter a tournament good.

Amy mahjong

If you want to know how many pictures it took to get this one sweet picture of my daughter at my brother in law’s farm:

Lily cucumber

 

The answer is 5.   The other farm pictures turned out something like this:

kids.farm

 

If you want to know how badly I need a vacation, the answer is very very badly.

If you want to know if I would trade any of this knowledge for a million dollars, the answer is nope–not on your life.

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He’ll Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Jackalone

Tonight I am feeling thankful. I am thankful for people who get it. And for people who always try.

My eldest child suffered a birth injury which resulted in moderate to severe cognitive deficits, delayed social skills and some general anxiety and behavioral issues. At the special needs buffet, we got a little taste of everything. When Little J was born, doctors told us he would never walk or talk or feed himself. He does all of those things; so, if I ever start to feel sorry for myself, I think back to the first days of his life and take solace in knowing his situation, and therefore, our situation, could be so much harder than it has turned out to be. I am thankful for what we have. Sometimes I have to remind myself to be thankful—but I am. Deep down I am so very thankful. He is here. He is healthy. He is mine.

But still. It is hard. I ask your indulgence in allowing me to explore some of the more difficult aspects of being Little J’s mom for just for a moment.

I gave a talk not too long ago about my experience being the mother of a child with special needs. One of the things I talked about was the sadness I feel when I watch my son struggle to make friends and to engage socially. I explained how a huge percentage of the population doesn’t really see him. Little J looks like a typical ten year old. Personally, I think he’s on the gorgeous side of typical, but I’m his mother so do with that description as you will. Socially and intellectually, Little J is much younger. I see how people react when they start to speak to him, and I can see their face grimace slightly when they attempt to talk to him and realize that he isn’t your average ten year old. Most people, after attempting to speak with Little J, will look at me, with a question in their eyes, and expect me to translate, answer for him, or explain the situation. Sometimes Little J looks to me to help him converse. I can read people’s minds when that happens. “What’s wrong with him?”

As Little J’s mom, this is so hard to watch. How can he connect with people, how can he find love, how can he make friends–when a conversation is so hard to have?

To be fair, talking to Little J is hard for the uninitiated. He is obsessed with baseball. He asks strange questions. He repeats odd phrases. Sometimes it can make you laugh. I remember waiting in the psychiatrist’s office one time and Little J kept saying repeatedly “My mother has back hair. My mother has back hair” I just smiled and threw in a denial or two. “No I don’t silly!” I was so relieved to hear our name called. Incidentally, and for the record, I really do not have back hair.

When Little J was younger he somehow got the phrase “I’m going to kick your ass” into his arsenal of things to say. (Judge me not –I don’t know where he got it, I swear!) He would say that randomly to people—the optometrist, the check out guy at Costco. It was lovely. Mostly I just smiled and pretended I couldn’t hear. He went through a phase where his favorite phrase was “big and fat.” As in “you look big and fat.” He would say that repeatedly to me, his father, his teacher, and random ladies at the grocery store. Again, pretended I had a hearing problem. His new thing to say is “you look gorgeous!” Finally—I deserve this. Most often he says this to me at times when I most certainly do not look my best, for example when I have just stood up from scrubbing dog vomit out of the carpet. But I’m not going to argue with the kid, and it’s so much nicer than “I’m going to kick your ass.”

Today, I just want to say thank you to the people who enter our world. My friends, who at barbecues and birthday parties always ask Little J how the Nationals are doing—even if they don’t get an answer that makes sense or any answer at all—they still see him and still talk to him and still try. I am thankful for the wonderful lady at N’s tae kwon do class who engages Little J every Tuesday and Saturday (“Tell me two things you did at camp today”) and who never judges when he looks at me to give a response or to repeat her question more slowly. I’m thankful for those who understand when Little J says “I don’t know” it may mean he just can’t process the question fast enough. I am thankful for our family, his aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents who will answer the same question 150 times without losing patience. I am thankful for the people who know when Little J says “You look like Jayson Werth” he is not suggesting you have too much facial hair or can play baseball, rather he is trying, albeit awkwardly, to engage you in his world.

For all the people who see beyond Little J’s disability and see a really cool, funny kid. Thank you. You are more important to Little J and me than you know.

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Offline but Connected

According to Wikipedia, which we all know is renowned for its reliability and accuracy, the sandwich generation is a generation of individuals who are simultaneously caring for aging parents and raising their own children. There you go. That’s me. In the sandwich of life, I am the cheese. Or the turkey. Take your pick.

It is 10:30 pm and I have just returned from my dad’s house–the house where I grew up and the house my dad shared with my mom up until her death nearly five years ago. My dad, who at 84 had always seemed much younger, recently had quite the health scare. Although it appears he has turned the corner and is on the road to recovery, he is still not quite well enough to stay on his own. My sisters and I are, therefore, taking turns staying with him until we can get a life alert button installed and arrange for some companion care for the hours where we have to work and/or tend to our own crazy lives. It’s been a challenging ten days including hospital visits and the coordination of doctor appointments, physical therapy visits and our own schedules. Thank the stars and heaven above for my sisters and for my husband (who is doing the heavy lifting at home while I’m tending to my pops) . . . this would be impossible to do alone.

My “shift” with my dad started at 11:00 this morning and was to go until 9:30 tonight when my sister could come relieve me. It was at 11:05 when I realized the day was going to be very long. My cell phone had broken that morning and would not allow me to switch applications without completely shutting down. I had forgotten my book. I hadn’t brought an iPad (which really didn’t matter as my dad does not have wifi), and the only computer in my dad’s house is approximately 150 years old. I’m not entirely sure, but I might have heard a dial up modem when I attempted to check Facebook. To make things extra fun, I could hear his news station blaring from the TV room, and let’s just say my dad’s a Fox News kind of a guy, and I am an MSNBC kind of a gal.

Around 12:45, my dad decided to take a nap. Suddenly, I was all alone. In a very quiet house. There I was all alone with my thoughts. Huh. What was I going to do? I finally had what I think is missing from my day to day existence. Solitude. Quiet. I spent about 15 seconds contemplating the mysteries of the universe and then I turned on the TV, found an 80s movie on HBO, settled in and watched.

Around 3:30 my dad awoke and we moved to sit on his screened-in porch. Today was a beautiful summer day–low humidity, a nice breeze, beyond rare for the DC area in July. And then we talked. Just the two of us. No pings from my phone indicating the arrival of a text or email. No disruptive phone calls.

He told me stories about his youth that I had never heard before. He shared stories about growing up in the Bronx. He described the apartments he lived in, his bad experience with Catholic grade school (he hated it—if you didn’t complete your lesson, the nuns would deny you lunch, can you imagine?– but he learned a lot); about how his mother sent him to his first day of high school with a brief case and the upper classmen gave him a hard time; about how after he returned from Korea there was a recession and he couldn’t get a job so he decided to go to grad school at NYU; about a part time job he had collecting overdue library books for the NYC Library; about getting a job with the government and moving to Washington without knowing a soul; about how he met my mom on his very first day on the job and his 2nd day in Washington; about how he thought she was a little heavy but had a very pretty face (oy!); about how they had no money for a big wedding or a honeymoon but they had a week off to set up their apartment and do the things newlyweds do (ack! My ears! That can’t be unheard).

He asked me about Little J and about his progress and about our struggles and worries about raising him. He asked about N and L and about how work is going. He asked me about my thoughts on immigration. And there we agreed to disagree. (I quoted Emma Lazarus to no avail).

But it was nice. Very nice. My very long day was a very good day. And I am content to be the cheese in the sandwich of life. Or the turkey. Take your pick.

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Testing. Testing 1. Testing 2 . . . Is this thing on?

Let me start by saying the following:   I have no experience blogging.  I know little, and by little I mean nothing, about computers. So, if you’re able to read this, I will, on some level, consider this first post a success.  I’ve been known to make a grammatical error or two-both when I’m speaking and when I’m writing (I struggle continually with the difference between lie and lay, just for example). Despite all that, I do love to write.  I find it therapeutic and relaxing, and it allows me to step outside of myself and see life from a different perspective. I have a handful of friends who read my Facebook posts and have encouraged me to start a blog. FYI, I also have some Twitter followers; most of them are strangers, however, and they haven’t encouraged me to do anything. This is probably because my particular brand of wit takes more than 140 characters. #Iamtoooldtofigurethatout. My life—my husband, my kids, my friends, extended family and my job, all give me a lot of inspiration (i.e., material).  So, what the heck—let’s give this a shot.

A few background facts: My husband (let’s call him Big J just for fun) and I practice divorce law together. Our practice concentrates on collaborative practice, mediation and uncontested divorces. Working with your spouse is an interesting experience.   I quit or get fired at least once a week. I also think it makes us perfect candidates to be on The Amazing Race (really—a married couple that practices divorce law together—a real life LA Law minus the obscene wealth and 80s clothing–perfect for realty TV, am I right?). Alas, I’m asthmatic and afraid of just about all physical challenges and neither of us is in what I would describe as Olympic shape so we have not gone to any Amazing Race contestant open calls.   Never say never though.   We have three kids—two sons: Little J (age 10) and N (age 8) and a daughter L (age 5). Little J suffered a birth injury which resulted in moderate to severe cognitive deficits, anxiety and behavioral issues. Raising him is a huge challenge but is also a source of inspiration and motivation.  I am 42 years old, a good 15 pounds overweight, and I walk around slightly overwhelmed the majority of the time. I have two dogs, two sisters, an elderly father and a whole host of interesting friends and extended family members.

This blog will not offer parenting advice. I’m barely hanging on. Occasionally, I throw saltines at my children on the way out the door as we’re leaving for school and call it breakfast. Twice (maybe three times) I have forgotten to pick up one or more of my children from school or an extracurricular actively.

This blog will offer no exercise or nutritional advice (see above—15 pounds overweight).

This blog will not offer wisdom or a game plan on how to keep calm or maintain serenity. ( I haven’t figured out how to keep calm and no one who knows me intimately would describe me as serene).

This blog will offer no judgment. Well, maybe. . . I mean probably . . . I mean yes, this blog will at some point or another offer judgment. (But I promise to judge only the people who are truly deserving).

This blog will offer the truth as I see it. The truth is I find motherhood and wifehood to be the toughest jobs in the world (and did I mention I’m a divorce lawyer?).  The truth is I also think they are the most amazing jobs in the world. The truth is I sometimes find life’s challenges to be mind boggling. Sometimes I find life to be soul crushingly difficult. Sometimes people infuriate me. But I also hold on to one essential truth. Life can be so amazingly, so refreshingly, so completely, and so wonderfully funny. Sometimes you have to dig deep, really deep—but I find there is almost always something to laugh about.   Join me, if you will. Let’s dig deep together.   (I think I have overused parentheticals haven’t I?—I’ll get better).

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