Thursday, January 10, 2019

Our Speech Therapy Journey

My son Anders has been in speech therapy since he was 2. Trying to teach a child how to speak is much harder than I ever imagined. I always just took my basic skills for granted, like knowing how to walk or go to the bathroom—props to my mom and dad.

Anders is now in second grade and will be nine in June. He's bright and studious, but his speech articulation is on a three-year-old level. Picture yourself four-and-a-half feet tall in a 70-pound body, smart as can be, but when your words come out, you sound like a toddler. Nobody can understand you except those who know you best. 

This summer a friend of mine—who had good intentions—hurt my feelings. On a play date, she blurted out: “What are you going to do about Anders?” I was caught off-guard. “What do you mean,” I asked. I thought of a number of things … his picky eating, his sometimes impulsive and anti-social behavior. “His speech,” she said. “I can’t understand a single thing he’s saying! You need to exhaust every resource, have him in therapy every day if that’s what it takes!” 

Her words stung. My husband and I had tried so many different things. First off, I knew daily therapy wasn’t the answer. Not only is that expensive, but there’s no way Anders—or likely any kid—would be on board with that much therapy. For therapy to work, they must be willing participants. But she was right about one thing: He still couldn’t be understood. Why was it taking so long?

We had already ruled out cognitive issues, but I wanted to determine if there was some other physical reason for his articulation disorder, one that a specialist in the past had missed. In a matter of weeks, we had appointments with the pediatrician, the dentist, the ENT, the audiologist and the allergist. Anders even went to the hospital for a CT Scan to see if his tonsils or adenoids were bearing down on the back of his tongue and impeding speech. I actually wished that were the problem, that one surgery would fix everything. But that wasn’t the case. All those appointments, all those co-pays, and no new answers. The only track it seems, is speech therapy, a journey we’ve been on for nearly seven years. 

When Anders was 2, I remember being amazed by his classmates’ ability to speak and articulate. “Hello Anders’ mom! I am Olivia. I am two, and I just went potty!” At the same age, Anders would say, “I Nah-Nah (Anders) an I wan BabaTruh (and I want firetruck).” In the state of Alabama at the time, I applied for Early Intervention, a free speech therapy program for kids under three. He qualified, but every time the therapist came to our house for a session, he refused to participate. He was stubborn and combative. So I tried a different therapist, a private one under our insurance. A few times a week I carted Anders and his baby brother, William, to the next county over for the appointment. I remember one session in particular. Anders was sitting in front of the mirror trying yet failing to get out a “k” sound, when William started clucking from his car carrier in the corner, making a perfect sound from the back of his throat. 

We moved to Orlando and our county had a free speech program at the public school for kids 3 and up. Sessions were two days a week during the school day, and since I worked 25 miles away, I hired my housekeeper to pick Anders up from daycare and drive him to speech therapy and back. The speech therapist canceled at least one session every week for one reason or another. There was little I could do—she was a veteran teacher and I wasn’t paying for services—so I tried supplementing with a private therapist. Anders didn’t like the new place nor the change to his routine. The therapist, a young professional in her ‘20s, held up a flash card of a pink pig and asked Anders to name it. He answered sarcastically, “A boo gaffe (blue giraffe).” $80 a session, down the drain.

We moved to Louisiana in time for Anders to start first grade. I called our new health insurance, and the lady at the 1-800 number said in an annoyingly cheerful voice that a speech therapist in our network was located “nearby in Baton Rouge.” I was exasperated. “Nearby in Baton Rouge!? I have to drive 70 minutes through road construction, over the country’s largest swamp, and through gridlock traffic over the Mississippi River! And do you know how long speech therapy sessions are for a child his age? Only 30 minutes!” 

We enrolled Anders in a highly rated public school where he could get free speech therapy services. At Woodvale, he has thrived. He loves the routine and structure, and at a public school with such a mix of kids, he doesn’t feel like the odd man out. He’s gained confidence and excels academically, but his speech progress remains slow.

My friend’s comment last summer did encourage me to seek more help for Anders. I check him out of school every week for private speech therapy at a rate of $78 per 40-minute session. Every time I swipe my credit card, I think about the families who cannot afford this. At our school, the speech therapists can only work on articulation, so the private therapist works on strengthening the muscles in his tongue and around his mouth. We are also adding occupational therapy to strengthen his core muscles and his overall posture. If his body feels uncentered and uncoordinated, perhaps it’s harder for him to target the muscles in his mouth, to properly place his teeth and his tongue where they need to be in order to make the right sounds.

Speech has impacted more than Anders’ ability to communicate. While he was born stubborn as a mule with a type-A personality, I believe his extreme desire for control is because he can’t control his speech. He’s a picky eater, refusing to try new foods. His weak mouth muscles could make him intimidated by certain textures; he’s unsure how foods will feel in his mouth and how his tongue and jaws will maneuver them. The hardest of all (for me) is that it’s difficult for Anders to make friends. While he’s an introvert and a little socially awkward, when he does want to engage in friendships, his peers can’t understand him. Sometimes my heart breaks for him. When I see the looks other kids give him I want to shout. HE’S NOT STUPID! He has so many funny and interesting things to say. Why can’t you understand him like I can?

But then one day, the greatest gift came to me unexpectedly. It was Halloween and we dropped in on a new friend. The boys ran off to play, and before following them out of the room, their dad turned to me. “You know, I sounded just like Anders and was in speech therapy until 8th grade,” he said. “I turned out all right. You’d never know now, would you?” 

His words were crystal clear, a beautiful song of hope. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

10 Tips for Dealing With a Challenging Child

I feel like Anna Faris on her Unqualified podcast. I have no business doling out advice. I hold no degree in childhood development, speech pathology, or psychology. But I am a mother. I was recently with another mom who was telling me about her son’s struggles. I recognized all too well the look in her eyes when she spoke: sadness, frustration, helplessness, love. I wish I’d had more words of comfort and wisdom to offer her at the time. I wish I knew the answers. 

Parenting is like sitting before a 10,000-piece puzzle. I’ll think I have a corner figured out when the image takes on a different shape entirely. Some days I make excellent progress, and other times I’m so exasperated, I want to throw the pieces on the floor and start all over. Anders is a wonderful and challenging puzzle. I’ve worked with him closely to figure out some complicated pieces like chronic allergies, nosebleeds, and awkward social skills to sensory processing disorder, speech delays, ADHD, cyclical vomiting syndrome and bad behavior. Knowing what pieces are related has been difficult. But looking at the big picture, we have this super-cool kid in the making. He loves winning and making all As, collecting Yu-gi-oh cards, riding his bike and snuggling with his mom and dad. While the public may see him one way, Anders’ inner circle is blessed to know his true spirit. 

Being a mother is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s also the hardest, most frustrating and trying job I’ve ever had. So, for what it’s worth, here are some tips if you, too, are dealing with a challenging child. I just hope you won’t put me in the same category as that judgmental stranger in the grocery store, who hands out unsolicited advice!

1. Know You’re Not Alone: We mamas are all in this together. We all have hard days and rough patches. If we’re open and honest with each other and share our struggles, we ease just a bit more of the burden.

2. Focus on the Good: Celebrate every milestone. They finally learn to ride a bike. They read their first words. They go all night without a pull-up. They finally get that math problem. Who cares if it took them longer, these are amazing accomplishments! In the Notes app of your phone or in your daily planner, write down the good things that happened each day. Maybe you didn’t lose your patience. Maybe you got around to washing their favorite shirt. Let’s say your picky eater ate some fruit or your kid with ADHD finished their homework. Hooray! 

3. Avoid Negativity: I have a good support group, but if other mothers, family members or friends make you feel worse about your child, avoid them as much as possible! If birthday parties or playdates are extra stressful, don’t go! If soccer was too much, don’t sign up next season!

4.  Push Boundaries: Anders is stubborn and resistant to change. His first reaction to everything is “no.” While it’s important to avoid chaotic settings where he might fail, I also try to seek out moments to stretch his limits, like trying a new food, playing with a new friend, or doing something outside of our normal routine. Knowing he might be more difficult because we’re not doing things his way, I try to make sure my husband or a supportive friend are there with me.

5.  Keep Researching: Keep reading, seeing new specialists, and looking at your issues from new angles. Talk to your teacher, pediatrician or school counselor and ask what free assessments, services or therapies might be available. In Florida, one meeting with the principal turned into a break-through diagnosis for Anders with sensory issues along with a vision issue we addressed with occupational therapy. We recently went to a new speech pathologist and an ENT in Louisiana who had fresh insights into Anders’ articulation struggles. We are still figuring things out.

6.  Give Yourself a Break: There comes a time when you need to put the parenting books down and close those browsers. Take a time-out so you don’t wear yourself out. I can be so damn hard on myself, and it’s important for me—and Anders—that we chill out. A wise speech therapist told me only to correct Anders a few minutes each day, or else he’d resent even speaking at all. 

7.  Spend One-on-One Time: A behavioral coach and psychologist told me never to underestimate the power a younger sibling has on the first-born child. It’s no wonder children start acting up when new babies are brought home from the hospital! She told me to spend 15 minutes a day and an hour on the weekend just with Anders, doing whatever he wanted. That positive alone time is valuable to us. 

8.  Look How Far You’ve Come: When I’ve had a particularly rough day with Anders, Bryan gives me these comforting words. He reminds me of the challenges we have overcome and the successes we’ve had—because Anders has had wonderful successes! Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.

9.  Look at the Big Picture: It’s easy for me to get lost in the day-to-day grind and not notice the gradual changes. Keep that beautiful image of your finished puzzle in mind!

10.  Know You Are a Good Mother: Tell yourself this daily and tell other moms this too! On the worst of days, I punish myself with guilt. I could have done more, I should have done this, if only I’d tried that  sooner… But it’s so important for me to remember I am the most qualified person on the face of the earth to be Anders’ mother—and William’s too. Not one other soul loves them as much as I do.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Cruel Cruel Summer

It's a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It's a cruel, cruel summer
Now [school’s] gone!

Summers are hard. That smug look the teachers gave me the last day of school? That’s the look I’m going to throw their way the first day of school. Our last family vacation is over, and we’re in the dog days of summer, that long and grueling stretch until school starts. I’m more excited about August 8 than December 25. 

Yesterday, our family practitioner caught me yelling at the boys in the school supplies section of Target. They were running each other over with the shopping cart. Today, we tried practicing riding bikes to school and gave up after only a block from our house, which took 15 painful minutes of William whining. I tried to salvage the day by taking the kids on an outing, but their idea of fun was apparently not going to a botanical garden 45 minutes south of town. 

In the summer, without a routine and without being able to compartmentalize, all the parts of my brain run together. I’m constantly interrupted. One day, William said “mom” about 1,137 times. I accidentally threw away the garage door opener. I forgot to pay bills. I left the house while leaving the back door open for an entire day. I let breakfast cereal harden on the bowls in the sink until right before dinner. I did more refereeing than writing.

I'm in a mood right now!
Every single day like a broken record, Anders said he was bored. He even said he was bored during the Blue Angels practice air show in Pensacola—even the world’s coolest jets can’t keep his attention!

To hold on to a shred of sanity this summer and keep the boys from murdering each other, I signed them up for camp, sometimes against their will. They went to math camp, basketball camp, karate camp, SkyZone camp, kids club and Vacation Bible School. 

When I asked our church youth director back in May when Vacation Bible School would be, she promptly asked, “does that mean you’re volunteering?” Being that I was actually in the sanctuary with Jesus Christ staring down at me, I answered, “Sure!” The next thing I knew I wasn’t just volunteering, I was leading arts and crafts for kids ages 3-12. I should have seen it as a warning sign when I had to break up a fight between Anders and William on the floor at Mardel, the Christian book store. During VBS, Anders acted like a spawn of satan. He was so difficult, he made tie-dying shirts for 50 kids seem like a cinch. Bryan came home from work late that night to find me rinsing out the shirts in the laundry room sink, my mood as blue as the dye stained on my fingers. 

William is praising the Lord; Anders is sporting his best pouty face.

Sure, we’ve had fun and wonderful times this summer as you’ve seen on our Facebook and Instagram posts. Of course we only show the highlights—the beach trips, the pool parties, the milestones, the vacations with friends and family. We don’t post the typical summer day: the boredom, the breaking up the kids from fighting over BeyBlade and BattleBots, the waiting impatiently for daddy to get home, the speech therapy sessions, the summer reading battles, the endless streaming of Ryan on YouTube, William's new bad habit of not flushing the toilet (you're welcome). 

So yes, I am ready for school. I will welcome long carpool lines and homework with open arms! I will relish in a routine! I will cherish the teacher who gives my child guidance, discipline, and a consistent schedule each day! I will love the fact that Anders and William can’t possibly fight in separate classrooms! When I start to complain this fall, just remind me of the cruel cruel summer. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Two Hot Messes in Texas

We moved to Lafayette, Louisiana last year. We’ve lived all over the Southeast, but this is the farthest west. We are now on the other side of the Mississippi and a mere 100 miles from Texas. So for Spring Break, we loaded the car and hit I-10 West into uncharted territory. 

Our crew gives Pee Wee's Big Adventure a run for its money
In San Antonio, we got last-minute tickets to the Final Four, which was amazing news until we realized the kids would be with us and we'd be in a hotel room for Easter Sunday. At the game, William lost interest shortly after tip-off and acted like a crazy person. And Anders kept stealing Bryan's phone to play Pokemon Go, draining the battery when we needed desperately to summon an Uber. To make matters worse, we were in the very middle of the row and annoyed our neighbors on both sides by getting up, scooting over, and coming back multiple times. Excuse me, sorry, excuse me, oops sorry, excuse me, coming through, thank you, sorry. 

Traveling with kids is tough. We had some wonderful times and met up with friends along the way, but we made sacrifices in our itinerary. Instead of seeing the authentic Mexican market, we went to Dave & Busters; instead of touring charming pockets of town, we spent two hours at Rainforest Cafe; instead of that last margarita, we responsibly headed back to our cramped hotel room to get the boys in bed. 

William buried in Blue Bonnets

Next up was Austin. After a day of what we thought was family fun, they complained of being bored or missing their friends. The boys fought in the middle of busy South Congress Street, causing a scene. Everywhere we went I carried special food for picky Anders and various activities and electronics to keep them occupied, my purse strap digging into my shoulder. At the hotel pool, William and Anders splashed a little too close to lounging hipsters with iMacs. “You’re getting my Tom’s wet,” one British traveler complained directly to my five-year-old.  At times, the boys were rude, restless and utterly ungrateful. Toward the end of the trip, I was really starting to think my kids are a couple of jerks.

Then our last night we rode over to the Four Seasons riverfront lawn to celebrate Bryan's birthday and wait for the bats. Austin, and specifically one bridge in Austin, is home to 700,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. After sunset, the bats emerge from their hiding place under the South Congress Bridge and swarm out over the river in search of food. 
As we waited, Bryan and I sat on the patio with a drink while the boys ran around the lawn and played together nicely. The evening was absolutely beautiful. 

At dusk, we headed down to the boat dock and watched as thousands of bats swirled in the distance, so small they looked like mosquitos, William said. 

We were watching the endless stream of bats when all of a sudden William yelled out, "A bat! A bat!" We looked down, and a bat lay right at our feet. It had fallen into the river, somehow made it up to the dock, and it appeared to be hurt.  My boys’ playful demeanor completely changed. “Mom, do something,” Anders pleaded. “Come on, get up! You can do it. Please get up! Fly!” William was down on all fours, gently talking to the bat, then naming him Jack.

Jack the Bat
For 20 minutes we willed the bat to fly again and join the others. We watched as it gained strength and scooted along the wooden planks a distance of 15 feet. But I wasn't sure it would fly again. Not wanting the boys to be more sad, I asked two gentlemen, who were witnessing all this with us, if they would stay with Jack the Bat. They told the boys of course they would, and we left. 

I don't think we will ever forget this extraordinary experience our last night of Spring Break in Austin. The boys will remember the time a little fist-sized bat from a colony of half a million fell onto our feet, how we crouched down and saw every detail of this weak and vulnerable creature, from its wet furry face to its iconic wings, that he spread out onto the dock three times in vain. But most of all, I will remember how my sons changed in an instant, the pure kindness in their voices. I'll remember how they cared so much about another living thing, how they had so much hope for its survival to get back up and join the others, to get back to where it belonged with its family. 

Deep in the Heart of Texas, my own heart swelled with pride knowing that my boys are good. They are very good indeed.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Mother's Instinct

Being a mother gives us magical powers. We have a God-given instinct to protect our children, a sixth sense to know when they’re in danger or simply just need us. Bears are famously known for their mother’s instinct, and there are some astonishing stories about gorillas, cheetahs, penguins and even mean ugly crocodiles that are kind and gentle with their babies. 

A mother's power to empathize is great. When one of my kids is sick with the stomach flu, I swear I get nauseous too. When they have strep throat, my throat immediately feels a little itchy. When they've done something really wrong, I actually feel their shame and their disappointment, that hot-cold flash that plunges from my chest to the pit of my stomach. When Anders is anxious in the morning, I can’t help but feel that way all day long. When William blocks a goal in soccer or when Anders does well on a math test and they look so proud of themselves, my chest absolutely bursts with pride. And when Anders and William laugh, really laugh about something, I feel pure joy.

My intuition has definitely been wrong before, and when that happens I'm embarrassed and guilt-ridden. Just last week I sent William to school sick. For three days he complained of various ailments. First, he was too sleepy for school, then all his teeth hurt (yes, that's right, each and every one!). By Friday, he said his belly felt a little weird. I gave him some saltines, Sprite, and a Tums and sent him on his way, even making a point to tell his teacher how dramatic he had been all week. 

A few hours later, he threw up in the middle of the classroom. I was across town, and it took me 45 minutes to get to my baby, my body jittery with impatience in stand-still traffic, each red light punishment for my indiscretion. I admitted to his teacher, who's taught for over 25 years and is now a grandmother, that my instincts had failed me and I felt like a bad mom. She confessed the time she sent her daughter to school with a concussion. We don't get it right every time, and that's okay. 

A big OOPS!

Other times my mother's instinct is so powerful, like a compass leading me straight to the problem. One such event was in February when our family was snow skiing in Utah. With Anders’ anxiety, shyness, and need to be in control, I was extremely nervous to drop him off at ski school from 9 - 3. He was with his older cousin, which gave him confidence, and therefore gave me confidence, and he seemed to do just fine. My husband Bryan and I spent the next four hours blissfully skiing all by ourselves, taking in the amazing scenery, and exploring the far side of the mountain. But around 1:00, I felt a strong longing to get close to the resort base where the boys were. Bryan thought I was being silly and wanted me to relax and enjoy myself, but nonetheless, he helped me plan our route back, taking a gondola to a blue run down to a chair lift that would take us back up the mountain to the Homerun trail leading to the base. 

We got 75 percent of the way down, rounded a corner to a steep, wide drop in the slope, and I saw him. Anders’ yellow ski pants, camouflage jacket, and red ski-school vest. He was completely frozen on the mountain, exhausted and terrified with his very patient, but dumbstruck ski instructor. We skied over and while the instructor was relieved to see us, Anders hardly noticed us, only focusing on the daunting mountain below. I've never seen him so scared or paralyzed with fear. Bryan stayed back to help our nephew and the other two students in the ski-school group, while I coaxed Anders down the next run with the help of his instructor. He had done so well all day, the instructor said, and then just hit a wall. We had arrived at that exact moment.

Hitting the Slopes

After a dramatic sled rescue down the rest of the mountain, Anders sat in my lap and I     held him in my arms, not caring that my butt was turning into ice. Later, he said he wanted to try skiing again and he did, the following day. We were so proud of his determination and courage, and I felt immensely grateful we happened to be there for him, right when he needed us most. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Another Snow Day?!

I love my children, but spending three unplanned days with them inside in January is testing this love by the hour. It's the coldest winter for Louisiana in decades, and of course our first winter away from sunny Orlando where we went swimming on Super Bowl Sunday.

Our magical Louisiana snow day in December
Back in December, we had a legit snow day. Glorious white snow greeted us on a Friday morning. I pulled back the curtains, and snowflakes danced outside my window. A three-day weekend! I was just as excited as the kids. Instead of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and doing carpool duty, I put on my ski gear and headed outside with Anders and William to make snow angels and snowmen. Inside, we warmed up with hot chocolate and s'mores in the fireplace.

But after another winter storm this week leading to three snow days on top of a three-day weekend, the magic is long gone. So this is what it feels like when hell freezes over.

Just Monday, I was sitting in my living room on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with some girlfriends as our children played happily outside. We were all excited to get back to our routines for the week--getting back to work, getting to the gym, having alone time with a newborn baby. Then BING! Our phones all went off. "School will be closed on Tuesday." A collective sigh.

Tuesday came, and while my friends in other parts of the Southeast posted beautiful snow pictures, their smiles jubilant, we sat inside in boredom watching icy rain. My parenting has been as bizarre and erratic as the weather. No more junk food! Wanna make brownies? No more TV! Wanna go to Redbox?

On Monday, I told the kids they couldn't watch any television. Then Tuesday, we watched three movies and binged on Netflix. (If you really want to see how bad you are at parenting, Netflix keeps a log of every episode watched. Our number is appalling.)

I checked Wednesday's weather and saw the temperature would hover between 17 and 30 all day. The teens?! In Louisiana?! Here in the South, they don't have the right equipment or large amounts of salt for the roads since ice is such a rare event. (One piece of firewood costs $2 and the stores run out!) There's a general fear of cold weather among Southerners. Sure, let the little kids play outdoor sports in the 100-degree heat with smothering humidity. Then, we'll cram into a concrete stadium for four hours with 100,000 other people on an August afternoon. A hurricane is coming! Let's host a party! But whatever you do, don't go outside when it's cold. Someone might get hurt!

BING! "School will be closed on Wednesday."

Ice Ice Baby
Wednesday morning, I told the kids we had seen too many movies, and I forced them outside. William broke up ice in our fountain for a solid hour, the boys slid around on the trampoline until their clothes were soaking wet, then I put them inside to run on the treadmill. Around 2:00, the walls started closing in--the boys' arguments, the annoying video game sounds, and the Japanimation battle scenes on Netflix were all echoing around in my head. "Only get out on the roads today if you absolutely have to," the news warned. Well, I have to!!! "We're going to the movies," I announced. We drove the short mile, only to find the movie theater was closed. Closed?!!! The movie theater is closed?! We drove down a little farther to find the bowling alley was open! Hurray!

Last night, we got a text that school would reopen on Thursday. I lit a fire, poured some wine, and felt a warm glow of affection return for my sons. "Let's make s'mores after dinner," I told them. Instead of feeling guilty about all the television and dwelling on the fact my boys fight ALL THE TIME, I thought about the good stuff. Anders reading his hardest book yet. William dancing to Michael Jackson. The bubble baths. The pillow fights. I cleaned out their closets, I made a family photo album, I cooked every day, I didn't kill anyone ...

That feeling ran out faster than the marshmallows when BING!

"Please disregard the last text message. School will be closed on Thursday."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Carpool Confessions

I have reached a new stage in motherhood: the carpool years. I drive 20 miles a day, one mile at a time, back and forth and back and forth. I spend at least three hours a day shuttling my sons around, between two schools with two drop-off times and two pick-up times, as well as karate and soccer practice, which are on different days and at varying times respectively. Veteran moms, I listened, but I didn't quite understand how cumbersome this job is! And my kids are only in first grade and PreK!

Once when asked what my mom did for a living, my little brother said "she sits." He was mostly right. My mom never missed an activity; she was always there for us, sitting. She sat on the side of our bed each morning and night. She sat in the car, she sat on the bleachers, she sat in doctor's office waiting rooms, in parent-teacher conferences and at the dinner table every night with a homemade meal ... I am spending a lot of time myself these days sitting.

First Day of School!
Like most multitasking moms, I’ve come up with dozens of ways to be productive in carpool: scheduling doctors' appointments, working on my laptop, going through mail, paying bills, making mobile deposits, scrolling Facebook and Instagram, pushing back my cuticles, painting my nails, checking email, deleting my cookies, cleaning out my purse, cleaning out my car, catching up with friends, chatting with my mom, blogging, reading, jamming out, sitting in quiet contemplation ... the phone rings and Bryan asks what I'm doing.

I pick up William first in the afternoons, and we have an hour to kill before getting Anders at 3:10. The first few months of school, I wanted to get there early so William and I would sit in my car and wait and wait. (I have since slacked off!) Many days, he would nap--the only place this energetic early bird will nap is when held down physically by his car seat. Other days, he'd grow restless. One week, we went through Hamilton, then Shrek the Musical, then all my favorite Michael Jackson tunes. He can now recite the first verse and chorus to "I'm Bad" and "Beat It," with some pretty good dance moves and vocal effects. On pretty days, he opens the sun roof and peers his head out. We've brought the ball and played hot potato in the carpool line. Once he had to pee so badly that I was forced to give him an empty Tervis Tumbler. (Never drink lemonade when the cup is warm.) Another day, my air conditioning was broken, so we went to the drive-thru Cajun snowball place and devoured the cotton-candy flavored ice. My car remains a little sticky.

He's a little trooper...most of the time!
Earlier this fall, I got in a wreck (nobody was hurt!), and my car spent five weeks in the body shop. During that time, I borrowed Bryan's car, who is pretty particular and doesn't allow snowballs, for instance. At pick-up one day, William's teacher asked, "Did you wreck your husband's car, too?" I had no idea what she was talking about. I pulled over, walked around to the passenger side, and noticed a big piece of Bryan's car was missing. WTF! I didn't remember hitting anything. Surely I would know. Or would I? I was filled with self-doubt and utterly perplexed when it came to me: the carwash! I had gotten Bryan's car cleaned as a nice surprise. (Surprise, I broke your car too, honey!) Sure enough, the carwash still had the piece, they profusely apologized, and they fixed it immediately. I planned a fool-proof cover-up scheme which lasted the whole of 48 hours when William confessed everything to his daddy. BUSTED. At school the following week, William's chapel lesson was about honesty and always telling the truth. BUSTED AGAIN.

Waiting to be dropped off
With all this time in the car, it's a wonder not more has happened. Some days in the car are so incredibly boring and mundane, and others are completely maddening as the boys constantly bicker and fight, spill and destroy. But we're in a brand-new town with new schools and lots of changes, and I am their constant. Now that I'm working from home, I get to be the one who takes them to school every morning and who picks them up every afternoon. I get to witness how eagerly Anders runs down the first-grade sidewalk into the building to start his day. I get to be the first in the afternoon to hear the song William learned at school. No matter how their days went, here I am with a smile and an open door--and hopefully all the pieces to the car.

A Prayer For Carpooling Moms & Dads
A nun who works with Bryan at the hospital gave me a St. Christopher key chain after my wreck. It reads: Protect me, my passengers and all who pass by with a steady hand and a watchful eye.