The Forest For The Trees

The beginning of a grand new chapter...
The beginning of a grand new chapter…

Back to school time in our house, like many other homes, is marked by stress, uncertainty, and readjustment. Aside from the usual tension surrounding school re-entry, I have had the burden of wondering how our children would fare during another traditional school year and how their new teachers would adapt to their different learning needs and my requests for special accommodations for them. Honestly, I never know what to expect, and traditionally it has taken me some seriously positive self-talk to get through the first two weeks of school. (Well, self-talk and wine. Who are we kidding?)

My heightened level of personal anxiety surrounding the advent of the school year began the day Joe started Junior Kindergarten. That day, I walked him into his classroom as I had done in previous years to ease the apprehension of my nervous boy. I’d enrolled him in as many years of preschool as possible because I knew he would benefit from extra adjustment time. He was five then and beginning his third classroom experience. I was cautiously optimistic that upon meeting his teacher he would smile his shy little smile but remain quiet and be the sweet, deep-thinking little fellow he was at home. Instead, when his teacher Mrs. Smith approached him to introduce herself, Joe dropped to all fours and began to bark. I am not kidding. He was on all fours. Barking. To compound an already embarrassing situation, Joe had speech issues and his “woofs” were not woofs at all but were actually “wooks.” There he was, crawling around the floor in front of the other kids, wooking. It was awkward at best. The other parents looked at me sideways with bemused pity. The teacher, smiling politely, asked me what he was doing. I had to tell her that apparently he was pretending to be a dog and barking his own introduction, something he had never done before. At that point, I turned 50 shades of red, kissed my puppy on the head, wished Mrs. Smith well, and walked out. I cried most of the way home. And thus began my less than stellar experience with back to school. Sigh.

This year my back to school stress was compounded by the fact that they were starting at a new school. There was a whole new list of variables for me. New teachers and school staff I had not yet met. New classrooms. New pick-up and drop-off routines. New parents to meet. New procedures to learn. It was all way too much newness for introverted me. I went bravely forward with it, though, because Havern is a school for children with learning disabilities. For nearly a half a century they have been offering hope to parents like me with kids like Joe and Luke. If any school could offer the breakthrough chance our dyslexic sons need to get on track with learning, to achieve the way in which they are capable, and to at last feel smart despite their differences, Havern was it.

On the first day of school, both boys seemed surprisingly calm. I walked them to their classrooms and introduced them to their teachers. There were no barking dog incidents, so I left feeling fairly optimistic. When pick up time arrived, I stood on the lawn waiting for them to be dismissed to my care, praying that the day had gone well for them and that they were indeed committed to this change in their education. Joe ran out first and confidently announced that he had the “best school day ever.” Luke quickly followed and told me that his new school was “epic.” (I have no doubt this pronouncement was impacted by the knowledge that the school has a Lego Club.) I almost asked the principal to verify that my boys had truly been in school all day. Perhaps she could pinch me because this could not possibly be my reality. It was surreal.

I have spent most of the past six years running the gamut of emotions, vacillating between denial, anger, depression, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, and even bitterness about our sons’ developmental and learning issues. I’ve wondered why them and why me? I’ve felt lost, just as they have. Tonight, though, after attending Back to School night and talking with other parents and the boys’ teachers, after sitting in their classrooms and looking at their class schedules, I finally see the forest for the trees. Our boys are not broken, and they never have been. They just hadn’t found their place yet. Tonight my dreams for them came true. They’ve finally found a home.

Life’s What You Make It

Joe at the beach
Joe at the beach

Our oldest has had something of a rough re-entry into landlocked life since we returned from our Hawaiian vacation almost a month ago. I’m afraid that on our trip Joe realized that he, in fact, is not a mountain kid but is an ocean kid living in a city over a thousand miles away from an ocean. Since returning home, he’s immersed himself in ocean research, continually forcing us to watch episodes of The Blue Planet all about the seas. He’s been on Google Earth checking out locations for snorkeling vacations. (He’s currently leaning toward the Maldives. We’ll head there right after we win the lottery.) He’s also been driving me crazy by insisting that the incredibly crappy, gravel beach at the small reservoir a mile from our house has to be a regular destination for us this summer. I’ve tried explaining to him that I don’t see myself spending my summer on a bed of gravel next to a big pond that is occasionally closed to swimming because E coli bacteria is proliferating there. He seems not to hear my negatives, simply reminding me that this is the closest he can ever be to a beach and that he’s an ocean kid and not a mountain kid. Don’t we realize we’re torturing him by making him live in Colorado so far away from the ocean? Yes. He’s a bit of a drama queen. And he keeps asking us to move.

Today was the first nice day we’ve had thus far this year. The temps soared into the low 70s and everyone was out in shorts. After nothing but snowfall this spring, today felt like our deliverance. The hope of summer was so close we could almost smell the campfires and see the columbine. We imagined finally putting away our snow gear and justifiably pulling out our flip flops. Although we’re not quite out of the woods yet (looks like we might see snow again next week), we allowed ourselves today the opportunity to imagine the sound of nails being driven into the coffin of a long, cold winter. Joe was beside himself with glee, dreaming perhaps of our warmer days in Hawaii.

Late this afternoon, he asked us if we could go to the beach across the street. All I could think was that it’s starting already…the battle I will face this summer. We told him no. We’d just gotten back from a 30 mile bike ride and we wanted to hang out at home. But Joe persisted. Finally I decided to check the web site for the state park where I discovered that the swim beach was closed until Memorial Day. When I told him the bad news, the poor kid cried. He actually cried. Unable to bear his frustration, we told him we would drive over to check out the situation.

When we pulled into the lot at the beach, we found several families picnicking and having cookouts. The boys were thrilled. There was no going back. We got out of the car and headed onto the beach. Steve and I threw the beach blanket down and settled in for the half an hour of beach time we’d promised. Although they seemed to be a bit shocked by the 45 degree water temperature (not surprising to us given that the lake had ice on it until a month ag0), the boys got their feet wet and walked along the shore. They threw sticks into the water and were giddy every time a noisy speedboat kicked up diminutive, rippling waves. Steve and I watched with wonder as our sons seemed to have nearly as much fun on this beach as they’d had in Hanalei where the strong ocean tides had prohibited them from swimming from that beach. They didn’t care that the lake is so small you can see across it in every single direction. They didn’t care that the water was achingly cold and the beach was not comprised of fine, powdery sand. They enjoyed their moment anyway. After all, they were at the beach.

I am reminded sometimes that my older, wiser, more cynical view of life gets in the way of my appreciating the smaller things. I didn’t want to go to the reservoir. I could not see the point of sitting on a rough, gravel beach with no true waves and freezing cold water. I could not see it until I was there with my boys and I witnessed the incalculable joy this weak substitution offered them. Only then was I reminded that just because a situation isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it can’t be perfectly grand in its own way. Chatfield Reservoir isn’t exactly Poipu Beach on Kauai, but it’s something. Life’s what you make it.

When The View Gets Bad, Change The Channel You Are Watching

Joe taking a pause on Mt. Sherman
9 year old Joe takes in the beauty from Mt. Sherman

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”          ~George Washington Carver

Tonight we went to the movies because last night hubby finished reading The Hobbit to our boys. They could barely then wait another day to see the film, so off we went. Although I have never read The Hobbit (it is currently, however, loaded onto my Kindle for reading), I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Because I am somewhat like a squirrel on crack, I was surprised I enjoyed the film as much as I did. It’s hard to keep my interest for 2 hours and 39 minutes straight.

What struck me most about the movie was the incredible scenery. It got me to thinking about this planet we live on and how amazing it is. When something horrible happens in the world, like a deadly shooting rampage at a movie theater or an elementary school, for example, I am plagued with negative thoughts. The one thing that always makes me feel better in those situations is looking at photos of the breathtaking scenery on this rotating rock. Despite the fact that I will probably never travel to Patagonia or New Zealand, or any of the myriad other stunning locales on Earth, I take comfort in knowing these places exist. When I want to see them, I visit Trek Earth and their images bring me peace. Sometimes when things are bad I will go out for a quick walk on the open space behind our house and replace all the negativity with the beauty I see around me in the smallest things, a tortoise burrowing into a hole for winter, a coyote pouncing on a vole, a yucca plant in bloom.

Bad things happen all the time. Some seem too big to overcome. But, there is solace all around us if we look for it. For me, there is comfort in the knowledge that I am but a tiny part of this big, beautiful world. There was beauty here before I arrived and there will be beauty here after I leave. I can’t always escape the negative, but I can change the channel once in a while to remind myself that quiet, beauty, and wonder still exist. It may not cure the evils of the world, but it does make me look at them differently.

 

Birdsong

He doesn’t know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and doesn’t go out.
He doesn’t know what birds know best
Nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness.

When dewdrops sparkle in the grass
And earth’s aflood with morning light,
A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to open up your heart
To beauty; go to the woods someday
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then if tears obscure your way
You’ll know how wonderful it is
To be alive.

Anonymous Child
Written in Terezin Concentration Camp

Etiquette Schooling

Looking contrite
Looking contrite

Last week, a couple days post Christmas, hubby was working on his thank you notes. Yes. Thank you notes. We both come from families that are big on thank you notes. So, after birthdays and Christmas, you will find everyone in our family cranking out thank you notes. We get them from my 80 year old father-in-law. Our sons have been sending them since they learned to write the alphabet. (Before that, I sent notes for them, which meant for each gift Joe, Luke, and I received I wrote notes. I got hand cramps every Christmas as well as in late spring because our sons’ birthdays lie within two weeks on either side of mine.). Hubby has the infernal curse of having his birthday on December 20th, which means he gets to do double thank you note duty after Christmas to cover both occasions. Two gifts means two notes.

I’d like to say that this is all unnecessary, but the truth is that I like the tradition. That’s not to say that I enjoy writing the notes. I don’t, not really. But, I honestly think it’s great that both our families believe in this old-school nicety. I hold out hope that my boys will continue the tradition as they get older. In a world that finds us increasingly impolite and me-focused, this small, written gesture of gratitude gives me hope that we’re not all self-absorbed savages.

Although my boys write their own notes now (except for the lines that I draw on their blank cards to keep them on track), I address the envelopes for them. I still do this because writing and spelling are difficult for my guys. I’d rather they focus their neatness and attention on the notes themselves. Well, the other night as Steve was working on his birthday thank you notes, he needed some assistance addressing his envelopes.

“What’s Julie’s address?” he asked, referring to my youngest sister.

I stared at him blankly. Seriously?

“Get the address from your phone,” I told him.

“It’s not in my phone,” he replied.

“Why not?” I questioned.

“Well, she moved,” he said.

“Uh huh,” I answered. “More than six months ago.”

“What is it?” he asked, attempting to press on.

“Don’t you think you should have my family members’ addresses and phone numbers in your phone? I have your sister’s and your parents’ information in my phone. What if you needed to get in touch with them?”

I was surprised he had such an information deficit in his life. I guess he felt he didn’t need to worry about it because he has me to supply the information for him. And it’s true. In the end, I gave him my sister’s address along with an admonishment, hinting that it might be a perfect time to add her to his iPhone address book. But, tonight, as he was finishing up his Christmas thank you notes, he asked me once again for my sister’s address.

“Are you kidding me?” I said.

“Well….she’s going to be moving again soon, right?”

“Probably. But, that’s not the point. I gave you this info a week ago and now I’m doing it again. Do I have three children or two?”

With that, he finally pulled out his phone, asked for her cell number and address, and put it on record at last.

There are days when I’m feeling fairly unimportant as stay-at-home mom who makes no financial contributions to our household. But, when I think about things that are housed in my brain, things that help our family run smoothly, I know there would be a definite gap if something happened to me. For starters, it’s clear that the thank you notes wouldn’t get sent.

My Christmas Miracle

Our traditional Christmas raclette at the loft
Christmas raclette at the loft

Monday night was Christmas Eve. I wanted to write that night, but I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotional. If I were F. Scott Fitzgerald, I probably would have had a bottle of gin and used my inner angst to compose a brilliant and yet widely under-appreciated (at least in its time) novel. Alas, F. Scott I am not. So instead, I helped unload the car, removing a plethora of freshly-unwrapped Christmas gifts, and finally collapsed around midnight. During the course of this week, though, I’ve not been able to shake the image I wanted to write about on Christmas Eve. After having taken most of the month of December off from writing this blog, I at last have something I want to write.

We spent Christmas Eve at my in-law’s home this year. For five months each year, they live in a loft in LoDo (lower downtown, for the uninitiated), a few blocks from everything amazing that Denver has to offer. Their place is the quintessential loft space, open, airy, filled with great light and exposed concrete. They have managed to make it feel cozy with warm wood furniture, textiles, and art. There’s nothing cold or industrial about their home. We love celebrating the holidays there, standing out on the deck with its 6th floor views and taking in the downtown atmosphere at Christmas. Monday night was especially festive because it was snowing. Denver has a white Christmas approximately 11% of the time (yes…I checked), so to be wrapped in the magic of a Christmas snow Monday night was fantastic. We had everything. A yummy dinner of Swiss raclette, the comfort of a loving family, good conversation and wine, every single gift any of us had asked for, and snow.

When we’d finished unwrapping and were preparing to make room in our cheese-filled bellies for dessert, Steve and I decided it might be a good idea to make a preemptive trip to our car with some of our newly acquired treasures. When the boys were young and the sheer number of toys they received seemed immeasurable, we would take several trips to load up our loot. Old habits die hard, I guess, because even as the boys’ gifts have dwindled in number while increasing in cost, we still feel the need to take down a load. That is what we were doing this snowy Christmas Eve when we were confronted with yet another reason for gratitude.

As Steve, Luke, and I walked out onto a snowy 15th Street, heavily laden with a giant duffel bag stuffed with clothes and several bags filled with large Lego sets, we noticed that between us and our car there was a homeless gentleman sitting on a bench. The snow was coming down hard now, and he was hunkered under a Colorado Rockies umbrella. Next to him on the bench in a clear plastic trash bag were his belongings, the sum total of his life’s possessions. I’m certain he wasn’t enjoying the Christmas snow the same way I was. My eyes welled up. I tried to keep it together. Steve and I exchanged a look. I could tell he felt the same way I did…heartbroken and somewhat guilty. We hastily loaded our things into the car and headed back into the dry building feeling unfairly fortunate.

On the way up in the elevator, I knew Steve and I were thinking the same thing. On the way out, in possession of our wallets, this time when we saw the man we would gift him the way we had been gifted. After all, we had everything already. We could certainly spare some of our Christmas cash for someone who not only had no one to celebrate with but who was spending his holiday in soaking clothes on a metal bench on a cold, wet night.

Twenty minutes later when we left the loft full of homemade apple crisp, we found he had moved on. He was no longer on the bench just ten feet from our car. We looked around for him, thinking we might have missed him by only a minute or two, but he was gone, hopefully to a dryer, more sheltered spot somewhere. The City of Denver, after all, has its “unauthorized camping” ban to enforce and there are no exceptions…even on Christmas, even if you’re not camping so much as living outside involuntarily.

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about that man under the Colorado Rockies umbrella. For the first couple days, I felt sad that he hadn’t been there when we emerged. I wondered if receiving a $100 bill on Christmas Eve would have felt like a small Christmas miracle to him. I was certain that it would have made me feel better to give it to him. Because he wasn’t there, though, I’ve come to consider that perhaps he gave me a gift with his disappearance — the opportunity to be uncomfortable with my status as a Have and not a Have Not. Seeing him on the bench downtown in the snow reminded me how arbitrarily, unreasonably lucky we are in this house. It gave Steve and I an excuse to talk with our kids about the homeless and about gratitude. As a result, I’ve been looking at things a bit differently after Christmas for the first time in years. Instead of noting what I didn’t receive, instead of thinking about what I can buy with my gift cards, I’ve been focused on how much more I have than what I need. That’s one hell of a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Queen Of The World

There are ponies all over my Message app!

I’ve read blog post after blog post filled with gratitude over the past few days, and these posts made me want to supply my own list of things to be thankful for. Truth is, though, that my list is far too long because I am an unbelievably lucky woman. It’s nauseating how truly fortunate I am. If I weren’t me, I’m not sure I could like me because of how my life has worked out. I’ve made some good choices, worked hard occasionally, and had an obscene amount of good fortune. My life, therefore, is idyllic in the grand scheme of things in this world. I’m positive there are many people who would happily trade lives with me. I don’t blame them. I’m blessed.

Tonight, instead of writing an encyclopedia about all the things that I am grateful for, I’m just going to say that after a perfect day in which the food turned out well, the meal company was exemplary, and our sons were well-behaved, the thing I am most grateful for today is the quiet time I spent with my three boys after everyone had left. We sat on the couch together watching Christmas Vacation, as per our holiday tradition. While sitting there this evening, I felt more at peace than I have in a long time.

Months ago Joe began watching My Little Pony, a fact which vexed me more than I care to admit. I simply do not get it. He watches it enough that I now regularly find the theme song in my head and I have begun calling him Princess Rainbow Dash just for giggles. Tonight, while we sat less than three feet from each other on our sectional sofa, I began randomly texting him photos of the ponies from My Little Pony. He was in awe. He could not figure out how I was doing it. I got such a kick out of his shock at my awesomeness. Seriously? How does one get confused by something so rudimentary? When I finally explained how I was doing it, Joe looked at me like I had given him the Holy Grail. And, tonight, despite the fact that I could carry on ad nauseam about the things I count among my blessings, I am grateful above all for the fact that sometimes I can tell that my son still believes I can create magic because I’m smart, capable, and clever. There’s no better feeling in the world.

How To Find Your Zen

One of my happy places

For the past two nights, I’ve barely won a battle with myself regarding my attendance at yoga class. Both nights, I wanted to stay home and curl up in bed and just forget it. Both nights, my husband and kids told me I should go. I’m not sure if their wanting me to go relates directly to the apparently witchy behavior Facebook keeps accusing me of or if they’re simply acknowledging my stress level and hoping I will find some peace. If I had to guess, though, I’d say it’s probably 90/10 in favor of the first option. When I’m overwhelmed, I’m not the easiest person to be around.

I love yoga. I don’t love it enough to want to become an instructor or anything, but I do love that for an entire hour I can turn off the incessant monkey chatter that goes on inside my skull and focus on just one thing…tying myself into a pretzel. I try to practice during the day when my boys are at school because I like to spend the evenings with them, but this week has been crazy busy and I haven’t been able to get there. Getting to class at night is difficult for me, but I’ve made it and I’m grateful to myself for doing the hard work to get there.

Yoga is not simply about exercise for me. It’s a transformational event. It’s about giving myself the space to be exactly who I am in this moment rather than who I want to be or, worse, who I think I should be. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. While I try to schedule numerous appointments for my boys with psychologists for testing and evaluation and while I continue to receive and fill out packet after packet of information, I’ve been feeling myself slip away. Sometimes it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to carve out time to be the person I am rather than the person I need to be for someone else. Yoga offers me that space.

Last night, our beautiful instructor, Sybil, asked us to reflect on how often we think too much about the future or reflect too long on the past. Indeed, I am guilty of such sins. Then, she gently reminded us that the only thing that matters is now. What can I fix about this moment became the mantra for class. I’ve been turning that thought over and over in my head since last night. Yes. I have a lot to do to figure out how to help out our boys. I have stacks of paperwork to fill out, bunches of phone calls to make, and a 400-page book on dyslexia that I need to read judging me from its spot on my nightstand. I may get through it all. I may not. I don’t know. But, if I take my head out of what might happen for us in the future (how will the testing go, will we need to put the boys in a special school, will we need to move, what is the best place for them), the present seems a lot less complicated.

I do it to myself, I know. I think too much about things I cannot control, things I might not even be given the chance to live through. All I have is this moment and all I can do is my best right now. So, I’m going to relax a bit, set a list of priorities, and knock them down one at a time in the moment until the decision about what is right for our boys and our family becomes apparent.

Tonight I’m grateful for the reminder that the only thing I need to concern myself with is this moment. I can take care of all the other stuff when the next moment arrives. No need to rush from the now. The future will be the present soon enough.

 

No Matter Who Is President We’re Still Damn Lucky

“The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries.” ~ John Adams

This morning as I was perusing my friends’ status updates on Facebook, I had a sick feeling in my stomach. The election is over. The persistent, negative, and mostly misleading ads will cease. I won’t be getting a half-dozen extra phone calls a day asking me to vote for someone or against someone else. No more flyers on my door. All of this is welcome news. Despite the end of the election, given the postings I saw as I sipped my latte, this country is still a hot mess. And, it’s hard to celebrate anything with that in mind.

Half the citizens of this country are disappointed this morning. Disappointed might be an understatement. Words like disgusted, sick, embarrassed, angryconfused, and bitter are being bandied about by those whose preferred candidate did not win. I’ve seen prayers for help for our misguided nation and entreaties for the second coming to happen now to save us from the next four years. I understand the chagrin. Indeed it was the same sense I had in 2000 and again in 2004 when my preferred election result was denied. I get it. It’s rough.

As my kids were going to school today, we were discussing the outcome of the election. I told them that they need to understand that many people are upset and angry and worried today because of the last night’s election results. I told them that they need to be compassionate and understanding and patient if they hear things said in disappointment that seem not fair or right. We all have had occasion to feel that same way and we should be able to understand where others are coming from.

Last night, after the results had largely come in, we had the chance to talk to our boys and to tell them about the struggles ahead for this country when we are not a nation indivisible but rather a nation split 50/50. We need to find a way to bridge the gap, but I have no idea what that is. People have become so entrenched in their own views that they’ve stopped listening to others. Everything that someone from the other 50% says is immediately negated. People don’t take the time to view the news from different, disparate sources. We like hearing what we want to hear, and this is why we are in trouble. There is no room for disagreement, discord, or discussion. We’re all acting like petulant, stubborn, snotty children. If we get our way, we gloat like we’ve won King of the Mountain. And, if we don’t get what we want, we whine, complain, point fingers, and call names. It works both ways. I’ve seen it now from both sides during two similar elections. It’s not good. The fear mongering, the partisanship, the intractability…it’s unbearable and downright childish.

We try to teach our children to play fair, to be gracious winners, and good losers. We tell them to take turns and share. We remind them not to jump to conclusions or place blame. And, we ask them to be the bigger person, to be respectful, and to be kind. Yet, we’re not setting that example for them. We’re out there making disparaging remarks about the other candidate and calling our president an incompetent boob. Our children see this. What they’re learning from us is that it’s okay to be mean-spirited and that when you don’t get what you want you should cross your arms and pout. They’re learning compromise is failure.

Most of the things I voted on went the way I hoped they would last night (and, no, I did not vote in favor of the legalization of marijuana as I’m sure some of you suspect I would being the liberal I am). I’ve not, however, felt good about any of the victories because it’s hard to be positive when I know so many people who are feeling lost, hurt, and disenfranchised by the very same things that let me sleep easily last night. I’ve been digging around looking for something, anything, that would offer me a reason to feel optimistic. Then, in the midst of the tempest of animosity, I saw a post this morning from someone I know whose candidate did not prevail. He simply wrote: Tomorrow is another day. This is still the greatest country in the world. This man is a Marine. He’s a Christian and a loving and devoted family man. I am deeply touched by his sentiment and by his positive attitude when so many people are seeing the election result as the end of freedom and of life as we know it. This is the type of positive example we should share with future generations. At the end of the day, no matter whose candidate wins, we’re still incredibly lucky to live in this country and we’re still all in this together. We held free elections yesterday and millions upon millions of people voted. That’s an amazing thing. It might be good for us to focus on that as we embrace the next four years and whatever they may bring.

The Best Brother In The World

Two peas in a pod

So this morning we had an actual face-to-face meeting with the school psychologist who did the testing on our youngest to determine if he has a learning disability. As she mentioned in her earlier phone conversation with me, her test results point to Luke having markers for dyslexia. Her report suggests Luke begin intensive tutoring with a dyslexia specialist, which he will start tomorrow. Two days a week for an hour he will be participating in remedial reading lessons. These will either help him fill in the gaps in his reading skills, which will prove he’s not dyslexic, or they help but not significantly, which will prove he is. In addition to this, she has also suggested that we have Luke tested for ADHD as she suspects he may have some of those issues as well.

I haven’t decided how I feel about this whole assessment. While I’m certainly not happy about either diagnosis, neither dyslexia nor ADHD are cancer or some other life-threatening condition. Things could most definitely be worse. Still, the thought of Luke struggling the way Joe struggles sucks. And, because of the joint issues of both boys, we may need to consider a different school for them. It’s a lot to take in. And, I suspect that I’m holding it together on the surface right now because I know it’s not about me. Having a mini-meltdown about the situation will not make Luke accept it with any greater ease. A mini-meltdown will not accomplish anything other than perhaps keeping me from needing a glass of wine and what kind of consolation is that?

As I’ve been working through all this in my brain, one positive thing did occur to me about it. Joe has, for three years now, felt bad that he is a stand-alone in this family in terms of needing extra support on things. That is no longer the case. Now, Luke will also have special needs that must be met. Joe has gone through tutoring and now Luke will endure the same. And, if Luke receives an ADHD diagnosis, whether or not we put him on medication, the two boys will have that in common as well. Joe will no longer feel like the odd man out.

This past summer, when Joe was taking a break from his medication, I had to have several conversations with Luke about how he needs to be patient with Joe because Joe struggles to do basic things Luke takes for granted. I told Luke that we all need to cut each other some slack. Today I had the occasion to have a long talk with Joe about Luke and his reading. I told him that he cannot make fun of Luke’s reading skills. I told him that we all have our issues, and reading is Luke’s. Joe is not allowed to ask Luke to read anything or to tease him when he gets something wrong. He’s not permitted to compare his reading skills to his brother’s skills. Reading will never be Luke’s strength, and the best thing we can do as his family is to reassure him that his difficulty with reading in no way diminishes his intelligence or makes us love him any less.

I am fortunate to have the boys I have. They adore each other. They always have. Luke has always stood up for Joe and Joe has always looked out for Luke. I know that although it’s a mixed blessing, having two boys with differences is still a blessing because they will better be able to understand and relate to each other. This is simply another thing they have in common, another thing that will draw them together. I may not be 100% certain about how I will be able to handle this new situation, but I have no doubt that my boys will be fine. They’re both bright. They’re both capable. And, they both have the best brother in the world.

My Frozen Yogurt Epiphany

If I could write poetry, I’d write an ode to this.

I’ve been thinking lately that I need to work on being more grateful. It’s simply too easy to get wrapped up in that which does not matter and to forget the things that make life worth living. In the times that I stop to recognize all that I have, I find myself lacking less. I am happier and feel better about life in general. So, today, I am going to use this forum to give thanks for my new favorite thing: Pinkberry frozen yogurt.

Now, I know that Pinkberry is not new to many of you. After years of hearing about it, though, today I ventured into my very first Pinkberry shop. The very smiley and helpful, middle-aged Pinkberry clerk told me that the company’s mission was to make sure that I didn’t like my yogurt but that I loved it. She encouraged me to try as many samples of flavors as I wanted. After much deliberation, I settled upon a small cup split evenly between the Original and the Coconut flavors. “Love it, you will,” said my inner yogurt Yoda. And, love it I did.

There was a time in my life not so long ago when I was nervous about trying new things. As I’ve begun to broaden my horizons, I’ve discovered some of the best things I never knew existed. You don’t need to make a big change to find gratitude. You don’t need a fancy trip to Europe or a brand new luxury vehicle. Sometimes it’s the simplest things in the most common places that give us the greatest pleasure. Sitting today with my mom in the Pinkberry store, savoring fro-yo and Fiji water, I remembered how lucky I am. Lucky to have such an intelligent, insightful mother to spend the day with. Lucky to have the opportunities that I have to experience new things. Lucky to have a supportive husband and sweet boys. And, yes…lucky to have some kick ass frozen yogurt. Life is good.