Sunday, September 20, 2009

BIG news!

I'm in the middle of about 3 posts. So little time with Paul in Brazil these last two weeks and me holding down the fort (and attending all the back to school events) alone. I'll get to finishing those stories soon, but couldn't let this day pass without announcing the big news:

Oscar learned to ride a bike today!

I was in the middle of an email to a mom of an infant with PWS (trying to remember, ironically, when it was that Oscar could finally hold up his head) when I got the phone call. Paul, who arrived home yesterday, had taken Oscar and Ruby to the park to give me some time to catch up on a few things, and apparently they took bikes. It's something Paul tries with Oscar every six months or so, but as far as I knew he'd never gotten close. His balance reactions were slow, his motor planning a bit off. I'd pretty much given up on it ever happening without some huge intervention. In fact, I've been keeping an eye out for another trail-a-bike so we could do family bike rides again. I figured we'd get a tandem some day. Tandems are cool. I was totally ok with him never riding a 2 wheeler bike.

So the call came as a surprise. I threw on my flip flops, hopped in the car and raced to the park to see for myself. And sure enough, he WAS riding a bike. Look!

I dissolved into a puddle of hysterical laughter and tears. Paul squatted down in front of me and wrapped his arms around me. His eyes welled up too.

So great are the joys. So high are the highs.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

11 years

Eleven years ago today I heaved my swollen body out of our green Ford Escort wagon and waddled up Solano Avenue with Paul and the crowd, stopping to listen to musicians, sampling the spicy fare at ethnic food stands and browsing the booths of local artisans. The 2nd Sunday in September is always the date of the Solano Stroll, a street fair that extends 1.2 miles and spans two cities. On that Sunday in 1998, I was 9+ months pregnant, and three days past my due date. Stimulated by the long walk and all that spicy food, Abraham decided to start his campaign that night and finally arrived 20 hours later on the evening of September 14th.

Now, 11 years later, I watched from the window as he left the house armed with just $10 and his cell phone, off to meet a friend at the Stroll. He was reluctant to leave the house at first...dragging a bit from our already busy day. But once he and his friend agreed by phone on a meeting place, his pace and mood picked up. I could see his energy change from my post at the window.

Eleven years later, then, I am still pushing him out, though with less fanfare and pain. He walks or bikes to school now, meets up with friends in public places, and shops for groceries at our local market. Sometimes he needs a nudge toward independence, but mostly he's ready for this freedom and is responsible enough to have earned it.

And while I'm helping him gain independence, I'm also holding him close, aware that he's growing up quickly. After the "little kids" go to bed, we've fallen into the fragile habit of a nightly chat. We sit companionably in the family with my computer, he with his book. I'm always poised for conversation but don't want to appear overly eager so I wait for him to initiate.

He talks mostly about middle school. His transition to the bigger more chaotic environment has been stunning. New friends, new sports, new confidence and calm. I've trained myself to relax noncommittally into the cushions whenever his enthusiasm peaks or frustration rears and listen calmly and openly. I'm trying to say "hmmm" and "oh" a lot, even when I want to say "WHAT!?" or "WOW!" because I've heard that "hmms" and "ohs" are more likely to earn you a seat on your child's "advisory board".

I'm relishing his maturity and openness and wondering how long he'll let me stay in this inner circle of his thoughts.

Hopefully another eleven least!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about transitions lately. Seems everyone is posting about them in some way or another and I too am struggling with my own end-of-summer back-to-school blues. I'm actually excited for school to start (two down, one to go) and to finally get some time to think, exercise, organize, write. Instead of elation, though, I feel burdened. Three schools worth of forms and meetings, a computer that crashes twice a day, a tweaked shoulder, a needy preschooler, a dripping faucet, a half-dead frog (must buy worms tomorrow!), a sad weedy garden, and oh, a husband in Brazil for two weeks.

Then there are all the doctors' appointments that I shelved for the summer and will have to schedule for this fall. Two endocrinologists, three pediatricians, one orthopedic surgeon (or maybe two), a periodontist, a dentist, a radiologist, a psychiatrist, an ophthalmologist and a nephrologist.

There's also another transition going on -- one of hormonal changes, disrupted digestive systems, acne, thinning hair and weight gain. I keep thinking I am too young (or too old?) for this, but we all know what chronic stress does to the body.

None of it is earth-shattering. Little of it is new. But it's dragging on me like bowling balls in my pockets.

My sister-in-law is being ordained a Priest in the Episcopal Church in NYC this weekend. We were there in March for her ordination to Deacon, but are sadly missing this weekend's momentous event. I called her tonight, to wish her well, and to get the scoop on the final preparations. She's preparing her remarks for the post-ceremony brunch and mentioned that she's going to end with a prayer about transitions.

I'm going to have her send me that prayer. And then I'll post it here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Middle School

Abie's off to middle school tomorrow. After 5 years in a really small elementary school, he's moving on to the largest public middle school in Berkeley.

Three hundred 6th graders. Ten 6th grade classrooms.

Back in March when we were in the midst of the big school decision I wasn't so sure this school was the right fit. I thought it was too big and way too hectic. Even the kids were huge. I was worried about the large classes, the standards pushing and the lack of art and music. When I observed lunch recess it seemed to me that the kids were all voluntarily divided by racial background and that really bothered me.

But, when Abe observed recess he said "Mom, I like that its big. I like that there are lots of different groups of kids. It looks like there are lots of ways to be cool here and that makes me feel comfortable."

I liked his viewpoint. I loved that he was so observant and knew what he needed for this next step.

That was months ago and the stress of the decision has long since passed. The more I hear about this school the better it sounds. Terrific programs, awesome teachers, great kids. I am thrilled that he can walk or bike there, and that he knows kids from baseball and from around town who are going. It's the home of the famous Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard. Abe's read up about the garden, tried some of the recipes, and can't wait to work in that gorgeous school kitchen. We also just found out he can play his electric guitar in the 6th grade band.

It all sounds great....except I feel like we're sending him off to college. Between before-school band, and after-school sports, I feel like I'll hardly ever see him again. Plus with a nearly 9 year old quirky brother that still naps and a little sister who could be Dennis the Menace's twin, I doubt he'll be begging to bring kids home. So, these last few days, I keep filling him up with advice just in case he really doesn't come home again. Strangely, he seems to be listening.

Things like, "So, Abe, if someone says hi, remember to smile and say hi back...If you mumble or don't look up, kids will think you don't want to be friends."


"Find your baseball friends and hang out with them. They'll probably be with other kids from their elementary schools, but don't let that stop you. I'm sure those kids are nice too."

I sound like an idiot. What do I know about the middle school social scene? I spent those years peering out from behind greasy bangs, trying to figure out what was so cool about Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. (It was the stitching, and at my school it had to be gold). My brand new Sears denim skirt did not cut it.

My nickname during those years? Scary Mary. Seriously.

Yea, I should probably keep my advice to myself. He's going to be just fine.