Friday, October 4, 2013

Life Is Happening

This blog has been really quiet, lately. But life hasn't. I would dare to guess that it often happens this way. A blog grows quiet as the life of that particular blogger simultaneously gets louder and louder. Sometimes maybe even so loud that you want to cover your ears and crouch down in a corner somewhere. For just a few minutes, pretending that life is quiet once more.

I started this blog a few months ago with one purpose: to keep my family and friend up to date with the goings-on of our little family as we move from place to place, many miles from home. I hoped that through stories and pictures, my loved ones would have a chance to know my precious son, and feel like a part of his life despite all those miles that separate.

Lately, though, I have been struggling with what to share. It is fun to detail an outing to the zoo, or a day at the pool. But what do you do when a life update means sitting down and opening up about painful events and difficult decisions, because those are the things that are truly occupying all of my thoughts these days?

Many times, I have thought about sitting down and posting something fun like birthday party photos, or details of all the DIY projects affiliated with said birthday party. I mean, there has actually been a lot of joy around here lately, if I'm being truthful. Unfortunately, as it often happens, the heavy things in life cast shadows over those light-hearted, happy moments that probably make the best blog posts. And I just haven't been up for it.

Today, though, I got a fat envelope in the mail. The contents of that envelope probably should have cranked up my life's volume another few notches, but for whatever reason (maybe a chat with my mom or a prayer from a best friend?) things finally got quiet again. So, what do you know? I felt like updating this blog today.

The envelope that came today was lengthy report, detailing the results of a language/communication evaluation on Marty. If you Google "My two-year-old doesn't talk," you will most likely conclude that either your child is autistic, a genius, or perhaps both. Sure, there are plenty of moms posting stories about their child who started talking in full sentences at age three and experienced no delays from that point forward. But let's get real, we parents prefer to jump to extremes. So we chose genius.

I've known for a long while (for about a year) that Marty's language/communication wasn't developing as fast as his peers. And for the past year, it has been more and more obvious each passing month. Now, at two years old, a big stack of papers tells me that my son has a severe problem that, without treatment, could affect his ability to learn for the rest of his life. Oh, and also, according to the test, he is at the level of an 11-month-old when it comes to communication.

Let me say right now that I know my son can learn, and I know he is intelligent. But I've also never heard him call me mama or say his own name. He understands a lot. If you read him a book and ask him, "where is the______?" he will point to the object almost every time. He also follows simple instructions most of the time, and he can actually say many words if you ask or tell him to repeat after you. But as far as expressive, verbal communication (meaning that he thinks something in his mind, and then proceeds to express the want or need through communication that he initiates), he has zero. For some reason, his brain hasn't realized that words can be used as tools of expression.

Funny enough, none of this has really seemed to bother Marty up to this point. And until recently, it really hasn't bothered me that much, either. Although I do dream of the day my son calls out to me by name, I haven't been overly worried or wringing my hands about what to do. I figured he was a late bloomer and would figure it all out in his own time. The actual language problems haven't stressed me out, but I've been tied in knots for the past few weeks because it seems that everyone around me sees these "serious" problems, and I feel like everyone is looking at me and thinking, "why aren't you doing something??" His pre-school director has been pushing me since July to take him in for testing. I waited until he was two (felt that I should give him at least that long to figure things out on his own), and then booked the appointment with the speech pathologist when his pediatrician agreed with the director.

And now these results... In black and white, someone is judging my child (at least that is what it feels like to me). They are telling me that without therapy 3 times a week for a year or more, this language disconnect will not sort itself out. So I guess we are starting therapy soon, which is hard to swallow for me because it feels like finally admitting that there is a real, serious problem.

Well, there it is. In the end I felt like I should write about this journey from the beginning, which would be today. I have no idea what this will all look like in a few months or a year, and I feel totally clueless about even this very second. But if a few months down the road, another mama is going through this mess, maybe our journey will bring her some answers or even just some hope. Because even though I started this post thinking I wanted a little bit of quiet, I just realized that what I really want is some noise! From my baby's lips, in a timely manner thank you very much, and I feel hopeful today because this therapist tells me that her plan is the pathway to all that. So here we go...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Day At the Houston Zoo {Not Our Best Idea}

Bo got off work early last Friday, so we had this brilliant idea to wake Marty up from his nap early, and take him to the Houston Zoo! He is getting so stinkin' good at those animal sounds, after all. And wouldn't he love to go see some real animals up close? Rookie parent mistake, y'all. Until we put him back to bed for the night several hours later, he pretty much looked like this:

The crying started when I picked him up out of his bed. I snuggled him for a few minutes and tried to explain that we were going bye-bye to the zoo, but he didn't want any of what I was selling. Things only escalated as I proceeded to dress him, carry him out to the car, and strap him into the carseat. We should have aborted the plan at that point. We should have taken his kicking and screaming and tears as a sign of things to come, but instead, we fed him graham crackers and told ourselves that once he saw the animals, he would dry it up and be happy.

Shocker, it didn't happen that way. At all. He was hot and sweaty and tired. And there were millions of Texas-sized mosquitos feasting on us the whole time we were there. The poor kiddo didn't have much fun at all.

There were, however, a few moments where he was distracted juuuuuust enough to seem happy. Until he wasn't. Here are some images that I managed to snap in between meltdowns. It is amazing how photos of five percent of an outing can almost convince you that the other ninety-five percent wasn't that bad... 

When Marty saw/heard his daddy bust out some cool beats on these African drums, he forgot all of his woes (for a minute) and joined the fun. Mr. Graham Cracker Face was all smiles until we wanted to move along to the carousel before it closed. Cue meltdown. He sat down in the middle of the walkway and wailed. Bo ended up carrying him to the carousel because, I promise you, that stubborn little dude would have sat there all night just to prove his point (he gets that from me is how I know).

Catching a glimpse of all those brightly painted animals, with all the mirrors and lights and music, was all it took to settle him down once again. He fought his way out of Daddy's arms and ran up to the fence for a better look. I watched him taking it all in, and thought how magical that giant spinning machine must seem to a little boy. And so, while Bo was off buying Marty a ticket to ride, the stinker decided that he wasn't very fond of all this waiting around nonsense, and tried to sneak into the ride without a ticket. Little devil.

We finally got our turn, and Marty chose to ride on this silly monkey eating a banana. I think his choice was based solely on the banana. Maybe he thought the monkey would share?

The end of our ride was the beginning of the next tantrum. And that is how it went. We would find something to make him happy for a short while, and when it was time to move on, he let every patron and animal in that zoo know that he was miffed.

Needless to say, our trip to the zoo was cut very short due to all the 'tude flying around that day. Yet somehow, we still managed to meet a few animals before we admitted defeat. Marty's favorite by far was this very ordinary black bird that was walking around in front of the Rhino exhibit.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Martypants, you are two years old! Oh, my sweet baby boy, you aren't really a baby anymore at all. You are so independent and so full of life; always on the move, feet off the ground more often than not these days. Jumping is definitely your jam. You crouch down as low as you can, then spring straight up into the air. You land on your feet most of the time, but even when you fall, you are brave, and usually get right back up to try again. Smiling from ear to ear, of course.

#secretagentdoodlehead... such a happy kid. Every single time I pick you up from preschool, or the church nursery, or the gym daycare, your teachers/caregivers comment on how incredibly happy you are, and how happy you make all of them. The other day, one of the girls in the gym Kid's Club gave me an example: you were running around the room like you always do, but all of the sudden you stopped, threw your head back, and just laughed yourself silly for no reason at all. Precious boy, I hope that joy stays strong inside you forever.

Mart-Mart, you love to play in the water. From the tiniest puddle to the biggest ocean, you adore getting wet. Your daddy tells me that you are entirely too clean for a little boy because I give you a bath every night. But I know how much fun you have splashing around with your fishies and duckies, dunking your head under water and practicing blowing bubbles. So even if you wanted three baths a day, I'd certainly oblige.

You also love graham crackers, macaroni and cheese, climbing on everything (and giving me heart attacks), The Bubble Guppies, choo-choo trains, stacking blocks, playing drums with whatever "sticks" you can find, shoes and hats, jumping on our bed, and chocolate milk.

I love you, bud-bud. And every single day, I look forward to the day that you can whisper those sweet words back to me. But even if that were never to happen... just being your mom, watching you grow, and seeing you become more spectacular each and every day... that would be enough. Being near you is more of a blessing than I could have ever dreamed up. My love tank is full because you are mine.

Happy birthday James Martin. I got the best one, and that one is you.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday {Pregnant in China}

So, what were you doing two years ago? I was passing the time in Beijing, China, waiting for my sweet little son to be born. He was due on August 26th. He was 15 days late.

For three and a half years, we lived in Qingdao, China, a city on the Eastern coast of China, smack in between Beijing and Shanghai. When I got pregnant, Bo and I made the decision that I would give birth in Beijing rather than Qingdao. This decision required me to travel to Beijing about a month before my due date, and wait for Marty's arrival (just in case he was early. Ha!).

Fortunately, our temporary apartment in BJ had a gigantic swimming pool, which I thoroughly enjoyed during those blazing hot August days. Nothing better than floating weightlessly when you are 10 days overdue! My dear friend and photographer extraordinaire, Kiley Ariail, stopped through BJ on her way back to QD from Europe. These photos of me in the pool are some of my favorite preggers pics. So ready to meet my boy...maybe jumping in the pool will force him out?!

My mom had come to China to hang out with me and be there for Marty's big arrival. We did a lot of touristy stuff while she was there, hoping that all the walking around would start my labor. Nope. He took his time. Perhaps he knew we had a few more memories to make in bustling Beijing...

This random man came up to me on the street, and insisted that his belly was bigger than mine. I'm thinking a big NO on that one. Close, though.

When you are 10 days overdue, you stop and stare at every child you see, wondering what it will be like when that little monkey is all yours.

At the Beijing Silk Market. This woman was literally pulling me into her booth and trying to convince me to buy something. She didn't let go of my wrist the entire time we were "bargaining." After I made my purchase, she politely informed me that I should not be out in public that far into pregnancy, as it is "bad for health." (And as a random side note: I grew like 4 cup sizes my first month of pregnancy. Yowza. I was glad to see those suckers go bye-bye when I stopped nursing!)

Mani-pedi-round-o-golf, anyone??

We took my mom to this huge fabric market where they sell everything from fabric to buttons to ribbon to trim. Anything a factory would need to create the clothing that we buy every day! A crafters dream, for certain. This was the real deal, no tourist trap, so everything was suuuuuuper cheap. I think we may have been the only foreigners walking around that place.

See that guy in the pink shirt? That is exactly what I wanted to be doing. Instead, I was hoofing it around Beijing, trying to evict my son from my belly!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Around Town {Date Night in Rice Village}

It's September!! Wahoo!! Such a fabulous month, indeed.  Kicked off with a three day holiday, followed by the appearance of pumpkin spice lattes, my baby's birthday, and maybe even some slightly cooler temps (fingers crossed).

A few weeks ago, my good friend brilliantly suggested that we start a once a month, overnight date swap. I was all over that idea like white on rice. Earlier in August, we kept their 6-year old daughter overnight (I totally pretended she was mine!), and this past weekend it was time for payback! Bo and I got to go out alone on Sunday night, stay out late, and sleep in on Labor Day morning. Yay for brilliant friends! And double yay for brilliant friends who will not only keep your kid overnight, but then also feed you gourmet barbecue for lunch the next day. The holiday weekend was good to us, no doubt.

Bo and I ditched the 'burbs on Sunday night and spent a glorious evening wandering around Rice Village, one of Houston's oldest (and best-loved, according to their website) shopping and dining areas.  We ate huge, greasy, build-your-own burgers at Brian O'Neill's Irish Pub. The jalapeƱo cheddar hamburger bun was incredible!

After dinner, when we would usually rush home to relieve the babysitter, we decided to walk a couple of blocks over to the Chocolate Bar for some sugar on top of sugar. Bo had a hard time choosing between the chocolate covered Twinkie and the chocolate covered Moon Pie (he chose the Twinkie).

Okay, so this next little gem isn't technically from our Sunday night date, but rather from the previous evening when Bo wanted to pop into Urban Outfitters to check out their Labor Day Sale. They had a photo booth, so of course we had to get in it! Little did we know that they actually film you, and display all your smooth moves (in real time) on a screen outside the booth, for the entertainment of everyone in the vicinity. When we got home that night we noticed that there was a website on our photo strip. We logged on, and this is what we found...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Frozen Stuff In A Wok {a trader joe's recipe}

If you aren't fortunate enough to live near a Trader Joe's grocery store, I'm sorry in advance for rubbing it in. I know how you feel. This is the first time I've ever lived near one myself, and I love it. So much in fact, that a few times a month, I make a 25 minute drive into the city from the 'burbs to do my shopping. Lately, though, life has been crazy and I've kinda dropped the ball on grocery duty.

Graham crackers in the check-out line, and a car nap on the long drive home. Shopping is hard work when you're two.

A few nights ago, at dinnertime, I realized that I had nothing to cook for my boys because I was incredibly overdue for a big grocery shop. The cabinets were bare, and the fridge contained little more than a few yogurt cups and some string cheese. (And Sriracha. Because we always have Sriracha.) We were on the verge of going out to eat at a restaurant when I opened the freezer and decided to do one final sweep. Surely we must have something. And there it was: Trader Joe's Fully Cooked Shrimp. A full bag of it.

Experimenting in the kitchen is not typical for me. Generally, I need an exact recipe to follow, and all ingredients accounted for. Substitutions scare me. Needless to say, I'm no chef, and nobody really wants me getting too adventurous when their stomach is growly.

But here I was with this bag of shrimp and a sudden desire to whip up something for my boys rather than schlepping out to a restaurant. (When I bought that shrimp, I thought I'd use it on a salad one day for lunch. Ha! Glad that never happened.) Luckily, I always keep the freezer stuffed to the gills with veggies, so I pulled out all of my half-used frozen vegetable bags, threw all the contents in a wok with some olive oil, and voila! Dinner.

The result was surprisingly delicious! So good, in fact, I thought I'd share. Since this may be the only time EVER I actually create a recipe myself! It took less than 10 minutes, so stock your freezer next time you go to TJ's, and be ready for your next dinner time emergency...

Frozen Stuff In A Wok:

1 bag Trader Joe's Large Cooked Shrimp
1 bag Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Butter Sauce
Trader Joe's Soycutash (partial bag)
Trader Joe's French Cut Green Beans (partial bag)

So I basically just stir-fried the shrimp in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then added the veg until everything was nice and hot. I seasoned it a bit with salt & pepper, but most of the flavor comes from the balsamic butter sauce in the Fire Roasted Veggie mix.

And then of course we topped it with Sriracha. Because everything tastes better with Sriracha.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mushy Thoughts On Fear and Motherhood

Sometimes I think my heart may just explode. Like seriously thump right out of my chest from the intense waves of emotion that pulse through my soul when I look at this boy. I mean-- look at him.

Before I became a mother, I just couldn't see it. Couldn't picture it in my mind, or imagine what it would feel like. Sure, friends with kids always told me that there was "no feeling like it," and it would feel "different when it is your own." But I still didn't expect this. I didn't expect to be sitting at my laptop, in tears, not knowing what to do with all of these feelings.

We had a perfectly lovely morning. The truly best kind-- just him and me, marching around in our swimming pool with not a care in the world. He was in the best mood, and when we came back to our apartment, he ate all his lunch, and then went down for a nap without so much as a whimper of protest.

So why am I crying? Because it is all just so good. And that terrifies me. I'm a rookie mom, for sure, and at this point, we haven't dealt with much more pain and heartbreak than a busted lip and the ending of the pacifier era (which my dreamboat of a son hardly noticed). But I know it is coming.

The other day, Bo and Marty were playing on our bed, like they do almost every night. Bo lifts him up high over head and drops him down on a huge mound of pillows, strategically arranged to satisfy the highest of safety standards (mine). That kiddo is a real thrill seeker, I tell ya.

In response to being dropped from heights that must seem extreme to an almost-2-year-old, my son gets up and "pushes" his daddy off the bed. Bo may insert a bit of dramatic flair to this part of the routine. Round and round they go, dropping and pushing, dropping and pushing. It never seems to get old for either of them.

But that particular day, the timing was off by just a hair. Marty lunged to "push" his daddy off the edge of the bed before his daddy was in position to be pushed. The result was my baby boy pretty much catapulting himself over the side of the bed, and disappearing with a thud. I saw it happen. Before it happened, even. I knew, but couldn't stop it. As I watched him fly headfirst over the bed, not able to see the landing, I thought to myself, "he's paralyzed...his neck is broken..."

I ran over to him and looked down at his sweet, blue/red/green face, eyes and mouth open wide, but unable to make a sound. I scooped him up and blew in his face (because someone had once told me that this act makes them breathe. Wives tale? Whatever.), at which point he finally inhaled deeply and started screaming. He was fine. Scared, but fine.

I was able to hold it together long enough to make sure he was okay, but then I lost it. Tears flooded my eyes, and I felt sick. My mind refused to be still... it raced forward in time, without my permission, and imagined a day with a similar scenario, but a different outcome. Someday, it will be worse. Someday, he is going to feel real pain, and there will be nothing I can do to stop it.

These thoughts are not healthy, I know. Being afraid doesn't prevent the things you fear from happening. All it really does is prevent you from truly opening yourself up, as wide as you can go, and soaking up every last drop of these care-free moments life blesses us with. Oh how I pray that God will calm my mind, and allow me to trust in Him fully, not borrowing trouble, or letting fear steal one single second of joy from me and my boy...

But today, I find myself on the brink once again. Loving this little man-cub so hard that my mind spins to the things I can't control, but frighten me, nonetheless. Will my son get sick? Hurt? Heartbroken? Will he hate me one day? Will he have a proper length childhood, sustained by this gorgeous innocence I see in him today, even in a world where Miley Cyrus and her tongue are front page news? Will he ever really know his value, and how much he is loved?

I don't know the answers, but I do know Someone who does. And I know that God will be consistent and strong and gentle and wise, even when I am a blubbering mess worried about things "above my pay grade." Lord, take him, he's yours. You know what you are doing, and that is the only thing that gives me peace.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand." Isaiah 41:10