Saturday, October 3, 2015

School Days

Two weeks ago I dropped Isaac off at his first full day of preschool. Six, childless hours loomed ahead of me and I stood in my dining-room and cried. What the heck, I thought. I'm supposed to be experiencing pure joy right now. I've been waiting for this day, this exact moment when both kids are happily at school for eight years and yet, I'm crying?

As it turns out, I didn't actually miss my kids. I love them, but I also love handing them over to the proverbial village. I just had no idea what to do with my six hours--it was intimidating. I could be productive and prove that I worked hard during those hours, I could lie in bed and catch up on endless hours of TV, or rent one of the three hundred movies I've missed out on over the past eight years, I could walk the dogs, or read, or knit...I sent an iMessage to my family and said I was confused and didn't know what to do with myself. I was paralyzed in my freedom.

My dad said to take nap...or any of the other aforementioned ideas.

I took a hot bath. Have you ever taken a hot bath during the day? I'm not sure why, but it feels even more luxurious than at night. I think because it's so unusual. Although, I am quite easily entertained so this could all be in head but, I mean, who takes a bath during the day unless they have the flu? Or they're Isabella, who takes baths during the day for fun and literally talks to soap suds (no joke--she is amazing at talking to inanimate objects) for an hour.

I've had a few more days since then to get used to my new routine without the kids. It is heavenly and I feel so blessed by Isaac's preschool teachers. They excitedly offered to learn how to feed him with the g-tube and it has worked out beautifully. Knowing Isaac, we were a little concerned about how he would react with others performing the feeding routine, but he has taken it all in stride. He also uses the potty at school and even pulls up his own underwear and pants--so many accomplishments over the course of one summer!

I do spend a lot of time wondering what moms do all those hours their kids are at school. Half the time I don't even know I do. I'm certainly not going to spend all of those coveted hours cleaning. I usually try to have one cleaning goal to accomplish during those six hours and the rest can be done after school hours when the kids are playing or I want to pretend that I'm actually a productive person in front of them so I have witnesses. It's all about the witnesses, people. Don't squander away those hours on cleaning when no one actually sees you in the act! Thankfully Walter thinks I worked hard if I made the bed. He'll come home and say, "Wow, it looks like you did a lot of hard work today." "Why yes, yes I did. In fact, it takes many steps around the king size bed in order to arrange the blankets just so."

I should mention that Isabella is doing very well in public school. The transition from homeschooling to public school worked out better than we'd hoped. She does tell me that she works harder than anyone else in our family and last week she said that "third grade is less fun than second grade." While there are some things lacking from her education and most definitely things I would do differently, I can tell she is learning and above all else, she is happy. Except when we assign extra work for her and in that case, she falls in a puddle of tears and tells us how mean we are and how "nobody else at school has to do extra work!" Dude, when did I ever convey that we want to be like everyone else?

Back to the main to the main theme of this post. I have a list of what I'd like to accomplish around the house during my 'free' hours, and I also have some research goals and a very long list of books to read and projects to knit and dog training to get done. One step at a time, I tell myself. I know too well that too many goals just sends me into a paralysis otherwise known as, depression. Yes, the 'D' word. I know some of you are cringing--thinking of it as a shameful word not to be spoken, but it's called life, and it's called, chemical imbalance, but more on that another time.

As for right now, I enjoy hugging my kids in the morning (well, not Isaac, he doesn't like hugs, but I try to steal them every once in a while) before they happily run into their respective school buildings and trust me, they do run. Maybe they are just as excited to get way from me as I them. I come home and greet my dogs, who honestly believe I am the most amazing person in the world. And savor a day without doctor or therapy appointments for Isaac, a few less tantrums to deal with, one less g-tube feeding, and one meal without interruptions. Life is good.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Family Meeting

When I was growing up my parents periodically announced the need for a "Family Meeting". My earliest memory of a family meeting was when my parents told us that our dog, Brandi, the dachshund, had died. I remember passing around rolls of toilet paper as we sat on the floor of our living-room. I was in kindergarten.

As we got older, the meetings were usually related to not putting our bikes away and hence they were left out in the rain, leaving books outside overnight, poor grades on report cards and the need for a tutor (this was in direct association with me--my sister is the one who is good at math and science), messy rooms and a new form of bribery related to actually putting one's shoes and coats away.

And now I'm a mom. And I get to call the Family Meetings.

-Walter, we need to have a Family Meeting tonight.
-Should I be the secretary and take down the minutes? Do you have a bullet-point agenda?
-Hardy-har-har. You are hilarious.

He makes me sound so 'Type A'. The state of my desk would quickly make you realize that I am not. I'm more of a messy, unstructured, creative, free-spirit, type A--if such a juxtaposition exists.

My mom couldn't stop laughing yesterday as I recounted our latest Kohn Family Meeting. Isabella has been suffering from a case of the 'mean grumps' and we needed to talk it out.

When I was taking classes to earn a Professional Writing Certificate, I learned that if you are writing a business letter in which negative information must be shared, you should begin with a positive and end with a positive. I implement this strategy during our Family Meetings. It starts out something like this:

-Isabella, we love you very much (but you're being a pain in the butt and we're looking into boarding schools--just kidding, we don't actually say that) and you've done so many wonderful things lately (insert example(s)). Right now we are concerned that you are feeling emotions you might need to talk about (this is where Walter looks at me like I'm a crazy person and gives me the eyes that say I just need to spit it out). We feel like you've been disrespectful with us lately and we want to help you make a change. (This is also the point where Isabella crashes her head into the pillow and starts sobbing: Why are you guys being so MEAN to me!? You just say everything that I do WRONG and you think I'm a HORRIBLE person!) 

Whoa! Back. It. Up. What just happened?

Rein it back in. Gently discuss the negative, finish with the positive, wrap it in a bow and give hugs all around. Wipe brow--roll eyes with husband and eat some chocolate.

Oh, and here's an example of a "meeting" between Walter and I:

-Sierra, you just need to understand that the dishwasher does not remove chunks of peanut butter from the knives.
-It will eventually.
-No, it won't.
-Well then, you just need to engineer up a dishwasher that has little scrubbers that are released inside, like minions, and then we won't have anything to worry about!
-Actually, I need to install sensors that send me a message every time you load something with chunks or put too much soap in the dispensers.
-Whatever. My idea is better.


What do Family Meetings look like at your house?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Voice Memories

Here I am. Staring at this blank screen for the first time in over a year and yes, it’s a little frightening. I’m afraid I might just purge a bunch of junk and feelings that will spill out in letters on the page. Let’s hope not.

On Sunday my cell phone stopped working. Just so you know, I don’t have a smart phone or anything fancy like that. I have one of those phones with the keyboard that slides out—it’s actually really handy for texting. I’ve been in need of an upgrade, to the same phone, but one with a keyboard where the spacebar doesn’t get stuck. My words slur together when I send messages to friends…’I’m not drunk, my spacebar just doesn’t work anymore!’ But I’ve been reluctant to replace my phone because I have important messages saved on my voicemail and supposedly, the messages are lost during an upgrade.

So like I said, my phone stopped working, and then I realized I’d have to make that dreaded trip to Verizon where you inevitably wait forever for them to do nothing. Isabella and I went to Verizon and the guy helping me was very nice but said he couldn’t actually help me because my name isn’t on the account, so we tried to contact Walter (who doesn’t answer his phone or respond to text messages). Well, after a long string of annoyances he reactivated my phone and it was able to make calls again except for one little thing, my phone was now having an identity crisis and thought it was Walter’s phone. So back to the Verizon store, where the nice guy helping me said he couldn’t actually help me anymore because we still hadn’t been able to get in touch with Walter.

I headed home. Annoyed and hungry—a really bad combination for me.

Finally I got in touch with Walter who shared that he did call Verizon and found out that someone had hacked our account and tried to purchase iPhones. I mean, I actually do want an iPhone, but not like that. I need to point out here that the company we pay for our phone service, did not contact us to let us know that our phones had been compromised. Nice one, Verizon. Thank you for being helpful.

About an hour later Walter came home early because he was getting ready to go out of town for work and the phone issue was all-consuming by that point. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? To be so dependent on a working cell phone. But anyway, all of our phones needed to be reactivated over again since my phone was still in the middle of an identity crisis.

Walter said gently, “I just need to prepare you, and let you know that you may have lost all of your voicemails.”

For a moment I looked stunned and then the tears began and then the sobs, and then Walter was hugging me because he knows how much those voicemails mean to me.

They are the voices of my grandmas telling me they love me. It is the voice of the last time my grandpa called to sing Happy Birthday before he died. It is Walter wishing me a good day and telling me he loves me and looks forward to seeing me after work. It is my grandma acknowledging how much love I’ve put into raising my children and wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day. It is memories wrapped into the sound and cadence of people I love and have lost.

I couldn’t bear the loss of those memories. Isaac told me to ‘stop crying’ because he’d never seen me cry like that I think it scared him a little. Walter assured me we would try to get the messages back.

After our phones were reactivated and all identity was restored, we tried to check voicemail but it didn’t recognize the old password. Walter re-set the password on his phone as a test to see if his messages were still there, but we waited on my phone thinking that if it didn’t work maybe they would have a way to recover the messages at the Verizon store.

Surprisingly, even with the password change and deactivation and reactivation of his phone, his voicemail was saved, so I tentatively agreed to have him re-set my voicemail.

The first message I heard after punching in the new password was my grandma and grandpa in chorus singing, Happy Birthday to you! Relief washed over me in a new stream of tears. The voices weren’t lost and I quickly backed up the voicemails on my iPod, and for the first time since my grandpa died, I listened to him over and over again. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I'm struggling with this summer. I miss quiet, and I miss being stuck in my house because it's below freezing and who really wants to go out in that mess. I miss my kids actually wanting to snuggle in bed and read or play board games. I miss hanging out with Isabella. She dashes out the door in the morning and runs two houses over to play with her friend every evening. Mainly, I miss togetherness, because it feels like we are separate this summer, and it's driving me a little crazy. Don't get me wrong, I love sitting outside and I love not having to bundle up in layers of bulky winter gear, but our nightly family dinners are rushed because the kids can't wait to get back outside and bedtime is incredibly late because the fireflies just haven't gotten my memo to turn out their lights at a reasonable hour! And no, I really can't deny the catching of fireflies because Isabella, already in pajamas and past the point of being tucked into bed, tells me they are calling for her. The fireflies will not leave my daughter alone! And then, Isaac hears all of this debate about firefly catching and he chimes in, "Me too! Mom, mom, mom, me catch fireflies too!". A year ago he couldn't put all of those words together, so out they go, cupping one firefly after another in tiny hands. 

The last of our vacation pictures: 

*Isabella turned seven. To me this is unbelievable. It sounds completely ridiculous that I should be surprised that she is seven, but it's also completely ridiculous that every single week I am surprised and annoyed that I have to wash and iron all of Walter's clothes...again. And every single day I am annoyed that I have to clean my house...again. Why? I must be in denial. 

*Every time we say, "Who wants a hamburger?" or "Who wants a donut?" Isaac shouts, "Me, me, me!" Sips of water from a sippy cup and reluctantly putting a Cheerio to his lips--this is the progress we have made. Actually, the drinking of water, is quite a significant gain.

*Next week I am attending a writer's retreat. My friend asked if I would facilitate a discussion and I chose the topic, Writing for Healing. I am planning to discuss how reflection in the form of writing (journaling, prayer, poetry--any written form) can aide in one's processing of emotions and feelings. This blog has been an opportunity for me to share my struggles and joys in raising a son with special needs. I believe God uses many avenues for healing, and in my life, He compels me to write, and I look forward to discussing that with other writers and hear their own experiences. If you're interested in attending (women only), there are a few spots left, so feel free to contact me.

*Isabella's end of year homeschool evaluation went really well. Now that all of the paperwork is in the mail, we're just waiting to hear that we are approved for another year of home education. Even though Isabella says she never gets a break from school, after almost two months off, we began our school year on Monday. We are taking a fairly different approach to learning this year, which I will share in another post.

*Isaac's speech is exploding by the day. One morning as he stood in his room, he said, "Mom, mom, mom, you help me choose new shirt."

I think after next week, our summer is going to finally slow down. We had our trip to North Carolina, two trips to Columbus, family in town several times and business trips for Walter. I'm done! At least the weather has been amazing, and even though I miss that togetherness I wrote about, I do love the fact that my kids play outside all day and find so many ways to explore and be creative in our own backyard.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


I tend to take life with Isaac in stride, knowing that even a year ago life with him was a lot more exhausting and trying. I have friends who daily lift wheel chairs in and out of cars, watch their children overcome daily seizures and a whole host of other things, so my tasks seem fairly minor in comparison. But this week I was tired of diapering and tube feeding and blending and mixing and putting on braces and taking off braces and calculating the risks and benefits of possible tantrum inducing settings. I was tired of lifting up steps and down steps and I was thankful Isaac isn't any heavier than he is, even though he's supposed to be gaining weight that I can't seem to get him to gain. I'm definitely tired of worrying about his growth in weight, in height, in color recognition, in counting, in overall smarts that we measure our children with that really in the scheme of things don't even matter. 

It's exhausting pretending to be a pirate (I have this whole pirate scene I act out in an attempt to keep Isaac from screaming when I wash his body--it's worked a couple times) while bathing a screaming tyrant and going from silly pirate to bad-guy mom who has to change the extension tube because it really has been in too long. And then there's the clothing issue. Do I let him stand there and scream until he finally consents to putting the shirt over his head on his own, or do I take the easy way out (so they say...but no one really counts on having to dress, bathe and diaper their four year old) and just do it for him. If I continue doing it, does that mean I'll be dressing him when he's eight, thirteen, sixteen? Probably not...probably. 

Anyway. My grandma says, "the complaint department is in the bathroom." I guess I should go spend some time in the bathroom. 

More about vacation...

Isaac is my brother's number one fan. For some reason Josh is allowed to walk up to Isaac and hug him or pick him up without assaulting his personal space and setting off his bodily alarms. Josh is also allowed to talk to Isaac and get more than a growl in return. He's magical. 

Everyone had to participate in cooking a meal while we were on vacation. Except Walter. Walter either feigns being unable to cook grilled cheese or he truly is incompetent in the kitchen.

This is an action shot to prove that my dad did cook, even if it was a matter of heating up already made meatballs and spaghetti sauce that my mom made at home and froze for a quick meal on vacation...or a meal that my dad could pretend he spent all day in the kitchen cooking.

Josh is also allowed to touch the iPad. You know you rank high in Isaac's world, if you're allowed to touch the iPad.

Isabella shared a room with Jesse and Josh and talked to them non-stop. Jesse and Josh like to sleep late and take naps...they quickly learned that Isabella likes to wake people up and ask completely random questions.

First night at the beach...

Thankfully Walter recognized that I needed time to myself today, or I just made that clearer than I usually do. I slept in, read a book in relative peace, managed to write this barely coherent blog post, and took Stella for a hike. Walking with Stella was probably the best part of the day. We don't let her join in on hikes because she believes all other dogs should be ferociously attacked. Today an old lady was walking her two ugly little dogs, sorry but some dogs are just ugly and mine isn't one of them, and I saved those dogs at the expense of Stella's claws attacking my thigh as she repeatedly lunged at them. The rest of the hike was quite peaceful.