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.