Saturday, December 20, 2014

This Is So Amazing It Should Be on Pinterest

Pink P has lost four teeth over the past two weeks. And, really I--I mean the Tooth Fairy--was doing a good job keeping up with it all. Then my semester ended and 60% of us got sick (including Pink who had a fever for EIGHT days), and I lost my everloving mind.

Loss of mom sanity leads to all sorts of collateral damage. In this case, it meant that I TOTALLY forgot about Pink's lost tooth and my role in the Tooth Fairy exchange. I completely spaced it. That is until Pink woke me up at 5:15 in the morning a couple of days ago to tell me that THE TOOTH FAIRY DIDN'T COME!!! WHY DIDN'T SHE COME?!?!


I suppose this might be like forgetting to move the Elf on the Shelf, which, by the way, is why I won't ever allow one of those darn things into our house--that and the fact that the elf requires me to maintain a pattern of constant and intentional deception, AND it teaches kids that they should behave only when being surveilled. Given my stance on the whole elf thing, the irony of my response to Pink's tooth dilemma isn't lost on me. As soon as I realized I'd blown it, I told Pink that the Tooth Fairy probably didn't come because Pink had been treating her brothers so badly lately. I'm not proud (even if it is true that Pink's been a bit of a terror, what with the fever and all). Parent fail times two.

Later in the day, I encouraged Pink to write a letter to leave for the Tooth Fairy. She wrote this:

FRONT: Dear Tooth Fairy, Why did you not come? I lost my tooth. Why did you not come? (Repeated and highlighted for added effect).
BACK: Please come next time. Merry Christmas, Tooth Fairy.
Oh, to have a child who believes so strongly and to be a mom who fails so miserably! (I also, for example, completely forgot to prepare gifts for approximately 40% of the people who work with my children, but that's another story).

After I saw Pink's note, I swore I'd do better. No way would I forget again. Never!

The next morning, Pink came in crying because the TOOTH FAIRY STILL DIDN'T COME. MAYBE SHE DOESN'T LOVE ME. WHY DOESN'T SHE LOVE ME?

How could something so cute induce so much fear?


This time, I did what any rational parent would do in this situation. I told Pink to put her tooth under my pillow and sent her back to bed.

When she was gone, I locked myself in the bathroom with the tooth pillow, a pen, and all the coins I could scrounge up. I wrote this note, put the note and coins in the pillow and shoved the whole thing back under my pillow.
Merry Christmas, Pink! Sorry I was late. Lots of teeth and the cold makes my wings slow. Love, TF
Five minutes later, Pink was back asking for it. She thought it would work better if she kept it under her own pillow. Thirty seconds after she walked out with it, I realized I HADN'T TAKEN OUT THE TOOTH! 


When I went to her room, I asked her if she'd checked the tooth pillow. She hadn't. This gave me the perfect chance to pull out the coins and the note and hand them to a thrilled Pink. "Wonder when she left this stuff?" I asked, sneaking the tooth out of the pillow and flushing it down the toilet.

"I don't know. I just saw the note and I didn't see a dollar, so I thought she forgot. I didn't know she left coins!"

"Next time you should look more carefully BEFORE you get upset. The Tooth Fairy wouldn't forget you," I said without an ounce of irony in my voice.

Sigh. With these kinds of parenting skillz, Christmas could be a complete catastrophe!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Three Wishes

Some times these kids just blow my mind... Today, Sky brought a paper titled "Three Wishes" home from school. I'd seen it hanging on the wall outside his classroom a month ago when I went for his parent-teacher conference. As I stood waiting for my turn to meet with his teachers, I read 20+ wish lists from the fourth-graders in Sky's class. A lot of the kids wanted things like new puppies, televisions, and gaming consoles. When I got to Sky's, I stopped short. 

Back when he was in Catholic school, Sky asked his classmates to pray for his dad every single day. He believed that God could hear his prayers and make Ren's back better. I believed that, too (still do). But, I also believe sometimes we don't get the answers we hope for.

As it has become clear that the back isn't going to get better, my conversations with Sky have shifted to an ongoing discussion of how life doesn't always go the way we want. This is a hard one for my boy who only sees the world in black and white. There's no good social story for this universal truth.

Ren's back is not going to get better, Sky will always struggle on some level with his difference, and, yes, those two realities means we are all sometimes more stressed than we'd like to admit. But, like I tell Sky whenever our conversations turn to questions of why, the why doesn't really matter because in the end it's up to us to find joy in the hard stuff.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Being Strong...

Awhile back, I wrote this post about having my hands full. Then, I was sure I'd reached the limit of what I could carry. It was a metaphor, of course, for dealing with Ren's unexpected back issues while working full time and parenting three young kids who happen to have a whole host of allergies and developmental challenges.

It turns out, I had no idea what I was talking about in that January 2012 post. Because after I wrote it, Ren had four spine surgeries, including one 6 weeks before my dissertation defense, and we learned not only that he has permanent nerve damage that will forever impact his ability to walk but also that the back isn't done, yet.

The back is bad.  I mean, really, really bad. See, Ren has congenital spinal stenosis. In other words, he has an unusually and severely narrow spinal canal. As a result, the nerves in his spine are highly susceptible to impingement, whether it be from arthritis, disc damage, or bone spurs. In practice this means that one day he can feel like things are getting better and all of the interventions have helped, and the next he can be laid so low by some other something going slightly out of whack that he can't even get out of bed.

Last week, when were visiting the spine doc to follow up on an MRI, I finally got the courage to voice the questions Ren and I have been subconsciously grappling with for months—you know, the ones that made us buy a house with minimal steps required to get in the front door and a master suite on the first floor.

I love Ren's doctor because the first thing he did was apologize--I mean sincerely tell us how sorry he was that all of this is so difficult. It's hard when you know you're making your doctor feel bad. It's not his fault the back is what it is. We know that, and I told him so. But, we also really need to know how this might go. So, I kept asking questions. And he kept answering them.

"Will Ren become unable to walk?" I asked.

"I hope not," he answered, exhaling sharply. "We will keep on top of it so that doesn't happen."

"Will the pain become so debilitating that he won't be able to function?"

"There are things we still haven't tried," he said, this time reassuringly. "They should help."

"Will there be more back surgeries?" I asked, already knowing the answer but wishing I didn't.

"Yes. At some point, the whole spine is going to go."

"When?" I already knew the answer to this question, too, but I had to ask just the same. Sometimes I can't help but be optimistic.

"I don't know," he said, "but we need to hold that off as long as we can. He's still young."

He's still young....

He's still young, you guys. At least young enough that none of this should be happening to him. But it is. It's happening to him, to me, to all of us.

It turns out that having a spouse with a somewhat rare, chronic, life-altering condition is a lot like having a kid on the autism spectrum. Little by little, the reality of what you face opens before you. It's not a dramatic shift, so for a long time, you hope you aren't seeing what you think you might be seeing. Then, slowly, in increments, you start to understand the nature of your new reality. It's incredibly disempowering and frustrating. At first.

But then you figure out how to get up and face each day. You figure out how to do whatever it is that you need to do. You learn to laugh. Sometimes you cry. But most of all, you just keep going.

Friends tell me I am strong, that they can't imagine how I manage it all, that they would never be able to do what I do. I never know what to say in response. Often I say nothing. And, mostly I wonder if having the capacity to handle a great deal of adversity makes me strong or whether it is just proof that I have never, not in my whole entire life, known when to give up. I'm pretty sure there's a difference between the two, but, then again maybe it doesn't really matter.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reno (Or Should I Say Demo?) by Pink P

When you become a parent, you develop a supersonic sense of hearing. From two rooms away, you can tell which kid is playing with which toy or whether the thud you heard was someone's head or a book. That's why when I heard a crash larger and louder than any I'd heard before, my instinct was to run downstairs to see what was wrong.

Pink and Stow were playing together so nicely, though, and since I didn't hear any yelling or crying, I decided it was just my imagination (Parenting Pro-tip: It's never just your imagination).

Fifteen (fifteen!!) minutes later Pink came to me and calmly said, "I think I made a bad choice." This was a whole new and slightly disorienting tactic for her.

"Why?" I asked.

"I was trying to reach a toy and the shelf fell," she replied just a tad too nonchalantly. Pink doesn't do nonchalant. Ever.

"Which shelf?" I asked, though thinking back to the large crash, I already knew the answer.

"Don't worry," she assured me. "It landed on something sturdy."


Before we moved into our current house, we finished the basement.

It went from this:

to a space that includes a bedroom, a bathroom, a play room, and a "media" room. While I appreciate the extra space and (most importantly) the fact that the kids can GO DOWNSTAIRS TO PLAY, what I love more than anything is the playroom closet. When we were designing the space, the contractor came up with a conservative little 5 ft x 5 ft closet tucked away around and beneath the stairs. "That's nice," I said. "But it needs to be bigger."

See, I envisioned a closet so big that not only would it hide each and every toy in our house, but it would also provide storage for all of our seasonal items. I imagined a magical world free of toys in which I no longer had to climb down cellar stairs (or up attic stairs) to unbury boxes of holiday decorations. In other words, I imagined heaven on earth. It took a second opinion and  a different contractor to get what I dreamed of--a glorious 6 ft x 12 ft closet running the length of the room. When the basement was finished, the sight of the new closet brought tears of joy to my eyes (NOTE: I am only being slightly hyperbolic here; I mean a person can only take so much toe-stubbing and cellar digging before she's reached her breaking point).

The kids immediately took to the space:

The first day, begging to camp out.
Soon the closet was full of all the junk I imagined it would hold and more.

And everything was perfect.

That is, until Pink decided to try her hand at demolition. The good news is that no one was hurt and nothing on the shelf was destroyed. The bad news is that she pulled an 8-foot wire shelf out of the wall.

In case you're wondering, I questioned the contractor about the strength and stability of a shelf this long especially given its proximity to the ground, and he assured me it would be safe. Yeah, right.
Pink is the kind of kid who weeps when someone looks at her sideways, and who tends to overreact to everything. But, she did not make a peep when this monster of a shelf came out of the wall, bringing with it toys and Christmas decorations. This may turn out to be one of the greatest mysteries of my life.


The detached shelf left us with 20 perfectly aligned little holes just like this one.

Ren and I have our skills--his being, by and large, more useful than mine--but neither of us had ever patched a wall before. That's the joy of having children, though. You always have opportunities for skill development and personal growth.  

After Ren was finished, we had a wall full of awkwardly-shaped (but perfectly aligned) blots of spackle.

Fortunately, most of the spackle spots were soon covered by the various storage containers that now fit nicely where the shelf once hung.

It turns out that Pink P's forced shelf removal may have been a stroke of genius. More things fit in the closet now, and now there is no tempting dangerous shelf for the kids to climb.

Need storage solutions for the holidays? We've got a nice 8-foot shelf to spare, and we're thinking about renting out Pink P's renovation and reorganization services. Who knows, maybe things will work out as well for you as they did for us. Then again, maybe they won't. After all, not knowing is half the fun.