Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Grade Expectations

IEP meeting today. We spoke to almost all his teachers. Theme: Theo is such a hard worker. Theo does what he's supposed to do. Theo is so diligent. Theo has such a good attitude.

I am sad to say his grades didn't reflect all of those wonderful attributes (except for in math), which is just the nature of the unfair world we live in. C'est la vie.

But whatevs, Theo rocks and he's going to do great things in this world. We couldn't be more proud of our sweetheart!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

10 Milestones Not In The Parenting Books


When you’re anticipating the birth of your children, you dream of the first tooth and the first step. There are pages in baby books where you can document these milestones with dates and photos.

Theo is 12 today. Here are the milestones I never thought about, but for us, have been remarkable events. The first time he:

  1. Said dad instead of daddy. Then later, mom instead of mommy
  2. Crossed the street himself
  3. Rode his bike to the park on his own
  4. Sent me a text
  5. Sprouted hair above his lip
  6. Used his own keys to walk through the door
  7. Looked in a mirror and cared about what he saw
  8. Met my gaze at eye level…for he was exactly my height
  9. Found a lower octave sneaking into his speech
  10. Was embarrassed by his mom in public

Tweenaged is so interesting. He’s still a kid in many ways. Yes, he was bored on our recent farm trip, but he still says “Oh, yay!” when we’re doing something he’s excited about.

Jekyll and Hyde: The Tween Years

Sometimes he’s the kid we recognize, the sweetie pie he’s always been reputed to be. Others, he’s moody in a way that's new. Once in a while he’ll slam a door, which is more amusing than maddening since it’s so unlike him. He’s always smiled at our annoying jokes, but lately he’s exasperated when we joke with him too much or ask too many questions. Recently he even grunted when I touched his hair!

He sucks at talking on the phone but is great about texting – very responsible, probably because he’s still excited to have a phone, even if it is a hand-me-down with no working sound. 

Suddenly he wears the same jeans every day because he likes them. 

His vocabulary has been reduced to "good" as the answer to most questions.

And have I mentioned how he’s grown like whoa? Yesterday, he and I shared shoes. Today, he and Joe switch their 10-and-a-halves. Two months ago I blogged that he would be my height soon, and now he is.

Pride is something I see Theo experiencing more often these days. He's proud to have more independence -- a phone, his own set of keys. He actually cared about the praise from his teachers at the end of the year. He was proud to get a compliment about being the best at sound in film camp, and proud to be a junior counselor at another camp (he came home smiling every day that week). He learned to sign his name in cursive, since they didn't teach it in school. He has an email address. Little things like that are increasingly giving him confidence. And so far he hasn't tired of everyone commenting on how tall he is!

He is still ultra cautious when crossing the street overly so, but I'm not in a hurry for that to change. Recently, he walked off the subway to go to school…while I stayed on it. I didn't expect it to be such a strange feeling... he had been alone in our neighborhood plenty, but here he was, released to LIC? The panic was starting to set in when 4-5 minutes later I got the text that he'd reached school. Silly mommy.

Some things are constant  his devotion to his little sister. His ability to play Minecraft and Wii U all day is equal to his ability to go with the flow (when I tell him it's time to stop, he always says "ok.") Despite his impending teendom, he is good-natured with relatively little attitude. 

And even when he's 50, I bet he'll still make me massage his shoulders while we watch TV.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

This Is Six

Age 6 started with a ballet recital.

followed by a Kindergarten Dual Language performance, in which the class danced like frogs.

Then came the Kindergarten Stepping Up ceremony, and they sang the song "Happy" through the aisles.

Our annual July 4th outing to Coney Island fell on a Friday, so that meant fireworks and getting home late, good and tired. 

Summer adventures included setting sail on a pirate ship with Eden...

 and spending the weekend camping with her at the Poconos Environmental Center!

Time for first grade, and an EPIC haircut! She'd been asking for this cut for months, and when she got it she couldn't stop staring at herself in the mirror and smiling. It suited her personality perfectly.

6 was also the age of Gone Grill -- she lost her two upper teeth.

6 was when Melody started her cooking show, In the Kitchen With Melody -- and turned out to be really stinkin' good on camera.

 Melody's affection for her brother doesn't waver, but some of their special games embarrass her in public now. He's only allowed to call her Baby Kitty in private.

Melody really bonded with Allie aka Alleycat aka Alexandra this year. Allie lets Melody carry her around..as she gets older and more feeble, Melody's tenderness  toward her grows. We call her broken Allie...and Melody is currently broken Melody.

This year she finally got the swing of the monkey bars, except for when she didn't and fell and broke her wrist. We were proud of what a trooper she was -- didn't slow down for a second. She was performing the next day, and camping out in a tent two days later. She relished the attention and the fawning and the cast signing. And my big girl swallows pills now.

Monster High is out, though she still likes it. Frozen is out...she is sick of Let It Go...but she didn't mind when we saw Frozen On Ice...
Now Shopkins are in with a fury. That's largely thanks to her school crew, including Ecclesia, whom she's recently grown close to.

6 is the year Melody declared she has her own style. The style includes these lace up boots she begged for, and plaid headbands.

6 is when she mounted her first horse and enjoyed every second, fearless. This photo is from Pinegrove Ranch, where we spent a fun winter weekend.

 Freckles appeared in full force this year and I just adore them.

Melody continues to be an all-in-one cast of characters depending on the day. She had no problem holding this frog, but let out a high-pitched scream when she saw a bug recently. I could tell she got that from TV or a friend, since that's so not her.
 She and Theo are still Wii buddies, and once in a while she indulges him by playing a board game he's made up.
Love my Minecraft girl. This was her Halloween costume, which she made.

In other major news, Melody got her big-girl bike this year! It was handed down from her 11YO friend Alicia, who also tutors her in Spanish. 

Melody's close friends are like sisters -- they love hard, they bicker hard, and they play hard. 

Two Things I Need To Say About Theo


It’s Melody’s birthday, and I’m going to talk about her, but first I need to talk about Theo. In particular, there are two things I need to say. My baby boy just played the flute in a concert, and my baby boy just started walking short distances on his own. 

These are both things that last year I would have told you he could not do. Parents are the ones who usually say, “Don’t you underestimate my kid.” I’m not like that. As someone who knows my kid better than anyone else, I try to be realistic about what he can and cannot do, and so that means I’m the one who underestimates him.

I knew that when all 6th graders were required to learn an instrument this past January, the teacher’s choice of flute was the worst possible choice for him. I KNEW that. It was simply going to be too hard. All instruments are difficult, but I didn’t think he needed the extra disadvantage of having to produce a sound. Even if you play the wrong chords on a piano or guitar, a sound comes out. If you blow in a flute wrong, you get nothing but air. 

He mastered assembling the flute pretty quickly. He mastered excellent posture, hand positions, arm positions… and it turned out that his long fingers are perfect for reaching buttons. So did he produce sound? You bet! The few times he came home and practiced “Stand By Me,” he was making music. Sure, it was terrible kid-who-just-started-playing BAD music, but he was doing it. What’s more, he seemed to enjoy it. I could tell he was proud of himself.

Last night was the concert. He was one of 5 or 6 flautists. It was impossible for me to tell how he sounded on the flute, but as a group they sounded great. He did his part; he contributed. That’s what being in a band is all about! And once again, I could tell he was proud of himself.  Of course, he’s a tween, so my mom and I still had a hard time getting him to smile for a photo (P.S. My parents are professional musicians and still came to hear a bunch of kids who just learned an instrument a few months ago – says a lot about them!).

So now for the other thing I need to talk about. The bus stop is 4 blocks (and four streets) from home. In the beginning of the school year, there was a big crowd of parents there to meet their kids as they got off the school bus. As the year went on, that crowd dwindled as more and more kids began to walk home by themselves. Eventually, it was down to just one – me or Joe. 

We were fine with that – crossing the street is a scary thing we didn’t want to rush. But we did have him walk ahead of us to practice, as if we weren’t there. His confidence grew, but he still was hesitant to go without us. The first time he finally did was out of necessity – we were super late getting out of the house in the morning, and had Melody with us. Walking at her pace he’d have missed the bus for sure (something that’s miraculously never happened this year). And so I told him to run ahead – and he did. Boom, just like that, he was ready. This was a couple of weeks ago and he’s been walking on his own since. He always texts me when he gets on or off the bus to keep me posted. I still breathe easier when I hear him walk through the door, but my friends of neurotypical tweens assure me they feel the same.

Some days I’ve watched him out the window. At first he was scurrying across the street to get that part over with, which was damn adorable. Now he’s increasingly confident crossing, though we have a ways to go. The other day he was bored when we were with Melody at the P.S. 150 park, so I gave  him my keys and sent him  home. It was a big deal! Next year his friends will take the subway to school since the bus isn’t an option for the 7th graders. We can get him busing through his IEP and we did ask for it. But at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up taking the train at some point in the year. I am not going to underestimate him this time! 

As he approaches teendom, I can see the changes starting. Shifts in his mood, his body maturing, his voice reaching lower decibels when he laughs… door slamming has started, and embarrassment, an emotion he’s never felt and I worried he never would, has suddenly begun to kick in. He didn’t want me adjusting his bow tie in front of his friends last night – I couldn’t believe it. Every night he’s intent on making sure his phone is charged – having one is still a novelty. I thought he’d lose it, but he takes amazing care of it. Texting with him daily has become one of my favorite parts of our relationship – writing and emojis help him express himself a little better or get a little silly. He’s been a bit difficult at times lately with his tweeny moodiness and aloofness, so the texting helps. It’s weird though, because he’s still very much a little kid in so many ways. I have a hard time reconciling his kid self and his maturing self, so it must be that much more confusing for him. 

Theo will be 12 in August. He’s about 5’4” and 97 lbs. Tall and skinny, like his flute! One day I was looking down at my son when I spoke to him, and the next I was looking straight ahead to see his face. He’ll reach my height and exceed it any day now, because he’s seriously been growing an inch a week or so it seems. It’s a really strange feeling to have your child be your size. I can’t even explain it. We share shirts, we used to share shoes until his feet blew up to 10.5. We are looking less and less like mother and son, as everyone loves to point out. They think it’s a compliment, but I hate hearing it. I don’t want to look like his sister or babysitter,  I want to look like his mom. Physical appearances aside, I FEEL like his mom, so it’s strange that when we walk down the street the picture doesn’t match. Yes, I had him young,  but I’m pretty sure I’ve spent 12 years making him and growing him and loving him and losing my shit over him, which qualifies me as his mommy. 

Anyway. I needed to put it in writing that I’m massively proud of this kid.

Monday, June 08, 2015

When Cats Meet Baby

I just unearthed a bunch of old files at work and found this blog...it's long gone on my job's website,
so I'll post it here for safekeeping. Complete with bad links :)

When Cats Meet Baby

Elyse is back and ready to report on life with two cats and a newborn!

A few months ago, when I was very pregnant, I asked for your advice on the ASPCA Online Community—how do I keep my cats out of the crib?  Community members offered me great tips on kitty deterrents. Alas, nothing worked…until I gave birth. Apparently a baby is the ultimate kitty deterrent.

When we brought Melody home from the hospital, we put her in her bassinet. Bruce and Maow, my orange tabby brother-and-sister duo, came over for a sniff. Up until then, the bassinet had been their territory (despite my best efforts). What was this little pink thing doing in their bed? After a few minutes of exploring, they sashayed away. Perhaps they lost interest. Or perhaps they understood that this was a baby, fragile and in need of protection. All I know is, from that moment on, the cats never again set paw in either the bassinet or the crib.

I can’t say the same for Melody’s toys or her stroller.

Photo: bruce swiping playmat

When the kid’s away, the cat will play.

Photo: Bruce and Maow cuddled in the stroller

Caught in the act.

Melody, now three months old, shows no interest in her orange brother and sister, but I look forward to watching them become friends. I imagine “cat” will be among her first words. Right now, my cat kids do little more than sniff her now and then, but soon enough they’ll learn she has a limitless supply of cuddling and playing energy, as all kids should—and do—have.

My cats aren’t exactly what you’d call good cats. I’d go as far as calling them pretty darn naughty cats. If there is wooden furniture, they will scratch it. If there’s an open drawer, they will empty it. If there are chicken bones, they will try to steal them. They are only two years old and still full of kitten energy, zipping and leaping around the apartment, not knowing the word “obstacle.” But when they met the baby, they intuitively knew to behave around her. They are gentle and move slowly in her presence. They remind me of Marley in John Grogan’s Marley & Me. I was moved to tears when Grogan described how “the world’s worst dog” was soft and kind as could be with his babies. How do these furry little ones know? Is it something we, as their owners, are doing right? Do babies have the gift of touching everyone? Maybe. But I say the credit goes to the animals themselves, and their beautiful instincts to nurture young life. Quite magical, really.

* Expecting a little one of your own? Learn how to prepare a cat for a new baby.