Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boy vs Girl

With 4 weeks to go, I'm wondering about the dynamics of having a boy versus having a very girly girl.

We didn't purposefully raise a girly girl. I don't remember being particularly girly as a child, but from the moment I met Lilly, I knew she was a pink princess.

Lately I've been trying to get her to be slightly more gender neutral. A) Because we're about to be a split household of 2 boys 2 girls, and B) because she has a lot of boy friends at school and I want her to be able to easily fit in with both the girls and the boys.

But is it nature versus nurture, in what kids like or respond to?

Recently I got my first Kate Spade purse. It came in the mail, and while it's definitely very nice, it feels a little too much to me. (I'm a Target purse girl; a splurge to me is a Banana Republic purse once every couple years.) As I started to examine it to see if I could actually feel comfortable with a nice purse, Lilly took it from me and said "Wow, I like my new purse." Then she looked inside, and asked for a wallet and money.

She wasn't raised on fancy things, yet she somehow looks at them and appreciates them in ways that don't feel natural to me. And by the way? She's been carrying that purse nonstop for 2 weeks. Like, everywhere. I've had to convince her to leave it in the car instead of taking it into school in the mornings.

I've also been trying to get her to watch more gender-neutral movies. While I love Tangled and Princess and the Frog and Enchanted, for the past couple months we've been pushing Muppets and Toy Story on her. And she definitely appreciates them as well. I even got her little Toy Story figures for the bath. (She has a group of "everybodies" that she plays with in the bath which includes Sesame Street characters, princesses, Winnie the Pooh, etc.) But, I think I've realized - you can only do so much to shape your child with what they want, and how they relate to it. As much as she completely loves Toy Story - and she certainly does - I realized her favorite new bath game is having Woody and Jessie lie on a washcloth as the "girl and boy", while Buzz Lightyear plays Mary Poppins and sings "Feed the Birds" to them. This girl is not going to be persuaded to play superhero with her new toys.

But we'll see, in a few weeks she'll start seeing more blue, and maybe in the car we'll stop listening to as much Broadway and start doing more gender neutral songs and activities. But as hard as it was to adjust to Lilly's girliness, I think I'm going to find the boy-world even more uncomfortable.

a family


I love things like this.

Loving Lilly, living with Lilly, being Lilly's mommy, raising this beautiful girl, is the easiest thing I've ever done. The most natural. It's the one thing in my life that I've never questioned, that has always made sense to me. She made Jon and I a daddy and a mommy, she made us a family.

She makes us prioritize. And I don't mean by teaching and therapies and thinking about the bigger picture. But because of her, we sit and laugh. We plan - from vacations to the theatre to doing anything that inspires us to make the most out of each day, each moment. Appreciating each other and all the little things.

We go to plays, we go to the movies, we go to restaurants, we go to Disney World and Europe and all over New Zealand and the US, to the beach, anywhere, because we love it - and it's what families do - but also to show others that life doesn't change. It's not hard. It's not hard to take a baby which God has given to a marriage and love it and just live life. It's not that everything is always easy 100% of the time, but debating with a 5 year old over bedtime is certainly not unusual, and the hugs she gives me once she's ready for bed are priceless. It's worth it, she's worth it, and no one should be defining the worth - or the worthiness to live - of a child anyway.

When she was born, I didn't know what exactly to do with the hopes and dreams I had of a typically developing child. But knowing her, loving her, watching all that she is and can be, my dreams are somehow bigger, grander. She can move mountains, she can influence, she can touch many lives; and she makes so many people so very happy. I can be frustrated with the ordinary momness of life moments, and then she'll do a complicated puzzle without any help - something I questioned even recently whether she'd be able to do - and suddenly I'm so proud in a way that I never had experienced pre-Lilly.

She makes us happy, and we make her happy, and thank God we exist together, as a family.

Monday, March 19, 2012

God Bless the USA, by Lilly Sherman

Every morning, my sweet girl gets to school, goes straight to the gym, and gets into line with her class. Each grade, from the 3 year olds to the 8th graders, are lined up just like her pre-K class. The principal stands in the front and asks for announcements from the students - anything from birthdays to teeth falling out to new shoes to upcoming vacations. After a few minutes, the kids all bow their heads to pray, followed by the pledge of allegiance, and a patriotic song, which changes each month. Finally the teachers make a few announcements and a child is picked to tell a joke of the day. The children then walk out, grade by grade, to their classroom.

This morning routine is exactly what I wanted for my girl. Sometimes she gets overwhelmed - standing for 10-20 minutes is a long time, and sometimes it's hard to pay attention.

But standing with her friends and the school and many of the parents as a community, listening to the kids share special moments of their lives, watching everyone pray together, and seeing the entire school - no matter what each individual's political beliefs - be thankful that we live in such a great country, is beyond touching. Aside from my morning cup of coffee (which I gave up for just the first trimester), it's the best start to the day.

This month, the patriotic song is Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." First day I heard it, I flash backed to being a girl scout and singing it around the campfire. Then I remembered how cheesy it is. And on the second day, something changed.

The kids came up with signs to go along with this song. And they started letting some of the kids go up to the front to perform it, in front of the school, while everyone else sings and signs along with their classes. An enthusiastic Lilly is picked every day (or, she volunteers herself and doesn't take no for an answer, not sure which is the case). But each day she is up in front of a few hundred people (in the spotlight, where she thrives), singing her heart and soul out, about how proud she is to be an American, where at least she knows she's free, and she won't forget the men that died that gave that right to her. It's a sight to see, and I couldn't be more proud.

It reaffirms to me, each morning, that we are in the right place now. What more could a mom ask for, than raising a happy, positive, religious, patriotic, appreciative little girl?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Same and different

One of the reasons why I think pregnancy has been hard on me this time around - aside from feeling bad physically 24/7/9months - is because it's made me aware of things I hadn't really thought of before.

Like, pregnancy generally, genetic tests, abortion, etc. Last time we went through our pregnancy, had red flags raised by tests we hadn't wanted, and decided to love - and raise - our daughter regardless, while feeling sort of sad and lost during the pregnancy itself, and then meeting her and falling into deep love and never turning back. But this time, we're on the other side. We didn't do real "testing" but we did the normal two ultrasounds to look for anything major (to be prepared for at birth) - but this baby is totally healthy. And it's strange because in some ways it makes me sad. That in theory we should have relief that this child doesn't have a heart defect like Lilly did, or potential medical complications. Because honestly I don't think Lilly is anything "less" than she should be, and I don't like going through a pregnancy where people are excited that this baby doesn't (probably) have anything chromosomal or medical going on with it. I literally cried through my 20 week ultrasound, as they showed me his perfect heart. I felt such a protective connection to Lilly when she was in my belly, and this time the baby is just... normal. And so is Lilly, but you know what I mean.

And his normalness is putting a spotlight on Miss Lilly and her extra chromosomes, which is awareness number 2. Maybe this is how parents feel who first have a typically developing child and then a child with special needs. But Lilly is our first, and for almost 6 years she's been our measurement of what a normal little girl is like. She's been amazing, funny, silly, beautiful, smart, perfect, and she still is. She is unique, but she's grown with us as we've grown with her, and she is exactly who she should be, and I've never really questioned anything. But now with this new baby coming - who will most likely be like the "average" kid out there, it makes me think about the ways our lives are currently just a little abnormal. And not in a bad way, but I just never really thought about Lilly's differences, or my differences in parenting because of her. And I still wouldn't change anything even if I could - I really think every child should be like her, and not the other way around - but it does make me look at things a little differently. And it makes me realize that - in some ways - being her mom is a little more work, or a little different, than what other moms go through - but in the same way I totally think being her mom is a lot easier and we have a lot more fun. Today I read this article 7 things you don't know about being a special needs parent and so much of it is true for me - as much as we're having the time of our lives with Lilly Lou, it is exhausting, it is a lot of work. But oh my goodness, the rewards... For example other parents with kids Lilly's age are just having them go to school, pick up knowledge, and being confident that they'll succeed. But each day I feel like there's not a moment that I'm not trying to teach Lilly something, shape her life, give her confidence... and she's doing amazingly so there's definitely huge benefits- but how much do other parents take for granted just being on autopilot in so many ways, when I feel like I'm in a time-crunch pressure cooker trying to optimize Lilly's potential?

And it's not necessarily the "baby" that's pulling out all this awareness - but I feel like we were able to live in Lilly's World for 6 years, and now we're going to open it up to make it Lilly and her Brother's World. Change is uncomfortable sometimes - but as much as we've had major changes many times in the past few years, we'll do it well. Interestingly, Lilly is the one who takes adjustments the easiest, and I'm sure she'll guide us through having this little baby becoming part of our family with the grace and charm that she always does.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

this and that

It's been a couple months since I last blogged. Partly because I don't know if I have anything to say, or maybe it's because I have too much to say and don't know where to begin, or it's too much to put out here in the too-public-blog-world.

I'm not good at being pregnant, for one. I'm great at actually growing a huge baby in my belly, but I feel sick, uncomfortable, dizzy, and just not myself for 9 months, and I don't love feeling this way. And yet while whining about how crappy I feel - physically and mentally - I'm thrown into the reality that things could be a whole lot worse. A friend recently lost her little boy - a day after he was born. She is amazing and he was such a strong fighter, and I'm a horrible person for complaining about all that's going on with me, when meanwhile an incredible mom is missing her little one with such intensity that I feel the pain of his absence too. I'm continuing to pray for this family and think of their sweet angel often.

And on the flip side, a family just won a court case for a couple million dollars because their child has Down syndrome, and had they known in advance, they would have aborted. The theory is wrongful life - this little girl (in her parents' eyes) should not have been given the right to be born. And yet here she is, living with them, a few years old now - I wonder if she's aware of how much she wasn't (isn't?) wanted by them?

I'm not saying having a child with Down syndrome is super easy. And finding out the news is a complete shock, no matter what your beliefs. And 90+% of people who find out during pregnancy do abort, although it still makes me sick to think about it. But oh my God, as soon as I held Lilly in my arms I fell in love with that girl. And whatever "challenges" we face by her having an extra chromosome, are hundreds - millions - of ways that our lives are also easier, better, because of exactly who she is.

It's actually interesting to me because I think I adjusted so much better 6 years ago being pregnant with a child with quote special needs, than I am this time just being pregnant with a second child. And I have to take that faith I had with Lilly - that "everything's gonna be alright" wholehearted belief - and apply it this time as well.

No matter how kids come into this world, they deserve parents who love them and fight for them, and if things turn out different than we plan, they need that support even more.

So that's just a little portion of what's going on in my head. I'm up 43 pounds, and have about a month until D-date. Baby's room is ready, the Bob double jogger is purchased (I can't wait to start moving again after baby arrives!), and Lilly is excited to be a big sister.

I'm trying not to take anything for granted - my little girl with her extra specialness who is oh-so-perfect, no matter what precedent the courts have just set; and our new little baby who is joining our family as an angel leaves another family.

And, unrelated, Lilly is learning to read. More on that later, but I am loving teaching her with tons of fun "games" and she is such an eager learner.

Hoping the next month flies by...