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.


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 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
Get in your seat
We sing the Good Morning song, we don't scream it
The Golden Rule! Remember the Golden Rule!

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 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.