Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Dylan Stories

*My very first nanny job was for two girls. They were both a complete joy to work with. When the older girl got sick, though, something happened to her. Ordinarily, she was a sweet girl, but when she was sick, she was sweet times ten! If I got her some juice, she would gush, "Oh, thank you so much! You take such good care of me!" If I gave her some medicine, she would gush, "Thank you! I'm sure this will make me feel better! You are so nice!" I'm not saying I wanted her to get sick, but when she did, I certainly didn't mind the affection and appreciation.

We have been lucky. Dylan really hasn't been sick that much in his first 3 years of life. But, he is sick now. He has been sick since Monday, with a stuffed up nose, fever, and a bad cough. And, I have been reminded of that sweet little sick girl. Oh, the sweetness. The affection that I don't normally get, unless I wrestle him to the ground and smother him in kisses. I really, really want him to get better quickly, but while it lasts, I am soaking it up.

When he coughs, it sounds horrible. I must be looking at him with that "Oh, my poor baby!" look. He keeps saying, "Mommy, are you sad?" One time, I said, "No Dylan, I'm happy. I'm just a little sad because you are sick". He smiled weakly, coughed a few times, then said, "It's okay. I feel better". He's worried about me! Wanting to make sure I am happy!

*Dylan is a very curious little boy. He is always learning. Always asking questions... "What are you doing?"... "What is that?"... "What does that mean?"... "Where are you going?"... "What are you saying?" I am a questioner, also. My best friend in high school used to ask me, "How did you find out all that about x?" My answer was always the same - "I just know the right questions to ask". Asking questions is a good thing, in my book. Today, however, I learned that being a questioning sort of kid, does come with a few drawbacks.

I was going to the bathroom, when Dylan walked in. He usually will ask me what I'm doing. "Are you peeing or pooping?" I'm used to that question. Today, he threw a new one into the mix. "Mommy, why do you have hair... down there?" I think I stopped peeing mid-stream! I started to stammer like a child. But, having just read Jenn's post about having honest conversations with your children about these sorts of things, I figured I better act like a grown up. "Uh, well, because I'm a girl, and girls have hair there". He interrupted to say, "Daddy is a boy. He doesn't have hair there?" Well...just...crap, I thought to myself. "Uh.. well, he does have hair there, but he also has a willy (what he calls it) or a penis". Even as I was saying the word "penis", I was thinking "the kid's at preschool are going to learn a new word". "I don't have hair there". "No, but when you get older, you will". He stood there thinking this over for a few seconds, then asked, "Can I see your hair again?" "Um... I... well... why don't we have a cookie?" I am a child. I'm going to have to make a trip to the book store, because I am just not prepared for this.

(*After writing this, Jim came home, and Dylan told him "Boys have Peanuts!! (a penis)" I am going to have to apologize to his teachers when all the kids go home saying "Boys have Peanuts!!", aren't I?)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Recent Dylan Developments 2

Here is the description of the "Just for Twos" class that Dylan is currently in, even though he turned 3 in November, (because these places are all SO strict about them turning whatever age BEFORE September 1st)...

"The primary purpose of the class is to teach a child to separate comfortably from his parents, (HA! he has barely said goodbye since day 1), to be happy in the time he spends at preschool, and to know that his parents always return for him at a given time. We learn about weather, colors and numbers 1-5. Our goals include learning to have and to be a friend, and learning to follow directions and safety rules".

Okay, let's break this down. Is he happy there? I don't honestly know. Lately, he says he doesn't want to go. When I pick him up, he doesn't seem thrilled or upset. He doesn't tell me much about it. I'm pretty sure he has understood the terms "windy, cloudy, rainy, and sunny" for some time. He's known his colors for a long time. They discuss a color a month. A MONTH. Recently he asked me, "Mommy, are we STILL going to be talking about blue?" He's known the numbers 1-5 for a long time.

Learning to have and to be a friend? That is the main reason I sent him to preschool. As an only child, who is mainly around adults, he needs that social interaction. He needs to learn to share. He needs to learn that he is not the boss. He needs to learn to compromise. About a month ago, he brought home his class picture. I asked him the kids' names. He knew three of the 17 names. The fact that my kid, who has an amazing memory, cannot tell me more than 3 names tells me that "learning to have and to be a friend" is not really a focus in the class. Either that, or he is just failing miserably at it, and that makes me sad.

He can follow directions. The question is, does he want to? He's a stubborn three year old boy, so I don't know how that aspect goes. I don't know, because the teachers don't tell me ANYTHING. I used to be a preschool teacher, so this fact makes me a little... GAH!!!

When I heard that registration for next year is coming up on February 16th, I got a little(understatement) anxious. What am I gonna do? Then, one day, completely on his own, he started doing this...

and this...

and this...

And, now, I am spending all my free time researching and touring preschools. Oh my, oh my, oh my. I have come to the realization that I have VERY strong opinions about education. I am downright obnoxious and I have an opinion about every little aspect. Yes, I am one of THOSE parents. You know, the annoying ones? Hi! That's me. BUT! I'm also one of those parents that truly appreciates the good stuff the teachers and the school do. I'm verbal about it. I will sing your praises to anyone who will listen... if I think you are worthy. Yep, I just wrote "worthy". Like I said, Obnoxious.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Recent Dylan Developments 1

Something bizarre is going on with Dylan. Okay, it's not really bizarre, but it just feels bizarre... to me. See, since the day that Dylan could grip a crayon in his chubby little toddler fingers, I have been seeing this...

Scribbles. Let me stop here and say that I loved each and every one of those scribble clad papers. I am a big believer in valuing all forms of children's artwork. The two framed paintings of Dylan's on my wall prove that. I believe the art process is what is important, not the final product. The crafts that he brings home from preschool that the teachers obviously made go directly into the trash, (why do they do that?!), while the scribbles are proudly displayed on my refrigerator.

That being said, one day recently I was reading a magazine while Dylan sat at the kitchen table next to me with his markers. When I saw this...

...I was stunned. They are Eat N Park smiley cookies. I knew that the minute I saw them. He drew something, and I knew what it was! Then, one day, I saw this paper...

"Holy crap, he drew a bicycle!", I thought to myself. And, a cookie, and a gingerbread man! When did this happen?! I was expecting it to be more of a gradual thing. Why is this so exciting to me, if I claim "the process is more important than the product"? I don't know. I'm complex. I don't pretend to understand myself, even.

(Tune in for the upcoming Recent Dylan Developments 2)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Stray Saga - Part 2

That's right. There IS a part two! Please don't be mad that I didn't tell you about it sooner. I know you were all worried sick (yea, right). Okay, to back up, our cat got out last Saturday. The neighbors were alerted last Sunday. The temperatures at that point were below freezing and the ground was covered with snow and ice. The neighbors that I thought should have the cat did NOT. I didn't have much hope. I did, however, have a big old pile of guilt, screaming in my ear, and generally making it hard to sleep or think.

Monday, my dad drove around the neighborhood, looking for signs of the cat. Monday evening, Jim and I drove around the neighborhood (at different times). Tuesday night, I drove around the neighborhood again. Wednesday I took Dylan to school, then home, and I was busy with him all day. Wednesday, around dinner time, the phone rang. It was the neighbor lady who said she would take the cat. "Guess who just came to my door?", she asked. WOOHOO!! Take that, guilt (kicking it off my shoulder, and shoving it's face in the snow). Who knows where the cat was for those 4 days? Who cares? It is safe.

Just when I thought the stray's story (as far as I was concerned at least) was over "cat lady" neighbor informed me "One of my other cats has an upper respiratory infection and I just had to get $200 worth of antibiotics at the vets, so I have your cat shut in a room away from the other cats (she already has two and a dog)? Then came the request. "Would you mind taking your cat to the vet's, to get updated shots, and to just make sure she is healthy and okay to be around my other animals, before I take her?" Well, crap! I couldn't exactly say no. But, of course you know what that meant... the stray found it's way back into my basement, and there it was once again tripping me as I tried to go down the stairs.

Luckily, I was able to get an appointment on Friday. My mom stayed with Dylan, while my dad and I took the stray. The "cat lady" had warned me that the stray "REALLY" didn't like getting in the carrier, but after only two tries she was in, and we were on our way. On the way there, she started "Meowing" like crazy, and we could hardly talk over her. Then, the stench hit us. "OH...MY...(Gag! Gag! Gag!)"... "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? (Gag!)" (Windows being rolled down frantically)... Then, my dad, "DON'T LOOK! Do.Not.Look. I don't want to know".... Then, both of us cracking up laughing at the absurdity of the situation... Gagging... Laughing...Freezing cold air blowing in the meowing...gagging... Fun times.

Oh, and getting the stray healthy enough to take to the "cat lady"? Cost me $150. On Saturday, before I took her over to "cat lady" FOREVER, I asked Jim, "Do you have any parting words for the cat?" "Bye!" he called over his shoulder, already on his way back up the stairs. We are quite emotional, as you can tell. I nearly cried, though...(with joy), when I got my "You owe me!" 10 minute foot massage later.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Grandfather's Hands

(If you haven't read yesterday's post, please do. And, please consider donating).

It is my grandfather's 97th birthday today (Monday). We celebrated at his house this evening. As always, there was food and cake and a lot of laughter. Dylan helped him open his gifts, which always makes grandpa laugh. We talked, ate, and played a rowdy game with balloons. I gave my grandpa something I wrote, and it made him cry. This is it...

My Grandfather's Hands

As a kid, I used to love when my grandpa would take my hand. I loved the way my tiny hand felt in his big, rough one. As I got older, I would look at his hands, and think of all the things those hands had done. I pictured those hands working day after day alongside my great grandfather to build the home that he still lives in. I pictured those hands tending the big garden he grew in the backyard. I pictured them holding my mom and my aunt when they were kids, after his very long, tiring days at work.

Now, when I look at my grandpa's hands, I think of all the games that he played with me and my cousins - T-ball, Uno, Mr. Mouth, Ping Pong, and Chinese Checkers. I think of those hands so frequently reaching into his pocket for his handkerchief, to wipe his eyes, since he always laughs until he cries.

I think of the way in so many pictures I have of my grandparents, my grandpa's hand is resting lovingly on my grandma's shoulder - her protector. I think of the one and only time I saw my grandfather cry (before my grandma died). The doctor told him that he needed to go to the hospital, and he wiped away a few tears with those big, strong hands, telling her that he needed to stay and take care of my grandma.

My grandfather's hands tell a story, not only of all of these things, but of the man he was and continues to be. A man to admire. A man to respect. A man to love.

I love you, Grandpa. Happy 97th Birthday!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Small Things

It has been hard for me to motivate myself to write this week. Everything I started to say seemed so trivial and inconsequential compared to the words and images from Haiti, that have been haunting me. My heart aches for the people there, and also for the people with loved ones there. Like most, I found myself wishing I could help in some way. Luckily, I found one.

If you have been reading That's Church, you already know about Jamie, 30, and Ali McMutrie, 21, who have been running an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for three years. The orphanage houses 150 children. Jamie and Ali live with about 25-30 of the smallest and/or sickest children. If you don't know their story, please go to That's Church to read about it.

I don't have any extra cash lying around these days, so I have been seeking other ways to help someone in need. I'm collecting take out containers for a homeless shelter, donating old Christmas cards to St. Jude's Hospital so they can reuse them, and when I learned that the BRESMA orphanage needed warm clothes for the children, I thought, "Well, THAT is what I can do".

I took 3 big bags of Dylan's old clothes this afternoon. As I packed them up, I got sad, thinking about the huge amount of things needed. What I had to give was so small, it didn't even seem worth it. But, then I got to the donation site. As I walked into the room, full of bags, bottles of water, and diapers, I smiled from the inside out. All of those donations were made by people like me, with big hearts but small pocketbooks. Every little bit comes together to make a lot.

Won't you please help? Each one of us CAN make a difference. I know it.

Donations can be made to the BRESMA orphanage here.

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Stray Saga - Part I

As those of you who have been around since this post know, Jim and I took in a stray cat the same year I got pregnant with Dylan. I never wanted a cat. I got suckered into it by my husband, and the cat that was looking more and more pitiful each time it came around. Since the beginning, I insisted that the cat be an outdoor cat, with the exception of winters, when we kept her in the basement. Since I am allergic to cats, I knew there was a chance Dylan would also be allergic.

If you read this post, you know that the stray had kittens before "we" ever got around to having it spayed. When "we" found homes for the two kittens, "we" also tried to find a home for the stray. No friends or family wanted her, and the no kill shelters were full every time I called, so eventually "we" just quit trying and accepted that she would be ours. (If you're wondering why there are quotes around the words "we", it's because it is a running joke in our marriage. Jim will ask, "When are WE going to...?", or "Did WE make the travel plans?" I ever so nicely pointed out years ago that "we" generally means ME. Jim smiled in his sheepish way, admitting nothing, but also not denying it. Now every time he asks if "we" took care of something, there is that sheepish grin).

When "we" finally got around to having Dylan tested for allergies, we learned that sure enough, he is allergic to cats. Suddenly it wasn't just a good idea to get rid of the cat - it was imperative. I sent out an email to everyone I know, including the 50 members of the Mom's Club I belong to. No one wanted her. I called the no kill shelter - full. I put an ad on Craigslist - no takers. A friend of a friend seemed interested, but she is going to Florida in a few weeks and didn't know what she'd do with the cat while she was gone. I've been waiting this past week to hear what she decided.

Saturday we went out, and were gone all day. When we were leaving, I said, "Jim, the door (between the basement and the garage) is open". He shut it and we left. Saturday night we got home late. Around 11pm, when I remembered the sheets were still in the dryer downstairs, I also realized the cat is missing. It was too late to do anything about it, and I figured the cat probably went over to our neighbor's, who sometimes feeds it, and that she brought it in.

Yesterday we had plans to take Dylan to Jim's mom's in the afternoon, while we had a date. Then, the 3 of us went out to dinner, and grocery shopping. When we got home, around 7:30, I went over to the neighbor's house. Now I have to back up.

Sometime this past spring, I was outside trimming our trees when a lady yelled to me from the sidewalk, where she was walking her dog. "Is that your cat?", she inquired. I walked over and told her the stray's story. She explained that she sometimes fed the cat, and casually said, "If you need someone to bring her in this winter, let me know". I didn't think much of it... until recently, when I was kicking myself for not getting her name, or what house she lived in. Finally, one day about a week ago, I saw someone who I thought might be her walking her dog. I watched her out my window to see which house she went in.

So, when I walked over last night, I had no idea if it was even the right house. Talk about awkward. An Asian boy answered the door, and I stood there having this conversation in my head... Do I say "Is your mom here?"... He could be adopted...Is this the right house?...Why didn't I pay attention to her name? I'm such an idiot! Out loud I started stammering, "Uh...I'm looking cat...and I think...uh...". Thank God the lady came to the door at that moment, and remembered me.

She told me she hasn't seen the cat, and I told her the whole story about finding out Dylan is allergic. She interrupted me to say, "Oh, I would love to have the cat! The kids who come for piano lessons (that explains that) love her, and she is such a sweet cat". She told me there is another lady in the neighborhood who feeds her, (no wonder she is so fat), and gave me her number. I called and left what had to be a strange sounding message on her machine. Then I called my parents to explain the situation to them, in case they get any calls while I'm at work today. When I mentioned the second name, my dad said, "That's the lady who talkts to Dylan and I when we go for walks".

She called shortly after that. She was confused about who I was, until I said, "You talk to my dad and my son, Dylan, when they walk around the neighborhood". "OH! Dylan! You're Dylan's mom?! He's my buddy!", she gushed, and I had to laugh. More neighbors know my 3 year old social butterfly than me!

She also hasn't seen the cat, but I suddenly felt like I was in a Desperate Housewives episode. "Well, so and so has 3 cats, and she would take her in if she saw her. I'll call her and call you right back". So, after a bunch of phone calls, I have the neighborhood looking for the cat, and my name and phone number being passed around. I finally have a home for the cat, and no cat, and I am worried sick about a cat I never wanted in the first place.

I'm sure there is a lesson in all this. Maybe it's that I need to listen more. Or that casual encounters might be more important than you think. Or maybe, the lesson is that I should ignore the next bright idea that "we" have.

(I am really hoping this story has a Part II, and that Part II has a happy ending).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Best Christmas Card

Yes, I know it is January, but I need to back up a bit. I need to point out something to you, and also to myself.

Dylan was born in November of 2006. Jim and I really wanted to get a gorgeous picture of him to send out for our Christmas cards, since there was no time for birth announcements. To say it was tough would be a huge understatement. Here are a few examples of the pictures that didn't become the card...

That first picture pretty much sums up the first four months of Dylan's colic- filled life for me... a big screaming blur.
This one didn't make the card either, but look at it...

See how far his little head is tilted to the left? At that point, we had never heard of the word "torticollis", and we had no idea what was in store for us and Dylan. When I look at pictures like these...

...I get sad, thinking of the painful stretches this little boy had to endure, the endless specialist appointments, the uncomfortable helmet that he had to wear. Then, I get mad. Mad that his pediatrician ignored my questions about his head tilting for so long. Mad that I didn't force the issue sooner. Mad that it took so long for us to start doing all the things that would help him.

This is the picture I chose for this year's Christmas card...

Many, many people, including some of you, thanked me for the picture, or commented on how cute it was. Yes, it is cute, and yes, he does have a great smile, but no one realized the significance of the card. Even I didn't, until Jim pointed it out to me. His head is tilted to the right. Not because his physical therapist, or his mommy or his daddy are forcing his head into that position. He is tilting his head to the right, because HE CAN. And that, is the best Christmas present I got in 2009.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Last Year's Resolution

Have you noticed how bare your house looks, now that the Christmas decorations are put away? It happens to me every year. Every year, in January, I look around at my empty walls and say, "We need more pictures!"

We have a ridiculous amount of Christmas decorations - most bought or made for us over our 7 years of marriage. No wonder all the walls look bare when all that comes down!

Last year, my resolution was to get past this strange block that Jim and I seem to have when it comes to hanging things on the wall. Let's see how I did...

We finally have a mantle...

The pictures are propped against the wall, but I'm still counting that. There are some pictures on the piano...

...and on the shelves in the family room...

And, will wonders never cease, I actually picked a piece of art for the wall - a photograph that has the colors the room will eventually be - once we paint the wall (baby steps, people!).

Then, there's the infamous "Fun Couple Frames". They came about when I came home and told Jim about these pictures that an old employer had, saying, "It's pictures of all the fun things they've done. They are a fun couple!" Jim said, "Well, we're a fun couple! We need Fun Couple Frames!" How could I argue with that?

(In the first one we are para-sailing in Ocean City, MD, in front of the ocean in Cancun, Mexico, making faces in a photo booth at Kennywood, dancing at Jim's cousin's wedding, at a Pirate Fireworks Night baseball game, snorkeling in Cancun, dressed as Edward Scissorhands, and wrestler China, and kissing in Jamaica after our wedding. In the second, the Muriel's wedding shot, honeymooning in Jamaica, laughing at my grandparents until Jim's face turned red, at our tropical themed wedding party, celebrating my 30th birthday, dressed as Mrs. Edwards Scissorhands and vampire Lestat, jet skiing in Virginia, and in a hot tub in Punta Cana).

There's this tiny frame of Dylan in our old pool, but I would still call the living room an epic FAIL.

We have some pictures in Dylan's room...

and these in the hallway between the front door and the kitchen...

We still have a lot to do, but considering the fact that we lived in our old house for 5 years and hung close to nothing, I'm calling last year's resolution a success.