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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Super Long Christmas Post

The song is true:

"It's the most wonderful time, of the year."

Christmas. The holidays. Winter break.
What a glorious few weeks spent with family, friends, food.

And traditions.

When our family immigrated to America from Poland back in December of 1981, my parents gave my sister and I the most amazing gift (besides a chance at a happy and communist-free life): they made sure to keep our most blessed and precious traditions and rituals intact, creating a tiny Polish Village inside whatever house we were living in at the time. Each apartment, rental house, and eventually the house on the hill were filled with the most important aspects of our life back in Poland. Our Catholic roots were respected and celebrated, even though as children we did not always appreciate the elaborate lengths we all went to before we ate our Christmas Eve meal, or the midnight masses when we had to leave our new Barbie and the Rocker that Santa had left for us behind in the car. Sometimes, my sister and I just wanted to be American.

Now, at 31, I cannot imagine life without these memories and continued traditions. Even the fish jello, (i know, i know) is welcomed with opened arms when it makes it's way onto our Christmas Eve table. We come adorned with jewelry, ties, our Sunday best. We meet at our large table, overflowing with dishes reserved for the most holy of nights, and break host with our family and friends, wishing each other the very best for the coming year. There are often tears as we remember the trials and tribulations of the past year, and this year, after our beloved Babcia's stroke, we were careful to breathe in every second with her, taking more pictures than usual, exchanging silent glances with our mother, who tried to come to terms with the idea that there may not be many more Christmas Eves left for her mom.

Superman and Monchichi went searching for the North Star, a gesture symbolic of the star that guided everyone to little baby Jesus's manger in Bethlehem. Upon their return, they find that Santa has come and left gifts under the tree. The shrieks are deafening and when they are finally able to open gifts it is a joy unlike any other. My sister and I recall how we would wiggle and squirm through dinner, barely able to hold it together until our parents finally finished chewing their food (what is it with adults chewing so slowly, anyway?) and we were given the green light to open our presents! Oh Lord! Do you remember that feeling when you ripped away the wrapping paper and underneath it was exactly what you had asked for? There was the year of the Barbie, and the Nintendo (the very first one!). There was the Geometrics 5-in-1 curling iron, Super Mario Bros. 3, and oh! my beloved cherry-red ten-hole Doc Martens, the real deal baby! I can still see myself screaming and jumping up and down, a rebellious sophomore in high school, caught up in the magic of Christmas (shhhh, don't tell anyone).

And when I was sitting at our Christmas Eve dinner this year, sipping our traditional kompot (a hot beverage made from fruit and spices) I marveled at how I was immediately transported back through time, my tast buds taking me on journey through the decades (yikes!) of Christmas Eve dinners that I have been blessed to be a part of. How rich our traditions are, that with one sip of a drink I am ten again, surrounded by loved ones and the spirit of Christmas. If I can give my own children at least half of that, I will know I have succeded as a parent. Even the last minute bickering, when everyone is hungry and we are still waiting on my dad to finish frying up the last of the catfish, even that is welcomed because it is inevitable every year and it just wouldn't be the same without it.

And when I am sitting across from my parents, the two people who molded and influenced me like no one else would or could, I am at once filled with a gratitude and love that cannot be measured or described by words. It is a feeling that I want to bottle up and savor, especially when we are butting heads about parenting or lifestyle choices. Because they have done this. They have given me these sweet memories that I now, along with my American born and bred husband (who has not only adopted our kooky Polish ways but has introduced our family to the tradition of "stockings" which we all LOVE) pass on to our own little boys, hoping that one day, when they sip their own cup of kompot they are transported to some of the happiest times of their lives.

Thank you Mama i Tata. You are priceless and you are loved.

Wesolych Swiat.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Stranger

You are sitting one pew in front of me during mass and I am at once intrigued and fearful. You are large, towering well over six feet and your hands resemble oars; weathered and larger than any hands I have ever seen before.

You catch me glancing at you and you gesture, pointing to your mouth, forcing your lips to purse, pushing noises through that indicate you are non-verbal.

Just like monchichi.

Except you are a grown man, unkempt grey hair sitting atop a head not quite proportionate to the rest of your body. You, in your denim shirt, at least four sizes too big and tucked into dark blue overalls, you represent everything I fear and refuse to face for more than a few seconds at a time.

You are a special needs adult.

You are not as cute as the children in monchichi's special day class.
You are not small, easy to handle, easy to carry out of a crowded restaurant, if need be.
You are not embraced by society.
People fear you.
People do not understand you.
People do not gather around you and comment on your beautiful blue eyes, your sweet-smelling skin, your flirty smile.

You are alone.
You are sitting here, at church, alone.
And I am staring at you, trying so hard to seperate you from my own son, and I can't.
The tears are slow and quiet.
My fellow catholics must think I am in need of some extra holiness today.
I am in need of something.
I am in need of promises that this man I am so rudely staring at will not be my son decades from now.
I need someone to shake me and tell me that they will find a cure and that it is perfectly okay and normal to hope and pray that he speaks in full sentences someday.

I want to hug you and make you disappear at the same time. You are too close and I am not ready.

I wonder about your mama and what kind of woman she was.
I wonder if you have any friends.
I watch your jerky movements as you try to engage others with your hand gestures, but they politely nod and turn around.

It is because you make them uncomfortable.
People don't know what to do with special needs adults. You are a child in a grown man's body and the packaging is no longer acceptable.

Acceptance.

Not today.
I am not accepting this today because I am not ready. Because the final results are not in and we still have a chance.

I am ashamed that I am afraid of you.
That I want better for my child.


But I do.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ummmmm........

Yep.

Nola is a perfect fit for our perfectly imperfect family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ooops I Did It Again.......

I let my life get in the way of blogging. Imagine that!

And not because there hasn't been anything to write about.

Why just last night I was half-dying from a 102 fever (Post-tylenol), shivering in my bed, trying to survive what has to be the ugliest bout of flu I have ever had. Not too long ago, Yahoo posted an article entitled "The Ten Germiest Jobs" and guess what was #1? TEACHERS! I am prepared to bathe my entire body in airborne if it keeps me healthy the rest of the school year. Last year alone I had three bouts of pink eye, three cases of strept throat, and too many colds to count.

Ah. But I love what I do.

However.

I am sooooo looking forward to my three weeks off for winter break. Just when you think you've given all you can, the school provides a paid vacation and all is well with the world again.

So I plan on catching you up on our family a little bit at a time during my break and get back into the habit of blogging again.

I know. I know.
Pins and needles.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Two for One

Part One:

Last Tuesday we lost our beloved 10 month old cat Lulu. She just disappeared. We have no idea where she went and I have been manic over since. I have had one other childhood pet, Garfield, also a cat who lived from 1989 to 2005. So this is new for me. Losing a pet with no closure, no real evidence of what happened. More importantly, she was the first animal that monchichi formed a bond with. Our non-verbal son with autism began using the limited language he has whenever he was around her...."mmummm" (lulu). "oft" (soft). "at" (cat). So of course, I have been mourning this loss and a great deep sadness has been looming over our household ever since.

Last night we went and adopted a new kitten, and will pick her up on Saturday. Yes. It is a fast turnaround. But I need an animal in this house and so do the kids. If Lulu is okay and is out getting pregnant or something, then when she comes home, and after I kill her, she will have a baby sister to play/fight with. "Nola" will be a great addition to the household and I can't wait to have her tiny furry little body hopping and bopping around the house. It was strange when we went to the shelter. I tried to keep Lulu out of it, but I kept comparing all of the kittens to her and it was so depressing. You want to save ALL of the animals (except maybe "Bruce" and "Tina", two cats which undoubtedly belong in the Zoo because they are way too big and scary looking to be regular house cats.....love you guys!) So we decided on "Nola" because she is tiny and sweet and scared and our hearts are broken and she looks like she might be able to fix that. So welcome Nola. We love you already.

Part 2

Happy Thanksgiving! I have so much to be grateful this year. I have the most amazing family, the greatest friends, a cool job that includes playing with glitter and paint and molding young minds into thinking I am the best teacher EVER!

Dear Lord: Thank you for being so patient because I am so slow. And thank you for not giving up on me. I know you are there, but sometimes I can't hear you through the noise. So I will be still in my search for peace and answers and I will speak more openly and without fear.

I have parents that sacrificed their whole lives for their kids. Immigration, odd jobs, going without that perfect dress because the kids needed medicine. Traveling around Europe and America, forcing us to learn Polish, dragging us to church, Thanks Mama i Tata!

I have a husband that is manly but not macho. A true nurturer. Nothing sexier than a man who doesn't drink coffee but gets up in the morning and brews a fresh pot for his wife who would inject the stuff straight into her veins if she could. You inspire me to be a better person each day and you tell me I am beautiful at 5:00 a.m, when even I am too scared to look at my reflection in the mirror. I love you baby. You had me at first pitcher.

I have two beautiful children who keep me on me toes and rarely on my back. I am exhausted and in love and they have given a whole new meaning to my life. I am a better person because of them and they have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Rock on little dudes.

I have a beautiful, thin, funny, thin, sparkling, thin younger sister who despite her model-like looks is down to earth and who I can cry and laugh with all in the same sentence. I love our weekend shopping trips in search of the perfect tea cups with matching saucers. You have seen me through my worst and my best and you still want to hang out with me. I love you!

I have a best friend that I keep close because she knows too much. No, seriously. She would and does do anything for us as a family and has been a strong shoulder to lean and cry on for years. We met in the most unorthodox way, building a loving and trusting friendship that is priceless. We make our colleauges jealous and sick (Yep, we teach at the same school, our classrooms approximately 15 feet apart) to their stomachs with the authenticity of our love for one another. Every woman needs a wife and she is mine. Love you!!

The list is endless. I have a fridge filled with food. Clothes on my back. A mother-in-law that I actually love. And just because I haven't named you specifically above, I am so grateful to all of the people in my life. Even those of you that have challenged me or brought out my ugly side. You are all important and meaningful and never forgotten.

Now go eat Turkey!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Burning Thoughts

What a sight Saturday morning.

We are just a few miles away from two of the fires and as homes were being engulfed, the sky began to turn colors reminicent of something wicked. Each plume of smoke carried with it the ashes of someone's home.

It was horrible.

Sure. People have insurance.
Sure. People will rebuild.

But what would you take if you only had minutes to evacuate? What precious things would you try to save, knowing everything you left behind would be destroyed?

Several families from my school, including one of my students, had to evacuate. Luckily their houses were spared, but so many families were not as lucky.

Makes you want to count your blessings.

Seems like everytime I get on my pity horse, something, or someone, reminds me that I should be getting on my knees and thanking God for everything that we have. Especially my family.

Visit Indy at http://imnottalkingaboutitimjustsaying.blogspot.com/. I read her post today, and it stayed with me. Everytime I felt myself getting impatient with Superman or feeling sorry for myself about something, I remembered what she wrote and let gratitude seep into all of the little crevices that usually house anger, fear, impatience, and envy.

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, now is as good a time as any to try and be more accepting, more humble, less rude, less demanding.

To honor what we have been given.

To cherish those we love.

To embrace each other more passionately.

To forgive more gracefully.

With my boys looking on, I want to make mistakes with more dignity and love openly and honestly.

Maybe, hopefully, it will inspire them too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sometimes

Sometimes I am startled by what motherhood has done to me.

Sometimes I am in awe of just how big my heart has gotten; I still don't know how it fits underneath my skin.

Sometimes I wonder where I would be without my boys, all three of them, and the possibilities scare me.

Sometimes I want to hit the pause button because everything is moving too fast. I watch as feet dance and fingers color and I breath in the smell of childhood, deep long breaths, because soon it will fade.

Sometimes I cry because I am Hurt. Happy. Angry. Afraid. Tired. Grateful.

Sometimes I scream, bang my fists agains the wall, crumple to the floor and let the pain of autism in until it swallows me whole and I am drained. I am stronger after this.

Sometimes I lie to protect the innocent.

Sometimes I am confrontational. Sometimes I am soft.

Sometimes I forget to be grateful until someone else's tragedy reminds me that I am so very blessed.

Sometimes I pick fights because I need a good excuse to throw a tantrum. Yep, at 31.

Sometimes I stare at my husband as if we just met. I fall in love with him all over again.

Sometimes I shop as if we have more money in the bank than we really do.

Sometimes I am jealous. Sometimes your grass does look greener.

Sometimes I forget how much I love music until a good song comes on the radio.

Sometimes I do not take care of myself. I don't wax my eyebrows or get a pedicure.

Sometimes I B.S. my way through a conversation.

Sometimes I eat dessert before dinner.

Sometimes I am forgetful, apologetic, clumsy, and impolite.


Always I am in love with my superman, my monchichi, and my husband..........even though sometimes they drive me crazy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'd Rather Go Sailing

Once a Polish scout, always a Polish scout.

Boy, do I have some stories to tell.
Below is an attempt at one of them, something my sister and I recently reminisced about over cups of Chai and Americano.

I in my early twenties, she freshly graduated from high school, here is my version of what could have been a very, very bad day.



We are on the lower banks of the Kern River. Our instructor introduces himself and we quickly pair off. Aggie and I look at each other, nervously giggling, our heads stuffed into red and blue helmets. I am thinking of the ten page waiver I just signed, a release form that guarantees our rafting guides will not be held liable in the unlikely event of an unfortunate incident. I am imagining all of the “incidents” that are unlikely to occur in this class V river and suddenly I am wondering what the hell I am doing here, ankle deep in rapids that look and feel more and more dangerous by the second.

We huddle together, waiting for our names to be called. My sister and I climb into our grey blow-up kayak and the instructor asks for one volunteer from each pair to jump into the water. He needs us to understand just how cold the temperature is and that our survival depends on how quickly we are able to get back into the kayak. I am amazed when my arm goes up and suddenly my veins are hardening from the frozen water, my breathing becoming erratic, my lips turning a precious shade of periwinkle. I am half-shouting, half-shivering commands at my stupid and warm sister who is laughing harder than I have ever seen her laugh. I want to pull her in with me but my survival instinct kicks in and I realize I need her bony ass to get me out of this mess. She hoists while she laughs and when I finally slither into the kayak, I want to murder everyone within a ten foot radius.

Moments later we are coasting the river, enjoying nature, trusting that God is watching over us. The water begins to gain momentum and we listen as the names of the approaching rapids are yelled out by the instructor. “This is the Train Wreck!” he screams, as we descend into the rapid, the cold water smacking us hard across our terrified faces. What THE HELL are we doing?? Whose idea was this?!
Aggie is screaming something at me and I throw my hands in the air, letting her know, once again, that I have no idea how to steer this death machine around the deep swirling waters. “Dead Man’s Curve is up ahead!” yells our wild-eyed instructor and I don’t need to be psychic to know that this will all end very badly. Suddenly, our river guru disappears and it feels like we are on a roller coaster built in the 1920’s. No seat belts, no safety harness, just the ugly helmets on our heads and our slippery hands grasping at the oars. We are completely and utterly @#$%.

Less than two seconds later we are submerged in the icy waters, trapped underneath our kayak, the force of the water so strong that our shoes have been sucked off. Time stands still and it is eerily quite underneath this treacherous rapid. Somehow we manage to get our heads above water, the sight of each other’s helmets guiding us to one another, and there is only desperation and terror. Adrenaline gets us to shore and we are breathing hard, in shock from both the near-death experience and the freezing water temperatures.

Just another day in the life of two Polish Scouts.

Hours later, after we have dried off and recounted our experience several times over, we are sitting in a small Chinese restaurant, just the two of us, mounds of MSG-infused food splayed out all over the tiny table. We are not talking, just eating, chewing slowly, then quickly, devouring each morsel, enjoying a meal preceded by near tragedy. We are both laughing and crying, taking turns taking it all in, the other patrons unaware of how lucky we both feel in that very moment. We are grateful and exhausted, and we both know what needs to be done next.

We find the dip@#% that organized this trip, and we kick his scrawny little @$$.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

$*&)$#%#$!

I don't know why, but at some point during mass this morning, I began to compare and contrast bad words in my two fluent languages: Polish and English. I know. I am sure God was super proud of me as I half listened to the the woman on the altar lecturing about Stewardship, while the other half of my brain was going through some very elaborate and offensive phrases and words in both languages.

Just another day in my head folks.

So, I wanted to share my findings with you.

Polish people, including myself, are crazy.

I am sure this is news to you.

We have the weirdest ways of expressing our anger and frustrations. Since my parents and family have used these phrases throughout my life, they are common place and not much thought is put into their true meanings. But upon careful examination, it is quite apparent that whoever was in charge of the cussing part of our language had a little too much vodka to drink.

My sister, who shares my passion for directly translating anything Polish into English was my consultant in this matter. Below are just a few of our favorite phrases. Enjoy. And please do not try to pronounce these at home.

You might get hurt.


Here goes:

Sraly Muchy, Bedzie Wiosna: "The flies have sh@#, Spring will come.

Cholera: Literally, the illness of Cholera. It's like saying, "Oh, Beubonic Plague! Where did I put my keys?"

Psia Krew: "Dog's Blood"

Szlak Trafi: "May the stencil strike you"

Niech cie swinia powocha: "May a pig sniff you."

Niech cie Kaczka kopnie: "May a duck kick you."
(Notice the animal theme here).

Zesraj sie: "Oh, sh@# yourself!"

So there is just a sliver of the naughty part of our culture.

Hey, we all get mad now and again. It's nice to have bilingual options.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dick and Jane

It has always been my dream to author a book. Within five minutes, my five year old son, Superman, managed to outwrite me by at least 50 words.

Here is his first attempt at "writing" a story. This was dictated to me about 20 minutes ago at the dinner table.

(Notice the title is blatantly plagarized from Dick and Jane. This is what we are reading in class right now.)


I See

I see a little boy named Superman and he was five years old.
And he went to the park when his mommy and daddy said he could go to the park when his mommy and daddy said. And he did something, um, like he ate a banana when he wanted to and he drank water and then he went to play and then he went home and then he ate dinner and a little bit of a popsicle and then you could have a night night rest.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweating the Small Stuff


It is so nice to sweat the small stuff around here for a change. In a household such as ours, where there is a special needs child, we have become accustomed to stressing over all of the big stuff: neurologist visits, hospital stays, failed diets, side effects from medications, elopement, and numerous other things that have become second nature in our family life.

But what a glorious thing it is to stress about the small stuff! To have moments of clarity where I am able to realize that despite all of the setbacks that monchichi faces on a day to day basis, he is still a boy of six years who is starting to challenge us as parents the way typical first graders do: He will not take NO for an answer.

No. Ice cream is not a breakfast food.
No. Video games are not a choice at 5:00 a.m.
No. You may not use your younger brother as a scratching post.
No. Soup cans are no longer considered an appropriate play toy.
No. You may not watch the part of the CARS movie where Mater and Lighting tip the tractors Over. And Over. And Over. Again.

He is testing us, and as exhausting as this has been, it is so close to a state of normalcy we never considered possible when he was first diagnosed with autism at the age of two.

Sometimes the magic happens and we don't even know how or when. Sometimes it takes me a day or two to fully comprehend what a miracle it is that our son is choosing to be rebellious. Something a lot of parents take for granted.


Sure, Superman has this part of growing up down to a fine art.


But monchichi, who is still considered nonverbal and years behind his typical peers, has finally begun to stare us down when we refuse to give in to his immediate demands. He knows what he wants and he cares about the outcome. The whole equation = overjoyed and overtired parents who remain hopeful that this strong personality streak is a sign of things to come.

I am frazzled by his behavior, but not because he is grinding his teeth or flapping his arms or not responding when I call his name.

I am frazzled because he is fighting with his brother, trying to steal cookies, and going out on the balcony when we tell him not to.

These are beautiful growing pains that deserve to be recognized, nurtured, and celebrated. They soon will pass, and new challenges will take their place; challenges that we will embrace and work through because they are evidence that Monchichi is finding his place in this world, in this giant life that gets smaller as he gets better.


And in the middle of writing this post, my firstborn child, the baby boy born with a headful of black hair and exact replicas of his father's feet, lost his first two teeth.


It is symbolic, this rite of passage, and maybe God's way of reminding me that autism can't take everything away from us.


We won't let it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

You Are What You Eat



I KNOW! Isn't it great????

Sushi.

The food of the GODS.

And overworked school teachers.
And after staring at my best friend's backside all day (she's the one on the left) I left school and immediatley went to our local sushi place and ordered some rolls.
And for the record, my amazing, sexy, patient, brilliant husband built these costumes from the ground up. HOLLA!
Happy Halloween!!



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bistro Baby Blues

I am sitting at a French Bistro with my sister, who in my opinion happens to be WAY too beautiful and really, God could have distributed the genetic wealth a little more fairly, but anyway.....

The banquet room is crowded with women of all ages.....estrogen is thick in the air and every time a male waiter walks into the room his eyes dart around quickly, as if trying to remember where the emergency exists are.....you know, in case we all start menstruating at the same time (Even God couldn't save him if that were to ever happen).

We are at a friend's baby shower and the centerpieces are gorgeous, the food is rich and fattening and for some reason I keep hearing this super loud ticking that gets in the way of every conversation I am trying to have.

Tick

Tock

Tick

Tock

Tick


My uterus is whispering to me "I am ready, you know you want to." My heart is nodding in agreement, "Babies have the best smell. Do you remember how tiny they are? How amazing it is to hold them close to your breast and let the unconditional love permeate your cells right down to your soul?" My voluptous (my blog, my adjectives) tummy hisses "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!" and my pocketbook shakes in fear.

I was not expecting this.
I am tired.
I have two kids.
I have two very wonderful, loving, full of life kids.
I have a child with autism who has very specific and special needs.
I love my children.

So why did I, in the middle of that quaint bistro, begin to question our decision to be done? Why did I tell people that we were 90% sure that we were finished? Why did I leave Babies R Us with a heavy heart when I realized that I would not be wielding the registry gun again?

Because I would, if we could, have another. I would, if we weren't worried about the very significant risk that our third child would end up having autism. I hate that the statistics are against us and that we can't just try for a little girl because if we did we might sentence her to a life of speech therapy and neurologist visits and ABA intervention and sensory deficits.

And this makes me angry.
And embarrased.
Because I have many blessings to count. I am a lucky woman with a family I adore. I have more than enough love in my life and so when I started to feel resentful about these genetic limitations, I was unpleasantly surprised.

Life is a process. And a significant part of my life is facing simple yet powerful truths, like, another baby would be put at huge risk for autism, a risk that we are not willing to take.

So i have to accept that we are......... done.
And that makes me grieve.

Because it's not really on my terms, is it?

But I know that the children we have been gifted with are here for a reason, and they fulfill us as parents in ways we never could have imagined.

So as I carefully navigate through emotions that continue to startle and sneak up on me, I need only to look across my laptop as superman mows down a pudding cup to be reminded how TWO is the perfect number.

Plus, when my sister finally decides to procreate, I am so taking the registry gun away from her.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jesus Is In My Air Freshener


I kid you not.


I discovered this strange phenomenon a week or so ago. I was just doing my thing in the bathroom when I looked up and......, Jesus was staring right at me from the glass cinammon apple air freshener i keep on the counter. It was startling and creepy to say the least.


So of course, i called in monchichi's ABA therapist and made her sit on the toilet.


"Tell me what you see" I said to her.

"Um, an air freshener."

"Look closer. Just relax and take a deep breath and look again" I told her, hovering over her hunched body, which was perched on the toilet in our guest bathroom.

"hmmmmm...............OH! OH WOW! I see it!!!"

"What? What DO YOU SEE?"

"I SEE JESUS!"


This is an educated woman. That is why I asked for her unbaised opinion. Because she is a qualified professional that works with my child several hours each day and is in a Master's Program and is super put together.


And she saw Jesus!

And so did my sister.

And my mom.

And my husband.

And my sister's boyfriend (or as I like to call him, her common-law-husband)

And last night my skeptical best friend was going pee when she came out of the bathroom, stone-faced and slightly shaken up:

"I saw him!"

So now I ask you, smart and unbaised reader:


What do you see?


*Just for the record, this photo is real. We did not photoshop it in any way. It is exactly what is sitting on our bathroom counter as I type this.*

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I know who you're going to vote for......

Your kids told me.

Yep.

All was divulged.

Grown up opinions coming from mouths covered in candy corn.

"He's weird."

"He's too old to do the job."

"I don't like him."

"Rock Obama!"

"McCain!"

"Teacher, can I go potty?"

And so went our first introduction to freedom, elections, and the right to vote in our small and loving kindergarten class. It is amazing what a child will retain when in the midst of adult conversations. My five year old students had passionate opinions about both candidates, which led me to believe that at least part of those opinions were formed at the dinner table while mom and dad discussed the economy, healthcare, and the war on Iraq. Or they have nonstop access to CNN.

And I get the privilage of hearing these opinions firsthand during group discussions.

But echoing parental sentiments is not only reserved for topics relating to the upcoming election.

My little munchkins will discuss just about anything you discuss in the privacy of your home. Little people have great listening skills (more commonly referred to as "selective hearing") although I am pretty sure I don't get the conversations verbatim or in their entirety.

Which of course makes for entertaining dialouge.

And since superman is one of my students this year, his front and center presence in my classroom is a constant and gentle reminder to lower my voice when discussing anything from itchy body parts to account balances to which student happened to cause my pounding headache and grumpy mood.

Because ALL will be repeated. In 0ne way or another. And you never know which teacher, neighbor, grocery store clerk or relative is listening.

Just a gentle reminder.

Questioning Myself

It has been almost a month since I last posted.

Not because my life is dull, or I have no opinions.

But because I am a closet writer.

That's right. I have yet to admit to myself that I know I am good enough to blog publicly and build readership and engage people as I spin stories about kids, autism, night time eating and other valuable and important topics.

I question myself.
I wonder if I am good enough.
Witty enough.
Strong enough.
Passionate enough.

But how can I discover that if I continue to cower everytime I see my laptop sitting at the table, beckoning me to log on and type.

I need to write more for me than for you, but i hope you join me on the journey. You may be inspired. You may be bored. You may decide you could care less about what I have to say.

But I am going to say it anyway.

And I am going to hone a skill I have loved but failed to nurture, protect, and practice.

My Writing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's not what you think

If someone had told me that at 31 I would be introducing Vinyl into the married bedroom scene, I would have snorted out loud.

Me? Vinyl?

Seriously, that is like 2500 workouts away.

But, low and behold, last Friday I found myself in the vinyl aisle at our local Target.

Didn't know they carried stuff like that?

Oh yeah! And it comes in different sizes.

Let's see........Twin, Full, Queen and King.

Yep. Our Queen mattress has a vinyl cover underneath our fabulous jersey sheets.
Nope. We are not a bunch of weirdos looking to spice up the love life.
Yep. The kiddos still manage to find their way back to our bedroom in the dark, in the middle of the night, and like clockwork, proceed to pee the bed.

Over.
And over.
And over again.

So I gave in, and purchased vinyl for our bedroom. It stinks and it makes noise, but it is protecting our beloved bed from the unstoppable bladders that are our children.

When I was twenty-something and getting ready to marry my best friend, I had visions of satin sheets, chocolate covered strawberrries, and candlelight.

Now I have vinyl sheets, chocolate milk, and two tiny pairs of feet digging into both of my tired hips.


Who needs birth control?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Smart Like His Mama

So last night the boys and I were cuddling in bed (a favorite pastime of ours).

The darling husband asked me to put Speed Racer into the dvd player. I told him I was sooooo tired and asked if he could do it instead.

The husband walked out of the bedroom to check on something.

Superman whispered "You better do it mommy, because he's the daddy and he told you to put the movie in."

I turned to Superman and slowly asked, "Do you think that daddy is in charge of mommy?"

Superman pondered for a few seconds......."No mommy. I think you are in charge of Daddy."

I smothered Superman with a zillion kisses and pronounced him a genius.

Darling Husband walked into the bedroom and Superman and I giggled hysterically.


And yes. I did end up explaining to my very brilliant, yet very literal five year old that no one is in charge. "Mommy and Daddy are a team" I told him. We work together.



Still...........................

Thursday, September 25, 2008

MIA

I know, I know.

You've been barely getting by without my witty, funny, delicious posts.

But.
I'm.
Back.

I am going to try this again, this blogging deal. I am going to put in some effort and hopefully grow a loyal and entertained audience. I am going to hone my skills as a writer while I share my truths, however bitter or sweet.

So welcome back!

And thank you to Lindsay at Designs by Splat for giving this place a much needed face lift.

Woo hoo!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm Sorry

Dearest Superman,

I have been sitting here, assessing my day, our day, and I feel it necessary to let you know that I am sorry.

I am sorry for being so impatient with you today. You are almost five. You are on fire! You have more energy than you or I know what to do with. It is not your fault. You need to LIVE! You need to EXPLORE! You have so many questions and after five minutes I gave up and sent you to your daddy (who by the way, has a newfound respect for the usual interruptions that occur at the office).

It was a day today, wasn't it? You were nonstop from the moment you woke up. When we all trekked over to mommy's classroom to do some organizing and cleaning up, you didn't know what to do with yourself. You opened up boxes and took out blocks and math manipulatives, and everything I did, you undid. Mommy and Daddy were getting upset and after two hours we called it quits.

You are so full of life and love and sometimes it spills right out of you before any of us know what to do with it. You want to know EVERYTHING. And you want second and third chances and you really really love to make a mess but aren't too keen on cleaning it up. You are so sensitive and so emotional. I only sent your buddy home because you were smack in the middle of a meltdown and I knew it was your way of saying ENOUGH!

I am new at this. This bigger, older, more awake version of you. I am trying and learning and I am bound to make mistakes. And I don't want you to think for one second that because you were a total spazz today that I am not looking forward to what you've got in store for us tomorrow.

So I wanted to let you know, that I will try harder. That I will practice being more patient and more understanding and more prepared for the energetic young man that you are becoming.

Because I am up to the challenge.

Because I love you.

Because you are my superman.

Love Always,

Your very tired, but very determined, Mommy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Already?

He was born with big blue eyes, a headful of dark hair. He was screaming and wet when they first placed him on my chest and I knew instantly, in those first few seconds, that my world would never be the same. I fell madly in love and cried, and stared into a face that would forever be a part of me. And I dove head first into a love that I knew I could never fully comprehend. I promised him the world and when I finally slept, it was with one eye open.

Six years have passed. If possible, I am more in love now than that very first day we met. I sometimes have trouble looking at him without getting goosebumps. I gaze at school pictures, remembering my fears and excitement, his very first day of school, his backpack two sizes too big, swallowing his tiny frame.

I lingered in the classroom that day, mentally making sure it was safe for my monchichi. I studied the teacher intently, watched her greet her students, making sure her smile was sincere. I almost hesistated when I finally walked away. I wanted to run back and grab my son and never let him go. I was not prepared for this. He was growing up and I wanted to throw a tantrum.

Only a mother could understand my pain and confusion.

Now, first grade is one week away. First grade. I will buy him a new backpack and I will comb his hair. I will drive him to his new school, farther away from home than his first. I will linger in the classroom, speak with his teacher, and I will hesitate at the door when it is time for me to go. I will cry on the way home; there is so much pride and grief and fear. I am crying now, thinking of my little man growing faster than I can stand. His chubby fingers are getting longer. He is gawkier than ever and it just makes me want to protect him more. He is my newborn in a first grader's body.

How do I protect him from the world? How do I prevent him from falling, from bruising, from rejection? How do I keep from going crazy when he is in the care of someone who has far less invested in my little miracle?

How is this ever going to work?



*after being lazy and on vacation, I am back to blogging. Thank you, dear readers, for checking in!*

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tractors, Thunderstorms, Farms, Oh My!


We departed our bustling world of Orange County on Tuesday night, taking the red eye to Cleveland, Ohio (Hello OHmommy!). We boarded an express jet and flew into Albany and picked up our comfy and clean rental car. We drove two hours south and found ourselves in Keesville, NY. We were in the middle of nowhere.


And so far, WE LOVE IT.


My mother in law has a huge property and lots of grass and trees and well, I mean, Nature is everywhere around here! Where are the freeways? Who cares! Where is the mall? Who cares! Where is the Target................um, right, who cares!


Monchichi, who is addicted to tractors, has his own John Deere in the backyard. A real one! So far he's been on it 1,345,879 times and still counting!


The air is clean and fresh and we had thunderstorms yesterday. Rain! The porch door was open and the breeze and the smell were amazing. There is no smog. There are no Escalades. There are very few Jonese's to try and keep up with. It is glorious.


Last summer we traveled much farther, to europe. We had four suitcases stuffed to the brim, our first overseas trip as a family. We had high expectations and they were more than met. We saw Prague, Berlin, and my beloved Krakow. We took over 1000 pictures. We spent entire paychecks searching for the perfect pierogi. We bought wooden swords and hand crafted toys and bottles of Zybrowka. We came home exhausted and satisfied.


This year our plans were different. This year we told friends and family that we were off to Keeseville, NY and we heard a lot of "Why's" and "Where's?" and "Huh's?"


Little did they know we were going to be smack in the middle of paradise. A real slice of American Pie. Complete with small town folks with Big North Country hearts.


We are living it up, Keesville Style.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Short Version

On Monday night we took monchichi to the ER per our neurologist's instructions. At that point he had had well over 20 seizures in about an hour or so.

Within 12 hours he had over 100 seizures. They are drop seizures and staring seizures. It was horrifying to say the least.

We were admitted to CHOC that night and we just got home about an hour ago.

He is fine now; new meds, new tests.

It was very scary.

We are exhausted.

I will give the long version tomorrow.

Whew.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lost in Thought

I am hiding from the world this weekend. I have spent more time in my bed in front of the television than I care to admit. I have watched way too many movies that I have already seen.

I have not worn a bra since Friday.

Maybe it's a mini-meltdown. A quiet one. There is no kicking or screaming. Just exhaustion and a million thoughts racing through my head. Even Erin Brokovich couldn't keep me from thinking the thoughts that wear me down and erode at my inner peace and tranquility.

I am tired.

And the inner dialogue that consumes me on a daily basis leaves me feeling anything but balanced and serene.

"Am I good enough?"

"What if they find out I am a total fraud?"

Will the plane crash on August 5th? There hasn't been a plane crash in a really long time and we are due for one." Will it be ours?"

Who am I kidding? Why am I even meeting with this author next Saturday. She's gonna laugh me right out of Starbucks. Who says I'm good enough to publish?"

"I am tired. I don't want to do parent training. Yes, I love monchichi, and I want to do what is best for him but I don't feel like bucking up and doing three hours of autism-related training."

"Why does monchichi have autism and seizures? What happened? Why is Superman, born only 18 months later, free from this awful disorder. WHO's FAULT IS IT?"

"Why is food the first thing I turn to when I feel like this? Why not a bike ride at the beach or a salsa class? I need to step out of my comfort zone."

"Why do I insist on questioning my husband's disciplining methods with the kids? They are his children too. I do not know everything."

"Do you know how lucky you are that your child can talk and play with other children and go to a normal class and will probably fall in love and get married and live a normal life? Why are you complaining to me about something so trivial?"

"I am not in control. I need to surrender. I hate surrendering. I want to be in control."

Time elapsed: 10 seconds.

I need to get my butt off this chair, shut down my computer, and go do something productive/fun/ with my children.

I should shower first.

Think of starving children in Africa. Think of countries where women and children are treated like second-class citizens. Think of electricity at the flick of a switch. Think of sunshine and warmth and your cat laying next to you purring because she feels safe and comfortable around you. Think of your husband outside working on your car in the heat so that you have a safe ride to get you from A to B. Think of your sister in NYC, missing her family, trying to find herself, confused and scared. Think of your blessings. There are so many. Think of God guiding you as long as you are quiet enough to listen.


Better.



Friday, July 25, 2008

What?!!

Overheard last night while superman, who is almost 5, was talking to my best friend's daughter, who just turned three:

"Hi B. How are you? What are you doing? oh. What are you wearing? The pink jammies?"


I didn't know if I should laugh or cry.


It's a little early for that kind of late night phone call.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Sweet Dose of Humble Pie

Taking care of my kids is a full time job. Even if I'm at work, teaching other people's children, my mind is racing and planning the next swim lesson, soccer game, therapy appointment or class party for my own two boys. It is a wonderfully exhausting and deliciously exhilirating thing, this mothering business. And for the most part, I feel like I at least think I know what I'm doing.

But for the last two weeks, I have added one post-stroke grandmother to the mix and suddenly I am turned upside down and inside out. Now, it is not because I am afraid of some hard work. Bring It On. I love being busy and I love the feeling I get when I am able to complete a number of projects and chores. People, I was raised by Polish parents. We did not watch Saturday morning cartoons. We scrubbed toilets and dusted furniture.

But....

Caring for my beloved grandmother brought on a whole new slew of emotions and a whole new level of exhaustion. There is no room or time to be squemish. There is only the deep desire to make this matriarch of our family feel safe and respected. So, everytime I helped her shower, or pee, or scrubbed her dentures or cleaned the potty she has next to her bed for night time........I thought about how I would want to be treated in this situation. How I would want to know that I was worth the work and that the people helping me weren't sitting around wishing someone else was doing it.

But things go through your head.

And I saw an impatient and annoying side of me that I did not like very much. But I had to deal with that person. I had to look in the mirror and let myself feel the ugly feelings and then will them to go away. I did not want to ignore them; they would find their way back anyway, bigger and stronger and uglier. And it was so humbling to care for someone that used to be so damn independent. And it was sad. And it was exhausting.

And it makes you face some pretty unpleasant and scary things about life and yourself and the uncertainty of the future. It makes you think.

It slowed me down. It inconvenienced me. It made me stronger. It made me cry. It made me grumpy. It made me brave.



She was and still is totally worth it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Super Trooper

"Mommy....sing that song again!"



"You're like a super trooper...."



"Again!"



"Lights are gonna find you....."


"Mommy, I LOVE that song!! I LOVE ABBA!

Yes, Abba. Good old Abba. And as a kid I had the record; my first real piece of music. I played that record, over and over and over again. And my sister and I, we were the dancing queens.



The other day I was discussing this very important piece of my personal history (can't remember who was dumb enough to stick around and listen) and my son overheard me singing "Super Trooper."

It was love at first listen.


So my husband, being the devoted dad and patient husband that he is, downloaded the song for superman and I. And we cranked it up and danced and sang. And then superman kept singing.

Even after the music stopped.



And he kept singing.

In fact, it has been almost a week and at least several times a day superman graces us with his ever developing Abba performance.

*sigh*

But I guess I should be happy. With all of the "pimp yo momma" music out today, Abba is about as G-rated as it gets. And let's face it: We all need a little Abba now and then.

No?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Mother's Pride

I am a big believer in letting my children know just how proud of them I am. In our house, if you do the right thing, we let you know. We aren't interested in the bad stuff. We want to celebrate the good. And no accomplishment is too small. Do we throw a party everytime superman brushes his teeth? No. But do we high five him when he remembers to get his brother's toothbrush ready? Absolutely. Monchichi's therapy is largely based on this principle. Good choices=good times. Bad choices=not so much.

And, having been a kid myself (albeit a long time ago) I too know the warm and fuzzy feeling a simple compliment from my parents invoked in me. Even if it was, literally, a stoic pat on the back from my dad (who to this day, praises us to our mom who then passes it down to us). And it is less about ego then about acknowledging someone's efforts at doing something well (even if the soccer ball is kicked toward the other team's goal; hey, that kick was powerful!).

And today I got a humbling reminder that within all of us lies a deep desire to please our parents; to know that we have succeeded in something in their eyes.

This morning my grandmother and I caught a segment of a show on the Polish channel. On the stage was a four year old little girl, singing her precious little heart out to a popular Polish pop song. My grandmother looked at the tv and then began to tell me how my mom was always performing for people. "Your mom was always the one singing and dancing; she used to recite poetry fit for a king."

It was a simple statement. A subtle compliment.

And yet, when I spoke to my mom, who is in Poland for a family wedding, and gently relayed what my babcia had said, I heard only silence on the other line.

"mom?"

"......................................................."

"hello? mom?"

"......................................................"

Her voice thick with tears, I heard her take a breath and whisper "thank you."

And I understood.

Her mom had given my mom something very priceless. Something that we are never too young or too old to receive; our parent's pride in us. We thirst for it. We crave it. And when it comes it is something that we cherish and tightly wrap around us.

And across the thousands of miles between us, I felt my mom's energy shift. I imagined the little girl inside of her that misses her mom, that yearns for their conversations in the kitchen and during their walks around the neighborhood. The stroke took most of that mom away. And today the relationship, if only for a second, was reversed.

Today my mom was once again the little girl, hearing maybe for the first time in her life, that her mamusia was proud.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

31 Things About Me

In honor of my 31st Birthday today, I have compiled a comprehensive list of various factoids about moi.

Enjoy.

1. I was born in Poland, not America.
2. I love both countries
3. I grin stupidly when I lie
4. I no longer drink
5. My ego gets bruised easily.
6. I am a closet writer. I have dreamt of being a published writer for decades.
7. I don't care very much about global warming
8. I am much more concerned with terrorists
9. I don't think 9/11 jokes are funny.
10. I am madly in love with my husband.
11. I am madly in love with my kids
12. I hate flying.
13. I love to read.
14. I need to lose weight
15. I never imagined I would grow up to be a teacher.
16. If I went to my old high school, where I caused A LOT of trouble, and told them that I became a teacher, they would weep in disbelief.
17. I am scared of heights
18. I am a people pleaser
19. At 31, I am finally learning it's okay to say No sometimes.
20. I respect my parents. More than I ever have.
21. I miss my sister
22. I want desperately for monchichi to lead a normal life.
23. I am proud of superman for being a kick a** brother and son.
24. Doing the right thing makes me high as a kite
25. I hate change.
26. I hate my sofas
27. I love being the hostess
28. I am a control freak
29. I still don't know how to use the speed dial feature on my cell phone.
30. I think I might be addicted to peanut butter.
31. I LOVE MY LIFE

Saturday, July 5, 2008

All Things "Kaboom"


Every year, around July 1st, my husband begins to get a glazed look in his eyes. This is about the time they set up the local firework booths near our house. This is also the time of year I fear for our bank account. It never fails that by the time July 4th rolls around, we have a stockpile of fireworks equivelant to Disneyland.

Every year, like clockwork, we head over to our best friends' house and the husbands begin to carefully, and lovingly organize their loot. They always start with the small ones, and actually dub this the "pre-show." Then they move on to the larger ones, but are careful only to ignite the ones that they have doubles of. Finally, they begin to set off the last stash and announce each name of the firework before they light it. They are determined. They are prepared. They are crazy.

It is like watching a really bad cable show that reruns every year. But it is free entertainment for our families and so we go along with it. We have even developed our own firework judging criteria. Each one is observed and judged based on height, color, the "wow" factor and of course sound.
I know. I am completely aware of how ridiculous this is.

The husbands high five each other when a firework proves it's worth. But when there is a dud their disappointment is........scary. Last night, as they lit a little diddy named "old glory, bald eagle, or golden shower" (i forget which), the next door neighbors set off a group of beautiful, bold, brilliant and highly illegal mexico-imported fireworks that stole the show and illicited a round of "oooooohs and ahhhhhhhs" from all of us. I swear to you that the men began to desperately yell out the name of their fireworks, trying to get our attention back to their show and away from the wonderment of the illegal one going on over the fence. Now they knew they were screwed and my best friend's mother-in-law confirmed this sentiment when she leaned over and proclaimed"booooooooooring" as the boys tried in vain to ressurect their show.

I am frightened at their fascination with all things "kaboom."

And what scares me the most is that unlike last year, which the boys spent behind the safety of a sliding glass door, this year, my young and impressionable sons sat front and center, fascinated by the sparks, intoxicated by the blasts, the same glazed look in their eyes that consumes their pyromaniac father.

*sigh*

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dear Sister

It is a sad day for me today. You have made good on your word and your flight leaves at 9:30 tonight. I had to say goodbye first, before anyone else did, because it was torture to sit and wait until it was time for you to go. I watched you say goodbye to the boys and I ran downstairs, not wanting my kids to witness their mama falling apart (for the millionth time).

NYC awaits and you, my beautiful, strong, smart, determined little sister will make it your own like only you know how. I know you are scared. I know there will be lonely days ahead. I know you will second-guess yourself. I know, because you are me and I am you. Born of the same mother, raised by the same two strong, courageous, stubborn, controlling, loving parents. Fed the same delicious, fattening, fried Polish food. And somehow, it never made it's way onto your model-like frame. It did, however, always make it's way onto mine.

27, the whole world ahead of you. I cannot empathize with your needs; I am a mother now. I am a wife. But I am still your sister. And though I may not understand why, I will always support you and never tire of filling your head with my wise antecdotes about life and choices and chances.

We have never been apart like this before. I know it will pass and soon you will wed and have babies of your own and we will drink expensive coffee while we get over-priced pedicures and we will laugh and reminisce and I will lovingly slug you, reminding you how much pain you caused me as you packed your bags and set off to make your own future, one seperate from the one I had planned out for you.

I see our mother in me today. Stop giggling and pointing. I will tell you why. I think I might now understand the pain she felt the day she realized that she could not control our every move, our every decision, right or wrong. I feel the helplesness that comes with having to let someone go, to respect their choices; to support them and lift them up in prayer even when you want to selfishly hold them back, keep them near, lock them in the back bedroom until they come to their senses. It is the passage of time and the birth of my own two sons that has slowly and painfully taught me that I do not have a say in everything. I am struggling with this, especially tonight.

I expect you will call me in the morining, when your plane safely lands. You will tell me that you love me and I will cry softly again. We were born sisters and through life's many experiences, both good and bad, we became best friends. Only you know the joy of beach drives and classical music, galloping horses and swarms of bees. You saw me through my darkest times and chose to never give up on the possibility that somewhere underneath that mess was the sister you always loved and believed in.

Now it is my turn. I know you have to go. I know you have to do this. I know you will succeed. You are already everything you need to be. You just have to believe it for yourself.

I love you so much agusiu. I miss you so much already and you aren't even on the damn plane yet.

Please call me in the morning.

Kocham

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Goodbye Pretzels and Pudding

In March of 2004, a week after monchichi's 2nd birthday, our precious first-born was officially diagnosed with Autism. Superman was 7 months old, asleep in his carseat when the two psychologists assigned to us said what we already knew. Two months later, after a week filled with non-stop seizures, monchichi was branded epileptic.

Trader Joe's made a killing as I began to live off of their "Two Buck Chuck" merlot. I still went to playdates. I still went to Target. I still fed and dressed my two beautiful boys. But I was not living. I was barely breathing. I was only existing.

Four years later, we all wear our scars proudly. My family is thriving, not just surviving. Our love for one another deepens with each day. I had no idea there was that much love in the world, or that it would one day end up in my very home. We live each day the only way we know how. With laughter, and love, and faith. And lots of ABA therapy for monchichi.

But the time has come to spread our wings and look for alternative methods to treating his autism. While he remains non-verbal, our precious angel is making great strides and as one wonderful fellow special-needs mommy told me "you don't want to leave any stone unturned."

So with checkbook in hand, we met our Defeat Autism Now Doctor yesterday morning, for our 120 minute consult. I came out with an empty look in my eyes and a thick folder filled with notes and scribbles and question marks. It is official. We are putting our pudding-pretzel-loving son on the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free diet. Ugh.

I feel so evil for doing this. Years ago, when we were first diagnosed, I went to Whole Foods and spent an entire paycheck on GFCF food. I came home and sampled it and one by one, the boxes and jars and containers landed in our garbage can. I swore that our son would never be forced to eat "that" stuff. He has so much going against him. The last thing I was ever going to do was to take away his favorite foods.

But something (mother's intution?) has been nagging at me for years and so I have finally given in. Today I went through our cupboards and boxed up "banned" foods and put them in the storage closet for Ian and the husband. Tomorrow we venture back to Whole Foods with my highlighted list in hand. I am not expecting a miracle to occur because we stopped feeding our son bread. But if it gives him that one little boost that he needs to meet one more little milestone on this journey of recovery, then by all means, we will eat (gulp) the wonderful food that the GFCF diet has to offer.

Be aware. I will be posting about this. Alot.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Coolest School




I work for a private school. There are pros and cons to this, just as there are within the public school districts.



But my school takes the cake when it comes to getting involved with something near and dear to my family. Plus, monchichi inspired the whole deal. Check out our newsletter!




Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Polish Grandmothers Kick A**


On New Year's Day, 2008, I walked into the upstairs bathroom and found my beloved babcia having a stroke on the floor. It was the worst day of my life and I will never forget holding her body, taken hostage by a blood clot in the brain, while i sang our favorite Polish song. It took the paramedics an eternity to get to the house and while I rode in the ambulance I felt as if the world was closing in on me and life would never be the same again.


It has been almost six months since that terrible day. My dear grandmother is home with us, but there is a large part of her missing. She is a fighter though. She survived WWII in Poland. In her early thirties she became a widow and bravely raised three small children in a poor village, working three jobs to sustain her family. She taught me my multiplication tables, how to make the best Polish soups ever and that hard work can mean you love someone just as much as hugs and kisses.


I love this woman with everything that I have. Below is an excerpt from a book I am writing on growing up Polish-American. I wrote the passage long before her stroke and I am so glad that I did. It is a reminder of the woman that existed before this medical tragedy. And I don't ever want to forget that woman.

**************************************************************************************

I can smell the food before it reaches the door. I have the best grandmother ever. She taught me my multiplication tables, how to crotchet, and that little old Polish ladies can still catch you if they want to spank you bad enough. She is an amazing cook, and I have long ago stopped trying to recreate her meals. I mean, she can make a birthday cake out of a potato. And it tastes amazing. You don’t even care that you are eating a potato birthday cake, it is that good. Maybe when I am wrinkly and have developed cataracts, maybe that’s when my cooking will taste more like hers. Maybe that’s God’s little way of making up for the fact that getting old stinks; he gives grandmothers special magical cooking powers once they reach 60.


She makes culinary masterpieces for snack time. She brings ten Tupperware dishes to the park so my children will not get faint from hunger. I bring home groceries in paper bags not because I care about the environment, but because I do not want her to see my contraband purchases: mac n cheese, chicken nuggets, canned soup. Every other morning I boil an entire chicken in a pot so that it smells like I am hard at work, slaving over the stove, while really I sit and check email, one ear open for the barely audible sound of her slippers on the carpeted stairs. I love her, but she scares me. I learned long ago not to underestimate her steely, opinionated glares.


But today her cooking serves another purpose. She shows up at my door with mashed potatoes wrapped in gauze. It smells so good and looks really gross and I am at once very curious and disgusted. She brushes past me, looking for monchichi, who has been suffering from a slight cold and cough. I am so glad I just got done smearing the pillows with Vicks. I can see grandma’s approval as she wiffs in the strong smell of menthol, eyes watering either from the overpowering vapors or the joy at the possibility that I may in fact be taking care of her great-grandson properly. She lifts monchichi's shirt, which is a feat in itself, and slaps that potato gauze right on his back, securing it with more gauze until he looks like he was in a car accident and smells like thanksgiving dinner. I am too stunned to intervene, and I watch as she wipes off the extra mashed potatoes oozing out from underneath his shirt. I don’t know if I should laugh, cry, or eat the leftovers. She will be back in the morning, she informs me, with fresh potatoes and gauze.


I sleep terribly that night, obsessing about my son being eaten alive by a swarm of hungry ants or hobos, and when morning comes I am relieved that he is intact, though the stale smell of potatoes and Vicks coming from his chest makes it hard to embrace him without getting sick. I peel off his clothes and the gauze and stick him in the bath, scrubbing him down, realizing that I haven’t heard him cough yet. There is a knock on my door and grandma is back with mashed potatoes for monchichi and chamomile tea for me.
To drink, of course.


The jar of sauerkraut is for the cramp in my hip.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

CCC #1



My fabulous childhood friend Ohmommy at www.classychaos.com has challenged her faithful readers to take a picture of heads. I had a few photos on the computer that fit the description perfectly! Enjoy and make sure to check out her blog! She is fabulous!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Are we there yet?

I love my job. I do. Really.

But my students have completely lost their minds.

I know that it is hard being in school when your friends and neighbors are already spending their lazy summer mornings watching Nick Jr. while you read, write, and calculate simple math problems. I imagine it is excrutiating to be holed up in my classroom when you could be swimming, skating, biking, or causing havoc in your neighborhood cul de sac.

I understand. I too feel caged in and wonder how I will make it through this next month.

But I beg you to please hang in there for a few more weeks. Together, we can do it. We can make it through relatively unscathed. But I need you to stop doing just a few things so that I don't end up accidentally losing my mind.

Stop whining
Stop shrieking in a pitch reserved only for dogs
Stop touching, pulling, and pushing each other
No, you can't just take the toy out of his hands, you have to ask first
Yes, you can go get a drink of water.
No, my name is not TEAAAAAAACHER.........
We have been lining up at the same spot since September. Why do you suddenly need a GPS to find your way?
I can't understand you when you are speaking in tongues.
Yes, you have to write the whole sentence
No, you can't take it home and finish it there
Just Do It
Get off him
Raise your hand
Sit DOWN
Get in your seat
We sing the Good Morning song, we don't scream it
The Golden Rule! Remember the Golden Rule!
SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH


July 29th people.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Between Brothers

It is a beautiful dance between them. I watch quietly and closely, willing my eyes not to blink in case I may miss a second of this magical moment. I feel my fears and anxieties melt into a shallow puddle beneath my bare feet, as superman looks deep into monchichi's eyes and patiently waits for his big brother to look back. They have a language of their own, my sons, these giant souls in preschool bodies. Unlikely friends in the real world, brought together by DNA, they do what comes naturally to them; hug and play, cry and fight. I witness their sibling drama daily, holding myself back from choreographing each encounter until I am pleased with the results. It is their dance, not mine, I remind myself.

Andrew smiles at Ian, nodding with so much enthusiasm I begin worrying now about his neck. It is a full sentence in this house, his nod. They have completed a perfect exchange of communication, and something electric passes through me. Years of training and therapy come together in a split-second. I feel a little less depleted; a little more hopeful. My mind rests, forgetting for now about the long list of Can’ts and Won’ts and Why’s.

This is my deep breath. This is what my mind and body craves as I wake each morning and struggle to make peace with a reality that can sometimes feel so unreal. I am stern with myself. It has been four years! You are not an amateur! Get it together!

But the heart hopes as the mind struggles to accept. And it is these exchanges, among two brothers, that makes this seem like such a misunderstanding. Look at him! He is nodding! He is smiling at his brother! They are making decisions! They are speaking a language! This counts!

So for now, only tiny glimpses into the potential future are allowed. Anything else would be disastrous. Anything else would poison what is happening now. Today. A perfect exchange of communication.

A miracle.

Monday, June 9, 2008

I scream, You scream, We all scream for Ice Cream!



This past Saturday, after we attended evening mass, our family headed over to our local Baskin Robbins. I had suggested frozen yogurt, trying hard to stick to my plan of eating a certain number of calories per day so that my wardrobe is no longer limited to drawstring pants, drawstring skirts, drawstring underwear.....you get the picture.

My husband scoffed and passed our local Golden Spoon, pulling into the parking lot of the more tasty and less healthy ice cream store. The kids were in heaven and I won't lie, I was beginning to feel slightly giddy myself. There were flavors and more flavors and the cones just weren't big enough for all of them, so I settled on cookie dough, and as we sat down and watched our children turn into gooey, silly, sticky messes, I was suddenly flooded with childhood memories that included big, delicious, cold ice cream cones. I always had my signature blue bubble gum flavor, no matter where we went. The fact that I picked cookie dough the other day just shows how much I have matured over the years.

Everywhere our family traveled, we always ended the trip with ice cream cones. It was our thing and we did it well. My parents picked sophisticated flavors, like cappucino or mocha swirl. I used to think it was because they were old and weird, but now, as an adult, I understand that more than likely they picked flavors that we wouldn't want to eat, just so they could finish an entire cone without having to share it with us (I don't blame them). I remember how colorful and yummy that bubble gum ice cream was. The gumballs were useless; you couldn't blow a decent bubble if your life depended on it. But it didn't matter. The mere fact that I was eating ice cream with GUM inside was magical. We scoped out the best parlors in Laguna Beach and during camping trips in the small mountain town of Idyllwild. We walked, and talked, and ate our ice cream cones; we slowed down and enjoyed being a family. Even when I turned into a raving lunatic at age 16, I would summon some eye contact and let out a small grunt when asked if I wanted to join the normal people in our family for some ice cream.

The point of all of this reminiscing? It just felt good taking my kids to get ice cream and sitting down to watch them slurp and lick and try and win the race against their colorful melting cones. And it reminded me that it takes so little in this great big life to put a smile on a child's face. And the stickier the smile, the better. Because these little moments add up to great big memories, memories that carry us through tough times and trying times, (like potty training, and time outs and demanding four year olds) and times when you think you have reached the end of your rope. Then you take them out for ice cream and they look up at you with those gigantic blue eyes and make you feel like the luckiest person on the planet.

It's amazing what a single scoop sugar cone can do for the soul.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

To Pee Or Not to Pee......


It is 9:00 a.m in cloudy southern california. We are deep in the trenches.......of our bathroom. Today is the day. We are doing intensive potty training with monchichi.


God Help Us All.


We have moved into our bathroom for the day. We attended church service yesterday evening, knowing that our Sunday would be spent hovering around the toilet, coaxing our beloved son to pee in the potty. We are mercilessly bribing him with large ice cream cones....and shiny new toys.....and cold hard cash. Lots and lots of cash.


My husband is in there right now; we are taking turns because if we don't one of us will end up in the psych ward with a 5150 hold.

In a desperate attempt to load him up with liquid, we have dived into my stash of Coke Zero and, with great shame, poured him a tall icy glass filled with soda!!
I ask you to please think "pee pee in the potty" thoughts for us today.


Monday, June 2, 2008

it's a good thing he's my son



Superman is a good boy. He is a sweet boy. He means well and for a four and a half year old, he is (warning - about to brag about my second born) a super smart and sensitive kid. He has a heart of gold and I am sometimes brought to tears by his ability to give love so openly and freely.

But that boy has a mouth on him sometimes and it's a good thing he's my son. Otherwise, things may have gotten ugly around here tonight.

Now, there is no way in hell I am getting into anything remotely close to a bikini this summer. No $&$%-ing way. That is not even a six month goal. That is like light years away.
But I do expect to drop a few pounds and so in my quest to get "healthier," I have been hopping and stretching and just about hanging upside down from my ceiling fan as I watch and mimic fitness dvd's which ALL portray super skinny, super perky, super blonde bitches bouncing around in clothing made from the same material they use to make panty hose. (WHY??????)

So tonight I tried a new video, featuring the hot Denise Austen, some soup cans (couldn't find my weights.....hmmmmm...wonder why.....could it be that i bought them last year, tried them once, then "accidentally" chucked them into the depths of my storage closet.........?) and a large blue fitness ball. She is plowing through this workout, and I am feeling the sweat drip from my forehead and the timer on the dvd is only on 2 minutes. Lord have mercy! So finally i feel like I am getting the hang of this thing and my loving son comes into the living room (note to self, lock EVERYONE in a bedroom while i workout) and glances at the television, then back at me, then at the television, then back at me.












"Mommy.....they have muscles on the tv show
.............but you don't."


Luckily my wise husband swooped him up and tossed him into the tub before I could throw my can of Dole's Pineapple Tidbits at him, or possibly roll over him with my fabulous fitness ball.

Thank goodness i love this kid.

It's enough to have peer pressure and Glamour magazine cover girls telling me that I am bulkier than a ten pound bag of potatoes. But my son???

Between that and having him tell everyone that he meets that I am thirty and older than his daddy.....

thank goodness i love this kid.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Truth Be Told..

So i believe that once in a while it's healthy to purge the 'ol conscience a bit and admit to recent sins committed, no matter how big or small (let's face it though, the bigger the sin, the better the story).

Below are some of my more recent infractions. However, I am sorry to say that my more interesting stories are far behind me. And given the fact that i am trying to at least maintain a PG-13 blog, I will not be posting about ANY of the sins i committed during my, ahem, less conservative days.

1. I have recently tacked on major mileage on my car by visiting the McDonald's drive thru more times than I care to admit. I faintly remember promising myself, when my first born arrived, that I would never subject my children to the buckets of lard that are used in making those awesome fries. Total Lie.

2. I have allowed two (or more) days pass inbetween bathtime. Now, in my defense, our household has been under the weather and it is no small task to bathe two slippery, sniffling boys while my throat feels like there is grade 6 sandpaper in it (is that even how they categorize sandpaper? did I just make that up? Grade 6?? anyway, the really rough kind).

3. In the last week I have consistenly and unrelentlessly bribed my boys with the following:

a. popsicles
b. european chocolate
c. chocolate pudding
d. whipped cream
e. ice cream on a "giant" cone
f. fruit gushers (do not let the word "fruit" fool you)
g. marshmallow cereal
h. you get the drift.

4. Also bribed my kindergarten class with these same items.

5. Physically unable to eat just ONE 100 calorie snack bag of ANYTHING.

6. Use food to tackle the following emotions:
fear
anxiety
humiliation
joy
pride
sadness

So obviously i have somewhat of an unhealthy relationship with food. hmmmm. now I am feeling overwhelmed which makes me anxious which of course means i better go and get several bags of 100 calorie cookies.

got anything YOU need to confess?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Look-Alike

Seriously....
Elton John............no?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

soccer mom in mourning

It was last Tuesday that I finally made the trek to our local elementary school to watch superman play soccer with eight other under-fives. Seriously, the socks and the shin guards make the uniform. It could not possibly get any cuter than that.

I had monchichi with me and we alternated between him running away and me chasing after him and playing with the water cooler, pouring water in and out of two cups.

Somewhere in the middle of implementing autism-therapy-strategies provided to me by our awesome therapist (who makes it appear effortless), and watching superman play soccer with his peers as his (super hot) daddy helped coach practice, I lost it. I wanted out of there and for the next thirty minutes I felt like I was going to climb out of my skin.

I watched the other children play and laugh and kick the ball as I struggled with monchichi and wondered what the other parents were thinking as I tried to connect with my son who was so far out of reach.

I sobbed for no less than two hours that night. I realized quickly that I was grieving. It was scary and unexpected, this flood of emotion. I was consumed with anger and resentment, jealousy and pain. I wanted monchichi in long red soccer socks and I wanted him to wear shin guards and I wanted him to know how to kick a ball. I cried for the dreams that won't come true, the unpredictable and fast approaching future, and the little boy who would rather play with two cups and water than chase a ball with some friends.

This pain has shaken me to the core and I have not been the same since. I am respecting my right to mourn the loss of what could have been. My best friend has announced that I have every right to visit this dark and painful place, but that I must not stay too long. And I agree; it is far less enjoyable to delve into my anger and sorrow than it is to celebrate milestones and small miracles. But it is also just as necessary.

So I continue to pray for strength and inspiration, but I never have to look far for either. I am greeted each morning with the two reasons that make me who I am.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I'm really a mom....

Sometimes it is still so hard to grasp the fact that I am a mom. I don't know why. It has been well over six years since I first endured the horrific pain of labor followed immediately by a euphoric love for a newborn that stole my heart right from under me.

I make breakfasts, and lunches and dinners. I wash dishes and laundry and feet that are still small but no longer tiny. I ferry the boys to school and playdates and after school activites. I make crafts at the kitchen table and step on legos with my bare feet (OUCH!) and still, I wake up some mornings in disbelief that I am a mommy to these two wonders, these two little people.

Smothered in their kisses and warm hugs I sometimes feel I can't contain the love and joy that I feel when I am surrounded by their presence.

And God managed to perfectly plan on mom's getting exhausted and grumpy and worn out because nothing heals me faster then a sweet kiss from the same mouth that minutes before whined "Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom" for the hundredth time that day.

I AM a mom. And a damn good one at that. Because every day I suit up and do my best. and now, at thirty, I know I have and will continue to make mistakes along the way. But the one thing I have always done right is love my boys, love them to a degree that only another mother can understand. Love them so profoundly and passionately and unconditionally that it trancends all other emotion and energy. Love them with craziness that only makes sense to me.

Today, when my husband presented me with a bouquet of flowers bigger than my front door and told me how lucky he and the boys were to have me in their lives, I realized a truth that i will never take for granted:

I am the lucky one.

Happy Mother's Day to you Mamusiu and Babciu and all of you amazing ladies that are so dear to me.

God Bless.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I have an honest kid.....

It is customary, in our home, to end the day with a sweet little prayer that my parents taught my preschooler to say. This prayer is said in Polish, and my sister and I grew up reciting it as well. Dobranoc, Dobranoc, aniolki na noc........good night angels. Hearing our little guy say it each night connects us as a family to each other and to God. It is a sweet and perfect way to end a full day.

Usually.

Last night Ian decided to ad lib a little and after finishing his prayer he added a very serious and important request:

"and God, please help Lulu (our 10 week old kitten) to not pee pee or poo poo in our sandbox anymore." I silently agreed, since I found her doing her business not in her litter box but in the kiddos sand box, which contained really nice and somewhat expensive blue and green crayola sand.

That kind of honesty can only be found in a four year old. And Ian seems to have an unending supply of it.

When I stayed home sick last Thursday, Ian wanted to stay with me. I told him that if I allowed him to skip school and stay home, he would have to "be good and let mommy rest."

After thinking about this for a few seconds, he looked up from his bowl of cereal and replied, matter of factly, "then I better go to school mommy, because I don't know how to let you rest."

And that is the best kind of honesty. The kid kind.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Honesty.....Kindergarten Style

I was lucky enough to endure two bouts of pink eye in the last week. In both eyes. Needless to say, I was grumpy, and being grumpy is not part of the job description for a kindergarten teacher. I tried in vain to be extra cheerful during circle time. I stretched my mouth into a painful grin each time a student needed extra help or had a "very important" question that needed "immediate" attention.

But truth be told, I was over it.

Of course, in my attempt to recuperate my eyeballs from the awful experience that is pink eye, I tossed out all of my eye makeup and went to school au natural for the duration of my recovery.

"Teacher, why did you take your eyelashes off?"
"What happened to your face teacher?"
"Um, Mrs. A, could you please put your sunglasses back on?"

Needless to say, kindergartners are not well versed in tact, and neither are certain adults for that matter, as one very observant mom approached me with "my goodness, your eyes are rather small today."

I am all for honesty people, but sometimes not saying anything at all is just as good, if not physically safer, than telling the truth.

And this week, instead of our insect unit, my class will be learning all about Kindness, Compliments, and most importanly, thinking before speaking.

I will be inviting some adults to participate as well.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Out of sugar? Don't come knockin on my door.....

After obsessively logging on and reading a dear friend's blog (classy chaos) for the last six months, I have finally decided to try this blogging business for myself. What finally inspired me to take the plunge and divulge the details of my not-so-boring life? A brisk walk through my upper-middle- class neighborhood finally did me in. I just had to share my anger and bitterness and fury with someone and realized that my four and a half year old may not be the best audience for my ranting and raving. Haven't I scarred him enough as it is?

I live among jaguars and bmw's and recreational golf carts, though the nearest golf course is five miles away. I live on a piece of Southern California heaven and it wasn't until this afternoon that I realized that despite the gorgeous views and breathtaking scenery, i am surrounded by
cheap, self-centered, whiny people who can't see past their own noses; people who wouldn't know the meaning of "community spirit" if it came in and sat next to them on their living room sofas.

Maybe a little background will prove helpful.

I work for a private school two miles from home. My six year old son, "monchichi" was diagnosed with autism at the tender age of two. After soliciting donations at my school last November for an Autism walk our whole family was participating in, one of the teachers became inspired and promised to organize our very own Autism Run. This next friday, May 9th, our wonderful school will be participating in this event, running, walking, crawling, and hopping across our field to raise funds for research and awareness. YAY!! I decided to take my four and a half year old, "buzz darth superbatman" around our neighborhood this afternoon to gather donations for this wonderful (i know, I am just a tad biased) event.

*(insert sniff and sigh)* Twenty minutes later, we came back with, drum roll please.........
FIVE DOLLARS. Now, I am not in any way ungrateful for this five dollars. In fact, without it i would feel like a COMPLETE failure in my attempt to garner support for our cause. But seriously folks, when a woman, whose husband is an optometrist, whose house has three stories and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, whose driveway boasts two SUV's and a gigantic iron CLOCK and whose house is named "The Villa" responds to our request for a donation with "it is not a good time for us financially," I am forced to come home and creat a BLOG in order to vent what awful emotions regarding this blatant lack of humanity have ignited in me.

So this is my first blog. It's not as welcoming and rainbows and chocolate sprinkles as I imagined my first post to be, but it was inspired by my life and that is the whole point of doing this thing...... so, if you want to laugh, cry or simply kill a few minutes inbetween diaper changes, then come back and visit. I promise to always tell the truth.