Archive of ‘musings’ category

Labels. Should they stick?

Bear with me, because I feel like I am going to be a little scattered when writing this.  Could be the head cold or could be that this topic has been swirling in my head for a while now.

Evan is almost three. Gulp.

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Where has time gone?

When he turns three, he loses early intervention therapies (and beloved therapists) and then becomes a part of the school system in our town.  As a part of the transition process, we have several meetings with the child study team where we discuss Evan, schedule new evaluations to be done, look at results, discuss how he has been doing. and make an educational plan.  The experience of being a special education teacher with my Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant certification who now has a child with special needs is a whole different blog entry. Phew, it sure is.

But the one thing that popped up of course is that Evan has Williams Syndrome and the school district professionals had never heard of it, nor had serviced a  child with it before. I was thrilled when the school psychologist brought along his intern to our first transition meeting and you could tell she had read up on WS. She asked a lot of informed questions and shared some things she had read.  Then a few weeks ago I received an email from the school psychologist saying that they had already done a little presentation on WS for some of the teachers at the school and he hoped to educate most of the staff on WS before Evan starts school.

Great! Wow! They are really proactive, they want to learn and be prepared!

Well, that is how I felt at first and that is how I still “sort of” feel. (and believe me, I am nothing but happy with the process so far, they have been great) But I’m finding myself a little perplexed lately.  I wear my WS awareness bracelet. I am THRILLED that the drama club in my school district has chosen the Williams Syndrome Association as their community service project.  I will easily and happily discuss Williams Syndrome with any person who wants to learn.

But what about Evan?

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about 32 months

Evan is so much more than the term Williams Syndrome. So much more than 25-28 deleted genes out of over 20K. So much more than the starry blue eyes, low muscle tone, heart issues, hypercalcemia, lack of stranger anxiety, the constant song in his heart- that can all be attributed to WS, or not?

He is so much more than that, but….he also is who he is partly because he has WS. It is part of what makes Evan the unique individual he is.

Do you see why I said bear with me?  This is tricky.  Tricky because now he has a label. He has a label and he isn’t even three years old.  Teachers can look up WS on the internet the month before getting Evan in class, and assume that he will be overly anxious, overly friendly, and bad at math. Will they see Evan for Evan? Or will they see WS first?

I teach second grade. And I HEART my students. Big time.  I am helping to promote a local event that will support the WSA.  There is a ten minute clip that pulls excerpts from the movie Embraceable, that I find to be the most amazing way to learn about Williams Syndrome. You can find the clip HERE if you click on the Vimeo video.  The teacher I work with asked if I would consider showing it to my class to spread more awareness with them.  I was surprised at how I felt when I considered it. I faltered. I felt anxious, unsure. Would the kids understand? They LOVE Evan. When I bring him into school they follow him around like he is a celebrity.  The children in my class are all approximately seven years old. Would this make sense to them? Would they still see Evan as Evan or would this new label be what sticks? Does that matter? I don’t know….

I watch the video clip and I cry. Every time. Not because I am sad. More because it makes sense to me now. Because I see my son in those clips.  I see little bits of his possible future. I see myself in the faces of the mothers who are gazing at their child’s colossal smile. And I do not feel at all ashamed or badly.  But there is still a part of me that wonders by me pushing the label of WS out there, so boldly, so fervently- what could that mean for Evan?

I want him to have opportunities. I want him to be loved, liked, played with, looked up to, laughed with. The same things most parents want for their child. Do I want him to be the poster child for WS? I don’t know. By blogging and putting our story out there, it certainly seems I do.

This is one of those entries where I would just love to hear your thoughts on this.  I have heard from other parents who have chosen to not share the diagnosis with certain people in their lives because of different reasons.

Should we give others the benefit of the doubt and hope that they see our children as whole individuals, and not just a diagnosis?

Labels? Should they stick? What do you think?

Walk the Line

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I feel physical pain when I look at this picture.

This is hard to write about.

Tonight I walk the line.

Tomorrow I probably will too.  I might stay on one side, linger for a little while, and then I will go back to the line. Teetering ever so slightly, trying to keep my balance.

I walk the line between complete acceptance of Evan’s Williams Syndrome, almost to the point of celebration- and complete worry, disappointment, and concern for his differences and how they will affect him throughout his life.

When Evan giggles and jumps in his car seat peering out the window, simply thrilled to be waiting for me to bring in groceries and to see me peek out of the door to see him- I celebrate his WS. I celebrate that he is filled with joy, simple, unadulterated joy about 80% of the time.  When he whispers “I la you” before I leave his room at night- three words we have worked on for over a year, I celebrate.  When the director of his preschool writes me a note, thanking ME for allowing them to be Evan’s teachers because of the light he brings to their lives- I celebrate. (I also blubber like a weepy fool- but that is another story)

When I watch video of adults with WS lamenting how difficult their high school experiences were due to bullying, I am concerned.  When I hear an adult with WS say to a newly diagnosed child’s father, “I am so sorry to hear she has WS, it can be really hard,” I hurt.  When Evan greets someone with a happy “Hi!” and then repeats it over and over and over no matter how many times the person responds, I feel a little weird inside.  I feel guilt because of course I know he means well, he just wants the positive interaction- but I also know the recipient is wondering how to respond. And then I start thinking about what will happen when he is in middle school and he greets others with no abandon.  When I listen to other children Evan’s age and I realize how far behind he is with speech and language, I can feel disappointed.  I live in a little bubble sometimes, where Evan’s progress is only compared to Evan’s progress.  Until, it’s not anymore.

When I hear E singing on the monitor, singing, “The Water is Wide,” and then humming the parts where I hum because I do not know the lyrics, I feel joy.  Pride that my son has Williams Syndrome. That he has an emotional connection to music that even I cannot comprehend. When I talk to others and educate them about WS, I enjoy talking about it, I feel pride in every detail that I share.

But then I can be quick to say, “But don’t forget, Evan is not defined by his diagnosis. He is Evan first, and he just happens to be missing a 25 or so genes out of over 20K that we each have. It is just a small part of what makes him Evan. ”

I just keep walking that line.

The line between celebration and worry.  The line between pride and guilt.

I can say that I am on the side of celebration far more than I am on the other side. I feel very blessed for that to be true.  But the other side exists. And it can be an ugly, dark spot to step into.

That is why I walk the line.

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Striving for Celebration

 

 

This Little Light of Mine

I can hear Evan in my mind singing along with me, “Hide it under a bushel?”
“NO!”
he exclaims with his hands awkwardly banging together in insistence.
“I’m gonna let it shine…”
bushel
 Recently I made a decision to take care of myself in a more deliberate way.  If you know me personally, then you know about it first hand because I have a hard time not talking about it.  I decided in December to do a 14 day sugar detox.  I signed up with a friend’s healthy living business- Smart Sexy Living, and cut out gluten, refined sugars, and processed foods for 14 days.  It was harder than I could have imagined and more rewarding than I ever thought possible.  It taught me so many things about myself and how I look at food. I don’t want to make this whole post about my new lifestyle.  But I do want to share why I have made this choice and why I am continuing to eat differently and treat my body better.  For the past few years, since becoming pregnant and then a mother- I have had this nagging feeling like I need to take better care of myself. That I need to put myself first, at least as much as I can with all the different hats I wear. I realized that I have a little issue with lack of control.
Just a teeny little one.
Ahem.
Don’t we all, though?  We get upset when our child is sick, because we cannot heal him. We get upset when our car breaks down, because now it is out of our hands and in the hands of a mechanic.  We get frustrated when someone cuts us off on the highway because we were minding our own business and following the rules, darn it!  It is out of  our control.
Out of my control that my son was born with a genetic deletion.
Out of my control that my father passed away at 63 and I did not get to say goodbye.
Out of my control that every day I can try as hard as I want to dictate what is going to happen to myself and my family but some time things are just not up to me….
But I realized, I can control what I eat. I can control what food and drink items I bring into the house.  I can control how I look at food and how I treat my body.  Those things ARE in my control.  In fact, no one else dictates what goes in my mouth. As much as I like to blame outside influences- like advertising, or bad work days, the treats in the teachers’ lounge, or hormonal inbalance (that happens EVERY darn month!)- in reality- I still am the one in charge of my diet. And when I say diet, I do not mean diet like counting calories, points, following a set plan- I mean what foods and drink I consume.
It feels good.
Real good.
It feels good to take care of myself in this way.  To allow my light to shine.  To realize that even though Evan, Todd, and my students come first so many times during the course of my day- if I am caring for my body by eating well, then I am actually able to take better care of the people around me.  And in turn, I feel more confident about letting my light shine.
After the detox, Heather, the creator of Smart Sexy Living wrote me an email asking if she could quote me for a testimonial.  She quoted one of my emails to her as saying, “A family friend told me that I needed to quit my job and become a model.” When I received this email from Heather, I balked at the idea of her using that quote. I felt embarrassed and felt as though I was bragging.  She responded to my email saying she would gladly take out the sentence- but she then said, “not to be woo-wooy- but let your light shine!” and she included this quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
-Marianne Williamson
It really resounded with me.  Why are we so afraid to share our successes? To let our beauty shine through for everyone to see? We encourage our children to be who they want to be, to be proud of what makes them exceptional, what makes them beautiful inside and out.  Why are we afraid of it?  What kind of an example are we giving our children if we hide behind our beauty and our unique abilities?
By cutting out gluten, refined sugars, and processed foods (I’m not perfect, but this is what I am trying, anyway)- I am letting my light shine.  And it’s about time.
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How can you let your light shine?
You know you are awesome, don’t hide it!

Release

So it has been a coon’s age since I wrote last. (husband likes that saying) Okay maybe not that long, but since mid December.  I thought I would be brimming with things to write about over the holiday break. The magic of Christmas morning, the quiet hope of Christmas Eve night. Evan’s day time hippotherapy session, family parties, etc.

All of those things did happen, but….I felt a little harried and tired when I did have the time to blog. So instead I chose to sit in the playroom with Evan or catch up on DVR with Todd. Or spend an hour in the kitchen cooking or baking. (more on that later-you can pick your chin off the ground now) And I am glad that is how I tried to spend the little bit of free time I did have while off from work.  But my fingers have been aching to write, and I’ve been spending a lot of time catching up on other blogs, thinking, “I really need to get back into the groove!”

Hence, here I sit while Todd is playing with Evan in the other room on his new Ipad.  Todd has been fighting a nasty chest cold for about three weeks now. Maybe longer. I asked him if he could monitor Evan on the Ipad for a little while so I could have some blogging time. Of course he complied, but I can’t kick the feeling like I shouldn’t have asked. Like I should have just gotten Evan up from his non-nap and put my alone time off for a little while longer. I often feel that way. That I should leave a gathering early to get home, because Todd is caring for Evan.  Or if I go to a workout class, I feel like I am being a little neglectful as a mother and wife because I am doing something completely for myself.

Ok.

So I know most of you are probably thinking, get off it, Erin. You know you deserve your own time- we all do. Happy Mama means a happy child, etc. etc. And I do know that. I know it like I know I shouldn’t speed while driving. I know that brussel sprouts are good for me.

I know these things but I don’t necessarily live them or believe them deep down. I love this new Jazzercise class I am taking. LOVE it. The teacher is a friend of mine that I met through an early intervention program where our sons both attended. She is spunky, energetic, and a very good instructor. I leave that class sweaty and feeling lighter in my orthopedic sneakers. I’m kind of not exaggerating with that one. The first class I took she said something like, “this is your hour, right ladies??” and I thought, you know what, yes, this is my hour. If I want to jazzercise with it, I can.  If I want to reorganize Evan’s closet, I will. If I want to read endless recipe blogs, I will.

And this is why I decided that I need to Release.

My 2014 word is “Release.”

I’ve never done a theme word before. Too hokey maybe. Resolutions only last about ten days. But I thought, I want to try. I want to give myself a focus.  So I thought on it for a few days.  What would be a good word to keep in the back of my mind as I face new experiences this year, both good and bad.  I kept coming back to the idea of letting go.  Letting go of guilt. Letting go of worry. Letting go of doubt…. of insecurities, of pain, of comparison.

Release.

Like when you take a deep breath in with your nose and fill your stomach with air and then release it slowly, for at least five seconds.

That is what I want to think about this year. Releasing. So that there will be room in my heart and mind for better things.

Like this:

Happy mower

and this:

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and all of these:

20130914_174033 charlene and me gran and erin singing T AND Z1836_10200589273470204_255729630_n

I know there will be plenty more of these moments in 2014, and I plan to hold them in my heart and mind and try my darndest to RELEASE the rest. Will you join me?

 

Not Rocket Science

toddler singing

budding rock star

It’s no secret that I over-think things. You don’t have to be my oldest and closest confidante to know that I over-analyze until I’m blue. Just read a few blog posts.

I try my darndest to err on the positive side of things, looking at the glass as half full.  But that glass can tip dangerously to the side sometimes, and the water falls out drop by drop. And with it, my positive attitude.

I set my alarm 20 min ahead, I lay out my outfit, empty the dishwasher the night before. I line up the many bags I take to to work and to drop off Evan at school. Evan is sleeping soundly, and I close my eyes for a peaceful night’s rest.

The glass is half full, looking plentiful and teeming with water.

Overnight I lie awake listening to the sounds of my dog absentmindedly licking her paws, my husband snoring, and Evan talking in his sleep. My alarm goes off and I realize I have only slept about 3 hours total. I realize Evan’s best cup is in the backseat of the van, and I forgot it was my brother in law’s birthday, and shoot, I didn’t get more Walmart brand generic Pediasure on the way home from work the day before. I run around trying to get ready but I get distracted about six different times because my energy level is so depleted from no sleep. The glass starts to tip to the side.

Drip. Drip.

I drop Evan off at school, and I realize it was “Wear Brown” day and he is in orange. I write a hastily scrawled note to Evan’s teacher to let her know that he has physical therapy that day at school. “Should have told them that earlier in the week so they could have prepared….” I think to myself. I run out the door to get in the car because I have a meeting at work that I am already 5 minutes late for and I haven’t even left Evan’s school.

Drip. Drip.

After fumbling through my 43 different keys on my key chain to find he one that opens the school door, I run to the meeting. My administrator is already speaking and there are no chairs. I kneel on the floor to avoid looking conspicuous which ends up making me stick out all the more.

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Head, Shoulders…knees and…

Drip. Drip.

I try to save face by blaming my lateness on traffic, and a wardrobe malfunction with my son. Which is partially true but ends up sounding very pathetic and false when I spit it out.

Three of my students come in from morning recess complaining of someone “butting in front of them” in line. One will not let this go, interrupting me repeatedly to say how unfair it is that he would lose his place in line because of someone else making a poor choice.  My cell phone rings entirely too loudly on my desk, it is one of Evan’s therapists asking about a schedule change or the insurance company seeking missing paperwork I needed for possible reimbursement. I think about answering, but decide not to because the pledge of allegiance begins on the loudspeaker. I feel guilty for not answering. I would have felt guilty FOR answering.

Drip. Drip.

But then there is this:

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Our light. Our heart. The boy who can sing the same refrain to a song for an hour straight, putting different spins on the tune and intonation.

The boy who could barely pull himself up when lying in your lap a year ago, and now can do 20 sit ups on the exercise ball.

The boy who will say “I love you” (a very cute approximation anyway) if you just lean over him in his crib for an extra 15 seconds without saying a word. Letting him take his time to respond.

It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to know why this guy was born.

To know why Evan is in our lives.

The glass never empties all the way.

Drops fall out but they find their way back in.

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Finish the Sentence Friday- (a little late)

I’ve recently become a geeked out fan of Kristi over at Finding Ninee. Her writing is beautiful, clever, hysterical, and the emotion behind her prose is very familiar. She reached out to me through a few comments and I became like a giggly schoolgirl all excited to hear from a blog “celebrity.” 
Anyhoo…. I hope to be guest posting on her awesome site at some point, and in the meantime I am doing a “Finish the Sentence Friday,” that she and a few other bloggers host every Friday.  (Yes, I am aware it is almost Sunday, but we’ll just ignore that little fact)

This week’s prompt is:
 The best part of my day is…….


I wasn’t planning to blog today. I am shooting to get one blog entry done a week, if I can manage that, and I already filled that quota.  However, I had a few emotional few days this week and then today was a darn good day. An all around, decent, worth remembering, GOOD day. And those days need to be blogged about. Like that preposition at the end? Good, because there will probably be plenty more, I have a tough time avoiding them. 
Typically, the best part of my day is the last ten minutes or so before I put Evan in his crib for the night. We sit in his nursery almost every night, feed the fish, sing songs, and cuddle. We sit in the dark, whispering, singing, and wrangling. Wrangling is what I do when he wiggles all over the place  trying to get out of my arms. I wrap him up in his doggie weighted blanket and some nights he actually leans on my shoulder and allows me to hug him and really hold him. I can remember when he was teeny tiny and I could do that whenever I wanted to. However, because of many different circumstances- MAJOR sleep deprivation being the main one- I didn’t enjoy it like I wish I could have.
But I sure do now.
And today was a day where I feel like I had moments like that over and over. I started out the day heavy lidded, as I listened to Evan bounce and sing in his crib at 7:15.  I typically would have been thrilled he slept that long but I had a tough night’s sleep so I was pretty out of it.  But then he ate a great breakfast, almost an entire waffle with jelly and cream cheese, and we set out in stroller and on foot to the local park to meet E’s speech therapist for a session at the playground.  On the way, she wrote me to say she was running a little late. So I walked a longer route, and took Evan out of the stroller along the way to let him walk. He toddled all over, through piles of leaves, sidewalk, grass, transitioning from surface to surface with no problem. I was amazed. Each person who passed by jogging or walking a dog was greeted with a very upbeat “Hi!” and a huge toothy smile from Evan. He independently pointed to and identified flowers and a dog. I just couldn’t stop smiling. 
Then on the playground equipment, we had a ball. During the speech session, we worked on two word combinations, waiting for him to say, “Push, Mommy” when on the swing. And then generalizing to, “Push, Becky.” to his therapist. Not only did he do that after only a few examples of modeling- we are pretty sure he tried to say, “Push me, mommy!” Which is MASSIVELY HUGE. I don’t know that he has said three words together on his own, except for book text or songs. One of the most exciting moments was when he went down the twisty slide totally on his own- so much on his own, that I didn’t even know he went down until he was at the bottom, face down because he went down on his belly. A few months ago he wouldn’t have gone down even with assistance.
He did get a mouthful of mulch once, but he bounced right back. I love his resilience.

Becky worked on adjectives in two word combos- “Green leaf, yellow leaf, bumpy slide, etc.”  All the leaves she used were on the ground.  On the way home I stopped a few times and pointed up to trees that were within reach and without receiving an cue- he said “green leaf.” Of course he did that for red leaves too, but it was two words, and he knew they were leaves! I just kept beaming. 
One thing I have been working on with Evan for months and months is getting him to use please and thank you. Becky has said it is not necessary for me to worry about him using them with any type of consistency- that we should focus on other things first. But I still keep trying. I had just mentioned to her that Evan still isn’t saying please. Well, we got home, and I got out a bag of veggie sticks (the ones that are glorified potato chips in stick form with a little veggie dust. I held one out to him and he said, “stick please” (his approximation sounds a little more like “ick, pee.”). I squealed with happiness and he definitely got his ick.
Moment after moment of progress and joy.  
He also ate a dinner that consisted entirely of solid foods. No jars. Fish sticks and tater tots. Gourmet and fancy it was not. But age appropriate it was. Our tough little guy who used to balk at eating anything that wasn’t watery and on a spoon.
My favorite part of today was the whole kit and kaboodle. I was able to take a nap with Todd while Evan napped. Evan ate like a toddler. I finally bought new shampoo this week so I was able to clean my hair today without squeezing the heck out of an practically empty bottle. Evan sang along with me while I sang some showtunes. 
Thursday night I found myself teary eyed while talking to some friends about how I was worried I was “missing it.” Worried I was missing the good moments with Evan, that life was passing by too quickly now that I was back to work. 
Then today happened.
I’m not missing it. 

Not entirely anyway. Today was a good day. Darn good. And that is all that matters right now.

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Facebook….What if?

I will be the first person to admit, I love Facebook.  Before having a smart phone, I would turn on the laptop in the morning and sign onto my email website and Facebook.  Like clockwork.  I would look anxiously with excitement to see how many notifications I received overnight.  Did anyone “like” my new pictures from vacation?  Did I receive any new friend requests? Did my friends upload pictures from our night out last week?  What is taking them so long?? I would drink my one cup of coffee, eat my egg white in a mug breakfast and read my facebook notifications, before leaving for work. 
Then motherhood came along.  I still managed to sneak in time to check it.  Now it was more about posting picture after picture of our newborns squishy face. Then I started to pull away a little.  More because of sleep deprivation and because I had to use the lap top to check it, and I was constantly attached to a little person and that made it difficult.  When I did use it though, I remember feeling ravenous for the contact, to check in with my friends and family and see what they had been up to.  
Enter the world of smart phones. I fought it for a long time, saying, “I don’t want to be constantly connected. I don’t need anything but the ability to text and call.”  But as time went on, my phone was deteriorating  little by little, until it barely worked at all.  Somehow I made the decision to get the Samsung Galaxy, the first one they put out there.  I had Facebook on it as an application,  but I didn’t get notifications automatically…..
At first…
Yep, it only took a few weeks before I added that little feature. 
So then I am spending my days sitting in on therapies with Evan, taking him to music class, reading books, cutting his food up into miniscule pieces…and intermittently checking my phone to see if I received an email, text, or facebook notification.  

Then this lovely little nugget went viral:
How to Miss a Childhood by Hands Free Mama.

A good reason to have my phone outside. Good photo opps.

Ouch. More like, OUCH. It hurt to read it.  Because even though I know in my heart I am a good mom for Evan, I know he is well taken care of, I also know that habits can start at any point.  He could be observing my habits at any age. I could see myself in some of the points in that post. I carried my phone with me room to room.  I would bring Evan into the backyard and my phone would be by my side if not in my pocket, if not in my hand while I pushed him on the swing.  I would do an activity with him and immediately pick it up following the activity because that is just what I did, it helped me feel “connected” to an adult world that I felt a little isolated from as a SAHM.  

I have had small squabbles with the T man over his phone usage in the past, and I realized I was such a hypocrite.  Why would I judge his pulling his phone out often when I was doing the exact same thing.  
Then  the other day I read this article on a friend’s Facebook page. (Go figure.)

Now, just so you know, before I go any further. I am not quitting FB.  I have become fond of blogging, and I know FB is a great way to share my entries, and I also have made some close friends through the WS support boards. AND…..ifi’mbeingtotallyhonestIcan’tquit.
But….
The article about the REAL reason to quit just spoke to me.  The “What Ifs” were the most profound.  I am going to copy and paste them here because I feel like they are really important.
 Quoted from The REAL reason to quit FB by Matthew Warner
What if…

  1. What if the next time I have 5 minutes in line at the store, instead of checking Facebook, I strike up a conversation or a smile with the people around me?
  2. What if the next time I have 2 minutes at a traffic light, instead of checking Facebook, I say a prayer to the God of the universe?
  3. What if when I have a 15 minute break during the day, instead of checking Facebook, I put some time into planning a meaningful evening with my wife?
  4. What if when I have 30 minutes before bed, instead of checking Facebook, I read a spiritual masterpiece that changes my life and the lives of those around me?
  5. What if when I have my lunch break at work, instead of checking Facebook, I strike up a meaningful conversation with a co-worker and ask them about their life?
  6. What if when commercials come on, instead of checking Facebook, I jump on the floor with my kids for an impromptu wrestling match?
  7. What if the next time I get an hour on the weekend to relax, instead of checking Facebook, I put on some amazing music and get lost in its beauty?
  8. What if the next time I feel like spending 20 minutes crafting a silly status message that will surely garner lots of *likes* on Facebook, instead I spend 20 minutes writing a personal note to somebody I care about?
  9. What if the next time I meet somebody new, instead of immediately looking them up on Facebook when I get home, I embrace the adventure and mystery of getting to know somebody new by actually spending time with them?
  10. What if when I finally get the kids to bed, instead of checking Facebook, I stop for a few still moments just to watch them sleep? And then pop open a bottle of wine with my wife?

end quote

So I decided What If I tried this?  What if I put aside time of the day where I can and cannot check Facebook, and I make a deliberate, conscious effort to keep a little less tethered to my phone altogether. I started a few days ago, and I only allow myself to check when I wake up in the morning before E gets up, during his nap time, and after he goes to bed, but not when I am spending time with Todd.  We have been known to have the television on, watching one of our favorite shows, with both of us staring at our phone screens.  I want to change that, not just for us, but for Evan. I don’t want him to think we are more interested in what is on our phone screen than what is going on right in front of us. It has been really interesting.  At first it felt a little odd, like I was forgetting to do something important every few minutes. (which also made me realize I was far too addicted to it).  But after a few days, it really does feel good. Evan walks up to me with a book in his hand, and before I might have had my phone in my hand and I would finish whatever I was doing and THEN pick him up.  I noticed several times over the last few days, I was already there ready and waiting for him, no hesitation.    

Mama, does it really matter if people “liked” your status update?

 Again, I am not writing this to be self righteous and preach against Facebook.  I dig it.  I dig it hard most of the time.  But I think I have realized that I was using it during times that I didn’t need to.  Maybe you are too. Maybe you aren’t. Maybe you don’t even like Facebook.  Maybe this whole post makes you feel better about yourself because you never got into Facebook and you think it is a waste of time.  But stop for a second and think about your  technology use in general.  Think about what you could be doing with your time otherwise.  It might help to keep things in perspective.  
Now off to eat a snack and check my notifications…. (because Evan is sleeping and Todd is not feeling well so he is resting.) I have my own permission! Sigh…..

I’m a work in progress…sue me.


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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.






Musical Interlude

Totally on an non-typical note, I have to share some thoughts I have had while listening to Sirius radio in our swagger wagon.

We received a free 6 month subscription to Sirius when we got the van back in August of last year.  We quickly fell in love with the idea of having non-commercial radio that had a multitude of listening options at our fingertips. Over the months I got used to being able to go between kiddie songs, Broadway showtunes, 90’s hits, and alt rock. (I call it hipster lite) As a gift for me around Christmas time, Todd extended the subscription (through another deal, of course, that is how the Putmans roll) Sometimes I find it to be a little repetitive, you can tell that they have a master list they pick from and often there are repeats. Luckily, I manage to cycle through the stations often enough not to care.

But I digress…..if I am  being honest, I really do listen to the Broadway station most of all. Since Evan loves music, especially ones with lively melodies, changing tones, etc- it works out for both of us. 

Yesterday one of my absolute favorite songs came on, the West Side Story Quintet. You know the one (well probably a small percentage of you do), where Anita sings, “Anita’s gonna get her kicks tonightttttt…..we’ll have a private little mix tonighttttt……..”
Yup, that one. I attempt to  sing all five parts. Loudly, and without abandon. I kept looking in my rear view mirror to see if it was making E laugh, or possibly cry. He was not moved to either emotion, he played with a truck, quietly intrigued with it.

The song ends and immediately they go into “Stars” from Les Miserables. Okay……….
Really, Sirius? You go from my one of my favorites to one of the songs I despise the most in musical theater? Ugh……and I hear a little voice from the backseat. Evan is babble/singing along with Javert from the 1987 soundtrack.  The strength and even tone of his voice seemed to appeal to little E. He smiled and made his voice modulate along with the vocalist.  It made me listen to the song again with a different ear. Oh Evan, there you go again changing your mama’s stubborn point of view.

Today I heard “At the Ballet” from Chorus Line. Christine Pedi, who talks in between songs occasionally, gave such an interesting intro to the song. She said that she would love for there to be a concert version of this show so that non dancers could sing some of the songs. This song is sung by three of the actresses in the show, and it is another one of my favorites. The harmony is haunting and the feeling behind the lyrics is painful and beautiful at the same time. Christine suggested Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone and I can’t remember the other actress.  Man I love me some LuPone….I’ll save my story for meeting her for another day. Alas, I didn’t say much at all…..
I found this awesome you tube of Kelly Bishop (Lorelei’s mom on Gilmore Girls!) singing lead in the song. She won a Tony for this performance. Love her.  Maybe one day I’ll find a reason and way to sing this song. (no dancing required of course)

Lastly, “Rent” came on, the opening song. Of course, having not heard this song in quite some time, I turned it up and sang my heart out. Evey word, every harmony came back to me.  Back in 1997 when I was a freshman in college, I began my obsess….ahem…love of this musical.  I was at a prime age to fall in love with “Rent.” I can remember seeing it for the first time on Broadway, having never listened to the soundtrack once. I knew nothing about it really, except that we were going to be sitting up close because the first two rows were saved for “student rush.” We waited in line for almost an entire day and then took our seats. I can remember feeling like the musical “spoke” directly to me. I feel silly saying that now, but at the time, as a young, headstrong, insecure college student, it was true. Jesse L. Martin who played Tom Collins in the original Broadway cast pointed right at me! (he did, right? don’t answer that….)
In 1997, I was a hot mess of fears, excitements, heartbreak, and risk. I feel like “Rent” is all of those things too. The theme of the show, “No Day But Today,” still feels applicable and accessible to me as a thirty five year old mother and wife. Many other things about the show feel very outdated and silly to me now, but that could also be because I saw the show over 20 times on stage. Sigh………………Ah youth. I have to REALLY want to see a show now to consider shelling out the money for tickets. And sleeping on a sidewalk over night for student rush? Not so sure I would be up for that.

Another memory I had while singing along to the song, was driving with my friend Joe up to NYC, and singing the entire sound track together. We would choose which part to sing for each song. Now, that I would be up for today. 🙂

Thank you for indulging my musical tangent……I will be back to regular blogging very soon.

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