Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas Magic


Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays but never as much as it was this year.  Christmas with a three-year-old is like nothing I have ever experienced in my life, except for maybe my own Christmas as a three-year-old.


It was the first time Robbie really, truly understood Christmas – and not just the Santa Claus and gift part.  He spent a lot of time at pre-school talking about baby Jesus being born.  His class’ part of the Christmas program was singing “Go, Tell It on the Mountain”, and Robbie ran around the house for a week singing, “Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ in born!” – complete with hand gestures.

Robbie was ready for Christmas as soon as the tree went up, counting down the days on his Advent calendar and watching a Christmas movie every night.  He begged for snow, near tears when it rained two days before Christmas.  We baked cookies on four different days, including Christmas Eve.  After all, how could I refuse Robbie’s earnest request to “make children’s cookies.”



Christmas morning was, well, magical.  Robbie woke up around 8:00 and climbed into bed with us.  He wasn’t quite ready to go out to see Santa yet; he wanted to talk about it.  As I asked him if he thought Santa had come, his eyes got big and a huge grin spread across his face as he nodded his head up and down vigorously.  And then, half an hour later, he was ready to see what Santa had brought.

All month, Robbie talked about a rocket ship.  He was determined that Santa was going to bring him a blue rocket ship.  They are nearly impossible to find at the North Pole.  Fortunately, Santa was able to perform a last-minute Christmas miracle and, sure enough, there was a Mickey Mouse rocket ship waiting for him under the tree.  I was sure it would be ignored – after all, there were two train sets all set up under the tree as well.

It was the first thing Robbie went to – “Look, Mom!  My rocket ship!”  He zoomed it all over the living room, thrilled that Santa had made his one wish come true.  And, miracle of all miracles, Santa left a different rocket ship at Nona’s house – and inflatable one he could ride.  Cynical mother that I am, I figured he would toss the rocket ship aside after he opened his other presents.  But no.  At the end of the day, Robbie went to sleep with his Mickey Mouse rocket ship tucked in bed behind him.  Two days later, when saying his prayers, I asked Robbie what he wanted to say thank you to God for.  Any guesses?  His rocket ship and his dump truck.


There was more than just Robbie’s age that made a difference this year, though.  For the first time in a decade, Justin and I weren’t traveling for Christmas.  We woke up in our own house, opened presents around our own tree, had our own Christmas breakfast.  Started our own Christmas traditions – things we had never been able to do before.  In fact, this was the first Christmas I didn’t wake up in my mom’s house.  And the first Christmas in seven years that didn’t involve 1000 miles of travel each way.

Now, a mere six days later, Christmas is packed up and put away (ladies, don’t get jealous, but Justin did all the work himself while I ate breakfast).  But the magic of Christmas lingers on a little longer, and Robbie is still checking in to make sure that Santa is back at the North Pole waiting for next Christmas – because Robbie is ready to start his countdown again.


Fighting the Irrational


I find myself fighting irrational thoughts – terrified about leaving my child at Chinese school, forcing myself to walk away and leave him in a classroom; nervous about the hour he was in Sunday school while I was fifty yards away at church; paranoid about a full day at pre-school, even though I have difficulty gaining access to the classrooms, even with a key.  All of these places I didn’t think twice about before last Friday.  Before someone stole the safe haven of elementary school, making even pre-school feel like a risk.

I know it is all irrational.  I know the chances of something happening to my child at school – be it Chinese, Sunday, or pre – is near minimal.  But the fact that there is still a chance is something I cannot shake.  The panic that any moment I leave my child could be the last that I see him will not leave me.  I find myself trying to imagine what those parents must be experiencing, but then the thought of anything happening to Robbie sends me into a new wave of terror.  When did our children become targets?  And what can we possibly do to protect them?

I’m working to make the best of all this terror, though.  Mornings, always so hectic, have to be a time of togetherness and fun.  This morning was a challenge, since Robbie work up screaming and didn’t stop for twenty minutes.  Normally, this results in me losing my temper and a swat on the bottom.  Then tears and both of us feeling terrible.  Finally, attempts to salvage the morning.

But today, I just tried to be grateful that I had a child who could scream for twenty minutes.  Silly, isn’t it, that this had to be my perspective?  That I am so much more fortunate that the poor parents who have no child to console, even for something as ridiculous as wanting to wear pajamas instead of getting dressed for school, all while standing naked in the bathroom.  So I tried something new.  I knelt down and held Robbie while he cried, not worried about the precious minutes this was costing my morning routine.

Suddenly, without reason, he stopped and started singing Christmas songs – something I would have completely missed if I had jumped to losing my temper.  And then he blew bubbles from Halloween, still stark naked, in the bathroom, delighted that the heating vent shot them straight up in the air.  All I could do was stop and watch Robbie, taking in the pure joy of his adventure.  And then my mind spiraled to that dark place again, wondering how I could function if these were the last moments I had with my son.

I know that in time these feelings will fade, this panic when I leave him or think about leaving him.  But I hope I never start taking all of the moments for granted and rushing through my mornings, panicked about walking out of the door in time to be five minutes early for work.  As minute as the chances are, they aren’t worth a potential lifetime of regrets if it really was our last morning together as a family.  I’d much rather have spent a few minutes singing Christmas carols and blowing Halloween balloons.

Mother’s Intuition


When I picked Robbie up from pre-school today, he was in time-out.  Then there was a note in his cubby from the morning teacher.  A long note.  Detailing every single transgression from the day.  Kicking and hitting friends.  Trip to the office.  Throwing bean bags and rugs.  Climbing cabinets and wiping all the contents on top onto the floor.  Trip to the office.  Accident in the office.  Leaping from cot to cot while swinging his blanket in the air during nap time.  Throwing shoes and socks at friends during nap time.  Trip to the office.

My first inclination was to drag my child out of school and have a stern talking to the entire way home.  And then he coughed.  And he felt a little warm.  And so I bit tongue and headed to the Little Clinic.  Only one thing could be happening: Robbie had another ear infection.  It was the only reasonable explanation.  Confused?  So was the nurse practitioner.  Our meeting went a little something like this:

“So, what brings Robert in this evening?”

“Well, I think he has an ear infection.  Again.”

“OK.  Has he complained about his ears hurting?”

“No, but I got a letter detailing all the terrible things he did at school today and he only acts that way when he has an ear infection.”

“But his ears don’t hurt?”

“Not that he’s told me.”

“Is he pulling at them?”

“No.  He can’t feel ear infections.  We can only tell from his behavior.  And his behavior is crazy.”

I could tell we weren’t getting anywhere and she obviously thought I was crazy for bringing my child in simply because I got a letter from his teacher telling me about his horrible day.  It was becoming apparent that she was worried about sending Robbie home with his crazy mother.  And then she examined him.

His lungs sounded bronchitis-y.  And, yes, his ears were red.  The beginnings of an ear infection.

It’s funny how things change.  Three months ago, I waited and waited to take Robbie to the doctor for a possible ear infection because he never complained about ear pain.  And now, well, I’m the crazy lady taking her child in based on erratic behavior.  This is exactly why learning about Robbie’s sensory issues was so key.  It’s allowed me to look for other clues when he acts like a crazy person.  And it’s taught me to think before I react to something he has done – unless, as determined earlier this week, it occurs in the middle of the night and involves heating up milk.



I’m glad to hear that Robbie is learning about the real meaning of Christmas at school.  However, the manifestation of all this knowledge is a little, well, Robbie-like.  As I was getting him out of the bathtub last night, Robbie asked me to wrap him up tight.  As I was wrapping him, he instructed me further.  “Mom, wrap me up like baby Jesus when he was born.”

The rest of the conversation went a little like this:

“You want to be swaddled?”

“Yes.  Swaddled.  I want to be swaddled in a manger.”

At this point I picked Robbie up and held him cradled in my arms.  “Like this?”

“Yeah, Mom.  Like this.  I’m swaddled in a manger.  You’re the manger, OK, Mom?”

Proud Parenting…


We all have those moments, right?  The ones we know will still make us cringe years down the line?  I can think of my first one, when Robbie was only two weeks old.  We were struggling to get out of the house for a post-partum group – after all, at two weeks, everything is a struggle – and I couldn’t find my car keys anywhere.  Robbie sat in his car seat by the front door as I frantically searched the house  for my keys.  Eventually, his wailing and my inability to find my keys got the best of me.

I can picture it even now.  I was on the second floor, standing at the side of the open stairwell.  Robbie was in his carrier facing away from the front door, his face growing redder with every wail.  I grabbed the railing, leaned over it, and yelled, “Shut up!  Shut up!  SHUT UP!” to my screaming infant.  And then, I sat on the floor and cried with my child. 

Hours later, I found the keys – locked in my car.  I stopped looking for them after my meltdown and figured this was all a sign that I needed to stop and breathe.  So I did; I took a nap with Robbie.

Fast-forward three years to last night.  Robbie woke me up at midnight, crying and demanding that I put a movie on.  Already irritated to be woken up – and because it was the middle of the night – I told him no.  And then Robbie lost his mind.  He had to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to.  He wanted milk.  He had an accident while trying to get his pants down to go to the bathroom.  He wanted hot milk and I gave him cold milk.

That’s when I lost my mind.  Hot milk.  Cold milk.  Ridiculous demands in the middle of the night.  And so I screamed back.  Unkindly.  Making Robbie scream even louder.  After I finished my tirade about the temperature of milk and middle of the night shenanigans, I asked Robbie, sarcastically, if there was anything else he wanted.

My poor child looked at me, hiccupped, and said, “I want my daddy!  He’s nice.  I don’t like you.”  This should have broken my heart, and, in a way, it did.  But I just couldn’t let go. 

I believe I said something along the lines of, “It wouldn’t matter if Daddy was here or not!  He would have slept through the whole thing anyway and you’d still be stuck with me!”  And then, just like three years ago, I stopped to breathe.

I gathered Robbie up, finished with being a terrible mother (at least for the moment) and determined to make both of us feel a little better, and headed to bed.  After all, the best thing to possibly do after a situation like that is hold the people most dear a little closer.

Robbie and I talked about what had happened, as he took two sips of the milk that caused the whole ordeal.  I apologized and tried to explain my side, making sure to tell him that the way I reacted was not nice.  After five minutes of talking, I asked Robbie if he was OK.  He rolled on top of me, buried his head in my neck, and said, “No!” as he burst into tears.  He asked me to hold him tight while he cried.  So I did, feeling as terrible as I should have.

And the whole episode has made me think about how parenting evolves.  When Robbie was born, it was my job to make sure he had everything he needed – regardless of the time.  Up every 45 minutes?  For a diaper change the first time and milk the second?  I was all over it. 

When did all of that change?  When did I get lulled back into my eight hours of sleep?  When did I suddenly go off-duty for eight hours of the day?  Robbie is still a little boy.  And, although he’s not a baby, if he needs me in the middle of the night, I need to be there and not be angry about it.  It’s the best third shift job I could ask for.  And maybe, just maybe, I need to remind myself that Robbie is more tired than I am and in far less control of his reactions.  So the next time there is milk drama in the middle of the night, I need to take a deep breath, make the milk, and cuddle up.

Morning Routine


Justin and I have never been good together in the morning.  Ever.  I am very much a morning person.  I want to talk and start the day.  Justin wants to be left alone.  Add a child into the mix, and, well…  You guessed it: disaster.

Lately, mornings have involved a lot of crying – on everyone’s part.  There are empty threats of leaving for the day without the child in tow.  Rushed lunches.  A child who often leaves the house without a decent hair brushing or breakfast.  You know, the same morning you have.

Our morning problems stem from Robbie being very similar to Justin: he wants to be left alone.  He doesn’t want to get dressed; he wants to leave his jammies on.  He wants five more minutes of sleep.  He wants to watch a movie or play with trains.  He absolutely does not want to get dressed or brush his hair and teeth.  This was going to take some work.

I started with his hair.  Initially, Robbie wouldn’t let me touch him.  So, I started talking about his cow lick, making him see what the cow did to his hair every night.  He was so busy laughing about the thought of a cow sneaking into his room that he didn’t mind me wetting and brushing his hair.  Almost brilliant, but we still had the problem of getting Robbie dressed.

Several months ago, Mom suggested organizing different outfits for Robbie in his closet.  I wasn’t sure this would work because Robbie likes to organize his clothes on the floor.  But I marinated on it, trying to figure out a better approach.  And I may have found it.  Last night, Robbie and I laid out five gallon-size Ziploc bags and put an undershirt and a pair of underwear in each one.  Then, Robbie matched his shirts and running pants and put them in the bags.  Presto: a week of outfits pre-matched by Robbie.

You, like I, must be thinking there was no way this would work.  Robbie would surely decide he didn’t like the matches he had made.  Oddly enough, it worked perfectly.  Robbie was excited to go get his bag of clothes.  Sure, he would have rather stayed in bed.  But he was dressed in five minutes instead of fifteen and no one cried or earned a time-out.  Bonus.

Christmas Time


Robbie hates November.  He faced it devastated that Halloween and trick-or-treating were over.  He suffered through Thanksgiving, informing everyone who would listen, with his head in his hands, “It’s not Halloween time.  It’s not Christmas time.  It’s… November.”  And then, miraculously, it was all over.  Suddenly, Robbie’s entire outlook changed, as he proclaimed, “Mom, Thanksgiving is over!  Christmas time is ON!”

It’s a whole different experience with a three-year-old.  Robbie is so into Christmas – decorating the tree, making “Christmas cookies for kids”, playing with the train, making Christmas crafts.  I feel like I’m getting to experience it all again for the first time, too.

I have to admit, though, I’ve fallen into the “Santa is watching you” trap.  I didn’t mean to; I promise!  But, one day, Robbie asked me if Santa was watching him.  How could I say no?  After all, it’s not a lie.  Justin and I are watching him.  Just like that, he started doing what he was supposed to do.  I don’t use it often, only in emergencies really.  Like when he runs out the front door of the dentist office and into the parking lot.  Or when he packs seven rocks into his pants and doesn’t want to hand them over before going into pre-school.

I want to take in every possible moment and hold onto it tight.  I want to bake all the cookie recipes and watch all the Christmas movies.  And this year, we will.  There will be no 1000-mile drive two days before Christmas, no day spent panicking and getting the house ready for travel.  And thank goodness; Christmas time really is on!

Our Normal


I’ve spent the last week reliving every hour, focused on where we were this time last year.  This was the minute the police came to the house.  This was the minute Justin called me to tell me what happened.  This was the minute I arrived home.  Got on a plane.  Landed.  Went to the coroner.  Went to the funeral home.  Went to her apartment.  And on.  And on.  And on.  Because I remember every single minute.  I know what I wore, what was said.  I remember phone calls and lists and tears and confusion and pain.  All in excruciating detail.  How could I not?

It’s the rest of the month and part of the past year, that I don’t remember.  But, slowly, life started coming into focus again.  And, despite all odds, Justin seemed to come into focus again, too.  And, more than anything, I think that’s exactly what Augusta would want.