Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

I woke up on Mother’s Day at 6:41 a.m. Just woke up. No child screaming. No cat screaming. Just my clock, the biological one. Technically, I slept in by twenty minutes—weekdays 6:20 is my start.

I pee. The baby is up. The cat hears me and begins his morning song for food. I go feed the cat and decide to sneak a load of laundry from the washer into the dryer, grab Andy and then head downstairs before he wakes anyone up.

But Max. Max.

Max has been dealing with some anxiety lately. He’ll be looking for a toy and will full on yell at us, “Where’s the blue car!!!!” over and over again until we point it out to him. Sometimes even then he won’t go pick it up, he screams at us to get it. (We don’t, btw. He can pick up his own damn car.)

So I’m midway between my laundry task when Max bursts out of his room and full on yells, “It’s happy time! It’s happy time!” I’m like, “Okay.” He continues, “Mommy! It’s HAPPY TIME!”

“Okay, buddy, you don’t have to yell.”

“It’s happy time. IT’S HAPPY TIME, MOMMY!”

Keep in mind that this is full-on, Tori Amos’ Tear In Your Hand kind of scenario. Fonts and capitalization don’t do it justice. He is saying the word happy in a voice that is not. In a voice that says, If you don’t give me what I want I’m going to throw myself down on the floor and wake everyone in the neighborhood.

I say, “Okay, buddy. Let Mommy finish and we’ll go downstairs in five minutes.” (Five minutes is our standard countdown time for anything: five minutes to potty, five minutes to tubby, five mintutes to go bye-bye.)

“MOMMY! Happy time, MOMMY!”

“Yes, dude, I get it. Mommy has to finish this and then get Alex, okay.”


“Go ahead, go get him. Open the door.”


Good times at what is now like, 6:50 a.m. My mother graciously appears in the doorway of her room to find out what Mikey wants while I shove the clothes into the dryer. I tell her, “I have no idea. It’s happy time.”

“Oh,” my mom says.


“I was trying to teach him Happy Mother’s Day yesterday. I was telling him, ‘Tomorrow we’ll tell Mommy: Happy Mother’s Day.’ Is that what you’re trying to say, Max? Tell Mommy.”

He looks at me and says, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!”

God love him.

Flowers from Ned/Thor/Gunnar and the boys.

Flowers from Ned/Thor/Gunnar and the boys.


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This blog is being brough to you by my very new computer, purchased in a hasty click last week while I watched the last 20 minutes of my old computer’s battery die like a kind of horrible NYE ball drop. Dammit.

That’s the kind of holiday season we’ve been having around here. I ordered the wrong photos for our Christmas card. We got our tree two weeks late because of child illness and rain (and the post-rain mud put a little damper on things). Said late tree is crooked, and so about 1/3 of the ornaments are not on it. And at least half of our decorations for the house are still in boxes. The most festive part of our home is the outside–and that is because Ned/Thor/Gunnar put effort in to put up lights.

We’re celebrating a half Christmas.

Some years are like this, I know. The year Max was born, I told my friends and family that I would not be making Christmas cookies that year. There were some long faces. But what can you do? I got to the point this season where I wanted to just cancel putting up a tree.  I was missing the spirit. I looked at all the elfing I had to do and all I saw was work.

I partially blame Thanksgiving. It came too late. But this still doesn’t make me want to start the holiday season on Labor Day. I mean, c’mon. There were just too many deadlines and not enough time. Even though I cut back and even though I did most of my shopping online. The boys kept getting sick. It seemed like any moment I was able to stop and look around, all I wished I could do was take a nap.

I wonder if my mother felt this way. I know we never baked Christmas cookies together. She worked a crazy amount over the holiday season (she was the breadwinner) and didn’t have the time. She would stay up until 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Even to get the presents wrapped and if we were hosting, cleaning the house getting ready for company the next day. I wonder if she only put out half the decorations and skipped sending cards.

More than anything, I miss that luxury of being able to enjoy the holiday. To watch a Christmas movie all the way through, or spend an entire day shopping for gifts, or even being able to attend a church service. (We live in the country. Our church has one service at 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve … it’ll be a few years before they’ll stay up for that one.)

Moon-600So now the sick little man Max is in bed, feverish but still I think, sweet as pie as he falls asleep under his new moon nightlight. And little bug Andrew is protesting in his crib that Christmas is over. I think, in the end, we try and re-create our own childhood memories of Christmas. And often fail. But to them, it was perfect. This was an awesome day.


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There. It. Is.

It’s like a sentence all its own. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who has a child that is autistic. Everybody that knows somebody feels relief and sadness when they hear this news. I feel so sorry for them. I’m so glad it’s not my child.

It has taken me awhile to write about it. I think because when we first got the official diagnosis for Max, we were shocked. He made eye contact at home with us. He spoke, although he could not tell us what he wanted. He was very affectionate. He was not rocking himself to sleep in a corner.

But there it was. Like some horrible end-of-the-world kind of sentence.


We didn’t tell many people. There’s a good amount of fear in the judgment and reaction from others about this diagnosis. And, we wanted to wait and see.

We began what we need to begin, which you can read more about on A is for Autism on this site. We were able to get an IEP, and he’s been in a specialized classroom since March of this year. He is beginning to really talk and vocalize his wants and needs. He loves his private speech therapist. He loves going to school, and riding on the bus. In many ways, he is a happy and healthy kid.

And yet.

I suppose I also put off writing about it because I didn’t know where this was going to end up. I had nothing but questions and no answers. And as a writer, and even as an editor, I’m a research-y, fact-checking kind of girl. I like my ducks in a row. And ASD is not a duck-in-a-row kind of thing.

I tried the one and only online forum I knew of, and lasted approximately one post before I decided to not go there again. (The moms were too … intense there.) It was too much information for me to process, and way too many acronyms. I left feeling overwhelmed and unprepared.

I tried just reading posts to glean information I could apply to my son, but that’s the tricky thing about autism. Each kid is completely different. No kid was just like my kid. It was frustrating. One issue could be addressed by going to XYZ organization that was local to that mom’s state. My son may have the same issue, but my state doesn’t have such a service. You get the gist.

Being in rural VA has not helped. I know one mom who has a son that is also autistic, and in Max’s class. There is one parent organization that covers ALL of northern Virginia, which spans four huge counties. I often will drive over an hour to attend a seminar or event.

And yet.

Max has meltdowns. Beyond tantrums. The kind of event that has me following him around the house for an hour to stop him from breaking something or hurling a toy through a window or biting his brother or banging his head against the floor. He will hit, kick, slap, bite, and even head-butt me to express his anger when given an opportunity.

He is sensory-seeking, which means we have gone through the following phases as he looks for sensory input: stimming (stimulating) an object close to his eyes usually while humming a noise; sticking his hand down the back of his pants (and yes, often coming up with something, and wiping it on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows); sticking his fingers up his nose and wiping that on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows (I buy a lot of Windex); and spitting—on his brother, on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows.

For a parent, it is not fun. It often is hard to remember why you love your child. It most certainly, at times, is difficult to enjoy your child. Many times you miss out on the “normal” milestones in his life. It is often hard to remember not to yell. Or spank or even punch a wall yourself. There are days where all you do is correct your kid, yell and try time out, hoping it doesn’t turn into another meltdown.

So from time to time, I may share some of the tidbits and tricks I have learned in parenting an autistic child. I may vent about his behavior. I may cry that he’s never going to reach “normal.” But I’m finally ready to talk about our journey, and hope that it helps.

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This is not just an apt illustration of what a frazzled mom looks like. I’m not playing with metaphor here, I’m playing with reality. This is my actual hair people, after a long day of boys, wrestling, corralling and wrangling.

Seriously. These kids have destroyed my hair. Not only is it a mangled, frizzy mess at the end of the day, but I now constantly fight a halo of smaller, newly-grown hairs to replace the ones I’ve lost. Lost because my very long, ungroomed, undyed hair is completely unkempt in not a clip, not a ponytail, but a bun. Every day it ends up this way.

I need help.

And I’ve not even started in on my eyebrows. Or the bags under my eyes. Or the fact that my eyes have experience two brand-new, out-of-the box sets of contacts this week, because I am too tired to remember to put them IN THE SOLUTION at night after I pluck them out of my eyes, and I wake up to dry, shriveled little contact shells.

I digress. It’s a mom thing. And here I am. I have become the mom I swore I wouldn’t become. You know the mom: The one that wears yoga pants outside at least once a day (bus, trash, mail, whatevs). The mom that is featured on makeover shows because she let herself go. The mom who wears the same two pairs of shorts and four shirts every single week because she just cannot bear to go out and buy more fat clothes and keeps ignoring the ones her pre-baby body fit in to. The mom who is trying to keep up with a one-year-old, a four-year-old with a disability, and work and house and no family and no friends nearby to help, and if the baby wakes up at 6:00 a.m. every freaking morning, what time is said mom supposed to get up to work out?

Some days I wish they could do that thing in sci fi shows, where they take away your sleep. And then you can have 24 hours every day in which to get things done. Because you don’t need to sleep. You just keep going and going … but then, the world of magic kicks in and you realize you’ve created an evil twin version of yourself, but hulkier, and possibly with greenish skin, who’s gonna break some glass and bust some heads and … wait. That was totally an episode of Angel.

Again, digression. Lack of sleep. Sleep! I love sleep. Lately, when Andrew is napping and Max and I are in the playroom, I find sleep just throws a sack over my head and carries me away for ten minutes. Or an hour. It’s blissful. Until I wake up. And find that Max has done something horrible. Like throw an entire bin full of dried beans under the couch.

I don’t know what to do to break this cycle. It’s a sun up, sun down kind of job, motherhood. And I don’t know if any good solutions exist to help me out of this, short of hiring a nanny. Or a maybe a house cleaner. (Let’s face it, I’m too embarrassed by the state of my house when it IS dirty to have a stranger come over and clean up my mess and make it not dirty.)

I think we just have to ride the wave. And not forget to call the salon ….

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20140205_085303A few weeks ago, I was calmly eating a stack of pancakes with warm maple syrup, enjoying my second cup of coffee as I peered out the window to an icy, icy day. It actually was quite beautiful. There is something peaceful about seeing the trees all frozen, much like a morning of fully-blanketed snow.

This quiet morning was the antithesis of my previous day, which made me laugh in hindsight, because I’m sure there are people who wonder what the life of a working-stay-at-home-mom (WSAHM) looks like. Here we go:

It’s 11:00 p.m. on Thursday night, and I’m in bed with my husband, Ned, aka Ned/Thor/Gunnar, aka NTG. This is early for me, but I’m not pumping tonight, and I’m exhausted from both kids waking up in the middle of the night the previous evening. And I have a giant proof to work on in the morning.

To ensure at least five hours of sleep, we’ve put the baby to bed rather late (around 10:00 p.m.) and nursed him twice in two hours. That oughtta do it.

At three thirty in the morning, I hear my eldest son, Max, begin to stir in his room. Thirty seconds later he’s in the hallway crying. NTG is up and out of bed, in his underwear, and I’m dragging myself out from under the covers. This is how it works, always. My brain wakes up and my bladder, which is processing about 100 to 120 ounces of water per day (breastfeeding momma), screams “I GOTTA GO!” So I go.

I get into the hallway and Max is lying in the doorway of his bathroom, NTG hovering over him going, “I dunno what’s wrong.” When Max sees me, he gets up. I pick him up and immediately am hit by the wall of smell: puke. I call to NTG, “Ned, he smells like vomit.” This also, is how it works: the kid wants mommy, so daddy has to go on puke patrol. Ned checks Max’s room and his bed, but there’s nothing.

So I get Max changed and calmed down and back to bed by 4:00 a.m. NTG cannot go back to sleep, so he camps out in the spare bedroom with his Droid. I, like most moms of young children, am asleep in seconds.

And then the baby wakes at five fifteen. I linger ’til five thirty, and then I spend the next half hour changing and nursing. I fall back into bed, and am re-awakened by the sound of Max getting up, seeing everyone else is asleep, and scurrying downstairs to make trouble. When I check the clock, it’s not quite eight.

So I drag myself out of bed and to the spare room to wake Ned, who I know has a conference call at 8:30 a.m. (Yeah, yeah, I’m Wife of the Year.) I go downstairs to check on Max, who still smells faintly of vomit, and try to get him to drink some water as I stumble around a full sink of dishes trying to make coffee.

And then, I feed the cat.

Max loses it. It’s his newest threenager move: he freaks whenever I’m feeding Andrew cereal, or the cat his breakfast/lunch/dinner. Terrible really, I totally don’t get it. I deal with that hot mess for about ten minutes until NTG comes downstairs to take over, and I go up and get the baby up. Again. I make a note while I’m in the bathroom to refill the soap dispenser.

Once Andy is settled into chewing a blue elephant rattle, I get to work stripping Max’s bed and throwing in a load of clothes. I, of course, have a load of dry laundry yet to be folded sitting in a basket, as well as a full dry load of diapers in the dryer. The morning starts to blur. NTG showers. I draw a bath for Max, finish folding all the laundry. NTG leaves for work and recaps the nights events saying, “I don’t know what that was.” In my head I say, It was puke. Just because you didn’t find it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The only thing in the world that smells like puke is puke! I go downstairs to gather up Max and give him a bath. The baby starts to fuss that he’s done for the morning and I leave Max to play while I nurse Andy to sleep. I swap out the washer for the dryer and throw in another load. Max is dried and dressed and refusing to have his nails trimmed. I turn off the light in the bathroom and make a mental note to refill the soap dispenser. I decide to take a shower when my stomach begins to urgently insist I do something about my no-breakfast. It’s ten thirty in the morning.

So I go downstairs to grab a cereal bar, and Max follows me, ready to eat. So I give him juice and water and dry cereal, and pray he keeps it down. Max follows me back upstairs when we’re done eating. I turn on the shower. He protests that I’m running water. I explain I have to get clean too. He’s not buying it.

I proceed to get “ready” for the day and crack open my laptop to check my e-mail. It’s now 11:30 a.m. Nothing urgent, so I enjoy a segment of The View and have a serious discussion with Max about why screaming in the room next to where his brother is sleeping isn’t a good idea.

I get downstairs to sit at my desk, which is in a gated-off part of our finished basement, and actually start working. I make one phone call and turn on the monitor. The baby is awake. *sigh* I trudge back upstairs to change his diaper, and end up changing his outfit because he’s leaked a bit, swap out clothes from the washer to the dryer, curse that I still haven’t remembered to fill the soap dispenser, and mentally decide to not take both boys out for a quick grocery run and make NTG do it instead. I get back downstairs to my office and as soon as I walk into the playroom, I can tell Max has pooped.

So all the way back upstairs to change a diaper (we cloth diaper, so trudging upstairs to our diapering station is a must.) I make another mental note to fetch the liquid soap from under the kitchen sink and refill the damn soap dispenser. Why is my stomach rumbling? It’s lunch time. I’ve not gotten a lick of work done. I decide to write this blog instead, because if I don’t, it’ll be 5:00 p.m. and I’ll be ready for a nap and a glass of wine. Or both.

I somehow get through lunch, another nap for the baby, a dozen emails regarding the font size of my latest book project, Max having a good twenty-minute door slamming fest, starting rice for dinner (cashew chicken, yum), getting the baby up from the nap, two more diaper changes and waiting for NTG to finally get home.

But he doesn’t get home. It’s the worst time of day, really, the witching hour for babies. By 6:00 p.m., I’m prepping food for Max, cereal for the baby, and prepping the meal for NTG and I so when he gets home, all I have to do is cook. In French they call this preparatory cooking mise en place. I call it the calm before the storm.

Max manages to keep himself busy enough while I feed Andrew cereal mixed with formula (because I didn’t pump last night, so I don’t have enough breastmilk to mix in). He doesn’t mind. We’re a little more than halfway through the feeding when Max climbs into my lap to whine about said feeding of his little brother. And … he smells. *sigh* Where is your father? So I quickly finish up the baby, wipe his face, carry the baby upstairs to his crib, come back downstairs and carry Max upstairs (’cause he’s still not over that whole Mommy-carry-me-I-still-want-to-be-the-baby thing). As I’m changing Max, Andy is crying. Max has leaked a little from his diaper, so I decide to just put pjs on him. Andy’s revving up. Where the eff is your father? I get Max set, and he wants me to carry him back downstairs. I call to Andy, “Mommy’ll be right back,” as if that will placate my non-speaking infant, get Max to the kitchen table and his dinner, tell him, “Mommy’ll be right back,” as I climb back upstairs to a now-screaming baby who just. Wants. To. Sleep.

Ned/Thor/Gunnar walks in the door just as I’m getting Andy to latch on.

I finally get to my proof once both children are sleeping. I finish writing this blog at 12:44 p.m.

And people wonder, what we moms do all day at home. I hope I was able to clear that up. We forget to fill soap dispensers.

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I love Halloween. The planning, the decorations, the costumes. The candy. In our household, we go for all things witches (me) and pirates (Ned). The Maximillion hasn’t quite hit a theme yet, even though this was his third Halloween.

Max’s first Halloween, he was a monkey. I found a suit in a catalog and couldn’t resist it. Since he was not yet two months old, I bought the smallest size they had, which was listed as 6 – 18 months. It was so huge, he probably could have worn it for his second Halloween. It also was covered in this synthetic fur, and thank god I put a onesie on under it, because when I took him out of it he and I were covered in brown fibers; his sweaty (Florida Halloween, people) hands were clenching fists of it. That Halloween ended in a shower.

But darn it, that kid was so stinkin’ cute. I think part of the fun was Ned and I giggling hysterically while we were dressing him, ’cause of course he was just cruising along with it; and dressing him in this silly/cute costume left us drunk with power.

The next Halloween, he was a cowboy. My mom bought him a button down shirt that reminded me of the boys in Oklahoma, so I searched the Internet for cowboy boots and a hat. Two days before Halloween, I couldn’t find the hat, and my practice runs to get my now 14-month-old into cowboy boots was a mess. The night of trick-or-treat it was 85 degrees and humid as hell (again, Florida Halloween). Max wasn’t walking much on his own, so I carried him to a dozen houses, the last of which was a neighbor who gave Max a sucker. We arrived home sweaty and sticky with blue-flavored drool. Yeah, that Halloween ended in another shower.

This Halloween Max was a biker. Oma bought him a no-foolin’, toddler-size leather jacket when he was just a year and we’ve been waiting for him to fit into it. My aunt found him this crazy, mowhawk skull winter hat, and I found him some a@#$-kickin’ shoes at the resale store. (Seriously, he loved those. Couldn’t get him outta them.)

There are moments as a mom when you fall in love with your kids again, and this night was one of ’em. We only got one “trick or treat!” out of him, but he ran up and down the street like a trooper, all tucked up in our 40-degree Halloween night, rockin his superstar outfit. He had little boys handing him candy, he tried to bite a few all wrapped up, he ate Pez from a pumpkin dispenser like he’d been doin’ it all his life.

We got him home, chilled, while he played with a glow light someone had handed out, and stomped around the kitchen in his tough-guy shoes. I thought, “Oh, I love him so much it’s impossible to not smother him in kisses.” Really, I don’t know if it’s a mother/son thing, but sometimes at random moments … clomping around the hardwood floors and waving a glow light, having fits of laughter … my heart just feels like it’s going to explode. I want that joyful face to fill every moment of every day.

To top off our night, it finally was time for candy, and I gave him his first Reece’s peanut butter cup, he took one bite, giggled … and shoved the rest in his mouth.

Now, if only we could get his momma to stop shoving pb cups into her mouth!

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Women are no strangers to the hormonal changes: we go through them monthly, when we’re pregnant, even through menopause. Lately it’s been a roller coaster around here; I’ve ditched the birth control in hopes of having another baby (eek!), and thus turned into an estrogen monster.

My body doesn’t do well with medication. Rather, just as little goes a long way and I tend to react pretty strongly when I stop taking said meds. Same goes for birth control … it’s like my body has saved up all of the vicious PMS symptoms that the pill tends to ease and the moment my ovaries get the all clear, its hormone’s-a-ragin’.

Mix that up with a toddler and … yeah, I’m saying it: here comes t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

Case in point: I take Max to storytime at the library nearly every week. Twice now we’ve had to either leave early, or not go in at all due to his determination (re: tantrums). This past Monday, we get in the room fine and he is content to play with the lock and the handle of the door to the children’s room. Until we shut it. The entire class is treated to a cacophony of his cries for a few moments until I pick him up and distract him with the window blinds.

We then try to sit down and sing a rousing rendition of “Open Shut Them,” but to no avail. Max is on his back in the middle of the room, still crying. The librarian says, “Oh Maxwell, what is wrong now?” And I reply, “He’s still mad about the door.”

I do get him up and not crying. Go me, I am Supermom.

And then he sees the fire extinguisher.

Photo courtesy of Kenn W. Kiser.

Here’s the thing that drives me crazy about every children’s library: When they offer classes for babies, toddlers and the like, why on earth are the rooms in which the classes meet not baby proofed? There always are open closets, cabinets without latches, outlets without covers and darn it, fire alarms and extinguishers a mere three feet from the floor. I mean, duh.

So there’s my Max, going after the hose of the fire extinguisher, and every time I grab him, he lets out a protest yell. I finally stand in front of the object of his affection to stop him, and he yells, grabs my leg, and tries to bite me through my jeans.

Now I’m sure the other moms and kids have had enough of his antics, but I am beyond pissed. I give him the futile, “Don’t bite mommy!” grab him, the diaper bag and make our exit. He of course, is protesting leaving now, and I’m angrily whispering, “I can’t take you anywhere!” I’m fairly certain the librarians overheard me.

The thing that kills me more than the embarrassment of Max’s behavior is the embarrassment of my behavior. I’m the adult. I should know better. And it’s the failure that whatever I did—reprimand, soothe, deny—went completely ignored by my son. Why is it when our children misbehave does it seem that everyone else’s children listen and respond to their parents?

I don’t know if there is an answer to this, since my mom polling indicates that all moms have been there. In the meantime, I wonder how long we’ll stay away from the library this time ….

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