May 2015

Top 10 Reasons a Family Road Trip Might be a Bad Idea

10. Who tooted? Every few minutes somebody fires off their bodily gasses. In our family, we go into full filter mode. All windows down, air vent on over drive. Everyone’s hair is whipping around as the outside air blows out the stagnant toot-afied air inside the car.

 9. He’s touching me. Let’s all keep our body parts to ourselves, shall we? It’s not hard. Just do not touch anyone. Ever.

 8. She’s looking at me. Eyes should be peering out the window, gazing at the endless miles of dreary farmland. Or watch the movie. But, do not look at your siblings. Even though I can’t ever quite catch you, I know what you’re doing. Stop it.

 7. Not this DVD! Oh, the debate. Everyone has an opinion. As luck would have it, when everyone finally reaches a consensus, we typically find that the darn DVD is fatally scratched. Then, it’s back to square one.

 6. Are we there yet? Ten minutes in, and this is their favorite question. Nope. Nine hours left, folks. I’m as disappointed about it as you are. Trust me.

5. I’m hungry. Seriously? You just ate. You can’t possibly be hungry.

Gas station meat is a family favorite.

 

4. I have to go potty…now! You didn’t go at the last rest stop? Roadside bushes work well for boys. Girls need something classier; like a gas station bathroom that smells like it was last cleaned somewhere around the turn of the century.

 3. My tummy hurts. Quick! Pull over. Oh no. Too late. 

 2. I forgot to pack underpants.  Do you mean that the pile of briefs, that I told you to pack at least 50 times, is still sitting on your bed at home? Honey, can you say, going commando?

1. We forgot who at the rest stop?!  Everyone’s re-loading. The same kid never listens. Ever. He’s catching roly polies while his siblings are obeying. We’re slowly driving away when low and behold, we forgot boy child! Park. Find kid. Deliver same old speech about listening. Hit the road. We’re almost there! Too bad there’s a return trip…day after tomorrow.

You Made Me a Mom

Dear Sarah, Lauren, Zachary and Nathan,

You probably didn’t think Mommy would have a special note for you on Mother’s Day! Each of you has been gushing about the special projects you’ve been working on at school for me.

Homemade gifts are the best.

Homemade gifts are the best. But, the gift of no fighting, is my favorite of all! (hint, hint)

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I wanted to give a little something special to you too.

All my life I thought about my future children. I imagined us all sitting around our dinner table talking about life. I’d imagine narrating interesting parts of my life to you. Like, that time I was too timid to ask my Brownie troop leader where the bathroom was, and instead of letting out just a drop to provide a little much needed relief, I ended up releasing Niagara Falls on the Drosos family’s kitchen floor.

As I stood, mortified, in a sea of my bodily fluid, I’ll never forget the look on Andrea’s big sister’s face. She just stood there, mouth hanging open; with huge, disbelieving eyes, staring at the giant golden lake, and at me. I was absolutely horrified, and age 8 is way too old for a potty accident. Never be afraid to ask where the bathroom is, kids!

Although I could never clearly see your faces, or hear your voices, I knew I loved you deeply. Already. Tears would well in my eyes, as my mind would drift to the future. I knew I’d meet you one day. I longed to see you. Know you. Hold you.

Each one of you was planned. Wanted. I’ve been asked, more than once, if all of you kids were “planned”. The answer,  without a second of hesitation, is yes. Mommy and Daddy dreamed of each and every single one of long before you breathed your first breath. Someone once said to me that they’d never have four kids, because it would be too hard to visit Disneyland. That’s certainly never been a problem in our family.

When I was 29 years old, I found out I was pregnant with Baby Sarah. We weren’t sure I was going to be able to have any babies. Before Sarah, I miscarried a baby. That means another baby lived inside of me who died before they were born. It just about broke me. It seemed like forever before I became pregnant again. But, finally it happened! This time, the doctor gave me special medicine to help you grow inside of me. Daddy had to overcome his life-long fear of needles and learn to administer injections in Mommy’s buns. (Stop laughing, at the word buns, boys.)

It was not looking good when Daddy turned as white as a sheet, began sweating and had to lie down in the doctor’s office, while the nurse taught him how to do this. But, guess what? He did it! He gave me those shots for many weeks. He did it during my pregnancy with Nathan too. And oh my, they made me sick. I was sick with all of you while I was pregnant, but never as sick as I was with Sarah. Every one of you was worth the months and months of barfing and feeling like a giant whale.

Speaking of needles. Do NOT ever get a tattoo. Trust me on this one. You might think you want one — when you’re a teenager, going through your weird-o, wanna-be hippy, listen to 70’s music, hang out in coffee shops on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley phase. Oh, wait. That might’ve been me. Tattoos are permanent, kids. Removals are pricey. If you’re feeling a little zesty in those teen years, maybe go for a temporary henna deal,  or…or nothing. Lots of unsavory ideas come to mind. But, just know that you’ll regret it later.

Sarah was the one who taught me how to be a mommy. I’d read all of the books about how to be a mom while I was pregnant. But, nothing you read in a book can really, truly prepare you for what lies ahead. They say you don’t know what love is until you have a child. They are right. I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love my children. Yes, of course I love Daddy, but that’s a different love.

New at the Mommy gig.

New at the Mommy gig.

A child is like your heart existing outside your body. I feel deeply on behalf of each of you. When you are sad, I’m sad for you. When you’re happy, I am too. I’m super protective of you all, just like a great big Mama Bear. You are a part of me. My love for you is deep like the vast ocean and vast like the sapphire sky.

Zachary felt nervous and unsure about going on his very first kindergarten field trip last week. After everyone left for school, he had a nervous tummy and tears. I knew he’d end up loving the field trip. But, convincing Mr. Z, can be a difficult task. We dried those tears and I held his hand tightly as we walked into class that morning. He was trying his best to put on his game face, but I knew. My eyes grew watery and a big lump formed in my throat as I watched my brave little boy climb onto that big yellow school bus. I feel what you feel.

You ended up having the best time.

You ended up having the best time.

I felt you, as babies growing inside of me. I loved you from the second I knew of your existence. I watched you on the ultrasound screen in the doctor’s office grow from the size of a grain of rice, to a gummy bear, to an apple, right up to a tiny baby. You kicked me from the inside, and I could feel you growing stronger. Sometimes you woke me up at night by kicking and moving around.  Lauren and Zachary, you were the strongest! Lauren was dancing, I’m sure and Zachary was practicing his swimming kicks. That fluttering in my belly and your hiccupping was a gentle, reassuring reminder that a tiny person was living within me.

There's Zachary!

There’s Zachary!

God has given you a life and you need to live it to the fullest. Live your life for God; not for yourself. That means that you talk to and listen to God. You follow what he tells you. Trust in Him. The times in my life that I’ve forgotten to do this have been the toughest.

You will make mistakes. Lots of them. But that doesn’t mean that you give up. Don’t fall into the trap of peer pressure. You can learn valuable lessons from things that don’t go as you hoped they would in your life. I’m always here for you, if you need to talk. I’m a good listener. I’ll even pledge not to post our conversation on Facebook.

Please be respectful, and kind to others. A little act of kindness to another, can go a long way. Remember that. Put others first. By giving back, and serving others, you will feel fulfilled and happy. Remember that time we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and toiletry bags for the homeless in downtown Santa Ana? We were all a little nervous driving around in that part of town, where lots of homeless people live. Then, we walked around and delivered the things we’d brought. It felt good to help others.

I love each one of you. And no, I do not have a favorite child. I was asked that once, recently. It caught me off guard, because it was something I’d never even considered. Each of you is so different. So unique. Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible that four children, all born from the same parents could turn out so differently. I hope you feel like we celebrate your individual qualities.image

I want each of you to feel special for just being you. No accomplishment of yours will ever make me love you more than I already do. You are enough. Just be you.

Thank you; each of you, for making me a Mommy.

I love you. 

This was all I saw of him.

Quick. Silent. Deadly.

I sat on the lounge chair by the pool, a mere five paces from where my youngest was perched on the steps leading into the swimming pool. All four of my kids were in the water. But, my eyes were glued to Nathan, my only non-swimmer. He was holding onto the gleaming metal railing while repeatedly dunking his little noggin under and blowing bubbles, which he proudly called his explosions.

The water thing has all been a very recent major breakthrough for Nathan. Besides the bathtub, garden hose and backyard water table, he’d never enjoyed the water. He’d always preferred to merely dip a toe in the water on the steps, while all his siblings swam like fish throughout the pool. I had put off swimming lessons every summer because of his strong aversion to all things swimming related. I just didn’t have the fight in me to force him into the pool to learn to swim. Until last month.

‘Lil land dweller.

I’d avoided it for four summers, but this had to be the year. Like it or not, he was going to learn to swim. Becoming water safe was the main reason he had to learn to swim. Living in Southern California, we are constantly in or near the water. It’s a way of life. We live seven minutes from the Pacific Ocean and two minutes from our closest community pool.

I signed him up for private mini sessions twice a week at the local aquatic center. He was bitterly angry with me for doing this. I could tell by the way his tiny chin quivered when he asked me why?, that he felt that I’d betrayed him.

On the first day of class, he cried for hours before it was time to head to the lesson. I had to peel him off of my body, unclamp his hands from my t-shirt, and hand him over to his new swim teacher, Kayne. Although Kayne is a well respected swim teacher, I had my reservations.

Kayne is nothing short of a drill sergeant in water. At about 6′ tall, she’s tough as nails, her deep, gruff voice can sound a bit intimidating, and she wastes no time letting her students know who’s boss. She wasn’t having any of Nathan’s sprinkler fest. It was time to turn off the tears, get in and get to work.

It felt so wrong. I felt so guilty. It was awful. I fought back tears. His little face kept looking at me, pleading with me to rescue him. I forced the corners of my mouth to curl into a tight smile, in hopes that it would help encourage him, if ever so slightly.

For the next few weeks, he’d ask if he had swim lessons that day. If the answer was yes, he’d cry until 11:30, when his lesson began. It wasn’t a whiney cry. It was a frightened cry, and he would tremble uncontrollably. He was terrified of those swim lessons, and maybe a little scared of his coach too.

Soon enough, I began seeing hints of happiness creeping across his face. Little laughs here and there. He even floated on his back one day…unassisted. He’d climb out of that pool, at the end of the lesson and his little green eyes would flicker with delight. I was so proud! He was so proud! It was happening. His fear was slipping away.

he started having fun

He started having fun.

this was a huge day!

Huge day!

I sat there, warmed  by the May sunshine, clapping, and flashing the thumbs up for his small accomplishments. I watched him on those steps that day, squealing with excitement each time he plunked his head under, knowing this summer would be different. I’d have to really watch him closely in the pool and ocean this year. He was no longer terrorized by water.

I must’ve looked away. Maybe I’d glanced around the pool for my other kids. But, when my eyes returned to Nathan, I saw only his two hands wildly flailing. He had gone under. I bolted over to the steps, in what felt like slow motion, threw myself into the water, and yanked him up by his hand. He sputtered water, gasped for air and was shaking with genuine fear.

this was all I saw of him

This was all I saw of him.

My heart refused to slow. It remained beating wildly out of my chest. I’d been so careful, so aware. Yet, this had happened. I’m guessing it took me 8 seconds total; to realize what had happened, jump up, and get over to save him. What if? What if…

Initially Nathan wanted out of that water. I envisioned all of that hard work to overcome his fear of swimming, reversing itself. We sat on the lounge chair together. I held my little burrito, wrapped tightly in a beach towel. I hugged and kissed him. I reminded him of a promise I’d made to him when he began swim lessons. I’d promised him that I would always jump in the water, even if I was fully dressed, to save him if he started drowning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the #1 cause of death in children ages 1-4. Drowning can be quick, quiet and can happen anywhere. Bathtubs, pools, buckets and even toilets are common places young children to drown. Sadly, most drownings happen at home, in backyard swimming pools.

this is what drowning looks like

What drowning looks like.

When we told Kayne about Nathan’s near drowning experience. She scoffed. “Why’d you jump in?” (I couldn’t reach him without jumping in up to my torso!) She added, “I take my time rescuing them, because I know that I have three minutes. I want to give them a chance to swim to the safety wall. I want them to learn from it.” While that may sound harsh, it’s coming from a woman who’s been teaching babies, adults and everyone in between, to swim for decades. Thankfully, he’s not scarred too badly from his experience. Getting him right back in the water afterward was the best thing to do.

It’s preventable. Risk of drowning can decrease significantly with swimming lessons. I’m hoping to have all four of my kids water safe by summer. Nathan’s improving with each lesson. So, sign ’em up. Even if they scream, kick and complain. Sign ’em up. The sooner the better. I was weak, and waited. But, it could’ve ended up costing my child his life.

 

K.I.S.S. (Kayne’s Instructional Swim School): A year-round private swim lessons program offered through the city of San Clemente, for ages 3+, at the San Clemente Aquatic Center. Please call (949) 429-8797 for details, or visit www.san-clemente.org/recreation-community/classes-programs