My Preschool Grad

Our first experience with preschool started out a little bumpy - I think it was just as big of an adjustment for me as it was for Ethan. But this year has turned out to be one of the best things for both of us. Ethan has grown so much. It is clear to me now that starting him in preschool this year, although he was only 2 and a half, was definitely a great decision.

We got through the first couple of weeks tears and all. And eventually he would wake up asking if it was "preschool day". He started to hang his own backpack and run off to start the day rather than clinging to me for dear life. Everyone said it would happen - but I guess I just assumed it might take a little longer than 2 weeks. I was both relieved and sad that he was quickly becoming more independent right before my eyes.

His teachers fell in love with him - I mean really, how can you not :) - which also made it easier for me to leave him each Tuesday and Thursday.

The way he started out, I wasn't so sure he was ready because of all his "hot-spots" for not listening or throwing or some other very age appropriate but not classroom appropriate behavior. I actually asked his teacher, Ms. Kathleen, one morning if I should pull him out of class. She gave me some great advice - she said "He is two, of course he will do those things, but leaving him in a structured class environment may actually help him learn". And she was right.

Ethan has matured so much throughout the school year. He listens better, he spends more time doing creative things like coloring and singing, he plays so much better with a group of kids. I really think this has been a positive experience.

Although I don't want him to grow up too fast! Seeing him graduate today made me tear up for a minute. I would like to imagine that I wasn't the only mom there who was envisioning his years flying by like flipping through a photo book...preschool, then kindergarten, then high school graduation. I wish somehow I could preserve the Ethan I know now - Ethan at 3 years old. The way his hands smell like crayons and his cheeks are still so kissable with the last few ounces of baby fat.

But then again, I'm so excited to know Ethan in the future. He's one spectacular kid and I am so very proud of him. There are big things in store for him - I just know it!

Ms. Kathleen and Ms. Jennifer deserve a lot of credit for putting their hearts into teaching our often crazy, very tempermental children. They are brave souls taking on a classroom full of 2 and 3 years olds! And getting them to learn in the process is quite an accomplishment! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Go Horsey Go!

My dad has recently turned one of his biggest hobbies into something more - he's purchased a couple race horses! He started out with Gandolph Finch, then he added Bail Baby Bail. Both horses ran at Keeneland a few weeks ago and we took the boys to see them up close and personal.

What an experience! Keeneland is such a beautiful track and it was even more perfect as it was an amazingly beautiful day as well. The boys had such a blast hanging out there - and it brought back many memories of "exploring" at Turfway Park with my brother and sister when we would be there with my dad growing up.

Gandolph Finch ran great, coming in 2nd in his race. We found out afterwards that someone had claimed him - meaning they purchased him just before he ran. That's what happens when you enter your horse in a claiming race. The kids were heartbroken because they had gotten to know Gandolph pretty well. They'd been up to Turfway a few times where he was stabled to feed him peppermints (who knew horses liked peppermints?) and pet him.

Bail Baby Bail ran 2nd also...2nd to last that is. But hopefully he'll make some improvements as time goes on. :)

After losing Gandolph Finch, my dad decided to go ahead and purchase another horse, Sir Mott. Both horses will race again in the next 2 weeks or so. It's been an exciting thing to share with my dad as a family!

A mother's heart

Half the time I use this blog to update everyone on the boys - how they're doing, the funny things they say, the trouble they're into that particular day/week. The other half I use this blog to vent. To get things off my chest. To unload my emotions so that I don't let them build up and boil over. So please, bear with me.

I think I'm in a really good place when it comes to raising my kids, specifically when it comes to raising a child who is "different". I will admit that having Aiden definitely threw me for a loop. I don't think any new mother ever really thinks about what they would do if they were surprised at birth with a complication, a rare sydnrome, or an illness. So when it happens, it hurts. It knocks you off your feet. And it makes you feel like you aren't sure how to stand back up.

But you see, I did.

I allowed myself to grieve. I selfishly worried how this would effect my life, the life that I had pictured so differently in my head. I educated myself and connected with others who knew what I was going through. I let friends and family help, and I let them stand back when they weren't sure what to do or say. I let guilt creep in more often than I care to admit - wondering if blame for Aiden's condition could somehow be pinpointed to something I did or did not do. I educated myself about his condition. I read books about children with special needs written by parents who honestly shared their hearts - the good parts and the dark parts. I began to understand how to process my feelings.

And despite all the times I was unhappy or fearful or scared - despite it all, my kids were loved unconditionally. That goes without saying.

I think it is an amazing thing to hear other mothers of kids with special needs say how wonderful their lives are. I couldn't agree more. Being a mother has made my life so rich and having a child with special needs has undoubtedly helped me become an even better version of myself. Through my children, I continue to learn and grow.

With that said, there is something so raw about raising children. Not only are you responsible for yourself, you are also the owner of another one's small little heart. I know I'm strong enough after all my years on this earth to handle my own heartaches. I am able to keep from coming unglued when sometimes I want to fall to pieces. I've proven that to myself. But when you start to see that it's this other little heart that you can't stop from hurting - stop from being hurt - that's what complicates things as a mother.

To say that we as parents have a great responsibility to teach our kids right from wrong is an understatement. I take that role very seriously. The hard part is knowing that you can't control other people's actions, words and how seriously they approach their role as a parent. When a little girl at the doctors office yesterday, about 7 years old, got in Aiden's face and said "Ewww - that baby is crazy", I immediately responded without skipping a beat, even though it was like a dagger to my heart. I said to her "No he is not, he's a happy little baby just like any other". She backed off a little, eyed him up and down then said again, "Well, his head is crazy". The mother (or maybe it was grandma or caregiver, not sure) along with the 3 other kids with them all heard this child's comment, yet did nothing. Didn't even acknowledge it. Instead, the 4 children continued to walk around my sweet 2 year old boy who thankfully was oblivious to their hurtful, misplaced words, checking him out as if he were some sort of exhibit on display.

I don't care if you are Mother Theresa, that is enough to make you want to do one or all of the following things: 1. Be nasty right back by saying something equally rude to the child, 2. Snatch your child up and remove him from the situation, 3. Burst into tears as your heart just breaks right in your chest.

I admit, I judged this child. And I judged her parent. I know kids often don't have filters. I know she may have been making an observation about the ways that Aiden looks different and she may not have had the sense (or vocabulary) to put it any other way. I know she didn't mean that he was "crazy" in the literal sense of the word. And I know I should have been able to have the right reaction, the right words to combat her negativity, the right actions to turn this situation into a positive learning experience. But I'm sorry, right then, in that moment, I hurt. And I will not make apologies for that.

Hurting for my child when he is too young to know is a burden I have. It is one that honestly, I wish I could continue when he is older. I would give anything to be able to take on his pain when comments like those hurt him in the future. But I know that I won't be able to do that. I must teach MY child right from wrong, to be accepting of differences (both his own and others) and to live his life to the fullest. And when he does get hurt from someone's mean-spirited remark, I will teach him that it's okay to feel upset, to be emotional. No matter how grand of a job I do raising my kids to be strong people, and how many times they brush things off and keep on going, there are bound to be times they are hurt by ignorance and superficial judgments. To think someone could ever be so strong and uneffected all the time is ridiculous. When those moments happen, I will let them cry, and sometimes, I will cry with them.

I will never judge another person's way of dealing with hurt - especially when it comes to their child. Some people can be positive and upbeat about it 100% of the time. Some get depressed and internalize their pain. Others even put up a good front at the time, then fall to pieces in private. There is no right or wrong way to handle these situations. I'm still learning too. Even now, I know there will be times when I have the right words at the exact moment I need them. Other times I may actually be too overwhelmed to speak at all. Either way, I know that I am doing my best and I will always find a way to move forward. For my kids.

In honor of this Mother's Day, I just want to say hats off to ALL moms.

Single moms.
Moms of 1 kid or 10 kids (or anywhere in between).
Moms who gave birth to their children.
Moms who lovingly adopted.
Moms of special needs kids.

And most of all, my mom. :)