Another unanticipated question

It’s apparently been Little Man’s week for stuff. We had his conference at school Monday, and yesterday we went to his well-child check-up. First up, super huge props to the kid – he gained 10 pounds in one year!!!! HUGE sigh of relief from me and his pediatrician. We’ve been watching his weight for about four years now. He spent over a year hardly eating at all. His food choices were so few. He looked horrible. We were in the doctor’s office every other month for weight checks. We tried everything. But Woooohooo – he seems to have turned the corner from that. I don’t think I could go through it again.

Anyways, he is 12 now, getting close to 13. At our pediatrician’s office, the kids start filling out their own questionnaires at 12. Would you believe his questionnaire was longer than the one I had to complete? Seriously. Would you also believe our doctor actually takes the time to read our answers? Have I mentioned before how much I adore this woman? As part of the physical, she asks some questions not on the forms. I shouldn’t be surprised – I have been through this twice before. But then she asked him if he’s ever gotten so stressed or anxious he didn’t want to live anymore. I sucked in my breath.

I won’t ever, ever forget that night he came downstairs in emotional shambles, crying, so desperate, telling us this was too hard and he didn’t want to be alive anymore. I’ve been scarred by many things in my life. My nine year old telling me he wanted to kill himself – you don’t come back from that. I felt the worst failure in that moment. I couldn’t protect my baby from the world, didn’t know if I could even protect him from himself. That was one of the worst nights of my life.

He was honest with the doctor – he told her about that night. He also told her he’d never again reached that point. He does still internalize stuff. We do know that. I can see when he’s getting extremely anxious and/or stressed. I can see when everything is getting to him. I can’t always help him – he can’t always express what’s bothering him, what’s stressing him out, what has him depressed or upset. I just let him know I’m there, try to help him work through it. That’s one of the super-sucky parts of autism – he often can’t articulate what’s going on inside, and then he reaches boiling-point.

I do know this with his response – he can and has use those words to escape a situation. We figured as much – he’s a smart cookie – but he confirmed it yesterday. He will say those dreaded words to get out of something, some place, away from something. He knows it’s a push-button. He knows we will take his words seriously. We’ve talked about crying wolf, but I’m battle-scarred and terrified. What is one time he isn’t crying wolf, and we treat him as if he is?

I’m happy to say I’m not alone in taking care of him. He does have numerous professionals in his life, including our pediatrician. I’m thankful he was honest with her when she asked that question. It starts the conversation, and keeps it going. He is learning to advocate for himself, to ask for help when he needs it. Pray God that keeps us from ever having a repeat of that night.


It’s the time of year for parent/teacher conferences. We had Little Man’s Monday afternoon. I’d been a little bit nervous about it since getting the notice a couple weeks ago, especially after reading the social story for his days at school. We struggled mightily last year to get him to stay in class long enough to participate in the lesson, and get his work done. And then he wasn’t bringing his work home to finish. It was a battle the entire school year. How would that affect him academically in the long run? He’s a smart kid, but even smart kids can fall behind if they’re not doing the work.

I’ll admit, I was also a bit nervous about talking with his teachers (he has two main teachers this year, plus his special ed teacher). It’s always this thing for me – that his teacher(s) will see through the prickliness to the amazing, gifted boy inside. He has so much to give and share, but it takes a certain type of person being patient enough to be allowed in to see that.

Let’s add to all of this, the conferences are student-lead. He had to walk us through his progress report. When he *has* to do something, he can shut down, go completely silent, not comply. But comply he did. I was amazed. What struck me the most is his self-awareness. He totally knows his strengths and the areas he needs improvement. He explained them all, as well as his plans for improvement where he needs it. I was stunned. He’s completely in tune with what we as his parents and teachers know. We didn’t have to tell him.

It seems he’s blossomed this year. I think it’s a combination of things….he’s familiar with the school, its rhythms and routines. He has a good core group of friends at school and in the neighborhood. He has matured somewhat. I can’t help but think lowering the dose of his ADHD med, and thus taking away some of the resultant anxiety, has helped him as well. His meltdowns are fewer. His anxiety is lower. His patience level is  up. His frustration level is lower. That means he is in class more than he was last year. He’s finishing his work before he bails. He’s taking more time with his work. He’s excelling academically, and he’s proud of that.

We still have things to work on, things we need to make sure start happening so that wherever he ends up for high school, he is prepared in all ways. I did breath a sigh of relief walking out of our conference on Monday. I’m going to hang onto that for a bit. The future will come when it comes and we’ll deal with it then. For now, I’m back to reveling in this.

Is this the next shoe?

I spent the first five or six years of Big Man’s life waiting for the next shoe to drop. When you have a micro-preemie, there are lots of shoes involved. Because I felt like we’d escaped his early birth and subsequent NICU stay relatively unscathed (physically and developmentally), I was certain there would be plenty of shoes falling from the sky. We couldn’t be that lucky, right?

He was diagnosed with high muscle tone on his left side when he’d been home just a few months. High muscle tone can be an indicator of cerebral palsy, often a result of very premature birth. We used massage and physical therapy, and within a few months, the high tone was gone. He had a speech delay at 15 months. We used sign language, sang and read to him constantly, incorporated some speech therapy, and by 2.5 years, we were begging him to stop talking. At four, he was diagnosed with reactive airway disease, which became full-blown asthma at 5 years old.This wasn’t unexpected – there was damage to his lung tissue from the oxygen he needed to survive. It was still a big speed bump for us. He would go from zero-to-pneumonia within a matter of hours every time he got a cold, an allergy flare, or the flu.  But then daily maintenance meds, and extreme vigilance became the norm. We tossed aside that shoe. At eight, he was diagnosed ADHD, and we learned he had something of a visual processing disorder. He got meds, and he got glasses. He became much more successful in the classroom, much more confident in himself. He was at 80% higher risk of ADHD just by fact of his prematurity. Genetics also played into that hand.

He’s a small guy. When he fell off his own growth curve a couple of years ago, we started with x-rays, bloodwork, a trip to the endocrinologist, protein shakes, diet changes, etc. Turns out he’s just dealing with delayed puberty. Again, fabulous genetics, from both parents. But it was a process. And I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t another shoe. You know that growth chart doctors parade in front of parents at every visit? Yeah, that. Well, he wasn’t even on that chart for height or weight until he was well past three years old, and even then, he hovered below 3%. He still hangs out down on the lower end. His BMI isn’t close to being on the chart. That teeny, tiny, 2 -pound, 15 inches long baby is still a long, skinny young man. Another shoe….a handle-able shoe, but it still feels like a shoe.

With some consistently funky bloodwork, we were sent to a specialist at Children’s who put him in a study. Part of that study was a body scan, including bone density. I thought nothing of it. The initial purpose of the scan was to compare muscle mass, bone mass, and fat mass in his body to determine if he were at healthy levels. Do you see another shoe? I didn’t, until the results from the study came back. He has severely impaired bone density. I didn’t know what to do with that. I was calm about it for a couple of days, then kind of started to process what that might mean. Impaired bone density = easily broken, right? He’s an active kid. And he’s a normal kid. Rough-housing, falls, trips when he’s racing – they’re all normal parts of his day. So now we have supplements, and a trip back to endocrinology.

I thought  I was doing okay with this. It’s just another bump in the road, right? But then my preemie-mom-mind went there….Could this be another shoe? He’s a 16 year old, former 26 weeker. He’s kind of on the front end of micro-preemies being considered viable, and fought for. The medical community is still learning the long-term outcomes of saving these littles. Trust me, in NO WAY am I saying not to save them, give them a fighting chance. I’m just saying, when your baby is born at 24, 25, 26 weeks, they can’t tell you how that’s going to look when he’s 15 years old, 20  years old, 50 years old. Of course, not any one of us, preemie or no, knows what our lives are going to be like long term. So there’s that. But I couldn’t help but ask, could this new thing, this impaired bone density, be a result of  his premature birth? Is this some outcome they didn’t know could happen?

I wouldn’t change a thing done to save him way back then. Oxygen, steroids, lipids, caffeine, blood transfusions, vitamins, and antibiotics were a way of life for 93 days. Those are the things that saved him. But did one of those things do this? We’ll never know. And in all honesty, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t undo it. I have my baby. He came home, and he’s a thriving, normal teenager.

I do see that shoe hovering over my head. I keep looking up at it, waiting for it to fall. I don’t know if this new wrinkle is a shoe, but when you have a micro-preemie, pretty much everything the rest of your son’s life will look rather shoe-like.

Check! Check! Check!

I remember calling my  mom in full meltdown mode when Big Man had been home from the NICU, oh, maybe six weeks or so. I cried to her, “I can’t do this!”, whining that my entire schedule was at the mercy of him. Can you relate? Do you have friends who are brand new parents? You know that glazed look of “oh my God, what have we done?” Yeah. That. If you have friends who are the parents of teenagers, you probably see that same exact glazed look. I know I’m wearing that look again these days, and I’ve heard myself saying, “I can’t do this! My entire schedule is at the mercy of them!”

This parenting of teens is not for the faint of  heart, and it’s hard, incredibly hard. I spend my days running them all over town. I have to remember to check their social media accounts to make sure they aren’t posting inappropriate stuff. I have to check their phones to make sure they aren’t sending or receiving inappropriate stuff. I have to check their grades. I check to make sure homework is getting completed and handed in. I check team schedules. I check lunch accounts to make sure there’s still money in there for them to eat. I check, check, and re-check. I’ve spent the last two days emailing a principal, an athletic director, a coach, a counselor, and teachers. Then I check to make sure Spouse is in the loop. I have appointments scheduled and appointments to schedule. I have a parent/teacher conference to prepare for. I have medical stuff to follow-up on, prescriptions to refill. Let’s not even talk about actually talking with them, feeding them, and such. I know I’m not alone when I say I’m exhausted. There are so many things to juggle and keep a grasp on when you’re parenting teens.

This certainly doesn’t look like I imagined it would. Boy, I’ve heard myself say that before. When Big Man was born prematurely, I had to set aside all I’d imagined about becoming and being a mom…pregnancy, delivery, newborn…none of it was like I thought it would be. My baby wasn’t who or how I imagined he would be. Motherhood wasn’t at all what I’d imagined it would be. And it hit me earlier today, being mom to teens isn’t how I thought it would be. I’m having to change my paradigm. I find myself with my hands thrown in the air frequently (and no, I’m not waving them like I just don’t care). I know I’m walking around with this stunned look on my face. I shake my head every day, all day. I look at my kids like, “Uh, who are you, and what have you done with my sweet child?” I’m living in the land of shock and awe.

Parents of tweens, prepare yourselves. Teen-land is coming for you. Forewarned is fore-armed. Although, you’re probably like I was….all smug  in the knowledge your kids are brilliant, great, entertaining, amusing, unassuming children. Hah! Mine were too. And now here I am, shaking my head, crying to my mom, mumbling my way through each day, trying to juggle all the “check this!” balls and keep them all in the air. This too shall pass, but you know that saying for toddlers, “The days are long but the years are short”? Yeah, that.

More than words

I intentionally don’t engage in talking politics on social media. My Gramma always taught me to “keep your politics to yourself if you want to keep friends.” I have anxiety just “liking” things other people have posted. This post isn’t about politics. It isn’t really even about a politician. It’s about a man, his words, his actions, and how painful they are to a person who has been the victim of sexual assault. It is also about the people who have supported him, condoned his words as “just locker room talk.”

If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault, those words, yes, even words spoken eleven years ago, are painful. They are wrought with fear, guilt, mortification. They are objectifying. Even worse than those words spoken eleven years ago is the downplaying of that conversation to “just the way men talk.” That’s NOT the way real men talk. That’s not the way my husband talks. That had better not be the way my sons EVER talk. That’s not the way my male friends talk. That’s not the way my brothers, nephews, uncles, or father talks. That’s the way men who don’t respect women talk. That’s the way men who think it’s okay to use their position of power over women talk. That’s the way men talk who put rapists in jail for just six months while the rapist’s victim’s life is destroyed.

I have been heartbroken, and wanting to throw up, over so many of the comments on social media and in the news since Friday night. I can’t believe anyone would excuse his actions in any way, shape, or form. I’m incensed at anyone trying to deflect the conversation towards anyone or anything else, try to point the finger any other direction. I cried listening to that tape, reading the transcript of that conversation. I’ve been made to feel all over again the way I felt that day, and the weeks and months that followed.

I’ve grown up around athletes. I’ve heard some pretty crude conversations. But not once did they ever talk about sexually assaulting women and have everyone around them say it was okay. Because that’s exactly what this conversation admitted to – sexual assault. SEXUAL ASSAULT. Let’s not call it anything but what it was. As a victim of sexual assault, calling it anything else victimizes me all over again. It takes me back to that day when my choice was taken away, and then I was made to feel like the guilty, responsible party.

The lack of a sincere apology makes it that much worse. The refusal to call it what it was makes it that much worse. Pointing the finger at someone else as being just as bad, rather than taking ownership of his own actions makes it that much worse. My God – my kids did that when they were toddlers – pointed their fingers at another guilty party rather than just saying they were sorry for their own actions. They’ve learned better since then. They know it doesn’t take away from their own guilt to deflect to someone else.

Don’t downplay what he said. Don’t make it anything less than what it was, because that victimizes every victim of sexual assault all over again. That tells young men it’s okay to touch women who’ve said no, that it’s okay to make women less than men, that it’s okay to use your position of power and fame to take women’s choice away, that it’s okay to sexually assault and harass women. It’s NOT okay. It’s contributing to the rape culture. They are more than words. And it’s not okay.

The Weight of it

I’m feeling heavy-hearted today. I had believed we were in a good place, that things were so much better. They are indeed better than last year, but they aren’t great. I’m feeling the weight of decisions made, decisions yet to come. It’s making me anxious and stressed. I’m trying to not panic until I hear directly from Little Man’s teachers at our parent/teacher conference next week, but I am in a state of overwhelmed once again.

Word has it he is still crying on a regular basis. I’m convinced he’s learned he gets the response he desires if he cries. It’s now a tool in his toolbox. There’s also indication he’s still frequently leaving the classroom, not engaging in learning activities, won’t read during reading time, and still pushes back in group work. He has trouble sticking to one project through completion – losing interest, or getting frustrated if it doesn’t work right away.

All I can think about is high school is just over a year-and-a-half away. When I imagine him at his current level on the high school campus, I want to throw up. I can’t picture him being successful in the classroom, can’t imagine him putting the effort in on homework, ect, can’t see him navigating the campus or school day without an instance of bullying. I’ve worked myself into a state over something that’s over a year away. But it’s coming, and we have to prepare him the best we can in the time between now and high school. That is what’s really freaking me out. There have been days I’ve wondered lately if we shouldn’t pull him back to the traditional middle school. It’s more like what he will see in high school. But then I know he is more successful, more protected in his current environment.

I have friends with kids like Little Man…..those kids have graduated college, one is currently student teaching. I KNOW Little Man can get there. But on days like today, I don’t know how he gets from here to there, and I can’t wrap my brain around what the next seven years are going to look like.

There are discussions to have, choices to make, research to be completed.  Above all, we have to do what’s best for him, for our family. And I need to try to keep calm, not let my anxiety get the best of me. More importantly, we just love him and continue to teach, care, guide, protect.

Re-Introducing the Herd

The Herd has had an influx of followers the last few months (Go Herd!), so I thought it might be appropriate to reintroduce ourselves, and explain why three is a herd. This is a copy-and-paste from a long-ago post, but it covers the details. Happy Friday, all!

So….what is a herd exactly, and why do three make a herd?

When our third child was born, with the older two 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 respectively, my husband informed me we now had a herd. Having two kids is just having kids. Apparently, having three or more gives you herd status. Yes, I do frequently feel like I am a herder getting the kids out the door, getting them back in the door, getting them to bed, getting them to all their activities. Some would say my husband and I are outnumbered. I always smile and respond, “We still have more hands than we have kids,” meaning we still have one hand left between the two of us to grab someone or something. No, we will not be adding to the herd. This shop is closed!

When Little Man was 8 months old, we bought our big ole Expedition. I needed a vehicle that could hold three full-sized carseats in one row. And minivans were completely out of the question. Deal-breaker. I loved my Expedition. I loved my personalized plates even more, which mention the Herd. Everyone knows it’s us when we arrive somewhere. I do get some strange looks and/or comments – I guess there’s a video game that has something to do with a herd (I’m clueless what game, so if you know, please let me in on it).  Since we no longer use those big carseats, we’ve moved on to a smaller SUV, but I’ve retained the plates, and probably will as long as my Herd is living at home.

In addition to our three children, we also have three dogs – one small Yorkie, one medium Cocker Spaniel, and one large Labradoodle (more lab than poodle) – two cats, and fish. I live in a zoo.  My house is not my own. My herd owns it. I’m just the accepted caretaker.

Three is a herd because my husband said so. I love that we have a moniker. It’s us. It describes us fully.  Welcome to our herd.