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!! 

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.

This is the place where everything's better and everything's safe...

After our aborted trip to Baltimore (cut short due to the fact that I spent the night in Spectacular Gastrointestinal Distress in our hotel room bathroom), I was so disappointed. I had loved trips to the National Aquarium with my parents as a kid, and was so excited to share it with PJ. But, the trip was not meant to be.

Although many days of vacation still stretched out before us, I felt like I had ruined our break. I insisted all week that, if the weather was nice on Sunday, our last day of vacation, we were taking PJ to the beach. The beach is PJ's temple and the ocean is his religion. I don't know how it happened since he has a mother who is a terrible swimmer and a father who burns if he thinks about the sun too hard, but PJ is a Certified Beach Worshiper.

Thankfully, Mother Nature obliged.

PJ slept until nine on Sunday morning, the effects of late-night partying at his cousin Sarah's 13th birthday party. It was a welcome treat, but we had things to take care of and by 10am, we were on the road.

As we approached the long bridge that leads into Ocean City, PJ began to tremble with glee. When he hit the board walk, we hopped on to a bench and slipped off his shoes and socks. When he hit the sand, he took a moment to wiggle his toes and touch the sand, as if he could hardly believe he was there.

And then, a wave crashed, PJ heard the call, and he was off.

The ocean was a frosty 41 degrees, and the wind chilled the air a bit, but PJ hardly noticed. He splashed his toes in the water and dug his fingers into the sand.

I had thought we would have a quick dipping-of-the-toes into the ocean, but PJ ended up spending a blissful hour and half playing on the shore. I watched him, snapping away with my camera as if I could drink in his happiness through the lens. Without a doubt, the beach is his happy place, his panacea, his favorite song.

When we were finally able to detach PJ from the beach, we headed back to the car to clean up and change clothes. As we walked to the car, PJ caught sight of the amusement park, just as a mini roller coaster was winding along its track. So after a pizza lunch, we headed to the amusements. First thing, PJ spied his favorite game- ski ball!

Truth be told, he is terrible at ski ball. His little arms can barely bowl the ball past the lip at the end of the ramp. Four games in and PJ scored a whopping zero points. Thankfully, the score means very little to him.

A quick stop at a height marker let us know that PJ, finally and officially, is 42 inches tall. This means one thing:

Big kid rides!

I was nauseous just watching them spin, but PJ had a blast! We hit the roller coaster, the tilt-a-whirl, the fun house and the giant slide, and the whole time, I wondered how the six-pound nugget I we brought home from the hospital could be officially 42 inches tall.

The afternoon was winding down, so we headed back to the boardwalk for some ice cream before we hit the road. I ordered a cone with rainbow sprinkles, but it was quickly hijacked by The Boy- my fault for thinking I could get away with ordering his ice cream in a cup. Even though the day was cool, the ice cream was just what we needed; a little bit of sweetness as the day drew to a close.

Have I mentioned that I love my camera. I do. I love it, hard.

The drive home was a quiet one. We chatted about how perfect our afternoon had been, about how much fun we had, and the always-asked question when we are at the beach- "I wonder what the Autism services are like here." PJ sat quietly in his seat, not napping but obviously very, very tired. We arrived home just as the light was turning early-evening golden. We grilled steaks for dinner and scrubbed sand out of the ears, fingernails, and various orifices of my very dirty son. Beneath the dirt, I could see that his cheeks were pinked from the sun, my fault for forgetting the sunscreen. On another day, this oversight wold annoy me, and I wold put a check in the "Mom Fail" column. But slightly sunburned cheeks couldn't take the shine off of this day. It was a perfect, perfect day, and if it wasn't already seared into my brain, I could use the nearly 200 pictures I took to remind me. 

Our life...it can be complicated. The everyday worries and splinters and scrapes can cloud my view of just how lucky we are. But on a perfect day like this I can see for miles, and all I can do is try to wear my gratitude instead of my blinders. 

Cheers to perfect days! 

Celebrate good times, come on!

Today was back to reality after Spring Break. Thanks to our school superintendent's penchant for delayed openings versus snow days, we did not owe any days due to weather and were able to enjoy a full week off.

The week started off with an aborted trip to Baltimore that was ruined by what I will call Severe Gastrointestinal Pyrotechnics on my part. It was real and it was terrible, folks, and left me writhing on a bathroom floor in a hotel room in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We had intended to visit the National Aquarium but instead, came home so I could try and turn back to a normal person.

But, if nothing else, we Latini's know how to rebound. We filled our week with fun and stuffed the weekend with family and friends and celebrations!

Friday afternoon we had an impromptu trip to Chuck E Cheese to spend time with my cousin Matt, his beautiful wife Colleen, and Braelyn and Paxton, their little people. The kids had a blast playing games, dancing with Chuck E, and eating pizza! As my mom put it, this was a play date 50 years in the making. My mom and Matt's mom were best friends, and the woman Brae and Pax call Boo
just happened to be the cousin of my father, which is how my parents met. My mom and Eileen played as babies and now, their babies babies play together, and love each other! It makes me so thankful, everyday, for these family members who are also friends.

That night was cheer practice, and after the kids were done we celebrated the impending arrival of a very special baby boy! PJ's Coach Jen is due in May and there was a gaggle of cheerleaders who were thrilled to fete this already-loved little one. There were blankets and onesies and books and diapers, all waiting to be put to good use by the sweet mama and her baby boy! Miss Jen has such a special place in our hearts (as do all of PJ's wonderful cheer coaches) and we can't wait until Colton Edward makes his arrival!

The next day brought gorgeous weather and more parties! PJ had a great time at his buddy Paige's 3rd birthday, an arts-and-crafts themed celebration! PJ was thrilled with his first canvas painting, and Paige was the cutest birthday girl in all the land! Paige's mom, my friend Jennifer, is amazingly creative and talented, and puts a ton of thought into all of her kids parties! The activities are always easy, too, not too over-the-top or fussy, and the kids have a great time! I have secret thoughts of luring her into a party-planning business with me! 

And this girl here? I can't even talk about it. On the left? A skinny me and a chubby baby 13 years ago, just before her Uncle Pete and I started dating. Her mother, Shelly, and I were work colleges, and had no clue that we would be sisters-in-law someday! On the right? a skinny birthday girl with legs for NINE THOUSAND MILES with her chubby Aunt Breezy! I can not believe that this taller-than-me teenager is the same baby I snuggled in that picture. We all had a beautiful night with family and friends, celebrating this milestone birthday for our Sarah Charlotte! PJ had a blast, jumping on the trampoline with his many, many cousins and eating delicious birthday cake under the supervision of his cousin Riley!

It's hard to believe that all of this fun was smashed into three days! That left us with one golden Sunday before it was time to go back to school, and it turned out to be one of the most perfect days we have ever spent...

Let me tell 'ya a story of my situation...

Yesterday Thursday was World Autism Day and as it turned out, it was a busy one (as was yesterday, since I didn't finish this post then!). Although I didn't get a chance to sit and write, I certainly thought about the day. PJ was resplendent in blue for a school fundraiser for Autism Speaks, and my Facebook feed was clogged with the stories and snapshots and moments of so many of the people we love, some families directly touched by Autism, and others just showing their support.

When PJ started school this year, he was placed in a classroom with neuro-typical children for the first time. I belived in him with all of my heart, but I wasn't sure how he would be received. Of course, I decided that if there was any disinterest on exclusion of PJ, it was was all in the hands of the other parents. They just didn't understand. Parenting a "typical" child is so much easier and if they couldn't extend a welcome than it was on them.

I know. I'm an idiot.

I had so much fear going in to all of this, and it didn't occur to me that there might be some fear on both sides. I was just so consumed with my own I couldn't see past it. But if I really think about, it might be hard for another parent to approach my child. If another person does not understand Autism, it isn't necessarily because they just don't care. It may be because they haven't had the opportunity.

So, how do I fix that? I guess that all I can do is be open, and let the people around know what our life is like. It is different, of course, but mothering is mothering, and I am willing to bet that Autism or not, it feels the same on the inside.

In our house, Autism looks like...

Puzzles in the morning, pre-breakfast...

Many hours of therapy...

We Light It Up Blue in our Superman garb to show who we are and support who we love...

We do a shit-ton of paperwork...

{no picture}
Who the hell would take pictures of that??

And we take Easter Eggs very seriously...

The moments that someone from the outside might not understand? No, I don't always whip out my camera for them. The meltdowns and the struggles over school and all of the other things that come with having a child with Autism aren't always the photogenic moments (not to mention that I really, really love my camera, and a full-tilt PJ tantrum would put it as risk.).

Someone on my Facebook wall said "Autism is not a gift." The comment was made in regards to the passing of a young man with Autism who died after getting lost in his hometown of Brooklyn. I understand the sentiment, particularly in the wake of a tragedy like this one. I don't think there is a pregnant woman who wishes for Autism. Autism is a drain on expenses and emotions. It can be dangerous, with tragic, incomprehensible consequences. It's just really fucking hard. I don't love Autism.

But my baby came to me with Autism. It was not at all what I wanted for him, but I wanted him. PJ is a gift, every part of him. There are times when it sucks, and times when I wish Autism away with all of my being. When the dust settles from the meltdown or the ink dries on the stacks of paperwork or I have wiped the tears from my eyes, I can remember that if I wish Autism away, I wish PJ away.

Life with Autism is hard. It's very hard, but life without PJ would be even harder. For me, knowing that is a gift. That is the snapshot I want people to see if they wonder what it is like to parent a child with Autism. It is the same gift every parent of every child has received.