Archive of ‘memories’ category

My Gift This Year

9 Month birthday

9 months

Scrolling back through pictures of Evan in his first year, my heart hurts a little. It hurts for a number of reasons.  It hurts because I can see the features that indicated he had Williams Syndrome. The blue sparkly eyes, the wide and flat nasal bridge. The memory of his floppy limbs.  At the time I had no idea. Evan was over a year before we received his diagnosis.

Knoebels 2011 049

4 months

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “what does it matter now?”  Truly, it doesn’t. And 92% of time, (I did extensive research to get that percentage) I do not look at the words Williams Syndrome and feel anything negative. In fact, most of the time I see it as a true gift. That my son has this rare condition that causes him to have extreme empathy and compassion. It causes him to smile all day long. It causes him to sing at the top of his long and care very little who hears it. I can drop him off at preschool and there is no crying. He toddles away from me happily and forgets I’m there.

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It hurts because I see my father’s rosy cheeks and ear to ear grin in Evan’s chubby baby face.

It hurts because I can remember the difficult time I had post-partum and how I longed to see the beauty in motherhood.

It hurts because I know my little boy is growing up. I know he will enter the public school system soon. That our first meeting with the child study team in our school district is just days away.

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Halloween 2012 17 months

It hurts as I recall the first time Evan was evaluated by the early intervention team. How my stomach lurched each time they asked Evan to complete a task and he would just look at them expectantly, hoping they would play with him but not completing the expected task. Not knowing that he was being tested.

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Please Touch Museum March 2013

Then the hurt turns to a knot in my stomach. A knot of joy intertwined with struggle, intertwined with pride, intertwined with wonder.

My, how far Evan has come.  From this little floppy baby who could stare at a spinning wheel for a half hour straight. From this bouncing bean who loved to leap in his jumper exersaucer. From this eager boy who wanted to communicate with us so badly but could barely get out the word “more” for the longest time.

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Our little Jerry Lee 11 months

This past weekend, I woke up late (glorious glorious thing that was) at my in laws house to find everyone else up and playing in their living room.  Evan saw me, stopped the game he was playing, smiled a huge smile, came over and sat in my lap. He gazed up at me and just very confidently said, “Mama.” First time ever. Not the first time he said “Mama,” but the first time he spontaneously did so, without anyone pointing at me or prompting him. I can remember months and months ago saying to a friend, “I just can’t wait until he greets me and says my name in excitement.” It happened!!

The following night from his crib he whispered, “Ahhh you,” “Fo-eb-a”which translates to “I love you, forever.”

All on his own.

My Christmas gift has already been unwrapped.  And it’s a gift i can unwrap every day.  So blessed.

Putman_Family (10)

 

A Boy and his Horse

Hi Horsie.

This weekend we took Evan for his hippotherapy evaluation.  Yes, that means exactly what you think, he is going to do therapeutic activities on a hippo. Just kidding…..Or maybe you are thinking he is going to be hypnotized, ala hypnotherapy.  Neither is correct, but don’t feel bad if you aren’t familiar with the term either.
Hippos is the English translation of the word horse in Greek.  Thus, hippotherapy is the use of a horse in occupational, speech, and/physical therapy.  (I did not know the etymology of the word until I started doing this blog entry)

Not sure about this horse stuff, Mama.

 

Of everything we have tried, this was one therapy that I was super excited for, but I also had no clue how it would go, or how effective it would truly be.  I knew Evan would enjoy being around horses and spending time with adults and young people at the farm. I also have a love of horses and I have ridden horses several times in my life.  But I had a hard time imagining him doing well on a horse, and I wondered how exactly it would help him to progress.  When he wasn’t walking- not all that long ago!, both his physical therapist and Dr. Mervis, the researcher we see in Kentucky, suggested that we look into hippotherapy. Dr. M’s exact words were, “Get him on a horse.”  She felt it would help strengthen his core., which in turn would help with his language development and walking.  I started looking into it last spring. I found a lot of local places that did recreational horse therapy, but not hippotherapy.  Apparently they are similar but it is harder to get insurance coverage with the former because it is not done by a licensed therapist.  I called around, asked questions, looked into our insurance and decided it would make sense to wait until the fall when we were back on my insurance, which has better coverage overall.

 And then as luck would have it, one of my new warrior mama friends (who I practically cyber stalked-a story for another day) suggested this horse farm.  She had taken her daughter here for hippotherapy and raved about it.  She also was very happy with the support the therapist gave her as far as getting insurance to acknowledge the therapy and get most of it covered.  Sounded like a win-win situation to me! So off we went to do a barn tour and then an evaluation was scheduled.
We set off to Brandywine Occupational Therapy and the wonderful Miss Lauren.  My mother went with me, which was very helpful. The occupational therapist asked a lot of questions and it was nice to have a second pair of hands to keep Evan close by while we were having him climb on the playground equipment and walk around.  Her extensive knowledge in the area of occupational therapy is evident and it made me feel very at ease to know Evan was in good, professional, educated hands at this facility.  She used technical terminology and offered reasons for things that Evan does, while also giving praise for different things he has recently started to do.  It’s always heartening to know your child’s therapist really knows her stuff. And Evan’s really do.
At first, I was worried Evan was not going to dig the horse experience.  He started this low whine when they put his helmet on, and he kept looking around like he wanted to anywhere else but at this farm.  Then they had him use a mounting block (bc she thought he could handle it-which thrilled me) and got him up on the horse. He kept doing this low whine and squinting his eyes, like he does when he doesn’t like the food you offer him.  My heart sank, because I really had such high hopes for him. (which translates to high hopes for me- I need to work on that) Luckily, as often happens with Evan, the waiting and anticipation of the activity can sometimes cause him to whine and get impatient. But once they started to move, and the horse began to ebb and flow beneath him, it all changed. After a few short moments he started to say, “Whee!” and “Neighhhhh.” His whole demeanor changed. He held on tightly and kept his back erect the whole time, not waivering at all.  I thought for sure he would try to get off, or lean side to side but I was very wrong.  The therapist started to try different things, like going diagonally across the ring, doing figure eights, and stopping and starting.  When she would stop, she would ask Evan to tell the horse to “walk.”  He just kept saying, “Neighhh!” Then she suggested saying, “Go, Vixie!” (the name of the horse)  After two times modeling for him, he did it independently when she stopped!
I was floored. We are working hard on two word combinations, but I never thought he would do one so quickly, and with a new therapist, on a horse!!! But looking back, that is probably precisely why he did respond so quickly.  No need for bells and whistles when you have horses! (thanks Aimee for that realization)  He probably spent about 15-20 minutes straight on the horse with no signs of fatiguing.  He was especially fond of saying, “Hi! How are you!” to the young lady who was helping on the other side of the horse.  He didn’t tire of looking at he and batting his big blue eyes at her and smiling before shouting, “Neigh!!” all over again.  The natural feeling of riding a horse is so significant for a child like Evan who seeks sensory input all the time. He loves movement, bouncing, being upside down, rocking, etc. And a horse provides all of that in a controlled, organized way.
Sorry for the shakiness, I was trying to keep up with them with my cell phone camera.  If you listen closely at the end, you’ll hear Evan exclaim, “Vixie!”

So the biggest deal of the whole experience was when he had to get off the horse.  She said “Ok, Evan, we’re all done now, we have to get off the horse.” He responded by gripping as hard as he could onto the handles and sticking his bottom lip out as far as he could. She pulled him off, handed him to me and he went in to full blown teary meltdown.  He wanted to get back on her so badly. I can’t really put into words how this hit me emotionally.  I can say I definitely welled up with tears.  Not so much because I was sad for Evan, but more because I was so excited at how much he connected with the horse, and how he truly was sad he had to get off.  Evan has such an easy going temperament. He does not throw a fit when I drop him off at school, in fact, he will walk up to almost anyone, saying “Hi!” and he does not seem to lament the fact that his mommy or daddy are leaving him.  (believe me I know how enviable that is) But that also means he does not display other typical behaviors, like an affinity for things that mean something to him.  So to see him feel true sadness because of how much he LOVED being on that horse, it just filled me up inside.
He kept saying, “Vixie, Vixie,” on the way home and I showed him the video a few times. So now when he sees my phone, he says, “Vixie, vid-ee-oooo”
I can’t wait to take him again.
And to see how she is going to work on self feeding goals on a horse.
Somehow, I trust it will work.

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October-Fest

Reading in the book nook he created.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables  
 
Future Riders like their Pop Pop
Riding with Mama

Cousins

Funny Faces!

The ultimate in sensory play
Framer, pun intended
Choo Choo!

Getting signed up for hippotherapy!

Evan loves his Pappy

And his Mimi

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For Good

My dad singing to me when I was a wee one

The month after we lost my dad, Learning Stages put on a fundraising event that celebrated the 20th anniversary of the organization. For those of you who do not know, Learning Stages is a non profit theater group that I have been a part of since I was 14. I performed in the chorus mostly, then started helping out with the production side of things, while also acting in one act plays. Finally I taught and directed the childrens’ theater program for 8 years before taking a break to have Evan.  I am extremely proud to be associated with this group, I have developed many of my closest relationships through the program and it has helped feed that hunger I have always had for creating art and working with children. 
I had been looking forward to the 20th anniversary show for months and months. I knew it would be like a mini reunion with those I had acted with many years before. I also was looking forward to performing again. It had been a long time since I participated in musical theater as a performer. When I told my dad that we were going to be showcasing many of the numbers we had done throughout the years, in addition to other songs- he made a single request. He asked that Joe Salvatore (who he had always called Joey) sing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma as he had the first year I was a part of the organization in 1993. When I brought it up to Joe, he said he had to think about it. Joe is now an NYU professor, director, playwright, speaker, the list goes on. He has come a LONG way since donning the chaps and cowboy hat he wore as Curly in 1992.  After my father passed, he made the decision to honor my dad’s request and he did sing it, entering the stage quietly with no music, beginning the song a cappella as he did so many years prior. I stood backstage in the wings biting back tears. I just knew my dad would have given Joey his own personal standing ovation if he could have. He just adored him and he was so thankful that I had joined the group as well.  
That evening I sang the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked with another friend from the workshop, Amanda.  The lyrics to that song are simple. Yet they say quite a bit. Just yesterday I went on my Facebook profile and noticed that a friend had recently looked at the video of the performance and commented with some hearts.  I watched it again and was overcome. Overcome with the feeling that my dad would have been so darn proud of me. I will never forget when he greeted me after my high school performance of “Singing in the Rain,” with tears streaming down his face, he ran up to me in the hallway. He literally ran full speed and hugged me as hard as he could. He sputtered and said he “couldn’t believe that was your voice up there.” “couldn’t believe that was my little girl singing.”
That moment meant the world to me then and it still does. I was very lucky to have a dad who wasn’t afraid to express how he felt about others.  I think I have adopted that same fearlessness with most of the people I care about, but I know i could take even more risks in my relationships. I think we could all learn from him in that department.

Here’s to you Daddy. “I know I’m who I am today, because I knew you.”


Five Rabbit Hops

Hi folks. I apologize for the length of time in between blogs lately.  I imagine it will not get much better when I go back to work, but I will try my best, because this here blog is good for me and it also is a nice place to preserve memories.
Anyhoo, today is June 11.  I didn’t even want to write this last night and post it today because it just didn’t seem right.  Three years ago today, my father passed away. Not from a fighting a long battle with a disease, not from an inherited condition. Suddenly and out of nowhere his heart gave up on him.  And as many others who have also dealt with a major loss, I look at life now as before my Dad died and after.  It’s weird how that happens but it just did. The significance his passing has had in my life is monumental. But what I want to focus this entry on is not his passing- because I am having a hard enough time not thinking of that afternoon and all the horrid details. Instead, I want to focus on the significance of his LIFE on me. Because clearly I miss him as much as I do, because of the time we spent together when he was here.

Traveling Exhibit in Dollywood

Last week we went on a whirlwind vacation. First to Kentucky to participate in the research study at University of Louisville. Then to the Smoky Mountains in Tennesee for family vacation with my in laws. THEN to North Carolina to catch up with old friends from liberti and to meet some new (only in person) friends who I have been anxious to meet for some time.  My Dad was on my mind constantly.  It was strange how much he popped into my head.  Not to say that I don’t think of him often, because I do, but this was almost every day, multiple times a day.  I would think of how he would love whatever activity we were doing. I would think how he would totally love what Evan was doing at the time. I would think how we would spend hours in the car together on our roller coaster adventures and we would record ourselves rating the roller coasters.  He called me Electric Erin and he was “Rollo” Robert.  We would rate them by “rabbit hops” (what the fun, quick up and down hops on a roller coaster are called). I think the scale was 1 through 5 rabbit hops. Of course, with a rating of 5 being an amazing roller coaster!
 I thought of him most when we were in Dollywood, a sprawling amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN. We saw a sign for the Roller Coaster Museum and I knew I had to go in.  My mind was flooded with memories as I walked around and looked at the pictures, articles, and memorabilia. I walked around with my mother and father in law and they kindly asked questions and listened to me as I pointed over and over saying things like, “We went there!” “Oh my goodness, I remember that one!” “Dad I rode that one in the pouring rain!” or “We stayed in the craziest place when we went to that park.” There was one display that I wish I had taken a picture of- it had all the collectibles of an ACE member. ACE stands for American Coaster Enthusiasts. If you already know about that club, it is probably because you are a family member or friend reading this. It’s not a household name for sure. But we were members. When I was 11 years old I believe, I was a member. I had several tee shirts with the insignia on it. My father and my stepmother had silk screened jackets.

Debbie and my Dad doing what they loved.

When I came out of the exhibit, I felt lighter somehow, and so excited to tell Todd (who was sitting with Evan outside). As I rambled on about different things I saw, and their significance to me, it made me realize how important it is to write down as much as I can remember.  As time passes, memories fade. As much as I absolutely hate to admit it, the older I get, and the more time passes since an experience, the memory of that experience becomes dimmer and dimmer. And I refuse to lose the amazing memories I have of my dad.  I have the ability to enjoy life and live it with the people I am blessed to still have in my life. But I do not have that luxury with my father- so I need to preserve what memories I still have in my grasp.
 Here is a link to a lovely article written about my dad in lieu of an obituary.

Electric Erin here, coming to you live from the Putman dining room. I give the life of my father, Mr. Robert F Gaynor, otherwise known as Bobby G- Five Rabbit Hops, hands down.  You heard that right folks. Electric Erin, signing off.

We have a TWO year old.

Family Shot, Evan 2 years old

Two years. Two years that have come and gone in so many ways. Painstakingly slow when we were going on two hours of sleep a night for months, And warp speed fast, when days are spent playing in the sand, watching Evan learn to walk, snuggling before and after nap time, and knowing my days at home with him full time are numbered.  But either way, we made it! We more than made it.  We have a happy, healthy, thriving two year old.
Last year at this time, we were just finding out about Evan’s diagnosis. We were just being hit with the news that would change so many things for us.  We had a huge party for Evan that was on the same day as his baptism. It was a crazy idea, to have over 50 people over our house, just an hour after we returned from church (in Philly).  But we wanted to celebrate two big occasion and we wanted to share in it with loved ones.  Two days before the party we were told that Evan might have Williams Syndrome, but we needed to go to a geneticist to make sure. Todd and I handled that weekend differently, I was convinced he was fine, he did not have the condition, the doctor had made a mistaken assumption.  Todd had done the same research I had, but his logic took over and he knew deep down that our little guy was missing some genes. Either way, we both were overcome with emotions, worry, confusion.  The party is a bit of a blur for me. I do remember that Evan was not himself. He was extremely tired from church that morning, and all the attention. He took a nap, and when he woke up, he was groggy and his reflux was acting up terribly.  He just wasn’t his chipper, social self.  We had not discovered his high calcium yet, so we were continuing to push high calcium foods and drink in him, which was exacerbating the gastrointestinal issues he was having. I remember taking pictures of him with his cake in front of him and he would gag when he looked at it, and when we tried to give him a small piece, he pushed it away and gagged again.  At that time, most gags came right before a vomit, so we didn’t push it.  I didn’t let on, but it was breaking my heart that our little guy couldn’t enjoy his birthday treat. Such a silly thing. When I thought about being a mom, I figured I would have to limit his sugar intake, try to cut down on sweets. And there I was, crying inside about the fact that my son couldn’t eat his birthday cake.

In the months to follow, as we got Evan the care he needed, the early intervention therapies, the appointments, the correct amount of calcium in his diet, etc, he began to handle food better, and keep it down with more ease.  But I never would have imagined what would occur just a year from that party where he gagged over a few crumbs.

Age 2, upon receiving cupcake

About 6-7 minutes after receiving cupcake

I watched him as he picked up the fondant tire off the top of his cupcake, and then try to put it back on the top multiple times. We took the tire away, because I don’t think he realized it was edible. He then began to touch the cupcake with curiosity.  We give him such small pieces of food typically bc the speech therapist is working on age appropriate feeding patterns with him and the bigger the piece, the sloppier he gets. Makes sense.
Well, he was puzzled with this cupcake because it was HUGE. Adult sized. I held my breath a bit, thinking he would squish the icing down, feel the texture and throw up.  Next thing you know, he is shoving it in his mouth and going to town.  Chewing, swallowing, shoving. Repeat.  It wasn’t until it was almost gone, that I realized he was REALLY eating it. He kept it down, he ate dinner later, drank all his milk mixture. No issues. Multiple times I felt my eyes sting with tears. I just felt so proud of him. And so lucky to be his mother. (and not because of a cupcake)
We have a TWO year old. A brave, hard working, sunshine-of-our-days two year old.

 Yes, this is a positive, 
upbeat, 
dripping with sugar, 
blog entry. 
Dripping with chocolate cupcake crumbs. 
But I’m okay with that. 
In fact, I’m very okay with that.

What did we do to deserve this?

Evan and Andrew (in typical early fashion- October 2011)

When Evan was about 3 or 4 months old, I had a friend watch him for an hour while I went to counseling.  She lived near to the counselor at the time and her son is ten weeks older than Evan. This was pre-diagnosis, and I was in an anxious, exhausted, frustrated, new mom state.  Evan was a horrible sleeper, waking up numerous times a night, and crying for hours in the evening.  When he was happy, he was happy but the times he wasn’t…phew.  I thought the hour would be doable, and the kids weren’t mobile so they would just happily roll around on a mat, right?
Well, I return to a very apologetic and frazzled friend who was trying to be a good friend and not  make a big deal about it, but basically, Evan cried the whole time and made her son cry as well.  Sigh…Todd came by afterwards and we had dinner with their family.  On the way home, we both said, almost at the same time, “When is Evan going to be as pleasant as Andrew?” Andrew smiled almost the whole time we were there, barely any tears, and was just happy to be alive and hanging out with us.  It seemed like Evan was going to “crank” as we called it, at any minute, for the rest of his and our lives.

Fast forward to this weekend, Evan is now almost 2 years old.  We made the very bold decision to take him overnight tent camping.  Todd has been ready for this for a while now, and I have been pushing it off.  I was worried for numerous reasons, the biggest one being the sleeping situation. I just couldn’t imagine how Evan would do in a tent, and how we would do sleeping right next to him in said tent!  Let alone the possibilities of bears, bugs, lack of nap, constant need to entertain, etc.
Let me also share that we decided to take him kayaking. Kayaking for an indeterminate amount of time, approximately an hour or more, with no real ability to stop if he is not handling it too well.
And this we HAVE done before, and he has not been a very big fan.  Did I mention that all week we were preparing for warm weather with sunshine? And Mommy and Daddy did not bring rain gear? And that it poured the entire time we kayaked? Ahem…..Live and learn.

Shake Shake Shake, Shake your maraca!

So….we drove the two+ hours to get to the campground. We put Evan in a stroller and start setting up camp. His Grammy rolled him around and he was content as a clam to talk to her and look around. We then put him in his portable high chair and put it in one of the camp chairs, and it sat in a precarious way that made him tilt backwards a bit. As I put him in and started to feed him lunch, I thought there was no way he would last more than ten minutes in this position. About an hour later, after he ate a whole jar of stage three food, and a Jammy Sammy, sang songs and played with his new maracas straight from Mexico (thanks Seese Family!)- THEN he was ready to get out of the chair. Ok I was wrong. Only once, right? Moving along….

Kayaking as a family in Delaware Water Gap- Evan just shy of 2 years

Then we go kayaking. Luckily my mother and father in law are seriously sent from Heaven and they lent Evan and me some stellar rain gear. Within the first 20 minutes or so, Evan wiggled around, going between happy and singing, and then uncomfortable and sleepy. Oh, I forgot to mention that he had been up since about 7 am, and it was 2 pm now, no nap, pouring rain, in….a…..kayak. I sang songs to him ad nauseaum, fed him a cereal bar, and kept him as occupied as I could. The rain started coming down hard and he tried over and over to fall asleep on my shoulder. Alas, two life jackets pushing together in pouring rain does not a comfortable bed make.  Although my nerves were a bit on edge as I maneuvered him all around and poor Todd had to paddle for all three of us- it ended up being a pretty nice ride, and Evan kept calm for the majority of it.
Because of the rain jacket that was so kindly lent to us by my in laws- Evan only had a few little spots of water on his pants when we got out of the kayak. Oh!!! I forgot to mention that about halfway into the kayak excursion, he had a dirty diaper. And not a little one. A three alarmer, multiple wipe diaper. Where were the diapers and wipes? Oh they were in the van back at where we started. So when we got out of the kayak, Todd had to drive back to get the van and drive back to us so I could change the poor guy.  Again, bad planning on our part. Evan could have cared less. (until his poor bum hurt the next day- Guilt Guilt Guilt….

My adorable husband playing for little E
That’s right, he’s wearing a faux backpack.
Reading Baby Boo for the 3,945th time.

 We finally get back to the campsite, we pass Evan around while each of us get out of our wet clothes.  The ground is sopping wet with mud and Evan doesn’t walk on his own yet, so we couldn’t just put him down and let him crawl around.  Especially considering there is no “bath-time” when tent camping. Enter the pack-and-play. We put some fun toys and books in there and put it right next to the action, where everyone was hanging out, eating, and talking.  He stood up and talked to whoever would talk to him. (yup, I did look up whether or not to use whomever or whoever in that sentence) He sang songs, played with his toys and read his peekaboo baby book over and over. He also played peekaboo up and down the side of the pack and play repeatedly with his Aunt Rhonda.

Reading with Grammy by the fire

It began to get chilly so we put him in flannel pj’s and his winter bear suit that he wore when it got really cold. It was the only way to ensure that he would be warm when he went to sleep since I forgot his weighted blanket at home. (Are you sensing a Mommy Fail trend here?)  We put him to sleep in the tent around 8:30 pm and he fell asleep in about 30 minutes. With the noise of bugs, fellow campers, a cub scout troop two sites down, a wedding reception across the water blasting out typical reception fare such as Psy’s Gangnam Style, and Beyonce’s Crazy in Love….Evan fell asleep and slept until 6 am.
6 am.
9 hours.
I probably slept about 4 total.

Over and over again, Evan proves my doubts to be wrong. He takes my worries and removes their weight. He looks up at me with that grin, and immediately grounds me.  And I have feeling he will continue to do that for the rest of my life.  I pray that he does.

Seriously.
What did we do to deserve this? 

Evan Robert almost 2 years

Mid Thirties Identity Crisis

No crisis, but it was catchy eh?
Just typing the subject line of this post, made me think about my identity and how it has changed so much.  I used to pride myself on my spelling ability. To the point of being a snob about it. I had a dear friend in high school who was in all honors and advanced placement classes but she would write the word to for too, or your for you’re and freind for friend. This always made me feel superior in some way because spelling had always come easily to me.
Typing the word identity today took me about 5 tries. 
Yup. Things change.  
Color me humbled.

In the past few weeks I have discussed identity with at least three different people on different occasions. It is such a complex concept. The idea that there are things about us that not only do we associate with our character, but that others do as well.  When looking up the definition of the word identity, the word “sameness” kept coming up.  Interesting.  I had always thought identity was multifaceted, changing, colorful, textured. Same wasn’t really a word I associated with it.  In one of the conversations, a friend asked, “Who am I? I am not sure who I am anymore, what is my identity?” She lamented that she was a mommy now, and that is fine, but she wasn’t always. She was a lawyer, a wife, a friend. Is she still those things? Or is her identity totally connected to motherhood?  Another conversation I had touched on the different identities associated with working and stay at home mothers. My friend said that she sees herself very differently than her friends who stay at home with their children. I wasn’t sure where I fell in that discussion so I decided to examine the trajectory of my identity.

Junior Year HS


Senior year HS at a haunted house

As a teenager, my identity was wrapped in my friendships, my classes, my favorite bands. I listened to Tori Amos so I was early days emo. I wore peasant tops and flowy skirts, so I was hippie. I twirled a flag in the color guard so I was a band geek. I wore flannel shirts so I was grunge. All depended on the week.

Sophomore Year (I’m all the way to the right in the blinding white peasant top)

I constantly fell for boys who only wanted to be my best friend so I identified with Betty from the Archie comics. I was overweight so my identity was affected by who teased me that week or who complimented me and made me forget my monstrous insecurity for a second. 

College-not many of these pictures are scanned in. Thank goodness.

In college, my identity was tested constantly by temptations left and right that I had never faced before. The little girl who was scared to go to parties because of the “drunk kids and druggies” who supposedly went to them was now knee deep in the trenches, trying to decide if she needed to be a part of that scene in order to fit in or be happy.  I had once considered myself a strong student, many subjects came easily to me in high school. (aside from trig and geometry….ugh) College challenged that part of my identity big time. I had to study HARD for the first time, into the wee hours of the morning with note cards, outlines, and the Titanic instrumental soundtrack playing on cassette tape in the background. Gag. 
Not until I was far into my education classes did I feel comfortable with the material being presented. I was constantly questioning if I could handle the work or not. I grew up a LOT in those four years.  I worked hard, played hard, and made friendships that were real. For the first time I began to realize my value as a person. My value as a woman and a friend.  

Jamming

Post college years were interesting. First job, first apartment on my own, first boyfriend. (yup, late bloomer, sue me) My identity was almost solely associated with my occupation. During ten months

During rehearsal for a show in 2002 maybe?

of the year I was a teacher, and I was proud of it. My students were my life. I referred to them as “my kids.” I would go home at night and prepare for the next day mentally, how will I connect with them? How will they receive my lesson tomorrow? Two months of the year I was the director of a children’s theater workshop. My identity during that time was all tied up in the show I was doing and the kids I was directing.  I still had a life on the side,I was blessed with a pretty full social calendar. But because I threw myself so hard into my job, I put that before everything. If you asked me who I was, I would say a teacher before I would say a woman, or a friend, or girlfriend. It just made sense to me. 

Halloween 2009
Maine 2007

Enter T Money.  My identity was turned upside down. I now had someone to care for me, someone who had my back. For almost 28 years I had identified myself as the strong, sensitive girl who handled things on her own. I didn’t “need” anyone. Even though I desperately did not want to face life alone, it just seemed the cards I was dealt.  Then this goateed, dazzlingly intelligent, sincere man entered the scene and he wanted to face the rest of his life with me by his side. Obstacles were faced together.  We rejoiced in triumphs together. I was a wife, a lifelong best friend.  We planned vacations together, picked out sofa colors. Ate out all the time, made other ‘friend couples’ and became a comfortable team. Happy to travel, discuss the future, and get an adorable dog. 

Day before Evan was born 5-26-11 (wearing same shirt that i danced in years prior)

Then I became pregnant for the second time, and this time, things were going smoothly. The baby was doing well and so was I. Aside from about 10 weeks of yucky morning sickness, I adored being pregnant. My identity was in the pregnancy.  Not yet a mother. I did not identify with other mothers, just with other pregnant women.  We were part of this special little community of people who have odd body aches, ruched shirts, and a ridiculous number of food restrictions. Lovely people would tell me over and over that I would be the BEST mom. I was so caring and intuitive, I would be a natural. I believed them. I acted humble and pretended I was unsure of how things would go but deep down I truly believed becoming a mother was going to be no big thing. Gulp.
5-27-11, 

First week home

I became a mother. My heart was removed from my body somehow and was now swaddled in a Carter’s stretchy cotton blanket.  His blue eyes gazed up at mine, looking for the person who gave birth to him, the person who he will call mother for the rest of his life. And I was broken. Broken into a million little pieces of identity that I thought I had together. I thought I would become a mom and it would just become another hat I wore. I managed to wear so many hats before being a mom, how would this be different? Since becoming a mother I have found that I need to stop assuming I know everything. I need to stop assuming I know anything, really. For I have found myself doing, saying, and believing things that I would have NEVER considered for a second before having a child.  My identity was first that of a new mom. A new mom who woke up 5+ times a night. A new mom who feared she had post-partum depression every time she cried or had a down moment. Because having a baby was supposed to be 100% joyful and awesome, right? That is what I had been promised. So why was it so darn hard? Why did he cry for hours on end? Why was nursing so difficult? Everyone wanted to hold my baby, and I just wanted to nap. Did that make me a bad person? I would question myself and my choices constantly. Is the formula making him

Fall 2011

throw up? Should we sleep train or not? Is he ever going to forgive me for only nursing him for one month?? Yup. That was just the tip of the iceberg. 
Slowly, as my hormones got their act together, and we figured out a pseudo schedule, the pieces of my identity slowly began to gel and connect again. But this time, the multiple hats I wore were replaced with one big, ten gallon whopper of a hat that says Mama on the front. Gone were the friend, the wife, the teacher, the daughter hats. They were replaced with the Mother hat.  And that identity became even more apparent when I made the decision to stay home longer with Evan, following his diagnosis. His goals became my goals. His feeding challenges became mine. His delays are mine, his smiles, his firsts, his songs. When he succeeds, I feel successful. When he gets hurt, I bleed. When other children look at him a little funny, I feel twisted up inside. When he smiles, I feel joyful. 
I used to be Judgey McJudgerson about women who wore the huge ten gallon mother hat.

Shame on me for judging. Shame on me for assuming I understood until I wore the hat, spurs, and chaps myself. 

Now almost two years after becoming a mom, I can feel the hats slowly starting to multiply again. The wife hat is reappearing, along with the friend, the daughter, the woman hat. The teacher hat made an appearance this past week when I subbed in a special needs drama class. And boy, did that hat feel fantastic.  I had forgotten how much I love identifying with that part of me.  I have a feeling the ten gallon mama hat is going to remain the largest one for some time to come. Maybe even for the rest of my life. But I am glad to also be re-identifying with the other parts of who I am.
I’m not sure I agree the definition of identity should use the word “sameness.” It feels permanent, and thank goodness our identity can change along with our life circumstances.






Five Minute Friday- Friend

Friend hugging Friend.

 

Here we go. Linking up with Lisa-Jo, the prolific, sweet, full of heart blogger who I wish were my friend IRL. 🙂

You know the drill:
 Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. Set a timer and go!

Prompt of the Week:

Friend Reunion
Friends in Harmony

Friend

Go!

Totally in tune in more ways than one.
Friends who get it.

I am blessed.  Friend. That is why my friend Lisa calls her friends. Just friend. Sometimes Friendly Friend, but rarely by your correct name. I enjoy this very much. I find the word friend, no, the role of friend, to be so crucial.  Sometimes I think I work harder at being a good friend than I do at most other things. I do this because it is so important to me. I have one who taught me how to cut my toenails (entirely too late). A friend who sobbed almost as hard as I did when she found out about my father’s passing. A friend who sat with me by the window in college and reassured me that I was liked, and especially by her. A friend who came over so I could get a shower during the first month of Evan’s life. A friend who makes sure I know it is a no-judgement zone when she and I talk. A friend who will harmonize to Wicked with me in the car and make me feel like my talent far surpasses what it really is. One who knows my favorite icing, and would make sure that is what I got every year on my school lunch cake. A friend whose advice

Friends can be twins
Constant Laughter
Humorous friends are the best!
Friends can be life changers
First responders in a time of need

still rings out in my head when I make a bad decision, reminding me to trust my gut.

Stop!

Man this is one that I feel like I could write about for hours. But my five minutes are up.Try it out and link up to Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday.

Enjoy the scrapbook of photos. I enjoyed searching for some ones that captured friendship for me.

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