Not listening … my son, never!

Today when my husband picked Miles up from preschool he gets pulled aside by one of the school staff that helps with the drop-off/pick-up routine every day.

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“Miles had an especially difficult time listening today,” she said. I have no idea what the tone was as I wasn’t there and Michael doesn’t have a great brain for those kinds of details. But in my imagination it was pretty disappointing. Oh wait, no, it was ominous.

Dum, dum, DUM! *Insert suspenseful music here*

OK, let’s get real. The kid is three. Like just turned three. Actually, during the open house last week I learned from the teacher that this year is unusual as many of the kids are on the young side of three (although Miles is by far the youngest having only turned three nine days before the first day of school.) Most years the preschool class there is filled with kids who are either three and almost four or already four. So she admitted that things weren’t going as smoothly as normal.

I certainly want my little guy to listen. I want him to contribute to the classroom and not be a distraction. But I’m not really sure how you achieve that. We talk about the importance of listening. We try to practice it at home (trust me, we ask him to listen A LOT!) But what more can you do? What other strategies are there out there for “encouraging” listening.

We model listening giving him lots of opportunities to talk and to really be heard by my husband and me. And we certainly point out when he interrupts someone while talking and ask him to listen.

But again, he’s three. And a spirited, strong-willed, stubborn-at-times three at that. He is my child after all! My mom keeps apologizing to me for “cursing” Michael and me with a kid that apparently is just like me when I was a kid.

I don’t want to “squash” his spirit. But I do want him to be a productive and active part of the classroom, not a distraction. Advice for strategies to meet in the middle? What have you seen with your kids? What’s worked? What was a flop? Any teachers out there want to give me advice from your perspective?

Checking in on school

Every day I ask my son, “How was school today? What did you learn.”

The answer is almost always the same, “It was fun; we played with trucks.”

Granted, the kid just turned three (nine days before his first day of school) so I don’t expect him to be crafting complicated multi-part thoughts. But I just keep hoping there will be a little more then, “trucks.” And I’m certainly hoping that his school day consists more than trucks and the occasional Goldfish cracker snack. But talking to him I’d think that was it.

I’ve tried to get a little more out of his teacher when I drop him off most mornings but she’s busy getting things ready for the day and tending to the other kids in the class.

So I’ve been left to my imagination and own thoughts — something that can be dangerous for a gal who tries her darnedest to always be “Little Miss Sunshine” and the queen of thinking the best of people and situations but can also be dragged into those dark corners of “worst case scenario.”

And our sweet little Miles hasn’t been so sweet at home these days as since he started school he’s been boycotting naps and even fighting us to go to bed at night. Being tired for most kids — certainly my kid — often equals cranky, fuss-bucket, melty-tantrum machine.

Here’s a few scenes from our house over the past two weeks:

Miles is hysterically crying because his train tracks won’t go together the way he’d like. I try to help him get the pieces together and ask him to please calm down and take some deep breaths. In between the screaming and throwing of train pieces Miles yells back to me, “I don’t like to breathe.”

At nap time Michael will get him all snuggled in bed after reading a pile of books and leave the room so Miles can get to sleep. Before Michael even hits the door’s threshold Miles is out of bed screaming about not wanting to go to sleep. Michael closes the door and tells Miles he needs to at least rest quietly in his room for a bit. The sound track of screams are soon joined by the sound of toys bouncing off his wooden door and protests of, “Rescue me! Rescue me!”

So yep, things at home have been a little rough. So I was concerned this kind of behavior was the same thing that was happening at school. Well maybe I wasn’t worried about toys being thrown, but I was certainly concerned that maybe he was being cranky or mean to the other kids and teacher.

Announcement of an upcoming parent meeting and open house last week eased my mind quite a bit; if he was acting that way we’d soon find out. We sat through a general presentation with a gym full of antsy kids and then were released to our children’s classrooms. It was fun to get to see the other kids and meet their parents but a huge relief to get to ask the teacher, “So, what’s it been like? How’s he doing.”

Talk about relief — “He’s doing great,” his sweet teacher told me.

“Really, or do you just say that to all the parents?” I asked tentatively.

“Really,” she replied with a laugh. “He’s thriving.”

And then she went on to tell me that many of the other kids is his class were also a VERY young three but that he’d been doing well, listening and had surprised her with his stellar color recognition skills. Now his actual coloring skills, those could use some work, she said with a smile.

Shew! OK. So I guess we can live with a few more weeks (hopefully it’s just days) or adjusting to the new routine and extra brain stimulation. I’m hopeful that this not so nice phase is short-lived and I get my sweet boy back any day now.

Tell me how your first few days of school have gone? How about things at home? Any suggestions for help with transition?

Dear Decaf,

How I love you.
Your big, bad, older brother caffeine has been on my “no-no” list for a while now. Still, until recent times I used to sneak away with him for the occasional dalliance here and there. I know that cheating on you, my dear friend, isn’t kind. But he’s just such a tease. Sometimes I can’t help but give into his temptations and join the “dark side.”
But in the last few weeks, I’ve dumped him and all his velvety, peppy taunts for you, decaf. You are a leaner, meaner, modified version of your brother. You don’t pack much of a punch, but I’ll take your robust flavor and placebo energy boost any time. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I appreciate your efforts to be there for me each and every morning.
Years ago I’d become dependent on your brother but now am happy with my morning routine of an iced version of you, oh lovely decaf.
So thanks decaf for sticking it out with me. I promise my dedication to you won’t waver this time (at least until this little munchkin makes his arrival in about 60 days.)
Love,
Abbey

Things don’t always go as planned…

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Parties are my thing. I love being a hostess. I love everything about it — themes, baking, planning, making lists (seriously, I really enjoy lists), making people happy … OK, you get the picture.

So when I was thinking about my son’s third birthday weeks ago I got pretty excited. We weren’t going to go nuts or anything. It was 15 people and was going to be a small cookout with the kiddos playing in the little splashy pool we got Miles as an early birthday present. But I was stoked.

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But, as often is the case, things don’t always go as planned.
I was released from the hospital after three VERY long days a little more than 12 hours before his party was scheduled to begin. And if that wasn’t enough to put a damper on plans the fact that I was released with strict orders of bed rest flooded out any plans for a party.

Elvis wrapping paper -- I know you are jealous! :)

Elvis wrapping paper — I know you are jealous! :)

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Miles got Thomas the Train sheets and comforter!

Miles got Thomas the Train sheets and comforter!

My son deserved a party. I’m not sure if he really understood what was going on or what he was going to miss, but every kid needs a party. And my body was just incapable of providing one. Of course my amazing family wouldn’t let Miles be deprived of anything. My mom brought the party to us — an amazing Thomas the Train cake, a spectacular Thomas balloon, Mickey straws and noise makers and Spider-Man plates and napkins — and we had a little get together. I celebrated from the couch, but Miles was happy. He had CAKE! And to top it off, my mom and sister took Miles to the zoo Saturday so he could celebrate with my nephew, the monkeys, otters, giraffes and jaguar.

Miles and Charlie at the zoo

Miles and Charlie at the zoo

As much fun as I know he had at the zoo and during our impromptu, multicharacter/theme party it made me a little sad. OK, I’ll be honest, it made me a lot sad. I even cried when they were leaving for the zoo.

You can blame it on hormones (I am eight months pregnant) or the emotional roller coaster of the past days in the hospital. But what it came down to was that my little guy was now 3. Yes, I was sad I didn’t get to celebrate with him like I’d planned. But deep down I know he had a great time, maybe even more fun than he would have with the party I’d imagined.

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Another year has passed. Sentences are the norm now; he is out of his toddler bed and in his very own big boy bed. My baby is growing up, and I can’t do anything about it.

Will every birthday be this tough?

One small step for Miles, one giant leap for his mom

My son started preschool today.

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It’s kind of a landmark moment. Miles has been a stay-at-home kid for the last 18 months or so. At barely three years old, that’s probably all he remembers.
But now, he’s going to have a schedule to keep, get up on time, get dressed and ready to go. That’s a big enough adjustment for a kid who spends many mornings lazily camped out in the living room playing with trains with no pants on.
But now there’s the preschool.
Miles doesn’t have much experience being around lots of other kids. He plays well in small groups of two or three, but put him among a bigger play group and he usually stands around on his own watching, seemingly unsure of what to do.

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There’s also the structure to worry about. Miles isn’t a kid who really likes to sit still for more than 30 seconds or so at a time. At school, he’ll be expected to do so for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. And since it’s a Catholic preschool, he’ll also be expected to go into the church sanctuary and be quiet. That should be interesting, considering one of his most-loved activities is running and screaming random nonsense at the top of his lungs.
But he’s a little kid, and they’re flexible. He’ll figure it out, I’m sure.
His parents, well into their 30s, maybe aren’t as flexible when it comes to changes these days.
The school he’ll be going to has wonderful staff and a great program set up. My concerns are not that he’ll be mistreated or put in an unsafe situation. I don’t worry about that one bit.
It’s just the fact that he’ll be going into the world, all on his own. It may be only for a few hours, four days a week, but those are going to be some pretty interesting hours for him.

He’ll be learning new things not just from his teachers but also from the other children. He’ll be bringing home new germs and new ideas along with macaroni-glued artwork and fingerprinted Thanksgiving turkeys.

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There’s no doubt that it will be a beneficial experience for him, but still, there’s just a little bit of fear, or trepidation. You hope he won’t be a bully, or be bullied. You hope he’ll listen to and obey his teachers. You hope we’ve taught him well enough to go be a productive member of his little preschool society.
But when you really get down to it, all that is kind of out of our control.
Here goes nothing.

Luck and blessings in uncertain times

We all have that place in our head — it’s dark, scary and typically void of all rational thought. And no matter how hard we try, we are sucked into that spot every once in a while.

I’m learning, through experience and advice from family and friends, to not beat myself up for the trips to those places but instead to make each of these “adventures” a time to learn and become a little better, a little less likely to venture back to that place.

I made one of these trips Thursday.

Since last Saturday night I’ve been one giant, itchy, swollen poison ivy blister. That morning my son and I were outside in our backyard. While he played on the swing set I decided to tackle a patch of poke weed that was staring me down. I made sure not to touch anything that looked suspicious and immediately came in and washed all exposed skin well. It did no good.

By Sunday my face was swollen with the rash threatening my eyes and I was itching like crazy everywhere. Since I’m about two-thirds of the way through my pregnancy I checked with my OB about what to do. She sent me into the OB emergency department Sunday where they prescribed me a steroid. In the coming days it just got worse and more intense. Wednesday, during a regularly scheduled appointment with my OB she sent me to a dermatologist that afternoon. He prescribed a high dose steroid shot. I got the shot in his office with the assurance that in a few days I should be feeling better.

I left the office feeling itchy but fine. I was walking to my car thinking about what I had ahead of me for the rest of the day at work.

Then I woke up, sun beating down on my face blinding my eyes from what felt like about 20 people (but probably closer to eight) leaning over me as I laid on the hot asphalt of the dermatologist’s parking lot.

I’d passed out and was unconscious. A man thankfully noticed me in the spot he’d started to pull into and didn’t run over me with his truck.

All I could say was, “I’m pregnant with a pacemaker. The baby!”

The rest went fast — stretcher, ambulance, needles, EKGs, tears.

I’m not really your standard pregnant woman considering I’ve got a pacemaker. And on top of that, I was covered in this monster-like rash. I went to the same OB emergency department I went to on Sunday, only this time it really was an emergency. Their concern was to determine why I passed out. My concern was for my unborn son. Had he been hurt when I fell to the ground? I had a huge knot on the back of my head so there was an obvious impact. Was he OK? What did this mean for him?

Tests, monitors, ultrasounds — they all assured the doctors and me that my little guy was OK. Around 10 p.m. that night they transferred me to another part of the hospital where doctors could better monitor me and my heart and would send people over to monitor the baby every few hours.

I didn’t sleep, at all. Part of it was the misery of the itching and the pain from hitting my head and back so much. But mostly it was the guilt and anxiety.

Passing out is something that happens with this lovely heart condition I get to call my own; but it hasn’t happened in more than a year and never happened during my last pregnancy. And while it is never fun and always scary, the intensity of my fear, anxiety and guilt of what happened that day and what might happen again felt incapacitating, like I almost couldn’t breathe.

All I could think was, “Thankfully my little guy looks great. But what if it happens again? What if the outcome isn’t the same?”

I couldn’t live with myself. What would my husband think or do? Friends, family, strangers? It would be my fault.

All day Thursday people were coming and going telling me I was doing fine, the baby was doing fine. I didn’t want to be at the hospital; I wanted to be home with my son who didn’t understand where his mommy was. But I was terrified to leave. “My baby was safe there,” I thought. “He might not be safe with me.”

Rationally, I understood that “I” was not hurting him; it wasn’t my fault that I lived in Bangladesh 10 years ago trying to help people as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I seemed to have caught some virus that damaged my heart and forever changed my life and is now impacting his life.

But when I was sitting in my hospital room feeling his tiny, helpless body rolling around inside ME, and I know I am the one responsible for keeping him alive and healthy, rational thoughts aren’t really the first ones to rise to the top.

No shiny bow. I’m still scared out of my mind. And I know that I’m not the only one; others are going through much more terrifying things. That thought only makes me grieve for them, not take comfort.

But, with my promise to myself to make these trips to irrational, scary land more productive, I left the hospital late Friday night in a much better place. I had a plan; the doctors had a plan. I can take good care of myself and this baby but I can’t change the fact that I have a heart condition that might impact my pregnancy again. I can’t loathe myself for that fact. I have to accept that and accept the limitations that come with it.

One of those is living the next week from my couch, overstuffed chair or bed and allowing those around me to help during this (hopefully just) week of doctor mandated bed rest.

I’m blessed with amazing family and friends who have made this experience manageable. My husband didn’t skip a beat, taking over full responsibility for Miles while I was in the hospital and doing his best to help me maintain my sanity. My mom swooped in, providing a birthday party for my son this past weekend and is keeping him for the week so I am truly allowed to rest. My sister provided clothes, S’mores pizza, company and support. And friends kept me sane with phone calls, visits, baby snuggles, a fridge full of food, perspective and milkshakes.

So, writing this from my eerily quiet house while my husband slaves away in the yard, I am reminded — even in the midst of some scary and uncertain times — just how lucky I am. And this little guy that is thankfully happy and healthy dancing around in my belly will be equally blessed when he gets to join the rest of us in about 10 weeks.