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 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 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 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.