A Stepping Stone

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A few weeks ago my big boy started preschool. It may seem strange to start school in June, but the center he is attending has a summer program.  In order to hold our spot for the fall at a popular place, we had to start him in the summer. It works well because I am doing most of my summer tutoring while he is away at school.

We debated a bit about starting Lucas in school this year. He was born on August 9th which is a bit of an awkward birthday when you’re trying to figure out schooling.  Had he been born on his due date which was September 6th, we wouldn’t be in this position. The cutoff for kindergarten in Michigan is September 1st, so he would have started kindergarten just before turning six.  As it stands, we will have to decide whether to start him when he’s a young five or wait a year.

Having been a classroom teacher for seven years, I bring that perspective to the table and I would prefer to start him after he turns six, particularly because in our district, kindergarten is full day. Jaime was one of the oldest in his class having an October birthday.  He brings that perspective to the table and is not against starting Lucas in kindergarten when he is a young five, particularly if we choose a private, half day program.  Ah the decisions. Our district does offer a half day young fives program which seems like the best plan to both of us currently.

With all this bouncing around in our heads, we decided to start Lucas in preschool this year, just two afternoons a week. That way I don’t have to part with him too many days but he will have a chance to experience school, learn and grow in his social skills, get used to being away a few times a week, and it will (hopefully) ease whatever transition awaits him for next year. We’re thinking of it as a stepping stone.

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We’re off to preschool!

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Outside the school with Daddy

Lucas did great on his first day.  We had visited two times prior and he was excited to go.  He was unhappy when he realized we weren’t staying with him, but he was so brave!  No tears, just a quivering, sad face.  When I called a few hours in, his teacher said he was having a great time. The second day he was less enthusiastic and when I told him we were going, he said, “But Mommy, I already goed there!” Since then we have worked hard to prepare him, talking about how we go on Tuesdays and Thursdays, telling him which day it is and when he will go next, and it has gotten easier and easier. He even likes to wave to his class (the Robin’s class) when we pass near the school. He is making friends and we already had an outside-of-school playdate with one little boy this week.

Drop off is going smoothly now, and he is always so excited to be picked up.  He spots me from a mile away, shoots across the classroom and throws himself into my arms. What a feeling!  The reunion helps make the separation bearable. He is so excited to show us what lovely creation he has made at school that day–usually a painting or a drawing.  So far they’ve all been for me 🙂

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Unfortunately there was an almost equal amount of red paint on his shirt…

Starting preschool caused some regression in other areas at first–he wasn’t sleeping as well, he was much more clingy than he had been, not wanting to be out of my sight ever, and he was having meltdowns again. Thankfully it’s been getting better and better. Changes are hard for him and we are proud that he’s doing so well!

I had a few meltdowns too. Even though it’s just two afternoons a week, it seems like such a big step. This is not his first “school” experience as he has other little classes he attends, but this time I don’t know his teachers personally and I am not in the building nearby. When he was having a hard time initially, I second guessed our decision, worried we hadn’t fully considered all the options, and considered pulling him out after day two.  I know it’s silly, but I hated to see him struggling and telling me he missed me and wanting to stay home. I never knew how acutely I would feel Lucas’s pain as his mother. And how desperately I would want to shield and protect him from it, even though he needs to be challenged to grow. It is especially hard to stay strong when my heart is a little broken for myself, too. I love the time I have with my sweet boy and am not eager to see it lessen as he grows. Lucas does feel very proud to be big enough to go to school, and I know he’s proud of himself for being brave enough to stay. I just have to be brave enough!

I love to hear Lucas talk about what happened at school. Of course we only get bits and pieces at this age but it’s fun to have a little window into his preschool world anyway, whether it be a bird feeder that fell down in a storm (and Eva fixed it, Mommy!) or a book he heard (even the dog had some soup, Mommy!) or a field trip he’s taken (I saw pink and white flowers at the Fairy Garden, Mommy, but no fairies…), or something he did on the playground (Leo and I sang songs on the slide!). It’s an adjustment, hearing about his day rather than experiencing it with him, but it’s a good and necessary step.  A stepping stone, for both of us.

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My big boy.

A Crowded Corner

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I have happy things to report today! First an update on Operation Lace Up.  Last night I reached my goal of running two miles without stopping!  I consolidated the first five weeks of the Couch to 5K because I wanted to complete the two-mile run before my follow-up pulmonary appointment. A good friend of mine came over and ran the two miles with me.  It was the hottest day of the year so far (a high of 90 degrees) but we ran around 8:00pm and it felt surprisingly pleasant. I was able to complete the two miles in about 27.5 minutes (roughly a 13 minute 45 second per mile pace) which I was very pleased with! My friend just ran a marathon a few weeks ago at a much faster pace, so I’m pretty sure it was more of a stretch for me than her, but she was kind enough to break a sweat at least 😉  It was so great to have her support!

Today I had my pulmonary appointment.  I’ve had a few moments of anxiety about this appointment the past few weeks.  Even though I’m feeling great with low levels of congestion and (relatively) high levels of energy and activity, I was worried about that cantankerous FEV1 score.  I was hoping to see a gain but my scores don’t always correlate with how I’m functioning. This morning I woke up feeling peaceful with a verse from the Psalms running on repeat through my head:

“She will have no fear of bad news, her heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Her heart is secure, she will have no fear; in the end she will look in triumph on her foes.” Psalm 112:6-8.

What blessed assurance!

Then my phone started blowing up.  At first I wasn’t sure what was happening.  I got one text with a photo, than another, than another.  You see, unbeknownst to me, Jaime had purchased some “breathe” bracelets from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and offered them to family and friends to wear as a show of support and solidarity. People started sending me pictures of themselves wearing the bands, saying they were thinking of me and praying for me this morning since it was my appointment day. I didn’t have any time to worry because I spent all morning overwhelmed and moved by the amazing show of love and support.

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My wrist is in the center surrounded by pictures sent to me today from family and friends wearing the breathe band.

I carried that joy with me into my appointment and scored a 42 on my FEV1!  That is an eight point gain from five weeks ago and boy, I was thrilled. During my exam my lungs sounded clear, my oxygen saturation was normal, and my doctor was extremely pleased with the improvement in my symptoms and my increased exercise tolerance.  I’ll go back in 6-8 weeks for another check.  They will be monitoring me more closely as long as I’m taking the anti-fungal drug. I hope to see more healing take place in the next few months and hope to see my FEV1 get back to my baseline of 49 (or surpass it!).

I’ve mentioned before that a lot of good has come from the presence of cystic fibrosis in my life.  Today was a day overflowing with blessings that come only from this struggle. Fighting a tough battle like I did this winter with my health and experiencing victory is a spectacular feeling. Setting and reaching reasonable exercise goals in spite of a compromised body feels fantastic too. Physically, running is hard and not enjoyable. But persevering through the challenge is exhilarating. I thank God for the strength He gives me to press on.

Being on the receiving end of extravagant love and support from family and friends is also an amazing, moving experience. Jaime commented that I have a lot of people who love me and care for me and that are in my corner. And it’s true. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and many loving friends. In case you didn’t know, the phrase “in my corner” comes from boxing. The cornerman is a teammate or a coach who assists the fighter during the match. They stand back from the battle, in the corner of the ring, and help the boxer with the fight through coaching, advice, instruction and encouragement. They can’t throw punches or get right in the fray, but because of their proximity, they provide invaluable help and support to the fighter.

It’s the same with my cystic fibrosis. I’m the only one who can actually fight my battle. No one else can do the dirty work for me. But my loved ones stand in close proximity to me and help me through my battles by reaching out with love, with prayer, with help, and with the encouragement I need to keep up the good fight. I know for certain I could not do this alone.  So thank you friends and family for being in my corner, in the ring with me, experiencing the bitter moments of frustration and defeat as well as the sweet moments of triumph and victory.  Thank you being God’s dispensers of grace, and love, and strength. Thank you for crowding my corner.

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

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People say that you are like your parents and your children are like you. Of course each person is a unique, but it is undeniable that certain attributes get passed on from one generation to the next. Sometimes they are physical characteristics, other times they are personality traits. People are often proud if they pass on their height or their athletic prowess to their children. But there are also things that you wish your kid did not inherit, particularly when it’s an idiosyncrasy that you can’t blame on anyone but yourself.

Like father, like son. Crazy hair.

Like father, like son. Crazy hair.

Lucas has, for some time, struggled with eating. He has always been very particular about what he puts in his mouth. Our pediatrician reassured us that this was not unusual toddler behavior. She would probably find it even less peculiar if she had known me when I was Lucas’s age. I, too, was a picky eater. Legend has it that I was four years old before I knowingly ate a vegetable. Of course my mother did her duty, hiding puréed carrots and other veggies in my pasta sauce without my knowledge. But it would be an understatement to say that I was averse to trying new foods.

If not for my parents intervention, I would probably still be quite content with a diet consisting only of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti. At some point, however, they decided that enough was enough. I was going to try new foods. It was painful. The first new food that I tried was strawberries. It went over pretty well. The second new food that I tried was peas. To this day it is one of my worst childhood memories and one of my least favorite foods! I probably sat at the table for three hours stubbornly refusing to eat the four green peas that were on my plate. Eventually frustration got the better of my poor mother, she plugged my nose to force me to open my mouth, and shoved in the peas! They stayed down for a good five seconds before my gag reflex took over, spewing those four little peas and whatever else I’d had for dinner all over me and the kitchen floor.

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Lucas sizing up peas for the first time.

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The jury is still out…

My mother has been very gracious about our current parenting predicament but I think privately she’s probably had more than one good, hearty chuckle. To be fair, Lucas is a much better eater than I ever was. From the beginning he has eaten a healthy variety of fruits (bananas, berries, apples, pears) and vegetables (kale, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes). He eats whole grains and lean protein (chicken and pork). What is the catch? Even at 3½ years old, he has insisted on eating these foods only in puréed form. He has consistently rejected solid foods, apart from a few exceptions. Our pediatrician encouraged us not to get frustrated about this considering that his diet was extremely healthy, even if the way in which he consumed those foods was a little unorthodox. After all he could be eating only hot dogs and macaroni…

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Lucas with his cousins Joshy and Sophia, both baffled by Lucas’s complete lack of interest in the cookie he is holding.

Betsy has patiently followed this advice even though she was the one tasked with making Lucas’s baby food (no small endeavor!) for the last three years. I will admit to being more than a little frustrated on more than one occasion. I just wanted him to try something! A cracker, a cookie, anything! The most frustrating times were when we knew we’d be out of the house for meal time and would have to pack up an entire suitcase (slight exaggeration) of bottles and jars so that he could eat. I desperately wanted to be able to just go out to dinner and order him chicken nuggets off of a restaurant kids menu. No fuss. But Lucas was resolute. Maybe even a little stubborn…

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Unwavering.

As with all things, it’s about timing. We wanted Lucas to try new foods but we also didn’t want to ram our heads against the wall. In the last several months Lucas has shown a lot of growth in other areas (potty training and sleeping in his own bed at night) and a lot more flexibility, in general; so we thought we might be close to a breakthrough on the food front as well. Then one day out of the blue, Lucas asked to try a carrot. He’s been enamored with carrots for a while, probably because they are his favorite color of orange. But he’s only ever pretended to eat them. Well, this day he ate one – one, tiny, miserable baby carrot! A few days later we were out of the ingredients to make his baby food so we decided to just take the plunge and try.

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We could be here for a while…

It hasn’t been easy but it’s not been nearly as bad as we might have imagined. Lucas has tried a lot of new foods (and only puked a few of them back up)! Some of the foods he has loved, others he doesn’t care for as much. Sometimes it takes ages for him to work up the courage to open his mouth. Sometimes it takes silly songs or crazy antics to get him to try one bite. It often takes A LOT of wine for Betsy and I to get through the dinner hour with our sanity intact. But he is doing it!

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Grilled cheese, apple slices, carrots, and potato chips. Progress!

The biggest breakthrough was the night that we all ate the exact same thing for dinner: homemade chicken tenders and fries, apple slices and carrots. I am really proud of Lucas. I’m also extremely relieved because deep down I’m pretty sure that he got his pickiness and stubbornness from me! Maybe in 25 or 30 years Lucas will have a son that isn’t too keen on trying new foods either. I can imagine myself saying to him, “Well, when you were his age…” I’ll be sure to do my chuckling behind closed doors.