How I Cured the Autism “Problem” in Our House

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curing-autism

When my autistic son, Dominic, was four years old he ate nearly every piece of a foam puzzle while I was in the shower.  He seemed fine enough when I came out, looked at me with his round, cornflower eyes blinking.  He wasn’t the least bit distressed. But I was pretty flipping upset.

“Why did you do that?”  I asked him, with the fear in my voice palpable.

He looked unconcerned, but turned his little head up to me.

“What do you think you are, a goat?” I asked him, with the frustration in my voice palpable.
He looked at me still, no expression.

Here’s what he was probably thinking: Her face is much prettier from far away.

Here’s what he said: Nothing.

Then again, he did have autism and couldn’t speak.

I shook my head at him, firmly.  “NO!”  I said, pointing to the pieces of chewed up foam that remained.  “NO EAT!”

He shook his head in imitation. Then again and again.

He was still shaking his head when I wrapped him and his brother in their snowsuits and drove to the Children’s Emergency Room.

The doctors there determined the foam wasn’t going to cause him much harm, but they admitted him to the hospital for a day of observation.  Maybe they just felt sorry for me and thought I could use a break.  Pregnant mom shows up with two toddlers in her arms, one with severe autism who has a penchant for eating plastic. You throw her a freaking bone, right? I didn’t have the heart to mention I had a 6 year old daughter waiting to be picked up from school or perhaps wandering the streets of our neighborhood by that time. Sometimes people can only take so much.

While Dominic was in the hospital, I asked nicely for a psychiatric consultation.  Well, I kicked my feet and pounded my fists on the ground and threw a major temper tantrum, but then, after people began to stare, I decided to use my words.  The resident said that the Child Psychiatrist probably wouldn’t be willing to come.

Luckily, the resident was wrong.

Since Dominic was diagnosed at age 2, we had seen therapists at school and community mental health.  We had seen psychologists and social workers and speech professionals.  I was desperate and afraid I wasn’t doing enough, giving enough.  I spent some days huddled up in the corner of the kitchen, so paralyzed by the daunting task of “fixing” Dominic’s behaviors that I, too, was flapping and jumping and rocking. Other days I was developing complicated systems of therapy, aimed at resolving the finger waving, the moaning, the rituals that slowed him down and kept him from my vision of “living”.  But we had never seen a child psychiatrist and with the chances of another Gregory the Goat-like episode looming, I had so many questions.

The doctor was brisk without being bristly, matter of fact in the most consolatory ways. He said lots of things that day that left Dominic’s father and I with a mixture of understanding and fear.  It was the first time someone spoke harshly, honestly to us about our son’s condition, a condition that was just starting to infiltrate every corridor of the media and overwhelm our functioning.

“Your son has classic autism. ” the Child Psychiatrist said.  “There’s no cure.  Anyone who tells you they ‘cured’ their child of autism didn’t have a child with autism.  It’s that plain.”

And instead of sadness, I felt relief.

It seemed okay to me suddenly, to stop fighting the demon then.  I couldn’t see the demon after all, how could I tell how big and sharp his teeth were? I was sick of my invisible enemy. It was running my life.

It was going to be a battle that would only defeat us all in the end if I didn’t find a way out, I had known this but didn’t want to admit it.

And something worse had been nagging me for months, something I didn’t like saying then and I know makes people uncomfortable to hear me say now.  But the truth is, Dominic didn’t seem to really mind being autistic.  In fact, he kind of seemed sort of…really….happy.

So from that day forward, I stopped trying to cure my son of who he was.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t send him to occupational or speech therapy.  It doesn’t mean I didn’t find him the best school or tell him “No” when he would jump up and down in the middle of the family room, while the other kids were trying to watch The Goonies.  I still believed in therapy and supports. I still believed in giving him the best.

It just meant that I began to expect from him only as much as it was possible for him to give me. Frankly, I just tried to–still try to–help Dominic be the best Dominic he could be.

What it really meant most of all is that I stopped trying to banish the autism from Dominic’s life (or my life) and just started letting my son live with it.

It was a part of him, just like his blue eyes and love of eating all things foam.

And that’s the story of how, instead of shadowboxing the unseen enemy, I invited autism in for tea, but only if he agreed to be on his best behavior.

And it feels nicer this way, for me.  I understand it can’t work for everyone.  Maybe letting go of fighting the diagnosis, for some parents, would leave them with a powerlessness. Maybe some people would see this as giving up, as being weak.

I just see it as getting on with things.

And I don’t mind if other parents don’t think this is something they can do.  I just don’t want to have an argument over the whole thing. The autistic community is fractured over so much already.

Me, as a mom, accepting Dominic’s diagnosis isn’t a cause for debate.  There’s already too much cause for debate.  Aren’t we really are all the same?

We are, collectively, the moms of the flappers, the jumpers, the wanderers, the pickers, the groaners, the moaners, the kids that makes people stare and laugh and feel sorry for us.
Divisiveness over vaccines and diets and acceptance—those are just ways to get sidetracked, red herrings meant to divide us.  Let’s just agree to disagree sometimes.

And. Let’s not get distracted from the real issue, the one that we all seem to universally agree on–the one that unites even the fiercest enemies in our divided autistic community.

Let’s all agree to focus our energy, together, in a much more useful direction, one that every mother of an autistic child seems to embrace wholeheartedly——-

Hating Jenny McCarthy.

There.

Doesn’t that feel better?

10 Surprising Ways Motherhood Changed Me

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motherhood-changes

You think you know yourself, then you go and have a baby and suddenly the person staring you in the mirror is a complete stranger. Some changes that accompanied motherhood, I expected — the lack of balance in my emotional state and overwhelming swelling of my heart, for instance. There are other personality traits, however, that have been a tad more surprising…

1. I speak for my baby as if he has adult thoughts and feelings, translating the invisible word bubble above his head for whoever is around. As if every situation he’s in is a New Yorker cartoon in need of a caption.

2. I now speak in third person ALL of the time. Even when I’m talking to my husband its, “mama needs some coffee, mama is going to pump now.” My poor son is going to be totally confused about pronouns.

3. I immediately revert to a high pitch voice whenever speaking to my baby, despite being “theoretically opposed” to baby talk. I some times make a conscious effort to speak to him in a normal tone and end up feeling like a weirdo who’s talking to herself.

4. Words now get “y’s” or “er’s” tacked on at their end. As far as my baby knows, it’s, “eggys, leggys, milkers” etc. Again, for the record, I would prefer he grow up with the kind of mother who treated him like a little adult with a sophisticated vocabulary.

5. I feel responsible for my child’s happiness in every moment. It occurred to me the other day that this obsessive instinct to protect him from feeling any emotion that is not positive probably should have worn off by now. When will this end? According to my mother: never.

6. I make up spontaneous songs, all-day-long, basically turning our life into a musical. I sing about everything I am doing and throw in things like “Roman is the best, Roman is the best,” original material like that.

7. I have become more interested in spending money on baby clothes that he will wear for three months than on my own wardrobe. Completely irrational.

8. I obsessively search and pin nursery decor even though we live in a one bedroom apartment. Still nesting?

9. I spend approximately 10% of the time in conversations with my husband talking about our son’s poop, and 30% coming up with theories about what could be causing his crankiness or crying at any given moment… or why he is still waking up every 2-3 hours at night. “Maybe he’s finally teething” “Or maybe its gas, what did he eat today?” “Has he pooped? Maybe he’s constipated,” “I think he’s over tired,” “Maybe he’s just frustrated that he can’t walk yet.”

10. I want to be with him every moment of the day. I am a stay at home mom who co-sleeps and stresses about leaving him with a babysitter for a few hours on rare occasions. This is not the “bringing up bebe” type of mother I expected to be. This is what I call being an “accidental attachment parent.” Am I the only one who barely recognizes myself?

Breastfeeding a Preemie

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breastfeeding-preemie

I admit it: I romanticized breastfeeding.  It didn’t matter that three of my best friends complained ruthlessly about it.  The horror stories I’d read—about scabby nipples, fickle mouths, and exhaustion you can taste—were unfortunate tales that happened to strangers but certainly wouldn’t apply to me.  I envisioned peaceful hours in a rocking chair, my infant daughter quietly nursing while I read novels and shed all of the weight I’d gained in my final trimester, when I devoured raspberry chocolate chip muffins as steadily as most people consume water.  The weight would disappear magically, and my daughter and I would bond for life.

A part of me blames the kindly nurse who assured me that I would get used to breastfeeding.  “Nursing is so special,” she said as she placed my daughter at my breast.  “It’s an extraordinary experience, and you’ll have it down in no time.”

I didn’t.

Isabella was born four weeks premature, and her bite was underdeveloped, the doctors explained.  They also pointed out that she had a weak suck, a term that struck me as derogatory and insulting and yet wildly hilarious, as most things with the intricacies of childbirth and the human body seemed to me.  Weak suck or not, Isabella had no interest in my breasts and what they could offer her.  My breasts—grotesque in size, leaking without my consent, and throbbing with pain—were another story.  They wanted nothing more than to feed her.

Twelve hours after Isabella was born, I was convinced she was going to die of starvation.  She.  Would.  Not. Stop.  Screaming.  Once home from the hospital, I resigned to our king-sized bed and sprawled out like a beached whale with Isabella cradled on top of me, begging her to nurse and sleep.  At long last, she latched on.

And stayed there.

The only problem?  She couldn’t take in much.

Related post: Breastfeeding is no Fairytale

Premature babies with underdeveloped bites take twice as long to feed, namely because it requires more effort.  This meant that Isabella was attached to my breast 23/7.  With no family nearby and a husband whose workaholic tendencies did not taper off with the arrival of our child as I’d imagined, I was left with one manic hour to sleep, shower, and clean the house.  I was lucky if I got around to brushing my teeth.

“You two look so beautiful,” my husband said from the doorway of the nursery one evening when he came home from work.  Dishes were stacked in the kitchen sink.  Piles of sweatshirts with spit-up were waiting for me in the laundry room.  I’d put on mascara three days before in a vain attempt to look pretty and feel normal, and hadn’t bothered to wash it off.  I didn’t have time to look pretty, let alone beautiful.  Meanwhile, he appeared freshly scrubbed, well-rested, and handsome.  I could have kicked him.

Isabella might have looked beautiful but her attempts at feeding were growing progressively strained. Delivering proper nutrition to her was my chief if not only concern, but everything I tried to make the process easier and more efficient failed.  She appeared to be shrinking while everything about me, including my anger, seemed to have tripled in size.  I also kept seeing the figures of small, irate children in my periphery vision, and, oddly enough, visions of my mother when she was a teenager.

The hallucinations were terrifying, but not as frightening as the person I became when, three weeks after Isabella was born, we took her to see her pediatrician.

“She’s lost weight,” Dr. Perry said with a disapproving cluck of his tongue and scowling at me over the rims of his glasses as if looking for tangible evidence of my many failures as a mother.

“All I do is breastfeed her,” I yelled.  Yelled was an understatement.  All other noise in the doctor’s busy office ceased.  My husband bent his beet-red face in shame.  When a nurse tipped her head into the room, presumably to make sure everyone was still alive, I realized I was standing over Dr. Perry and shaking a fist in his face.  I’d show him mothering, alright.  He jotted down a note on his prescription pad, handed it over without looking into my eyes, and promptly left the room.

The piece of paper had two words: La Leche.

I called them as soon as we got home.  The woman who answered sounded attractive and refreshed, which only made me madder.  Was everyone competent, good-looking, and raring to go but me?  Then I checked myself and relaxed into her voice at the same moment she detected the hysteria in mine.  She ordered me to buy a plastic bottle, which they sold, fill it with formula, and hang it upside down on my chest.  It would be equipped with tiny tubes that I would then secure to my nipples, enabling Isabella to take in a touch of formula along with good, old-fashioned breast milk.  In other words, why switch to formula altogether when there was such a genial solution?

Related post: 10 Reasons I Hated Breastfeeding

It felt half-assed in a way, as fraudulent as a part-time vegetarian or a Christian-come-Sunday.  Still, I was determined to have the breastfeeding experience I’d imagined, and hell-bent on giving my daughter not only the best nutrition but the most authentic form of it.  I sent my husband out that night to purchase the supplies we needed for the experiment.  I didn’t have to ask twice—at that point, he would have swam to Alcatraz to retrieve the goods had I asked—and, armed with cautious optimism, I began the supplemental nursing system procedure.

Prepare formula.

Poor liquid into bottle.

(God, this was cake!)

Tape feeding tube to breasts.

Squeeze to make sure formula is coming out at Just the Right Speed.

Set baby on boob.

Easy, yes?

No.

Struggling with a squirming infant who is perpetually hungry is no small feat.  Her livid screams didn’t help with my frayed nerves.  The tape moved.  I fumbled to get the tube in place while trying to keep Isabella’s mouth open wide enough and long enough to get my sore nipple and the feeder in at the same time.  She was averse to both.  My husband complained about her crying from the other room, his gracious mood gone.  The phone would not stop ringing.  My stomach was growling, my breasts were oozing, snot was gorging from my not-so-beautiful-in-that-moment daughter’s nose, and I couldn’t control the urge to pee. Motherhood wasn’t peach-lit rooms and soft nuzzles.  Motherhood was exactly what my grandmother said: It was goddamn messy.

After a considerable amount of time in which I swore to the Virgin Mary that I would never have sex again, Isabella started suckling, finally at ease with the contraption.  By then, I was too exhausted to appreciate it and wholly convinced that I should have just stuck with my own breasts.  And, of course, by the time I cleaned everything up, Isabella was awake again and I had to restart the entire process.

Dr. Perry checked Isabella’s weight a week later.  She was making progress.  It didn’t matter that I was devolving in every other way.  I had pseudo-breastfed successfully.  And even if I could see the indignation in the eyes of my friends who equated formula with the juice of the devil, I felt victorious.  I was a Capable Mother.

Four weeks after implementing the system, I decided to give myself a break and take a walk.  I packed Isabella into the stroller and parked her on the porch while I unlocked the gate.  A wail that sounded nothing like hunger pierced through the neighborhood.  In the twenty seconds I had turned my back, the stroller had rolled down the steps and tipped over on the brick walkway.  Isabella was buried underneath it.  She went silent.

My scream was louder than any of Isabella’s.  I was convinced her skull was crushed.  A neighbor rushed over and lifted the stroller for me; I couldn’t bear to look, nor could I bear to realize that I’d forgotten to set the brake.   She gathered my daughter in her arms, and Isabella started crying immediately.  It was the most glorious sound I’d ever heard.  Turns out, the feather pillow I’d placed under her head saved her from a fatal fall.  At least I’d done something right.

I thanked the neighbor, the sun, the stars, and the Virgin Mary, and vowed then and there to make a change.  Would I prefer a formula-raised child or a breastfed baby consistently at risk of losing her life because her mother was dangerously fatigued and absentminded as an old bat?  There was no question.

I didn’t make it far that day.  I walked inside while my neighbor soothed Isabella, and threw away all the paraphernalia La Leche had suggested.  Then I took a hot shower, wrapped my breasts in tight fabric, and relinquished breastfeeding for good.  Two hours later, Isabella took in twice as much formula from a bottle in a quarter of the time she usually spent on my chest, then slept for four hours—the longest stretch of uninterrupted she’d ever had.

And, mercy, I slept too.

The room was peach-lit when we both awoke.  There was a raspberry chocolate chip muffin on the nightstand beside me.  I took a bite, silently thanked my husband for his small gestures of kindness, and smiled at Isabella.  She blinked and smiled back at me.  Our life together was about to begin.

Ten Things “They” Won’t Tell You….But I Will

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mom-secrets

Eleven years ago, I was blindsided by the truths that become glaringly apparent the day I joined The Mommyhood Club. And, as these truths became more evident, I sometimes felt like the other moms who already knew these basic truths were giggling at me next to their lockers and whispering behind my back. They were saying, “Look at that poor schmuck….aww, she just found out she’s never going to sleep again ever” and “Bwahahaha, she thinks crunches will bring her abs back….silly, silly girl”. Admittedly, I joined The Club grossly misinformed, but I cannot be the only one who was shocked and appalled to find out that toddlers watch you pee. That’s what leads me to the list of things “THEY”, the moms snickering by the lockers, didn’t tell you before you got knocked up.

This list has been compiled over eleven years of toddler standoffs, missing Scout uniforms, 6 million miles of driving in a People Mover and 962 sleepless nights. The truths I’ve compiled here are the little known, “gonna catch you with your pants down if you don’t know them ahead of time” tidbits.

Ahem.

You’re welcome in advance.

10 Things “They” Don’t Tell You…But I Will

1.There is not a single mother on this planet that knows what she’s doing. Not one. Every single mother makes it up as she goes along and hopes for the best. No lie. And, if a mom claims to know what she’s doing, she’s lying and you should not be friends with her. Exception to this rule: Mom Bloggers (ahem).

2. You will sleep again, but it will never be the same. For the rest of your natural life, you will sleep with one ear to your door and you will be able to discern the nighttime goings on in your house better than any CIA agent with night vision goggles. With both eyes closed and in REM sleep, you will know that your son is sleepwalking and that your daughter needs Tylenol. It’s an amazing phenomenon, really.

3. Sick leave does NOT come with the job. You will sign permission forms with your head in the toilet, you will plan PTA parties doped up on pain killers after oral surgery and you will have a husband who asks you to get the dry cleaning when you are laying on the floor half dead with the flu. The management does NOT care one iota about your health. Best to come to terms with this one now.

4.Make friends with moms who understand and do it as soon as your cherub gets here. Troll the halls of the Mother Baby Unit if you have to but find that one mom who lets you say anything about your kids and won’t judge you. Make sure to ask her if she knows what she is doing during the interview. If she says yes, drop her like a hot potato. If she says “Hells, NO!”, grab her, hold on to her and drink wine with her at every chance you get. And call her from the closet on the bad days. If she keeps answering, she’s a friend for life.

5. Sex will become, at times, a chore. Just another thing on the long list of to do things that never ever ends. Sex will be sandwiched on the list with things like “Make 25 Hello Kitty Themed Class Favors” and “Empty The Dishwasher”. Squeeze it in for obvious reasons, and because it’s worth it to reconnect with your partner. If it’s a choice between “Have Sex” or “Fold Laundry”…remember that your pile of laundry will look unchanged in the morning, the following day and next Tuesday. But your relationship will not resemble itself very quickly if it’s not tended to. And, it’s okay if you think about the Hello Kitty favors during…hey, we’re moms, we multitask.

6. When you bring your cherub home from the hospital, be prepared: you might not like him/her at first. Of course you will love them and you will think the miracle of life is amazing and all that happy horsepuckey, but those first few days are just plain trying. In one fell swoop, this bundle comes into your world and single handedly ruins your ability to quickly run into a Dunkin Donuts for a cup of coffee. Everything becomes harder and it’s their fault….sort of. You will find your groove eventually but, it’s okay to admit that you don’t like your new life. And if you say it out loud, you’ll become one of the gals I’ll totally be friends with.

7. You become a liar. You lie about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and The Elf on The Shelf and all things magic. You will craft intricate lies to explain how Santa gets into your house, how the giant rodent leaves candy all over the family room and why the Elf on The Shelf didn’t go back to the North Pole for the 4th day in a row. You will become adept at boldfaced lying to your children yet expecting total honesty from them. If I were you, I’d start making a list of all the places the Elf can hide in your house. You’ll thank me.

8. Every single product on the market can hurt your child, if you believe the hype. From BPAs to GMOs to free range and everything in between, everyone has an opinion. Throw in pesticides, lead, high fructose corn syrup and Dr. Oz and you have one crazy, confusing arena in which to raise healthy kids. Do the best that you can, save the judgment of others and refer to item #1 above. No one knows what they are talking about and only you know what’s right for your family. And if people judge you because you occasionally eat bright orange mac and cheese with a chaser of red Kool Aid, so be it.

9. All forms of Lycra, push up and Spanx become a necessary part of your wardrobe. Undergarments after childbirth will henceforth be chosen based on words like “sturdy” and “support” rather than “lacy” and “sexy”. Case closed. Further, yoga pants will become an integral part of your wardrobe and words like “elastic waistband” will cross your lips. You will begin to loathe anything that has a button front and you will no longer mock those who wear leggings because you yourself will be rocking them too. Embrace the new wardrobe choices as a chance to shop for the body that grew humans, and wear those Spanx with pride!

10. You will be good at the job of mothering the minute you meet your cherub and you won’t screw them up too terribly. You will make mistakes and you will have hours where you are fully convinced your child will need extensive therapy to fix what you’ve done wrong. Just do the best that you can with the talents you have and you will be fine. And, if your kids don’t like how you are doing your job, when they grow up, they can screw up their own kids any way they’d like. For now, own the phrase “I’m the Mommy and that’s why”.

Of course, this is not an all encompassing, all-inclusive list. I’m sure I’ve left out truths or have forgotten to mention something, but one thing is for sure: this mom will never be snickering at my locker behind your back. Nope. I’ll grab you by the arm, sit down and say, “Oh, honey, we’ve got to talk…..”. And then I’ll pour you a giant glass of wine while you digest the truth.

The Inevitable Stages of a Frozen Obsession

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frozen-obsession

Stage 1
Oh my goodness, WHAT AN AMAZING MOVIE!! The strong female characters, OLAF (ha ha!), the gorgeous snow and ice, the TRUE LOVE of a SISTER (sniff sniff), and OH, the MUSIC! It’s just SO GOOD! Yay Disney!

Stage 2
Let it gooooo, let it goooooo, can’t hold it back anymoooore!” (Sigh) Don’t you just LOVE Idina Menzel?

Stage 3
Do you wanna build a snoooowmaaaan? It doesn’t have to be a snooowmaaaan. Okay, byyyyyye.” (Sniff) That part gets me every time.

Stage 4
Sure, kids! Let’s buy the DVD. And the soundtrack. It’s only like THE best Disney movie EVER MADE!

Stage 5
Oh, how cute! The kids have all of the songs memorized!

Stage 6
Oh, how cute! They’re belting out “Let it Go” all day!

Stage 7
Wow. They’re really belting out “Let it Go” ALL DAY LONG.

Stage 8 
GOOD LORD, THEY’RE BELTING OUT “LET IT GO” ALL. FREAKING. DAY. LONG.

Stage 9
Please. Please, let it go, kids. For real. LET IT GO.

Stage 10 
Holy cow, now it’s all over Facebook. I have to hear other people’s kids singing it, too? Exactly how many times does it take for one song to qualify as torture?

Stage 11
I’m hearing it in my dreams now. In my dreams. Every night.

Stage 12
OMIGOD, KIDS. IF YOU DON’T STOP SINGING, I’M GOING TO LET YOU GO.

Stage 13
Disney is the devil and Idina Menzel is Satan spawn.

Stage 14
What, kids? No, I have NO IDEA what happened to the DVD and the soundtrack. Maybe you lost them. Maybe the big snow monster ate them. OR MAYBE YOU WORE THEM DOWN SO MUCH THEY HAD NO WILL TO CONTINUE EXISTING. 

Stage 15
Yes, I know you’re just devastated, kids. Yes, I understand you can’t “let it go.” Wow, you’re THAT upset, huh? Well . . . I just have one thing to say: “Let the stoooorm raaaage ooooooooon. The cold never bothered me anyway.

I Know It Goes By So Fast, Dammit

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I Know It Goes By So Fast, Dammit

I was in a public parking lot, trying to get my starving, exhausted, tantrum-throwing kids into the car when a little old lady tottered up to me and said, “Enjoy it while they’re little! It goes by so fast!”

I looked up at her as I was karate chopping my son’s stiff-as-a-board body into his car seat and gave her a smile. A smile that said, “I want to strangle you.”

I wanted to strangle her because it’s true. It does go by so fast. And I know I should be enjoying every minute of it.

BUT I CAN’T.

I can’t because raising young kids isn’t always enjoyable. Sometimes it is—there are precious moments of absolute parental bliss. Moments when my son places a chubby hand over my larger, dishwash-weary hand and asks me to play with him. Moments when my daughter blows me a kiss that I catch and tuck into my heart under my shirt. Moments when the three of us snuggle head-to-head-to-head reading a book.

But a lot of the time having young kids sucks.

It’s relentless and boring and exhausting and infuriating. And the fact that I’m not loving every tantrum-filled, pooped-smeared, yogurt-coated, sleep-deprived moment makes me panic. Because it’s going by so fast.

The days of my children’s childhoods are slipping through my hands faster than E. coli-infested sand and I know I’m not enjoying it enough, lady in the parking lot, so please don’t remind me.

When I creep into my kids’ rooms at night and watch them sleep, my heart fills with love and peace … and regret. Regret that we didn’t all enjoy the day that just ended more.

I know one day the pain of it all will fade and I’ll look back with a rosy tinge and think to myself, “I really enjoyed when my kids were little. It all went by so fast.”

But the one thing I promise to never do, is stop a young mom in a parking lot and tell her to enjoy it. Tell her it that all goes so fast.

Instead I’ll tell her that I know raising young kids is hard.

I’ll tell her it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to scream. It’s OK to fall to pieces at 5pm when the kids are pushing her every last button. I’ll tell her to breathe. I’ll tell her to hide in the bathroom if she needs to. I’ll tell her to laugh at the insanity that is her life. And I’ll tell her to kiss her baby’s toes, not because they won’t be little forever, but because it will bring her a moment of joy in her otherwise insane, chaotic day.

Related posts:
15 Things Veteran Moms Really Want to Say to New Moms
If I had known…
To the Unwashed Masses of Mothers

10 Reasons It’s Awesome Having Twins

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1. The 2 for 1 deal. I did not enjoy pregnancy and counted down the days until it was over and I could shed the 75, yes 75 pounds that I gained and feel like I had some control over my body again. Having twins is incredibly hard, but knowing I’m not going to be pregnant again (or at least for a very, very long time) is a big plus.

2. The attention. Being pregnant with (and being a mom to) twins, you feel like a celebrity.When they’re babies, everyone you walk by will enthusiastically exclaim, “Is it twiiiiiins?!?!” The answer to this question is so painfully obvious that some could find it annoying, however when you are stuck in the house with twin babies feeling like you have absolutely no idea what you are doing day after day after day, any human interaction feels like a win. Especially one where you play the rock star.

Related Post: The General Public on Twins

3. Loving your husband even more. A dad of twins is essentially a second mom. At 3AM when you are each semi-awake with the twins and are both covered in equal amounts of milk, poop, drool and probably your own tears, you realize wow, I love this guy even more than the day he was tearing up the dance floor to “Take me Home Tonight” at our wedding.

4. Photos Opps. I mean, hello?

twins

5. Double the milestones. So far raising twins has been hard. Like harder than running a marathon hard (I have run a marathon and trust me this is wayyy harder. Some days I honestly feel like I would enjoy running 26.2 miles over caring for twins). But of course, there are moments that make everything worth it. First smiles, rolls, steps, hugs, words. And the greatest part is, if you miss the chance to catch one of these spectacular moments on camera, you have a second chance with the other kid usually only days away!

6. Best Buds. I have not experienced this one yet (even though people keep telling me they will be “instant playmates!”) since right now they mostly try to grab, bite, knock each other over and cause general harm to one another. But I’m ready and waiting for the day that they play peacefully together while I sit on the couch and watch anything on Bravo while drinking a hot coffee.

Related Post: The Twin Diagnoses

7. The Ultimate Excuse. Can’t fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes 18 months later? Does your stomach look like road map that a tractor drove over? Haven’t so much as looked at your husband in 3 days? Having take out for dinner 5 nights in a row? Don’t want to go to that wedding shower? Ignore all phone calls? Cancel plans last minute? It’s fine, you have twins!

8. The Twin Bond. My guys just started talking a lot, and in the morning they wake up saying, “Hi brubber!” from crib to crib. Holy cuteness. I mean, come on! I melt.

9. The Kindness of Others. I live in the northeast which is not known for being the friendliest of places. (Hello, did you hear about the winter we just had?!) That being said, it’s humbling how much family, friends, and strangers are willing to help when it comes to twins. And we’ll take it.

10. Endless Entertainment. Twins are Expensive with a capital E. But the good news? There’s no need to pay for expenses like cable TV or movies at theaters. Who can beat this?

You’re Probably Married If…

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1. If the response to most of your questions is, “not yet,” you’re probably married.

2. If your response to most questions is, “It was on sale,” you’re probably married.

3. If you’ve found yourself saying, “Don’t swing that at the kids!” you’re probably married.

4. If ‘clean the toilet’ somehow precipitates the need for specific, step-by-step instructions, you’re probably married.

5. If you’ve ever asked your partner exactly when they’re due back at work, you’re probably married.

6. If you’ve ever had to define ‘appropriate shoes’, you’re probably married.

7. If you’ve gotten fifteen text messages from the grocery store, you’re probably married.

8. If you’ve ever had to describe the difference between a light piece of clothing and a dark one, you’re probably married.

9. If you’ve ever opened the dishwasher to find seven pieces of clean dishware (and two forks), you’re probably married.

10. If there are three Oreos left in the container, and the kids haven’t had any yet, you’re probably married.

The Danger of Swearing Around Children

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Me to Bridget (age 9) when I fail as a mother: Honey, I’m sorry I lost it with daddy in front of you today.

Bridget: You mean when you yelled you were sick of his fucking napping all the time while you slave away?

Me: Yes, I did use the F-word and it was very wrong, but I never say that in front of you.

Bridget: That’s the fourth time you’ve said the F-word in front of me.

Me: That’s not accurate.

Bridget: You yelled What the fuck?! at daddy that time at the train station at The Grand Canyon in front of everyone.

Me: Because your father just had to “quickly buy food” before the train left and we almost missed it and it was the only train out of that godforsaken Grand Canyon where hundreds of people die every year, as documented by Over The Edge: Deaths in Grand Canyon, when they get too close to the edge for a photo and the wind knocks them over and they fall five thousand feet. Let’s not mince words, your father almost killed us.

Bridget: And you said the F-word that time you, me and Clare were in the McDonald’s drive-through when you were going to buy us McFlurries and Clare was kind of mopey and you said you were “so fucking tired “of throwing us Harry Potter birthday parties and assembling our Tiny Tykes swing sets and cooking everything without cheese because we hate it, when we couldn’t even be nice to you.

Me: What children don’t like cheese?

Bridget: And then you called me a little fucker when we were on the subway train going from the airport toParis.

Me: I absolutely did not call you a little fucker, I called you a little shit because I thought you told me to “shut up.”

Bridget: But I didn’t tell you to “shut up,” I told you to “stop it” when you were trying to make me laugh when I was tired.

Me: But I thought you said “shut up.”

Bridget: But I said “stop it.”

Me: Well who can hear “stop it” when someone says it so pitiful-quiet after I’m taking them to Paris where they get to eat macaroons and ride on a ferris wheel over the Seine. I mean who can hear that after they haven’t slept on a twelve-hour flight to reach a destination that will make some fucking childhood memories?!

Bridget: That’s five times you’ve said the F-word in front of me.

Me: I consider that entrapment.

(The fucking end.)

The Daily Costume Changes of a Toddler

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toddler-clothing

6:54 AM: Baby sports fashionable owl pajama set from classy Carters line. Baby is so excited to greet new day that she unloads her bladder all over them.

7:03 AM: Change baby into onesie bearing the name of my alma mater. Feel this applies too much academic pressure on wee one. Change her into onesie that says “Diva Brat.” Husband views onesie. Has heart attack.

7:28AM: Feed baby breakfast. Baby sneezes while ingesting a jar of green beans. Change baby into a bright floral t-shirt and matching leggings. Husband comments that she looks like she belongs on a cruise ship.

9:12 AM: Surprise visit from friend. Quickly change baby into outfit friend gave us: Pink velour tracksuit with misspelled version of baby’s name on it.

10:32 AM: Friend leaves. Immediately change baby back into cruise ship attire. Burn track suit.

11:14 AM: Baby consumes a bottle of bubbles, then spits it back up. Try to change baby into a onesie, but she spots her old Halloween costume (Tinkerbell wings and nylon skirt) and insists on wearing it.

Related Post: 25 Ways To Annoy A Toddler

12:14PM: Baby still wearing Halloween costume.

1:14PM: Still.

2:02PM: Sharpie is very hard to get off nylon.

2:28PM: Manage to wrestle off wings and put her down for nap.

2:32PM: Worry that baby will be too cold; add wool pants, socks, and a hoodie.

2:40PM Husband comments that her room is approximately 90 degrees, and I will be arrested for child endangerment.  I remove the socks.

4:00PM: Baby has a birthday party to attend. Change her into a cute sundress with a tulle skirt and sequined heart decal.

Related Post: 25 Ways You Know You’re a Parent to a Toddler

4:05PM: Husband comments her outfit is perfect…for dancing on a Mardi Gras parade float. I ignore him and add bedazzled sunglasses.

4:28PM: At birthday party, baby mistakes Mickey Mouse cake for stuffed animal and hugs it.  While baby tries to lick her dress clean, change her into the only other thing in the diaper bag: her bathing suit.

5:46PM: Strip baby naked for bath. Baby is happiest she’s been all day.

7:23PM: Change baby into pajamas and put her to sleep. Realize that I have been wearing the same green bean-stained, urine-soaked, cake-covered shirt all day.

This is How Dreams are Shattered

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family1

When Hubby and I were first married and would attend mass on Sundays, we would always find ourselves behind a couple who had five sons. Even though I wanted a big family, I would nudge Hubby every time and say, “FIVE boys…that’s my nightmare…five boys.”

I eventually learned that the mother of these actually very well-behaved five boys had suffered through cancer and lost a leg. My new thought became, “Cancer…that’s my nightmare.”

Five years ago this month, my nightmare became a reality when my five-year-old son was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

In the spring of 2009, I was four-fifths of the way to my perceived nightmare. I had four little boys under the age of six…and I was going out of my mind! Not that I would have ever admitted that to anyone, because, after all, it was my choice to keep having babies. But their energy, their “busy”ness, their movement, everything was becoming overwhelming to me in a way I had never imagined. In the weeks leading up to the diagnosis, my nightly prayers would include, ‘God please, help me, let something change so I can be a better mom.’

Things did change, but in the worst possible way.

The morning of Wednesday, April 22, 2009 was like any typical morning at our house with toaster waffles and Playhouse Disney on in the background. That week, everyone in my house had been sick with a tummy bug, so my nerves were already frazzled. My oldest was still in bed; so I figured it was his turn to be sick, and I let him sleep. While my 15-month-old was busy destroying the house, I was packing lunches for an Earth Day picnic my oldest suggested we take.

It became later in the morning, Playhouse Disney was still on, every kitchen cabinet was emptied, and Lil’ C was throwing tantrums. As I took him upstairs to his bed for his morning nap, I realized that one of my five-year-old twins, Joey, was still in bed. He had been up and been to the bathroom, but had returned to bed. At some point, he had even thrown up on the floor next to his bed.

I attempted to wake him and ask him if he knew he had thrown up on the floor. His answers were slurred and groggy. He couldn’t seem to look at me, and was instead looking off to the left of me. And his body was jerking in a way I had never seen before.

It slowly dawned on me that something was seriously wrong, so I called Hubby at work. Choking back tears, I said to the receptionist, “Can you get him? I think there’s something really wrong with our son.”

He came to the phone right away, and as I described what was going on with Joey, Hubby slowly suggested maybe I should call the pediatrician. I kept talking and kept watching Joey’s vacant stare and jerking body, and I realized, I have to call 911.

The minutes that I waited to hear the sirens approach my house were agonizing, but soon the paramedics arrived and swarmed in – four from the fire truck and two from the paramedic truck- and began to work. First was a barrage of questions for me: Did he have any pre-existing medical conditions? Could he have ingested anything? Had he recently hit his head? Had he recently been ill? The answer to all of their questions was no, except for the last one. They concluded that it was probably a febrile seizure. That brought me temporary relief; but then again, I knew he hadn’t had a fever.

My dad arrived to watch the other boys while they were putting Joey on the stretcher, and I was relieved I could ride in the ambulance with him. I remember thinking I wished I had my camera because Joey would get a kick out of his ambulance ride once he was better.

En route to the local Children’s Hospital, the EMT and I chatted about our kids and preschools until Joey’s seizures became worse, and the sirens were turned on. At this point I knew there was something more seriously wrong with him.

Once at the hospital more questions: Had he hit his head? Yes, I decided to tell them about his hard fall three months earlier at hockey skating lessons. That had to be it, right?

Please let that be it.

He was taken to get a CT scan, and then, in deadpan, the ER doctor said to me, “Well, bad news, it’s a tumor.”

My mind immediately started racing. I could still hear the doctor talking, but it was as if he was at the end of a very long tunnel, and I couldn’t make out anything he was saying. Instead I was thinking, We’re supposed to be on a picnic for Earth Day right now, a picnic Joey planned. We were going to clean up the park. How does a little boy who can plan that have a tumor?

“How does a five-year-old get a brain tumor?” I blurted out. The doctor didn’t respond. He just turned his attention on Joey once again.

I called Hubby at work and blurted the news to him. There was a millisecond pause, as if he was trying to wrap his mind around it before he said, “I’m coming.”

People tend to say that rapid fire, stressful events “were a blur,” but I remember every agonizing moment after this. I remember meeting the neurosurgeon, waiting for the biopsy, the details of Joey’s ICU room, the parade of nurses and residents, the exact way my stomach felt and how my knees buckled under me when we learned his cancer was inoperable, terminal.

This is something no parent sees coming. Three weeks before his seizure, he was a happy, energetic, creative child with a clean bill of health from the pediatrician who had performed his kindergarten check-up. But yet, there were the excruciating headaches he had gotten at least three times, so severe that he had vomited each time. I wrote them off as migraines or allergies and was just getting ready to call the pediatrician about them. Obviously, it wouldn’t have mattered. The surgeon surmised that the tumor had probably been growing shortly after birth.

That day five years ago changed our lives forever. Joey lost his battle to the cancer beast on June 10, 2010, so that “crapiversary” is upon us as well. He was just six years old. I feel like there is less laughter and exuberance in our house. I feel like Joey’s brothers don’t know what to do without him. And sometimes I feel like his dad and I don’t know how to be happy without him.

Three months after Joey died, I found out I was pregnant again. I was scared to have another baby. I didn’t think I would be strong enough to handle it, but I was. In many ways, this little baby has healed us. He is a tiny little Joey reminder for us, and perhaps the answer to my prayers for something to change. Without him, I am certain I would still be in the deep depression that I suffered after Joey’s death, and my family would be even more shattered than it already has been.

I can’t really say if losing Joey has made me a better mother or not. It does make me more conscious of the things that used to trouble me. Messes on the floor, noise, broken toys, lost shoes, and general chaos don’t bother as much anymore. Today, the perfect family is about love and laughter and remembering that we have each other right now, in this moment. I choose to find happiness in small places and instances because those are what really matter. There will always be an ache in my heart where I miss my sweet boy, but I force myself to think positive thoughts about the future. I try to ignore the feeling that the family that grew out of my dreams – the family that was once picture perfect to me – has been shattered irreparably.

6 Unlikely Perks of Motherhood

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Motherhood comes with a ton of hardships like sleepless nights and diaper blow-outs. Fortunately, it also comes with some perks you might not have expected. Obviously, there’s the whole endless love part and hugs and cute baby onesies, but here are a few other benefits that are pretty sweet, too…

1. Tax refunds. Upon my first post-kid visit to TurboTax.com, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the universe (er, well, the government) wanted to monetarily acknowledge all the hard work I’d been doing in the baby maintenance department that year. I typed in my new addition and BAM- I just doubled my tax refund! Of course, it didn’t come close to covering L&D costs, diapers, or my many trips to the therapist (kidding, kind of), but I guess that’s a bone to pick with the insurance company. Yay for totally awesome tax refunds that make life with kids a wee bit more manageable!

2. Blaming your love handles on your last pregnancy. Even if you were pregnant like five years ago, you can totally still blame your undesirable parts on baby-making. Complain about them if you want- “babies ruined my body” or revel in them, but either way, the battle scars and tiger stripes are not your fault!

3. An excuse to get out of pretty much anything. Between nap schedules, lugging a bunch of crap everywhere you go, or dropping half your paycheck on a babysitter, trying to make plans as a parent sucks. Luckily, people with kids can relate. A simple “we don’t have a babysitter” or “Johnny threw up” should be all it takes to get you out of pretty much anything, ever. Your friends who don’t have kids will probably always think that you’re lying, and sometimes you might be, but usually, you just wish you were. Either way, you get to stay home with your wine and PJs because going out is so 2009 (or whenever you decided to have kids).

Related post: 28 Reasons Kids are Awesome

4. It’s almost acceptable that your house is a pig-sty. Unless you have a dear, old cleaning lady named “Urma” who lives in your guest room and is basically a human dust-buster, your house is probably a disaster. It’s okay, mine is too. I try to clean it up but the truth is, I’d have to spend my life nonstop cleaning in order to make my house even mildly resemble something “presentable” and I’m just not prepared to spend every waking moment like that. You shouldn’t either. Life is too short. I have kids and a messy house. Besides, does anyone really care besides my mother?  

5. All of the really delicious kinds of chicken nuggets on the market. There used to be, like, one or two kinds of chicken nuggets in the world. As a kid, I thought they were awesome but they were probably just ground up guts dipped in bread and toxic oil. These days, nuggets are way more adult-friendly and some of them are pretty healthy, too. I just have to make sure I buy enough so I don’t accidentally eat half my kid’s dinner as my own appetizer.

 6. Exploiting your kids for millions of dollars on the internet. I’ve yet to hit the million dollar mark, but there are tons of ways to exploit your kids for financial gain these days! Our generation has the ability to turn even the ugliest of moments into a blog post, a book or at least a Facebook status update worth a few “likes”. But there are tons of outlets for you or your kid to be the next sensation! Toddler having a tantrum? No prob. Just break out the iPhone and YouTube that shit.

See? So many reasons to be thankful for your kids!

Related post: Five Reasons to Have “One More Baby”