Thursday, August 27, 2015

...seems like it's always understood this time of year.

The GIVEAWAY for VIP PASSES to Jenkinson's Boardwalk ends at MIDNIGHT *TONIGHT* (8/27)
Click HERE for your chance to enter- this one is not to be missed!! 

I can kick and scream all I want, but summer is coming to an end.

I have said before that, while I have always loved summer, it has far more magic since I became a mother. As soon as the weather is warm, my adventurous boy likes to drink in everything that summer has in its cup, and watching him do so has been one of my favorite parts of motherhood.

This summer was different. Pete and I made the decision to pass on the summer program offered by our school district (a meager four days a week, two hours a day) in favor of a full-day, much more intensive program that took us through the  entire summer. With PJ's negative behaviors rising (along with our continued difficulty in finding a productive means to address those behaviors via the school system) we knew it was time to find something different. When we finally were able to get PJ set up with a quality behavioral  therapy program, we knew this was a golden opportunity to make some real progress this summer.

At the Camden Children's Garden
The first day we dropped him off, I cried the whole way home. It seemed so strange to be without my Boy. I reconciled this in knowing that we were doing the right thing for him, and that we had reached the now or never point- offer him some intensive therapies while he is still so young or risk the chance that his behaviors pass the point of no return. I knew we had made the right decision, but it was hard. It was so hard to keep that adventurous little Boy from all the things he loves about summer.

Of course, in what has become a recurring theme on this blog, I was wrong. PJ has had an amazing summer, full of all of the fun and adventure I wish for him, and he also made huge strides at his summer program. When I walked in today, he was sitting at the table working with his therapist so beautifully, it took my breath away. Just three weeks ago, he was surfing the ocean waves. His progress reports showed quick, steady improvement and his play date calendar stayed full. His speech has come along in leaps and bounds, and he rode a full-size roller coaster just last week. As it turned out there was room for both growth and adventure this summer, and my baby Boy earned both in spades.

Splash Pad at the Camden Children's Garden
I think about where I was at the start of the summer. I was so sure that Autism was going to rob my son of the summer he deserved. In fact, I had reconciled myself to the idea that we would give up this one summer to ensure that the next ones were everything we wanted for him. But, in what I hope will be one of many moments of grace throughout our lifetime with PJ, we got both and I can not be more thankful.
Swings and Philly Pretzels with cousin Riley

Assateague Island- PJ was not a fan of the fish and other sea life in the bay, LOL! 

Last day of track! 

Above and below: Surfing with the Best Day Foundation at Brick Beach III. An indescribable experience that can only be assessed by the smile on PJ's face! We feel so amazingly blessed that PJ had this opportunity! 

Trampoline at Aunt Shelly's in the golden hour. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

If you just realize what I just realized...

I have never been a "girls girl." I imagine that this is due to my crippling self-esteem issues and general social awkwardness, but I have always been one who gravitated towards guy friends. Mind you, the boys really did just want to be friends. There were no secret crushes or any stealthy coveting of my early-20's B-cups. We were just friends.

So fast-forward ten twenty years and into my Facebook messages, where an invitation to a mixer for moms with kids going into Kindergarten sits. It seems harmless, even nice. It's a chance for the moms to meet up and get to know each other. At this young age, it really is up to the parents to facilitate the friendships of our children, so this is a fun, gracious, welcoming way for the host to ensure that everyone gets to know each other. But, for some reason, the invitation all but paralyzed me with anxiety.

In my old age, I have come to appreciate female friendships. I treasure the close friends I have and the fledgling friendships I have embarked on in the past few years. The people that are the closest to my heart are women. My very best friend in the entire world is my sister. I have learned to make connections with women and yet a group of women will render me 1. silent or 2. obnoxious. I find myself too self-conscious to speak or trying so hard I become ridiculous. I'm sure you can imagine what a hit this made me at pre-school pick-up. My presentation is just off and I am left wondering why I am not making connections.

When I received the invite, I quickly messaged another friend to see if she was going. Note- my social awkwardness is always relieved if I feel like I have someone on my side. This particular friend is another of those fledgling friendships- new but with potential. I decided to confess to her that I am often intimidated by other women. Women who are good dressers, who have good jobs, who chat with the other parents with ease. I can't imagine that I would have any gifts to offer a potential interaction and, instead, lapse into one of the two options I mentioned above.

To my surprise, my friend was able to relate. In fact, she let me know that often, the "cool girls" are feeling the same anxieties and social awkwardness that I am, but we'd never know because we have already closed them out.

"I'm a 'cool girl bigot' that way," she stated frankly.

Cool Girl Bigot. Aside from just being a brilliant phrase that I flat-out told her I would steal, I realized that it is also a diagnosis for my issues. I leap beyond my realizations of my own shortcomings and go the extra mile to assume that the "cool girls" would withhold their gifts and rebuke mine. I let scenarios I made up in my own head stunt my chances for great conversations and amazing connections. It's not that I am being rejected, it's that I am doing the rejecting. What the hell?

I have put down a few roots these past years in my quest to have more female friendships. They do what roots should do, grounding me and offering support and nourishment. But now it is time to grow some branches, and I will do so at the home of a fellow Kindergarten mom. I'll bring a bottle of wine and leave the bigotry at home.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oh when the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof...

It's been a while for the blog and I. I know. Bad Blogger {raps wrist with ruler}

 Visit Jenks! Our summer has been full and most nights, I fall on the couch to watch tv, too tired to do much more than wield the remote, much less blog and use my brain. But while my brain might be a little tired, my body has been going, following my son on any adventure he can find and because of that, it's been a full, fun summer.

Last week was no exception as Pete, PJ and I , along with our nephew Robbie, set out to conquer Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, NJ. We were invited as part of program, in conjunction with my amazing friends at Jersey Moms Blog, to visit the beach and boardwalk as a Jenkinson's Memory Maker. As such, we had the honor of being provided with wristbands that were our ticket to all things Jenks- the beach, the boardwalk, the amusements and more! We didn't get to everything (the curse of a day at the beach with small children!) but we left tired and happy.

We started off at Jenkinson's Aquarium, a small facility located in a cute pink building towards the top of the boardwalk. Home to sea otters, penguins, sharks, and gorgeous tropical birds, the Aquarium dazzled PJ and Robbie. "Look at all the fish on the TV," exclaimed PJ! We had to explain to PJ that the giant glass panes were not televisions but, rather, real-life sea-life swimming before us! Robbie fell in love with a tank full of "Nemos" or clown-fish, and we all enjoyed watching the penguins! We were just in time for a feeding, and the boys gleefully watched the tuxedo-ed cuties vie for first crack at the delicious fishy offerings. My favorite was a tank of colorful, tiny frogs!

After the Aquarium it was time for lunch. At least, I was ready for lunch. The boys were ready to hit the beach but with all of the delicious smells filling the air from the many eateries on the boards, I knew I needed some pizza! We headed to the Pavilion Restaurant and filled up on my favorite- pizza and fries and a huge Diet Coke (for me- no chemicals for the children!). With my pizza craving handled, it was time to head to the beach. The boys jumped right in and didn't leave the ocean until we left a few hours later!

Note: Calling my pizza craving "handled" might be misleading. I could have eaten a full pie all by myself.

After the beach, we made a quick stop to one of the boardwalk Bath Houses to rinse off and change and after we dropped our beach stuff at the car, we scouted out a place for dinner. Thankfully, we didn't have to go far- the Boardwalk Bar and Grill is (as its name suggests) right on the Boardwalk and was the perfect spot to grab some dinner. The kids got chicken nuggets and fries, served in beach buckets, much to their delight! Pete and I considered treating ourselves to an Adult Beverage from the gorgeous bar, but since we were both already tired and were about to get on carnival rides, we passed.

As we headed to Jenkinson's South Amusement Park, it started to rain a bit. It never got heavy, in fact, it made the night even more lovely. The air cooled to perfect amusement park temperatures and when the kids spied a train ride, we were off. Robbie is the less ride-tolerant of the two boys but, despite that, found a number of rides he was willing to try and enjoy, including a ride that allowed him to lay on his belly and "fly" like Superman! PJ, on the other hand, is ride-tolerant enough for both of them and, now that he's reached that magical 42' height requirement has the world at his feet. He rode the Flitzer roller coaster with a huge smile on his face! The sky was turning pink before we noticed how late it was, and we gathered up two very tired little boys to head home.                                                                            

And now, the moment you have been waiting for:

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Tired boys saying "good night" to Jenkinson's!

DISCLOSURE: Jenkinson's Boardwalk provided me with passes that allowed my family and I to attend the beach, Aquarium, and amusements free of charge in exchange for my review of my experience. Although we were given this opportunity free of charge, all opinions shared are my own and are my honest, truthful observations with no coercion or favor to our hosts. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Who says that you deserve this?

Jim Carrey annoyed me.

It wasn't the way he usually annoys me, which is with his movies. God bless him for having a niche and running with it (and I actually think he is an excellent dramatic actor) but Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura just aren't my thing. My husband loves Jim Carrey. Go figure.

This week, Jim Carrey let loose with a Twitter rant, blasting the recently-signed-into-law referendums in California that place strict vaccination requirements on any children entering pubic day care or school. Spurned by the recent outbreak of measles that was eventually traced to the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, the law. The new regulations leave very few families eligible to opt out- only children with a documented medical case for skipping vaccinations with be exempt. Families can no longer site religion or personal preference as a reason to pass on vaccinations if they want their children to attend public school is day care facilities in California.

Carey, a long-time proponent for change in the manufacture and  administering of vaccinations (apropos of nothing, he was in a relationship with, perhaps, the most well-known figure in the anti-vax movement, Jenny McCarthy, for many years), blasted the bill in a rant complete with pictures to illustrate his point. You can click here to visit Carrey's Twitter page and read his thoughts. 

The problem was the rant (more on that in a second), but it was also the picture he painted. Each tweet was punctuated with a picture of a child with Autism (or what was proprted to be a child with Autism) in varied levels of distress- crying, tantruming, etc. One of the tweets featured a boy named Alex Echols. Alex was diagnosed as an infant with a disorder called tuberous sclerosis, a rare, genetic disorder that causes the growth of non-malignant tumors anywhere in the body. According to the NIH, one-third of children with TS meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Autism. His picture was used as a prop to further illustrate Carrey's rant about vaccines, their perceived destructiveness, and connection to  Autism, and it was used without permission. This prompted Alex's mother to sign up for Twitter solely to reach out to Jim Carrey and ask him to remove the photo. He complied, and offered a brief apology via Twitter.

I get that this is kind of a big buildup just to explain why Jim Carrey annoyed me, but stay with me here.

I chose to vaccinate my son. It was never a question. This really isn't an anti-vax issue for me, no matter how misguided I think Mr. Carrey is. To be fair, neither of us are medical professionals, and any conclusions we draw come from what medical professionals we decide to trust. In fact (are you sitting down for this one?), I don't totally disagree with a few of his points. I would like to see the additives and preservatives removed from vaccines. I think the vaccine schedule is kind of aggressive (sometimes four shots at once??? Pass. I know it means a return trip, but my policy is "Two arms, Two shots.) and I don't know if one-size-fits-all is right for everybody. So, there you go, Jim Carrey. We see eye to eye on a few things. No hate mail, please.

What annoys me is that he used those pictures to perpetuate the idea that Autism is some kind of tragedy- that to expose your children to a potentially deadly disease is still somehow better than
having a child with Autism. He plucked these pictures up and used them as an example; expose your child to vaccines and reduce them to this, this life of meltdowns and hardship and struggle.

Well, no offense, Mr. Carey, but you can suck it.

Seriously. How dare you? How dare you reduce my life and my family to a blighted blurb? If you choose to carry beliefs about vaccination, go ahead. Sound your barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world. But don't hold up Autism as some kind of threat, some kind of punishment for our choices. Parenting a child with Autism is not easy. It is hard, emotional, expensive work, and it is not what I wanted for my son. But whereas measles would be something that  would happen to PJ, Autism is a part of who he is. I would not trade away Autism because, to do that, I would have to trade away my son. My life as his mother is what I wanted, and his life is no tragedy. To suggest that avoiding a (perceived) risk of Autism is worth risking death is embarrassing and hurtful and, overall, and makes your campaign look less "concerned citizen" and more "zealous loony." And if your arguments could stand on their own, Mr. Carrey, you wouldn't need to paint my life any other way than what it is.

Our life is not perfect, and that is not entirely due to Autism. Nobody has a perfect life. But my son is healthy and here with me. My life, PJ's life, and the lives of all of the families who face Autism are not fodder for threats or fear.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I'm ready to play...

Autism can be a huge pain in the ass.

Yup. I said it.

Autism is hard and frustrating and expensive and time consuming, and it is not what I wanted for my baby. But as hard as it is, those times do not make up the majority of what our life with Autism looks like as a whole. We are only one example but, most of the time, we are a happy, healthy family raising an amazing, happy, healthy child.

On the rare, blessed occasion, Autism offers us gifts we never thought we would ever receive. They come in moments like PJ's first two-syllable word, or the first time he played with another child without prompting. As PJ gets older, the gifts expand to include the big days with the small moments. Surfing was our first "big day" moment. A few weeks ago, another one came in the package of the Special Olympics.

PJ brought trains to the Olympics. As one does. 
The Young Athletes Program allows children as young as 2 and as old as 7 to try out a number of sports, honing their skills as future Olympians and working on crucial social and physical skills in the process. The Southern NJ Special Olympics hosted this particular event to coincide with the Summer Game, so as the little ones took to the field for the first time, seasoned athletes competed in summer Olympic events.

We woke up early on a hot day to head to the College of New Jersey (which, by the way, is a lovely campus- spotless and green and beautiful!). The air felt charged as we arrived to a packed field of Olympians and families. Our events were on a separate field, so I didn't get to see as much of the Games as I would have liked, but the cheers and encouragement from the spectators drifted our way in waves, reminding me that these Games are for real. There is nothing pretend or consolatory about these Games. The athletes are real. They have sacrificed, practiced, and  dedicated so much of their time to reach this amazing milestone in their sport.

PJ and his buddy, Jospeh
On the field where the Young Athletes gathered groups of kids, each led by a volunteer "buddy," dabbled in different sports. PJ honed his pitching arm at the throwing station, worked on his leap at the long jump, and let things fly at the javelin throw. PJ especially loved the baseball station, where Coach Megan (a lovely coach who connected with PJ almost immediately) helped him work on his catching and batting skills! PJ even tried his had at bocce, the Young Athlete courts set up alongside of Olympians competing in the very same sport.

PJ working on his T-Ball skills with Coach Megan! 

It was hot (and PJ is not always a great sport about being in the heat- a Winter Olympian, perhaps?), but despite that, the kids seemed to soak in the opportunity to try new things, throwing javelins and hurling baseballs with concentration that surprised me. And at the end of the first set of events, the kids and their buddies filed out on to the same field where, just a few minutes before, Olympians had competed for medals and glory in track and field events.

The last event was a sprint, and the kids ran in heats, crossing the finish line to wild cheers from all of the parents and spectators crowded into the stands. The kids were met there by a row of volunteer law enforcement officers who offered high fives, hugs, cheers and draped medals around the kids necks.

A few years ago, I remember watching President Obama on the Tonight Show- Jay Leno was still the host. They were talking about bowling, a sport that the President admitted to being awful at, and he likened his showing as similar to an event at the Special Olympics. At the time, I cracked up, despite the fact that my own son, diagnosed with Autism, was tucked into his bed a mere room away. I know that it was an offhand remark that was not intend to incite offense, and when he received some backlash for his statements, I wondered why.

Now, I know. And for me, it's not so much the slight to the disabled, but the idea that Special Olympians are sub-par, whose display of athleticism is somehow laughable. I watched these Olympians lay it all out on the field, and the idea it is not every big as thrilling, every bit as skilled, and every bit as meaningful as conventional sporting events is what's laughable. And offensive.

I watched the sweet law enforcement volunteer drape a medal around my sons neck and teared up. PJ had worked so hard that day, despite the hot weather. When he was first diagnosed, I mourned all of the things I thought he wouldn't experience. Of course, as he has grown, our world has grown and the things I thought were off-limit suddenly become very real. PJ has the world at his feet, and I can't wait to see his next steps.

A few more pictures from the day: 

PJ and Noah- best buddies, school friends, and Olympians! Plus, this picture cracks me up! Love these two!  

The face! I can't!!!! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

{stream of consciousness}

I am, truly, the Worst Blogger Ever. I know that I am prone to falling off the writing wagon, but this time, I fell off and rolled down the hill (thanks, Savanah Guthrie, for that expression!). I have often said that when I drift away from writing that the only person I hurt is myself, and that's the truth. I let all of my thoughts and expression and get clogged up until nothing can flow. It leaves me grumpy and anxious and I should stop doing that.

Either way, the Stanley Cup Finals are over which means summer is officially here! PJ finished his last day of pre-school and is ready to start a whole new adventure in Kindergarten. We still have a long road to go before we know for sure what that will look like for PJ, but there is no rest for Pete and I until we know that PJ is best able to reach all of the potential we know he has.

Before school begins, though, we have our summer. Summer has always been so special to me since PJ was born. Summer his when PJ is at his best and bravest and shiniest, and we love to fill our days with adventure and fun. Summer will be a little different this year- PJ will take part in an intensive Autism program three full days a week. It's a far cry from the measly two hours a day of extended school year we are used to, that left our days free from 10am on. I'll drop PJ off at nine and pick him up at three and in between, I will be alternately sad and proud. Sad because I will miss my guy so much while he is at therapy and proud because I know he will work so hard.

Despite all of that, we do have plenty of summer ahead of us, time to fill with all of our usual adventures! We are just setting some of this summer aside to help PJ grow and learn and stretch, with benefits that will, hopefully, carry over into the school year and beyond. We already have a week down the shore on the books, and there's more fun to be had!

Welcome, summer!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dollar bills, y'all!

{sponsored post}

I used to be a work-a-holic in my life before motherhood. I worked as many as three jobs and was busy seven days a week. It made my cash flow more of a river than a stream, but despite all of that, I wasn't much of a saver.

Now I am married with a child and dreams of the future for my son. I want him to have an education, a house, a car, and the means to live his life however he see fit. Right now, PJ is only five, but his father and I work hard to set aside a little bit of money for him each month, and plan on teaching him good saving habits. Right now, those habits extend to PJ's penchant for saving loose change in his beloved piggy banks! Seriously. Don't drop spare change around PJ if you want it back. He will scoop it up in the blink of an eye, saying, "Let's put this in my piggy bank!"

As PJ gets older, we hope to give him a firm start in saving money. When he becomes a teen, it's likely that he might pick up an odd job here and there. Babysitting, mowing lawns, yard work- those are all jobs that any young teen can hold. After that, it's likely that PJ will hold down a job in the work force, at least part time, while he completes high school and college. We want him to have an easy means of saving money that will yield him some rewards.

PJ is still young, of course, but if you have a high school or college age child (ages 14-23), a Student Savings account with Boiling Springs Savings Bank is a great start in setting your child up for a lifetime of solid money management.

Though June 30th, 2015, your child will receive an interest bonus of $20.15 when he or she opens an account with the same amount ($20.15) or more. That's an opportunity to potentially double your first deposit! The account will change over to a traditional NOW account upon the account holder's 23rd birthday, but until then, young savers will also enjoy customer benefits from Boiling Springs such as

  • Free online banking, 24-hour telephone banking, direct deposit and bill payment- perfect for managing those first paychecks or college bills
  • No Monthly Fees- Perfect! Who has extra money to manage their money at that age? 
  • Minimum deposit to open an account is just $1, with interest earned on all balances
  • Overdraft protection transfer service is available 
  • Free specialty checks or discounted custom checks
  • Free transactions at Boiling Springs ATMs with ATM card or Debit MasterCard
You can find your local Boiling Springs location by clicking here! You can also connect with Boiling Springs on Facebook and on Twitter to keep up with the latest news and announcements. Stop by and find out what all of your North Jersey friends already know about banking with Boiling Springs! 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post based on an agreement with Boiling Springs Savings Bank. I will receive compensation for this post, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Don't dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be.


That's the sound of me slapping my hands with a ruler as punishment for being a bad blogger.

I have been in one of those abandon-hope-all-ye-who-enter-here kind of moods, the "all" being me. It's certainly not that I think you guys are missing anything because the Lord knows why you're here (kindness?).

I try to exercise and eat well because it makes me feel better- when I don't, I feel fat and sluggish and awkward. When I let myself fall out of the habit of writing, I feel the same way in my brain. I feel out-of-touch and disconnected from myself. With all of the general chaos and worry and FEELS in my life, I don't need any help getting on the train to Crazy Town. If writing is all it takes to keep me tethered to the Earth, then I need to get behind the keyboard, even if I have to drag myself there. There's generally a lot of blabber that comes along with this writing phase but, hey. I'll feel better. Truth be told, these past few weeks have seen all of my things-I-do-to-keep-myself-well have gone by the wayside. Hopefully, writing will get the rest of it moving.

Woo. That was bad. Hopefully, the better stuff will rise to the top soon.

In the meantime, I will mention that I have never been so eager for summer to come. Not even when I was a student myself, and I was not a school-y type of kid. This coming summer will look a lot different than the summers have since I became a mother (more on that another day) and even though I'm not sure how this chapter will go, I am ready to close the book on this school year. At the risk of sounding whinny, I had no idea how much a battle it would be, being the parent of a school-aged child with special needs. With PJ just about to start kindergarten, I feel like I am in no way capable of getting him to the finish line. I mean, I'll get him there. It just might be ugly.

So before this ends up being a mess, I am going to wrap up this post. It has served it purpose- it broke the dam that has been holding back my writing. Soon enough, God willing, something coherent will run through soon.

If you read this whole post you deserve a medal.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

I'm a model, you know what I mean?

Today's topic was a writing prompt offered by my sweet friends at Mom Babble! Stop by to read some amazing work by writers from across the country! I am very, very proud to be a part of the Mom Babble team! You check out my first Mom Babble piece here, and be sure to become a fan of Mom Babble on Facebook

Recently, the editors of Mom Babble posed this question to their contributors:

What makes you feel sexy as a mother? 

Oy, vey. 

This is a loaded question for me. I have struggled with body image for most of my life. I have criticized my ears that stuck out too far, my knees that were too knobby. I picked at my frizzy hair, my acne-prone skin and plucked away my too-thick eyebrows. I was too skinny, and now I'm too fat. 

The mirror and I have a strange relationship, and that hasn't changed. I work on it all the time, but it continues to be a work-in-progress, even as I approach my 40's. It may not be something that I am ever able to reconcile. Brie + Body Image = Eh...

Still, that doesn't mean that I am not capable of feeling sexy. For me, sexy is less about what is in the mirror than what is going on inside of my skin and around me. In fact, I don't think that, for me, sexy will ever be about what's in the mirror. It's okay, though. Well, I'm sure my therapist would say that it's not okay, but I'm trying to work with what I've got. 

Becoming a mother both simplified and complicated matters. My sexuality became an entirely different thing. It was no longer something used to attract a guy, or look good in a cute shirt. My sexuality became more womanly. My body changed after I had PJ, and I do not always like what I see in the mirror. But now, it's not really about how I look; my sexiness comes from how I am feeling, what is happening around me. 

When my apartment is neat, and I am showered and have clean, cute clothes on, I feel sexy. 
When I'm in control of a situation, I feel sexy. 
When I put on makeup and my sister doesn't feel compelled to fix it, I feel sexy. 
When I can parallel park my car on the first try, I feel sexy. 
(Mom, Aunt Janie and Aunt Barb- stop reading now!)
When Pete and I get back in bed after PJ is dropped off at school, I feel sexy. 
When I'm happy, I feel sexy. 
When I am surrounded by my friends and we are all laughing, I feel sexy. 
When I can sing, I feel sexy. 
When I dance, despite what a truly terrible dancer I am, I feel sexy. 
When it's the end of the day and I feel good about the kind of parent I was that day, I feel sexy. 

What makes you feel sexy? 

Full Disclosure: Thanks mostly to allergies, it took me nearly a week to complete this post. It's terrible this year, and if you, too, have allergies I hope you are able to combat them better than I!! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

I wanna take a minute or two, and give much respect due to the men that's made a difference in my world...

{stream of consciousness}

As I write this I am enjoying two of my favorite things, night-time coffee and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey is great, but they Stanley Cup Playoffs are amazing. It's the best of an entire season before it and, although it's a winter sport, it's my sign that Spring is finally here.

At any rate, I'm watching the game and casting my usual voodoo curse upon Sidney Crosby, who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins and is a regular subject of my ice hockey hatred. He's an extremely talented player, one in a million, really. He's also unsportsmanlike and whinny and prone to dives that would win anyone else an Oscar. If PJ becomes a hockey fan, he's not the kind of player I would want him to admire.

But hockey isn't really the thing that drove me to blog tonight. I was watching Crosby pout because they lost, thinking to myself about what kind of man I do want PJ to admire.

I think that, for the most part, most young children are surrounded by women. Although it is the year 2015, it seems that teaching is still dominated by women, which means that our children spend most of their day under feminine supervision. Nearly all of PJ's therapists have been women, too. I am thankful every day for these amazing people who have helped my son reach goals I was scared he would never reach. They are the type of women I respect and admire and want to raise PJ to respect and admire. Our lives are better because they have been a part of it.

But tonight, I found myself thinking a bit about the men in PJ's life, and what he gets from knowing them. He's surrounded by some pretty strong, smart, talented boys and men, and I hope he has the opportunity to learn and draw from their gifts, just as he does the women in his life. Just as I hope he appreciates and admires women, I hope he learns how best to do that from the example of the men in his life.

I hope he knows and appreciates the importance of math and science, and to understand his importance as a child of Jewish heritage, something he will learn from my dad, his Zayde. From his Pop, Pete's dad, the importance of building something from the ground up, and family loyalty. From his Uncle Steve, how to work hard and from his Uncle Carl, how to balance work and fatherhood. From his cousin Carl, how to share his natural talents and gifts with the world and his cousin Robbie, how to unlock secret worlds with imagination. From his amazing soccer buddies, Anthony and Nick, I hope he learns how to show others pure, natural kindness. From his "Uncles" Bob and Adam, how to be the most loyal friend possible. And of course, from his father, how to offer a composed, confidant, healing hand to those who are sick and scared, to be confidant in his beliefs and opinions, and how to be selfless, gracious, and brave.

Of course, as PJ gets older, he will become a fan of various musicians or sports heroes or movie stars, and I can only hope that he finds men to admire that display those same types of traits. Fame and money don't make life perfect, but it can certainly make it easier to be a kind person, and I hope PJ admires the best types of humans. I would like to think that the positive influence of the men who are in his life by design will shape the men he chooses to admire by choice.

PJ is lucky enough to have a very, very strong group of people- both men and women- who will influence him as he grows. As his mother, I am so thankful for that. I can see bits of PJ's future in all of the people around him and it looks very, very good.