The Late, Quiet Moments

The Princess’ dance studio is twenty minutes away from our home. Well, it’s usually 17 minutes each way, but I’ve done it in 12 minutes when there weren’t any slow people in front of me, no traffic on the freeway, it wasn’t raining, and I needed to get there very quickly, but I digress. Let’s just call it twenty minutes away. It’s not a hardship to make the drive, most of the time. Some nights, I’m just tired, but for the most part, it’s just an accepted part of the deal. The family we’ve become part of there, including her directors, studio manager(s), and teachers, are worth it. And we can usually get her a ride back to a closer-to-home meeting spot when needed.

Tuesdays are her late nights at the studio these days. She finishes class at 8:45pm, which means I leave the house around 8:20 to go pick her up. I was making the drive last night, and realized I don’t mind those later-night drives. I appreciate the quiet. On the way there, I appreciate the time to quiet my mind, the opportunity to just breath. It’s dark, there aren’t many cars on the road. I enjoy the drive on the curvy road between the freeway and the village the studio calls home. I also appreciate the drive home with the Princess in the car.  Some nights, she’s full of chatter. Some nights, she’s lost in her own thoughts. Some nights, she falls asleep, exhausted from a full day of cheer, school, homework, and nearly three hours of dancing. Some nights, we sing our hearts out all the way home. I love them all.

The drives at night, those late, quiet moments, remind me of when my babies were babies, and we had those nightly 3am feedings. At the same time you’re wiped out and just want to sleep, you know those quiet moments with your baby are fleeting, they’re special. There’s just something different about them. Some of my friends think I’m insane when I say I miss those 3am feedings, but I do miss them. I miss that quiet time, holding my loves closely in the dark, the rest of the household sleeping, the world outside dark, the busyness of the day  held at bay.

Here’s the thing – I’m so very aware how short my time with my babies home is. In two weeks, the Princess will take her permit test. This time next year, I won’t be driving to and from the studio because she will be driving herself. Our quiet, late night drives will be done. In two years, Big Man will graduate high school, the Princess in three. They are growing up, too fast. Maybe I’m overly-sentimental, overly-emotional, but those things that used to be irritating, annoying, disturbances to my sleep and my schedule are now cherished, because they are fleeting. So I make those drives late on Tuesday nights, or after dress-rehearsals, or after shows, or after football and basketball games, and I don’t mind.

 

And I thought that was hard

Big Man was born 3.5 months too soon, and spent ninety-three days in the NICU. I spent countless hours driving back and forth to spend countless hours sitting by his isolette. I watched him forget to breath, watched his heart rate drop, watched him turn gray, watched him battle his own infections, watched machines keep him alive, watched him fight to survive. And I thought that was hard.

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Big Man on his birth day

Big Man came home from the NICU, and we had a home health nurse out every other week, a developmental specialist out every month, bi-weekly doctor visits for weight checks, monthly doctor visits for synagis shots to keep him from getting RSV. My life, my schedule was not my own. He didn’t want to be put down, ever. I had to learn to let go of my want for routine, schedule, time. And I thought that was hard.

When Big Man was four months old, I discovered I was pregnant with the Princess. I faced a pregnancy certain we were going to be back in the NICU. I was full of fear and anxiety. I saw a specialist OB (perinatologist) every other week, until we got past the gestational age Big Man was born. Then she had to be induced at 41 weeks 1 day. And I thought that was hard.

Big Man was developmentally nine months old when the Princess was born, so I basically had two infants under one roof. They are twelve months and nineteen days apart. Sleep was at a premium. Bottles were everywhere. We all three cried for hours every evening. And I thought that was hard.

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Big Man had high muscle tone on his left side, and a mild speech delay. Enter therapists visits to the weekly routine. And I thought that was hard.

When Big Man was nearly two, and the Princess eight months old, we moved….400 miles away.  I left my career of ten years. I left my family. I left my friends. I left my church. We moved in with spouse’s  (awesomely amazing) parents for eight months while our new home was being built. I found a new job I hated. It took forever to build new relationships. I had two toddlers in a new place, and I wasn’t entirely happy…yet. And I thought that was hard.

I had two toddlers under one roof – two toddlers who were like the wonder twins. I couldn’t keep up with their creative disasters. They finger-painted with baby shampoo in the middle of Big Man’s room. Baby shampoo NEVER comes out of carpet, ever. They unraveled a Costco-sized package of toilet paper up and down the upstairs hallway. They threw another Costco-sized package (out of the plastic wrapping) into my big jacuzzi bathtub. They ran away, down the street and around two corners, while I fed their six-week old baby brother. Big Man cut ALL of the Princess’ hair off, to the scalp, twice. They colored the underside of the pool table. I caught them, frequently, eating frozen waffles underneath the dining room table. Ditto bags of candy they’d climb on top of the fridge to retrieve. And I thought that was hard.

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I had three kids under four. I can’t even list all that drama, but I thought that was hard.

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The Herd in earlier days

There was a time they were all three involved in multiple sports….baseball, soccer, dance, piano lessons, golf. I lived at whatever field it was the season for.  I spent hours and hours in the car getting them each to whatever practice, game, lesson, or recital. And I thought that was hard.

Big Man was diagnosed ADHD, and with a mild visual processing disorder in second grade. We chose to medicate the ADHD. He fought the medication for the first year. I’d find pills hidden in the kitchen drawer, under the lazy susan in the middle of the kitchen island, and pretty much anywhere but in him if I didn’t watch him take it and make sure he actually swallowed it. He got glasses, and we got an every-six-months schedule of appointments with the pediatric opthamologist. And I thought that was hard.

I had three in elementary school. I went on field trips. I taped, glued, cut, copied, read to kindergartners and third graders, ran the book fair, was on the PTA, and basically lived at the school. We lived in nightly homework hell. And I thought that was hard.

Little Man was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and ADHD, in second grade. It nearly broke me, but we finally had an answer, and a plan, and help. We entered the world of IEP’s, special education, accommodations, speech therapy, psychiatrists and therapists. And  I thought that was hard.

We moved on to middle school for the older two – ugh, middle school and middle schoolers. They each got their first phones, and we had to start talking about internet safety, data plans, and had to come up with rules of how we would handle things. And I thought that was hard.

Now here we are…..two days away from having three teenagers under one roof. Two are in high school. I was ill-prepared for the drama, the angst, the emotional rollercoaster, the pushing back against rules we’ve had in place forever, the angry words that instantly bring tears to my eyes, the eyeball rolling, the intense search for independence, the life-lessons they are learning through which I just want to help but know I need to stand back and let them have at it, come whatever the natural consequences will be. I’ve watched my biggest baby boy struggle to find his way academically when it used to come to him so easily I think he took it for granted. I’ve watched P fight to find herself – somehow losing (hopefully temporarily) the brave, bold, confident girl we used to know. Then, recently, came the day Big drove himself and P to school, his driver’s license finally earned. And I think this is hard.

Within the next five years, I will watch as they have all the rest of those “firsts”, as they graduate, and leave for school, only ever to come back for what will essentially be visits between semesters and school years. I know I will look back on all those things I thought were hard and will know that was nothing, because watching them go be their own people, away from us, my heart living outside of me (possibly far away from home), now that, that will be hard.

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Sleeping Beauty or That Girl Can Fall Asleep Anywhere

I wrote this post nearly two years ago. But “girl sleeping” seems to be a frequent search term, because it pops up in my stats as “viewed” at least twice a week. Even two years later, she still falls asleep anywhere and everywhere. She is a super busy girl, and goes and goes until she drops, and/or we have meltdown. This is her, this is part of her story…..I thought I’d re-share since it gets hits pretty frequently.  Happy Weekend!

So, the Princess has been a wee bit ignored lately what with March for Babies focusing our thoughts on Big Man’s prematurity,  and it being Autism Awareness Month turning our minds towards Little Man and his stuff. I’m here to remedy that this afternoon.

This girl can fall asleep anywhere, and she usually does. She hated napping and going to bed when she was an infant and toddler. She would fight it tooth and nail. She didn’t want to be held to fall asleep. She preferred her bouncy seat, exersaucer, crib, pack-n-play…anywhere but in someone’s arms. She just didn’t particularly like to sleep where or when you expected her to sleep. This made for some interesting discoveries, especially after she learned how to climb out of her crib (at a ridiculously young age for my liking, mind you). She would go and go and go, until she dropped wherever she was, and I mean that literally. We have video of her sound asleep, and snoring, laying up the stairs. We have photos of her hanging half off her bed, on her back. I have pictures of her sleeping pretty much everywhere. Some samples: IMG_0074 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

across her pillow across recliner after beach after slumber party after soccer arms across e in the car booster sleeping on the stairs

I’ll give her this…in almost all of the above photos, we were either at the beach, at soccer, skiing, or at dance before she passed out and photos were taken.

Nowadays, if you put her in the car for more than five minutes, she’s out. You would think that with all the time she and I spend in the car together, we would get some good mother/daughter, one-on-one time. Not so much. She falls asleep on the way to the studio and on the way home from the studio. It is rather entertaining to watch her head start to bob, and then we hit the curvy road and she falls over. She doesn’t even try to fight it anymore. Airplane to DC? She was out before we were over Arizona.  On the way home, I don’t even think she made it to takeoff. It’s kind of her thing now, part of her story.  Seems almost appropriate – I call her Princess, and she could qualify as Sleeping Beauty. That girl can sleep anywhere.

The Hand We’ve Been Dealt

Some might say we’ve been handed a less-than-stellar parenting hand. Trust me, before we got pregnant with our oldest, I didn’t intentionally sign up to have a micro-preemie nor an autistic child. And I know well too many parents who live a much more difficult parenting road, some too painful to even think about. So I don’t complain, much. Are our lives easy? Nope, but there’s never a promise of easy when you start down your life path.  You deal with the hand you’re dealt. That’s my take anyways.

I suppose we did have a choice. We could have told the doctors to not take any extraordinary  measures to save Big Man.  We could have quietly let him pass, fears of what his future might  hold taking precedent over his chance of survival. We could have walked away. We could have chosen not to fight. But I knew him – I knew his fight, even before I saw him face-to-face. I’d felt him within me, I’d heard his strong, fast heartbeat. I’d seen his tiny arms and legs on the ultrasound screen so many times. I knew long before he took his first breath we would fight as long as he had fight within him. We didn’t  know, even when we brought him home from the NICU, what his future might hold, but honestly, do you ever know what your child’s life is going to be? Life holds no guarantees. We took him as he came. We loved him, we watched him, we cried, prayed, laughed. We continue to advocate for him, raise him, fight with him and beside him.

The day (and admittedly for a few days afterwards) we found out we were pregnant with the Princess, I cried, so not ready to face pregnancy again so soon after Big Man’s birth. He was 3.5 months old. Our babies would be just a year apart, if I made it to full-term this time. I fretted, I worried, spent days full of anxiety, so sure we were going to end up back in the NICU again. I eventually reached a place of knowing our family was going to look a bit different than I’d planned, but we were blessed. And oh  how I fell in love with that little girl.

I recall so clearly the drive home from the psychiatrist’s office the day Little Man was diagnosed autistic. I called my friends. How would I do this? Why was this happening to him, to our family? What had I done wrong? Why did my baby have to suffer? A wise friend reminded me my baby was still my baby – a diagnosis did not change who he was. I would have to fight for him at times, I would have to find the strength inside to deal with the hard parts. I would go to the deepest depths when my nine-year-old told me this was too hard and he didn’t want to live anymore. I’d have to remind myself all the amazing things he’s capable of when it seemed all I was hearing was what he couldn’t do.

I guess I could have walked away, said this was too hard, too much, could have chosen not to fight for him and his needs. But I  never saw that as an option. I’m not amazing. I’m not extraordinary. We aren’t special because we continue to parent him. We deal with the hand we’re dealt. Our hand  may not look like yours, but you take what you’re given and you deal, or you don’t.  We just never imagined there was a choice for us, never considered any other option than loving our babies.

Pushing Back

Since Big Man was a toddler and the Princess a newborn, I have taken the kids for studio portraits every Christmas. It’s just what we do. I have a thing about getting pictures done of them – they grow up so quickly and change so much year-to-year. They’ve never argued over it, although we did have those years we all basically ended up in tears, and I walked out of the studio stressed out, covered in sweat, with the much-wanted perfect photo somehow in hand.

We had our session scheduled for yesterday.  I asked them to get changed half an hour before we were supposed to leave. Both olders rolled their eyes at me. THEY ROLLED THEIR EYES!!!! I was taken aback. I mean, really? You’re pushing back on Christmas pictures?

Plan A for their outfits had to be dumped when I discovered the red in the shirts I ordered for the boys was different, shirt-t-shirt. They totally clashed. So we went to Plan B, which definitely had a decidedly Southern-California feel. Anyone else wear shorts and t-shirts for Christmas pictures?

We arrived at the studio and there was a good amount of attitude from all three. I told them the more they cooperated, the more quickly we would be done and out of there. We fought through to get the minimum number of shots, with some grumbling and definitely more eyeball rolling.

I guess this is where we are now. They’re going to push back on this tradition every year from here on out. Really, they only have to endure it a couple more years, then Big Man will be off at college and we will have to come up with something besides studio portraits. They’re going to find I’m not going to let this tradition go until I absolutely have to. Someday, they’ll thank me for it, right?

These are just the last few years…….Someday I’ll scan all the rest of them.

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.

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. https://threesaherd.com/2013/05/22/we-have-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.