Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dear Noah :: 11 years old

Dear Noah,
You're now taller than me. It's been pretty much a lifetime goal of yours, and you have arrived! You're thrilled. And like to re-measure yourself against me regularly ... just to be sure.
I love our life together and I'm so thankful for our relationship. You are quick to stand up for me when you think someone has said or done something hurtful. You are all about hugs. You'll ask for hugs from everyone in our family. Some are more excited to oblige (your grandparents) than others (your sister). But you are not discouraged from asking.

If you had to pick one thing to do for the rest of your life, and only one thing, it would be video games. You're into roblox these days. And I'm definitely the mom who is like "so about this reebox" or some other cluelessness. But really, it's your total passion.

When you're compelled to extract yourself from video-game playing, you really enjoy riding your bike, swimming, and reading. You're always up for a road trip - to visit friends or family.

You are not interested in the least in any birds/bees/growing up/relationship conversation or story or anything. If we're listening to a podcast or I'm reading a story and there's any mention of kissing or liking someone or anything ... you insist on turning it off or walking away. You're very resistant to the idea of growing up ... for lots of reasons. Recently you said it's because you're nervous about getting a job. But usually you answer: "it's too hard to explain" when I ask what worries you about getting older. When I point out that five years ago, you weren't worried about being taller, reading chapter books, or having longer hair - you point out that growing up wasn't even a consideration for you five years ago.

Strangers often mistake you for a girl. It's funny to me, because you're so Noah. I don't think of you as "son" or "male" as much as just you. But when someone refers to you as "she", I'm still taken aback and obviously I'm not when someone refers to you in male terms. I'm so proud of you, every time, because you just laugh it off and don't make a big deal out of it. I wonder if we've done what I hoped we'd do in parenting - show that gender doesn't reflect your value. There would be no negative in being mistaken for a girl. I know it's shocking to you, but much of the world doesn't have the same belief. And you have awesome hair. Too bad much of the world doesn't allow for boys with awesome hair to grow it to whatever length they want.

You recently switched from crocs (your shoe of choice since you could articulate an opinion) to flip flops. Your uniform of sweat pants and a tshirt may change soon too. You asked for shorts that aren't basketball shorts this year and maybe you'd like some jeans. I tried not to do a happy dance outside of my head. You say the wardrobe change is because it goes better with your new flip flops, which you love.

I love seeing you interact with the world. You love your sisters and spend a fair amount of time interacting with Del .... often this is her mad at you, but it's also just talking about books or video games. You wind Del up, often unintentionally, but also with a twinkle in your eyes at times. Rye enjoys riding on your shoulders and you enjoy getting her to giggle ... but you refuse to read her a book because you don't like to read out loud. Lately you've been getting up with her in the mornings when we're out doing chores, and watching a movie with her in Nina and Poobah's room. It actually ends up being parts of several different movies, apparently, because 20 minutes into one, she'll be over it and insisting on a different one. You oblige.

You are still very much drawn to Uncle Josh. He can talk computers and programming with you but is also game for any rough housing or video game chat.

You're going to Florida with Grammy and Del this summer to visit Nina and Poobah who are there for the summer to be with your new cousin, Wally, and Tante A, David, Michelle, and Hailey. You are very excited to fly on an airplane.

You're sensitive and sweet. Compassionate and thoughtful. You are also often in your own world and still appreciate "thinking time", so it's not uncommon for you to say: "huh?" in confusion as you check back in with your surroundings - whether because you've been reading, playing a video game, watching a movie, or just thinking. (I couldn't tell you what you're thinking about because "it's too hard to explain".) You will often recount memories and fill in details about how you were feeling back then (at 4yrs old or 6yrs old) - feelings you couldn't explain then. It's always eye opening.

So so thankful for you and the life we've had so far. I can't believe you're now closer to being 20yrs old than being a newborn. But here we are. And it's just so fun to see you mature and become more you, every single day.
Love you always,

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dear Del :: 9 years

Dear Del,
I think because you were my first "baby", the one we decided would be the last to be birthed ... it's unreal that you're in your last year of being a single digit - ever!
I see me in you more and more. And you'll put your foot down with passion, explaining why you disagree with this reality or that norm ... and I don't disagree with you. But sometimes we have to do things we don't like - like emptying the dishwasher, or math, or deal with illness.

You are totally aware of all that is around you. You can tell when someone is sad (and you either empathize or you get mad and say with their sadness is not justified) and you know all the mugs that exist in our vast collection and notice when a new one appears.
You can spend hours lost in a book and love reading the same books over and over. You love spending time with friends. You go outside on every even marginally nice day there is. You love playing board games - Apples to Apples is the most requested, but you need three people to play at a minimum.

You love your sister and want hugs from her ... but no kisses! (and she thinks they go together). But you also are frustrated with her at times. You and Noah can be the best of friends with your inside jokes ... but you also drive each other crazy.

As you get older, I'm more and more appreciative of the women in our family that you are drawn to. You go hang with Nina every night, you're always up for a sleepover at Grammy's, you'll text Tante A at the drop of the hat, and you Auntie Chels always means you're going to have a good time. These women, in addition to our strong community of women will surely be an incredible resource more and more as you navigate pre-teen and teen stuff. Because there's a lot of stuff to come, I'm sure.

You still come into our room most nights before bed, for a hug. You love to be read aloud to. You received a laptop for Christmas and now you've fallen down a rabbit hole of story writing, online friends, games, and youtube. I can't imagine how my parents navigated this evolving digital world -or maybe more the parents with kids 5-10 years older than me. It's tricky enough for us to know how to parent with screens, but at least we have grown up with the internet ourselves. Then again, while some things are the same - youtube has been around since very very early - sometimes we feel just as lost as anyone - you're watching people play video games on youtube?? That's a thing. Apparently it's not just you and Noah. So there's that.

You're adamant that you never want to go to regular school and when we get into conversations where you're disagreeing with some fact I'm talking about ... I tell you the story of when you were preschool aged and I mentioned that 2+2 equals 4 and you became adamant that that wasn't true.
We finally got to piercing your ears ... and you're so proud! I am too! You rocked the whole thing, reassuring us that it didn't hurt.

During homeschool camp, you spent more time away from me, hanging with your friends. You've been working on mastering a cartwheel for as long as I can remember, so the grandparents arranged for you to start gymnastics - which you LOVE - except for one tiny thing ... you wish it was every day. I'm so proud of you when I see how strong and well you use your body. It feels like I can see the embodiment of one of our biggest parenting goals - that you feel empowered and that you're completely and totally supported in whatever choices you make.

It's so fun to see how in so many many ways you've grown and matured. You're getting taller every day, it seems. You're quick on your feet - literally, and with your mind. You impress me with your confidence and also your ability to articulate your feelings, even really really hard feelings. You're smart and capable. Even when you're feeling overwhelmed, you tend to get angry about it, not sad. The anger seems to motivate you to try harder.
In other ways - you're still the baby that gets angry and sleeps sweetly, the toddler you has plenty to say, the preschooler who knows what's right and what's wrong and will work to keep everyone on a steady path, the kid who will hug you when she thinks you've been wronged and yell at you an hour later when she feels she's been wronged.

Thanks for being you. I'm so glad you're part of our family. You keep everyone doing what they're supposed to be doing and offer criticism and encouragement as you feel it's needed. We wouldn't be us without you.
I love you forever and ever,

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dear Rye :: 18mos

Dear Rye,
Hi! You're closer to two years old than one! We're having so much fun watching you grow and learn. You love your siblings, you love your grandparents, and you love your parents. You are happy to hug and kiss and snuggle in to someone's shoulder. And any family member will do ... usually. It warms my heart to see you bury your head in Del's neck, or reach for Noah to be lifted up, or hide behind dad's leg.
It's amazing to see your relationships develop with various people in our family and wider community. I'm so grateful that you have life-long friends in your siblings who are quick to comfort, protect, and play with you.

Every night you do a little baby knock (it's getting louder) on Nina and Poobah's door. No matter how late, how sleep, or how asleep even, Nina and Poobah are ... they open the door and you get right up on their bed. You insist on having "your" pillow under your head. I don't know the details, because I'm not there. But at some point, you decide to leave ... or Poobah decides it's time for you to leave, and Poobah finds me to pass you to me. Depending how late in the evening it is, this might be a process that gets repeated several times.
When Nina and Poobah are not home, you will still insist on knocking - wildly confused why this part of the night-time routine is not following it's normal time frame. During these times, Orey, or small dog, will often join you expectantly at the door - hoping it will be opened.

Everybody said you would never be shy. We opened our farm store/cafe/coffee shop/bakery when you were 3 mos old and you've been a permanent fixture from the beginning. Your charm effects all who come. Grouchy old ladies wave enthusiastically at you - hoping for a return wave, gruff men will split their faces in two to give you the biggest smile, and too-cool-for-school teens will try to woo you with games of peek-a-boo. Recently you've figured out the routine. You come running when you see a customer arrive. You insist on being lifted onto the stool. You look intently at the customer and swivel the ipad that we use as our sales system to the customer. You reach for their card. You put it in the chip reader, with a little guidance. You wait patiently while the machine flashes lights. You swivel the ipad for the customer to sign. Your remove the card. You hand the card back to the customer. You wave goodbye.
If the customer doesn't leave in a reasonably short time frame (it's a community gathering spot that lends itself to conversation that isn't always wrapped up by the end of desired purchases), you reach patiently for their card again.
It takes several goodbye waves for many customers. They love seeing you wave in response to their wave.
One time, as a customer was leaving they said "thank you" - so you signed "thank you" and they waved bye and then held their hand for a high-five. You waved, tried to high-five, and sign "thank you" again. It was all the hand tricks you have, and you were all confused about what order to do it all.

All that work can be tiring. And what we've learned is that - despite your vast experience with a variety of people - you still find times when you'd prefer to be snuggling into a familiar shoulder rather than greeting a stranger.

Your day begins when I'm outside doing chores. Because we have you on the same sleep routine as us - you stay up late. But you're a baby - so you still need about 12 hours of sleep a night. That means, conveniently, you tend to sleep in.
On days the store is open (more than 50% of the week), you wake when I'm outside doing chores. Del and Noah trade off days that they are responsible for going to you when you call out. Soon after, I'm back inside and I change out of barn clothes and you change out of pjs. We then head down to the store for the day. We head back to the farm sometime after 2pm - where you take a nap in the car and I do afternoon farm chores. The day ends with a few more hours at the store and then a late (for babies) bedtime.
And you totally roll with it.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were so much fun with you this year. You were into walking around Grammy and Grampy's and greeting all the people while chowing down on turkey and squash. You had a lot of fun hanging out with the older cousins - even if you are much younger.
At Christmas - you quickly figured out the present-unwrapping situation and you were enthusiastic about applying your unwrapping skill to every present. When a few presents were put under the tree before Christmas, Nina and Del noticed tiny tears in the corners. So we put the presents away until Christmas morning.
You were so into it and went from person to person, attempting to open their present too. We found that the apple sauce pouches from your stocking were distracting enough to keep you from helping those who weren't excited about your assistance.

You imitate everyone and learn so quickly, as one year olds tend to do. You love doing whatever your siblings are doing. Recently, that means wanting to be outside sledding. They are great at including you, for the most part. I'm amazed at how happy you are to stay outside for longer than I would think.
You've recently started saying words as well as signing them. Last time I counted you had 30+ signs. Verbal words come slower. I was so excited to hear you talk. When we prompt you - "can you say ...?" - you use this funny high pitched voice. You can say Mama, Dada, Da (Del), Baba (Noah), Nah-na (Nina), and Poob (Poobah), Boo (boots), Bar (bark) ... and all sorts of animal sounds. But when you're sad, you use your regular voice and just keep saying "mamamamamamama". This is super heart breaking.
You still are nursing like a newborn, but often a hug will do if you need comforting.

We're so glad you're part of our family. We're having so much fun making memories with you!
Love always,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

On racism and parenting

While I was off capturing another birth (yes, I do this. It's my favorite.) and feeling all good about the world, two men were shot and killed. Two dads. Within 24hours of each other. By police officers. Because they were black.

I used to be really concerned with our fairly white circle of friends- in that most of our friends look like us. We live here, where sadly our statistics show our area as pretty diverse... because there's a maximum security prison less than 5miles away- I'll skip the prison racism rant for now, that's not why we're here today...
I used to avoid talk of diversity- because then our kids would notice and it would be a thing.
Until one day, when Noah was around 4, he said he didn't like someone because their skin was dark (he didn't know skin was referred to as white or black .... because we weren't labeling).
Adrenaline rush (on my part) and trying not to stammer too much as I ask for more clarification.
It was true. He liked people who were boys, with white skin, and preferably brown hair.
I researched like crazy. This wasn't right. The plan wasn't working! We were raising a racist white male.
I found an article like this and this.
And we started explicitly talking to our kids about race. Taking ownership for what our race had done, the atrocities committed, the need for change - still! We worked at seeking out picture books that show nonwhite characters (this is harder than you'd think - randomly pull a picture book off the shelf at the public library, and 90% of the time, it's filled with white kids) - and not books that specifically talk about race. Just books that show kids being kids -even *gasp* - black kids.

And now, 6 years later, I hear words come out of my kids' mouths and feel reassured that the race inequalities shock my children. We have recently been talking about the insane number of murders recently .... but then also talking about how it's probably the average number of killings - we just have social media to heighten awareness. The kids make big plans to go to a black person's defense in a heartbeat. Our kids are angry. And they can be, at no risk to them - because they are white. I'm so glad that they get it. I don't have to be explicit about how incredibly horrendous this is. They get it because they know that people are people and each one is worth fighting for (if needed). That it isn't about skin color - in terms of who you stand with - but it is about skin color in that it's something we're really thankful for. We're thankful that everyone doesn't look like us and we're thankful we live in a country where this is the case to the extreme. Our kids get it. Even if every.single.neighbor is white. They still get it.

I recently told Noah the story of when he was four ... and how it made me realize we weren't doing this right. He was mortified.

But I keep feeling like we could do more. I don't know what - but if more killings are happening, then it means we're not doing enough.
And this simple list came up on my newsfeed. We have a responsibility, as white people, to be the change. Black people don't have that power. They've tried. But as the suppressed group, they only have as much power as the dominant group (white people) give them. Think about that. That's a big responsibility. Take it. Own it. Do something.

And especially as a white mother of a white son who will grow to be a white man .... Big responsibility. It's a conversation that we have to keep having. It's actions that we need to keep taking.

What are the conversations with your kids like at your house around racism? Around these recent lynchings? How are you addressing this?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dear Noah :: 10 years old

Dear Noah,
I remember ten. It was a big deal. Double digits and all. But you're taking it all in stride. You are excited to be ten ... but also relish being a kid and don't want to be a teenager (or grownup). You love your life and don't want it to change.

Your favorite favorite thing is playing video games. Hands down. No competition. Minecraft, roblox, pokemon Go!. That's your life. But there isn't enough video game time in a day, in your opinion. We totally feel that unschooling makes sense - and that leads to whole-life "unschooling. We've read, you'll self regulate - food, video games, sleeping ... Not true! You will (and have) play(ed) all day, every day. Video games are very very important to you. If you're not playing ... you're watching youtube videos of someone else playing.
So we talk about how even if you wanted to eat green beans for every meal, we wouldn't let you - because your body needs a variety in your diet. In the same way, your body needs a variety in your choice of activity. So we play board games, read books, go swimming, watch movies.... But all that time, you're thinking about video games, applying life experiences to video games, and scheming about video games. I think this is also that you're ten.

We recently went on a nature walk with a biologist from Paul Smith's and you were less than enthused. When he asked if you liked Minecraft, your head snapped up and you were all of a sudden very interested in talking about dragonflies and pitcher plants and the depth of a bog ....
You were amazed that he guessed you liked minecraft. But he confessed that it's not that hard to guess when he meets a ten year old boy.

You're lately having times of frustration and increased anger. My easy-going boy is not always so easy going. This is all new and confusing for both of us at times - but also a relief. It's great to see you be self aware enough to realize you have opinions, attempt to articulate those opinions, and feel strongly enough about them to get angry if you feel it's needed. And usually it's needed for your sister. The older of the two. You're not always the best with words, and sometimes your actions have been coming out before your words. But we realized, that those actions are ones you learned from Del ... she just isn't as strong and you're feelings (and body) don't become as hurt, so we don't react as strongly as perhaps should - you included! But we're learning to co-exist as we enter into teenagehood.

Yep. I said it. It feels unreal that you're ten. You're a breath away from being as tall as I am and you weigh as much as I do. And you're 10. Which is close to 11, 12, and 13. It's unreal to imagine the baby you were is the big kid you are, and the teen you're becoming. When I tell you: "I think you might be feeling that what I'm saying doesn't make sense and that I don't understand and you'll be feeling that way more and more as you ge-..." and I notice you looking at me in disbelief. You are shocked that I get it. You say that you already feel this way a lot. And I laugh. Not at you. At the situation. That this is a pattern that happens in families all over the place every day. I try to be more patient and remember what it was like when I too was frustrated that my parents didn't understand and their rules and expectations seemed silly or too demanding or both.

But you're also quick to say that you appreciate that your life is pretty blissful. Your responsibilities are minimal. We've recently started talking more about how you do pitch in and help when asked, usually without fuss, but you need to notice when things need doing - and just do them. If given the choice, you prefer inside tasks to outside ones (too buggy, too hot). You prefer solitary tasks as opposed to joint jobs - because it's hard not to feel that you're doing the larger load of the job.

But you're initiating conversation more (with a heavy emphasis on video game talk). It's like it always is with you - from walking, to talking, to reading... you want to feel that you have a pretty strong ability to accomplish the task at hand before attempting it. You don't want to fail.

You love swimming. You resist showers. And changing your clothes. Or wearing socks. Ever. Or pants. We live in the Adirondacks - just a reminder. No matter. Crocs and basketball-shorts and tshirts are your wardrobe ... and occasionally a winter coat or vest.
I tell people you're the poster child for "Homeschool Kid" - except that you would be this way if you were homeschooled or not. I know this because I know your dad.

We're so thankful for you - even if we are still kind of surprised that we've been parenting for a decade - and you're the one who has taught us how to be parents.
Thanks for making it easy on us.
Can't wait to see what the next ten years brings.
Love you always,

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dear Rye :: 12mos + 13mos

Dear Rye,
I can't believe we're already a day away from 13months! We tend to be a busy family with lots of things going on - which we love - not the "busy" part necessarily, but all the things we're doing are so rewarding and we don't want to give any of it up. And summer time just means more busy! So let's talk about 12 and 13 months together.

Your birthday seemed unbelievable - but also not. You've been around forever, it feels, and I can't imagine life without you! It's hard to believe that we were birthing a year ago - and you were a tiny-curled-up-dark-headed-blue-eyed baby. So much has happened in the last year! But all those feelings were a good reminder that birthdays aren't really about the person who was birthed but the person who birthed - especially that first birthday.

You are more and more toddler and less and less baby. You like to pull things off shelves, stack and restock objects (sockets, for example), hold a pencil/pen/crayon and insist on paper to draw on, climb on anything and everything - stairs, the rocking horse, the dog ...
You crawl everywhere. Sometimes your arm doesn't hold your weight like you expect, and you topple. You've discovered that you can stand up by yourself. You do this regularly. In the middle of a room. Then smile proudly and start laughing. Until you carefully squat back down ... and then do it again. You've taken a few steps - something you're clearly proud of. People keep saying "any day now!" but I really assume it will be a few more months until you're walking. Del and Noah were both 15months and your trajectory seems similar.

The closer you get to walking, the more you want to b held. You are not as content to sit on the floor and play. I think there's a connection. Like this emerging independence given by soon-to-come-walking means you want reassurance that I'm still here. I sit you in front of me on the floor to feed you, and you insist on turning your back to me, and resting your little bum in my lap. You want to be carried more. And if you are on the floor, you'd prefer to be walking hand in hand with me. There's lots of practice needed for walking.
Not stair climbing apparently - because before we even knew it was happening, you have become very adept at stair climbing. And if you get to a spot where you feel stuck and uncertain, you don't hesitate to call out for someone to come find you and help.

Noah and Del are your best entertainers. You are quick to laugh when they make a funny face and you've just recently started laughing when they giggle about something. You love when they walk with you or spin you in the air. You will reach for them when you're sad and your parents aren't around. You love to give kisses and will randomly making kissing sounds - asking for a kiss. This is not something Del and Noah are interested in participating in and they are committed to teaching you that kissing is gross. So I get all the kisses I can now - before their influence about this issue becomes a bigger impact on your preferences.

You're affectionate in general and like to hug and occasionally say "awww" while patting someone's back. When you hear the word "gentle", you rub your face gently. If someone gives you something soft - a stuffed animal, a blanket, a pillow - you lay your cheek down and squeeze it close, giving it a hug. If I'm not where you want me, you'll pull and tug with all your might to get me in a different position. You rub my belly or arm randomly. You're just snuggly and like touch. It makes me so happy to see you reach for Del or Noah or Daddy.

If you are done eating or don't like a certain food, you'll spit it out and very purposefully throw it on the floor. You will fill your mouth too full of water - insisting you want more - then let it all dribble out.

In the last few months, you've had your first camping trip (yay! Sand! Water! Fire!!), done a road trip to Boston (with a few museums thrown in for fun, a turned-off-hot-tub dip, and exploring a thoroughly not-kid-proof house), and a bonfire at home. I'm always surprised at how engaged you are these days. You laugh when things are unexpected - like feeling grass underneath your bare legs, someone playing peek-a-boo, or a smiley baby in the mirror. You had so much fun splashing in the hot tub and exploring the museums. The tops of your feet are dirty, your hair is crusty because you like to put food in it, and you're just starting to show your 6th tooth! This fun baby-toddler phase!

Keep being you. It's so fun!
Love you baby,

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Boston Children's Appointment that was not

Del's neurofribromotosis (NF) minimally effects her life. She has a bump here. A bump there. We recently started going regularly (every 6mos) to our local optometrist to closely monitor her eyes as growths on the optic nerve are common and most likely to effect her ability to function in life (ie she could go blind).
Since the NF diagnosis, Del's regular pediatrician has been saying that at some point, we should have her seen by an NF specialty team - the closest options being Boston or NYC.
Del is now 8, and it seems prudent to have her seen before she gets into full swing puberty as this is one of the times in life when neurofibromas tend to grow (the theory is, this is a result of increased growth hormone in your system).
I quickly said Boston as my preference because we have family and friends in the Boston area who we could stay with and it's a closer drive than NYC.

Del's appointment was scheduled for July 7th.

Coincidentally, Del's routine eye appointment on June 8th showed some swelling in her right eye, which lead to an MRI, which lead to confirmation that yes, she has a fibroma behind that eye. So phew! We already have this appointment in Boston. We'll figure out what the best course of action is then.

I received a letter from Boston Children's recommending I get the referral confirmation number so that I have no trouble with insurance paying. After some run around, my impression was that the appointment at Boston was covered, but there was no confirmation number - but don't worry.

After driving into Boston (about 4 hours to my brother's house where we spent the night, and then another hour into Boston) - did you read that? I'll say it again - after driving from rural NY ... as in, right near the Canadian border inside the Adirondack Park to Boston, I decided to call and confirm that everything was per-approved from the parking garage of Boston Children's. We'd arrived about 45 minutes early, so why not?

The poor call center person. I get it. Awful job to work for an insurance company answering these calls.
She read the long winded denial.
Request is denied because the patient can see a pediatric neurologist in state (in network), Boston is not necessary. There are pediatric neurologists in state.
I explained that it's not just an ophthalmologist, neurologist, and geneticist she needs to be seen by - it's necessary that these specialists also have expertise specifically in neurofibromatosis. And we're human beings. While it may work better in their system for us to stay in state - it doesn't make practical sense. Is the insurance company going to pay for a stay in NYC? The gas money to get there? Create some sort of support network when Del likely needs surgery which will require a stay near the hospital?

I called our pediatricians office and they got on the phone with the insurance - including Del's actual nurse practitioner - explaining that we are at the hospital in Boston.
The insurance company faxed over a copy of pediatric neurologist in NY - Syracuse or NYC - (4+ hours for Syracuse - never mind NYC), to be helpful.
The insurance company didn't seem to understand that more than a neuro specialist is needed - what about the geneticist, the ophthalmologist? They also apparently don't realize that they do cover these specialists in Burlington (an hour and a half away) - across a state line - and we've used those specialists before. What they failed to also see was that these specialists are not neurofibromotosis specific.


So we drove home.
What makes this hard, is realizing I was holding my breath until this appointment.
Del still has a fibroma behind her eye. We still need to figure out what the course of action is.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Everybody says it - because it's true!

"That first year goes by so fast."

We've had such a crammed packed year with lots of changes - I can't believe it's only been a year since Rye was born.
I also can't believe she's grown and changed so much in a year.
But I'm also still trying to figure out how the first baby I birthed is now a 10 year old, the same size as me ....
Life goes by fast after you have kids!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dear Del :: 8 years old

Dear Del,
Aunty Chels wrote on a helium balloon for you on your birthday: "happy 9th birthday". So I keep thinking about writing your letter and think: "oh, I can't believe she's nine!! ... oh wait. She's not ... I should really write her letter before she turns nine though.
So you're eight. You're still you. Tough and gentle, inquisitive and all-knowing, insistent and agreeable, serious and funny.

You love to read. You spend hours outside in the spring and summer weather - mostly on the hunt for frogs and tadpoles. You delight at ducklings, chicks, and newborn calves.  You spend many many hours riding your bike. You love drawing, walking the dog, and doing detail work like knitting/beadwork/etc.
You are always helpful - on your own terms - but also really adept at anticipating another person's needs and offering to meet those.

You're very sad that you're not the oldest kid in our family and also that you don't have blue eyes. You ask why I didn't birth you first or why you weren't born with blue eyes. You call your brother names and get really really angry with him. We talk about how he has a super power - and that is to get you angry - but the antidote for his super power is to not let it bother you. But this is all really really hard to do. To be fair, many times he unknowingly drives you crazy. Sometimes you forget that the power of your feelings is inside you and that even with big feelings, you're still responsible for your actions. At this point in life though, it's really hard to feel that you can control your response to someone else's maddening behavior. It's a life-long thing that you will probably always be working on. Ask me how I know.

You love hanging out with your friends and really value that connection - even if it's someone you've only met once. You don't necessarily connect with everyone - but you do connect with many and those you enjoy being with, you ask when we're going to see them again - over and over and over. For better or worse we live in a rural area (according to you "this stupid farm") and our friends are far and wide - even our local friends are not always easy to track down and align schedules with. But you've discovered texting and facetime and enthusiastically use both regularly.

You're enjoying various video games and regularly negotiate passionately for more screen time. We talk about how if you insisted on eating green beans all the time, I would say: "you need a variety in your diet", and the same goes with life. We've tried free-for-all-screens, but then life lacks variety. We're still finding our way with this one, for sure.
You insist on a hug before you go to bed every night. And then you stay up late reading in bed. You read fairy books and comics. I don't pay a ton of attention to your reading choices - I'm just so excited that you love to read as much as I do. We were recently at a bog doing a nature walk and you pointed out a pitcher plant. I assumed this information was coming from a recent trip to The Wild Center. But no, you said you'd read about it in Never Girls. So there you go. Read away, my friend. I will suppress even my internal judgements of your reading choices.

It's been a big year for us. A week before your last birthday, our girls went home after living with us for 18mos. A few months later your baby sister was born at home. Everyone kept saying to you: "how do you like being a big sister?" and you would say: "I already am a big sister".
One of the reasons I was so excited about having a new baby was that you would experience normal birth and witness breastfeeding and just baby life. It would all be normalized and you will have a very good idea of what is involved should you choose to birth a baby in the future.

We asked you ahead of time if you wanted to be at the birth. Yes, yes! Of course you did. As the birth intensified, Grammy went to check on you both. We'd done a good job prepping you, because apparently the crazy noises I was making weren't bothering you - besides keeping you from sleeping. You weren't surprised. When birth was imminent, I yelled for someone to go get you. The baby was coming, and I didn't want you to miss it!
You were so excited. You loved holding her and snuggling her and just being close by. I'm so glad she has you and you have her.

We opened our store/coffee shop/bakery/cafe and you immediately took to the role of frequent-counter-person. I have been told, you are part of the charm of the Farmhouse Pantry experience (also known as the "stupid store", when you're frustrated at being tied down to the store's schedule). When you're gone for a weekend (off with a grandparent), we get regulars asking "where is your little girl?" and I point to Rye and they say: "no no, the older one". You impress everyone with your register skills and how well you know the inner workings of the store.

This is the year your neurofibromatosis is going to start impacting our lives. Our pediatrician mentioned a few years ago that she'd like you to connect with a team that specializes in NF at some point. We agreed that we'd go to Boston Children's at some later date.
Well, you're 8 and puberty is coming and now is the time to start that relationship. So we have an appointment scheduled for early July. Coincidentally we had your regular twice-a-year appointment with the local optometrist. He is very thorough and noticed one of your eyes looked swollen. Pictures confirmed his suspicion. There are no nodules visible, just the eye is swollen - not noticeably without the optometrist examining your eyes. Your eye site is still perfect (this is disappointing to you - you want glasses).
So an MRI was ordered, and the optometrist suspicions confirmed once again - you have a fibroma behind your eye, putting pressure on your eye. There's a lot of going back and forth with all the medical players - including a fair amount of: "why does she need an mri? That's really serious, we don't just do those .... so she's going to need an mri as soon as possible, don't wait ..."
We haven't told you yet that there's a fibroma behind your eye. We'll talk about it when we know more and have an idea about what options are - if there are even any decisions to be made right now. Fibromas tend to grow slowly, so we may just be advised to wait and closely monitor its growth.
It's turns out - below your tough shell, sometimes things are really scary - like MRIs. You were rather uncertain - especially when you learned you'd be in the room by yourself. So, unlike our usual protocol of being very up front with you, we're holding back until we have more information.

I'm amazed at how grown and mature you seem recently. Your long and lean, your face is thinning out, your hair is longer .... and then you stamp your foot screeching at me insisting it's all unfair. Or ask me to put your hair in pigtails. It's a funny mix right now -between baby girl and teen.
You have found great enjoyment in cooking - brownies at the store and pancakes at home - are your go-to cooking projects.

You expect the world to work for you and are enraged when it doesn't. You have little sympathy for someone who you deem has done you wrong and will make this clear in no uncertain terms. You are already making an impact on this world. You just haven't realized you have your own super power - the power to make change through your passion, dedication, and logical thinking. You're learning though. Figuring out how to use your power for positive change and learning how to balance that with other people's feelings.

I'm so proud of you.
Thank you for always taking on every challenge, with barely a blink. And for also knowing your limits and reaching out for support when you need it. Just make sure you keep eating when you're hungry and sleeping when you're tired. The rest will all work itself out.
I love you forever,