Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Other Shoe (Hopeful Parents)

It's been months since I posted here, but I hope to be back soon with a really long update. In short though, my mother died in July and I just didn't feel up to posting in the months preceding and following her passing.  And then, in a fit of madness, we decided to finally take care of all the deferred maintenance on our beloved "dilapidated castle".  This fall we packed up all of our belongings, moved out, renovated our house, then moved back in. It's one of the crazier things we've done. We are still stepping around boxes and can't find the hardware for the bedroom blinds, but life goes on.  

In the meantime, I did finally post over at Hopeful Parents. (Thankfully they hadn't changed my login or revoked my privileges in my absence!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Rare Tuesday

It's a rare rare Tuesday -- no baseball game for Abe tonight.  No dinner with friends. No meetings about teen alcohol prevention, no science fairs or school concerts. No soccer practice or music rehearsal. And so we are home. Oscar is napping and I'm making dinner for the first time in over a week. 

Ruby made fruit salad, cubing apples and oranges and bisecting tiny frozen blueberries till her fingers turned blue. She topped the salad with sliced almonds and divided it into two bowls - one for her and one for Abe. They sat at the breakfast table and chatted and made silly sounds while I scrubbed carrots for the stew.

Then Abe tuned the little toy guitar he got when he was two and handed it to Ruby. He picked up his own guitar and they strummed together, Abe stopping every couple minutes to reposition Ruby's still chubby fingers on the frets. And now they are playing a board game. Abe is explaining the rules to her in a fake British accent and she is giggling and hopping like a frog in the orange jumper that she's wearing with purple leggings and wool socks.

I love Abe's baseball games. I love the evening sun on my face and the cheering and chatting with friends in the stands. I love watching Ruby invent ball games with other siblings or wheel around on her scooter in the adjacent basketball court. I love how Oscar cheers for his favorite players on both teams, watches the umpires and keeps track of the count.  I love rooting for Abe (who is playing with a cast on his wrist and somehow still contributing) and seeing the energy and excitement he brings to the game.  I love it all.

But I do love a quiet afternoon at home, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To Not Have Him (Hopeful Parents)

Another month gone by and I haven't posted a darn thing here.  As usual it is not that nothing has happened, it's that too MUCH has happened and that by the time I process one thing and start to write about it I either get interrupted or a new crisis erupts.

I will tell you that Abe broke his wrist playing baseball at a tournament and that when I saw him crouched on the field holding that limp wrist I jumped up and down on the clangy metal bleachers and screamed every swear word I know. Yep, I'm calm in a crisis.  After a couple of nerve-wracking days of uncertainty over what was broken (or not) we landed with a most fabulous hand surgeon, who thankfully did not suggest surgery, but fashioned a beautiful cast with which Abe can still play baseball. I found myself jumping up and down on a different set of clangy metal bleachers a week later when he hit a single and a triple after switching back to righty hitting (after three games of lefty bunting he decided that just wasn't his thing) wearing the cast.  It's amazing he can play at all, and believe me I asked the doctor fifteen different ways if he was sure he didn't risk further injury. 

And I'll tell you that Oscar, that same weekend, performed so beautifully with the Latin American youth ensemble Los Mapaches, leading the group onto stage confidently playing bombo, a traditional drum made from wood and sheep's skin. He sang out earnestly, played zampona, and did his best with the dances.  After the concert, a member of the adult Latin American music ensemble complimented Oscar on his bombo playing and all I could think was "he doesn't know!"  That man doesn't know that Oscar has a disability and that he worked extra hard to learn that complex beat that might have come easier to someone else. He wasn't just being nice. (If he'd complimented Oscar's dancing I'd know he was just being nice). Oscar idolizes the adult musicians and just beamed up at him emitting a barely audible "thanks".

And I'll mention that Ruby's perseverance and stamina on the soccer field is astounding me.  Before this season she liked soccer, but now she seems to love it and runs harder and longer than I thought she could.  Some parents from her old preschool formed an all-girl team this season and she's so thrilled to be with her old buddies again twice a week.  Last week, after playing for nearly 45 minutes without a goal, her team finally scored against a dominating squad.  The girls, all just 5 and 6 years old, immediately rounded into a joyful celebratory circle, red sweaty cheeks pressed together, and laughed and whirled around. I got all teary-eyed as did my good friend B, not because her daughter scored the goal, but I think because like me she saw in that spontaneous celebration how our girls are already understanding perseverance and teamwork and friendship on such deep levels.

So that's a slice of our month.

Today is my day over at Hopeful Parents. I posted an essay I'm working (or should be working on) that I adapted from a blog post here a year or so ago. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Seeking Calm (Hopeful Parents)

I'm over at Hopeful Parents today, writing about anxiety again (and my first attempt at meditation).  I'm tired of the anxiety and I'm tired of writing about it. I figure you might be tired of reading about it too, so after I drafted that post last night I wrote a whole other, more hopeful, post about Oscar.  I'll share that here sometime this week...but the truth is the anxiety is ruling me right now, so that's what I posted after all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

De-lurking for Japan

Like many people I've spent the past few days reading and listening non-stop to news about Japan, and still it is all so inconceivable.  The effects of the earthquake and tsunami are utterly devastating and I think of all the people now living in fear of nuclear meltdown too and wonder how I would cope with all of that loss and uncertainty. A photo of a mom holding her young child up to be checked for radiation exposure sucked the wind out of me. 

Ruby asked a lot of questions tonight, particularly about the tsunami.  Her blue eyes grew big and round when I explained that the force and height of the water experienced in Japan's coastal areas would topple our house and push all the cars in the street around. She wanted to know how many people died and if we know any of them.  She wanted to know if anyone we know has ever even been to Japan.  She wanted to know how a tsunami starts in the first place. 

My doctor has been posting on her blog about possible radiation exposure where we live. It seems almost disrespectful to worry about some low level we might experience here but all the same I've increased our leafy green vegetables and sea vegetables to pump up our non-radioactive iodine levels.  I've heard before that most Americans are deficient in iodine but it never really seemed relevant before.  (Or, rather, so many other things seemed more urgent.)  Last night I made a lovely miso soup from homemade dashi with shitake, wakame, and kelp noodles and felt that the meal was both a tribute to the Japanese as well as the start of some protection against whatever radiation we may or may not be exposed to someday.

Two of my friends, Kate at mother words: mothers who write and Elizabeth at a moon, worn as if it had been a shell, are making a donation to the Red Cross for each reader who leaves a comment who has never left one before. I think that's a grand idea, and so I am borrowing it too.  If you are a new or infrequent commenter, leave one this time, and in a few days I will make a donation to the Red Cross.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Oscar's scoliosis has increased again -- he's now up to a 30 degree curve.  I know I've written here before about the various opinions we've received about how to treat.

Brace? Surgery? Exercise? Ignore?

Our main orthopedist - the one in San Francisco who always takes the time to talk to Oscar about their shared interest in basketball -- has been telling us since Oscar was three that rowing would be great for Oscar's back.  I didn't think a three year old who was just learning to pedal a tricycle could row, and neither honestly did he, but he did suggest therabands and tug-of-war and all kinds of other things that engage the back and core in the same way.

Well, we didn't do any of it.  We have done horseback riding in the summer, and swimming (which he also recommends) and various other things, but nothing consistent.

At this last appointment Dr. Gray gave me the choice -- brace again or drastically increase the exercise and see if there's improvement. He said that he treats dancers with scoliosis whose curves increase when they get injured and then improve as soon as they start dancing again. He believes in strengthening the muscles around the spine to help it align which is why we started seeing him in the first place.

And of course he recommend rowing, again.  I took Oscar to check out a WaterRower on Saturday. Oscar LOVED it. He quickly figured out the motion and then did not want to get off.  He talked about it for an hour afterward -- about how strong he's going to get and about how fun it is.  Ruby loved it too, which is great because she too has low trunk tone.  Honestly, we all need the extra core and upper body workout so I'm really excited. The machine gets great reviews, stores easily (perfect for our small house) and looks nice.  An added bonus -- the swishing of the water circulating in the drum is very soothing!

We're going to rent to start, just to make sure it doesn't stay folded up against the wall unused despite our best intentions. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


We returned from Hawaii exactly a week ago tonight, and yes, it's taken me this long to post! The trip was in honor of Paul's parents' 70th birthdays and so we were there with them, Paul's two sisters and our niece -- and had such a wonderful time.

We stayed in condos overlooking a cove just around the corner from Napili Bay and enjoyed this amazing view from our balcony.  I loved falling asleep listening to the waves knocking against the rocks, and, a whole week later, I still miss the sounds of the water and breezes at all times of the day.

We went to a luau with the men and kids wearing these matching shirts and dresses.  (Notice that I'm hidden in the back in my boring brown dress). We all felt a little silly but it was fun.  Abe enthusiastically responded to the call for volunteers to learn the hula dance up on the stage, Ruby took dozens of pictures of the dancers, and Oscar was wide-eyed and keeping the beat with the drummers all evening long. 

We realized (thanks to facebook) that old college friends were staying just up the road from us and so we enjoyed an hour reminiscing over a glass of wine at sunset on a gorgeous point separating Napili from Kapalua.

We have at least five pictures of Oscar wearing this hat -- is it Paul's or Grandpa's? I'm not sure, but I think it looks best on Oscar.

Oscar wasn't so excited about getting into the ocean (except for snorkeling) but he swam laps in the pool, and then cozied up in towels on the pavement afterward.

We tried surfing, and I thought I'd be really good, but I really really wasn't. Abe did well, and so did Paul's sister and my niece, and Paul too actually. Really, everyone but me seemed to get it.

We snorkeled nearly every day, exploring most of our favorite spots from years past.  We swam with the turtles in the cove, and drank wine on the "grassy knoll" overlooking the cove at sunset.  We boogie boarded (even backwards)...
gazed out at the cove and drew pictures...
...and built sand castles.  Oscar started and finished a castle all by himself one day with no help or suggestions from anyone.  (Sometimes I don't realize how much help, or rather how consistent his need for help is, until he does something completely independently.)
Can you see it? He's pretty proud.

And Paul, Abe, and I read most of the Suzanne Collins Gregor the Overlander series. I'd brought lots of books about writing, a memoir or two, and one novel, but I didn't read any of those. Instead I got completely sucked into this five volume series and only finished last night.  I loved diving into a wildly different world, and then discussing plot and character development with Abe.  He says, by the way, that the Hunger Games trilogy is better, so that's what I'll read next.

I found, though, that despite the glorious setting and fun adventures, that I couldn't escape my anxiety in Hawaii. The breathtaking views, warm trade winds, crashing waves and the sugary sand were all incredibly soothing to me during the day but I really struggled at night. I woke in the wee hours and could feel the panic start to fill my head. I practiced my breathing and focused on comforting images but the stomach pains and racing thoughts persisted.  (Our mediation with the school district is on Wednesday and I can only assume that thoughts of that meeting were invading my calm.) 

On our last afternoon, I sat on Napili beach and concentrated on the contented calm that filled me in that moment as I breathed in the swaying palms, shimmering water and billowy clouds.  I promised to start making some changes to help reduce my anxiety and feel more fulfilled no matter how busy and stressful our days are sometimes.  I need a daily practice.  I don't know yet what that looks like, but this photo brings me hope that I can figure that out. 

Monday, February 28, 2011


We're back from our wonderful trip to Hawaii, and I will definitely post some pictures this week. But for now here's the post I wrote for Hopeful Parents on the plane ride home!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I'm really really ready for our trip to Hawaii tomorrow.  We're not packed, but we're close. The couch and the chairs in the living room are covered with neatly folded clothes sorted by kid. One chair holds the long pants and sweatshirts they'll wear on the plane but everything else is shorts and bathing suits and water shoes.  I've chosen small games for the condo, pulled out some markers and paper and books for the plane and even remembered to dig the life vests out of the depths of our garage.

The last time we went to Hawaii Ruby was only two years old and still in diapers. Her hair was really blond then and the freckles that dot her face now had yet to appear.  She spent a good part of the trip obsessed with the song B-I-N-G-O and sang it over and over B-I-ENGINE-O, B-I-ENGINE-O. She cracked up when we showed her a video of her two year old self singing those modified lyrics.

Four years later she still sings as she plays. Just yesterday, while Oscar was in his after-school music class, she and her friend made a cube shaped drum out of large colorful plastic puzzle pieces and beat it with shovels while parading around the school yard singing in Spanish. They sang for an hour, sometimes joined by others, and it made me so happy to see her so engaged and comfortable at school.

Oscar was in Kindergarten four years ago, and the exact age Ruby is now.  I remember that it took days to convince him to try modified snorkeling. I knew he'd love watching the brightly colored fish swim around him but he was resistant. He was scared. When we finally got him out into the bay with a boogie board for support wearing just the mask and not the snorkel he couldn't stop giggling.  He was still anxious, working at the brink of his ability, but loving the experience too. I pulled up this picture last night to show Ruby, very well aware that knowing that Oscar snorkelled when he was only six would ignite her competitive spirit.

This time Oscar can't wait to swim with the giant sea turtles that reside in the bay outside the condo. He's talking about it perseveratively and I had to remind him on the way to school that his classmate who was smooshed next to him in the backseat of our little Prius for the third day straight listening to Oscar's stories about Hawaii might start to think he is bragging.  I switched the subject to today's school-wide book swap and thankfully Oscar transitioned.

This picture also helped Oscar get mentally prepared for snorkeling again.  I can sense a little anxiety creeping up (will the turtles bite my toes?) but having proof that he's done it before, as a teeny little kindergartner, is so helpful to him.

And Abe was only a third grader, just eight years old, when we made this trip four years ago.  He seemed so old then, as he does now, and it makes me wonder if I am inadvertently pushing him too hard to grow up.  (We've been arguing these past two days over responsibilities -- me pushing for more organization and accountability with schoolwork, but is that too much to ask at age 12?  I don't know.)  At eight he snorkeled from a boat out in deep waters, skim boarded on the shore, played paddle ball and shuffle board and catch hour after hour.  He plans to do the same this time, and we've made a pact to try surfing.  We need that time together, hopefully laughing as we fall off our boards, as these past weeks have been full of stress and arguments.

Obviously returning to the same area as before is allowing me to reflect on what has changed in the past four years, and what is the same. I also can't stop remembering that four years ago in Hawaii was the beginning of the six months of dizziness that eventually caused me such debilitating anxiety that I called my primary care doctor one night and asked her to prescribe something, anything, to make it stop. Instead of driving the two miles to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription I walked. I walked and walked those six months, trying to calm my body while the dizziness just increased. Evenutally a brilliant neurologist prescribed vestibular exercises that zapped the dizziness in a mere two weeks. I still consider that one of the miracles of the last decade.

I've chuckled too as I've pulled out summer clothes for this trip. The skirt Ruby is wearing below still fits her. It was too long then and a bit too short now.  The orange hoody and blue Keens that Oscar had on fit Ruby now and the bathing suit that Abe is wearing above still fits Oscar. There's comfort in that cycling of clothes. (And Paul is wearing that shirt to work today and probably on the plane again tomorrow. I'm not a fan of Hawaiian shirts but Paul is and you will likely see one in every picture I post.)

There's comfort too in knowing that we will swim with the turtles in the bay. That I'll walk the sandy path from the nearby crescent beach and over to the next one and up past the new condo development to the more secluded oceanside path to the north. There's comfort in going to our favorite taco shop and the farmer's market and hiking down to the blow hole and experiencing the water bursting up like a geyser through the holes bored in the lava shelf from years of tide and wave action.

When I was younger the thought of returning to the same vacation spot probably would have bored me. But so much in our life now is unpredictable and often stressful that I'm looking forward to visiting a favorite spot and relaxing into the familiar soothing routines. We really need this vacation.

So one selfish wish: Obama, I know you are flying out of SFO tomorrow at the exact time that we are. Please please don't close the surrounding roadways so that we can't get to the airport. I don't mind if you have to freeze the air space for a little (little!) while...but at least let us get on our plane. This vacation means too much to us to miss.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Goodbye January

January was not a great month. 

I wrote vaguely about our IEP troubles over at Hopeful Parents, but I left out that Paul was in Spain for ten days and that while he was gone I got sick.  Ruby mysteriously hurt her hip and could hardly walk. I spent days preparing forms and collecting files for Oscar's neuropsychological assessment.  I still fed and transported the kids.  I also spent every evening (or so it seemed) reviewing and commenting on the latest draft of the legal document that finally got filed last Wednesday.  The paperwork and advocacy that goes along with having a kid with special needs is mind-boggling.

Oscar's appointment with the orthopedist did not go so well either. His curve has progressed to 30 degrees.  Three years ago we started nighttime bracing when he hit the 25 degree mark, but we stopped bracing when he outgrew the device in April 2009.  With tons of exercise and luck the curve somehow improved to 22 degrees.  For three visits now we've seen an upward trend and it's time to get serious.  It's true that Oscar's not getting nearly the same exercise as he was this summer when he was swimming, horseback riding, working out with his PE teacher and riding a bike. At last week's appointment our orthopedist let me choose between a brace with intense core exercise or just intense core exercise.  I chose the latter but I've yet to make it happen.

Somehow, though, I'm feeling more hopeful about February.

It could be the weather.  February is beautiful this year..more beautiful than any of the previous sixteen I've lived here.  The bright sun, warm breezes, pink fluffy plum tree blossoms, and the glowing late afternoon light followed by the orange and pink streaked sunsets are all very soothing. 

It could also be that baseball season has started again and that we spent last weekend watching Abe's travel team play five exciting games at fields that are replicas of big league stadiums. The team played with such heart, coming from behind to earn three of their four wins. Oscar happily chatted with his many favorite adults, Ruby jumped rope and drew pictures of fairies, and I relaxed with friends and cheered the team on so enthusiastically that my voice was scratchy for two days.

It also helps that the "the document" is filed and the neuropsych testing is now behind us. While I fretted all weekend about Oscar being well rested for the eight hours of intense testing this week, he was more energetic and zippy during the testing than we've ever seen him.  I even worried that he was too energetic -- giving an inaccurate picture of his arousal levels and ability to focus. I think though that he just demonstrated again what a complex kid he is.

And I know it helps that we are going to Hawaii next week.  Looking at pictures from our trip there four years ago I feel the tension of the past few months dissipating.  I can almost feel the water lapping over my back as I attempt to swim from one end of the crescent shaped bay to the other. Almost.

And even though I know I don't always have to write about the good stuff I do feel freed up to write again. When my brain is muddled with deadlines and anxiety I do have trouble finding my words.  Or the words I want to write are too hard to face....their harsh reality more jarring than helpful.  Something to work on I guess, but for now I'm just grateful that January's gloom did not follow me too far into February.