Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend 2017

Memorial Day weekend had all the makings of a wonderful holiday weekend. But sometimes reality doesn't live up to expectation.

It was my 15 year college reunion. In some ways, this was tough to swallow, because surely it can't have been that long since I was in college.  I drove up to Rhode Island on Friday via New York City, where I picked up my friend Amanda.  Amanda and I met the first month of our freshman year and have been friends ever since.  We have traveled together, know each other's families, attended each other's weddings, and have rushed to meet each other's children after their births.  So no matter what happened at the reunion, it was wonderful to have that time with an old friend.

Although it was warm and sunny in Philadelphia, by the time we reached Rhode Island it was cold and raining.  We tried to make the most of it, but overall, between the bad weather and the fact that most of our close college friends weren't at reunion, the night was a little bit of a let-down.
Where we spent much of our extracurricular time in college
Ready for our big night out
Friday night ended with Amanda passed out in one bed, and me waiting for a pizza to get delivered while watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  And then me eating the pizza the second it arrived and burning the roof of my mouth!

Saturday morning, Amanda rushed back to NYC because her baby had been sick- I was quite impressed by how well she tolerated being away from him overnight when he was sick for the first time in his short life. After she left, I went for a jog around Providence, running past many of the places I used to live and spend time. Being at Brown was one of the happiest times in my life; I truly had an ideal college experience, where I balanced the freedom of being young and unencumbered with growing independence.  I ran past the hotel where we used to put up the bands that played our summer concerts; past the pizza place where we ordered pizza at 1 am; through the park I ran through with my friend and roommate where she used to challenge me to "feel the burn!" as I tried to follow her uphill; past the house where I lived with 5 friends my senior year; past the building where I sat in a sociology class on the morning of September 11, 2001; past the Main Green of the campus where I spent warm afternoons "studying" on a blanket; past the mall where I shopped with my friends on weekends and spent hours drinking mochas from Nordstrom as we talked; past the hotel where I stayed with my college boyfriend the weekend of his graduation; past the bar where I did tequila shots and flirted with men I didn't know; past the Civic Center where I saw the Foo Fighters open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2000.  The memories of that time are vivid, and I am grateful for every minute of my time there.

After my run, I showered and went to the airport to pick up my sister, who was flying in just to drive down to Philadelphia with me.  The weather had cleared up, and so we went to Newport, and decided to have lunch outside at Castle Hill, where Eric and I got married almost 11 years ago.  We shared delicious food and a cocktail while we sat outside in the sun and watched boats sail through the bay.
Elana at our grown up lunch
a panoramic view from the site where Eric and I said our vows
We then walked off some of our lunch with a walk along the Cliff Walk, looking at the ocean on one side and the historic Newport mansions on the other.  Then I got anxious to get in the car and come home, because it had been too long since I had seen my babies.

On Sunday, the day began quietly, with a leisurely breakfast on the patio, our inaugural trip to the pool at the JCC, and naps for the kids.  Eric's parents had to come to visit while I was away at reunion, and Pat and I went out to buy some groceries while the kids rode their bikes in the parking lot at the school.

This is where the day took a turn for the worse- after Pat and I got back from errands, we found out that Asher had hurt himself while riding his bike.  I won't go into details of the injury, but I was worried. Pat assured me he was fine, but he was clearly in pain, and I didn't like the look of the injury, so at 8 o'clock I called the on-call doctor from the pediatrician's office.  After 2 hours of back and forth with the pediatrician, texting him photos of the injury, his consulting with a specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and a phone call with the specialist, the specialist requested that I bring Asher in to be seen.  So at 10:30 at night, Eric woke up Asher and we got in the car.  My mom offered to come with me, and although I was ready to go without her, Asher asked that she come. The 3 of us drove into the city in the pouring rain, and Asher was astonished that people were still out and about so late at night.

We were given excellent treatment at CHOP- we arrived at 11 pm and were walking out by 12:10 am.  Fortunately for us, Asher's injury was deemed insignificant and no intervention was needed, and all the medical professionals came right in and were cheerful and helpful. Asher was brave as could be, but I am still feeling some traumatic effects from the evening. It is a huge hospital, and I couldn't stop thinking of all of the truly sick children in there.  And it was still difficult to see my little guy on the hospital bed, both a brave young man and a scared child with his stuffed animal.  He was nervous about needing stitches, but he kept his sense of humor and talked with my mom and me all night (although with decreasing coherency). I love him so much, and have been especially affectionate with him since his injury and our trip to the hospital.  I don't know how parents survive worse; this was nothing but taxed me emotionally.  Asher seems completely fine, and says his injury doesn't even hurt today.

Today was also a quiet day. We had lunch at our friends' house, and the kids all played together so nicely that the adults could just sit around and talk. And then we hosted more friends at our place in the evening.  After getting the kids in bed, I tried to catch up on chores before I go in to work tomorrow.

It certainly doesn't feel like the beginning of summer, what with our 60 degree and rainy weather, and it was hard to feel like our busy and exhausting weekend was restful.  Better luck next year, I guess!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Asher: 7 years old

Running the 1-miler for his school
He's only been 7 for a month and a half, I'm not THAT late!

Asher is a typical first-born, even if he only beat Benjamin into the world by 12 minutes.  He is mature, helpful, and bossy.  He is an excellent big brother, who wants to take care of his siblings.  He is a conscientious student and hopefully a good friend!
Being a good big brother to his little sister
In the past year, I have really enjoyed my time with Asher as a friend.  We have a lot of interests in common- running, amusement park rides, walks, shopping, and talking.  He always jumps up to go with me on whatever adventure I might be heading out on. He has a never-ending curiosity about the world and how it works; on our walks, we have talked about marriage and divorce, mortgages, insurance, and how to save money.  I adore his sense of humor. Like me, he can find something so silly so funny, and fall to pieces laughing. His laugh is infectious, and I can't help but join in.  I think Eric gets annoyed with us when we get carried away (often at bedtime, which is when I tend to get hysterically laughing myself) because he thinks I'm winding Asher up.  Maybe I am.

He has continued to run, and takes his running series races very seriously.  Together we ran the 1-miler for his school, and just this week he rain the nature trail at Haverford College with me- 2.2 miles. I cannot tell you how much joy it gave me to run with him- he keeps a good pace, and we were talking the whole way.  I am in disbelief at how quickly he has grown from a baby into a friend, a person who I truly enjoy spending time with (and not just because he is my son).  He is so strong and determined, and I am so proud.

After the run, we stopped at Trader Joe's, and he picked out a bouquet of flowers for me, because he had given me a coupon for flowers for Mother's Day.  I loved that he remembered and wanted to follow through. Then, on our way home from the run, we were talking about whether he likes or loves school- he says he likes it, but doesn't love it. He said he would love it if he had more time spent playing and less time spent "learning." I acknowledged that was a fair point. I asked him if he liked or loved running, and he said he loved it.  It does thrill me that we share that love together.
Before the 1 mile race
Running his 1/4 mile race at the Running Series
Asher and I also share a love of amusement park rides.  We went to the local church "fun fair," and he accompanied me on the Ferris Wheel and then a ride that was like hang-gliding.  Eric hates rides, and Benjamin and Charlotte are still scared of them, so it is just the two of us getting our adrenaline fix.  Now that he is over 48", the amusement world is his oyster!
On the Ferris Wheel
Asher has been a fairly diligent student this year.  He seems more preoccupied with following the rules and being social than with academics, but his work is consistent and he is careful with it.  I have had to encourage him to read, but his abilities have grown by leaps and bounds in the past few months.  I bribed him with a book from the Scholastic order from his school and he read every night for a week.  He seems quite competent at math and has no trouble doing his work.

Asher's social skills are quite impressive for a young boy.  He is charming and polite.  Every time he has a play date, the parents report that he is excellent company. One parent said, "Asher is my next husband!" He isn't always charming and polite to his parents, but he knows how to work his charms outside the home.  It is hard to believe that our toddler who received speech therapy is now so articulate.
Asher practicing his meditation at our hotel in DC
His likes and dislikes- he continues to be extremely picky with food.  Over the course of the past year, he has had a few sessions with a psychologist to help him with his fruit phobia- after sitting alone at lunch at camp all summer, I was worried he'd be isolated at school.  He learned some cognitive-behavioral techniques that seemed helpful, and the school year started fine, but in November, a classmate showed Asher a mushy apple at lunchtime and Asher threw up in the cafeteria.  We went back to his therapist for a refresher and he seemed better, but he will still avoid being at the table when we eat fruit at home, and recently lost his mind over a grocery store croissant, so I would say food is still an issue.  He still loves his carbs- bread, cereal, crackers, pretzels, waffles, and desserts- but he eats a variety of non-fruit items as well.  He likes proteins like chicken, turkey, and some beef, and he eats almost every vegetable I cook (although he doesn't like salad). He likes hummus, and has gone back to eating the occasional Polly-O string cheese.  For dinner I make one entree and that is their only option, so he has eaten and enjoyed tofu, vegetarian curry, and various other adventurous foods.  The doctor didn't seem concerned given his consistent growth and overall good health.

Asher likes playing on the iPad, watching TV, and playing outside. He loves to have play dates with friends, and I always encourage him to have friends over after school on the afternoons I am home. He likes to explore new places, and I allow him and Benjamin to roam free while we are at the park.  It makes me a little nervous, but I remember doing it as a child, and the memories of the imaginary worlds I created with my friends are still strong all these years later.
I was suddenly in the mood for squid for dinner...
I do feel, if it wasn't already apparent, that Asher and I have more in common than I do with Benjamin and Charlotte- at least at this point in time.  This doesn't mean that he is my "favorite," because I am passionate about all three of them.  It is just a recognition that their personalities are all different, and at this point, Asher and I are more similar.  This has changed over time- I remember when Charlotte was a newborn I felt that we were in some way almost divinely connected- and I am sure it will continue to change.  But if my description of Asher appears more detailed or of a different quality than my description of Benjamin, that is why.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

7 year well visit

The boys had their well visit a week ago.  Good news- they are well!  Again, we are so fortunate that both boys are continuing to grow and thrive, with no major health concerns.

Asher's measurements:
48" tall (47.9%) (+2.25" from last year)
54 lbs (63.7%) (+6.2 lbs from last year)

Benjamin's measurements:
46.75" tall (26.1%) (+2.25" from last year)
49.6 lbs (41.3%) (+4.8 lbs from last year)

I got those percentiles from the CDC, so the ones the doctor gave me were slightly different, but that is the idea. It is surprising to me every year that their weight percentiles are higher than their height percentiles, because they are some of the skinniest kids we know.  Regardless, they seem to be in excellent health and are growing steadily.

Both boys' vision and hearing checked out fine.  The doctor's only concern was Benjamin's speech- although we are very accustomed to his mispronunciations, they must have stuck out to her.  She suggested we get him evaluated at school and see if he qualifies for therapy there.

I asked about Benjamin's tonsils, because he had strep twice this winter and the other two didn't get it at all (and neither did I!). She said the strep isn't frequent enough to warrant removing his tonsils, and that they looked fine when she examined him.

Other than that, she said we are lucky in our good health, and even though she loves to see us, she is glad we aren't there more often.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Benjamin: 7 years old

One super cool cutie (and Eric isn't so bad, either)
A post to celebrate Benjamin's 7th birthday.  Over this past year, I do think I have watched the boys' personalities emerge even more.  Benjamin is smart as can be. He can do his homework in 30 seconds, and remembers things I didn't know he'd even heard.  He loves to read (he came home from school today and told me he had forgotten to eat his snack because he had his nose "buried in a book"). Now that he is such a competent reader, he says he doesn't want to be read to anymore.  I miss our moments of sitting together, engaged in a book we both love.

While before I have always described Benjamin as easy-going, he has hit more obstacles this year. His first grade class isn't the same amazing group that he had in kindergarten, and while we had heard that his teacher is one of the best, she seems somewhat lackluster.  The year started with mixed reports- Benjamin hated school, hated homework, and had no friends (his reports); and that he was having trouble sitting still and paying attention (his teacher's reports).  At our most recent conference, we were told that he has matured over the year, and is better at paying attention, but he still doesn't love school the way that I wish he would.  He says he is "bored," and I do wonder if he finds the slow pace of his class frustrating. We decided that we will get him tested to see if he qualifies for the gifted & talented program.  Socially he doesn't seem as adept as his brother, or some other 1st graders.  It all seems age-appropriate, but his social skills are not as advanced as his academic skills.
Benjamin doing his 2 lines in the 1st grade musical.
Benjamin loves to draw and write.  I think he is a pretty good artist, and love what he comes up with while he is just hanging out (it usually involves a dragon and a battle of some kind).  He has written some pretty funny notes to us, especially when he is forced into quiet time in the afternoon while Asher naps.
Benjamin's hostage note
Practicing writing some of the new words he is learning at school
He is still my most adventurous eater, and will try sophisticated foods with more frequency than his siblings, but he occasionally will decide that he just doesn't like something before he even tries it.  His favorite food is probably Japanese- he likes cucumber sushi and yaki udon with chicken and vegetables.  He likes meat over vegetables, and fruit over vegetables, and is always happy to eat pasta.
Benjamin with Blankie as a hat. He is like an orangutan with his blanket.
Benjamin likes to play with Legos, but not so much to build them. He likes to collect Pokemon cards, but is known to make many a poor trade and he seems to get swindled often. He still has a particular attachment to his blue blanket (Blankie), which is now almost gray. Unlike his brother and sister, he is not competitive.  Of the three, his most likely to be on his own, whether it is reading or playing on the iPad.  He loves the iPad, and it is a constant battle to keep him off of it and engaged with the rest of life. When presented with the option to go somewhere or do something, he will ask to stay home, in the hopes of spending more time on the iPad. Eric is more inclined to let him play on it than I am, but I often lose track of who is where and doing what, so it happens under my watch all the time, too.

Benjamin does seem to have some anxiety around strange/new situations.  After one visit to the planetarium (where he declared it "too loud"), he would panic anytime we would talk about going back. The planetarium is really not that loud, but it seemed like he was somewhat troubled by the existential concepts presented. There have been other situations where he begins to panic and doesn't want to try something new, but often enjoys himself once he gives it a try.

Benjamin is often the odd one out among the siblings- Asher and Charlotte are more likely to play and engage with each other than they are with him. Most of the time this doesn't seem to bother him, but occasionally Charlotte will push him away or be hurtful, and then he comes to me with tears in his eyes. Although he often seems unaffected by what goes on around him, he does seem to be a sensitive person, and is more aware than I usually give him credit for.
After his haircut at the barber shop. I can't get his hair to look nearly as nice. 
I love him like crazy- he still has the sweetest little face, and sometimes, when he frowns a certain way, I can see him exactly as he was as a newborn. I am thrilled and astonished by how bright he is, even if it means we have conversations I'm not ready to have, or I have to shush him when he tries to tell Asher what "the F word" is (Asher said, "is it fart? It's fart, right?").  He still climbs into bed with us in the morning to be snuggled and kissed. Despite the growth and the changes and the new complications 1st grade has brought, he is still my sweet and lovable boy.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Things they have said

Asher: "I am so happy. I'm happy for you, and daddy, and that you make enough money to pay for our house, which is a home, and to do things with us."

Benjamin, when I asked him if he could hear me when I talked to him: "No, I'm deef." The true sign that he is a reader and read deaf as if it rhymed with leaf. English is tough!

Charlotte, when I told her she needed to go use the potty at home because her pants were a little wet and she had started to pee in them. "How do you know that? You don't know everything. You know NOTHING. You're not my mom." and when I said I was her mom, and had in fact watched her emerge from my own body, she said, "You don't know that."

My kids in a nutshell.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

7 years old!

The boys on their birthday. Benjamin is rolling his eyes at me because I requested he look at me and smile.
I am late in posting this, and I am also working on individual posts for each boy, but on March 26, Benjamin & Asher turned 7 years old.  These years have flown by, and yet the little men I now know as my sons are so different from the babies and toddlers they used to be.

We celebrated with a birthday weekend.  On Saturday, March 25, my sister and I took the kids to the mall and she treated them to Build-a-Bear.  This was the boys' birthday dream come true, and she let them each pick an animal- Asher picked a rainbow monster, Benjamin a snow leopard, and Charlotte an Elsa (from Frozen) bear.  They enjoyed the ritual and named their animals- the monster got named Cute (later changed to Cutie), the snow leopard Snowy, and the bear Elsa.  Of my children's many talents, creative naming of animals and pets is not among them.
Benjamin at Build-a-Bear
Then I treated the kids to Panera for lunch, and then we were off to Benjamin's birthday party.  He had it at a gymnastics place about 25 minutes away.  The kids did an hour of gymnastics, and then we had a half hour of snacks and cake. He said he had a great time, and came home and excitedly opened all of his presents.  He then promptly wrote all of his thank you notes!
The cake I made Benjamin. He requested a blue cat with marshmallow eyes.
About to get embarrassed by a room full of singing friends
Our family. 3/5 looking at the camera- that's as good as it gets.
That night we had dinner at my parents' to celebrate my dad's 65th birthday. The children joined us, but they tired of our company and the food within 5 minutes, so we had plenty of time with adult conversation.

Sunday was their birthday.  I made a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls, and then the boys went to Hebrew school- it was pajama dance party day at Hebrew school, and there wasn't a word of protest.
Eric made a movie poster for the show at our house
Sunday afternoon we had Asher's birthday party at our house.  He had asked for a movie in our basement movie theater, and popcorn- easy enough! I didn't take pictures, but we had little cardboard concession boxes and paper bags for the popcorn, and juice for the kids to drink.  They watched Big Hero 6 relatively peacefully, and then came upstairs for cupcakes.  All the parents were very prompt in dropping their kids off and in picking them up.
The little cake I made for Asher. He and his classmates got cupcakes at the party
Asher enjoying his friends singing Happy Birthday to him
For dinner on Sunday, Asher requested risotto, and Benjamin requested macaroni and cheese.  Since it was their birthday, and I couldn't say no, I made both.  It was a very delicious, carb-filled weekend: I baked 2 batches of yellow cake, 1 of chocolate cake, a challah, cinnamon buns, risotto, and macaroni and cheese.  Good thing I also went for a run!

I will post soon about the boys individually.  I am impressed by them everyday- their intellectual and physical capabilities seem to be growing rapidly, and it is a joy to watch.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's Talk About Sex

What began as innocuous joking about sex has reached a crescendo.

Our first funny moment came a couple of weeks ago.  Eric was rubbing my shoulders and neck at dinner (my parents were over), and Asher asked what he was doing. I told him that my neck and shoulders were sore, and Daddy was massaging them to help them feel better. Asher asked, "do you want me to go upstairs and get that massager you keep in your nightstand?!?"

Cue long silence as my mom looks away, and Eric and I look at each other, wondering, "what could he possibly have found...?" We don't have any incriminating evidence, and Eric then awkwardly explained, "No, it's really a massager, with little plastic feet!"  The moment passed with no further comment.

Last week, I was talking to Charlotte in the car about what she would like for me to share with her class next week when she is "Child of the Week." I told her, "The other parents have come in to talk about something they know a lot about, or their hobbies."  She didn't say a word, but from the 3rd row of the van, Benjamin piped up, "You could tell them about sex!" While it is true that it is my job to educate people about sex, I told him that it wouldn't be appropriate for me to talk to Charlotte's class about sex, and that I would leave the job of sex education to their parents.

And, as we climb to our peak, yesterday I was cooking in the kitchen and Asher was in the family room. He asked, out of nowhere, "Mommy, do you kiss Daddy's penis when you make sex?"  Ummm, what? I answered him factually (when you use your mouth it's called oral sex), and asked where this had come up. Silence. Then, from Benjamin in the living room, "We read about it in a book we found in your night stand!" Apparently, while searching for the iPad (which I'd hidden on top of the refrigerator), they found a little book entitled "Sex Secrets" in my nightstand, and had used their improved reading skills to learn all about sex and the variety of activities one might engage in.

I proceeded to have a factual conversation about sex, and told Asher he didn't need to hide reading about sex, and that he could always ask me questions. I then emphasized that while I was happy to talk about sex in our house, he shouldn't discuss it with his friends or show the book to other people.  I then patted myself on the back for handling the situation with aplomb, and for normalizing sex and not making Asher feel ashamed for being curious.

I continued to feel good about myself all morning.  "Ha!" I thought. "Finally, an aspect of parenting where I have actual education!"

And then, the climax.  I left work around 12:30 and checked my email at a red light. I had one titled "Book" from his teacher.  "Wow," I thought, "she is really prompt about getting me reading suggestions for Asher!" (I had asked for some at our parent-teacher conference the day before.)

The text of the email had nothing to do with reading suggestions, though.  Asher had brought "Sex Secrets" to school, and proceeded to show his classmates page 71 (oral sex), and enlighten them as to the differences between oral sex and regular sex.  His teacher wanted to let me know, and asked that I not send him with the book again.

Total panic.  What kind of parent am I? Who did he tell? How much did he say?  I dashed off a reply to his teacher and let her know we could talk on the phone if she preferred.

Luckily for me, she was available to meet that afternoon, because the kids were at home after a half day.  My dear son had thrown me under the bus, told his teacher I GAVE him the book, and then told him he could bring it to school to read at dismissal time.  Also lucky for me, she seemed to have a good attitude about the situation, and laughed about it as she told me.  It seems as though the dissemination of information was fairly contained- the one classmate he was talking the most to seemed to be ignoring him altogether.  Asher's teacher said she had never seen him so excited or enthusiastic about anything.

He really is my son. I remember 30 years ago when I used to read the one line in my book about babies being born where it said, "your father put his penis in your mother's vagina." I remember being excited to tell everyone the big secret.  It was one of my great motivations for becoming a sex therapist.

Tonight we told Asher that there were consequences- he took that book to school even after I had explicitly told him the book and conversations about sex were private. And then he lied to his teacher and said I had given the book to him!  His consequence was no dessert tonight, and he has to give us $5 from his piggy bank for us to send on to Planned Parenthood so that other people can be educated about sex, too. And after he asked me tonight, "does Daddy stand up while you bend over to have sex?" I am pretty sure we are burning that book.