Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall Beach Photo Shoot

Sometimes the location is perfect but the model (my daughter) is not having it. It was a gorgeous fall afternoon. 70 degrees. Not too windy. Not a cloud in the sky.  After my daughter's 2 hour nap this morning, we had some lunch and then headed to Brucker Beach to take some pictures. A well rested and well fed child usually equals a happy child but not when she's getting four teeth in at once. But she loves playing outside and she loves the beach so I decided to go for it.

Brucker Beach is tucked away at the end of a dead end street in a residential neighborhood. It is never crowded like the state park beaches. And especially this time of year, we usually have the beach to ourselves. Today we only saw two people walking their dogs and the rest of the beach was ours.

It's a perfect location for taking pictures... secluded, lots of beach grass, deadwood makes wonderful places to sit or lean against and then of course, miles and miles of sandy beach along Lake Michigan.

My normally nonstop, running all over the beach, happy little girl was wanting to do nothing but sit on my lap and nurse. Every time I would pick up the camera, she would fuss.

So I stopped and looked around at the beauty all around us and this beauty in my arms. And I told myself, I need to let go of this photo shoot. Maybe I got a few good ones and I need to put the camera down and be in this moment with my daughter. I can't think of a better place to cuddle with my little one, who is normally a whirlwind of motion. With the tug of her hand and a plop down on the sand she was asking me, "be with me, Mommy." So we cuddled and nursed and took in the peace and the breaking waves and the seagulls and the warm sun and the cool breeze.  After awhile she said, "no more" and "bye bye" and I picked her up to walk back to the car. She sang and giggled in my arms, her one arm over my shoulder as she always like to do, patting my back, as we walked back to the car.

I'm sorry it took me so long to understand what you were needing, my girl.

 I loved our time together.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Practice Recess

Sometimes I am amazed by how much my son knows not only what he needs but also how to go about taking care of himself to get those needs met. Today was his day off from school (he goes MWF) so I was surprised when he asked if we could go play at his school playground. I told him that was a great idea but we couldn't go during school hours so how about we go this evening when Daddy gets home from work.

Recess is a struggle for my son (and he gets 3 of them/a day). When we've talked with him about recess he says he doesn't join any of the kids or play on the playground but instead spends the whole time walking around. He has always said that he wasn't necessarily sad during recess so at first I thought he was just using that time to unwind from the noise of lunch and all the stimulation from the day that he's not used to. But it's more than that.

So we went to his playground this evening to practice recess. I am in awe of my son for coming up with this. Tomorrow morning will also be the first morning that I will just be dropping him off on the playground with all the other kids and not walking him to his classroom and staying with him until the bell rings (as he's crying). I don't know who this will be harder on - him or ME! Hopefully me. I realized that I need to be communicating to him through my actions that he can do this - he can find his own way, he can make a friend, and that there are other people out there apart from me who will be there for him and enjoy him, etc. So, just dropping him off will be one way of communicating that to him. But I wanted to use this time at the playground to prepare him for this and walk him through how that will go.

So I said, "I'm going to drop you off here and pray for you and give you a big hug and tell you to have a fun day and see you this afternoon and you will walk this way on the playground to your classroom."

And he said, "I will walk sadly to my room."

So I said, "how about this... even if you're sad, how about you hold your head up high and say hi to the people you walk by and remember that Mommy will be back this afternoon to pick you up and you always have a fun day, even if you're sad."

We'll see.

On the playground he saw that he wasn't too short to get up on the swings and he practiced pumping his legs to swing himself and Daddy taught him how to jump off. And he practiced on the jungle gym, climbing and sliding and swinging on the rings and back again, and played it over and over and said this is what he wanted to do during recess tomorrow. And we talked about what he'll do when other kids are on the jungle gym too.

My daughter and I left early to go home and start dinner while my son and his daddy stayed at the playground. As I drove away, I saw my husband and son sitting on the swings talking and laughing and that image has stayed with me all evening. What an important time this was tonight. I'm so grateful my son asked to do this. I'm hopeful this will make a difference for him tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Heavy heart

I'm at a place as a parent where I don't know what to do. Again. It's a bit of a familiar place. Where we live, this is the first year that kindergarten has been changed to all day/every day. That means 5 days/week from basically 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 7 hour days for 5 year olds. I can't speak for all 5 year olds but my 5 year old is not ready for that. Neither is the boy who works himself up so much when his dad drops him off every morning that he pukes. every morning. The school bell rings to start the school day, the kids line up on the playground and he's puking. This morning the teacher opened the door to puke at the kid's feet and said, "Again?!?"

My kid's not puking but he is sobbing every morning when I walk him to his classroom.

"Why are you so sad?" I ask him.
"I just miss you." he sobs.

And this isn't even kindergarten. This is Young Fives. Which is still all day/every day. However, we have him enrolled all day MWF rather than all five days. I have felt very strongly that my son is not ready for 7 hours of school 5 days a week. He is 5. And I know that there are many kids who have been in daycare and preschool those hours 5 days a week and that this change is wonderful for those parents working full time who don't have to pay for daycare now. But that is not my son. I am so grateful that I can be home with my kids and can choose my own hours with our counseling practice to see clients in the evening when my husband is home. That is important to me and it works for our family. He started preschool at age 2 but he's always been more comfortable and outgoing with adults than kids his own age. Last year was the first time he made a couple friends at preschool and we'd have playdates apart from preschool. He was invited to birthday parties for the first time. And at church, he had a couple friends he would play with.

But adjusting to 3 full days of school has been very sad for my son. We are just starting our 4th week now. The first week went really well. He was excited. He really likes his teacher. The second week, the honeymoon is over. Tiredness is hitting him and the reality of it all is sinking in. "How much longer do I have to go to school, Mommy?" he sobs at drop off. And yet, he doesn't fight it. He's not throwing a tantrum or begging me to take him home. We call it a brave sadness... tears are rolling down his face but he still lines up with the other kids in his class. He's crying but he's still waving goodbye and blowing me kisses.

This has continued for the last couple weeks. One morning we talk about how he has to get through this school if he wants to go to firefighting school. That helped. But still tears goodbye. Another morning, before school we made a get well card for a girl in his class who got hurt and was in the hospital. He really enjoyed this and it brightened his spirits. Come to find out, this girl (Olivia who takes the #11 bus) is an imaginary friend. He had those when he started preschool as well. And still tears goodbye. And I'm ok with the tears. I don't need him to stop crying. If he is sad, I want him to express himself. I'm not crazy about his teacher's way of dealing with it... telling him to stop crying, he's a big boy now, he's 5 years old now. I cringe at her dismissing his feelings and worry what it will do to his heart to be told to stop crying. It goes against everything within my psychologically-trained mind. However, I can see it from her point of view. She's got ten other students (one of them puking). She's got her hands full. But it would only take a second for her to give him a hug. Tell him I'm sorry you're sad. Mom will be back to pick you up this afternoon. Let's go have a fun day...

Another day, my son came home telling me that his teacher told him that if he doesn't cry the next day she has a surprise for him. Well, my son was so excited because he was certain the surprise was a puppy. I give the teacher kuddos for trying but I had mixed feelings about this. If he doesn't cry, he's going to be disappointed the surprise isn't a puppy. And if he does cry, well, he will be upset he didn't get the surprise. It's a bit of a set up. Plus, it's not really getting at the heart of what's going on. Sure it may nip the behavior (for a time) but it can't lead to lasting change (in a positive way) without dealing with what's really going on.

But this morning, for the first time, we got at what's really going on. This morning he was able to tell me that he's sad because he doesn't have any friends to play with. This breaks my heart. I might be a little biased as his mother when I say that my son is likable and fun and funny. And he is usually very outgoing and social (more so than I am). But what if he doesn't have a chance at making a friend because of him only going MWF? What if it's not going to get better with time without him going either one more day or all five days?

Talking with his teacher this morning, she suggesting I drop him off on the playground rather than walk him to the classroom. That way the kids will interact with him more. She said the kids don't know him and he's a bit alienated due to that. Painful things to hear. But I'm glad to know what's really going on so we can deal with this.

We've talked about God being with him all day when Mommy can't be with him. And I've been intentional about praying over him before school. The other day I asked him who is with him all day at school and he said, "The one who has his hand on the top of my head. He is God." But I would be a negligent parent if I am only praying. I also need to be preparing him. My son is struggling to know how to make a friend. So this morning on the way to school we prayed that God would help him make a friend and be a friend so he's not so sad at school. And then we talked about tangible things he can do... pick one classmate today and find out what they had for breakfast and tell him what you had. Or remember how much you were laughing this morning when your sister was trying to put on your underwear and then we drove to school and you thought it was hilarious that we saw two dogs wearing sweaters? Pick a classmate and tell him about those two things...

Until we figure out whether we're gonna have to add more days or not, we'll be helping him with suggestions like this on the way to school.

Praying for wisdom as to know how to proceed from here...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I feel good today and for that I am grateful. I feel alive. I feel happy. Would you describe me as a happy person? Lately there has been this cloud over me: mostly fatigue, but also guilt and inadequacy and shame and fear and just feeling overwhelmed. I know that the fatigue makes it all worse. But today there has been some relief. Today I am not tired. Today I have felt a little lighter. Happy. Happiness is getting things done. Singing around the house. Remembering to pray over my son before I drop him off to school. Acting silly for a tiny smile in the midst of tears and a sad heart that is needing extra time to adjust to starting school and missing Mommy. Chasing my daughter to her squeals of delight. A rainy cooler day. Wearing jeans. A hot chocolate. Bringing out our winter hats from storage (although I'm not quite ready to put away the beach towels yet).

Happiness is hearing that school bell ring to dismiss the students and watching my boy (more grown up today than the first day of school) running to the car, excited to see me and his sister and getting to bring him home. Happiness is a good conversation with my husband and falling a little more in love with him. Reading an extra book to my son who should have been asleep hours ago. The weight of my sleepy daughter in my arms and comforting her from the pain of her four teeth poking through at once. The dryer and the dishwasher running at the end of this day. Writing. And feeling quiet and still tonight, for I am dreaming and planning. I feel passion and longing and hope and excitement and maybe just for today. But I will hold onto it as long as I can for I have found, all good things we must let go of for it to become that which we don't yet know. We can only hope, in letting go, it will be better.

Friday, September 07, 2012

quiet moments and obedience

Today, while I am getting ready in the bathroom, my little girl is sitting in the living room, quietly looking through picture books we got from the library. So I thought. Why have I not learned that “quiet” is a warning much like a fire alarm is a warning?  I come out of the bathroom and my little girl is certainly not quietly looking through picture books we got from the library. She’s not where I left her 5 minutes ago. How can that be? Instead, she is standing (STANDING!!) on a kitchen chair (ummm, this is new).  My glasses are broken (BROKEN!!) laying on the table next to her. And now bored of the glasses, because they are broken, she has moved on to playing with my camera (MY CAMERA!!). Yes, the one I just bought a $200 lens for. How does she know how to pick two of my most important items? Much like her brother, when he was mad at me the other day, he simply went to my computer and tore out the space bar. Yep, he knows where it hurts. Our children are so smart.

Remember when my baby girl was only butt-scooting around the room? Why did I want her walking so badly? Truly, I am grateful  she is ok and that she didn’t  fall off the  chair, climb up onto the table and jump off, drop my camera, etc. It was quite a shock to see her standing there, a little smile on her face. I would have liked to take a picture if it wasn't so heart-stopping and, oh yeah, she was playing with my camera... 

So yes, another new stage we are entering into. Her brother is losing teeth and starting school and Skylar is climbing onto high places to play with (BREAK!!) Mommy’s toys.  Obedience training here we come, round two... Playing outside, we now talk about not going into the street. She goes to the end of the driveway and says, "stop" and stops (for a second) before she's giggling and trying to run into the street.  And yes, I'll take broken glasses ANY DAY over my daughter, laying on the street, with a broken body. But today, seeing her precious little body, exploring her little world (from a higher view) I realized that obedience training is officially here. Sigh. We're still working on obedience with her older brother. Instilling obedience is one of my biggest challenges as a parent. How about you?