What I See (Part II)

Thursday afternoon, we went to Nolan’s Early Childhood Screening appointment. I guess I’m not sure how this works in other states, but here in Minnesota, all children are screened at the age of three by their school district to prepare them for Kindergarten. They check vision and hearing, standard doctor appointment stuff, but also their verbal abilities, fine and gross motor skills, etc. The goal is to intervene and help kids as soon as possible - refer them to speech therapy or an appointment with an optometrist - to catch potential problems sooner rather than later.

I wondered as we drove if I should have rescheduled Nolan’s appointment. The twins had done theirs at his age, but they seemed more mature. Maybe I should have waited six months or so. He was smart but was he really ready? I thought of his energy, his defiance. Would he even answer the teacher’s questions? I prayed the next hour or so would go well. If nothing else, I figured we’d be directed to a therapist.

I sat in the hard, blue plastic chair across the room filling out paperwork as Nolan copied the teacher as she stacked blocks, drew a circle and some lines on a page. I listened as he quietly told her all about the yellow car she handed him with the red wheels that were circles and went vroom. My shoulders relaxed; it seemed to be going well.

It did go well. It went very well.

“He scored a 23,” the educator told me as we went over his score sheet afterward, “He only needed a 14 to pass. I’ve almost never seen a 3-year-1-monther do so well.”

I stared in disbelief at the paper, noted that he scored far past what he would have needed even six months from now.

“His cognitive abilities are impressive,” she told me, “He was able to do things even the four-year olds I see have trouble with. And he is very verbal.” (Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.)

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The day before, Wednesday afternoon, I had knocked gently on Tyson’s office door. I try not to bother him during the day. I usually only knock on the door if I need to raid his office for a fresh roll of tape or some batteries.

He opened the door and I put my head on his chest and started crying. I could sense his surprise. (We can both probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried in our eight years of marriage.)

“I’m so...tired...of parenting Nolan,” I finally told him.

That morning Nolan had tried every single ounce of patience I had and even a couple extra ounces I didn’t even know were there.

“Nolan, don’t go in the sandbox right now, it’s too muddy,” I told him. About twelve times. (Along with a few other variations such as “Keep your feet on the sidewalk” and “Show me how you go down the slide instead.”)

“Leave the chalk in the bucket,” I told him. Only to find him a few minutes later sending stubby piece after stubby piece down the slide.

“Put the chalk back in the bucket please,” I said. He defiantly looked away. I touched his cheek to make him look at me. “I told you before not to take it out. Your consequence now is to pick it up.” It took a few minutes, but he did pick up a few pieces from the rainbow pile on the ground, now wet from the morning dew and still-melting snow. Half-heartedly. I found him eating pieces of chalk not long after.

These were not isolated incidents in an otherwise calm morning. This was all in the same eight-minute span. Previously he’d also waved a stick around and hit two people in the face, taken off both his shoes and socks at the park in the 42-degree weather (one landed in a puddle), and refused to throw his granola bar wrapper in the garbage at snacktime. As Mad-Eye Moody would say, the boy needs constant vigilence!

It wasn’t an unusual morning, either. It was just the latest in nearly three years of days that had gone just the same. Three years of attempting to balance his needs for high energy and high socialization without burning myself out in the process.

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The drive home from the screening appointment was very different from the one there. I kept glancing back at him in my rearview mirror, his big, bright eyes searching the sky for airplanes as they so often do, munching on some bright orange crackers that were leftover from his earlier snack.

Who are you? I kept thinking. His score was high, higher even than Caden and Brooklyn’s when they completed their own screening just two years ago. I was just hoping you would pass and now I feel like my world is upside down.

It’s not that I didn’t think he was smart - he is. But Caden and Brooklyn’s high scores for the same screening weren’t a surprise for me. They’re the ones I’ve always been concerned with pushing academically. Nolan with all his energy — I’ve just been concerned with trying to keep him alive.

As I drove I thought of my prayer for him every night, Lord please just channel his energy into good, and I wondered at the blue-eyed boy in the backseat, babbling about PJ Masks and oblivious to all of my thoughts.

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“So how’d it go?” Tyson asked as I made dinner that night.

I looked at him, wondering how to answer. “It went fine. He passed,” I finally said.

He sensed the hesitency in my voice, “Just barely?”

“Tyson, he more than passed. He scored even higher than Caden and Brooklyn did.”

“Oh,” Tyson’s eyes widened and he laughed, “I just hoped he would pass. Awesome!”

I smiled even as my mind continued to swirl, wondering what to do with my trouble-making, energetic, clever little boy.

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Thursday night, I sat at my kitchen island and Googled what to do with him. I researched energetic three-year olds and smart three-year olds, and didn’t find much help. It’s not exactly like there’s advanced preschool. (Also felt like the world’s most obnoxious parent for Googling “gifted three-year olds”.) I read about engaging him in as many activities as possible, to give a direction to his energy and focus his high capacity for learning. This at least explained why he’d excelled in dance class all year.

It also gave credit to the theory I’ve had in my head for awhile, that he was smart but bored, and his energy and constant search for attention was the outward manifestation of the intelligence buried inside.

I rubbed my forehead as I searched for programs and activities - anything -  for three-year olds which were either a.) nonexistent or b.) combined with the two-year olds. I sighed and gave up for the evening, relieved that I had at least signed up him for three mornings of preschool in the fall.

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Over a week later and I’m still thinking about that screening appointment, still feel a little as though my world has been turned upside down. I’ve told some relatives and friends how well his screening went and have mostly been met with the response, “Yeah that doesn’t surprise me”. Maybe because they’re further removed from the day-to-day challenges than I am, of parenting a little someone with such boundless energy.

I feel the weight of the responsibility - even more than before - to watch over him, push him, protect him. To work even harder to engage and advocate for him. If I can help him channel his energy now, guide him, direct him, parent him, love him. If I can find him the right activities, teachers, coaches, so that he can thrive.

He burns so brightly already. I want him to shine. I want everyone to see just what he can do.

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Tyson has been playing a game with Nolan lately, taking inspiration from the book Dear Zoo.

“First God sent me an Emily,” Tyson tells him, “But I didn’t want an Emily. So I sent her back.”

“Then God sent me a Logan,” Tyson continues, “But I didn’t want a Logan. So I sent him back.”

Tyson continues on, listing off the names of Nolan’s friends and sending them back. Nolan’s smile grows bigger every time.

“Then God thought really hard and he sent me a Nolan,” Tyson finally says, “And he was perfect. I kept him”

Perfect. We’re keeping him. I’m going to watch him climb some more.

Ordinary Hard

I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the time during open gym last Friday. 10:45. How could we possibly still have 30 minutes left before we had to leave to pick up the twins from preschool? My three-year old and I had arrived to open gym later than usual (because we had to make a Target run, obviously) and to have 30 whole more minutes just didn’t seem possible.

I looked at my phone again fifteen minutes later. Except it wasn’t fifteen minutes later. It had only been two. I looked at the clock on the wall, convinced my (*ahem* brand new) phone had stopped working, and resisted the urge to throw my (still new) phone to the floor. I resigned myself to twenty-eight more long minutes of chasing around my energetic boy.

This was also the second Friday of the week. I mean, it obviously wasn’t, but it sure felt that way. I had been convinced all day on Wednesday that it was actually Friday. Every time I remembered it was really only Wednesday it felt like a fresh insult all over again. How dare you, Wednesday? Why did we still have two more entire days until it was Friday?

You might ask what was up with last week. I’m asking myself the same thing. There were no blizzards, storms, or other inclement weather. No one was sick. Our car didn’t break down and the washing machine and dishwasher were both fully functioning. In fact, last week, it was pretty nice out. We played outside at a few different parks. The sun was shining. My preschoolers had only one day of school instead of their normal three, but that really didn’t seem to throw a wrench in our plans all that much.

It was a pretty normal week. A week of being hard in all the ordinary ways.

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Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

Life Lately

It’s officially spring. Spring feels like the new year to me. The bright sun (out past 5 pm!), melting snow, birds chirping. Forget all that “new year new you” stuff on January 1st. That’s the deepest, darkest part of the middle of winter, for crying out loud. Forget adding workouts or salads to the routine. The only thing I’m ready to do come January 1 is sleep a little more (because it’s dark all the time), bulk up with more creamy soups and all the carbs (I mean, fresh, local produce is basically nonexistant so clearly this is what the good Lord intended), and increase my caffeine intake (because I tried to sleep more but then remembered at 6 am that I still have children). No, whoever invented the calendar made a real mistake; January doesn’t feel like the new year at all. But spring sure does.

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Tyson gave me a 10-class pass to a new yoga studio just down the road from us. For Christmas. And “new yoga studio” meaning well over a year old. Every time I drive by I think, “I really need to check that place out.” I’ve started to make use of it just this past week, killing myself in barre class and powering through vinyasas. It feels good. It’s still sunny in the early evening and the threat of walking from a 92-degree yoga class into temperatures literally 100 degrees colder outside has passed. I’ve been continuing at home; for the past five days I’ve either done a class or some Yoga with Adriene in the living room. That’s damn near a record for me.

I’m emerging from my winter hibernation. And it feels good. Also sore. But mostly good.

+++++

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I noticed Caden made friends with another boy at basketball practice the other night. “Friends” meaning I saw Caden suddenly walk over to him and start retrieving his ball everytime he shot and missed the basket (which was...every time). Caden would run after the ball and dribble it back to him; he must’ve done it a couple dozen times.

I wondered at this show of kindness, and asked him about it on the way home, “Why did you start playing with that boy and getting his ball for him?”

“Oh,” Caden answered, matter-of-fact, “I noticed that he wasn’t very good at catching the ball or dribbling. So I made a deal with him that I would get it and give it back to him so he could shoot again.”

Well then. Not exactly selfless but maybe he’s onto something?

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The other morning they spent time playing together at the table after breakfast. Brooklyn painted with a set of watercolors while the boys put PJ Masks puzzles together. We don’t have many slow mornings, we’re usually either off to preschool, a playdate, the library, or the store. And often when we do, I regret it around 9:30, which is about the time we all seem ready to kill each other. But this time, it was nice. It’s often been nice, lately. I think they’re learning how to play with each other a bit more and feel the need to kill each other a little less. It made me think of just how few lazy mornings we’ll have next year.

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Which reminds me: these arrived in the mail the other day. Come mid-April, we will have not one but two kindergarteners officially registered for the 2019-20 school year. What in the actual world.

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Reading this piece on the beauty and hardship and life-giving that is women’s work.

Also this beautiful essay about mom anger. And not the “I told my kids to stop touching each other and spoke harsher than I should have” kind of anger that many (Christian) pieces talk about and make the rest of us feel bad. This is the real stuff.

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Cooking these egg roll bowls. I up the spices and serve topped with wonton strips and sweet Thai chili sauce for some egg roll realness. I keep meaning to add chopped water chestnuts but can never seem to remember. (Bonus: the leftovers are quick and easy for lunch!)

I’m also back on the iced coffee train. As soon as that temperature kept climbing above freezing I took this bad boy out. It will now remain in permanent residence in our refrigerator until about September. Or maybe October.

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We’ve officially entered the dramatic hyperbole stage as Brooklyn has begun to drawl, “Oh. my. gosh” and “Are you serious?” Also heard her exclaim, “I think I’m in heaven!” (over a piece of generously buttered popcorn) and “How embarrassing” (out of context, but points for trying). And those were just the ones I heard over the weekend!

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I’ve been obsessed with this fabric shaver. Yes, a de-fuzzer. Hello, life in my 30s.

There’s an old cardigan I love: the fit is perfect, the weight is just right, and the color goes with everything. Except it was covered with those annoying little fuzz balls. It looked sloppy. I wondered if I needed to give it up, find a new cardigan to adore.

Then I researched and purchased sweater shavers. One pass with the defuzzer and my cardigan was like new again. I’ve been using it on everything from sweaters to t-shirts to leggings (seriously saved a favorite and expensive pair of mine from Athleta).

It’s been especially worthwhile because I gave up buying things for Lent. Or at least, buying non-essential things. I’ve been trying to think of how to phrase this exactly. I couldn’t just give up online shopping because that’s how I order my groceries. Also, one crazy trip to Target could completely blow the intent of that fast. So I gave up buying things I just don’t need. No new clothes, nail polish, $6 lattes, etc. My foundation is about to run dry, so I’ll purchase a fresh one sometime in the next couple of weeks: it’s an essential I use just about every day. But eye shadow? Yeah. I have enough. I still order coffee if I go to a coffee shop to write (the way I see it, that’s just me paying my dues to be able to use their space). But no runs through the Caribou drive-thru just because. Clothes and accessories? Nope.

(Though ask me if I panic-ordered my way through a couple of web sites the Monday and Tuesday before Lent began. The answer to that is YES.)

(Also I completely forgot and bought a shirt when we went to see Michelle Obama on her book tour a couple weeks ago. We walked in, saw the merchandise tables, and my mom said, “I think we should all get matching shirts!” That was all it took for me to say, “Yes obviously!” and I proudly handed over my $35. Forgot about my fast literally until I walked into the house that night. Wore my shirt proudly the next day anyway.)

I’ve been keeping a list in my phone of things that keep running through my head, things that really would be nice for the new season. A pair of Birkenstocks. New sunglasses because mine have been through two seasons and sit kind of crooked. A new tumbler for smoothies or all that iced coffee I’m drinking since I recently dropped mine and shattered half the lid. (It still works for now...kinda.)

This is as much about checking myself before making impulse purchases as it is about saving myself time. I’ve begun to realize how often I would scroll through the Madewell website just to see what was new or on sale, how many shops I follow on Instagram, the number of times I would waste 10 minutes on a retail site with no intent of ever buying.

Anyway, all that to say, my de-fuzzer has come in especially handy at refreshing some of my “old” clothes and helping them look new again. $10 well spent. Even if you’re in the middle of a “don’t buy things” fast.

Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything (okay, you won't see any mystery or sci-fi picks on here), watching things that make me think and especially if they make me laugh, and wholeheartedly embrace the podcast. I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening. Here's my two cents worth.

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READ

Fear and Pure
I lumped these two together because I just couldn’t with either of them. I couldn’t finish either. Not because they were poorly written - not at all. It was the subject matter that didn’t do anything for my mental state. The first because, while none of the stories were exactly a surprise, reading about the pure stupidity of our president is not exactly a joyful experience. The second contained a bit more that surprised me, since the countless ways women have been shamed through conservative purity culture are truly disgusting. I had enough real-life familiarity with both subjects that I didn’t need to sit and subject my brain to any more of it. My righteous anger level is already at about an 8 these days, and these books pushed me all the way to about an 11. I had to stop for my own mental stability. (Hello Type 1-ness. If you’re an objective 5, like Tyson, you may fare far better with these reads!)

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
This book has been splashed all over my social media for the past year for good reason. Austin Channing narrates her own experience so beautifully, brutally, and viscerally. Is it a challenging read? In some ways. It’s not a book that sets out to make you feel comfortable. But it’s a very necessary read for anyone who is interested in racial justice today. (Which should be all of us, IMNSHO.)

Girl Meets God
While Lauren Winner’s writing style is beautiful, I had a harder time with this book than with Still. It was easier for me to relate to Still since that’s where I find myself in my own faith journey. The Jewish references in this book (it’s about her conversion from Judaism to Christianity) admittedly mostly went over my head, so that didn’t help.

Daring Greatly
I thought this book and Braving the Wilderness had a lot in common. (Just me? Am I crazy?) They both walk through the importance of vulnerability to create a sense of true belonging. Regardless, this is still a phenomenal reminder of the importance of vulnerability in creating connection. I could probably use basic reminders from Brené about how to be human just about every day!

A Place For Us
I had heard great things about this book and everyone was RIGHT. This novel was so good. My favorite type of novel is a family drama with strong, interesting characters, and this hit those notes perfectly. It’s also about a Muslim family, which was a refreshing change, and led me to Google different aspects of Muslim culture. Also Googling: recipes. I had mad cravings for Indian food while reading this book.

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures
This collection of short essays from first and second-generation immigrants was fascinating. I will say that some of them were better at writing than others - I skimmed through some of the stories that were less compelling. (Including Lin Manuel-Miranda’s…how can you write the most amazing musical of the century but not a short-form essay dude?) Most chronicle their own coming-of-age type stories as they enter American culture as someone who is both American, but also not.

To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope
I think it’s fairly well known by now that President Obama read ten letters every evening, handpicked by the Office of Presidential Correspondence, as a way to help him keep in touch with what was going on in the country. Jeanne Marie Laskas compiled this book by doing interviews with President Obama, some letter writers, and the staff who worked in the correspondence office. The book itself combines personal stories, a history of how the White House post office works, and actual letters. Some of the letters were absolutely heartbreaking, some hard to read - I almost abandoned this book near the beginning while reading one regarding 9/11. By and large they were hopeful. The most compelling chapter was the one devoted to the day following the 2016 election. It brought me back to that time as I read the letters Obama received on that day, as well as the response of the White House staff.

Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion
This. Book. Fr. Gregory Boyle (or “G-dog” as he is known on the streets) is an amazing, angel of a person. This book talks about his work with Homeboy Industries, a ministry he began in Los Angeles in a neighborhood known as the gang capitol of the world. This book is essentially a series of parables, detailing the stories of some of the “homies” he has worked with and mentored over the years. This is another heartbreaking, powerful book. To use a Glennon Doyle-ism, it’s flat-out “brutiful”.

WATCHED

7 Days Out
I haven’t watched all the episodes in this series, but the ones on the Kentucky Derby, the Chanel fashion show, and the grand (re)opening of 11 Madison Park were all excellent. They also made this type-A planner sit on the edge of her seat as she wondered if everything could ever possibly get done in time. (Especially the 11 Madison Park one. THE PUNCH LIST they had the day before the opening made me want to cry.)

Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable
There is no way to sum Ellen DeGeneres up, other than that she is a pure delight. I love her. I’m still giggling over her opening skit about how “relatable” she is. This isn’t deep or intellectual or going to make you think that much. It’s just plain enjoyable.

FYRE: the Greatest Party That Never Happened
I know two Fyre documentaries recently exploded onto the scene; since we don’t have an account with Hulu, we went with the Netflix one. Watching this documentary was just as insane, mind-blowing, and unflinchingly critical as you’ve heard. It’s a must-watch, even if it was another thing to make my Type-A eyeballs bug out of my head.

The American Meme
I hadn’t heard of this one before Tyson recommended it. It’s an examination of social media influencer culture. It features interviews with several social media personalities, each with hundreds of thousands of followers, most notably Paris Hilton, who interestingly enough produced the documentary. The most despicable person featured (and you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about if you watch it) was also the one who probably had the most depth of character. I thought the whole thing could have gone deeper into the connections between social media and addiction in our culture, but it gave enough to fodder discussion between Tyson and I for days. (Warning: LOTS of nudity, due to the nature of one of the influencer’s, um, chosen type of influencing.)

LISTENED

The Liturgists Podcast
I’ve been on the fringes of The Liturgists bubble for awhile. OMG WHY DIDN’T I START LISTENING SOONER? They speak deep to my soul, and their mission to foster “compelling discussion, non-judgmental community, and thoughtful, evocative art” is exactly what I need right now. Their episodes on Man and Woman should be required listening or anyone who has a pulse, and the episode on the Enneagram was EXCELLENT, largely because Suzanne Stabile is an amazing teacher. (I know, they’re all crazy long. But so worth it!)

Note: any links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links.

The Worst March Mom

I’m convinced March and August are the absolute worst months out of the year.

The first is a month that sounds like it’s supposed to be spring. Can we all just agree that March, April, and May are spring months? (June, July, and August get summer, September, October, and November claim fall, while December, January, and February are clearly winter. This is basic science and logic.) Apparently Mother Nature is not on board, since she often sends blizzards of snow in late March just to remind us of where we all live. By that point, the snow isn’t magical anymore. It’s something to survive. We’re all sick of the sixth straight month of living in the same few square feet of space and the sibling fights become truly epic.

And August. I just can’t with August. It’s too hot. I don’t like stepping outside and immediately sweating. All the summer activities have ended but the fall ones have yet to begin. It makes for a very long month. I’m over the whole sunscreen thing. I don’t want to wear shorts and tanktops. I’m also sick of coming up with no-cook meal ideas because who wants to cook when it’s 97 degrees outside? Nobody, that’s who.

Now listen, lest you think I’m the grumpiest mom ever, let me tell you that I’m a great beginning-of-season parent.The first real days where it smells like summer or hints at the chill of winter? I am freaking fantastic. My mom game is on point in May and October.

We kick off the first snowfall by drinking hot chocolate. With marshmallows. We watch Frozen as our landscape transforms, even if it’s only a little white dusting across the grass. I drink hot tea again. I break our day into a routine complete with designated snack, art, and quiet times. The fireplace is turned on, our warmest blankets are pulled out, and we are a hunker-down-in-this-house, hygge machine.

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Read more over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.