What a Difference 5 Years Make

I still can’t believe my baby is 5. It just seems impossible. And yet, if you spent even a moment with him, you would see he is so perfectly 5 years old that you would absolutely believe it.

1 day old!
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1 year and 1 day old!
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2 years and 1 day old!
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3 years and 1 day old!
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4 years and 1 day old!
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5 years and 1 day old!
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Here is the first year of pictures, here is the second year, here is the third year in case you want to reminisce.

Elijah: Year 5

Elijah-

Today you are 5 years old! You have been counting down the days until your birthday for weeks now, convinced that overnight you would grow several inches and be as tall as your other friends who are 5. While that was a bit of a let down, it didn’t stop you for long, which is pretty much the best way to describe who you are right now.

You are a delight. Truly, age 4 has been the promised land that everyone said it was. And you were a very easy 2 and 3 year old, but age 4 has just been the best. I have enjoyed every moment of it.

You came out of your shell in a huge way this year. You basically speak in exclamation points and are not the least bit hesitant to share random facts with complete strangers. You want to tell me every fact you know and correct every fact you perceive to be incorrect. “Actually” has become one of your favorite words, much to my not so great delight. There are times where you and I will be having a serious talk about a behavior that wasn’t okay or a choice you shouldn’t have made and I’ll ask you if you understand and you will affirm that you do and then immediately say something like, “did you know that rolly pollies are like trilobites?” like that’s exactly what we were discussing.

You have come to LOVE art this year. This surprised me because last year in school, you did the bare minimum, never really attempting to draw or write anything that wasn’t expressly requested of you, but you have more than made up for that this year. Every Friday when I pick you up from school, there is a massive pile of papers that you have colored throughout the week. Not like coordinated art projects, like, in aftercare when you get to choose your own adventure, you almost always choose to draw. One day a few months ago, I was laying on the couch feeling completely terrible with a migraine. It was your quiet rest time and you crept quietly into the living room and laid a paper on my stomach saying, “mom, I know your head hurts, so I made you these cheetahs.” The picture is now framed on a wall because I treasure it so entirely.

One of the things I love the very most about you is that you are an eternal optimist. Even when our plans aren’t what you want, you are constantly finding ways to make them better. You will often suggest a completely implausible thing for us to do and immediately follow it with, “is that a great idea mom?” Like every kid you get disappointed, and you continue to be sweet and sensitive, but you have a way to finding a bright side when I don’t expect it.

We registered you for kindergarten this winter and you will start in August. We don’t know what school you’ll be at yet, but your preschool teacher feels very certain that you’re ready. I might not be, but you are. I picked up some early reading books and you have astounded me with your ability to sound out words and read short books. It’s not that I doubted you, it’s that this just sort of snuck up on me. I don’t know the first thing about teaching a kid to read, so that you’re already figuring so much of it out, is completely incredible to me.

Your likes include: the color red, chocolate chip cookies (your favorite food according to you today), all animals except skunks, museums, your brother (most of the time), your family, any carbohydrate based food, school, reading, coloring, swimming, baking with me, baseball, tv and being outside.

Your dislikes include: just about any food with protein, the colors pink and purple, skunks (though you’ve never seen one), taking “taste bites” of any vaguely new food, when William knocks you over or steals your paper or does any of the 480249209 different things he loves to do to bother you, that we don’t allow you to say the word butt.

There are a lot of things you’re looking forward to this year, and I am too. The start of kindergarten. A new baby brother. Life in our “new” house. But what I am most looking forward to is really getting to know you. To learn what makes you different from every other 5 year old. To find out what makes you tick, to find out the kind of person you will become.

There are days where the responsibility of raising good men in you and your brothers feels overwhelming. But I see you, I see your sweet, pure, loving heart and I know that the good person I want to raise is already there. You are one of the kindest, most sensitive young boys I have ever met. Your ability to love and to be happy and to choose kindness, never fails to amaze me. Your brother will knock you down 10 times and each time, you will refuse to retaliate. Your friends will tell you that they don’t want to play with you (for typical 5 year old reasons), but you do not throw the same words back at them. While I would like to pretend that I am the reason for this, I know that I’m not. It’s who you are, at your very core. I didn’t mold that, but I am in constant awe of it and I hope in my heart of hearts, that it never changes. That you forever find ways to choose kindness, even when it may not be the easiest choice.

I didn’t think I’d have so many feelings about my first baby turning 5, but I do. You are growing up so very fast and where there was a baby and then a toddler, there is now a little boy. A little boy that I love so much that words to describe it fail me completely. I am constantly amazed that I am the one single person in this world who gets to be your mother, because it almost seems impossible that I’d get that lucky.

I have loved you since the moment I knew you existed and nothing you could ever do will change that. I am grateful every single day that you’re mine. I love you to the moon and back, my sweet boy.

Love,
Mom

An Open Letter to Congressman Mo Brooks

Congressman Brooks-

You don’t know me and I’m not one of your constituents, but I’m writing to you anyway because you said something earlier this week that I think needs a response.

I will be very upfront with my biases. I’m a democrat. I’m a far left, war hating, abortion rights protecting, climate change accepting, welfare protecting liberal. Probably what you’d call a snowflake to your friends. Probably we were never going to agree on healthcare as I have been a proponent of the ACA from day one, but I believe strongly that civil discourse is the foundation of civilization, so I am writing to you despite all of the above facts.

Earlier this week, in an interview, you suggested that people with pre-existing conditions, those who were finally protected under the ACA and stand to lose A LOT under the AHCA, don’t lead good lives. Specifically, you said that the AHCA will be an improvement as it will work at “…reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy.” And that “…right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

So basically, sick people will pay more because clearly they have done something to deserve their conditions and they should pay more than a healthy person to receive medical care for them. I think that was the gist of your comment.

Congressman Brooks, I’d like to tell you the story of a pair of brothers I know.

The older brother was born a profoundly, blissfully healthy baby. 6 perfect pounds and 15 gorgeous ounces of healthy baby boy. He had your average first year of life colds from attending daycare (a necessity due to having working parents who had to leave him at 12 weeks to pay back their student loans, another issue for another time), but by your definition, he was leading a “good life.” He even liked vegetables and ate them daily.

When this boy was 10 months old, he crawled off a bed and hit his head on a very hard floor. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (a large subdural hematoma) later that day and spent several days in the hospital. His medical chart will forever be emblazoned with the TBI diagnosis and while his latest MRI was normal, we don’t fully know what all the long term consequences will be.

He is one of those people who you feel is not living a good life- he’s a person with a pre-existing condition. A person who before the ACA, would not have been able to get even remotely reasonably priced health insurance. Because he fell off a bed. Does he not deserve the same healthcare at the same cost as you? Or is that one incident such an indicator of a “bad life” that for his whole lifetime his healthcare costs should be higher than yours, like some sort of terrible healthcare penance?

Or how about his brother? Born healthy following an unremarkable pregnancy and delivery. He was the most lovely, happy, healthy growing baby until he hit 4 months old. At 4 months his loose upper esophageal sphincter and over production of stomach acid caused him so much discomfort that he could not eat. That he began having pseudoseizures from the pain. He was breastfeeding, which is pretty much as high quality a diet as you can get, which I think should mean that for all intents and purposes, he was living a good life, and yet, he was diagnosed with GERD. A diagnosis that will follow him forever. Where did he go wrong in his journey? Why does his GERD mean that he shouldn’t get the same healthcare you get at the same cost? Have you never popped an antacid? Does that mean you are not living a good life?

Maybe you weren’t talking about my kids when you made that comment, in fact, I’m sure you think you weren’t because you don’t really think that a nearly 5 year old and a 2.5 year old are to blame for their pre-existing conditions. Except, you actually do. They are the exact kind of people whose healthcare will cost more and who will have fewer insurance options to choose from, because in their earliest months of life, before they knew up from down, they were given a diagnosis that cannot be discharged from their medical histories. Because one had the misfortune of falling off a tall bed and because the other inherited a loose sphincter.

Explain to me why it should cost more for them to see their pediatrician when they have an ear ache than it would a child who didn’t have a TBI or didn’t have GERD? Explain to me why they should not be able to get the exact same coverage as your grandchildren at the very same cost?

Why should our children (oh, spoiler alert, they’re my kids) not be covered at the exact same cost as every other nearly 5 year old and 2.5 year old? We already pay more because they have gone to the doctor more (hence copays and testing that is not covered) and because one of them was hospitalized, do we need further penalties? We’re not asking for free healthcare for our kids. We are happy to pay for insurance and pay our copays and do what needs to be done. We’re asking that their healthcare be the same cost for them as for every other child. That they not be punished for pre-existing conditions that they can do nothing about.

Why should anyone who has the misfortune of needing to access healthcare have to pay more than a person who doesn’t? And why do you and several hundred other old white men get to decide if people are leading “good enough lives” to get the same coverage you have at the same cost?

Before you make comments about people deserving their pre-existing conditions, please consider how you’d feel if one of your 8 grandkids had a pre-existing condition that they didn’t somehow “earn” for themselves. Or if your loved was diagnosed with a cancer that wasn’t the result of some poor choice on their part. Would you want them to suffer or their family to be bankrupted to get them the same essential care that you have access to because of your health insurance plan?

When you have a moment, I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have for teaching infants to lead good lives. See, my third son is due in August and I’d hate for him to follow in his brothers’ footsteps of unhealthy living.

Sincerely,
Katie

Four

One of the first things I do each morning after getting up with the kids (who needs alarm clocks when you have a William?) is open up the Timehop app on my phone. This isn’t an ad, I’m not being paid, promise. I just like to see what we’ve done in years past, see if there were any significant milestones or occasions that we’ve forgotten about. Mostly I’m in it for the baby pictures.

This morning was just like every other morning in that routine and then I saw a picture that, in some far corner of my brain I knew was coming, but that I had mostly forgotten about. Because 4 years ago today was our worst day. It was the day that Eli crawled head first off a hotel bed and got a brain bleed.

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Now, this is significant in two ways. First, the year after this event, when I was in the thick of PTSD, I lived and died by the 23rd of each month. It was a marker and March 23rd was the most significant. I thought I would always feel that way. I’m thrilled to have been wrong. Had the picture not popped up on my timehop, I don’t know if or when I would have remembered. And that is nothing short of amazing. The person I am now can scarcely recognize the person I was the months before this happened and the last 12-18 months after.

That is a great thing.

The other thing that is significant is that we are four years out. Eli is doing great. Great enough that we forgot that this happened. It will always be a part of our story, but it’s no longer in the prologue.

I had a conference with Eli’s preschool teacher last month and she has absolutely zero concerns about him transitioning to kindergarten (kindergarten! My baby!) in the fall. And we have an MRI that showed no residual damage. Maybe everyone else knew this would be the outcome, but it wasn’t always so clear to us or to Eli’s physicians.

And so 4 years older, wiser and approximately 10 million times happier, I’m glad to say that everything turned out unimaginably great. Eli is great. My mental health is great. The fall and the bleed and the days in the hospital are things that happened and they were terrible, but here we are.

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And we are great.

Resting On

In early June, my husband suggested that maybe we were ready for another cat. We had put our older cat, Karma, down about a year earlier and the heartbreak of losing her was significant enough that I wasn’t ready to open my heart up again right away. But after a year of being a 1 cat household, we were all ready.

So we went to the same shelter we got our remaining cat (Jacques-Imo, named for my favorite restaurant in New Orleans) and went searching for a kitten. There were what seemed like hundreds of adorable cats, the boys were in heaven and while Eli had some opinions, I knew which one I wanted from the moment I laid eyes on her. She was the fluffiest brown tabby and she was my cat. Jacques-Imo is FIRMLY my husband’s cat, so this one was mine.

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We got her home, decided on a name (FeatherFluffy, you’ll never guess who named her) and within a few days noticed that the site of her spay incision looked…wrong. We took her to the vet, who gave her a tiny cone and some terrible topical treatment and sent us home. Several days later, we went to get into bed and realized we hadn’t seen her for a while and when we tracked her down, it was obvious that she was sick. A trip to the emergency vet turned into a 2 day stay where she was found to have three different viruses, all from the shelter. She came home slightly better, and with time, got healthier, but was not healthy until the next time she got more serious sick in November, when antibiotics finally put one of the viruses into a full remission. And from November to early February, she was healthy.

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Throughout all of this, she was literally the sweetest cat. I mean, I’ve had a lot of cats. I’ve had very nice ones, I’ve had ones that you’re afraid to be around. She was the sweetest. She never bit anyone. She let the boys invade her space and aggressively pet her (we stopped them as soon as possible, but we can only be so many places at once) without every retaliating or showing aggression. Her favorite place to sleep was in our bed under the covers, tucked right between us. If you dared sit down on the toilet for any period of time, she was on your shoulder. Every night she fell asleep on our laps on the couch. She had the sweetest disposition and we adored her deeply. She fit our family so perfectly.

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Elijah was especially taken by her. He loved nothing more than when she would sit in his lap and let him pet her. He would often just sit by her with his sweet arm draped over her. As much as she was my cat, she was his too, and he knew it and loved it.

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Early last month, out of the blue, she stopped walking. One of her pupils did not respond to light and she had an ear infection. For the third time in 8 months, we rushed her to the emergency vet who prescribed some medication and she got a little better, but she was clearly not herself. Then this week, she stopped being able to eat or drink without great effort and we knew. The vet agreed. We had done everything we could to give her the life she deserved. We loved her fiercely, we cared for her to the best of our potential and we recognized that we were letting her suffer because we didn’t want to let go and we didn’t want to break our kid’s heart. And while those felt like legitimate reasons in our hearts, we knew deep down that we were being selfish.

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And so last night, 1 day shy of 9 months from when we brought her home for the first time, we said a final goodbye to FeatherFluffy, our not even 1 year old kitten, and sent her away from the suffering that filled her short life. We said goodbye to the sweetest kitten, to Elijah’s favorite member of this family. I have cried so many tears, I’m amazed that I still have any left to pour down my cheeks as I write this.

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Telling Elijah this morning was the hardest parenting moment of our 4.5 years at this gig. He cried softly for what felt like a lifetime and has asked several times why she can’t come home. I just keep telling him that we wish she could, because it’s true, because I have no real answer for him. This feels unfair in the deepest way. We tried to find some books we could read him about pets dying and they’re all about how the pets lived a long happy life and no, she didn’t. She lived a terribly brief life, punctuated by illness. The unfairness of that haunts me. I expected this cat to see Elijah off to college, she didn’t even live to see kindergarten. I would give almost anything to have had her life take a different course.

But here we are again. 1 cat (who we love) and deep wounds from where the last one had already settled into our hearts.

Another to Love

So, it’s finally time for that post that explains why I haven’t posted in ages. Yay!

When J and I first married, we were both very certain we wanted to have kids. We had originally agreed on somewhere between 2 and 4 kids, with him leaning more towards 2 and me leaning more towards 4 (interestingly, he’s one of 5 kids, I’m one of 2). After we had Eli and my mental health fell apart for a bit, we both realized 4 wasn’t going to work. But we also both kind of knew that 2 just didn’t feel right. Three was going to be our magic kid number. And the plan was that we would start trying for a baby in the late spring of last year, making Will and baby 3 about 2.5 years apart.

You know that thing about making plans, right?

Eli and Will were first try babies. Hell, Eli was first time not not trying. I have always been aware of how unusual and fortunate that is, but, I still don’t think I was adequately grateful for it. Because baby #3 was not a first try baby. Or a second try. Or a third try. And you get the idea. The trying and not succeeding at getting pregnant happened at the same time Will started preschool and I added extra work hours and life just got really busy. What little extra time I had in the evenings after the kids were in bed was spent trying to figure out why I wasn’t pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

I want to be super, duper crystal clear and not label this anything other than what it was- a slightly prolonged trying to conceive period. I wasn’t infertile or suffering from infertility and that’s why I hesitated to write anything about it here (and also because I know The Internet doesn’t think I should have a third kid and while The Internet is welcome to their opinion, I was not in a place where I could deal with hearing that). I mean, what kind of person with two healthy kids complains that it’s not easy to conceive a third? I might lack self-awareness and be a whiner, but even I know that’s not okay.

So I didn’t write. A few friends knew what was going on and it wasn’t a great few months. It was made tougher by five! pregnancy announcements from coworkers during the time we were not getting pregnant (and there are literally like 15 people at my work). It was a learning experience for me and I think I’m ultimately better for it.

In December I got a positive pregnancy test (baby is due in late summer, more or less on Will’s 3rd birthday) and thankfully everything has gone well since then. Many times between now and then I’ve wanted to write, not about pregnancy but about anything, but I’ve either been too sick or too tired to do so. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the first trimester stuff that you trick yourself into forgetting so you’ll get pregnant again because if you remembered it, no one would have more than one baby.

And so yes! A third baby! We could not be more excited or more grateful.

Last week we got an early extra ultrasound (as a gift from my work) and found out that we are having a boy. A third boy! We are just beside ourselves. I’m sure that girls are delightful and we’d love a daughter, but being the mom of boys has been the greatest gift of my life and having a third just feels so impossibly right. It’s the perfect way to complete our family.

As the fatigue fog is lifting, I’m hoping to be here more. Not just to talk about pregnancy again because I think I’ve said (twice) all that really needs to be said on that topic, but just to be here. To have this space up and running again for those who still read, and for me to write on it. This journey has been far from what I expected it would be, but I think that it has changed us in a good way. We’re not perfect people and not perfect parents, but we are absolutely thrilled to be expecting another boy. Another son to love.

My President

Since November 8th, I have refused to use the phrase “not my president.” It may sound silly to those who adopted it on November 9th, but it just felt kind of trite to me. Of course Trump would technically be my president, so why yell about it? What good would it do for me to say that he wasn’t my president before he had even assumed office? I even foolishly hoped that maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t be as terrible as I imagined. Maybe he would be like ever other president and end up being far more moderate than his campaign.

It has been 10 days since Donald Trump became the president of the United States. And he hasn’t been what I imagined, but that’s only because in my mind I could not possibly conceive of someone who seems to so deeply hate every American value that I hold dear. And yet, here we are.

And so, I would like to be perfectly clear today and every day for as long as he retains this office: Donald Trump is not my president.

I am embarrassed to be an American, to be one of his constituents and I will not be quiet about it. Donald Trump does not represent me and he will never be my president because that is not who my president is.

My president knows that this country was founded on immigrants and does not fear them or build walls to keep them out.

My president does not cast aside refugees who are fleeing terrorism because we are also afraid of terrorists.

My president does not administer a religious test for people seeking refuge from certain death in their home country because my president believes in religious freedom.

My president does not appoint anti-semites to any position of power.

My president does not fire qualified people who disagree with him and is happy to hear differing opinions.

My president does not ignore the judicial branch, but respects that they exist as a check and balance and welcomes their sometimes frustrating part in the government.

My president does not take away health insurance from millions of sick Americans.

My president does not benefit monetarily from leading the country because his first and only concern is helping our country to prosper.

My president does not declare a run for re-election the day he is inaugurated as a political game because he cares more about governing than winning.

My president can respect that other people have drawn bigger crowds because he knows that there are many more important things happening in this world.

My president believes in real, verifiable facts.

My president believes in science.

My president believes in climate change.

My president believes in freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

My president does not hate people, and does not legislate hate.

So no, Donald Trump is not my president.

He is everything I loathe and I fear him more than any terrorist in any corner of the world. He is everything I am raising my children not to be. He is everything our founding fathers feared and everything they sought to protect us from.

Let it be recorded that I will not fall in line. I will not keep my head down and make it through this administration. I will stand up. I will resist. I will speak out for those who don’t have my incredible level of privilege. And I will never stop. I will not let history repeat itself. I will not fall in line.

Because Donald Trump is not and will never be my president.

2016 In Review

I’m laying in bed next to William, who is beyond overtired, so seems like as good a time as any to do a review of this year.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
I took on a managerial role at work and I think I’m doing a fairly decent job at it.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My resolution for this year was to be more organized, which I was in a few small ways, but mostly that was a big fail. My resolution for 2017 is just to survive it without losing my mind. I am feeling mostly optimistic about meeting this one.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My sweet nephew Asher was born. My step-sister also gave birth to an adorable baby boy this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
A good friend’s husband died after a long battle with brain cancer.

5. What countries did you visit?
Just the US, but within the country I went to Louisiana, Nevada and Idaho (twice!) this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Will power. Sleep.

7. What moments from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
There were hundreds of small moments this year. Watching Elijah at Mardi Gras and both boys at the beach. Seeing them hold hands or play together. There weren’t many big huge moments, but there were so many good, small ones.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Coming off my PTSD meds and doing well after. My mental health has been generally good this year. I suppose this isn’t an accomplishment as I didn’t really do anything, but it’s something that happened that I’m pleased about.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Never having enough patience for my kids.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope. My husband almost died (at my hand) from a man cold, Will had HFM and had tubes put in his ears, but this was generally a decent year health wise.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Tickets to NOLA. That trip was magic.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Probably Elijah’s more than anyone else. He continues to be an incredibly compassionate kid.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Donald Trump’s. People who voted for Donald Trump. The alt-right. Nor-Nazis. Racists. Terrorists.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Student loans. Credit card bills. Our debt would blow your mind.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Our trips. We got to do some very fun things with our kids all over the country. New Orleans, Vegas, Boise, Ventura.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
Alllllll the Hamilton.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier
b) thinner or fatter? Pretty close to the same. Maybe like a half pound thinner.
c) richer or poorer? Ehhhh, sameish. We are budgeting better but our student loans more than doubled in 2016, so it didn’t make a great difference.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Active playing with my kids. It’s not where I excel as a parent.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Eating.

20. How did you spend the holidays?
We did Chanukah at home except for two nights at my parents’ houses and tonight at my in laws. Christmas was at my parents’
Houses.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Nope, but there was no lack of love.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
The Great British Baking Show and even though I kind of hate it, This Is Us.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? A few former coworkers are definitely not on my list of favorite people anymore.

24. What was the best book you read?
The new kind of Harry Potter book/play.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Hamilton!

26. What did you want and get?
To sleep through the night occasionally.

27. What did you want and not get?
Hillary. Sigh.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Finding Dory.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33 at a continuing education course in New Mexico.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Lost more weight.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Mostly clothes that don’t fit well. This is copied from last year and still very true.

32. What kept you sane?
Family, friends and the internet. Same as last year.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Meh, none. Same as last year.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The entire goddamn election and the fact that 60 million people think that a sexual predator should run the country. I cannot.

35. Who did you miss?
Is it wrong to say no one?

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Probably Asher, as trite as that sounds. He’s delightful.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
You cannot fully understand how hard something is for a person until you experience it. And that we could all stand to be way more compassionate.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
“You want a revolution? I want a revelation. So listen to my declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!”

Us v. Us

Last week, the Islamic center in our city received an anonymous letter in the mail. It said that Trump should do to Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews in the 20th century. The fact this has happened, let alone that it happened here, and in 2016, is nothing short of jaw droopingly disgusting.

Just a few weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine chastised (honestly, she very nearly mocked) me for expressing concern about anti-semitism in California because, after all, we are a blue state. We live in a deeply “blue” area in a deeply “blue” state, and yet, our Islamic center received that piece of hate mail. It turns out that invisible veil of blue doesn’t really do much to keep hate out.

Our mayor wrote a letter proclaiming support and the community has been amazing. There didn’t seem to be a lot we could do and then a few days ago, a friend of mine coordinated a trip for us and our kids to visit the Islamic center (two trips actually, more of them are going tomorrow). And that happened today.

Prior to the trip, Elijah and I sat down and drew a few cards for the kids there. Just little notes about how we were happy to have them in our neighborhood and that we hoped our cards would make them happy. And with cards in hand, we went today for a visit. We met with several of the people there and then they brought us over to the pre-k class.

We opened the door and found a class of 12 adorable 4 year old boys, all just like my son. They were doing an art project with their teacher, just like my children do each day at school. The teacher, who did not know we were coming (the leader of the Islamic center did), warmly welcomed us in, included our kids in their project and before we could even take a breath, my boys and our friends kids were blending, seamlessly, in with the boys in the Islamic preschool. Because, here’s a news flash, they’re just kids. Their names might be a little different, they pray a little differently than my kids, but they all like trains and trucks and Lego and books. Because they are all kids.

I want to belabor this point because it seems like not everyone understands this fully. The families at our Islamic center are totally normal people. They’re literally us, just a few blocks down the road with a different religious symbol on their front door.

That’s the thing that seems to be getting lost among conservatives, these are just people.

They’re not scary.

They’re not devious.

They’re just people.

They’re just Americans.

They’re just families like mine who are trying to raise their kids to be good people. They’re just families who happen to be born into or chose a different religion than we did. And unfortunately, a terrorist group across the globe bastardized their religion, in very much the same way the KKK has bastardized Christianity. It doesn’t make all Christians racists and it doesn’t make all Muslims terrorists.

While I was in the classroom a little boy built an airplane out of Lego and when I told him I thought it was a cool airplane, he, a little frustrated, corrected me that it was a “jet airplane.” This probably sounds silly, but it struck me because it is an exact conversation I have had with Elijah numerous times.

These boys were just like my boys and it made me feel even worse for their parents. The fear they must feel for their safety and the safety of their children, even in a “blue” state, even in two thousand freaking sixteen, even in a country with a first amendment right to freedom of religion, must be tremendous.

Our visit today didn’t change anything. We don’t need pats on the back for going because it was literally the least any person could do in this situation. But we do need to continue to tell people, especially those who want to sign Muslims up for a registry, those who believe we should refuse to accept Muslim refugees who are dying by the THOUSANDS, running from the very terrorist group we ourselves are fearful of, that these children are just like theirs. That hating them, that ostracizing them, that marginalizing them, is wrong in every way. And if we allow this to happen, if we throw away the first amendment out of unfounded fear drummed up by a neo-fascist president-elect and a conservative media that is so untrustworthy with the truth it cannot be aired as “news” in other countries, we are destroying the very fabric of this country.

If we can’t see that those 12 boys and their families are more like us than they are different, and if we can’t teach our children that, then it doesn’t matter who is president. Because we have set ourselves on a course to repeat the mistakes of fallen republics the world over and no single president can stop us from our own self-destruction.

Four Point Five

Today my first baby is 4 and a half years old.

I cannot believe that my tiny infant, the baby who made me a mom, is 6 months from being 5 years old. That I will be enrolling him in kindergarten in less than 2 months. My baby. Elementary school.

When we had Eli, we really had no idea what we were doing. We had ideas of the kids we might have and how we would parent them, but truly, we had no idea and most of the time, we still don’t. But we know Elijah and we are so much better for it.

He is the kindest kid. I mean, he has his moments where he refuses to share like every other 4.5 year old on the earth. But at least once a day, he astounds me with his consideration of others. A few weeks ago we were at a store and J and I had to talk with the salesman for a while. We had brought our iPad and an old iPhone to keep the kids occupied because we know it was going to be a while and yet Will was struggling. At one point I walked to the stroller to check on him and Elijah didn’t notice. I heard him say, “William, it’s okay. You don’t need to be sad. I’m right here with you.” And oh hey, it still makes me cry.

The very next day, I took Elijah to a birthday party and when we realized Will wasn’t coming he looked at me, tearfully, and said, “do you think we can bring William back some cake? I know he’d really like that.” I mean. I didn’t teach him that. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s just who he is.

He is also sensitive, often to a fault. He doesn’t throw tantrums and he rarely talks back or yells or does anything particularly overtly disobedient. But his heart breaks easily and often and some of our biggest parenting struggles involve his sadness much more than his sassiness or any significant behavioral disputes.

Last week I forgot his homework (his preschool does voluntary homework- 10 words brainstormed with parents that start with the letter of the week, it’s a thing we do together as a family and he LOVES it) and he kept himself together at school, but when I got to him to pick him up, he just melted into a puddle. I had actually brought his homework with me, he got a sticker for it, all was well, but his poor little heart. He was so sad that he didn’t get to read his words to his friends. He didn’t care about his sticker and his teacher had assured him that he wouldn’t get in any trouble, but he was still devastated.

He’s also pretty bright, but I think one of his greatest and maybe unique-ish traits is his ear for music. We were listening to Adele last month (at his request) and I realized that he was signing exactly one octave above Adele and I. I was gobsmacked. At temple, he knows all the songs, even those in Hebrew, and often he sings louder than the cantor, which is equal parts adorable and a little embarrassing. Thankfully, despite his sensitivity, Elijah is the purest extrovert and he will take that attention and happily run with it.

I think most of all, he’s becoming himself. He’s got little pieces of his dad and of me in the mix, but he is, at his core, Elijah. He is an absolute delight and we are so unbelievably lucky that he’s ours. He made me a mom and he teaches me something every single day. He makes me want to be kinder, he makes me want to be better at everything I try. He makes me a better person and I am grateful every day that of all the kids in the world, that he is mine.

In only 4.5 years he has changed me to the deepest parts of my heart, and while I adore this age and kind of want time to stop here, I also cannot wait to see the person, the man, that he becomes. I know, in my heart of hearts, that he is meant for something big and I’m just so grateful that I get to watch it happen.