Dear Superhero Teachers

My son will go back to pre-school tomorrow. He loved back-to-school night and his new teachers; tomorrow this letter will go to school with him. This is an ode to all the Superhero Teachers out there.
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Dearest Teachers,
We are excited to start this school year. It’s not every day that a kid gets to be in the presence of superheroes. I’ve explained to Jonathan that teachers are heroes, but Mrs. Felicia, Mrs. Virginia and Ms. Rosita are superheroes. You have extra- super powers like super-vision. You not only watch my son you see his potential and what he can become. You see what he can do when others see what he can’t. As if seeing through walls, you see who he really is beyond his behavior.
You have super-hearing too. You can hear the mumbles that frustrate normal ears and hear words. You can hear through the yells and toddler attitude to hear deep desires and heart-cries that are underneath the whines.

Your arms are exceptionally strong. They give a child boundaries and strength while also wrapping them in hugs and love. They reach out with joy while bearing the weight of deadlines, crafts, uncooperative kids and the hopes of parents. They hold up others with the strength of Atlas and raise up the ones who are often marginalized.

Your hands hold tiny ones, guiding them to the bathrooms, guide the glue, wipe noses and spills, give high-fives and open doors to new classrooms and imagination. As they wave and shake the hands of others, we know we are welcome and supported.
Your legs stand firm, bend to the level of tiny ones to get a new perspective, run to make World-Series-worthy catches and serve as the perfect hiding place for reluctant and shy ones to duck behind.

Your hearts are big and hold more than the usual heart. You hold treasures others cannot hold. That is why I am trusting you with my son. I trust you to love him and see his best self, even when it is hard to see.

You can change time! You know that the kids go at our own pace and you don’t rush when we need to slow down. You aren’t constantly checking boxes on what they don’t do yet; you can slow the world down a bit to give a turn to those who are usually skipped.
When you enter your room, you are fighting and persevering. As a mom, I promise to stand by you and offer support. I will remember that there are days that aren’t so super. I will remember you need time alone in your lair to regroup. I’ll remember that you can’t be super all of the time and that we are a team. I will do my best to show my appreciation for your super-powers and for how hard you are working. I will strive to help you remember how super you are and how much power you have. You are changing the world and the life of my child– which is what superheroes do.
Looking forward to the adventure,
Jonathan’s Mom

Bowels and Blasphemy

Warning: This post is potty-humor based. If you do not have a strong stomach, ability to laugh through crappy circumstances and/or have never potty trained anything, just skip this post.

Caveat: I once promised someone that the basis of this blog’s humor would not be boy-function-based. She was trying to protect me from regret that I am sure I will feel later. She later asked me why I don’t write as frequently as I used to and I confesses that most of the humor in my day revolves around body functions. My sons are three and one. If you total their waking moments and combined efforts, potty trips and diaper changing comprises 1/3 of the time they are awake.

Then something happened that is so horrific and terrible that I HAD to tell the story to someone who would sympathize. I was ordered, through gasps and shorts, to let this tale of woe be told to the masses. There is camaraderie there…and everyone should know a new level of disaster assessment has been created.

This is your last chance to back out. There are pictures. You have been warned.

Potty training my son has been a challenging endeavor. As with most little boys, mastering the bowels is more of a challenge and takes more time. While visiting with family this month, I was hopeful that with other adults around we could really reinforce the idea of getting to the potty BEFORE the incident occurs.
Moreover, my mother has a powder room that is the ultimate girly bathroom. The Purple Powder Room has two shades of purple that tie in nicely with a large piece of floral art. It has a purple, gold and amber crystal chandelier. It has good towels. It smells nice. This is where a princess would potty! Except maybe Queen Elsa, due to the shortage of ice caused by it being August in Texas and the sudden popularity of ice-bucket-challenges.

The glory of this bathroom is important to the story, as I love this bathroom. I am surrounded by boys; I can’t think of one non-clothing item in this home that is purple. Wait…one puzzle piece from a color puzzle and one natural lavender-scented cleaner.

This bathroom is a great hiding place as well; it is small, centrally located in the home and allows one to hear everything while remaining hidden.

My son quickly realized the importance of this Fortress of Solitude, as there were 5-10 people in the home at any given moment in addition to a large dog at his eye level.
He quickly began sitting on the potty and telling me, “You go! Go away!” and then assuming his throne. At one point he sat there and read a book for 30 minutes! Soon he began to disappear with his VeggieTales Storybook Bible and flip through while seated until either someone made him move or his rump was numb.

Let there be no mistake; I birth the all-boy kind of male.

Things were all going beautifully until one fateful morning when the younger son required extra attention during a feeding/medication serving. Things were quiet…too quiet. My eyes darted around the room for the sight of blonde hair. He had scurried away to Pop-Pop’s office. A glance at his shorts quickly revealed a tiny damp spot.

I assumed the stance of a mother carrying a messy child to the bathroom. We move hurriedly, carrying our beloved pile of gross as far from our bodies as possible to avoid contact. Moving quickly, we usually run in a wide, squat stance to avoid anything dripping, much as a training athlete runs through tires.

We arrived at the Purple Powder Room a few moments later; the spot was still small. I shucked his pants and big-boy-undees down as quickly as possible with the intent to get him onto the potty.

This is when time slowed down into slow motion.
The boy’s drawers were filled with poop. It was not solid. They were down to about the calf when I started yelling in disgusted horror. Unfortunately, this scared the crap out of him. He started yelling and began to kick in an attempt to get his feet out of the soiled drawers.

The elastic caught on his heel and it sent a splatter pattern across the wall that would cause Jackson Pollock to shudder.
I grabbed the man-cub, who was trying to back up and sit on ME. I held him in the center of the bathroom to keep him from touching anything, using about 1,293 baby wipes. It was then that I looked down and noticed the aftermath.

The VeggieTales Bible had been tossed to the floor. The underwear had landed on it.
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I carefully contained the mess and held that poor, fouled treasure in my hand. A childhood of memories from my beloved VeggieTales stared at me with a grin that somehow looked horrified.

My son got Larry the Cucumber crap-faced.
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A Bible? Really?! Granted, it is a children’s paraphrased book and it was not done on purpose. I VERY carefully and thoroughly cleaned it. Something in me just says you can’t poop on and throw away a Bible. Then the horrible puns started popping into my head. It’s all so very blasphemous. Semi-liquid evil comes from the backsides of children, make no mistake.

The Purple Powder Room is now called the Poopy Purple Powder Room. Mom is seriously considering repainting.

Let it be known, potty training really is a spiritual event. Grace and bathroom cleaners really are amazing.

Mom Math and Medication

I used to say things like, “I’m not good at math”, “My brain can’t process abstract math” and “Can you run through that one more time?” all through my education. Like most kids, I figured everyone either good at math or I wasn’t. Then I discovered different KINDS of math. Geometry was awful, Algebra was easier!

Thanks to Saved By The Bell, I understood the dangers of high pressure math tests.

“Jessie, those pills are dangerous!” “Well, so is geometry!”

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( DO NOT take caffeine pills, even if you are so excited and just can’t hide it.)

When it came to math, I was NOT so excited. Then two math teachers helped it ‘click’ for me. Thanks, Mrs. Abusabi for making me not want to shove a log (xy) in my eye every day. Then Mrs. Bixler brought us to “Pretty Princess” land where math text books were stored next to pink feather boas and suddenly putting letters in equations made perfect sense. Above her chalkboard was a poster (and it is still there) that reads, “When will I use this?” with an explanation.

I knew that one day I’d have to use lots and lots of math. Some of it is typical usage, like calculating after-sale prices, taxes, and family budgeting. One day when I turned 22, all of it clicked and made sense. I want to tell my younger self that it will all be okay.

I realize there is an entirely new kind of math– MOM MATH.

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After birth you start counting seconds, minutes, hours, and days differently. Your mind starts automatically calculating how many hours of sleep you can get or have had as soon as your eyes meet a clock. If Child A goes to sleep at 8pm and wakes at 5 am, Mom can get ideally get 9 hours of sleep. Subtract the two hours it takes to finish housework and prepare for the next day and ideally Mom can receive 6-7 hours of sleep. Excellent! You’re doing great.

Once this is accomplished, you can graduate to algebra level math and add variables. For example, Child B goes to sleep at 8pm and will wake at 5 am, subtracting 2 hours for night routine= 7 hours of ‘imaginary-not-going-to-happen’ sleep remain. Child A goes down for sleep at 8 pm as well. Variant x: it is Friday night during the summer. The teenager next door with wake the children with a loud car at 10 pm. Subtract 1 hour. Randomly, because Mom lives near a military instillation, artillery will fire for 15 minutes at 11:30 pm without warning. * A cannon for a victorious football team celebration can also be substituted. Child A will wake. Child B will sleep but fall out of bed when the wall shakes. Get both children comfortable and subtract 30 minutes. Mom now has an ideal sleep hour total of 7 hours- 1 hour-.5 hour (the same as 1/2. Remember your fractions!)= 5.5 hours. Not bad! Mom should be rested and doing well by dawn, right?

That is when abstract art is added. Mom hasn’t actually gone to bed through these interruptions. It is now past midnight. The baby will likely wake before 5 am. Add in cover-theft, surprise bouts of illness, a 3 am knock on the bedroom door and a whispered, “Elsa! Wanna build a snowman?” and Mom likely gets 3 hours of sleep. This is Mom-Math.

After sleep comes good calculations. None of it matters; the kids will always be hungry until you pay $9 for a restaurant kid meal they won’t eat. Then Mom touches something delicious.

If a Mom has a chocolate bar with 6 pieces and has 2 children, how many pieces should she eat? Answer: ALL of them. How many will she really eat? Answer: NONE. If discovered the children with somehow get the whole thing even when she has evenly divided the bar up between three people. Add the dashed hopes and somehow Mom is in a negative chocolate ratio. A mother’s chances of eating an entire treat without hiding from her children is less than the chance of winning Oregon trail in the 30 minute time your class got to play. Even sports math can’t make that one work.

I am encountering a new area of the Mom-Math discipline: Medicines. I’ll admit, I’ve had to go back to school on this one. My youngest son is amazingly healthy considering the potential for medical problems often associated with Trisomy 21, but after a surgery we are in a bit of a new world. There are many medications that can’t be taken within a certain time of another.

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Back to the clock. Child B will be able to take medications between the hours of 7am-7pm. The thyroid medicine should not be taken within an hour of calcium. For weight gain, he must supplement his food with a calcium-rich formula my G-tube.

4 times a day a stomach coating medicaiton (think Pepto-Bismol) must be taken. This coating will make other medications ineffective. Twice a day another antibiotic must be taken for the surgery site due to a tiny nick and bleeding that is showing beginning signs of infection. At some point a pro-biotic and vitamin should be taken, but not within one of the 4 times the stomach coater is taken. Vitamins should be taken 12 hours apart from thyroid medication. Acid reflux should be taken 30 minutes before evening feeding.

Get the clock out and a Pink Pearl eraser. Here we go.

12 hours/ 4 times a day… take the Pepto every 3 hours.

Feed at 7:00, 12:00 and 5:00. Add vitamins.

Calcium pushes thyroid medicine to 7pm, before bed.

Antibiotics taken at breakfast and dinner, 7:00 and 5:00.

Remaining hours are 9:00, 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00.

Does it fit?

7:00: Food, vitamin, calcium. 9:00: Tummy med 11: Tummy med 12:00 Food and calcium 1:00 Tummy med 3:00 Tummy 4:30 Acid reflux meds 5:00 Food, calcium and antibiotic 7:00 Thyroid

YES!

We do use math every day. It may not be pretty but when you sit down and work the numbers, the awesomeness of a mom really adds up. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hide in a closet to eat a chocolate granola bar.

Measuring a Month

Time; we are run by it, organized through it, sometimes slave to it and changed in it. It’s been a month since I sat at this kitchen table. Much has happened. As I’ve unloaded the suitcases and bins to put away and recognize what we’ve come home with, I find myself doing the same with the contents of my heart. It’s time to measure this month. I’ve spent the past month away from my current home and traveled ‘home’. Simply saying that I am leaving home to go home is a complicated issue anyone who moves every two years understands. That’s the problem when ‘home is where the heart is’.

My home is where my heart is. My heart is scattered all over in the form of memories, belongings, and soul-shapings. I’d wager that yours is too. My heart was growing a bit faint here. The three men I love most dearly and I packed up the van and headed to Texas, where a heart can be truly blessed- even multiple times a day by strangers in the supermarket.

The day before we left I was packing up and confirming appointments when I received a phone call. My younger brother had been in an roll-over accident and might be facing serious brain damage or injury. It would take days to see the full impact. My brother and I have had a firey and wild relationship, but I see much of his face when I look at my 3 year old. Although he is a grown man bearing the marks of his choices now, I can still see the 7 year old version of him inside the car when I see this:

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He was discharged from the hospital that night, declared to be “a walking miracle”. We left that night and drove straight through. Within 48 hours my sister and grandparents were all making the house into a home that was brimming with emotion. How to deal? Literally. We dealt the cards for some Hand and Foot.

When Death and Destruction occur before Hope happens, the loss is even more searing. We grieve for What Is as much as What Could Have Been. That searing, gut wrenching drop in the stomach that leaves you breathless sometimes keeps us from finding words– and shouldn’t.

I stood over him as he sat on his blue bedspread and carefully covered his bleeding and skinned head with gauze. He always said I was the ‘perfect older sister’ who stole the attention and set the standard too high, thereby ruining his life. In that poignant moment, maybe I believed I shared the responsibility. Finished, he slid his Chicago Bulls hat from the 3-Peat over his head. I whispered, “I love you.” He said he loved me too and we hugged. He made a joke about sudden balding before thirty. We laughed and I showed him my hard-earned white hair.
Pain tells us we are still alive. Laughter proves it.

I am still not sure about the condition of his eternal soul, happiness or purpose.

Sometimes just being there and loving someone despite the circumstances is enough. That is when the truth speaks the loudest.

For the next three weeks family did that for my family. There were no evaluations. There was play time. There were pillow fights and discovering pulled-pork slider sandwiches. There were date nights. There was time with friends and precious conversations while leaning over the kitchen counter.

Halfway through the trip we came home from a great Sunday morning at church. My mother commented that the boys were joyful. I realized that it had been two weeks since anyone had made a comment about Down Syndrome, delayed speech, or manners.

Sometimes we need people to dress our wounds without mentioning them.

So how to measure a month?

We measure it in life.

My brother has been recovering, working, and living ‘One Day At A Time’ for 32 days.

A new baby will be born into the family in January. My sister’s beautiful belly is growing, perfectly rounded.

Meals together…and coffee with Grandpa.

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16 mornings on the porch

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Dozens of pillow fights

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Four new molars

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Lots of tractor rides

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HOURS of potty training

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Black eyes and great memories

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Thousands of giggles and belly laughs

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Hundreds of new milestones to celebrate

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Perhaps most importantly, just appreciation of life and the little things.

Putting the TIRED in retired

Look, this is the internet. It’s a blog. It’s about time I told you about the little part of my crazy life that involves my mother in law. Go ahead and settle in. This is a good one.

People, I have known this woman for 8 years. In that time and in my presence she has endured  trials so epic that they have family names like “The Tenaha Breakdown”, “The Great Hurl-fest of 2007”, “The 15 people Christmas”, etc. This Sunday we will be driving across the nation, so stay tuned. We will probably be stuck at a truck stop with a broken down bus-load of Elvis impersonators or something that y’all say “only happens to me”. Those who think that are oh, so very wrong. Well, this woman was finally able to RETIRE this year from a school district in Houston. Happy day! We celebrated by promptly invading her home with the grandchildren she longed to see.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

Within 48 hours her house was a sea of humanity all asking questions like, “Where will everyone sleep?” “Can I eat a fourth thingy of yogurt?” “What is that smell?” etc. There was a lot of love…noisy, fun, family love.

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One sister in law and family of 6 just completed a move to Texas. Their AC and washing machine were not working. In the middle of that they came to visit, trying to tackle Mount Saint Laundry with a gaggle of kids running about.

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Around this time the dishwasher broke. It is still broken, two weeks later.

As long as things were going to be loud and exciting, we decided to do something that would only be possible about once a decade; to take a full family picture of all 19 of us.

ALL 19. 11 children ranging from 20 months to 21 years old at 6 pm on a Sunday, when the temperature actually drops to 9 degrees cooler than the surface of Mercury. The amazing photographer assured me that photo-shopping my children’s faces into a group shot would be possible. Bless her.

This was two hours afterward.

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This was surely an amazing undertaking. The Lord seemed to agree, because the lights started to flicker.

When the house finally emptied of all the guests a few days later the home let out a mighty sigh and gave in. After over two decades of lighting up their lives, the downstairs breaker died. Lots of people blow a fuse when family comes to visit, but this breaker took the phrase literally. Of course, this happened in the middle of the night so that my in-laws woke up to a non-working breathing machine, no electricity and NO AIR CONDITIONING in July in Houston Texas.

Sequestered to the upstairs of their house, my mother in law finally tried out the phenomenon of not going to work in a house that was dark and around 85 degrees at all times. Without electricity, fixing the dishwasher wasn’t an option. Let’s get intense for a second.

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Where to find solace? With the grandkids, of course! She then drove to north Houston to watch 5 grandkids for 3 days to allow for a couple’s trip and some mission-work fundraising. While this sounds fun, after three days it is exhausting for anyone, even with Nonna-magic.

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She was released from this duty Saturday afternoon only for me to arrive back in her home with the kids in tow. After doing a load of laundry and packing a bag, she sat on a cool tile floor with me as I nursed the baby through a fever and consoled him on his 4, yes FOUR new molars.

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This woman is stupendous. I’d like to note that my father in law made a run for M&Ms and Whataburger at this point. God bless that man.

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Surely, SURELY a day of rest was deserved and in her future, right? No. I packed this woman up, trapped her in a car with two boys under age 4 and took her on a road trip across the country that lasted for two days. This meant sleeping with two kids in a hotel. For those without young children, hotels are the 6th circle of Dante’s Inferno. The hotel key cards should read, “Abandon All Hope”. For the record, this was the same Mississippi hotel where we saw the Hell’s Angels and Dog the Bounty Hunter.

We drove through two days of rain and crying to reach my home late on Monday. I trust she slept well that night. I think she said something about a glorious dream of being back to work…

So how do you reward such a woman for not only raising and letting your beloved husband live, but for doing all these things? You celebrate her birthday with her. You buy that woman a massage at the spa. You give her a date night with her son at a great restaurant where she receives dirty looks from a woman who incorrectly assumes she is a ‘cougar’. (Where’s Freud when you need him?)

Here’s to  you, retired folks. Perhaps the hardest job really is the one you aren’t being paid to do.

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A Grand Pool Party

Becoming grand changes people. It goes to their heads, warps their personalities and makes them into totally different people. Case in point; becoming grand changes parents. Grandparenting is totally different than parenting.

For example, today we had an interesting family moment. My firstborn clearly wanted to swim in the wading pool. He went outside, grabbed the pool, dragged the water hose to it and said, “Okay! You do it!” However, at that moment the 32 oz drink from Whataburger would no longer fit in my 3 oz bladder. I dashed into my room declaring that I would promptly return with swimming trunks in hand. Bonus: I count tinkle without supervision on the same trip!

When I returned outside, my father was watering the flowers with the hose my son had handed him. This was a sure sign that the pool had already been filled. This also dramatically increased the probability that my son was in the pool.

This wasn’t a crazy idea. The previous morning when I said a morning shower was on the to-do list, he escaped the patio, opened the door to the outside and decided to take matters into his own hands.

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I, the PARENT, calmly took him into the house, shucked his wet clothes and bathed him. His GRANDPARENTS laughed and took pictures.

I prepared to face the unknown. My sister was between me and the pool, so I sighed to her, “Tell me my son is not sitting in the pool fully clothed.”

“Oh no. He is just in a Pull-Up!” she assured me with a grin.

I turned the corner to the house and saw my bathing beauty having a wonderful time. He stood up and showed me a bottom half that resembled Donald Duck’s. Dang it.

My father then turned to me with exciting news. Now, my father is the least expressive of our clan so about 90% of all good news is shared with a poker face.

“Guess what your son said for the first time!” My son is a late talker, so anything discernible to another adult is exciting. I raised my eyebrows in excited anticipation.

“He said, ‘I pooped!’ and he most assuredly had” my father informed me, expressionless. I turned back to see the Pull-Up filled to capacity. There was no point to asking my father why he woudl do such a thing. He is a wonderful teacher and indulger but when it comes to bathroom issues one thing is clear: I am the Mom. He is not to be trusted. This is the same man who was in charge of making sure my son remained seated on the potty a few days earlier while I changed the baby’s very dirty diaper. My father got up from his evening ice cream and news watching ritual to supervise. When I returned the bathroom my father was crouching over my son and feeding him spoonfuls of ice-cream to encourage his excellent sitting.

My father is hence-forth fired from dootie-duty.

Apparently I should not have been surprised. I turned back to the toddler.

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“Did you go poop?” I asked my three year old in the mom-tone. My son looked at me with an expression that plead the fifth.

Waterlogged drawers are the worst excuse for a floatation device toddlerhood has to offer. I went over to my son and removed a bloated microbe-filled floatie. Naturally, he splashed his nudey-bootie right back into the water before I could clean him.

My kid brought poo to the pool party.

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After emptying the pool, rinsing it with soap and throwing away the evidence, both boys could finally swim in the pool.

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Just the basic steps to an outdoor pool party with toddlers, right Yep. Pretty much. I’m not sure who is harder to train– toddlers or grands.