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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

1st day of summer!

Yesterday was our official first day of summer vacation. I think that our days of summer should be celebrated. Every moment of summer is fleeting and special, and so extraordinary. I try to make special memories with the kids during the summer, though many times I'm bogged down with the stress that their special needs can pose when I'm taking care of all of them by myself for 5 days out of the week. I start every summer with high hopes of what we will do in the coming months, the activities I will plan, the fun we will have. I want my kids to learn to cherish the freedom of summer, something that is difficult when you are a child who thrives on structure and routine. I feel like it's my opportunity during the summer months to educate my kids on what to do when you feel bored, how to have free play time with no plans, how to find things to do on your own, how to just be a kid. This is a skill that is as hard for them to master as anything they learn in school.

Yesterday we spent the day running around like crazy. Normally we have busy days, but when you throw in something like a sick kid or two, the day gets even wackier. Ella and Ben haven’t been themselves lately, so I’ve been debating about taking them to the doctor to get checked out. I decided that yesterday was the day, symptoms were getting worse, and the two kids were miserable. So (with Alex’s help of course) I woke up, got Ella up, somehow got everyone dressed, gave out everyone’s plethora of medications, fed most of the kids, and were out the door in a half hour. 

It was the first day I have had all four kids by myself all day since the last time they had a school vacation, and it always takes a little getting used to. Taking all the kids anywhere by myself is a lot like herding a pack of wild animals. I point them in the right direction and just sort of keep them headed that way, with many distractions and potential dangers along the path. The kids outnumber me, obviously, so I can’t “control” all of their actions and decisions, so I sort of just let go of my control and take deep breaths and hope that we all get where we need to be in one piece. So we went to the doctor. The kids were all pretty good, not too squirrely, and only one kid got his fingers pinched in the little cabinet in the office where the books are kept but my children insist they should hide in until the doctor enters the room. Not a bad visit. 

Two sinus infections and prescriptions later, we were off to McDonald’s for shakes to soothe sore throats and a hash brown for Ella who I had forgotten to feed in the rush of getting ready to go to the doctor. And coffee for Mommy, to make me more human. I had a whole 4 sips before we got to the gym. We have decided that despite the cost and my sons’ anxiety about being at the gym childcare center, it is vital to Mommy’s sanity to visit the gym as regularly as possible, so we have rejoined. The boys have worked on this issue in their counseling sessions, so I’m hopeful that it will go better than the last time we belonged to the gym. 

As I look into the depths of summer, with long days alone with my kids and the potential challenges that face me every day, I have realized I cannot hold onto my sanity unless I take care of myself in some way. I have spent the last 9 years putting my health and sanity on hold in order to take care of my fragile, complex babies, and my body is starting to show signs of trouble because of it. 

So I’ve explained to the kids that Mommy has to go to the gym because it’s a great way to relieve stress, stay healthy, and be happy. I'm hoping that while I'm carving out some 'me time', I'm also teaching my kids through my example about healthy habits.

The kids were only a little perturbed with their first visit back to the gym, so that was great. But the gym childcare coaches had played with boomerangs with the kids, which was so fun that guess what Jonah and Ben were obsessed with buying RIGHT NOW on our way home after the gym? Boomerangs. We made a trip to the dollar store, sweaty Mommy herding the pack, searching for the elusive boomerangs. We didn’t find any. So we went to get Ella and Ben’s prescriptions at Walgreens, got gas, and pointed Mommy’s Taxi toward home. It was 10am. It felt like it should be at least 5pm! On our way home, Jonah said he was going to go see if any neighbor kids could play. I explained that most of our friends are at camps because their parents work. He exclaimed “Well, WHAT are we going to DO all summer?” Hm, good question, I thought fearfully.

When we got home, I pulled out that faithful OT godsend—shaving cream. I squirted a bunch on the table in the shapes of faces and letters, and the kids got to play in it. They loved it, like they always have. They covered the whole table and worked together to make a huge smiley face with a mustache and soul patch, which was Ben’s addition of course. They smashed and splattered shaving cream all over themselves, the floor, the chairs, the kitchen…but the cleanup was worth it for the 20 joy-filled minutes the kids played. The cleanup could have gone smoother- everyone was fed up by the end with the shaving cream that covered them, didn’t want to get wet in order to wash the cream off, and did not feel like helping clean up the giant mess they had made on the table. I tried to remember those precious 20 joy-filled minutes as I scrubbed the kids and the floor and the table.

For lunch, I decided there is nothing as festive as an impromptu summer picnic. So I took orders for everyone’s sandwich, got out fun Halloween paper plates, and pulled the picnic blanket out of the back of the van where it waits patiently for festive summer picnics. While I made lunch, Ella spread Jonah's purple slime (that came in a tube and feels disgusting which is why he loves it) all over the kitchen floor. After I made sandwiches, I cleaned slime off the floor. They don't make that slime easy to pick up, I tell ya. After the slime incident, I brought the food and blanket out to the tree in our front yard, and Ella and I planted ourselves on the striped blanket, ready to feast. The boys finally joined us after several silent moments of mystery in the house. With great fanfare, Aidan stood up and announced to us, with prompts from his big brothers, “We would like to sincerely thank Mom for making this beautiful picnic.” They do these little sweet speeches once in a while, and they’re so cute and heartfelt it just melts my soul. It was so adorable. We had a lovely picnic in the beautiful sunshine.

After lunch we played outside for a long time, riding bikes, doing chalk in the driveway, playing in the sandbox. All the while, I was thinking 'when am I ever going to get a shower??' I finally snuck one in with great difficulty, and then had to quickly rally the kids to get in the van again for the trek to the ENT to check Ben and Aidan’s ears and hearing. Ben has had tubes in his ears twice due to hearing loss and frequent ear infections. He’s also had his tonsils and adenoids removed because of sleep apnea. So we know our ENT well. I wanted Aidan’s hearing tested so that we know whether it is a factor in his difficulty with language and attention. Ben’s tubes are out of his ears and they look good, structurally. He graduated from the ENT, doesn’t need to go back for 6 month check ups anymore! Aidan’s hearing is perfect, so on the one hand that is a relief, but on the other it’s more proof that the problem with Aidan’s language issue lies somewhere in his brain. Hearing loss might be easier to deal with. But at least Aidan's ears are working how they are supposed to.
Look at those "Criss Cross Applesauce" legs!! We've been working on that in PT for weeks!

The ENT visit was chaos with my pack of wild children. Asking them to behave in not one, but two doctor's offices in one day is just requesting too much. They went bonkers, despite my bag of Magic Mommy Activities. Any sort of crazy activity you can imagine, my kids were doing it in the waiting room, in the doctor's office, in the hearing test room, in the hallway waiting for stickers that they probably didn't deserve. They wanted to go to a sandwich restaurant for dinner after the ENT, but I told them I couldn't handle all their energy, by myself, in a restaurant, because I was worn out from dealing with everything that had happened at the ENT. So my sad little children climbed in the van for the trek home. We haven't been able to find time to grocery shop lately, so the pickin's were bare in the pantry yesterday. The boys forlornly whined "Well, what are we going to eat for dinner?" As if they have ever gone to bed with empty bellies. I said don't worry! I will whip up something delicious for you from the whole lot of nothin' that we have in the fridge! Jonah said "Mom, that's why I love you. You always take care of us." What a sweetie. I actually had no idea what I would make for dinner, so the boys said they would come up with something. I heard them quietly debating in the back seat about what to have. Finally, they presented a united front- they wanted pancakes for dinner! Relief! I had all the ingredients for pancakes. We like to decorate our pancakes with different colored frosting, in funny face shapes or hearts or sweet words. Rainy day dinners are often full of pancake creations at our house. Apparently summer dinners are destined to be full of pancakes too!

We finally made it home. I unloaded a car full of tired, irritable kids who had made it through their first day of summer vacation. A neighbor friend played with the kids in the back yard while I made dinner. I called the kids in to eat, and our friend said she HAD to see this dinner! She was in awe. She said she never got pancakes for dinner! I told her that sometime we would invite her over for dinner and we'd have pancakes with frosting faces. She said she would really appreciate that. Inside I was thinking that this sweet friend never has pancake dinners probably because her mom is on top of life, makes it to the grocery store when she needs food, and serves healthy veggies and protein for dinner. Not carbs and frosting. But then I thought that I was happy that I had made it through our first day of summer. It was tiring and frustrating at times, but we had made it through. And I had succeeded in making some sweet memories with the kids. The days of summer seem endless to me sometimes, but when school starts each fall, I wonder how the summer flew by so quickly. I hope I can make the moments of this summer special for my kids. I hope I can help them celebrate the lack of structure, excess of freedom, and pancake dinners that summer brings.

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