Archive for September, 2016

  • Soccer, Rainbow Dash, and Life Lessons

    Date: 2016.09.26 | Category: Family, Health, Life, Me, Sarah | Response: 0

    As Sarah begins to get older and understand embarrassment, I’ve been reluctant to share much about her struggles out of respect for her privacy. But I have a good story to tell about her, one that she can hopefully look back on one day and be proud of.

    Without going into too much detail, Sarah often struggles socially and has a hard time dealing with loud noises, changes, frustrations and has a few unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s prevalent enough that we have sought out help and advice on the best ways to handle it.

    For years she has begged me to do soccer and dance. But for the past three years I’ve been so overwhelmed with pregnancy and babies that just getting everyone fed and in bed felt like the best I could do on most days. We have let her do choir through the school, which is wonderful, but the more we dug into what she’s dealing with, the more we realized she needs some sort of regular, structured, physical activity.

    Our school put together a kindergarten soccer team. And when sign up time came, as usual, I was slow to react and we missed the boat. But then, by chance, a child ended up not being able to play and a spot opened up on the team. One of the coaches called me and asked if Sarah wanted to participate. My immediate gut reaction was yes, but Mark and I were nervous about practice time and making sure we could commit to all the games. I looked at the schedule though, and decided we could make it work.

    Her first practice went really well. The coach, a dad of one of the players, was overflowing with compliments about how well Sarah did on her first day. And she came running to the car, grinning from ear to ear, telling me how much fun she had. She talked about soccer the rest of the evening, only complaining once to tell me to send her a change of clothes next time so she wouldn’t have to get so hot in her uniform.

    Her first game was Saturday and she was so excited. Coach let her start. But her smile quickly faded as one of the girls on the opposing team began to score goal after goal and our team couldn’t even get the ball onto their side of the field. I saw Sarah start spiraling into frustration mode. First she crossed her arms, poked out her bottom lip and refused to move. Then, after the girl scored again, she marched off the playing field and towards the fence, sat down and refused to play anymore. I hustled over to her while they put someone else in the game. I walked her back over to the sideline and made her sit with me.

    Before I could say a word she said, “ I don’t want to play anymore. That girl keeps scoring.”

    Me: “But Sarah…”

    Sarah: “I don’t want to play!”

    Me: “You don’t have to play, but you do have to listen.”

    Sarah stared at me fiercely, but didn’t argue.

    What followed was a pep talk that involved the ever-fast and athletic Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. Fortunately, I’ve seen every episode from every season roughly 100 times, so I’m intimately familiar with the characters and plot lines. I told her about the episode when Rainbow Dash gets made fun of and wants to give up, but she doesn’t. We talked about the other little girl who kept scoring and how she has been playing a long time, but this was Sarah’s very first game. And, after all, if you give up the first time you get frustrated, you’ll never get any better. The only way to improve is to try.

    She didn’t smile. In fact, her scowl didn’t change at all. But two minutes later she said, “I want to play.”

    After a few minutes, Coach came up to her and said, “Sarah, do you want to play? You’re fast, we need you out there.”

    And she, quite matter of factly, walked back onto the field. They started the game, the ball was passed to her, and then she took off running with it, quickly outpacing the other kids. And then, just like that, she scored a goal.

    After that moment, her spirits immediately lifted. She wasn’t jubilant though, just determined. She threw herself into the game, playing hard. She was stopping the ball with her feet, lining up her kicks and passing and making goal attempts. I was floored by how good she was.

    When the game was over, she was still scowling. “Why are you upset?” I asked her, “You scored!” She looked at me fiercely and said, “I want to keep playing.”  Coach told her he was so proud of her, that she was like a fast little gazelle making her way across the field.

    We left the game and I told her we could go get a treat. “Not because you made a goal,” I told her, “Although that was really amazing, but because you didn’t give up and went back in the game.” Within minutes she was telling me that the little girl who kept scoring was #8, which was also her own number, and that soon she would be as good as her.

    That evening, after the game was over, Mark and I talked about it with smiles on our faces. We were so hesitant to put her in soccer because of the busyness of our lives, but after just one practice and one game, she’s already improving with a lot of her issues. At church on Sunday, she even sat in the pew in front of us with one of her friends, and for the first time ever, went to children’s liturgy without one of us. I feel like I’m watching her transform before my eyes – learning to fight through the frustrations, and socialize more.

    Soccer may not be our cure all, but it’s certainly proving to be way more than I could have hoped for. It’s the perfect platform for teamwork, social interaction and learning to physically move her body and do things in a loud setting. And, because of that, I’m going to cave and buy her the “special fast shoes,” (cleats) that she really wants.

    So, between my minivan and this, I guess I’m officially a soccer mom. Somebody make me a “Sarah’s Mom” shirt so we can seal this deal.

  • Happy Third Birthday to My Norah Bean

    Date: 2016.09.22 | Category: Birthday, Family, Home, Life, Love, Norah | Response: 0

    The fact that I’m making this birthday post two days after her actual birthday because her baby sister has been super sick and consuming my days, is so quintessentially “Happy Birthday Middle Child.” Sigh, I swear, we do try our best. And despite the fact that I spent most of Norah’s birthday at the pediatrician’s office, Mark did make her very favorite dinner – potato soup, which requires a lot of prep work – while keeping an eye on the other kids. AND, I did go have lunch at school with Norah, even though she freaked out because we were sitting separately from her class and she thought I was going to leave her at the “trouble table” alone. But we pulled through it. She also got the Stitch toy she’s been begging me for and she and her little mischievous alien friend are now inseparable. Also – Lilo and Stitch luau party this weekend!

    Now, onto Norah’s birthday post.

    ***

    Last night as I watched my girls play in the bathtub, I marveled at Norah laughing, singing and using her imagination, remembering the day she was born. She, ever the child with her own agenda, came three days before her scheduled c-section. I remember holding her and thinking how very different she looked from Sarah, rubbing her head full of hair against my cheek, and staring at her laying on the hospital bed with the sunlight filtering through the windows onto her chubby little cheeks.

    That was three years ago, and honestly it feels like so much longer than that. I worry sometimes, that I somehow robbed Norah of her “babyhood” by having the twins while she was still an 18-month-old baby herself, but she impresses me. I think there is a reason that she is exactly where she is in our family dynamic.

    Even at 18 months, she was smart and resourceful and had an amazing vocabulary. When I tell people it’s her birthday, people often say, “Oh, is she four?” To which I respond, “Nope, she’s three. All those crazy things she’s been saying and doing have been coming from the mouth and imagination of a two-year-old.”

    At three, Norah is really coming into her own. It’s one of my most favorite things about this age. And while she holds definite opinions about things (a big NO to pizza, for instance), she does love to follow her big sister’s lead in playing make believe. Together they will line up the My Little Ponies and play school with them, or put on costumes and dance through the house, or play mermaids in the bathtub.

    At three, Norah is always a source of entertainment and frustration in our house. One minute she’ll be physically kicking someone out of “her spot” on the couch and I have to go running in to rescue the screaming victim, and then in the next moment she’ll be sharing her beloved “kiki” blanket with her crying baby sister. I can’t pretend to understand her thought process or reasoning – but what’s life without a little guesswork?

    At three Norah is charming and knows how to get people to do what she wants. I’m sometimes kind of horrified by this quality, but I know it will likely serve her well as she grows into the leader she’s destined to be. Out of all my children, people comment the most that Norah makes them laugh or smile. Her fierceness combined with her mischievousness and devilish grin make her a bottomless well of great story material. Even now her former teachers and babysitters will tell me Norah stories that make me laugh and often embarrass me, but she takes it all in confident stride.

    At 3, her ability to process and understand things also amazes me. In the weeks leading up to her birthday, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her response was, “You mommy.” To which I replied, “No, what do you want for a present?” Norah said, “To spend the day with you.”

    It broke my heart and made it melt at the same time. And due to the logistics of things in our lives, we couldn’t get exactly that, but I did have a day with just me, Norah and Sarah,” and together we had lunch, got ice cream and got to pick out a My Little Pony from the store. Both girls told me it was the “best day ever.”

    Our house and appliances have been broken, painted with various lotions and sunscreen, colored on and had holes punched through them more times in the past three years than I thought possible. We’ve made far too many ER trips and learned what a papoose board is, to my great dismay. Norah truly embodies her favorite movie character, Stitch, but like Stitch, she also has a heart of gold and places all of her trust, love and joy in her “ohana,” her family.

    Mark likes to say that God must think a lot of us for giving us Norah, and yes, she challenges us daily, but somehow, even in the midst of her worst disasters, we often find ourselves trying not to laugh. I am so grateful for the chaos, the joy, the laughter and the love that Norah has brought into our lives over the past three years.
    Happy third birthday, my girl. We love you.

  • The First Note Home and the Animal Revolt

    Date: 2016.09.13 | Category: Bonnie Barrell, Dogs, Family, Health, Home, Leela Fish, Life, Norah, Pets, Puppies, Sarah | Response: 0

    One of my coworkers recently told me that she looks forward to Mondays just so she can hear what shenanigans Norah has been up to over the weekend. (Insert embarrassed/awkward emoji face here). But it’s true – she is always up to something. This past weekend it was spreading a combination of sunscreen and toothpaste along the hallway and around the bathroom sink – and that’s really pretty mild all things considered.

    But, last week, she did have her first note home from school.

    Now, Sarah is far from perfect and has her own set of issues, but she’s usually a quintessential firstborn rule follower. In the past three years, there has never been a note sent home from school, though her teachers have all filled me in on some of her antics that resulted in pulling a card.

    But, as we all know, Norah loves to buck the system. And when I was loading her into the car last week, one of her teachers could barely contain her laughter as she began explaining to me why Norah’s face was colored purple. In her backpack found a note that read:

    “Norah found a purple crayon at nap time and drew all over her face with it, colored the floor and ate some of it. The crayon was nontoxic. :) ” I do so love our teachers for being concerned about the crayon’s toxicity.

    Of course she got in trouble and had to make a serious apology to them the next day, during which they worked hard to keep from smiling.

    Perhaps I should gift them both with jumbo-sized boxes of Magic Erasers.

    *****

    And lest we forget the other three individuals who reside in our house, they have been up to their own set of antics. And no, I’m not talking about my other three children, I’m talking about our two dogs, Leela and Bonnie, and Angie Cat.

    We discovered, after having the twins, that Angie Cat protests by peeing on any and all clothes that happen to be on the ground in our room. And while this did finally force us to keep our closet floor clean, any time a piece of clothes would fall out of the hamper, it was game over. We’ve been very diligent lately about keeping all the clothes off the floor. Angie Cat though, refused to be deterred.

    We discovered her next target when Leela started waking up Norah in the middle of the night by climbing into bed with her. (I find it hilarious that she seeks out Norah’s bed at 2am, because Norah often torments Leela during waking hours).  I couldn’t figure out why in the world the dog would suddenly start sneaking into the girls’ room in the middle of the night until I smelled it. Angie Cat had struck again – this time taking out the dog beds. They were so sabotaged that we just had to chuck them out. We’ve made other attempts at making dog beds with blankets, etc, but without fail, nearly every night I am woken up by Norah whining and yelling, “Get off LEELA! GET OFF!” And then it’s often a good 10-15 minutes before I can convince Norah that it is, in fact, still dark outside and too soon to wake up.

    Thinking to thwart this newest set back, I set a pressure gate up outside the girls’ room to block Leela from going in. (Norah won’t sleep with the bedroom door closed). So, of course, the first time I set the gate up, at 2AM, I heard Sarah crying in the hallway. Half asleep, she was standing there by the gate, shaking, telling me she was freezing and her stomach hurt and she couldn’t get to the bathroom.

    Normally, she’d scamper over the gate, no problem, but this particular night it turns out strep had taken over her body. And because bunk beds don’t lend themselves well to vomiting children, I moved her to the couch in the living room. With no place left to block the dogs out, Leela decided that she was just as content snoozing with a sick Sarah, and Sarah, bless her poor, ill little heart, didn’t mind the company.

    Our new neighbor asked me last weekend why we have pets – “Aren’t they so much work with all your kids?” she asked. And while they can sometimes be just as irritable and messy as our children, they are part of our family. They were here before the children were and, despite the sometimes angry revenge peeing, take the kids all in stride and even deign to snuggle with them – on their own terms of course.

    P.S.: That cat pee smell is the worst and so hard to get out, but since we are cloth diapering now, I discovered a whole bunch of awesome things that get nasty smells and stains out, and this stuff is THE BEST at getting out that ammonia smell. I use it all the time. I am not getting paid to promote this stuff, just wanted to share it with my fellow cat/dog/kid parents as a FYI. Click on it to find it on Amazon.