Sunday, September 7, 2014

just about the happiest place on earth

Our mystery child surprises us again.

This weekend our family was given free tickets to a local theme park thanks to the Appreciation Day for The Hubs' work. We were not sure how it would go for Bugaboo, but since we were getting in for free, we were willing to take the chance that our day may look very different from other families.
I cannot even begin to say how happy I am that Bug had not just a good day - he had a fantastic day! 

He rode in the rented park stroller without complaint. He waited in line better than any other three year old. He LOVED every single ride, even the kiddie roller coaster and what I will term "the pseudo roller that the whole family can ride." He laughed on the dips. He loved the "fake Dumbo" ride. He devoured his portion of the funnel cake, which isn't quite as good as a churro, but was pretty excellent.

All day, "I ride my horse." "I drive my train." "I ride my elephant."

Then there was the train - we rode it twice. Each time he was so excited - there was the flapping and happy stomping and sounds he typically saves for his love of Veggie Tales. He had a bit of a difficult time mid-ride each time when there is a "show" to watch off the side of the train. He didn't understand that, and was ready to keep moving, but even that did not cause a meltdown which would have left us stranded in the woods next to the tracks. I don't know if I have ever seen him so filled with joy. On our second train ride near the end of the day, I looked over at The Hubs during one of Bugaboo's very obvious happy moments and almost cried happy tears.  Bug has been working (and doing well with) thank you phrases lately.  As we were exiting the gates at dark, Bug says, "Thank you for taking us outside, Daddy," which was his way of saying he was glad we came.

Can't see much of Bugaboo here. 

In other news, my five year old may need therapy for me putting him on a roller coaster with me first thing in the day. I thought it was going to be like Big Thunder at Disneyland.  My poor child was white as a ghost saying, "I'm scared, Mommy!" We made it through. He even managed to go on the kiddie coaster after some tears in line and say at the end, "That wasn't so bad!" He is still talking today about the roller coaster he didn't like yesterday.I guess being tall enough to ride something doesn't mean it won't be scary for a small person. Lesson learned. He did enjoy most of the other rides he went on, especially the ride that let him shoot at targets (which he ended up not shooting).
BEFORE going on his first ride.
We had no idea what he was in for!

I rode my first thrill rides in at least a decade. I may have prayed on them. I know when one coaster shot me up the hill (yes, you read that right - it shot me up a hill just to start the ride) I shouted out, "Oh Dear Lord!" I become a prayer warrior on roller coasters, even though I love them so.  I saw the place to get salt water taffy, just like my Papa used to get. I almost went in to get some, but I just couldn't. For some reason it made me sad and miss him a lot. He would have had fun watching the boys at this park he took me too over two decades ago!

It has been a long journey getting The Hubs to his RN this last spring. He finishes his bachelor's in December. He's working two jobs and taking those classes. It was such a good time to spend together on his day off. I feel almost ready to tackle the upcoming weeks.
"Stop taking our picture!"

All is forgiven on the safe "fake Dumbo" ride.

Selfie taken on the teacups - makes me smile.

*Wish I would have brought my good camera/been able to take pictures on more of the rides. These few pictures I took were with my phone or old point and shoot.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday - whisper

Five Minute Friday is a chance to write for only five minutes on a given prompt without editing and then share and connect with other writers.  This week's prompt is whisper. More details can be found here.

The stranger in the seat in front of us leaned into his toddler's ear, "Look at that baby."

My three and a half year old had been making pre-meltdown, kind-of-happy-but-could-turn-at-any-moment noises. I was juggling him and my content and helpful five year old alone in a new place.

"He is three and a half, not a baby! Having special needs does not make someone a baby!" is what I wanted to stand up and yell.

But instead I ignored and whispered, "shhh shhh shhh," in the ears of my youngest, trying to distract him with bouncing and a couple of other things.

It didn't work.  Less than ten minutes later my child got very loud. Slightly upset but mostly just loud because he doesn't understand how to whisper or why we whisper or when we whisper.

He was calm by the time we got to the car, happy to be out of that big room, happy to be going home. My five year old handled our quick exit with grace. But I sat in my car and cried for a few minutes before driving home.

"It's not fair," says the voice in my head, the voice that has been telling me all my life of all the unfairness of the world.

I wrestle with that statement on fairness. I know the right answers, most days I even believe the right answers, but if I think too much about the future I get overwhelmed and frustrated that I don't seem to have the keys to unlock my child's mysterious mind., to help ease the frustration he seems to be feeling at times.

Monday, September 1, 2014

piano lessons

My Christmas present the first year of marriage sits in our living room. Almost a decade ago, The Hubs found a used piano at a place he was volunteering for class and purchased it for me a few weeks before Christmas. Various children (my own included) have nicked the keys with their toys (not allowed on the piano!), it needs to be tuned, the left pedal is stuck for some reason, but it is still one of my favorite gifts ever.

(picture from over a year ago)
Bubby started piano lessons last week. Although he is tall for his age, his feet still don't touch the floor from the bench.  He sits for a few minutes each day practicing his two pages. The sets of black keys - first the pair, then the trio - up with his left hand and down with his right. 3-2,   3-2,   3-2.    4-3-2,   4-3-2... I sing and he says the numbers as he plays. He inherited my long fingers, and even though this non-song is all he can play right now, it is a beautiful sound.

I remember my first two songs I learned to play, also on the black keys. It was in Susie Harper's living room. "In his right hand way up high, red balloon flies in the sky," as my right hand played the three black keys above middle C. I don't know why I remember this, but I do. And she had a poodle named Buffy who would bark when we would come in the door. I remember many things about piano lessons.

I loved piano. I didn't always like practicing, but I loved piano. One of my biggest regrets in life is quitting in middle school. I think that was the only thing I could control back then, when it felt like my life was falling apart. Quitting piano and quitting (postponing) algebra until high school. I don't regret algebra, but hardly a week goes by when I don't regret my piano decision.

I wish I had my piano teacher's email address. I would tell her I've never stopped playing. I'm not any good and I didn't reach my potential, but I still love to play. I would tell her I play when the kids allow me alone time with the keys (which isn't often). And I would tell her one of my new happiest moments has been this week, watching my own five year old learning to curve his fingers and play up and down the piano for the first time.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

a little bit about the brothers these days

There have been new challenges where Bugaboo is concerned over the last few months.  It's hard to explain. One would have to be in our house for a day or two to really get a better picture of it. A big portion is unexplained crying/meltdowns.  This has finally decreased in the last month after we took a recommendation from our pediatrician after researching and weighing the pros and cons.  It hasn't been a miracle solution by any means, but it has definitely helped.

His words and phrases are increasing, which is a good thing, but communication is still a struggle.  He can answer uncomplicated/familiar questions, but he cannot carry on a conversation with you or tell you a story like a "typical" three year old. He has lots of lists, he will sing songs (not with you and most of the time not to you - but on his own terms), and his favorite things right now are books. Each morning he wakes up, he sits on his bed and gets books from a pile beside his bed or from his bookshelf. He "reads" through them, flipping pages, saying what he sees, sometimes saying a phrase from the book. We have also found that giving him time with his books when he is in meltdown mode is helpful and calming.  His favorite book right now is Oh No, George!  We have renewed it from the library as much as possible, so I should just break down and by it. I love listening to him "read" it by himself or with Bubby and me.

I have noticed Bubby trying to engage his little brother even more lately.  It doesn't always work - Bug typically just wants to parallel play or to just do his own thing altogether. But every once in awhile they "play" in the little kitchen together. Bubby loves cooking shows (sadly we don't have cable, so no FoodNetwork unless we are watching at Babushka's), but we do watch Master Chef. These shows inspire Bubby to create his own "recipes" with the felt food and other play items.  When we ask what Bugaboo is making, he  always says,  "chips and salsa," "tacos," and occasionally, "coffee."

My favorite moment of today was when The Hubs was getting ready for work. I was in the middle of something, and out of the corner of my eye I see Bubby leading his little brother by the arm. "Bugaboo! We're going on an adventure! We're going to sneak up on Mom and Dad!" Bug allowed Bubby to lead him for a little bit, but not for long since he doesn't like his hands/arms to be touched. Bubby was sad that his little brother didn't want to play with him, and tried a few more times without much success. Several times today I heard him say, "Come play in here with me, Bug." or "Come do this with me!" Most of the time Bugaboo continues ignoring him, and that is hard for the big brother. I am thankful that Bubby wants to play with his little brother. Most big brothers (or sisters) don't seek that out, which may be why it is simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking for me during these "Let's play together" moments.

But this is the life we have been given, and I really can't imagine it any other way. I prayed when I was pregnant with Bugaboo that the boys would be good friends. And they are. They are good friends and good brothers to each other.  At the end of the day, they both sat on the couch laughing and smiling at our new DVD, Celery Night Fever, looking like very typical brothers. And in their own way, they are - atypical typical brothers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Change

Linking up with Five Minute Friday tonight. The rules are simple. Free write for five minutes on the topic given (this week is "change.") No editing, over-thinking, worrying about grammar, etc. Just writing. And linking up here. Then comment on the person's post that is ahead of yours.


"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

This is my fifth year being a stay-at-home mom, and as much as I have been thankful for it and loved it, I can honestly say that the last couple of weeks of being stay-at-home-mom-and-teacher-again have revived my weary heart. The worst thing (for me) of being a stay-at-home mom is never feeling like I was accomplishing anything.  Laundry. Dishes, Meals. Vacuum. Groceries. Repeat. Nothing ever felt done, no matter how many checklists and schedules I tried. But the last couple of weeks I feel like I have accomplished things. I planned lessons. I taught. I created. I saw lightbulb moments. I brainstormed with friends making their own curriculum decisions. I have felt completely in my element again, and it is a wonderful gift.

It is not easy. In two weeks of school there have been two days when I have very much thought, "I have made the wrong decision." But at the end of the day, I am tired, a very good tired.  That back-to-school-tired I have missed so much the last few years.

Some people connect with God when they run or when they write or when they paint.  But I have found a connection I had been missing since I left the classroom. I love to teach. And though my classroom is now a kitchen table and a sofa, things really haven't changed. I love being a mom, and I love being a teacher. (And I love being in charge of all the things! .... But that is a post for another day!)


Saturday, August 16, 2014

back to school

I blinked, and it was over. The day I had been anticipating in some ways since we found out we were having a baby. The week I definitely had been planning for and thinking about since we decided that I would teach our oldest. The first week of kindergarten. I will never have another first week of kindergarten with Bubby again. It's a humbling truth.

In the same way, my youngest's first morning at preschool went by in a flash, too. I had been fearing it, dreading it since we decided our first choice of preschool may not benefit him the most. We signed the papers for the school that made sense to our heads but hurt our hearts. I dropped him off, picked him up, and read the first note that said, "He had a great day!" My heart was glad for him but also a little sad for me.

We are told all of the time how quickly life flies by, and it seems to have sped up now that I'm a mother. (Except those nights of babyhood or those times still when someone is up for hours from midnight to 4 AM. Time does not speed by then.) I want to encourage my children to be more independent, to discover new things, to grow and to learn. But at the same time I want to hold them at this age forever, where I can still mostly protect them from things and have them close to me.  It is a strange thing, motherhood and time.

My own back-to-school days both as student and teacher don't really seem that far away. The ABC circles in my kindergarten room, being chosen first for math board races in first grade, the teacher with the stegosaurus puppet named Stego, the teacher who threw the Wordly Wise book... saying good-bye to my mom and Mimi and Papa in Walther Halll. The first time I stood beside a classroom door with my name written at the top: "Miller 109." I was told about a three dozen times that year, in English and in Spanish, "You look too young to be a teacher."
Me - first day of kindergarten

Back to school makes me feel all sorts of emotions, and this year is no exception.

(What did you DO all week? Find a lengthy recap here.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

a mid-summer night's update

It's Sunday night, and the house is as quiet as it should be to end the weekend.  There's the sound of pages flipping in the boys' room even though it is after nine. I ended up turning on the hallway light for my five year old since I haven't shared with him my childhood trick of a flashlight under the covers.  It's July and much too hot for under the covers. I hope someday when he is grown he will remember that his mommy left the light on for him.

Last week was a break in the heat, and we spent lots of time at various parks with friends or just us.  I make Bug work on his stair climbing and motor planning skills at the park. It makes me sad that we can't be there just to play the way other families do.  He doesn't like the work sometimes, but he is rewarded with lots of time on the swings. This summer has brought about really hard moments with Bugaboo - hard because we are at a loss of what to do to make it better. Thankfully, this summer has brought about some really sweet moments with Bugaboo such as listening to him read in bed in the morning before I get up or hearing him sing most of the first verse of 'Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus when he doesn't realize I'm listening.

I watch Bubby playing with friends and new kids. Sometimes he is bossy, and sometimes he is a follower, and most of the time he reminds me of me.  The way he gives up or doesn't try something when it seems new or scary frustrates me mostly because I see my intrinsic perfectionism somehow was passed along to him.  He takes it in stride when we have to leave some place because of his brother's meltdowns, and he has yet to throw a fit when we don't always make it over to the big boy swings. I worry I am holding him back somehow with our life, with our circumstances. But I realize and am thankful for the opportunities he has been given to learn to be a decent and giving person at the tender age of five.

The boys and I ventured to my childhood home for a few days in order to celebrate my great-grandma's 100th birthday.  Being home always brings a mixture of emotions and circumstances, and though I returned from the trip physically and emotionally tired, I also felt strengthened and encouraged.  I hugged people I hadn't hugged in years, and just that simple moment gave me hope. Hope that reminds me of the Veggie Tales line (sorry, we watch a lot of veggie tales around here): "No hurt is too big for God." Maybe that sounds ridiculously simple, but I find that truth sustaining.

Summer is winding down around here. School starts in mid-August, and two new adventures will begin in terms of schooling for my children (and me). If I think about either adventure for too long, I get a little nauseated. So instead of thinking about it, I plan what I can and procrastinate on what I can't handle right now.  The lightning bugs are still out each night. I need to remember the beauty and importance of getting out there and chasing them before they disappear for another year.