When I was pregnant with Andrew, my mom told me that being a mom would make me a better teacher. She said it would help me relate better to the students. What she never mentioned was how it would help me relate to the parents. Maybe that went without saying. I’m not sure.
What I know is that I used to be a pretty harsh critic. I had opinions on everything. Well, in fairness I still do. It’s just that being a mom has also opened up a great big world of other opinions, different opinions, contrasting opinions… you get the idea.
Old me: “My child will NEVER use a pacifier.”
Mom me: “Unless of course it’s the only way they stop screaming.”
Old me: “My child will NEVER use hand-me-downs.”
Mom me: “Holy crap why on earth not? Have you seen some of this stuff? It’s freakin’ awesome. And free!”
The list goes on– no creepy dinosaurs, no cartoons, no french fries, no indoor playgrounds. It all kinda goes out the window. Some of it against my will (indoor playgrounds are just gross, french fries unhealthy) but other things I had to be willing to change my mind about.
And then Andrew started school. And whoa I feel bad for every judgment I ever made against parents as a teacher.
See for the life of me I could never understand how any parent would send their kid to school with food on their face, unbrushed teeth, unbrushed hair, an untucked shirt, a shirt with a stain on it, mismatched socks, no belt, missing homework, missing permission slip, no lunch. I was harsh. I see that now. The sad truth is I’m not the only one like this. I’m willing to bet that if your kid’s teacher is not a parent he or she has also thought some pretty rotten stuff about you too.
I wish I could go back and apologize. Maybe this can be my apology.
Today I sent Andrew to school with his shoes on the wrong feet. His hair wasn’t brushed either but then again it’s hard to tell when his hair is brushed. We had a rough morning. He was distracted by every toy from his bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen to the car (toys mind you, that I should have put away last night but that’s for another post) and we were running late. It never even occurred to me to check to make sure he’d put his shoes on correctly. My friends were quick to assure me that this was no big deal and that teachers had seen far worse. This, I can’t deny. I sent my kid to school with funky shoes but with a full belly and a kiss on the cheek and an “I Love You” for the road. So life isn’t all that bad. But I’m not just a mom. I’m a teacher mom. I’m supposed to know better, right? The old teacher me would have kindly helped the child fix his shoes and then wondered silently how that kid’s parents let him out of the house that way. It made me realize that the old teacher me needs to stop after the helpful part, nix the judgment part and realize that the parents of my students are parents just like me and we’re all just doing the best we can. Those little things mean the morning was rough or the kid was uncooperative or mom was in a hurry or overslept because she is working 3 jobs but not that the child is unloved or the parent irresponsible.
I’ve come to realize that getting older means accepting when you’re wrong and learning to change your mind. And really, what better lesson is there than that to teach our kids? Mom was wrong. It’s okay. The world didn’t stop spinning on its axis. Life goes on. You grow up, you get smarter, you realize that those little details matter far far less than you thought they did and you live to fight another day…. though hopefully with your shoes on the right feet.
I don’t know if it’s just that I’m more tuned into it but it seems like there has been a rash of anti-kid news lately. If it’s not someone getting angry looks for breastfeeding in public it’s airlines and restaurants contemplating “kid-free” areas and times of day. Now I know as well as anyone that a bratty kid can ruin a perfectly nice meal but that is beside the point. This isn’t really a diatribe on why these people are wrong, no this is a simple story to illustrate one of the many reasons why I think being a parent is all worth it.
Yesterday afternoon I was folding laundry and putting it away- a typical Monday afternoon. I walked into the closet and put away some socks in a drawer and for whatever mindless reason, I left the drawer open. So after bending down to put away a pair of shoes I stood up suddenly and *CRACK* my head slammed directly into the corner of the drawer. Now I’m not one to yell out in pain. Not even while laboring to 8cm without an epidural (that never really fully worked) during my last childbirth. But the sound that escaped my lips at that moment is something I’m quite certain could be heard 3 houses down.
Hubby and Andrew came running and thankfully no words were necessary to explain what happened. Crumpled on the floor, clutching my head, and glancing briefly at the still open drawer were all that was necessary to explain what happened. Hubs quickly assessed the situation and it struck me in that moment that he would have made a great doctor though now after consideration I realize that his ability to stay calm and cool under pressure is what makes him great at just about everything he does.
“Are you bleeding?” He asks.
“I don’t think so.” I reply as I remove my hands from the spot they had been clutching to reveal that yes, I was in fact bleeding quite a bit.
Andrew, who had just been watching this unfold darts off into his bathroom and retrieves his box of beloved Buzz and Woody band-aids, a box which inspired a string of delightfully creative manifestations of pain and discomfort on his part when he first got them. The same box which also inspired a rule in our house, “you don’t need a band-aid unless there’s blood.” Well he’d heard an utterance of the magic word and he was off to save the day.
Frantically ripping open band-aid after band-aid he took each one and inquired repeatedly on where he could put it to help make me feel better. He wanted desperately to fix my head for me. Finally, after opening at least 5 or 6 band-aids he found what he was looking for.
“Look Mommy! I found you a Jessie one. You like Jessie because she’s a girl and you’re a girl.”
Proud and certain that he could now fix me, he insisted that he must put the band-aid on me somewhere. I offered my hand, not quite willing to offer him a place on my head and hair for the sticky bandage. He was hesitant about putting it in the “wrong spot” but stuck the Jessie band-aid confidently on my hand.
“There, you feel better now, Mommy?”
But it was more a statement than a question. He did for me what I have done for him. The funny thing is, in that moment I did feel better even if I was still seeing stars.
Later that evening we went to dinner. I opened his door and unbuckled the bottom latch of his carseat which is still too tough for him to release on his own. He took my hand as we walked across the parking lot. He glanced down at the band-aid and finally addressed his concern.
“Mommy, how does it help your head if it’s on your hand?”
Good question little dude. Can’t fool you, can I?
“Well,” I replied, “When I look down at my hand I see it and it makes me think about how much I love you.”
“Oh Mommy, I really really love you.”
He smiled and squeezed my hand as I often do with his. He took on the role of mommy when mommy needed it and he expressed a love and concern so genuine that it could make anyone forget any problem in the world. I think it’s simple stories like this, of which I have hundreds, that are why people have kids in the first place. Sure there are long nights, gobs of laundry, butts to wipe, appointments and classes and trips to the zoo in the 100 degree summer heat but in the end it’s the little moments that make it all worth it.
A few months ago, I was watching an Oprah episode on happiness. I didn’t see the whole thing but I recall a part of it where the guest explained that when you buy something new, the happiness surrounding that purchase only lasts 9 months. This was an interesting thing to hear because it seemed surprisingly accurate. Think of all the things you *have* to have and think about how you feel about them several months later. I own very few things that still make me as happy now as the day I bought them. In any case, the guest’s point was that memories make happiness last much longer. In fact he explained that you get more bang for your buck to spend money making memories than buying actual things. That point has really stuck with me.
So last weekend, when our family plans to watch the space shuttle launch went awry (think, 12:30am email summons to a 9am meeting on the wrong side of the state) I knew I had a choice to make. And laying in bed at 2am discouraged and angry that our plans had once again been foiled by work, I got the sudden urge to go anyway– to go on my own.
Now for some people this would have seemed like a most logical solution but I was at the time 32 weeks pregnant and I do not like driving in the dark (don’t see well). Nor is it anywhere within the distant reaches of my comfort zone to do things like that alone. But at that moment somewhere in the wee hours of the morning I decided it would be an adventure I had to attempt and that no way was my son going to miss the last launch of the space shuttle on account of me being a coward.
So I got dressed and put Andrew in the already loaded car. I set the GPS and off I went… on 2 hours of sleep… across the state for what was only a 20% chance of liftoff. The drive was quiet minus my nearly 3 year old chatterbox in the back seat who despite my urging, had no intention of going back to sleep. We were doing pretty well until I noticed we were getting low on gas. After pulling off at 5 consecutive exits and not finding an open gas station anywhere (it was around 4am) I started to panic. Long story short, we made it to a gas station, driving 15 miles on “zero miles left”. Talk about guardian angels! That plus some serious bumper to bumper traffic near the space center really had me rattled and convinced I had made a very very stupid choice to attempt this so called adventure.
But then something changed.
I had been on the phone with A for a while when Andrew asked to talk to daddy. I handed him the phone in the back seat just as the first glimmers of dawn approached and the sky lightened slightly enough that one could see a few of the details of our surroundings. Andrew yammered away, telling A about all sorts of fantastical things when suddenly he caught sight of what I believe is a full scale model of a shuttle along the side of the road. Grasping for words he pointed and shouted into the phone, “Daddy, Daddy! It’s a… it’s a… it’s a HOLY MOLY space shuttle!”
And I realized at that moment he would not forget this experience.
Upon our arrival to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, I got Andrew out of his pajamas and dressed. I loaded up our backpack with as much as I could carry and grabbed his hand. I knew we would need chairs and perhaps even our cooler but I knew more than anything I wanted my hands free to keep a tight hold on Andrew as we headed into a mass of humanity and that meant sacrificing chairs. We were so lucky to find my mother in law and brother in law quickly and I breathed a sigh of relief to have help. We met up with the rest of A’s family and started our 2 hour wait to board the bus to the launch site. I’ll admit that at this point the exhaustion was started to get to me– and it was only around 7am. Finally we made it to the launch site and set up a little camp where thankfully, the others had brought chairs and were kind enough to let me sit on one. We got breakfast and the wait started but I’ll be the first to say, 3 hours passed very quickly and the anticipation started to build as with each passing minute it seemed more and more likely that the shuttle would in fact, launch. Andrew kept asking when we were going to go to see the shuttle and I knew explaining it to him was useless as he had no real concept of what he was going to see. Instead I told him he just had to keep on waiting, we’d see it soon.
Twenty minutes to go turned into 5 minutes to go and then a brief delay at 31 seconds accompanied by the word “failure” caused a great groan to roll throughout the 45,000 some odd people waiting along the shore of the river across from the launch pad. But quickly the countdown started again and I didn’t have to tell Andrew where to look, for as soon as the bright golden fire appeared radiant on the horizon he let out a gasp of glee and he continued to giggle in the most lighthearted childish tone until the shuttle had long left the Earth’s atmosphere. I didn’t need to explain what had happened. In that moment he knew and he knew it was something truly special. In those moments, between his glee and my own tears of joy I knew it was something truly special too. The first shuttle launched just 12 days before I was born. I watched, at the age of 5 in horror as the Challenger exploded. I watched other launches in the school yard with the rest of my classmates hoping to be one of the first to glimpse the orange dot as it crossed over the state. I remember where I was when I heard about Colombia. I watched the first night launch on TV. I once wanted to be an astronaut and I knew then that even the word “special” didn’t do the event justice. We had just witnessed history. It wasn’t just special, it was monumental.
The rest of the day was something of a blur and Andrew managed incredibly well considering that he’s 2 and had had only slightly more sleep than I had. We saw some of the sites at the Visitor Center and had ice cream before walking, exhausted and sticky with sweat and dirt back to the car. We headed north to Daytona Beach and somewhere in the middle of describing for perhaps the dozenth time that hour, about how the shuttle went “up, up, up in the sky into outer space with FIRE (and fire’s hot so you can’t touch it!)” Andrew fell fast asleep and I knew it didn’t matter how tired or hot or uncomfortable I was, it was completely without a doubt worth it.
A joined us that evening and the next day we drove to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse where all three of us (no make that *four* of us) climbed to the top. We went and enjoyed lunch at a cute restaurant along the Intercoastal and then, dressed in regular clothes, we stopped at the beach where we let Andrew run around in his clothes and get completely soaked in the ocean tide and covered in sand– something I can say with absolute certainty, my parents would NEVER have let me do. And all I could think the whole time was, I hope he remembers this. I hope he remembers these moments– these simple experiences of running in the surf, of climbing the steps of a lighthouse and viewing the world from the top, of watching one of the greatest technological feats of our time. I hope that long after he outgrows the t-shirt and eats his astronaut ice cream and forgets about his plastic space shuttle, that what he has left is even more precious and even more significant. I hope he remembers.
Before I was a mother, I was a teacher. Technically, before I was a wife, I was a teacher too. For the last 7 years a huge part of my life has been my career. I spent 3 of those years and a large sum of money earning my Master’s degree in the field of education. I devoted most of my waking thoughts and sometimes my dreams to teaching. I used to resent it when people would say things like, “Wow, you’re a special education teacher, that takes a special person.” I wondered if they were mocking me. Now I realize that the sentiment I once resented is actually true. I learned this after spending years around other teachers. I realized that yeah, it’s true, it takes a person with a lot more patience than most of the human population can muster– and sadly, quite a few other teachers too. So I’m far from perfect as a teacher. I make mistakes, I worry about them. I go home and lay awake at night and think of ways to fix my methods. I have been told that’s what makes me good at what I do. I feel connected to my job and my students. I feel a sense of duty to give them the best I’ve got. I feel a sense of devotion to the Lord for guiding me to teaching. It’s not something I could ever just give up.
So next year when I’m not a teacher anymore I have to wonder a little bit about what will happen.
Oh it will start the same. Friday is the last day of school and I’ll finish cleaning up my classroom and spend a good 4-5 hours working on files and paperwork. Then I’ll tackle the remaining to-dos on my seven page list. And I’ll pack up my stuff and I’ll go home. I’ll spend the summer taking Andrew to swimming lessons, and gymnastics, and art class, and violin. I’ll keep on tutoring my very favorite student of all time and life will seem pretty normal.
Until August that is.
When I should be hitting up the stores for the best deal on bulk school supplies I’ll instead be buying school supplies for just one, my own one. When the first day of school rolls around I’ll be sitting at home, or I don’t know, maybe having a baby since past precedent suggests my kids like to come at the least opportune times . But I won’t be in the classroom. And as freeing and exciting as that feels, it’s also quite scary. Who am I if I’m not a mom wife and teacher? What does it mean to be a mom and a wife? I know people resent the term “just” a mom as much as I once resented the other phrase but I can’t help but seeing it that way. Is this what I want? Yes. I know that it is. After all, it’s only a year and I will get to put my children first. I will get to put my husband first. I will get to truly become good at being a wife and mother, something I’ve felt that despite my best intentions always fell short because I had to balance it with a career. But I am not satisfied to “only” do what’s easy and please don’t hate me my fellow SAHMs but being a working mom is ridiculously difficult, and crap I only have one child! I know plenty of people who have MORE than one and they are running all over the place to soccer practice and whatnot. Yes, it’s harder than staying home in many many different ways. (Not trying to start anything here but think about ALL the things that have to get done during the course of the week. Now remove 40+ hours and try to still get it all done.) What will it feel like to pour all my efforts into my 1 (WOW 2) children? What about the other 20 back at school? Am I letting them down? Have I BEEN letting my own child down? I’ve never been satisfied unless I’m splitting at the seams with stuff on my plate. In high school it was 3 sports and 2 musical ensembles plus being an officer in a club or two. After college it was working 80 hours a week in 2 jobs. When I had a newborn I was also taking graduate classes and then working full time along with it. I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t know life any other way. I don’t know, maybe it will be a lot harder than I think. But I get a taste of SAHMamma-hood every summer and I don’t really think so. Maybe having 2 will be overwhelmingly difficult. I don’t know.
So these are some of the things I’ve been thinking about the past couple months since I made the decision to stay home. My students still don’t quite understand that I’m not coming back right away. They ask me about the things we’ll do next year (I teach the same kids for 2 years before they move on). It breaks my heart to slide around the true answer. But it melts my heart to tell Andrew I’ll be home for him, that I’LL be the one who he spends his days with now. That I’ll take him to school and pick him up; that I’ll go on field trips with HIM and not 20 others. That I’ll make real dinners for my family instead of whatever is fastest and easiest. That I’ll finally stay on top of the laundry and not drown in piles of clean but unfolded clothes.
I want to grow a garden, and decorate our new house, and try new recipes, and find the creative soul who once resided in my body, who has been shoved aside for lack of time, lack of energy and lack of patience that gets all used up during the school day. I have a vision of the person I want to be. I’ve just never given her a chance to make her way out… at least not for a really long time. And I’m sure that 22 year old and this 30 year old are pretty different people.
So who am I right now? I’m still a teacher, after all that never stops and let’s face it, my kids will never get away from it. I’ll be here teaching Andrew to read, and to speak using grammatically correct sentences, and to write his name and alphabet. I’ll teach our little newbie his/her (it’s a secret!) first words and watch his/her first steps and all the firsts many of which I missed before. Maybe I’m a little afraid of how easy it just may be to forget everything about the career and fall head over heels in love with being “just” a mom. Maybe I’ll discover more about myself than I ever thought possible on this year long journey.
In the mean time, I’m hanging up my career woman hat. I’m pulling out my flip flops, my sunscreen and my mamma bag filled with stickers and bubbles and an extra pair of Buzz Lightyear underwear. I’m packing up a cooler and I’m taking my son on a picnic. Because that’s something moms do and for the first time in my life, that’s what I am. No more, no less.
I’m a firm believer in finding answers. I never take “I don’t know” as a response from my students or myself for that matter. When my students ask me a question I don’t know the answer to I look it up, usually right then and there. I’ve come to love the Internet for its vast expanse of knowledge. It frustrates me when I can’t find what I’m looking for but having spent thousands of hours doing web research for school or just myself I know that most if it’s out there.
And I’m a firm believer in giving good answers to kids, too. A friend of mine recently commented on a commercial, I think for McDonalds, where a parent was giving their child a bizarre and blatantly wrong, totally off the wall explanation of where food comes from. Why is the real answer so difficult to explain to kids? (“It grows on a farm.” Yeah, now that’s a difficult thing to grasp… come to think of it, McDonalds food probably does require a longer and more complex answer since it’s not actual food) Doesn’t it take a lot more energy to make up a stupid response than it does just to give the right one? And for goodness sake, with the Internet at our fingertips, literally attached to most of us (in the form of a phone) at all times, if we don’t know the answer why on earth can’t we look it up?
So the other day, Andrew asked me where the sun went at night. Immediately I thought about the answer most kids would get– “the sun is sleeping”. But then what happens in preschool when the topic comes up again and all of the sudden the whole “sleeping” thing is proven to be what it is– a load of crap. So I thought about it for a second and I told him that the sun was giving light to the other side of the earth. He repeated me verbatim with a very inquisitive tone in his voice. And the teacher in me couldn’t resist the urge to elaborate.
“Yes Andrew, the sun is very very far away in outer space.”
“Oh, outer space, yes! That’s where rockets go! 5, 4,3,2,1 BLAST OFF!!” (I have no idea where he learned this but he did have a concept of space)
“The sun is very big too, it just looks little because it’s so far away.”
“Do you know what else is in space? The moon and stars and comets and other planets.”
Now, I realize he didn’t fully understand all this but it opened a whole dialogue that would be completely lost with a vague and ridiculous answer. He must have been thinking about it too because he asked me about it again today since it was raining. This time though, I asked him why he couldn’t see the sun and he thought about it for a little while and then answered, “because the clouds are hiding it.” I didn’t explicitly tell him this in the other conversation but he figured it out. It’s moments like that that make me so proud to be his mom and make me wonder why anyone would think the wrong answer would serve a better purpose. Maybe that’s why kids in this country are so lacking in science skills.
Funny thing is that I know my few readers will agree with me here, and the people who maybe should read this and give it a little thought won’t (because I don’t know those people) but in general I think we can all do a little better about giving our kids the accurate answers to things. They really do understand a lot more than we give them credit for.
I guess results in the same outcome– nothing.
I have had so much to say for so long and yet never find the time or display the decision making ability to sit down and actually pick a topic and blog. I have many friends with blogs and they are so good about updating. Guess I could make it my new year’s resolution to blog more but truth be told, I don’t really believe in resoultions.
So instead I decided to pick a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a really long time and that’s to discuss the work outside the home vs stay at home mom dilemma. I’ve probably mentioned it before but it’s interesting how life’s twists and turns take ordinary decisions and help you find more focus and clarity when you least expect it.
I won’t lie. Some days I hate working. Hear what I’m saying. I hate WORKING. I don’t hate my job or my students or my colleagues or getting up early or any of that. I hate leaving the house while my son is still asleep and knowing that he is growing up and learning new things and exploring the world and I’m not there to see it.
And I think the reason I’ve decided to talk about this particular topic now instead of the 1000s of others I could have picked that have strayed across my brain over the last few months, is because the decision to continue working outside the home after having a child is particularly trying after a holiday or break. I just got to spend 2 weeks reminding myself about what I miss when I’m at work.
So the easy answer is, “If you want to stay home so badly, then just quit.” But it’s no where near as simple as that. For one thing I just spent 3 years and a lot of money earning my Master’s degree in education. I think I owe it to myself and my family who made many sacrifices for me to actually USE my degree.
The other thing is that in the world today, with the economy such that it is, I could not fathom being able to justify leaving a good job with health benefits, quote frankly, no matter how bad it is (which it’s not). There are too many people without jobs for me to just up and leave.
So I come to the conclusion that I reach over and over and over again every time I let my head go to this space where I have this debate in my mind. I have decided that when it comes down to it, really comes down to it, I’m good at what I do. And leaving my job would be selfish. So I would get to spend time with Andrew, so I could stop feeling guilt about not being there. At school, I get kids who can’t read and I help them read. I’m not a miracle workers but I’ve seen enough to feel like I am doing something. I am making a difference. I mean heck, if you are going to leave your child for the day you sure as hell better be doing something worthwhile, right? I guess I just decided that my students need me more than Andrew needs me. And that’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes when I miss him so terribly during the day but this is what I have chosen. And I respect all those moms who have chosen to leave careers to stay at home with their kids. It’s an admirable thing to do. But for now it’s not for me. Not when I have 20 other kids who need me too. If I sound a little defensive it’s because I get the looks from the SAHMommy crowd. I’ve heard the subtle jabs at my decision to work. I’ve felt the unspoken pressure and the guilt guilt guilt. I’ve heard argument that staying home is soooo much harder (Um… no, it’s not. I still have the same amount of crap to do at home and 40 hours less to do it). And I’ve come to the realization that people can say “to each her own” all they want but that sometimes it comes across in such a mildly transparent way I feel like shaking them and saying, “Go ahead, tell me how you really feel!” I wish people would be a little more respectful of my decision. Sadly, the people who have made me feel this way won’t even read this since they’re not my friends.
In the meantime, I just have to jam as much as I can into the few hours I get with Andrew when I’m home from work. I guess in the end it’s the quality of the time you spend together more than the quantity. And when I have a hard time believing that myself, I just look at my calendar and remind myself that there’s just 92 days until summer, and I get to be full time Mommy again.
When I was planning Andrew’s nursery, I had this idea that I needed tons and tons of crib sheets. We ended up getting 5 of the same sheet. (As it turns out this is completely unnecessary– 2 are needed, 3 tops). So what to do with the extra sheets? Well I asked my mother in law, who can sew anything, to make us a pillowcase out of the extra sheet. Not to discredit her sewing skills but I imagine this is a pretty easy project and one that I might have even attempted on my own were it not for the fact that I knew my mother in law would do a much better job. They don’t sell pillow cases for babies because, obviously, you’re not supposed to use pillows in the crib but Andrew is certainly old enough for a pillow now and furthermore, when we convert to a toddler bed, there will be no need to purchase a new sheet set. Yay! So new or expectant moms, when you purchase your child’s crib set, buy an extra sheet to turn into pillowcases and save yourself from buying a whole new set later on just to get a pillow case that matches!
Today is a kind of ironic day.
You see, this blog has evolved into not your average mommy blog because I talk a whole lot (in the earlier entries) about being a teacher and I’m a special education teacher so it has that twist to it too… but I’m not trying to sell my blog to you. No it’s just interesting because today was the first day of school and I met my new crop of awesome kids who struggle with learning disabilities. Each new year starts as a challenge but one I feel more and more equipped to handle. I’m love my job because it’s not a job, it’s a ministry. I was called to do this and so I do.
I love my students. I love the challenge of finding new ways to meet their needs. If you don’t know much about learning disabilities let me just explain quickly that kids with LD have a normal to above average intelligence. We’re not talking about a low IQ here (although some do have a lower IQ to us it’s just a number). It’s just that strictly speaking, Special Education (or Exceptional Student Education as it is referred to in my certification) covers two types of children– those like my students…
… and those like my son.
Today I took Andrew for his 2 year check up. He’s 35 3/4 inches tall, weighs 29 pounds and has officially met all his 2 year old milestones and most of his 3 year old ones. You read that right. My doctor said that essentially I have a 3 year old and that in his years of practice he’s only ever met one other child who was as advanced as Andrew is right now. And as a parent I’m not going to say I’m sad to hear it but I’m not doing a happy dance either. I’m kinda taking a deep breath and a step back and realizing that as much as it’s totally awesome to hear that right now, I also know that if his learning trend continues as it is currently, we will have challenges ahead, too. We will come to see the other side of special education.
Some parents pray for a healthy child, or a strong child, or a beautiful child. Well I prayed for healthy but I also prayed for intelligent not because I would have loved him any less if he were to be in any way challenged but because we strongly value education and want the same opportunities for him as we had ourselves. But there is also this other side of it because as a parent first of all, no one wants to hear about the challenges of raising a smart child so there’s not a whole lot of people I can ask for advice. In fact some times it’s hard to be around other kids his age because I worry people think we are showing off. People routinely think he’s older than he really is because he carries on full conversations, orders his own meals at restaurants, says his complete alphabet, counts past 10, recognizes his name in writing and has a shockingly good memory. I’m proud of him but it makes for some awkward moments at times since most completely normal 2 year olds don’t do all these things. But the bigger question is what do we do with school? I’ve been told by more than one professional that we need to start thinking seriously about his education. We have already picked a preschool which he’ll start next year (yikes!) but will it be enough? Our pediatrician told us today that he’ll be the kid in first grade who’s bored out of his mind and I know full well that a bored child is not a happy (or well behaved child). So I guess right now the thing to do is digest the info we’ve been given and try to find the next step. I’m so proud of my little guy but I always knew he’d keep me on my toes. I want to be able to give him everything he needs and commit as much of my effort to his education as I do my students.
It’s Birthday MONTH here in our house and everywhere I look there are reminders of the wonderful birthday celebration we held for Andrew on Saturday. We decided to have it a little early since his birthday will likely always be the weekend before school starts.
Here are some pictures from his party, as well as his professional 2nd birthday pictures.
The Elmo Cake (made by me)
As usual I have not updated in quite some time and as usual I accept the fact that I have very few, if any readers and this documentation is more for me than anything.
We just got home after an 11 day road trip with an almost 2 year old. I have heard the comments already, especially from the people who, before we left, told us point blank that we were crazy. I am so pleased to say that crazy or not, Andrew is a total trooper and born traveler.
Day 1: It started on Thursday the 15th of July. We spent the early morning packing and loading the car, A’s Prius, with all our stuff. We stopped at my mom’s house for Andrew’s swimming lesson and then we were on our way. Our first stop was Gainesville to go to the ever important Starbucks but then it was back on the road, headed north to the town of Moultrie, GA. Why Moultrie you ask? Well, don’t worry, I was asking the same thing. A’s company works with another company that is based there. While A had a meeting, Andrew and I checked out the Dollar Store and Walmart. Our trip was off to a blazing start :-/ Just when we had worn out our welcome in the toy department I got the text that the meeting was over. Can I just say that the Disney Pixar marking team has done a thorough job of placing Buzz and Woody on every single item known to man. Yes, thanks for that.
In typical A fashion the meeting was not entirely over so we killed 45 more minutes playing in the conference room before hitting the road again. By that time it was close to dinner time. I’d packed a cooler of fruit and sandwiches so we could avoid nasty fast food which we no longer eat. It was actually nice to keep moving and not have to really stop and since we were in the Prius, we really did not have to stop very frequently. That night we stayed in Savannah, GA.
Day 2: With the intention of spending some time sight seeing, we woke early the next morning and headed straight for the historic district of Savannah.
A and I visited there about 5 years ago when we were on our way home from the “Rescue Mission” (A getting out of the Air Force and moving home). We loved the city, especially a rather large candy store right along the river. We enjoyed chocolate covered marshmallows while Andrew had his first taste of chocolate anything besides cake. He got a chocolate covered graham cracker which is where I realized that traveling is a time for spoiling children and while it may not have been the best precedent to set, we sure loved watching him eat that chocolate with the biggest grin on his face!
Savanna is a beautiful city but it is definitely not stroller friendly, especially the historic part. There are no ramps, and many doorways were too narrow to push our not that big umbrella stroller. Plus, pushing a stroller over cobbled streets is next to impossible so we did not stay long in the historic area. After reading some less than stellar reviews, we decided not to wait for a table at Paula Deens restaurant. Instead we found a small cafe a few blocks away and had a delicious and much less expensive lunch. Then it was off to Charleston.
Trying on hats at a shop in Savannah (I didn’t have the heart to tell him these were not intended for little boys!)
In Charleston we drove around for a while looking for a place we’d been 5 years before. Turns out the art show we were looking for is only 2 weeks a year and we’d missed it. We ended up not doing too much sight seeing because it seemed that most shops carried the same merchandise. Dinner at Bubba Gumps and then we hit the road again. Although we did not travel many miles that second day, it felt like we were in the car forever. Andrew ran around for a while in the park along the river which is where I took these pictures. We stopped for the night in Lumberton, NC.
Day 3: We got up early again but this time, with the intent of driving straight until we reached Alexandria, VA. Having driven from Florida up the east coast now more times than I can count, I must say that Virginia and North Carolina are annoyingly long states.
(Side Story) One time while A was still living in NJ, I went up to visit him after Christmas for a week. We left very early in the morning and hit a huge amount of traffic on the way. It was pretty slow going but somewhere in the northern part of South Carolina traffic came to a complete stop. After going only a mile in 1 hour, we decided to get off I-95. We pulled off at a gas station where we were informed that the accident was in VIRGINIA. That’s right, traffic was backed up for about 30 miles in SC, ALL OF NC, and 12 miles into VA. Insane or what?
So back to the story…. that day was an Elmo day. Thank goodness we were armed with 6 DVDs of Elmo’s World which if you’re not a parent yet I highly suggest you invest in these DVDs. They create total silence in a child and that’s a relief considering that Andrew literally talked THE ENTIRE DRIVE (except for when Elmo was on). He’s really progressed in his language skills and speaks in complete sentences a majority of the time. He is also understandable about 90% of the time so it’s fun but quite exhausting since he does not seem to appreciate quiet quite as much as his mommy and daddy do.
We finally arrived in Alexandria in the early evening after traveling over 1100 miles and watching 18 episodes of Elmo. We got the keys to the apartment and unloaded. It was a very nice place with 2 bedrooms and 2 large bathrooms. The only problem is– no TV! Now we’re not huge TV watchers but I do like to keep up with current events. Plus, we’d brought very few toys and I was hoping to get some relief letting Andrew watch a little TV but that was not to be found. We stopped by Target to pick up a few essentials and then found a great shopping/dining area within walking distance of the apartment. We ate at this fantastic restaurant called Delias. We’ll definitely be going back there next time– I highly recommend it!
Day 4: Was a very exciting day!! See, I have been part of 2 mom’s groups for quite some time now. The first was a TTC group (Trying to Conceive for you male readers) and the second was a Due Date group. I’ve become very close to several people on both groups and had the opportunity to meet one of the lovely ladies that I have gotten to know so well over the last few years. We were honored to be invited to her daughter’s baby naming ceremony. I was very excited to meet my friend in person but also to experience something new and different. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful.
After we left the ceremony, we headed back into DC. Now I’ll go off again on a little bit of a tangent but if you know me you know that I love living here in FL. This is my home and where I grew up and where I have always wanted to raise my family. But if I had to move anywhere else in the country and be okay with it, even happy to live there– it would be Washington DC. I developed a love for the city (and I know this is going to sound weird) because of my love for the TV show The West Wing. That show, so beloved we still watch it on DVD, made the city and the job of working in politics seem glamorous, romantic even. What was wonderful about driving directly through the city on a bright Sunday morning was that I felt we got to see it for what it truly is without all the people and hustle and bustle and there are few places in this country as rich in history and significance and beauty as Washington DC. So there we were, driving right to the middle part where all the monuments are and we stopped and parked and went to the Smithsonian where we met up with A’s childhood friend and his wife. I am always nervous about meeting new people but these two were totally awesome and I enjoyed their company instantly. The friend is from the area and guided us through the National Museum of Natural History like our own private tour guide. Andrew LOVED the museum from the start. What more could a little boy ask for than giant animals and dinosaur bones, plus, lots of opportunities to touch. And I felt this overwhelming sense of joy in watching him experience all of that for the first time. I see now how terribly important it is for a child to travel and see different parts of the world and I am certain, absolutely certain, that there is no better age to start than when they are young toddlers. Sure, it’s more work for you as a parent but my goodness watching him learn and absorb everything brought tears to my eyes.
Something strange happened while we were there though. Two separate people came up to us, said nothing but pointed their camera directly at Andrew and took his picture. The first time I thought the person was taking a picture of an exhibit but when I turned around it was just a door way. The second time there was no mistaking that the person photographed Andrew. Both of the photographers were Asian. After talking it over with my mom we thought that perhaps they just wanted a picture of an American looking boy and you can’t get much more American looking than my little guy. I guess I was just a little more shocked than anything, I mean, here’s this whole museum and you choose to take a picture of my child? I figure, they COULD have asked first… but maybe didn’t speak English.
After walking the whole museum we walked across the Mall to the Air and Space Museum. I have a memory of visiting DC when I was 13 and I thought I went to this particular museum but when we got there I realized I had been remembering something else. I still don’t know what we saw but we did enjoy the museum very much. We ate dinner at a lovely restaurant which, sadly, I do not remember the name. I’d recommend it, even though they did mess up my order– the food was still excellent.
Day 5: First day on my own. A met up with some of his business associates and they drove him where he needed to be that morning. With no toys and no TV, I loaded Andrew in the car and drove out to Reston, VA where a friend from my mom’s group lives. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get together but I figured it was as good a place as any to bring Andrew. We started at the Barnes and Noble where he played with the trains in the kids section while I figured out how we would spend the rest of the day. Then we went and ate lunch together and I realized that he’s very good company and will be even more so when he’s just a little bit older. After lunch we went to visit my friend and her two beautiful sons, the oldest is only a few days older than Andrew. When we arrived he was sleeping but Andrew sure enjoyed playing with his toys. Later when he woke up, the boys were introduced and they seemed to hit it off pretty quickly. We went to another Air and Space Museum out near Dulles International that was much less crowded and provided plenty of space for the boys to run around and imitate each other which was hilarious to watch! Both mommies tried in vain to get a picture of them together but these two are very active little boys and did not stop or slow down for even a second.
Around 5 it was time for us to head back and I got my first true taste of Beltway traffic and quickly reconsidered my desire to live in the area. If it weren’t bad enough that it was my first time driving there, AND it being on the Beltway, AND most of the lanes being under construction and the GPS not being quite so clear with the directions but there was also a torrential downpour that made it next to impossible to see out the window. The whole time I prayed, “Please don’t let me die, Please don’t let me kill Andrew”. It was white knuckle all the way. I’m sure it took a few years off my life. We finally made it to where we were picking A up from work… all the way from Reston, VA to Clinton, MD took us nearly 2 hours. It probably should have taken about 45 minutes but what time of day that would be possible exactly I am not sure. Maybe 2am? Dinner that night was at a place called PotBellies which had pretty good sandwiches but nothing to write home about. The chocolate chip cookie however was AWESOME.
Day 6: Was a day I was most looking forward to. The plan was to visit a place called At Play Cafe with four other August Mommies. I was so excited!! Up to that point I had been nervous about meeting so many people I’d never met before. There is always that fear that the person you expect to meet will be totally different but my fears had been eased the day before after meeting E who turned out to be every bit as sweet and awesome as she comes across on our board. E and three other mommies were there and they were all just the sweetest people. Their children are SUPER cute too! It was SO neat to see Andrew interact with all his age mates. They played at this little cafe while the moms had coffee and watched them play. Andrew has never experienced anything like it but he did wonderfully well, checking about every 15 minutes to see that I was still there and then running off the play like a kid in a giant toy store.
After the kids were worn out, 3 moms and 3 little ones went out for a pizza lunch. It was hard to leave that day because it was simply so enjoyable. Thankfully, we left a little earlier and the traffic was not as bad as we made our way across the Beltway again to Andrews AFB. Dinner Tuesday night was at the apartment because A had a business dinner to attend. Andrew and I read books and ate PBJ sandwiches and after he went to bed I had my first crack at a computer in 6 days and it was, well, like crack. Ahhh computer!
Day 7: Wednesday A needed the car so Andrew and I decided to brave the metro. I had studied up on everything the night before and planned our route. I felt fairly confident we could find it. The plan was to meet J, who’s baby naming we’d attended the Sunday prior. I packed the backpack with everything we could need, loaded Andrew in the stroller and set off for the Metro station. I hate feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing but worse, I hate LOOKING like it. I’m afraid it makes me an easy target and it made me even more nervous having Andrew with me so I went slowly and tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing. Thankfully, A did a good job of describing the ticket machines so I figured it out without looking too clueless. On to the train and we were on our way.
At first Andrew was in complete awe of this new experience. While walking up he immediately exclaimed “Monorail! See Mickey Mouse!” Well that’s a Florida child for ya, always thinking trains lead to Mickey Mouse. I explained we were not headed to see The Mouse but to see Pandas at the zoo instead. He did well on the metro but then came the tricky transfer which made me so nervous I was sweating and shaking. I grabbed the bag, the stroller and his hand so tightly I’m surprised he didn’t resist. There we were on this dark platform surrounded by gobs of people (isn’t that city EVER quiet?) and going up escalators, down stairs, all over the place until we found our next train. It was such a relief to get on and know we were headed the right direction only Andrew disagreed. He was not thrilled to be back on the train and started to yell “Get off train!” Thankfully we didn’t have very far to go. Little did I realize the zoo was another half mile walk uphill! Ha! We did make it and we met up with J and her tiny precious daughter. We explored the zoo and chatted about all types of things. Andrew had a ball looking at all the different animals. His favorite was the tiger who we found sleeping in total cat style on its back with its paws in the air. Andrew shouted “Wake up Tiger! Go swimming!” expressing his desire to see the tiger swim in the moat. I couldn’t stop cracking up over this. Needless to say, the tiger did not oblige.
On our way out we stopped at the store and I decided it was time to find Andrew something else to play with. I found some pretty nice quality little plastic animals and picked out the three he’d expressed as being his favorite animals– the tiger, the panda and the elephant. The entire way back– from the exit of the zoo all the way to the apartment, while walking and riding and transferring and riding some more and walking again he held that tiger so tightly in his hand you would have had to use some real effort to pry the thing out. I don’t think $4.99 has ever made him so happy!
When we got back we showered off the disgustingness of the metro and waited for A to get back so we could have dinner with K and M, two great friends from UF! Unfortunately, our plans went awry when the traffic was so bad that A had to cut through the city and took nearly 2 hours to make a drive that even at that time of day usually only takes 15 minutes. K and M drove over to us from Rockville and we ate dinner at a Tapas restaurant in Old Town. It was my first experience with Tapas and it was very good!
Day 8: Another day to meet new people! This time we headed out to Woodbridge, VA to spend some time with two mom friends from earlier in the week and a new mom friend who we had not met in person yet. K and her 5 amazing children including her youngest who was only 10 days old at the time, met us at IKEA and we enjoyed lunch. I was particularly excited to meet K because she is from FL and is a Gator fan! Plus, her daughter is named the exact same name that I hope to someday give to a daughter should I ever be blessed to have more children. I feel a bit like a broken record to continue saying we had a wonderful time but it was true. I so rarely feel such complete satisfaction when doing anything at all but it was a truly enjoyable afternoon.
That afternoon Andrew finally took a nap. Yes, if you’re counting this was the first real nap that was not in a carseat or stroller since we left Tampa the week before. Poor guy! We went that evening to pick up A and I took some pictures of Andrew in front of the sign that reads “Welcome to Andrews AFB”. It was there that I got the idea of doing Andrew’s future big kid bedroom with an airplane theme. The picture came out pretty cute too! I think I’ll use it
That evening we went back down to Old Town and had dinner at a little deli called Bittersweet. They had GREAT sandwiches and sweets and gigantic cups of lemonade! I’ll admit though that by that point, I was really dragging and nearing complete exhaustion.
Day 9: Last day in the city! We took the train again this time meeting the 11th and final friend on this visit. D and I met years and years ago but this was the first time we got to meet and I’m so glad that we did! She is super sweet and helped me brave the metro with Andrew for a second time that week. We did not have as much luck the second time though as we missed our stop on the train and ended up having to walk an extra couple of blocks which in the long run wasn’t that big of a deal except DC was having a MAJOR heat wave and I’m sure the temp was over 100 degrees! We ended up eating lunch at a place appropriately named The West Wing Cafe which was fun because we both share a love of the TV show. The place had deli sandwiches just the way I like them! We ate and made our way to the National Museum of American History. I’m sad to say Andrew did not enjoy this one as much as he did the others but I sure enjoyed it and I’m pretty sure D did too! Seeing things like Lincolns top hat and Michelle Obama’s Inaugural gown, along with Kermet the Frog and thousands of other things that make up our history was pretty darn cool!
An Original Dumbo
Andrew fell asleep in the stroller while we were walking around.
I guess I was not the only one who was complete exhausted! Finally, we finished up at the museum and headed back to Alexandria. I’d packed, washed everything in the apartment to get it ready for its next occupants, and then showered us both. We loaded the cooler with more fruit and sandwiches and loaded the car with everything. The we headed north to Annapolis where we drove around the Naval Academy and took some cute pictures of Andrew at the place he’s “not allowed to go”.
Then we ate the most amazing dinner at a place called Chart House. I guess at this point there can be no denying that we had eaten out quite a bit. Back at home we don’t eat out nearly as much as we used to be having had several meals out during the course of the week we approached the host stand and Andrew starts his list… “Crayons? Paper? Highchair? Chicken? Broccoli? Apple Juice?” He had both of us as well as all 5 hosts cracking up as he placed his entire order right then and there. The restaurant was hands down the best meal we ate while we were there. The ambiance was delightful and the food incredible. A got the salad bar and gave Andrew his first taste of caviar which I think is probably another bad precedent to set but oh well! They also had this amazing desert that puts the Chili’s Molten Chocolate Cake (a former favorite) to absolute shame! It was SO GOOD! That evening we drove late into the night, making it to Hershey, PA right around midnight.
Day 10: I suppose after 9 fantastic days, something has to go wrong right? Well we slept in pretty late that morning before heading over to Hershey. It was much too hot for the theme park but that was okay because really what we most wanted to do was Hershey Chocolate World (another place we’d visited once before and liked).
Andrew loved the ride with the singing cows so much so that he is now the owner of his very own Hershey cow (in line with the spoiling of the child).
But we noticed he was starting to get sniffly. We really wanted to drive over to New Hope, PA which was another favorite place of mine but on our way back to the car, (in the 108 degree heat) we got a call from my sister in law that while she was at our house feeding the cats she noticed that the ceiling in our office was leaking and the dry wall was falling down. Panicked and exactly 1,078 miles from home we got in the car and all thoughts of New Hope vanished. We were headed home. Not the nicest ending to what had been a very nice trip. Turns out the cleaning service turned down our thermostat from 78 to 68 (who does that?!). It over worked the AC unit since it’s quite hot here as well. The coils froze over with enough ice that it filled the bathtub when they defrosted it. The ice melted and caused the leak. The water was splashing down on my desk and actually ruined one whole side of it as well as all my magazines that I kept under the desk. It also did damage to our world map of places we’ve visited which is not so much an expensive thing to replace as it is a tough thing to duplicate– A has been to so many places it’s really our only record. So anyway my sister in law and brother and mom worked to clear everything away from the leak and assess the damage and even clean up a lot of the mess for which we are so very grateful. My brother also waited for the AC repair guy who defrosted the AC and got it running smoothly again. By that point we’d calmed down but were too far south to really turn around and go back. We drove 12 straight hours that day and completely and utterly killed the portable DVD player (no more Elmo). Despite his cold Andrew still did far better than anyone could have expected him to do and I found myself thinking again and again how proud I was of him and how much I had enjoyed the entire experience despite the abrupt ending. We stopped again in Savannah for the night.
Day 11: Our desire to get an early start was sidetracked by the fact we arrived at the hotel at nearly 1am. I guess when you check in REALLY late they are more likely to give you the handicapped room which is pretty nice because we got it 2 our of 4 hotel nights and that room is substantially larger than a normal room. In any case we were not there very long. We slept and then hit the road again around 9am. We stopped for lunch at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Augustine which is kinda amusing because the original Columbia Restaurant is in Tampa. In fact my great grandfather who was a brick mason, built the bread ovens at the original restaurant. But we actually go to the one in St. Augustine more frequently. Another delicious meal and it was finally time for the last stretch home. We got in around 6:30 after driving over 19 hours in two days. Hundreds of pictures, piles of laundry, a hole in the ceiling, stacks of mail, grateful cats and tired parents sums up the end of our trip but the most important things I can’t leave out– the amazing memories, and an incredible learning experience for our little road warrier, all before his second birthday.