Pheel the Magic

162 nights spent with eyes glued to the TV.

73 heartbreaking losses.

219 beers to drown the pain.

730 curses muttered.

89 sweet victories.

89 prayers answered.

14 years in the making.

1 ecstatic husband.


Go Phils.


Sweet 16

"When I'm sixteen I will poop on the potty," she said to me today, out of the blue.

I laughed out loud at the sheer absurdity of her statement, but on the inside I cried, for when Kate gets an idea stuck inside her head very little can be done to change it. So, I'm trying to look at the bright side. Only eleven more years...


A First First Day

Last week marked an important milestone in Annie's young life- her very first first day of school. We enrolled her in a nursery school in town that touts its program to be "a loving and gentle first school experience for three year-olds". It is your typical nursery school, complete with cheerful, sweet women who just ooze enthusiasm and speak in the same lilting sing-songy voice to children and adults alike. It really is lovely.

Annie was all smiles on her very first first day, excited to be a big girl like her Kate. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. Would she miss me? Would she cry? Would I sob unabashedly right in front of her? Will she make friends? Will she pee her pants? Will she know to ask a teacher if she needs help?

However, when it came time to drop her off, I was remarkably calm. So much so that when a teacher swooped over to the car and plucked Annie out of her car seat, I simply smiled at her excited smile and wished her lots of fun. And as I drove away, I teared up a little bit, for that tiny sprite just took another step toward growing up.

That brief flash of sadness was quickly replaced by something else. Excitement. As much as I will miss having her here with me, I truly am excited for her. Excited for her to learn new things, meet new kids, discover who she is. In school she will not be the middle child, the girl who has a big sister with autism, the girl with the baby brother. She will simply be Annie.


Magic Shoes

Over this past weekend we celebrated Gonzo's grandmother's 85th birthday. Four generations crammed into her small rowhome for the festivities. Small children ran amok, jumping on beds and twirling in circles on the postage stamp-sized deck out back. Tweens and teens sprawled out on the floor text messaging their friends, together, yet each in their own separate world. The men congregated around the television to cheer on their favorite team in the midst of a pennant race. The women hustled and bustled around the kitchen, preparing food for the masses and reliving memories of the past. A good time was had by all.

As the celebration began to wind down, I made the necessary preparations for the long car ride home. Gave the standard 5 minute warning, nursed Little Fella, changed his diaper, put the girls on the potty, gathered blankies and loveys, put jackets on, re-packed the diaper bag that somebody had rifled through looking for snacks, said our goodbyes.

"Oh, no!" wailed Kate. "My shoes!" I glanced down at her bare feet. Damn that child and her missing shoes.

"Do you remember where you took them off?" I asked hopefully. She wandered toward the deck, where she had spent much of the afternoon. The shoes were not there. Instead, Kate became enthralled, yet again, with watching the traffic light a few blocks away. I knew that tearing her away from the glorious traffic light would be next to impossible, so I continued the quest on my own.

Every nook and cranny of the house was searched. The shoes were hiding in a remote corner under the bed in one of the three bedrooms. With a sigh of relief, I gathered them together and presented them to their rightful owner who exclaimed, "They found me!"

"They found you? Oh, they must be magic, " I replied with a tiny bit if sarcasm.

Kate's eyes grew wide. "Magic shoes, " she breathed and put them on. Bidding farewell to the traffic light, she turned and walked into the house, to the front door. Magic shoes, indeed.


Your Voice

Little Fella's melodic cooing filled the air. Annie turned to me, a question in her eyes. "What's Little Fella doing?"

"He's just practicing his voice," I answered.

"He doesn't have a voice. He can't talk yet!"

"You're right, he doesn't say any words yet, but he still has a voice."

Annie thought this over, carefully. "Where does you voice come from, Mama?"

The immediate thought that popped into my head was a logical explanation, your voice comes from your throat, from your vocal cords. Meeting her expectant gaze, the real answer became clear. "Your voice comes from your heart."


Not Welcome

"We don't deal with kids with IEPs," the new Pre-Kindergarten teacher was told. "Once the evaluation report is complete, he will be asked to leave," explained the principal of a small Catholic school in a small community not far from ours. The little boy is "just like Kate", meaning he has a mild form of autism.

Oh. My. I could say nothing, paralyzed by confusion and sadness and anger. And so those words swirled around in my head last night. And all day today. Those words came to rest on my heart, leaving behind a heavy ache.

If I had the words, this is what I would have said to that new teacher: You will love having this little boy in your classroom. He needs structure. He needs understanding. Take the time to know him. Each interaction makes a deeper connection. He is a visual learner. Teach him through pictures. Have a picture schedule for him and review it with him each morning. Warn him in advance of transitions. Expand his play. Engage him by being silly. Provide him with lots of opportunities to interact with his peers. Show him how. Have a quiet spot in the room filled with lots of fidget toys and pillows and lotion and soft music in case he gets overwhelmed and needs to regroup. He is a really neat kid. Take the time to look at life through his eyes. It really is beautiful. Oh please, just give him a chance. Please, please, make this work. Take care of this gentle soul.

If I had the words, this is what I would have said to the principal: This little boy is a child, not a label. He likes to run and play and laugh just like any other child. He is different, not broken. It is your school and your ignorance that need to be fixed, not him. He is a child, not something to be discarded because he is deemed to be unworthy. You owe it to him and to yourself to make this work. He is a part of this community, just like you and me. His strengths and uniqueness cannot be expressed in the confines of a fifteen page document. Help him and he will show you the beauty of life.

Our children are here for a reason. They are here to teach others about tolerance, about acceptance, about unconditional love.


And So It Goes

I was in the process of drafting a sentimental post about the first day of school being a new beginning, a whole new world of possibilities, blah, blah, blah. Instead, reality hit today, and it hit hard. My first feat on this first day of school was getting three children five and under out the door, fully dressed, fed, and properly groomed. Anxious to make a good first impression, I fretted over Kate's decision to wear the strappy neon blue sundress that, if she so much as breathes, out pops a nipple (am I allowed to say that?). Paired with that lovely outfit are her purple Crocs, or should I say Croc in the singular form. The child has a knack for widowing shoes, losing one and leaving the other behind to grieve the loss of its partner. I considered bribing her to wear another pair but decided it would be easier to rip apart my already disorganized house in search of the Croc's missing mate. Turns out it was hiding in the dreaded bathroom.

Ah, the bathroom, where most of my battles are fought these days. Kate has a picture schedule of her morning routine to increase her independence and to stave off any battles that might ensue. And on that schedule is a picture of a toilet to remind Kate to, that's right, use it. However, Kate enjoys just looking at the picture and prattling on about how big girls use the potty. All talk, no action. Each of my gentle reminders to sit on the potty was met with an increasingly louder, "No." Knowing that she has a bladder of steel and can hold it until the mid-morning trip to the bathroom at school, I decided to forgo any more arguing. Annie, on the other hand, will have an accident if she is not placed upon the toilet the minute her eyes open. Although she insisted, kicking and screaming, that she did not need to go, she did. Thankfully, a large puddle on the floor was averted.

Next came scarfing down breakfast, brushing teeth, and combing hair. For the most part, these activities were uneventful, except for a little screaming while brushing Kate's bedhead hair. We flew out the door and tucked ourselves neatly into the trusted minivan. Miraculously, we made it to school right on time. And so it goes, each weekday morning until June, a new school year, a new beginning.


My Personal Hell

Being raised in the Catholic faith, I was led to believe that if one dies with a mortal sin on one's soul, one goes straight to Hell. Because we are inherently flawed humans and engage in sinning on a regular basis, the only way to avoid a trip to Hell is to cleanse your soul by going to Confession. Unfortunately, my last confession was nineteen years ago.

So, what would Hell be like? I tend to think that it is different for everyone. Individualized. My personal Hell would be a small room, roughly the size of, say, a powder room. And in that small room I would be trapped with two small girls. The bigger girl would have a wicked case of encopresis and a dreadful fear of having a bowel movement in the toilet. The smaller girl would sit on the toilet only to get right off and urinate in a big puddle all over the floor. Add to this lovely scene that I would be required to read Once Upon a Potty eighty million times.

This is what it would be like for me, if you believe in this sort of thing, of course.