Monday, December 20, 2010

Excuses, 2010 Edition

"Excuses, 2010 Edition" is the short title for this blog. If I had enough room in the little box, this would actually be called, "Why I never catch up on laundry, return a friend's phone call, answer an e-mail in a timely manner, attend a PTA meeting or remember what my name even is."

If I may pat myself on the back for a second, I think I do quite well managing to organize the insane mess I have been handed, but I know it is still not good enough. I am aware that it is frowned upon that I haven't been more present at school events, that I sometimes forget special occasions and that I probably unintentionally hurt feelings when I have to cancel plans.

The thing is, while I may look like a slacker to the unknowing public, I have, in fact, been quite busy. It may sound selfish, but my kids come first. Period. They come before that school event someone asked me to help with, they come before chores and cooking, and they even (as much as this pains me), come before my dear friends' needs.

So what have I been up to that drains so much of my time? I have been getting prescriptions, researching the drugs, and picking the medicines up from pharmacies. Some of the drugs can only be found at specialty places with limited hours. Sometimes we have problems with refills or side effects that warrant more phone calls and worry. On a daily basis, I measure and administer nine doses of various medications for my kids if they are healthy. If anyone has an infection on top of this, it adds complication.

I have been taking my toddler to various doctors of different specialties to make sure his needs are being met and to search for answers. Sometimes there are medical procedures involved, and there have also been some overnights at the hospital. Sometimes my older kids have medical issues that need addressing, too, and that can be really draining when everything happens at once.

I have been taking my two year old to pediatric therapies, and sitting in on the sessions, five times a week. This is an ongoing process with no end being mentioned. None of the appointments are overly close to my house, and it also takes time and effort to make sure the therapists are addressing all his needs. I have to stay on top of the goals, and struggle to even remember what they are all sometimes, as we have so many.

I have been reading. I do read for fun, but I also read about autism, about allergies, about ataxia, speech delay, reflux, special education. and anything else that pertains to what we are currently going through.

I have been attending lectures and workshops. I go to as many free events that apply to us as I can. I think knowledge is key when it comes to empowering myself.

I have been teaching my two and a half year old to eat. I have been on the phone with his gastro doctor's nurse weekly. I have fretted about muscle tone, aspiration, calories, weight gain and his well-being. I have, with the help of my husband, weeded through the intricacies of insurances to obtain special formula, foods and liquid thickeners. Every outing requires a lot of planning, which is something normally reserved for parents of infants. I can't leave the house without sippy cups of the appropriate beverages as well as easy to chew and allergen-free snacks. When Joshua eats, I have to watch him carefully to hope he does not choke, and then I have a moment of panic if he does. Sometimes he gags and throws up during meals. Sometimes it happens when we are out in public. Sometimes people stare and my heart breaks a little. There are days Joshua eats no food at all.

I have been taking my oldest to autism support groups and playgroups as well as tracking his progress at school. I keep in close contact with his teachers, and I have to stay afloat on knowing his IEP goals. Sometimes there are meetings to attend, letters to write, or phone calls to make to assure that all is running smoothly. I have been focused on helping him to maintain a strong sense of self in a time when that challenges him. I have been talking him down from tantrums, helping him with homework that frustrates him greatly, and sometimes just rubbing his back and letting him cry wen it all becomes too much.

I have been attempting to be creative and active with my neuro-typical six year old, who needs mommy time in a desperate way. I have been giving him art projects, admiring his handwriting and driving him to soccer or karate.

You know what else I have been doing? I have been taking time to just "be" when I can, to appreciate, in rare, quiet moments, these beautiful children I have been given, or even to (gasp!) forget about mom issues and think about other stuff for a while. Some day I will be able to do more outside of my little bubble again. The rest of the world can wait while I focus on three little boys who can't.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

For What It Is Worth

I always enjoy reading books, articles or blogs with advice on how to handle different parenting situations. The best, of course, are those that come from someone on the front lines. I have been meaning to share my "worldly" advice on issues I deal with daily. Since our family has a few different medical or educational needs, I will just touch on two of them- food allergies and autism.

My first advice on dealing with food allergy in children is to downplay it when you can. Yes, if the child is severely allergic, they must be made aware, of course, and the school and everyone that comes in contact with the child needs to know the safe foods, or what to do if the child does have a reaction to something. But, the food allergy should not define the child, or make him feel strikingly different from his peers. Almost everyone has some sort of food allergy, sensitivity, or simply foods they do not care for. It has helped me a lot to point this out to my kids. The less limiting you make their allergy sound, the less limited they feel. Try to go to restaurants that list allergens online or have a helpful staff. Instead of looking at a menu and immediately telling your child what he or she cannot have, instead list what IS allowed. Sometimes, that list will actually be quite long. All of this being said, it is hard to constantly see certain foods (peanut, soy, or whatever your child's allergen is), as a form of poison. It is frustrating to always have to pack snacks for play dates,school or birthday parties. There are times I do find myself daydreaming about taking all three of my kids for a relaxing afternoon of pizza and ice cream. But, they have managed to branch out quite a bit, obtaining a taste for veggie sushi, hummus and salmon. My oldest children have become quite responsible about knowing what they can or cannot eat, or asking the right questions if they are unsure. My two year old will follow in those footsteps; I have no doubt!

The "biggie" on many parents' "what do I do now" moments is that time your child is diagnosed with some form of autism. Oh, how I truly want to hug everyone in that position right now and whisper, "it will be ok," even though I understand how hard that is to hear at first. The best advice I can give on raising a child with autism is this: Make memories with your kid. It is easier said than done. You have to mentally set aside time in which your brain will not be comparing him or her to peers, worrying what others think, or dwelling on milestones. You must find a way to be in the moment so that someday when you look back on this, you remember blowing bubbles, warm days at the park or family game night rather than a sea of appointments and uncertainty. Of course, as with any child, you need to accept your autistic child for who they are, and help them to do the same. I can say there will be moments to make you so proud you will cry with joy, just as there will be moments that will bring you to your knees in despair. Remember that you are not alone. There are billions of other parents sharing some form of your experiences with this disorder.

Every parents is a seasoned veteran in many areas. Food allergies and autism are just two of the issues that touch my heart, and that I like to try and help others with if they need or want the support. I definitely don't claim to be an expert in anything, but sometimes hearing one voice say, "I understand" is invaluable.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Giving Thanks

I noticed a lot of blogs on the theme of thankfulness right before Thanksgiving. I had planned to write my own, but I fell behind due to being sick. I figured that it is appropriate to be thankful any time of year at all, and so I will describe today the things I appreciate most in life.

I am thankful for the things that don't come easily. This may sound strange, but it is an interesting twist to take aspects of your life that you wish you could change, and find a silver lining to them. When I struggle with something, it makes me more sympathetic to people who also have similar issues, and I enjoy being able to understand how others may feel. One example for me right now are the migraines I suddenly have started getting. This has made me appreciate the days I do feel good, and it has made me obtain admiration for people who deal with chronic pain. I may not have understood before how hard it is to get through the day when feeling truly miserable. I might have taken my health for granted.

Along those lines, I am thankful for the weight I need to loose. Everyone has a cross to bear; something physical they want to change about themselves. This is mine. It keeps me humble and it gives me something to work towards. It would be nice to say the weight "just fell off" after having three kids, but numerous circumstances have kept this from being so. I am fully aware that success someday in this department will be more meaningful because it is taking so much time, and it isn't easy.

I am thankful for two parents who have always loved me unconditionally and encouraged me to live life my way. They never pushed me to be someone I am not, and they continue to support me in everything. I believe I was at an advantage in life starting out with such a positive upbringing.

I am grateful for the friends who have seen me through thick and thin. There is nothing more comforting than someone telling you that they remember where you have been, but that they can also see also where you are going. I have a lot of friends who constantly uplift me. Some of them are old friends from school, and some are newer friends who came to me through shared circumstances such as our children's activities or schools. All of them enrich my life.

I am thankful for my husband, an unsung hero who must see every side of me unfiltered, every day. I am happy for the strength he has to take over duties that seem to hard to me when I am overwhelmed, while he also works hard outside the home to provide for us.

Of course I am thankful for my children. I couldn't ask for anything more, and I celebrate their unique qualities, even when they can, at times, be frustrating. I am proud of the people they are becoming. Within that, I am thankful for the struggles we have had with things I never thought would be daily words for us... autism spectrum, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, food allergies, failure to thrive. A beautiful life comes out of raising children with special needs. I may have days of feeling sorry for ourselves, or for them, but I truly cannot imagine things being any differently, either.

I am thankful for my first "real" boyfriend, for teaching me about forgiveness and that love can endure over time, not in the way it started, or the way you might imagine it to be, but in a nice blending of shared memories and respect. I don't know that many people get to be in the unique situation to experience this.

I have great gratitude for our doctors, some of whom have gone beyond their call of duty for myself or my children. We are fortunate to have doctors who are willing to share their vast knowledge with us, while also being humble enough, when appropriate, to admit they do not have all the answers, either.

In relation to that, I am thankful for the pediatric therapists who have provided two of my kids with endless hours of help. I am most impressed with the ones who never say "He can't" or "He won't." That is what I need as a parent, to hear that the sky is the limit.

I am thankful for small things that make life fun, like lattes, a really good Mexican restaurant, a great laugh with a friend, an addictive television show, new shoes, or a pair of jeans that fit just right.

It would be impossible to list all the things I am thankful for, but these are some highlights. I think it would be beneficial to keep a running list in my head all year. On any given day, even on a horrible day, I bet I can think of at least five things to still be thankful for. It's hard to complain when there is still so much good all around, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Deep Thoughts During Our Playground Adventure

Yesterday evening the boys, Bryan and I all went to the park for Zachary's soccer practice. While Bryan watched Zachary run around with his team in the grass, I took the other boys over to the playground area.

Not too long after we explored some of the slides, Joshua decided he wanted to swing. As we approached the swing set, I noticed a teenage girl on one of the swings. Her mom was on a bench right behind us.

It was apparent to me that the girl had something "wrong" with her neurologically, although I could not place what it was specifically, nor was that important. As I loaded Joshua into one of the baby swings, I noticed how peaceful the girl looked as she gazed into the distance, probably admiring something simple like the way the breeze was blowing the leaves; something many of us are generally too busy to bother enjoying. She knew how to pump her legs, but after a while her mother came over to push her, too. She looked so happy then, with a wide grin on her face. I tried not to stare, fearing her mother would assume I was judging, when in fact, I was admiring how profoundly beautiful the girl was... How beautiful they both were, this mother-daughter team.

Based on my kids' mild needs, I know that these moments to just relax in time are probably few and far between. The days are probably riddled with worry, work, therapies, doctors and meetings at school. I know that there was a time that this mom was told by a medical professional that something was wrong with her daughter. I know that if I had asked her, she would have been able to tell me exactly where she was when she heard that news, and every detail of that day. I like to think that maybe things have turned out better than she originally thought... that even though her daughter is challenged, and appeared to even be non-verbal, there are still so many moments of joy and wonder and limitless love.

As I pulled Joshua from the swing, I realized that perhaps, to this mother's trained eye, she may be able to tell that something is different in my child, too. If she looked closely, she may have seen a similar "wise old owl" look on his face, or she may have noticed how his hands were clenched when he walked, or that he has an awkward gait. Likewise, she could have looked across the playground to Ben and seen him spinning and spinning on a little seat with no regard to anyone around him, and wondered. But, maybe they just looked like typical kids to her, too.

I think what I gained is another reminder that we all are different in our own ways, and that life with special needs may have difficult lows, but that far too often the silver linings are missed. There isn't a requirement to go at the same pace as everyone else, and there isn't a need to muse about what might have been. Sometimes you can swing at the park at sunset with a smile on your face, rejoice in the fact that that is enough.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Late Letter

Dear Grandpa,

I wanted to see you before you passed away. At the very least, I wanted to write you a letter. Many times I had crafted this correspondence in my head, imagining the words I would put to paper; the things I never told you. Of course every day there was a new distraction from the kids, and nighttime meant driving to activities, going to the gym, or collapsing into a heap of exhaustion on the couch. I know you understand, but it doesn't make my heart ache any less.

I wanted to tell you that I have always admired you for coming from humble beginnings and finding your fame. More important than that, you did work that made you happy. Sometimes the hours and intensity required to be great in your field meant that you lacked time for your family. I know that must have hurt more than you ever let on. No one can do it all, but you wanted to try.

Things slowed down a little bit by the time I came around. I think as your grandchild, I was in a unique position to see those carefree moments that others missed. You were able to give enough pause in-between commitments to truly enjoy our time together.

It might surprise you that I can recall with vivid detail from our last visit the musical sound of your laughter and the smile of joy you had on your face while holding your great-grandchild in your arms.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of a trip to the zoo in California when I was maybe about 6 or 7 years old. There was a cute baby monkey there that was wearing a diaper. I was absolutely in love with this little guy, and you were so amused by the story that you went out and found me a stuffed monkey, then hunted down a cloth diaper for it, too. Just for fun, the monkey was also given a hat and mittens. You were elated to present me with this gift, and I still have "Safari," who sits proudly on a shelf in my house.

To echo Grandma, who repeatedly stated during your funeral that, "it all went so fast," well... it did. Somehow in the depths of denial, I thought your life would go on forever. I thought there would always be another dinner out together, another chance to share stories, and another chocolate cake for birthdays.

I know memories are supposed to comfort me. While I do hold these recollections close, I noticed that there is a little light gone from my eyes. There is an empty space in my heart. No one can bring back that same exact sparkle or fill the spot where you were, because you were truly one of a kind.

I am thankful for the privilege of being your granddaughter. I love you like a poem in my heart that I have known the words to all my life. I will do my best to be a good person, to work hard and to inspire others. These are the ways in which I hope I can honor your legacy, but you are a tough act to follow. Your charisma was a gift, and one that is impossible to duplicate. Your greatness will never be forgotten.

Love Always,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Truly The Happiest Place on Earth

We have just gotten home from a wonderful trip to Southern California, which included our boys' first visit to Disneyland. While there we made the decision to take advantage of the disability passes that Disney offers for rides. These passes allow the family to enter attractions from the exit area and bring in wheelchairs or other needed devices. The lines therefore are short or non-existent. We debated about this feature because of the fact that our children's needs are mild. It is especially tricky with Benjamin, as he has no actual physical disability but rather a mental state if you will that makes things such as standing in line in crowds very challenging. I was anticipating dirty looks and nasty comments from other park-goers, who could assume we were just impatient people with whiny children trying to cheat the system.

As it turned out, Joshua had some regression in his walking on the trip and was stumbling all over to the point that I felt relieved to have some special assistance. It was a good idea to be in shorter lines and be able to bring his stroller in to the attractions to give his legs a rest. But even if that had not been the case, I realized there was no reason to feel bad about avoiding waiting in extremely long lines with the masses.

The thing is, we spend our lives waiting. We wait for doctors to call back. We wait for answers. We wait in lobbies of therapy offices. We wait to talk to teachers about special issues. We wait for milestones that never come soon enough. We wait at the emergency room. My typical child waits while I help my autistic child through a tantrum or assist my two year old with eating. We wait for the next bomb to drop.

At Disneyland I felt like it was one nice day of normal for us. And yes, I felt like we got some deserved special treatment. There were actually a few times that park employees were so nice I wanted to cry. After a year of hard work and a lot of build-up for this vacation, finally someone was taking care of us to assure that our day went smoothly. All of my children were smiling. We got to go on many rides in a short amount of time. No one melted down. It was a dream come true, just like a Disney vacation should be.

So if you are at Disneyland or a similar park sometime and want to glare at the families in the short lines or say unkind things under your breath, think twice. Yes, there will always be some who take advantage of the passes, but most people are kind and honest, and just because you do not see an obvious disability in someone does not mean it is not there. Before you think how "lucky" they are, consider how trying their lives may be on a day to day basis. While you go home to normalcy, they go home to more tests, more appointments and more overwhelming stress.

Thank you Disneyland for a beautiful experience.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Confession Time

The other day after our babysitter came over, I was quickly getting Joshua ready for bed. As usual, I could not find the matching sleep shirt to his pajamas pants, so I decided to leave him in his t-shirt that he had already worn all day. It was a rather hideous color and pattern combination. "When my other kids were little, this would have bothered me," I said to the sitter. "I used to be organized," I went on, and I saw the skepticism in her eyes.

If you only have known me post-third child, you would assume that I have always been "relaxed on details," which is a nice way of saying, "a disaster." It is hard now to imagine a time when I had the luxury to worry about intricate things. I think at this stage, with a 9, 5 and 2 year old, I simply get through the day. To look at the big picture or sweat the small stuff is overwhelming.

I cringe now to think that I used to judge mothers who came to the park with sippy lids that did not match the cups, or kids with hair uncombed. I am now that mom. Things rarely match, at least one child always has something unkempt-looking going on, I frequently forget drinks, snacks or wipes in our bag, and we have made more than enough scenes with public tantrums. (My secret to surviving those is to not make eye contact with anyone and get to the car fast!)

So while we are at it, here are a few other confessions. My kids watch more TV and play more Wii than they should. My 2 year old has seen shows and movies that I never would have let my other children watch at this age. We frequently eat oatmeal for dinner because I am too tired to cook. I never feel guilty when I go out and leave the kids with a sitter (a euphoria I used to think was impossible to achieve). I sometimes make up elaborate excuses for why we cannot paint (or do moon sand, or some other messy endeavor), simply because I do not feel like getting into it. I have been late to school pick up on more than one occasion, and I never bring homemade treats to the bake sales.

So there you have it. I would say overall I am still the mother I want to be, but I push the limits of what I previously would have considered acceptable. In most ways, this letting go of perfection is a positive force. I think I will continue to go with it. I am sure someday I will return to my more organized way of thinking, but I don't look forward to it as much as I thought I would. There's something quite lovely about the chaos of sweet, sticky-faced boys that surrounds me. It fills my heart the way having things "just so" never quite could.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hardest Questions

A few days ago I took my middle child, Zachary, to see our developmental pediatrician regarding some concerns I had. While she did note that Zach is very impulsive, she basically told me that when he acts up or gets emotional it is the product of having two special needs siblings and nothing more. This made me want to cry for two reasons. One, he is stuck in a tough situation. And two, someone saying out loud that I have special needs kids, despite the fact that it is stating the obvious, always feels like a strange dose of reality.

On the drive home from the appointment, I decided to talk to Zach about his brothers. Zach, while typically developing, does have a milk allergy as his "issue," so I angled it that way at first, talking about how everyone is made differently and everyone has different things about their bodies or minds... things that they struggle with.

Regarding Ben, who has high functioning autism, we talked about how the way he looks at the world is different than the way the majority of other people view things. I told Zach that Ben cannot help it, but also that it would not change. To put it to a child's terms, I said, "You know how Ben is obsessed with his Star Wars figures and he lines them up and gets mad if anyone touches them? Well, when you and Ben are big grown ups, and you go visit him at his house, he will probably still have his things set up a certain way, and he still won't want you to touch anything." I looked at Zach via the rear-view mirror to see if he understood. He was nodding his head, but I know it is a tough concept to swallow; one that even my husband and I are still coming to terms with. Ben is brilliant and wonderful, but there are things about him that are classically autistic and those things will not change. Zach will eventually move on to easily make friends, go to the prom, drive a car and play on sports teams. Those things may not be important to Ben, or may be impossible. In time, I know Zach will have more questions, and I will be here to answer them.

Next we talked about Joshua. Joshua has a movement disorder and developmental delays that are presumed to be cerebral palsy. The jury is still out on whether there could be more to the picture. He tends to look autistic-like at times, though seems more social than Ben. Zachary wanted to know if Joshua's brain worked the same as Ben's, and I had to say that I was not sure yet. I told him what I do know, which is that Joshua loves to play with "ZaZa," (babytalk for Zachary), and that he is happy. I told Zachary that even though Joshua has to work so hard to learn things, that there is no reason to feel bad about that. When I turned around at a light to look at him and saw tears in his eyes, I knew I had struck a nerve. My heart broke a little bit. My active and sometimes frustrating but also sweet and loving 5 year old feels sympathy and maybe a little guilt over a baby brother who struggles to walk, hates eating and has to spend most his mornings at either pediatric therapies or medical appointments. Like with our Ben talk, I know there will be more things to discuss regarding Josh in the future.

These are the moments of parenting that you can't write a guide book for. Even if someone tried to tell me what to do, I would still feel like I was running in a crowded street with my eyes closed. But somehow, I got through it, and I know I will again and again. Zachary's big hug at bedtime that night assured me that I must be doing something at least half-way right. I guess that is all I can hope for.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Almost Typical... But Then Again Not Really

All three of my children have special needs of some sort. As a parent of children whose needs are mild, I cannot say I relate to the admirable strength it must take to raise severely disabled or ill children. However, I still feel closer to this situation than to that of a parent with typical kids.

Benjamin's autism is high functioning, and so slight to an untrained eye, that it gets missed often. I guess we are fortunate for that. But I know what it means to suffer for years knowing something is not right with your child. I know how it feels when doctors repeatedly dismiss your concerns, until one day you find one who agrees with you. Strangely, in that moment, you suddenly wish he would go back to disagreeing with you. But no, autism it is, and your life is forever changed. I know what it feels like when the diagnosis settles in, when you accept it, and when it feels like coming home to what you knew all along. I have had to work hard to make others understand Ben and see what he needs. I feel helpless when he has tantrums over inexplicable things. My concerns range from the short range (“Will he learn to ride his bike?”) to the long term (“Will he drive a car? Go to college? Get married?”) I feel proud when he learns something new, and when I can see something through his eyes. I hope that he can show people that autism is sometimes different than what they thought, that it is big and consuming, and a little scary, but most of all it is strangely beautiful.

Zachary is a typically developing child, but he has a milk allergy. This diagnosis did not come easily, either. As an infant he had constant gastro-intestinal issues and did not sleep well. Two blood tests and a skin test showed nothing wrong, but again, I knew something was. An endoscopy finally gave us the proper information. And so, I know what it feels like to have to panic over every birthday party or special event at school. I know how to advocate for my child. I feel proud of him when he asks about food and what is in it, or when he simply knows he cannot have it. Amazingly, we hear few complaints from him about missing out on things, but I know it must be rough at times. I fear it will only get harder as he gets older and wants to just fit in with his peers. Unlike most kids, he has been deemed unlikely to outgrow his dairy allergy. I sympathize with him not being able to partake in all the pizza parties that will come about more and more through sports, sleepovers or late nights studying in college.

Joshua was different right from the start, with a severe torticollis (wry-neck) that required physical therapy from a very young age. So we never experienced typicalness with him, and that was a challenge. I know what it feels like when your child is not doing the skills you know he or she should be, when milestones keep getting missed, and when you try and smile but know in your heart that surely something must be wrong. I know how it feels when, at the 18 month well check, you finally hear the words “cerebral palsy,” and think- wait, this cannot possibly apply to my child. But it does. I have had days of feeling sorry for myself because the other moms get to go to the gym or Starbucks while I attend pediatric therapy after therapy or to go medical appointments. We sometimes get stared at because Joshua is screaming or gagging on food or falling over in a way not typical for his age. And yes, the stares hurt. Through that, I know what it feels like to lie awake at night wondering if your child will ever eat properly, run, or jump.

Thankfully, I also know the absolute joy that one smile can bring, and that everything seems to come together in that moment. I know that I am lucky, and that our situation is so manageable. I know each day is new, and that I can handle whatever gets thrown my way. I am happy to belong to the “club” of special needs parents because through that I have a lot more sympathy for other people's struggles. I see a little of myself in their highs and lows. I am more patient with the world in general, in fact. I never expected autism, food allergy and cerebral palsy to be words that would be uttered daily in my home or swirling in my mind at all hours, but as many other parents with similar lives will tell you, I wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taking a Moment to Reflect

When my now nine year old graduated from preschool I told myself I would remember everything about that last bittersweet day. But of course, as with many milestones, I don't. And so today, on this last day of my five year old's preschool, I vowed to document what happened and how I feel.

This morning I took Zachary to preschool as I have countless times before. I tried not to think about the finality of it. I dropped him off at the door hoping for a nice hug, but he wanted to go running right into the classroom, one sign of many that he will be ready for kindergarten come fall.

As I walked to the car I thought about the busy, fun, sometimes frustrating days that can make up life with small children. The thing is, the days sometimes linger, but the years go faster than I ever thought possible. If you asked me now, I would tell you that Zachary surely only started his preschool journey a few days ago, and yet it has been two years. It went by in a blur but it was, of course, sprinkled with things that matter. There was the first day of letting go, and of realizing we would both survive. There were Christmas programs that made me cry, a lovely Mother's Day Tea, enough art projects to cover 45 refrigerators and a country fair to which Zachary sported an adorable cowboy hat.

Towards the end of the morning I went back to campus early to join Zachary at his school's ice cream social. I looked at him sitting with all his friends and felt so proud. True, he is wild and determined and sometimes can test my patience, but he also is caring, kind and unselfish in many ways. He is not my first to complete preschool, nor will he be my last, but for that I want to make a big production of this day even more. He has accepted with flying colors his spot in the family, sandwiched in-between two special needs brothers. And so, this is his day to shine.

We walked back to the classroom when the treat-eating was done, and too soon the teachers were saying goodbye and sending the children back to us and out into the world. I saw tears in Zachary's eyes as he hugged his teachers, and I paused in the doorway so that I could say farewell to them too. I made it short and sweet; wanting to express more about how wonderful they have been but also not wanting to turn into a sobbing disaster.

Zachary received some bubbles, and so instead of walking straight to the car, I suggested that we stop and use them. He and his little brother took turns blowing them, popping them, and giggling. I thought about how these simple joys were fleeting. I will miss the days when no one at my house delights so easily in non-complicated forms of entertainment.

Finally we ventured to the car and headed for a celebratory lunch. I got a strange feeling as we drove away, knowing Zachary would never again be a student at the preschool, but mostly what I felt was luck at knowing if this experience had helped him grow so much, then surely there are exciting things to come as well. I am ready for the next chapter, which will undoubtably go even faster than the ones preceding. I have tried before to tell time to slow down, but it never listens. All I can hope to do is savor these little moments that build ever so quickly into years of my life.