Saturday, March 31, 2018

Guest post from Papa Nick: Bubble Bath Rhymes with...Trouble Bath?


Tubby Time is a highlight of my Tuesday evenings at the Whitten's. I arrive around 5:00 to help Eric with Asher, Benjamin and Charlotte while Rebecca works late. Some Tuesday milestones over the years - learning to climb trees, helping each one with reading, Charlotte's learning to ride a bicycle...

This week Eric and I started with our tech geek version of, "How was your day?" while the children played and dinner cooked. A friend from the block had come over to play with Asher and Benjamin, she decided to stay for dinner. We had "Dinner Theater" where I held up and read a picture book as the children ate. We discussed the pictures, Charlotte read some pages for us, even raising her voice when the words were in BIG PRINT. Asher also read a bit, but Charlotte was reluctant to share the duty. Didn't realize this foreshadowed further adventures.

More playing between dinner and dessert. After dessert it was Tubby Time, an all-around favorite. There's a rule to encourage prompt attendance - the first one in the tub gets first choice about where to sit - first class is next to the faucets - and when they get out - usually last since bath time is even nicer when you can stretch out by yourself. Second one gets second choice, third one is stuck, usually has to sit at the far end where the water is shallower and cooler, then get out first. Tonight it was Asher first, then Charlotte and finally Benjamin. 

Added some shampoo to the water, and it was a bubble bath. Asher made a bubble beard and mustache - he was quite handsome. 

Charlotte couldn't seem to get comfortable in the middle. No matter how Benjamin sat, she was convinced he was squeezing her space. She would push him with her legs or arms and constantly complain. Fortunately, Benjamin was very patient with her. All evening I had noticed that 8 year old Whitten children are substantially more mature than the 7 year old versions. 

I asked Charlotte to calm down and notice how much space she had. She replied, "I just want to relax and hit my brother!" When she repeated this and we saw scratches on Benjamin, Eric took her to the shower. Finally had a great time with just two boys in the tub. They started making waves that threatened to spill out of the tub. We improvised on Hues Corporation "Rock the Boat" - "Rock the tub baby, Don't let the wave splash out! Our love is like a tub on the ocean, sailing with a cargo full of love and skin lotion! Moisturize, don't let that skin dry out!"

After moisturizing and tooth brushing, I said goodnight. Asher and Benjamin were each reading in their beds before lights-out. Eric told me Charlotte was in her room. I entered, saw the blankets turned down with Gray Kitty and Black & White Kitty. No Charlotte. I stood there looking, thinking out loud, "Hmm...Charlotte's pretty skinny but I don't think she's under the blankets...I'll see if I can spot her from the other side...No, she's not here, either!"

I started bending down to check under the bed and an invisible child called out, "Don't look under the bed!" When I got down, there she was - some books, a few second-string animals, very pleased with herself. Still in her birthday suit. 

I said, "Looks like Charlotte's wearing her invisible pajamas tonight!" She was very pleased with the concept. As she emerged we discussed the benefit of invisible pajamas - they don't have to go through the laundry. I mentioned that you could just leave them on the floor and the room wouldn't be messy. Charlotte warned that someone might trip on them. We decided it would be OK to just throw them in a corner.

Eric had to work hard to persuade Charlotte to replace the invisible pajamas with underpants and warm pajamas visible to the adult eye.

All-in-all, a wonderful evening. Though I rushed out the door and forgot to thank Eric for sharing his children.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

8 year well visit

This afternoon I took the boys for their 8 year well visit. The nice part is that they haven't been to the doctor since their last well visit! Except for flu shots, which apparently gave them PTSD, because they wouldn't stop asking if they were going to shots, or, as Benjamin said, S-H-O-T-S.

There is not much to say- the visit was uneventful, and both boys are healthy. 
Asher was: 50" tall (48%, 2 inches taller), 56.6 lbs (53%, 2.5 lbs heavier)
Benjamin was: 48.5" tall (23%, 1.75 inches taller), 54.6 lbs (43%, 5 lbs heavier)

The doctor wasn't pleased that Asher hasn't gained very much weight. She wants me to load him with calories, no matter what they are. I asked her if that is something she has to tell other Jewish mommies to do, or if I'm the only one. She did say that at this age, she would rather see kids be a little underweight than overweight. But really, I could never imagine that I would have children with any trouble gaining weight. How can a growing child only gain 2.5 lbs in a year when I can gain that much in a weekend? It's a mystery to me.

I told her that Benjamin has been making great strides with his ADHD and that his teacher told us he is vastly improved in the classroom. And with Asher our only concern is that he is too picky about food and that it's keeping him from eating enough.  She really didn't seem worried about any of it (either that or she wanted to get home to her family for dinner), so we got clean bills of health and went on our way. Another year of wellness- we are so fortunate.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Charlotte- is reading!

Hair in braids hours before she got a haircut that is a little too short

An update on my big-little girl: She has taught herself to read! Eric and I are quite impressed with her ability; she is even reading with inflection. Neither one of us did anything to teach her, other than my saying "sound it out" if she found an unfamiliar word. And there you go- she is off and running, just like she has been with every other major milestone in her life.

Charlotte and I got to spend extra time together today. She asked that I come and join her for lunch at school, and rather than stay home and do my work notes or clean the house, I went and had lunch with her and her friends at their little table. Then I got to sit on the carpet with her in my lap and read a book to her and some of her friends before I left to run errands.

After school, the sun was shining (and it is supposed to snow the next 2 days, don't even get me started), so I made Charlotte play outside. She had no same-age friends to play with, so I became her playmate. We went on the swings together- and I mean together, she sat in my lap and let me do the pumping- and I got extra hugs and kisses. We did a little racing and playing tag; she is actually quite fast and I didn't have to slow down too much for her to catch me. We played hide-and-seek. When we got home she came to help me in the kitchen while I made matzo ball soup. And then after dinner, we had extra snuggles on the couch before I left for work. I adore her, especially when she is in a sweet and loving mood like she was today!

I am so proud of my girl for being so smart and so strong and so confident. I hope that it carries through her life and she can grow into a smart, strong woman.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thank goodness it's over...

No great tragedy or trauma, but the past week (9 days, really) were trying. It feels silly to complain about what are simply the normal ups and downs of life, but here I go.

It started with a snowstorm on Friday the 2nd. I was surprised by it- it came with heavy winds and snow. Trees toppled everywhere, roads were blocked, the train lines all closed down. We managed to all get home safely, and I even brought in a couple of the boys' classmates whose mom couldn't get out of the city.  Everything was calm and pleasant, until- the lights went out. The good news was, my parents had electricity. We packed up one night's worth of clothing, the food we had bought for dinner, and went over to my parents' for the night.

On Saturday, still no power at home, or pretty much anyplace else we were supposed to go (a birthday party for Charlotte, a fundraiser for the boys' school that Eric and I had planned to attend).  After breakfast, Charlotte said, "I think I'm going back to bed to take a nap." I didn't think much of it at the time, but by the time she woke up from her "nap," she was flushed and feverish. Child #1 down.

My mom had come down with a cold at the end of our trip to Sedona (another entry for another time, it was beautiful and filled with delicious food) and was mostly dead when we arrived, so she stayed on the couch the whole time, coughing and blowing her nose. I started to feel congested in my chest and not 100%, so that made 3 of us who were sick.

By Saturday night, Benjamin had started with a fever as well, and it seemed like his tonsils were swollen. Sick person #4.

Sunday morning I took Benjamin to urgent care. The boys' Hebrew school had been canceled- no electricity at the synagogue. We still had no electricity at home, and Eric and I had gone and collected more belongings, along with all of our frozen and refrigerated food. Benjamin's diagnosis was "viral," so I took him back to my parents' house to rest.

Charlotte still had a fever as well, and we had tickets to go the Harlem Globetrotters on Sunday night, but 3 of us had to stay home. Monday came around, and instead of having time to myself, I had two children and a sick mom to take care of. Charlotte and Benjamin weren't sick anymore, but couldn't return to school because of their fevers the day before, so it was the worst- two un-sick kids, bored out of their minds after an entire weekend in the house. In addition, I had an appointment to register Charlotte for kindergarten, an appointment for my annual with my gynecologist, and all 3 kids had appointments for the dentist. By evening I started to feel pretty lousy myself, and ended up canceling my clients so I could rest and get to bed early.

Tuesday I sent everyone off to school and got myself ready to go to work. By lunchtime, I had a text from Eric that Benjamin's fever was back, and he was sent home from school. Around dinnertime, I got a text from Eric that our power was back, and we could return home again (yay!). Lucky me, I got to be at work and avoid all the packing and moving- Eric handled it all.

Tuesday night schools closed for Wednesday due to another snowstorm. I canceled all my clients and we spent the day at home. Snow days at the beginning of the winter are one fun thing after another- sledding, snowball fights, the kids play for hours in the snow, we have hot chocolate and Eric makes a fire in the fireplace. This snow day, Eric worked all day without stopping, the kids didn't want to go outside, no one went sledding, and I made soup for dinner which all 3 kids refused to eat.

Thursday I had to go back to work, but the kids had a 2 hour delay, and Eric had to go out of town in the afternoon for a meeting. Then, Asher had a fever and couldn't go to school at all! Sick person #5. We had to patch together care- my mom, who was still mostly dead, got them from school in the afternoon and stayed with them until I got home around 5; then we had a babysitter come from 6:30-9 so I could go see more clients.

Friday was a similar mess. Asher had to stay home from school, and I had to go to work, and Eric wasn't here to take care of him. I dropped him at my parents', rushed back to our house to go to the elementary school to watch Benjamin participate in the 2nd grade "Famous Americans" assembly, then rushed off to work, saw one client, then brought lunch to my mom and Asher, then rushed back to work to see 2 clients, then rushed to pick Asher up from my parents', then off to pick Charlotte up from school, then rushed home to get Benjamin from his school. Every minute was accounted for and there was no room for error. Fortunately, we made it through the day, and I even managed to cook a homemade dinner and get it on the table by 5:15.

By Saturday, everyone was healthy again, and Eric had returned home, so we could try to resume a somewhat normal life. All 3 kids had over-indulged in TV and ipads, and their behavior showed it.  This week we have gone screen-free and had an improvement in attitudes and cooperation. Now we are eager for the snow to melt and the spring to come. And we hope for no more weeks of disaster!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Benjamin

I haven't gone into all the details about what is happening with Benjamin- or if I have I don't remember. Over the past 15 months, since he started 1st grade, we have been trying to figure out what is going on with him. Up until he started 1st grade, he always loved school, loved learning, got along with friends.  As soon as he began 1st grade, he began to complain: the days were too long, the work was too boring, he had no friends. We were in touch with his teacher throughout the year, but she wasn't overly engaged with him and seemed to be managing a difficult class where Benjamin wasn't the biggest concern, even if it was clear things weren't exactly right. He had a hard time sitting still and keeping all his body parts to himself. He would do things that he knew were against the rules even after being reminded not to do them. He loves reading and would read constantly, rather than whatever he was supposed to be doing at school.

I began to think about getting him tested. Maybe he was gifted and that is why he was bored at school. The school gives screeners to all 1st graders and the boys both came back as "high average," but not superior or gifted.

Over the summer he was miserable in social settings, and began to avoid new situations. Sometimes he would get excited and get involved, but he mostly pushed back against us whenever we asked him to do or try new things.

Then, one day in September, Benjamin was supposed to go on a Cub Scouts hiking trip, and backed out at the last minute. Instead we went swimming at Jane and Ed's, and while we were there, Benjamin tossed a toy tug boat at my cousin's husband's head. I was livid. Mostly embarrassed by his behavior, but also worried about what was happening inside of him that he was reacting to.

At back-to-school night, I let Benjamin's teacher know about some of the difficulties he'd had the prior year, and she let me know that she had already noticed he needed a lot of prompting and redirecting to get his schoolwork done.

Shortly after that, I had my colleague give Benjamin an IQ test, to rule out the "gifted" hypothesis. She gave me the results a few days later. His IQ test came back in the "average" range, but she said she didn't think it was representative of his actual IQ. He had done incredibly poorly on tests that required attention. She said, "Have you considered a diagnosis of ADHD?" Oddly, I hadn't considered that diagnosis, but as soon as she said it, all the pieces clicked and fell into place. His difficulty getting started on his work, the pushback when we ask him to do the work he knows how to do easily, and some of the impulsive behavior we had seen- all symptoms of ADHD.

Naturally, I right away got upset with myself, and blamed myself for the diagnosis. It was because Benjamin had to share my uterus, because maybe he didn't get enough nutrition in utero. What was wrong with me that I hadn't been aware of this earlier, and has he now suffered irreparable damage to his self-esteem? In need of comfort, I called my mom who said, in her usual comforting manner, "This is about Benjamin, not about you. Stop the pity party."

Right away I began the process of a full evaluation at the elementary school. Within days, the school counselor had organized a team meeting with Benjamin's teacher, the speech therapist, the head of the achievement team, and the school psychologist. Everyone was engaged and knowledgable, and we moved forward with a full evaluation. Benjamin's teacher had already implemented many things in the classroom and continued to do them to help him manage his time and to help him socialize with classmates.

In the meantime, I had been taking Benjamin to his own therapist to work on some of his social functioning and frustration. She agreed with a probable ADHD diagnosis, and we began to work on some activities to help Benjamin with mindfulness and attention.

The fall was a very difficult time. Benjamin was often angry- particularly after he had access to a screen for a long period of time. He continued to struggle socially, and seemed unhappy almost all of the time. I began to fear spending time with him, because he could be so unpleasant. He would yell at us to "LEAVE ME ALONE" and stay up in his room to get away. I think we all walked on eggshells around him.

In December, we got the full report from the school, and Benjamin was officially diagnosed with ADHD. At the beginning of January, we met with the team at his school once again to put in place an Individualized Education Plan- for which he qualifies due to his delays in speech.  He is getting twice-weekly speech therapy, and his teacher has made arrangements in the classroom to help keep him focused.  Benjamin is going to therapy every-other-week, and goes to a social skills lunch at school called "lunch bunch" once a week. His teacher reports that he his making friends and having an easier time at school, and has stopped dreading recess. We see mostly improved behavior at home, unless he has access to electronics, which turns him into an angry monster, so we have had to limit his access.

It has been a huge relief to see positive changes in him. I still worry, and we are trying to make sure he has the attention and love he needs to be successful. But the future is hopeful.

The other week, I took Benjamin to therapy and told his therapist that sometimes it is hard to be a mom of a little person. When the boys were babies, it was so easy; all I had to do was feed them, love them, and change diapers. But the bigger kid stuff is hard, and I am worried I'm not doing a good job. Benjamin was playing at the time, but also listening, and he said, "You ARE a good mom!" He gave me a big hug. It made my day. And then we had a lovely evening at home, where Benjamin did his homework without complaint, ate his dinner without complaint, took a shower and got bathed without complaint, and then snuggled next to me in bed while we read books. He was his sweet and loving self, and a joy to be with. Everyday may not be like this, but it gives me hope that we are doing the right things and are on the right track.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Christmas 2017 & New Years

Ok, I am so far behind, and trying to catch up, but our Christmas and New Years, and the week in between, were really wonderful.

We got a head start on our holiday by leaving our house at 5:10 am to drive up to Maine to avoid a predicted snow storm. Turns out that it is an excellent time to drive- there was no traffic and we made it up to Maine by 11:45 even after 2 stops. It was really snowing when we got there, and I took a nap and woke up to snow swirling outside, which made me feel like it was truly holiday vacation.

That evening, we celebrated Eric's brother's 40th birthday (a couple of weeks early) with a party at his house, with many of Eric's cousins and their children. Our kids went off and played without complaint, until Charlotte pooped out around 8:00 and asked to go home and go to sleep.

The following day we didn't do much at all until the afternoon, when we went out to the movies- Eric, his dad, Asher, and our nephew Kiptyn went to see Star Wars; and Charlotte and I went with Eric's mom, our sister-in-law, and nieces to see Pitch Perfect 3. Charlotte loved getting to go to a grown-up movie, and laughed at the jokes even if she had no idea what they were talking about.

On Christmas Eve, knowing we wouldn't get out of the house on Christmas Day, Eric and I took the kids to Portland to the art museum. They wanted to go to the children's museum, but it was closed, and the art museum was a reasonable size, and the kids actually seemed to enjoy it.
Portland from the museum
 After the museum, we went to lunch at the same Thai restaurant we had visited last year.  Everyone enjoyed their lunch and there wasn't a speck of food left when we were done. After a couple of errands we went back to Sanford and the kids (and Eric!) napped and I went for a jog while I still could.
My jogging route. I managed not to slip on the ice and die
 Then it was time to get ready for the annual Christmas Eve party. Ooh we look forward to it every year, Eric's dad's family is silly, and the kids love the visit from Santa. This year, Eric and I decided to wear inappropriate Christmas sweatshirts.  Eric's mom loved them and wished she had one, too, so perhaps we are starting a new tradition.
One small problem with the profanity on my shirt- 2 of my children know how to read, and the 3rd wanted to know what it said. I left out the first word, but she could tell I was leaving out a word when I told her. Asher courteously said, "I know what it says, but I'm not going to tell you, Charlotte." Benjamin said, loudly, "Bitch? What does bitch mean?" and Charlotte, victorious at her discovery, began yelling, "Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!" Since we are all mature adults, we just cracked up and half-heartedly told her not to say that word.  She knew it was getting a reaction out of us, so she continued to say it the rest of the night, to everyone's delight.


After a long round of "bitch! better have my cookies!" out of Charlotte.
Our other moment of inappropriate humor was when Eric's cousin Michelle arrived and said, "Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!" and Benjamin replied, "and happy endings!" A long silence descended and I was given the blame for that one!
With Santa.

Asher was a helpful elf to Santa this year.

Santa selfie
There was a packed house at Eric's grandparents', and we laughed all night long until our sides hurt.  We were there until close to 10 pm, and the kids loved every minute of it and had to be dragged out.

We told them not to wake us up before 7 am on Christmas morning, and they listened!  It was still too early for me, since we had been up late putting out gifts, but a big cup of coffee helped.  We started with stockings.

In their Christmas pajamas
Then we had a big breakfast and adjourned to open up the rest of our gifts by the tree.  The kids got lots of nice stuff- all credit here goes to Eric's mom, because I don't buy the kids a single Christmas gift. They are spoiled rotten. All 3 of the kids seemed to love what they received, and spent the rest of the day playing with their new toys.
In her princess gown, examining her new Calico Critters set
With some of her haul
We ended Christmas with a big Christmas dinner and all their cousins came over.  All 9 of the cousins seem to get along well, and my two boys seem to be developing a stronger relationship with their two older boy cousins- they are discovering more things they have in common and can talk about.

We ended up leaving the day after Christmas.  On our way home, we stopped at my friend Jenny's house in Amherst for dinner. I don't get to see her enough, but every time we are together it is as if no time has passed at all.  After a lovely dinner, I drove the family the rest of the way home.  We made excellent time on our way home and arrived around 11:30.

The rest of the week was calm and quiet. My sister visited for a day and I hired a babysitter to stay with the kids while Elana and I went for a run and to shop.  I took Charlotte and Asher to a museum one afternoon while Benjamin had a play date, I worked for 3 hours one morning, but mostly we hung around the house in our pajamas and decided it was too cold outside.

We hosted our annual New Years Eve gathering, which is fun and easy. The older the kids get, the later our friends stay, but I still managed to get in bed before midnight, which is my goal.
With 2 of my friends

Party girl
On New Years Day, we had tickets to Disney on Ice, which interfered with our annual tradition of going to Ikea. Disney on Ice was way better this year, mostly because it featured strong women instead of Pinocchio.  And seriously, I still want to cry when I hear "Let It Go." Eric thinks I'm crazy.
We fit in our tradition of Ikea after the show and picked out a mattress and boxspring for Charlotte, who has moved into a bigger room (formerly known as "Eric's office") and got a big girl bed. She loves her new room, and has somehow managed to multiply her toys and junk to fill up every corner.

On January 2 I went back to work, on January 3 the boys went back to school, and on January 4 and 5... snow days! 2018 has gotten off to a slow start at school, but hopefully we can have a full 5-day week soon.  I have enjoyed our extra time together (mostly), but not my loss of income. Now that the holidays are over, I have decided that I have to take a vacation somewhere warm and sunny in order to make it through to spring- there is still a lot of winter ahead!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Charlotte Eve: 5 years old

My littlest one is 5! We are well and truly past any baby stage in this house. And this girl is 5 going on 15.

Charlotte is, as always, amazing. She is strong, smart, and witty.  She has a mind like a steel trap, and holds on to memories and information both inside and outside of school.  She is continuing to grow, at her 5 year well-visit she was:
Height: 42.25" (47 %ile)
Weight: 42 lbs (66 %ile)

Charlotte has a zest for life, and an eagerness and excitement around new things and thrilling experiences. She is swimming, diving, and riding a bike with no training wheels. She is strong, brave, and independent. She loves thrill rides at the amusement park (as long as they aren't as thrilling as Guardians of the Galaxy) and will ride them over and over, as long as she is allowed.  She has always tried things earlier than her peers (i.e. walking, makeup), and that continues. She likes to keep up with her brothers- mainly Asher, who shares many of her interests.

She loves to do arts and crafts of any kind. She colors in coloring books, does craft kits, paints, makes jewelry, and enjoys helping out in the kitchen.  She draws adorable pictures, mainly of our family, or cats.  Charlotte loves anything cat-related, and probably half of her clothing has cats on it.  She also carries around a small family of cats everywhere she goes.
Posing at the doctor's office at her 5 year well-visit
 Charlotte is loving her kindergarten class at her preschool.  She knows all her letters and numbers, and has for some time, and is now working on reading. She knows a lot of sight words, and can work with me to sound out many others. If she wanted to read, she would be fully reading, but she gets easily frustrated at the prospect of sounding things out so I don't push, but I do encourage.  Socially, she is quite adept. Just like last year, her friends gather around her to hug her goodbye at the end of every day, and they all beg for play dates.
We have eliminated after school activities for Charlotte this year, mostly because I just didn't get my act together to sign her up for anything, but also because there are fewer hours for activities now that she is in school 5 full days a week. She has asked for dance, gymnastics, and now drama, so hopefully we can narrow it down sometime soon. 

Charlotte also adores watching horrible videos on YouTube. She is partial to "DIY life hacks" or some variation thereof, as well as the strange videos of adults opening and playing with toys (creepy, in my opinion). She has actually offered a few life hacks gathered from YouTube that have been helpful, like using a rubber band on my baking soda box to level off teaspoons while baking. Like I said, mind like a steel trap.

Her eating habits haven't really changed. She is mostly vegetarian in her diet, and prefers fruits over vegetables. She will eat eggs, yogurt, hummus, carbs of all kinds, and desserts of all kinds. We recently moved her into a new room (bigger, with a big bed) and Eric discovered many hidden candy wrappers in Charlotte's room- she is a little sneaky!  Some meals Charlotte will eat nothing at all, and at others she will have several courses. We mostly let her do her thing; she is never lacking for energy and is growing well.

The big girl still loves her stuffed animals. Gray Kitty and Black-and-White Kitty are her favorites, and Gray Kitty is looking even more gray and even more saggy.  She also has an assortment of Beanie Boos and other animals who get arranged around her bed and pillows each night before she goes to sleep.

Charlotte has stopped being a small sociopath and has shown indications that she is capable of empathy!  She has started noticing how other people feel and attending to their tone of voice. She is often sweet and loving, and still allows herself to be snuggled and kissed. She has her moments of being emotional and unreasonable and whiny, but in general she is good-natured and a pleasure to be around. 

I know it has been 5 years, but I continue to be astonished that she is my daughter. She is growing into a friend, a companion whose company I genuinely enjoy. I have, so far, the relationship I always dreamed I would have with a daughter of my own.  How lucky we all are to have her in our lives.