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The Two Little Piggies

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I have a love-hate relationship with teaching. The hours are horrible. The pay is a pittance. The work never stops – nights, weekends, vacations. There are times where it is as if no one wants to hear a word I am saying, and all I am doing is putting out one behavior fire after another. Not to mention all the times I have had to tell  the Three Monkeys that I can’t do something with them or for them because I have had something to do for the class.

It is EXHAUSTING.

And then there are times when it all is so incredibly breathtakingly amazing.

This is the story of the two little piggies – guinea piggies that is – and how an act of kindness lifted my heart in so many ways.

Way back in August, my students and I decided we wanted to get guinea pigs for our classroom. We had everything we needed. Cage? Check. Food? Check. Hay? Check. Guinea pigs? Ummm…

It’s not that I didn’t want them. I did! But, guinea pigs cost money. And with the pay cut I took in order to work at this little piece of academic heaven, I never had the spare change to go get them.

That damned empty cage sitting in my classroom mocked me every single day.

And then this week something serendipitous happened. I came across a listing for two male guinea pigs (cage included) FREE to a good home. Needless to say, I jumped on it. FINALLY we were going to get our piggies! I went to school the next day and excitedly told my class the news. The squeals of delight filled the room. We couldn’t wait!

That evening I took Monkey #1 (now 15 1/2, if you can believe it) and The Middle Monkey (almost 14!) to go pick up our new furry friends, Sergeant and Lieutenant – AKA Sarge and Louie. Together, the boys and I loaded the cage into the car and headed home. Upon arriving, we unloaded the cage to the kitchen table where they would wait until the next day when I would move them to their new home – my classroom.

There was just one little hitch in the plan. Something unexpected happened. In the span of about 10 minutes, Monkey #1 fell head=over-heels-hopelessly-in-love with Sarge and Louie. The very guinea pigs that were destined to go to my class the very next day.

All Wednesday evening, Monkey 1, my sweet little Aspie Monkey, was crouched on a kitchen chair, arms wrapped around his knees, gazing through the open cage door at Sarge and Louie.  He was so calm. So peaceful. Nothing, not meds wearing off, not his brother being very 13, was ruffling him. Occasionally he would tentatively extend one finger and stroke one of the piggies.

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“But, I love them,”

And then came the words that broke my heart. “I wish I could keep them,” he quietly whispered.

“But, baby, I’ve already told my class about them, and they are very excited about the piggies coming. You know they are meant to go to school.”

“I know,” he sighed. “But, I love them. I know I just met them. I can’t explain it. I love them.”

Oy.

I tried to make light, but I could tell, this was no ordinary love. This was a deep piggy love, and I – the worst mother in the whole wide world – was ripping them away from him. Not that he told me that. But he might as well have, because that is exactly how I felt.

The next morning, I brought the piggies to school. More squeals of delight. I told my school kiddos the story of Monkey 1 and his love of the piggies and how he had wanted to keep them. I don’t know why I told them. Except that maybe I have a case of verbal diarrhea and just talk even when I shouldn’t. But I did.

Today I got a message from one of my parents. Her daughter had told her about Monkey 1 falling in love with the piggies. Then the sweet girl asks her mother if there was a way that we could get other pets for the class and return the piggies to my son. Because obviously God wanted my sweet son and the sweet piggies to be together. The piggies belonged to him. Not the class.

I didn’t know how to respond. I was literally speechless. All that came were tears.

In the hours that followed, that mother asked and searched, and has now located another pair of guinea pigs for my class to have. All so my sweet Aspie Monkey can keep Sarge and Louie.

His response when I told him was to bury his head in my shoulder and repeatedly say, “I get to keep my boys. I get to keep my piggies.”

Yes you do, my sweet boy. Yes you do.

So while it means there will be more living things in my house, every single time I see those little furballs, every time I see that little smile on Monkey #1’s face, I will think of the sweet girl who knew it was meant to be – even when I didn’t.

And I’ll remember the time my student and her family taught me a lesson in kindness and compassion I’ll never forget.

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Being a Mother Can Suck


There. I’ve said it. Being a mother can suck.

Please understand, I am not saying that it sucks to be a mother. I love the monkeys with all my heart and soul.  But, there are times when it sucks to be the mommy.

This morning was one of those times.   One of those mornings when I wanted to throw in the towel and just give up.  One of those mornings when I want to call the Monkey Daddy or the Nonna Monkey (my own mother) and admit my defeat and beg for them to simply raise them.  One of those mornings when I found myself envious of the childless.

Even as I write this, I understand how horrible that sounds. I understand there are those who are childless who desperately want to not be.  I understand there are those that due to custody issues would kill to have time with their children. I understand there are those who as they read this are looking up the number for Child Protective Services.

But, I also understand there are those who as they read this are thinking, “Finally!  Someone who has the guts to say it!”

This morning I found myself asking what I had done to deserve this. What kind of bad Karma I had brought upon myself?  What god had I angered to incur such a punishment?  And for how long was I to endure it?

I felt like Nancy Kerrigan, after she had been whacked on the knee, crying out to the heavens, “Why? Why? Why me?”

And the question wasn’t just rhetorical. I really wanted an answer, damn it!

Alas.  None came.  And I am fairly confident none will come.

So, I’ll say it again. Sometimes motherhood sucks.

But, I also know that when the Middle Monkey comes and sits next to me after Sunday School, he will snuggle up next to me, and say in that sweet little lisp, “I am sorry for screaming at you this morning.  I love you.”

And my heart will melt and I once again be reminded how much I love him and all will be right with the world.

At least until the next time.

*sigh*

The Middle Monkey and me, in a time where being a mother did not suck

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Separation Anxiety

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Sharing a silly moment

Sharing a silly moment

The Girl Child is leaving for camp tomorrow.

A week long sleep away camp.

Her first time sleeping away without a family member.

And it will be the longest I have ever gone without seeing her.

Ironically, she is the one who is doing fine.  Granted, she is a little nervous.  After all, she isn’t even 9 yet.  But, she is excited about all of the fun things she will get to do (it’s a performing arts camp – so, she will be in her element).  Just as long as she gets to bring her beloved Kitty Kat, life will be fine.

I, on the other hand, am trying to stay calm.  I am going to miss my Littlest Monkey.  My little doppelgänger.  My little blonde bundle of unbounded energy.  I am going to miss the way she will come up to interrupt me from what ever it is I am doing, and when I send her away – she says, “I just wanted a hug.”  I am going to miss her high-pitched little “Yes, Mommy!” when I ask her to help me make lunch.  I am going to miss how she snuggles up next to me.

Oh, sure, I am NOT going to miss her bossiness.  Nor will I miss her screaming and stomping and slamming whenever I have had the NERVE to ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do.

But, I do know I will spend nearly six days – 140 hours – 8,400 minutes – 504,000 seconds – wondering what she is doing.  If she is homesick.  If she is ok.

I know she will be.

She’s just like that.

Reflections On a Nest

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I was working in the yard again today.  Yes, again.  Today’s task was to cut back the giant shrubs on the side of the house.  I cut them back once a year, basically using the loppers to reach as high as I can.  Not the best method, as there are always some branches that are too high for me to get to.  And of course, by the time they get that tall, the branch is also too thick for me to use loppers.  I decided this was the year that I needed to get those tall branches.  After all, some of them were reaching the second floor roof line, and nearing the power line into the house.  Time to lop them off.   The other day, in an act of desperation,  I even tried to STAND in one of the shrubs in my quest to reach those pesky tall branches.  Not one of my brightest moves.  My foot slipped and I now have three nasty bruises on my thigh.  I look like I have been mauled by some beast.  And yes, I was holding the loppers – and yes, I do realize I was lucky to only receive some bruises…

New plan.

This took me up to Home Depot to get one of those tree trimmers on a pole.  EXCELLENT!  So, today I was busily cutting away.  I mean some of these branches were at least seven feet long!  Whooo Hoooo!  Mission accomplished!

In one of the taller branches (one directly outside my bedroom window), I found this:

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It is gorgeous.  Made completely of grasses.  Intricately woven.  Easily eight inches tall from its base to the rim.  Inside as smooth as glass.  I marveled at its complex simplicity.  Then brought it in to the house for The Monkeys to see.  My first thought was that we could save it to put in our Christmas tree (a tradition in my family since we found a nest in our tree one year).  But, truly, this is a work of art.  So the decision was made to let it dry out (we’ve had a LOT of rain and everything is wet) and display it in the house.  As the art that it is.

I returned outside to continue working.

And there on the ground, right were I was working, were three little turquoise blue eggs.

Two of them had broken in the fall.  The third was intact.

The guilt washed over me.  That beautiful nest had been a home to these eggs, and I had destroyed them.

Of course, the teacher in me also found it a bit fascinating.  I mean, you can see the little embryonic birds.  But still.  I feel bad.

So, I bring the eggs into the house to show The Monkeys.

The Girl Child had the kind of predictable response of “EEEEWWWWW!”

The Middle Monkey – my little scientist – observed them, poked at them, and simply said, “Huh.”

The response of Monkey #1 was perhaps the most interesting.

He felt sadness.

Sadness for the death of the little birds.  Sadness for the mother bird at the loss of her babies.   “After all, the worst pain any mother can have is the loss of her babies.”

Here is a child who with his Asperger’s is not “supposed” to feel empathy for others.  To not to be able to relate to others’ pain.  But, Monkey #1, always different, seems to feel it more.  As I sat there on the stairs, showing them the eggs, he hugged me and said, “I hope you never have to know how it feels to lose one of us.”

Wow.

Me too neither.

So, my sweet, sensitive, Asperger-y Monkey #1 is insisting we bury the little ones.  To honor them.

And so we will.

And every time I look at that nest, I will remember that moment, and smile.

Milestones

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wpid-CAM00120.jpgThis has been a week of milestones here in Happy Monkey Land.

The Middle Monkey crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, earning his Arrow of Light.

He also “graduated” from elementary school.

One of my favorite classes EVER graduated from high school.

The group of students that I “looped” with for three years, “graduated” from middle school (as I watched some of them at their ceremony, all I could see were the scared little third graders that walked into my class on that first day of school six years ago).

But, on this, my 100th post (such a milestone in itself), that I write about two HUGE milestones happening today.

1.)  Monkey #1 is turning 13 today.

2.) Thirteen years ago, I started this magical mystery tour of motherhood.

Both momentous in their own right.  Yet, neither one could have happened without the other.  And ironically, both of them almost did not happen.

The day of his birth was a difficult one.  Very difficult.  His labor wasn’t easy.  For two and a half hours, I tried to push him out.  I can remember watching the monitor and seeing his heart rate drop dramatically with every contraction.  The nurse was busy with two other births.  So, she was not as vigilant as she could have been.  I was a first time mother.  So, I didn’t know what was normal.  But, for two and a half hours, this continued.  Finally, the nurse sees what is happening on the monitor, and decides to get the doctor.  And with a little bit of help, my monkey was born.

My baby was here!  Finally!

But there was a problem.  His cord was wrapped around his neck.  Four times.  It had been impeding his progress – as well as slowly choking him.

And now my sweet monkey was not crying.  And he was bluish.  And he was limp.

For 20 minutes the team worked on him.  Suctioning.  Pounding.  Massaging.  Thankfully, I remember none of that.

All I can remember is saying, “Can someone please bring me my baby?”  Over and over and over.

And then after 20 of the longest minutes every recorded, his cries became stronger, and my little bundle of monkey was brought to me.

And he was pink.  And he was healthy.  And he was strong.

In the past thirteen years, I have frequently thought about the bullet that was dodged that day.  I think about the what COULD have beens.  But, each time I do, I thank God that all of the could have beens didn’t happen.  And that my sweet monkey is everything he SHOULD have been.

Quirky.  Creative.  Brilliant.  Curious.  Active.  Asperger-y.

Some think of the number 13 as a terribly unlucky number.  One to be avoided at all costs.

I chose to think of it as very VERY lucky.

So, happy birthday, my dear Monkey #1.

Rawr, rawr, baby Dino.  I love you more.

At this moment…

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At this moment, thirteen years ago

My life was about to change forever.

At this moment, thirteen years ago

I was (not so) patiently awaiting your arrival into this world.

At this moment, thirteen years ago

I was both excited and terrified.

At this moment, thirteen years ago

I thought I knew what it meant to love another person.

But,

At this moment, thirteen years ago

I  did not know that I was terribly wrong.

Because,

At this moment, thirteen years ago

I had not yet held you in my arms.

And, once I did

I would see

That there is no love

Like the love

Of a mother for her child.

On Motherhood, on Mother’s Day…

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Me and My Monkeys

I know it sounds a little trite, but I wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember.  I mean, most mothers I know say that.  Only a few say, “I soooooo didn’t want to be a mother – yet, here I am.”  Or at least they don’t say it out loud.  I am not sure if it is that we are genetically predisposed to desire to be mothers, or if we feel some sort of societal pressure to fulfill our “womanly duty of motherhood.”  Who knows.  All I know is that I felt the “call” to be a mother long before I was one.

When I was 19, I got engaged to my college “sweetheart.”  Why so young?  Because I felt I was on some kind of schedule.  Engaged at 19.  Married at 21.  First child at 23.  Second at 25.  Done.  I even had a name picked out for my first child – which of course would be a daughter.  And yes, The Girl Monkey does have part of the name.  She is named for my grandmothers…

Needless to say, I did not marry that fiancé.  Nor did the next engagement, at 22, end in marriage.  Still no Baby Daddy…

I was officially off my motherhood schedule.

But, I still wanted to be a mother.  More than anything.  It became obvious to me that being a mother was more important to me than the whole being married part.  In 1990, the ABC-TV news show, 20/20 broke the story of the atrocious conditions in Romanian orphanages.  Of the vast number of children.  Of children who were severely malnourished.  Of children who never received physical contact.  I cried as I watched it.  And then I thought, “That’s it!  I will go rescue myself a Romanian baby girl!” (Like it was going to be that easy.  How delusional was I?)  I started saving money and was even buying cute little girl dresses.  This was it!  The perfect plan!  Never mind I was in graduate school and only working part-time and was single and lived with my mother.  What in the hell was I thinking?!?!

You guessed it.  I do not have a 24 year-old Romanian daughter.  Sanity kicked in.

I did not become a mother for the first time until I was 33.  A full decade off my original “schedule.”  (The Middle Monkey was born when I was 35 and The Girl Child, 5 days after my 38th birthday) But, in retrospect that was ever so much better than having a child in my 20s.  I wasn’t ready.  Not one bit.

Not that being a mother is everything I thought it would be.  I really do think my naïve 20 year-old self thought it would be all hearts and flowers and cuddles and kisses and cute dresses and joy and laughter.  And the reality of motherhood – especially with mine – is that there are times when I want to lock them outside to be raised by the wolves.  Or the gypsies.  Or the mean guy who lives across the street.  Who cares who takes them just so long as it isn’t me.  The crew I was given is a difficult bunch.  Which really is an understatement.  For reals.  Screaming and yelling are far more frequent than hearts and flowers.  They say that God only gives you what you can handle.  Well, I firmly believe God has far more confidence in me than He should.  Seriously.  But I guess that is why God created alcohol.  (As I am typing this, I am hearing screeches wafting up the stairs.  Middle Monkey saw a bug.  *sigh*)

Yet, for all the screaming and stomping and slamming (oh, my!), I wouldn’t trade The Monkeys for another batch.  Not even the newest model.  Fresh off the factory floor.  I love them with all my heart and soul and mind and body and strength and weakness – in spite of their “faults.” (And yes, my children do have FAULTS.  I am not one of those deluded mothers that sees no fault in their children.  Mine have big ones.  Bless their little hearts.)

They are trying.

They are pains.

They are amazing.

And I am ever so happy they are mine.  All mine.

Jealous?  You should be.