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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hope Wears Converse and Skinny Jeans.

Do you suffer from teen phobia?



Do you shudder in fear when you see a group of adolescents walking towards you in a crowded shopping mall?



Do your ears bleed when you hear the lyrics of popular music playing on the Ipods of

Generation "WhatTheHell?"



Do you scowl at the youth of today and tsk in disapproval when you come in contact with these gum-chewing, lip gloss licking, bootie shorts wearing teens?



Are you frightened by the pimple-faced kid in the next lane over on Interstate 5 who is way too busy texting to be concerning himself with practicing the basics of driving etiquette that is required in order to keep you both alive?



Well, you should be.



Because these little vermin, I mean, young people, are going to be the backbone of this great country someday. Unless they do something stupid, like implode it on itself. Which, I think, is entirely possible.



I don't have to remind you, though it's my blog, so I will, that I was once this age and I was nothing short of a selfish, sneaky, manipulative little @#$%. And look how I turned out.



But I am here to offer you some hope ladies and gentlemen (though I'm not sure that I have any male readers other than my husband in which case I should really just write ladies and honey).



Last night I attended an open mic night at my school, where our auditorium was transformed into an intimate little coffee shop. I bought a steaming cup of coffee, proceeded to spill it all over the place and in true addict form, rushed over to get a replacement. The couches were comfy, the lighting was soft and the ambiance inspired at least one parent to comment on the "location of the joints." (Some things never change, I guess).



And suddenly something powerful and unforgettable began to take place.

One by one, these teenagers, mouths full of braces and hips still proportionate to their bodies, began to come up on the tiny stage and fill the space with innocence and courage, sweet melodies and painful ballads, acoustic guitar riffs and bongo drum beats. I began to sway and I began to listen and then I began to hope.



Hope for the future.

Ours and theirs.



And I clapped and snapped and got a bit misty-eyed (recurring theme here folks) and for over an hour I lived vicariously through these kids, letting myself dream and succumb to their shiny version of the world. I like their shiny version.



I don't know.

Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I read more into it than I should have. But so what? These guys weren't out causing trouble, making bad decisions, concerning themselves with the shallow ideals that almost no one can attain.



They were making music. And loving life. And inspiring a thirty-something teacher to sing an impromptu solo from the inside out.



It is amazing, what you can learn from those you teach.

If you are silent enough.

If you are patient enough.

If you can get past the whole fashion faux pas and slang and social akwardness thing.



Hope wears Converse and skinny jeans, my friends.

And texts at the speed of sound.

Yep. I'm That Sentimental.

Today.
I have been waiting for today for a while now.
Not because I do not love what I do.
My job is a blessing in my life; I really believe I have been called to teach.

But the Good Lord knows that teachers, especially Kindergarten Teachers, need time to rest, rejuvinate, and HEAL.

I did not cry when I took down my students' artwork.
I did not cry when they cleaned out their desks until they were empty.
I did not cry when I looked at pictures I had taken in the beginning of the school year and noticed how much plumper their little faces were, how much shorter their limbs appeared.
I did not cry when they brought me handmade cards with tiny treasures (woohoo for giftcards!) inside.
I was grateful.
But I did not cry.

No.

The tears did not come until I realized, at some specific moment in a day filled with laughter and friendships and a positively divine luau, that Superman would no longer be my student.

Sure.
He will always be my son.

But this year, I had the privilage, the great opportunity, to be his Kindergarten Teacher.
You know. The one that instills in you the love of learning, the passion for school, the beauty of imagination.

I was so nervous in early September, when the school year began.
Would he listen to me? Would he take me seriously?
Would I have to kill him if he didn't?

We were both so shy in the beginning, not really knowing what to expect.
He would call me Teacher at school, the word sounding so odd and misplaced on his little tongue.
Sometimes, when I was cooking dinner at home, he would say "Teacher, can I have some milk?" and I would cringe, not knowing how to deal with this title; I just missed being called mommy.

But soon we fell into a groove, he and I.

I taught him how to read.
I taught him how to add.
I taught him how to use his words to defend, empower, and stand up for himself.
I shushed him.
And pulled him aside when no one was looking, whispering in his ear "do you need to go to the office?"
I kissed him before P.E, during recess, at lunch, and in-between science and art. And more importantly, he let me.
I admonished him for leaving his backpack on the floor.
And for interrupting during circle time.
I struggled with calling on him too often or not enough and in the end just followed my heart and let him lead the way.

We learned together.

We learned to respect one another.
We learned to trust one another.
We learned to drive each other crazy.

And when he finally began to call me mommy in the classroom, we felt content with a relationship that was dominated by love, not social expectations.

I knew what he was going to give me for Christmas and Mother's Day, but I opened the packages carefully, enjoyed the custom designed wrapping paper, and squealed with delight when I saw my calendar and notepad and one-of-a-kind artwork.

I watched his name go from scribbled scrawls to confident I's and A's and when he began to write his last name on his own, I secretly took credit.

Hey, I'm no slouch.

So today, when I turned the light off in my classroom and closed the door behind me, I felt the familiar tingle that precedes a cascade of tears.
Because this past year has been such a gift.
Something beautiful and strange and at times exhausting.

It was ours though. And I think, I hope, he has enjoyed it at least half as much as I have.

He is nervous now, about first grade.
Though his classroom is ten feet away from mine.

I smile as I reassure him, tell him about all of the times we will be together, and promise to make impromptu pit stops to visit his new room.

I swallow past the lump in my throat.
Turn my head and regain my composure.
Because I do not want him to know
that I am nervous too.
That I will look at his old desk next year and miss seeing his arm shoot up, ready to be called on to give those brilliant responses that border on genius (Hey. He's My Kid).

But in the meantime, I am going to dive head first into summer, and linger in every spf-soaked moment.

Yep.
I am that sentimental.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

There Are Worse Things I Guess.....

You know that feeling you get, when someone says "You are just like your mother!"

You know.


That feeling where you want to wrap chicken wire around the person's throat so that they never again utter those dreaded and very untrue words.

Ever felt that way?

Because I do. Lately, a little more than I care to admit.


Which means that obviously the people who are saying that have never met my mother, have never met me, or have no respect for their physical well being.
Because I refuse to believe it's true.
No offense mom, but certain things, you just don't want to inherit from the previous generation.
Like the zebra print pants. You know. The ones you wore when you picked me up from high school and I pretended I had no idea who you were and why you kept honking your horn and screaming "ASIA" (pronounced Ashya, not Asia, like the continent) until I would run across the street, and jump into the Diesel Volvo, crouching down out of eyesight and yelling "go, go, go," like you were the getaway driver in a bank robbery gone bad.

Yep. Don't want the pants.
Or

The way you have to pose with an inanimate object for photos. Almost. Every. Single. Time.
Oh. You don't recall that you do that? The great thing about pictures though, is that they are pretty handy evidence.

Ta-Da!


Exhibit "A" - Rock



Exhibit - B "Birthday gifts"


Exhibit "C" - A stick and/or a knife next to pig on a spit

And, let's not forget your irrational dislike of noisy pots and pans in the kitchen. (????)

Also, your fear of catching pneumonia from your wet hair having any kind of contact with sudden shifts in the air such as fans, outdoor breezes, air conditioning, or an overexaggerated exhale.

I have however, inherited your gift of gab and meeting new people. In fact, just yesterday I struck up a conversation with a homeowner in a beautiful neighborhood we were visiting and ended up spending 1 1/2 hours in her driveway talking about everything from autism, to raising teenage boys to living the American Dream. One of the best conversations I've had in a long time.
That mom, is ALL you.
Why, just this past Father's Day, when we thought we had lost you at the park and were preparing to make a quick getaway, (KIDDING) there you were, on a distant bench, spending time with a family from the Ukraine you just happened to "meet" that afternoon.

And really. Things could be a lot worse. I haven't even begun to mention.........well, for the sake of my personal safety, nevermind. Anyway. If I have been gifted with half of the magnetism that draws people to you, then my life will always be full of strangers who quickly become good and loyal friends. I couldn't ask for a better hand-me-down.
But for the record.

I am soooooo happy that I can take a normal picture, without feeling the need to have a prop.

Whew.





Crap.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just Can't Keep My Mouth Shut

I appreciate your desire to be recognized for your achievements, rather than your inabilities.

I value your right to embrace yourself "just as you are."

I respect and admire your self-confidence.

I understand that you are Zen with the way things are.

I despise your judgmental words, striking at organizations designed to foster research and find a cure for those of us who desperately yearn for one.

I loathe your need to ridicule a mother's pain, making herself vulnerable and revealing the ache that she feels each time she sees her child struggle to communicate with others, when the only sounds that come from his mouth resemble nothing akin to the English language.

I dare you to walk a day in our shoes and then look us in the eyes and tell us that our children's autism is a blessing rather than a curse.

This is not war we should wage on one another.
This is a war fought by those of us who want better for our children, those of us who know they will not always come in seven-year old packages, those of us who struggle with picturing the future but know that to do so is the only way to give our children a fighting chance at a reasonably comfortable and independent life.

If you can type on a computer and spew hate-filled words, then you have nothing in common with my son.

If you can cross the street when the light turns green instead of running into oncoming traffic because you have no concept of death or pain or safety, then you have nothing in common with my son.

If you can fix yourself a sandwich, read the newspaper, pee standing up, and ride a bike down the street, then you have nothing in common with my son.

This is not just about YOU.
This is about protecting, defending, and advocating on behalf of those who can not do so for themselves.
This is about trying to build a community of support for those of us who felt sommersault kicks and dreamed big dreams and now grieve that our children have such an uphill road ahead.
This is about feeling free to express pain and hope and goals and treatments without feeling like someone (such as YOURSELF) is going to berate us or question our dedication as parents because we refuse to use our children as guinea pigs or because some diet didn't do the trick.

This has NOTHING to do with not loving our children for who they are, for not appreciating the wide smiles, the twinkling eyes, the unexpected cuddles, the fierce determination and curiosity they posess.

This is about not settling for a life filled with low muscle tone and dangerous stims and the inability to say "Mommy, my tummy hurts."

Because I'll be damned if I sit back and let Autism run the show.

Now sit down and do some research.
or
Read a book.
or
Call a friend.
or
Do some laundry.
or
Ask for help.
or
Cook a meal.

But preferably
Take a hike.

You know.
Since you can.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Fight

I cannot close my eyes
because everytime I do
I see
my face contorted
by rage
words flung in self-defense
shock
replacing the blood in my veins
and it is three days of silence
as I walk the same path as you
only three steps behind
I wonder if you really meant what you said
and I am too busy worrying
about my reputation
and being right
to realize that you
are broken too
until your tired steps
interrupt self-indulgent thoughts
and we
hash it out
old fashioned style
the faint smell of
sweat and
regret
accompany an embrace
so sudden
that
I am caught off guard
with the ease of forgiveness
and
the desperate need
to
forget

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Letter of Apology

Dearest Cousin Anna:

I felt compelled to write this apology letter to you after spending the weekend mauling your five month pregnant belly. I know this was highly inappropriate, but everytime I saw you and your cute little bump I couldn't help but rub and tap and admire it. Awkward, I know.

Also. I realize now that discussing my episiotomy experience and how to avoid having one yourself before our BBQ Pulled Pork dinner was in bad taste. What did you think of the coleslaw?

Um. And I guess trying to shove seven years worth of parenting advice down your throat before you've had your glucose test was probably a bit premature. The whole Time Out vs. Redirection debate can be had another day.

And I suppose while we're at it, I could have tried to avoid the play by play descriptions of the birth of my two sons. Again. Because even though I had an epideral with Monchichi and felt like crap after and then birthed Superman naturally and felt like a God after, the choice is entirely yours. I know you will make the right one. The RIGHT one.

Though now that I think about it, I did forget to mention a few things, such as the various breastfeeding positions, the statistical data on and possible treatment options for Postpartum Depression, the best food processor for making your own baby food, the importance of taking midafternoon naps, and of course, the fact that you will never ever ever ever come First again. Ever.

But. There is plenty of time for all of the small details, because you aren't due until November and our weekly phone conferences from now until then will probably cover most of what you need to know.

I know.
I am a wealth of knowledge and experience.

You Are Most Welcome.

Love,

Jo.

Friday, July 17, 2009

More Than Just a Game

I am watching my husband as he joins in a game of soccer between students and teachers. He is subbing for the day at my school today, a rare opportunity for us all to be together, Superman on the field with his friends and Monchichi having arrived by bus hours ago from summer school, now sleeping soundly next to me on the soft grassy hill.

I see the men and the boys, sweaty and red, their bodies poised for the next play, ready to make a move. Someone will score a goal. Someone will try to block it. Someone will definitely get hurt.

It is here, in this moment, that I realize how much simpler the guys have it. There are few words exchanged in these athletic moments, other than the occasional four letter expletives that you hope young ears won’t hear. Yet here they are bonding. In unison, all working towards completing this physical challenge, and in perfect harmony. Opposing teams on the field, comrades in the locker room.

They have it so easy, men.

Women. We are so much more complicated. A sweaty game of soccer does not a friendship make. We have a whole different way of doing things.

I don’t know about you, but I get tired just thinking about it.

First comes the physical assesment. Yep. You can deny it all you want to, but the minute we are faced with another female, at least one who is within a few decades of our own age group, we begin to mentally assess her, comparing ourselves to this woman standing in front of us, trying to picture whether her thighs are thinner than ours, whether her hair is naturally blonde, whether or not she will make us look ugly and/or fat in public when we are with her.

We hug, we compliment, we begin the emotional evaluation, picking apart her life over fattening desserts, urging her to have more while you look on, hoping to God she can gain a few pounds before you introduce her to your husband. You want to know everything about her and she offers it up, because we do that, us women. We find comfort in each other’s troubles, though there is the off chance we are trying to build a cache of blackmail material. Either way, it makes for great conversation.

It begins at such a young age too. I see it on the playground at my school and it brings me back to my own torturous days as a young girl. There is always a ringleader and she calls the shots, even if she’s two feet tall and weighs 10 pounds. If you cross her, you risk becoming a social invalid for the remainder of your academic career. If you become close friends, you are certain to jump through hoops in her shadow until one of you moves to another state. Either way, you’re screwed.

The boys on the other hand, they resolve their issues with hockey sticks and a few punches. There. All done.

We drag it out and start rumors and steal boyfriends and say “no honey, of course those pants don’t make you look fat.”
Vicious we are.

I know. Pretty heavy stuff.
So what are we going to do about it?

How about befriending that gorgeous coworker that looks like a centerfold; she probably has zero real girlfriends but plenty of sleazy guys trying to get into her life (among other things). Now, if you decide that you want to take her to a cupcake factory for your first outing together, I can only offer you this: order her the red velvet, because it has a TON of calories.

When you're done, you can meet up with me.

I'll be on the soccer field.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Bed Fit For A Queen. And Three Other People.

Someone's gonna get hurt around here.

I can't take it anymore. And neither can my husband.

Our kids have completely taken over our marital bed.
No matter what we do, they always manage to find their way back.

We have bribed them with candy, money, unsupervised playdates and stock options.
We have threatened them with no tv, no toys, lectures on Eastern European Economic Trends and waterboarding (not the Laka Havasu kind. The CIA kind).

I am at my wit's end.

The other night, I tried to fake them out. I climbed into one of their beds and fell soundly asleep on the most comfortable twin mattress ever. Because it was all mine.

For like five seconds.

Apparently my boys are hard wired to hunt me down in the middle of the night and proceed to throw themselves on me every which way with no consideration whatsoever for my internal organs.

Normally, I am a cheerful and forgiving person. But if I don't get my much needed and well deserved sleep soon, things are going to be a lot less cheerful and more Guantanomo Bay around here.

Um....this is where you do your part and give me some suggestions. Because if you want quality blogging, then getting them to stay in their beds each night is in your best interest too.

Otherwise, i may start drifting off in the middle of my blozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, July 13, 2009

10 Ways to Avoid Writing Your Book

1. Sweep every concrete surface within a five mile radius of your home.

2. "Accidentally" slam your right pointer finger (essential for keyboard functioning) in the car door.

3. Ask your mother for some child-rearing advice.

4. Watch The View.

5. Plant a garden and watch it grow. Literally.

6. Blog

7. Excersise (Now you know this is some serious writer's block).

8. Put laxatives in your morning coffee.

9. Organize the closets. In every room of the house. And offer to do the neighbors' too.

10. Finally schedule those root canals you've been putting off for months.

So at about page 50 my brain decided to conspire against me, and everytime I walk by the laptop I want to hurl it at my husband. Not sure why he's the target but I'm sure he's done something to deserve it at some point.

No wonder artists are insane.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

32

It's more than just a number.
For me, it's part of the scenic route towards some awesome, unknown destination.

It's being able to wear a bathing suit, despite your bodily imperfections, at a kid's birthday party, because playing in the pool with your children is more important than looking like a centerfold in a bikini.

It's accepting the mistakes that were made in the past and respecting them from a distance. Never forgetting where you were and how you got to where you are.

It's about forgiveness. For yourself. For others. Because grudges are burdensome and they just get in the way. Plus, who has the freakin time?

It's going to bed at 9:30 p.m because if you don't, the kids will still wake you up and demand pancakes with puppy dog eyes and now that you have DVR you can watch late night "Whose Line Is It Anyway" reruns the next day.

It's being a psuedo-cheer coach for some teenage girls and realizing that every song you play for them is an ancient flashback that came out when they were in-utero. *Sigh*

It's being called Ma'am by the young grocery clerk who fails to card you as you purchase beer for your husband.

It's understanding your mother in a way you never thought you would, and finally realizing that most of what she did and said really did come from a place of love, no matter how dysfunctional it was.

It's paying attention to the wrinkle serum commercials that promise results without intrustive surgery.

It's flipping past MTV and straight onto TLC.

It's Low Sugar Apple Oatmeal with Blueberries and Walnuts for breakfast. Everyday. Because Dr. Oz says it's good for you.

It's about embracing the softer side of life and laughing at the mental montage of where you've been so far.

It's about replacing Cosmo with Cooking Light.

It's about Acceptance and Honesty, Friendships and Loyalty, Smaller Portions on Prettier Plates and walking past the Junior section with your head held high.

Because you couldn't pay me to go back to a time when I couldn't leave the house without a face full of make up and a pack of marlboro lights secretly tucked into my purse.

You wanna live dangerously honey?

Try going to Costco without mascara.

Now that's being a real WOMAN.

Hello 32!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Superheros Don't Have to Wear Capes




I don't tell you enough, Superman, how feverishly proud I am of you.

I don't have the words to express to you the euphoria that comes over me as I watch you take your brother's hand and guide him through the narrow and winding paths that sometimes take him by surprise and cause him to trip.

"I've got it mommy. You just go back to doing what you are doing and I will make sure he is safe," you said to me at the July 4th bbq we attended on Saturday. Such big words from a little boy. Such a sense of responsibility for a brother you love and don't always understand.

But love trancends the words you cannot exchange with one another.

You have the heart of a giant, the hope of someone who has seen good triumph over evil, the patience of a man decades older and wiser than you.

There will come a time, sweet son, when your shoes will sit next to daddy's in the hallway closet, and I will no longer be able to tell them apart. Your hands will be calloused and perfectly fit around the delicate hand of the woman you will claim to love. You will have late night dates, and probably watch the playoffs at some hole in the wall bar with buddies you met at your ivy league university. You will eat all of your spinach and read the Wall Street Journal, and your deep voice will echo through the halls when you walk through the door and yell out "I Love You Mom!"

But you will always be your brother's superhero. You will always be his fierce protector, his greatest fan, his flesh and blood. You have a role to fill that is not an easy one, my son. There are expectations of you that most children your age do not encounter. And though you may not yet understand the gravity of your brother's situation, you know what he needs right now, in this moment: a brother who loves him passionately and treats him with the love and respect he deserves.

He is not a stranger in your eyes when he walks through the door and into a room filled with your friends. You are proud to call him your brother. And I know you will carry that solidarity with you throughout your life.

Because that is who you are.

It is mostly nature.
A little nurture.
The perfect "little big brother" anyone could ever ask for.

I think I hear the dryer buzzing.


Your cape is clean and ready for you.



Even though you're my hero without it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Knobby Knees and Polish Sausage

Ever since I was born a girl, summer has always been a stressful time of year for me.

Mainly, because, it is generally frowned upon if you go swimming in tummy tightening jeans and loose fitting, empire waisted tops.

Swimsuits are the main fashion staple, especially if you live in beautiful, always-freakin sunny Southern California (this is why I am trying to get everyone in my family to agree to move to Siberia.....less days of the year where bathing suits are appropriate).

It is always a New Year's Resolution for me to finally fit in a suit that doesn't make me feel like a Polish Sausage in its casing. And then suddenly it's June and as I finish the last few bites of my SECOND weight watchers Cookie's N Cream ice cream (Hey. It's not my fault. They come in such small portions) I realize it's once again time to pack up for the beach and I have to feign a coma to try and get out of it.

But since having children (who at this point are no longer to blame for the whole sausage in the casing bit) I have come to almost adore summertime.

Because they look so darn cute in those tiny shorts and tank tops, their knobby little knees and lanky limbs exposed.

And in the amber-hued late afternoon, when the sun is still beating but the day is slowing down, I nuzzle into their little necks and the faint scent of spf 50 surrounds me and suddenly summer is my favorite time of year.

And my Monchichi, when asked what color his bare feet are, will glance at them for a second and look up at me with those giant eyes and mischieviously answer "ack!" for black.

And Superman comes home from school, his boundless energy a scientific mystery, and requests to lounge around in his underwear. (less clothes = less laundry!) His tiny little underwear covering his tiny little tush. Just the other day he wore a cape with them. Does it get any better than that?

Why yes, it does. He also sported one red mitten.

A mother's dream, really.

Because it's a sign that things aren't moving quite as fast as I keep fearing they are. You ask me on any given day how the kids are doing and I'm so busy lamenting about how old they are becoming that I sometimes oversee the little red mitten.

Right before my very eyes.

But I also know, sitting in-between them on the couch, with their sweaty heads leaning on my shoulders and their goofy giggles and twinkling eyes imprinting themselves into the very depths of my being, that these glorious, sun and sand and spf-filled summers are numbered.

And someday, when their friends come knockin on the door, or that cute girl from geometry calls (even after I have had the number changed for the trillionth time) not even the Deluxe Bubblemaker 2000 will be enough to keep them home with me.


But you better believe I'm gonna try.