Posts Tagged ‘Keaton’

For me, each kid in my family has an age that I identify them with. An age that for whatever reason, gets stuck in my brain. For Keaton that age is 3-4ish so to wake up this morning and find him a whole SEVEN years old is really messing with my brain’s construct of what my world should look like. I honestly have no clue how we got here. How did that sweet, funny, pigtail-sporting, tutu-wearing, booty-shaking toddler morph into this hard-working, sword-wielding, ninja-rolling, BOY?

To quote one of his favorite movies: Inconceivable.

Keaton is no one thing. He is not a kid that you can put in a box. He loves swords and rough-housing, and nail-polish and his stuffed Crookshanks. He’ll happily watch a Barbie movie or Star Wars. He is sensitive and kind. He is mischievous and a fairly adept liar.

He is joy. He is love. He is ours and we love him so very much.

Happy Seven, Keaton Sir!!

IMG_8575 IMG_8684 IMG_8639


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Listen. I know, Flashing Cursor. I realize I’ve been MIA from this blog for months. I am aware I used to take great pleasure in writing about all the ways my children outsmart me on a daily basis. All the ways they made me feel so loved and then so completely useless and then wait, nope, there’s the love again~ often in one breath. After briefly considering canceling my hosting when it came up for renewal a month ago, I decided I would give it another year and see what I had left in me for this space. I really don’t know. But for now, I am here and I promise not to make any promises about how often I’ll check in, because that seems to just guarantee I’ll never write again.

So this is what I can tell you now… In less than 2 hours, my two giant children will join the household for the summer. This is maybe a little scary and maybe a little awesome. I like having all my chicks with me for the most part. I love lazy days, jammies til noon, lunch when…ever, beach and park trips, art supplies strewn about the table and intricate figurine set-ups taking over my gardens. It makes me smile, it makes me sigh. It makes me miss being a kid.

Like all parents, I don’t enjoy the whining, tattling or the incessant arguing but unfortunately, it comes with the territory of multiple kids. We’ll get through, I know, but I definitely don’t have to be excited about it. Mostly I am nervous about Rowan’s insane dance schedule over the next two weeks. She has summer dance and nationals practice that leaves her at the studio from 10:45- 5:30 or later most nights. Then I have to kiss my little guy’s sweet cheeks enough to last me 9 whole days without him while we’re in Florida. {Clearly I did NOT think this through. I’m already panicking and searching for plane tickets for him, shhhhh don’t tell Bill. He’ll think it’s funny when Ez shows up in my carry-on, right?} The longest I’ve been away from Ezra is overnight. I’m legit freaking out right now.

But! If we can make it through June, and the first 4 days of July, we’ll be in the clear to laze around and enjoy Summer at our new house. It seems amazing to me that I didn’t write about such a huge life change when I have multiple {really, like DOZENS} of posts devoted to poop on this blog. I wish I could detail the simultaneously dawn-out saga/whirlwind this whole process has been, but the most important thing to know is that we are all so very, extremely happy to be in a beautiful new home that is just the perfect fit for us. Hopefully more on that to come {if I can get my shit together, so again, no promises}.

For now, I will leave you with these two…

Who completely OWNED 2nd grade and Kindergarten.. with nary a yellow or red light between the two for an ENTIRE year, like WHOA.

Who completely OWNED 2nd grade and Kindergarten, with nary a yellow or red light between the two for an ENTIRE year, like WHOA. So proud of them!

And these two, who melt my heart, pretty much on a daily basis…

I think lucky is the word I'm looking for. Yep.

I think lucky is the word I’m looking for. Yep.

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I guess it’s pretty clear that Ezra has been the star of the show here for the last 16 months. This is for two reasons, one of them being that it’s really sort of tricky to navigate what you should share about your kids once they get older and the second is TIME, as in, I don’t have any to write more than one substantial post a month. To remedy this, I’m going to try to do a quick family update each month when I post my photo sets so I can write down some of the cool/annoying/awesome stuff the rest of us are up to and at least give the illusion that our world doesn’t revolve around a despot toddler king {which it 100% does}. Ezra will still have his own post for the time being because he is my babaaaay and I’m not ready to let that go just yet.

So Let’s start with me. As it turns out I’ve become a bit obsessive and have absolutely loved documenting our every day family life over on Instagram for the My 365 Project. It has been a HUGE push to better my photography skills which are now somewhere between Does Not Suck and Can Sometimes be Okay When I’m Not Screwing It All Up. I take out my big camera pretty much every day and I love reading articles and watching video tutorials when I can squeeze them in. Recently I watched one about Newborn Photography which blew my mind… too bad there were so damn many precious, tiny babies in those videos, distracting me from actually retaining any of the information.

Here are my favorite shots from February 14, {the whole set is here}:

3.5.1 3.5.2 3.5.3 3.5.4 3.5.5 3.5.6 3.5.7 3.5.8 3.5.9

Other than being a chauffeur, homework overlord and packer of backpacks for the older two, I’m enjoying the calm before the {dance} storm. Competition fees have been turned in and we’re hoping one of the costumes will be handed out for decorating this week sometime. UPDATE!!: I now have a fringey pile of orange and pink and approximately 800 stones to affix to it! {Also: Sweet baby Jesus in heaven, please bless our room mom for not including those teeny/tiny/miniscule devil sequins, I am forever in her debt, AMEN.}   So: YAY! Let’s get this done! And: Oh God. I’m going to die from E-6000.

Here Lies Christy, who at 2am after 14 straight hours of gluing varying sizes of irritatingly small, iridescent stones, mistook her wine for the E-6000, gluing her throat shut. It was a good death. RIP.

Moving on to Bill… You remember him right? That guy I married? I wouldn’t really know since he’s done nothing but workworkwork for the last few months. Thankfully, he’s able to do part of this in the evenings on our couch but still, it’s been a really busy time for him both with work, personal projects and the side stuff. We divide and conquer from the hours of 4:30-8pm and then it’s back to his laptop until 11ish. Since he likes to watch stuff while he works, we pick a series to binge-watch so at least we have the pretense of together time. Against my better judgement, I let Bill choose the show this go-round and he picked Breaking Bad. We tried this show once a couple of years ago and after the third episode I told Bill if he wanted to keep watching it that was fine but I just couldn’t spend my relaxing time watching something so painful that I wanted to throw myself off a bridge after each episode. And yeah, I know, Best TV Show Of All Time, Is One of The Greats, yada-yada-accolade-cakes. I get that, I really do. My opinion though {which was right on the money after those first 3 episodes {re:THE PAINFULNESS} and unchanged when we watched it all the way through}, is that the first 2 seasons were pretty meh, save a couple of episodes, then in the third season they turned the characters into 100% unlikable, reprehensible shells of humans. There was no fading into gray for me, really. They went from conflicted, desperate and confused to The Most Terrible People and by the last third of the 4th season things blew up.

I’m not going to turn this family update into a BB recap but since it has dominated my time with my husband for the last 2 months I will say this. The writing and acting in the last 2 seasons was truly smart and really just downright phenomenal. But. And this is a big, huge, hairy but. I can’t handle watching shows where everyone is awful. There is no one to root for on this show, save maybe one, and even this guy has done so many despicable things and suffered such terrible losses, there’s no way he’ll ever come out functional. This makes each episode something you have to suffer through. Maybe other people could root for Walter White {but you’re probably a closet sociopath, FYI}. Not me though, not even at the end and I think it’s sort of troublesome if you actively want your protagonist to bite it. I get the whole idea of the “anti-hero” but man, I just found the whole thing to be so reprehensible, and even though I appreciate the art of it, {TL;DR!} you could not pay me to watch that shit again.

Okay, stay tuned for next month’s Bill update when I talk about True Detective, Scandal or House of Cards, because that is what our marriage has turned into at this point.

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Rowan: My first born has been a busy little bee with school and dance. She officially turned 8 and a half which is still just so weird to say. My kid is like, old and stuff. School has been going really well. So well, I feel like anything I write here will just sound like obnoxious bragging. I can take pretty much zero credit for this anyway, it just turns out I am raising the non-magical Hermione Granger, complete with tears when school is cancelled for the 6th snow day of 2014. She’s tested out of the curriculum reading assessments through third grade. She gets herself up early so she can read for fun and while math isn’t her favorite and she has to work hard, she gets great marks. She has an excellent memory so history tests are super fun for her and she aces them. Most weeks I forget to go over her spelling words with her {super mom, I know} and she has brought home a 15/15 every week, save one, the entire year. Do you see what I mean about the bragging? I sound like a total asshole right now but I don’t care. She works hard. She’s so independent. And I’m so proud of her.

Here is Hermione/Rowan reading a math book. For fun. Listen, guys. I know I was there and all when she was born and I'm fairly certain they placed her directly into my arms but there is just no possible way she can be my kid.

Here is Hermione/Rowan reading a math book before bed. For FUN. Listen, guys. I know I was there and all when she was born and I’m fairly certain they placed her directly into my arms but there is just no possible way she can be my kid. Like ZERO percent chance. Back me up, everyone who knows me…

Conversely, dance has been rough for her this year. I touched on this a few months ago, about the challenges of the flexibility amidst the other choreography and how it’s been tough for her. Rowan isn’t a Career Dancer. She doesn’t have the natural flexibility. She doesn’t have a family member that was or still is a dancer that can help her at home {for free} with the intricacies. She doesn’t have room in her house that she can practice without hitting the couch or a coffee table or another human. She also doesn’t have parents who have a huge disposable income for $50 worth of private lessons a week. Though this has always been the case for her, it was made really apparent this year as so many of the girls at the studio are doing this extra stuff. Rowan has always been very happy to just be a part of the group and work her hardest but based on all the extras the other kids are doing she’s starting to fall behind and feel what she’s contributing isn’t good enough for her team.

In most cases it’s not a matter of dance mom one-up-man-ship, but that all these kids really love dance, want to do their very best and they have very supportive parents that are making that happen for them. And while I personally feel some of it is getting a little out of hand, if it works for the individual family then that’s thier choice to make . Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for us which will be a tricky road to navigate if Rowan wants to keep dancing competitively. In the meantime we’ve done what we can to help her through. We share private lessons with others so they’re not so spendy. We go to open gym so she can work on flexibility instead of paying $30 an hour to work one-on-one with a gymnastics coach. She shows up every day ready to work her butt off and she really does. We practice at home, couches, coffee tables and other humans be damned. I feel guilty, like I’m not doing enough to support her sometimes, but the reality is, dance isn’t our family’s only reality and I just have to make peace with that and hope Rowan understands when the other girls are progressing in a way that she isn’t.

I will say that the coolest thing to witness was a few weeks ago when parents were invited in to watch and the instructor was working on turns with them, which need some work all around. Some of the girls have been doing these turns for well over a year or two in various solos and small groups but a little over half have just started them in earnest since January and Rowan was having trouble finding the rhythm of them. She struggled the Tuesday before big time and when her teacher asked her to do it in front of everyone I held my breath, fighting the urge to throw my hands over my eyes but… she did okay, and compared to where she was the week before, okay was AWESOME. And when she was done her teacher gave her an approving smile and the other girls clapped for her and it was so, so sweet. She really is in with a great group of very kind kids, which is important to us because she spends so much time there.


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After a completely activity-free fall, Keaton has been enjoying swimming lessons, a basketball clinic and joining the boys/partners dance at the studio. Swimming has been going well for him I think, but it’s stressful because Bill has to handle the two boys while I take Rowan to ballet. Ezra goes to baby swim from 6-6:30pm and Keaton does level 3 from 6:30-7pm. I haven’t seen Ezra at all and have only been able to watch Keaton 1.5 times which makes me feel shitty but just the way things worked out this time around.

Basketball was… sort of hilarious. Keaton definitely has an aptitude for sports; he has a good eye and great coordination. Since he’s never had trouble picking these sorts of things up, I thought this would transfer to basketball but it totally did not. The six sessions he had, he made a total of 8 baskets. He is not tall, on the contrary, he is a peanut compared to the other boys and while his fancy footwork was awesome while playing defense, you could totally tell they were the feet of a dancer, not a ball player. Still, the whole point was to get him out of the house for a couple of hours on Saturdays and to have fun, and both of these things were accomplished so I’ll call it a win while recognizing that we are NOT raising a hoops star.


In January we were asked if Keaton was interested in doing the big boys’ number at the studio. At first he didn’t want to do it and I practically had to drag him there but after a few practices he fell back in love with the booty-shaking and I’ll admit, it’s been pretty fun to watch him again. It was most definitely the right decision for him and our family sanity to pull him from the line numbers but I’m glad he’s still able to dance in some capacity~ plus it will give him something to do one of the days we’re in Florida for Nationals this June.

School has been going really well for him. He loves his teacher, his classmates and has gotten a green light every day so far. His reading skills have really taken off in the last month. He can now read Frog and Toad style books all by himself and while getting him to stop jumping around the living room like a maniac can be hard after a long day at school, once he gets settled in he really gets into the story. I’m so proud of how great he’s doing although I will say, he has been having some attitude and listening problems at home that are driving both his father and I nuts. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he is the child that requires the least amount of our time and energy. He’s so laid back and easy-going so we tend to just let him do his own thing which sometimes results in him feeling left out, and then he acts out, not terribly, but just enough to push our buttons. I hate that it’s come to this so we’re trying to make an extra effort to spend one-on-one time with him in hopes that the attitude and listening issues will work themselves out.

Okay! Wow! I’m… gonna stop now. That was really, really long. I had a lot to catch up on but the good news is, that shouldn’t be an issue if I keep this up month to month. Of course this is me we’re talking about so no guarantees. Hope everyone made it though February alive and here’s looking to somewhat of a thaw by the end of March.


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This boy.

So much, all at once.

Slashing, pewing, round-house kicking.

Jumping, wiggling, couch-flips.

Spinning, twirling, split-jumps.

Hugging, snuggling, kisses blown.

A spy. A ninja, both regular and turtle. A Jedi. A Stormtrooper. A puppy. A little boy whose mom died in a tragic motorcycle accident. A police officer. A fireman. A big guy teenager. A SYTYCD contestant who always gets a ticket to Vegas. A doctor. A patient. A baseballer. A footballer. A basketballer. A soccer baller. Not a hockey pucker, mom, I don’t like to skate. An olympic diver.

A dreamer of dreams so big and so small.


A little brother, a big brother.

A middle child.

Writer of names and random pronouns.

Reader of Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and whoever wrote all those stupid Star Wars books.

Lover and love of everyone around him.

Beautiful face, beautiful heart.

Energetic boy. Sweet boy. Our boy.

This boy.

We love you, Keaton.



Now blow out the candles on your cake... ah. shit. Well, we all know mama's not great with the numbers...

Now blow out the six candles on your cake… ah, shit. Well, we all know mama’s not that great with the numbers…

There we go. That's more like it, six year old.

There we go. That’s more like it, six year old.

Gratuitous lash picture...

Gratuitous lash picture…

Happy Birthday, Big Guy.

Happy Birthday, Big Guy.


{* Last two pics, Christine Welsh Photography, First three pics, Christina “I can’t count to six” Gunter Photography}

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It was conferences this week! You wanna know how much fun it is to bring a mobile, nap-skipping baby into classrooms with thousands of things to destroy and/or choke on? SUPER FUN. The only major snafu was when Ezra’s milk cup exploded all over Bill, the baby and the classroom floor in a spectacular geyser of coconut milk. I’m pretty sure we won’t be invited back to 2nd grade unless we have proof of a babysitter first. It is now time for you to sit back {or, uh, slowly back away by means of the handy x button} and enjoy reading about my two oldest precious little snowflakes…

First up we have Keaton, Sir:

This little guy’s report surprised me the most. I know it’s not fair to pigeon-hole your kids but if I WERE to do that, Rowan would definitely be my academic child and Keaton would be our… wiggly… uh… funny…. uh… sports-ball child. I think that about sums it up nicely. He always got great reports in preschool and was always put in the more accelerated learning groups but I guess I sort of thought that he was placed there because his teachers had Rowan as well and maybe just assumed Keaton was similar.

I know. I’m a terrible mother. But in my defense Keaton has never had the patience to sit still and work for long periods. Getting this kid to sit for a story was impossible until he was four and even now he jumps around and plays invisible swords when I read him chapters of Harry Potter. He loses interest and gets bored easily and always defaults to some physical activity involving swordplay or barrel rolls.

So imagine my surprise when his reading assessment revealed he was already working on the end of the year goal list. I have been trying to make an effort for him to read to me but man.. reading with a beginning five year old is just plain exhausting. He gets so tired halfway through that he just turns off by the end of it, making guesses instead of reading tougher words and sounding out words like “is” and “the” when he has had them memorized for months.

I really need to find some shorter books for him because I think he would get more confident if he could read in shorter bursts. I’ve tried the whole, I’ll read a page, you read a page thing, or only reading a few pages a night but the payoff just isn’t there for him then and he ends up crabby about the whole thing. I need something like the Biscuit books but more challenging and maybe with a little more stimulating subject matter. He loves Gerald and Piggy {and really, who doesn’t} but he’s read them all so many times that he doesn’t even need to open the dang book to recite the story. Of course he always wants Star Wars books but those suckers have super tricky words so I end up reading half of it for him. Right now the best ones for him are the more simple Dr. Suess ones. He can read The Foot Book, One Fish Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat and green Eggs and Ham with very minimal help from me. I’m really proud of his hard work and was so happy and surprised at how well he is progressing in reading.

Other than that? Kindergarten and Keaton are getting along swimmingly. He was sososo ready to go and really hasn’t skipped a beat since September once he adjusted to the much longer days. He loves his teacher, and absolutely adores being around people all day. I honestly don’t know how I produced SUCH a people person but wow is he ever. This is the kid I have to bribe to just gooooo beeee byyyy youseeeeelf for fiiiiiiiiive minuuuuutes, pleeeeeease. He would never ever be/play/sleep/eat do anything alone if he could help it, so school is a blessing because there are 29 other kids plus a handful of teachers he gets to spread all that love around to.

He has a half-day once a week which has been our time. I’ve tried to make it as special as I can so I pack a lunch and take him to various parks, make trips to the library or come home and play board games. Unfortunately once Ezra switches to an afternoon nap we’re going to have to switch Keaton to full-day 5 days a week which will be good for him but I’m really going to miss my time with my big guy.

Now that winter is at our doorstep, I know I have to get him involved in an outside activity. Unfortunately it just wasn’t feasible time or money-wise to keep him in dance this year. It’s been sad because he really loved it but with the dramatic increase in hours he spent at school it was the best choice for him at this point. We’re hoping to get him back enrolled in either the all boys dance group or karate and he’ll start a little basketball clinic and swimming lessons in January so that should keep him active over the coldest winter months. All-in-all it’s been a bang-up start to his formative school years.


Now for Little Miss Rowan:

As I mentioned, academics are never an issue for this kid so we don’t really worry. She is very close to being a Step 12 reader which is where the reading assessment ends {typically for end of the year third graders}. THIS IS WHERE THE BRAGGING COMES IN, if that wasn’t clear. Because I’m solely responsible for this, right? Me, the 7 year old who still couldn’t read simple sentences. Whose first grade teacher took pity on me and kept me in for recess to give extra help. I got it eventually and when I did I soared, I loved reading… but I was no Rowan. Her comprehension is phenomenal. She’ll read and {this is important} understand pretty much anything you lay in front of her.

We asked her teacher for a few reading suggestions because she absolutely devours books so quickly that I have a hard time keeping her challenged, but by the fourth or fifth one she suggested to our responses of “yep, she like that one” “read it” and “Yeah, she’s finished the whole series”, Bill was like, see! this is exactly our problem. She was stumped for a minute or two but after a good laugh she thought of a few titles Rowan has yet to read so the girl should be set for a while.

We moved on to math, where Rowan has bounced back and then some from last year. In first grade she was put in the most fast-paced math group and she struggled big time with the timed homework. They had 5 minutes to finish 100ish problems and it was really overwhelming for her. She spent the whole year getting more and more nervous about it until the end when she just quit trying all together. This kid had ended the first semester report with a strong “meets expectations” and by the end of the year she got the lowest score possible. When I talked with her teacher, who had left on maternity leave a few weeks before the end of the year, she was sure Rowan would bounce back fine, and thought the low assessment scores were due to the disruption of her leaving {Rowan was very close to this teacher and was not happy to be getting a sub}.

When we saw she was placed in the middle instead of the top math group at the start of this year we were relieved. The pressure and the pace was just too much for her very careful, perfectionist personality. She definitely has her confidence back. We did have one issue, however. The 64 question timed homework is the same sheet of  problems in the same order which they get about four times a week. They have 5 minutes to finish the sheet and seemingly overnight Rowan went from finishing in 4 and a half minutes to finishing in two and a half. “WOW, Rowan! That was quick!” “I know, Mom! Aren’t you proud!” “Yes! I can’t believe how much faster you’re doing these!” “Oh! It’s easy! See, the answers are always the same! So I know to just write 6,4 18, 7, 3, 15, 2…” “Uh… aren’t you reading the problem? “Why would I read the problem when I can just memorize the order of the answers?” “Oh, Rowan. I don’t think that’s how you’re supposed to do it.” “Why WOULDN’T you do it that way, it’s way easier!” *so much head-shaking* Sure enough, the next time she did the sheet I watched her carefully and she blew through the first three lines, having memorized the answers. Needless to say, I notified the teacher of this, um, tactic, for homework completion, and she said, “Huh. that’s the only sheet they offer because they want the kids to see the equation and immediately associate the answer. I always wondered if kids figured out that they were always the same.” Yep. Leave it to our kid. Lovely.

Last year was a tougher year friend-wise for Rowan because of the dynamic of her particular class. Unfortunately Rowan got drawn into this mid-year a bit because she really liked a few of the girls so she tried to play “the game” of who is allowed to play with who and on what day but after way too many mean-girl tactics {in FIRST grade. Seriously.} she had to give up on the group which was a tough call she made herself and she moved on to a smaller group of drama-free girls which she has very happily stuck with ever since. Thankfully this year has been awesome and her teacher said that even though she definitely has a few close friends she spends most of her free time with, she is a good friend to all her classmates and well-liked.

She has even become somewhat of a mentor to the kids who struggle. She has noticed since starting at this school that her teachers often sit her next to the kids who need a little extra help. Once and a while she’ll get frustrated by this if her seat partner is a little too rambunctious but she understands it’s because she can stay on task and be a helper even if there is a little chaos around her {this is a complete 180 from how she was when she first started school at five, she couldn’t handle ANY disruption}. One boy in particular has been having a hard time but since her teacher sat him next to Rowan, she has taken him under her wing and he’s been really benefiting from her friendship, and she really likes him as well.

This is one more reason I love this school so much. They are so big into positive attitude, reinforcement and character building as well as academics. And listen, kids are still kids. Mine make dumb mistakes all the time. They can be jerks to Bill and I and jerks to each other… we all have our days. But they are learning some valuable things about not just being a good student but about being a good person and that I’m really thankful for.

Other than that, it’s dancedancedance for this lady. She’s struggled a little bit to keep up with the flexibility and acro moves which caused a rough start this year. She kept thinking she there was just no way she would ever get them, but then, she just…did it, and no one was more surprised than her. The look on her face when came back upright after her first walk-over was “oh shit! did that just happen?!” It was pretty priceless to witness after months of failed-attempts. She has a great group of girls in her line who she really likes and has become close to one in particular so that was a big help getting through the toughest parts, but I think she’s now officially turned the corner from the “no I can’ts” to the “welp, it’s gonna be a lot of work but I know I cans”.


There you have it! These two have done such a great job. After we got the report cards, we told them we’d take them out to a fancy family dinner. “Because we’re so smart?” Keaton asked, and I had to say, NOPE. I loved all the 3s and 4s on their report cards, but it was what we saw in the teacher’s comments that got them a crab and lobster dinner. Compassionate, good friend, role model, helper. Proud doesn’t begin to cover it.

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Jammies, parade and couch snuggles all morning. I like the food as much as the next guy, but this, THIS, is the best part of Thanksgiving.

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“We’re just doing a small family party for Keaton this year. Can you throw together a quick invite to e-mail out to the fam?”

“Sure! I’m on it.”

I should have known when I saw him smiling gleefully and maniacally rubbing his hands together as he opened Photoshop that this was coming, but alas, I just. never. learn.


PS~ I would like my family members {and my son, for that matter} to note that there will be no pterodactyls, ninjas, or erupting volcanoes at this party. There will be a party sub and possibly a newly minted 6-year-old in a tutu, but that’s about all I can promise you.

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Keaton: I want to draw Obi-wan Kenobi!

Rowan: You don’t know how to draw him.

Keaton: Dad will help me.

Rowan: But dad’s not here!

Keaton, looking around, disappointed, letting out a sigh of realization and defeat: Mom will help me.

Rowan: Really?

Keaton: She’ll try her best.

Rowan: Okay, but don’t get your hopes up.

Keaton: Yeah, I know.

*    *    *

Whatever. It’s not my fault my stick figures look like dying foliage. Or maybe it is! It’s called abstract art, children, and it’ll probably be worth so much… man, I can’t even finish this sentence, my drawing skills are so crappy even my five year old knows it. Either way Keaton never asked for my help. He might have forgotten to ask but more likely decided hold out for dad.

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We’ve had sort of an ongoing saga the last few months regarding Keaton’s “tummy issues”, which is the polite name for a variety of digestive problems in our second-born. Around three and a half Keaton started having a bad reaction to ice-cream. It was just too rich for his system and it went right through the little guy. At first it was just large amounts- like if he had a big cone at a shop, but then it got so bad he couldn’t even have a bite without reacting to it. Rowan went through something similar at three but grew out of it before she was five so I honestly didn’t give it much thought, other than to lay off the ice cream for a few months. Only then things spiraled and the list of foods he reacted to grew to include cream-based pasta, then cream-based anything, then milk, butter and finally WHYGODWHY cheese. The list of foods grew so fast and the symptoms became worse and worse so I headed to Dr. Google who quickly diagnosed him with lactose intolerance.

We went full on dairy-free for a month to see if his symptoms improved. It took a few weeks but eventually he seemed mostly better which was… incredibly disappointing. In the Gunter house, cheese makes up four out of the five food groups so eliminating it from dinners was not a fun task. And I don’t know about you but a world without butter is not one I really care to live in. After a few weeks we noticed some flare-ups where a couple of symptoms returned so we, instead of trying to figure out when he had most likely accidentally been fed dairy {WHAT? WISHFUL THINKING IS SUPPOSED TO WORK, DAMMIT} , decided that it must not be dairy so we slowly reintroduced it to absolutely horrifying effects. WHOOPS. So yes, from then on we knew Keaton was definitely lactose intolerant but over the course of this past spring and summer it got steadily worse.

Now if you’re in the biz { uh, the lactose intolerance biz whatitsathing}, a lactose intolerant person needs to stay away from milk and butter and soft cheeses because their bodies can’t process lactose which is the sugar found in milk protein. This is caused by a lack or deficiency of lactase, which is the enzyme that helps to process that sugar.  The good news is that most of the time hard cheeses, yogurt and “cheese-flavored” items are not an issue because they don’t contain high levels of lactose. Unfortunately we found, they were also becoming big problems with Keaton. By the end of the summer we couldn’t figure out why his symptoms were still getting bad and finally we realized the problem was the “Pirate’s Booty” snack bags we had been giving him, which contains “real aged white cheddar”. Again, this is a fully processed food made with a cheese that should not have even affected him so we became really concerned. Swapping cow’s milk for almond milk is one thing but not even being able to digest one damn goldfish cracker? Not right.

So this sent me back to Dr. Google because not only should lactose intolerant people not have reactions to a number of the foods Keaton was having but the symptoms normally take much longer to manifest. And that’s how it was when this all started a few years ago. It would take a ton of milk or ice cream or a full diet of mac and cheese everyday for a week to get a reaction but now one bite of butter noodles or a small square of cheese had immediate effects. So on top of lactose intolerance he has a dairy allergy which is a separate thing {these can go hand-in-hand but not all of the time}. Milk allergy is an immune reaction, LI is an enzyme issue. Keaton was meeting the criteria for both so I decided it was time to retire Dr. Google and head to the other kind of doctor, you know, the one with arms and legs and a degree.

So this September we began the process of getting Keaton properly diagnosed with the secret hope of getting him “fixed” {in our house “fixed” means he can eat pizza again, which is all the sweet little thing cares about}. I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I held off taking Keaton is for so long because in my experience, and in the experience of many friends and family members, our hometown clinic isn’t known for its competence in figuring out anything more than a broken bone or strep. I didn’t want them to shrug at us or treat me like one of those moms that is looking for some nice big label to slap on her Special Little Snowflake. Eventually though, Keaton was miserable and I needed to know I was doing everything I could for him.

Surprisingly the doctor was really concerned at the severity of his symptoms and instead of giving me the “eh, he’ll grow out of it” line, she ordered a number of blood tests to rule out protein abnormalities and we were sent home with 8 {EIGHT} containers to collect… specimens… to check for unusual bacteria and/or disease. That was a really fun few days, let me just tell you. Everything came back normal, but she still wasn’t satisfied so she sent us to a pediatric gastroenterologist out in the city. This guy didn’t want to give me the time of day and barely listened as I ticked off Keaton’s symptoms knowing full well he thought I was one of those moms {and yeah, we all know at least one}. But then Keaton got up on the table for the exam…

Now, if you’ve met Keaton, you’ve probably also met his butt-crack. {I’m sorry I tried to figure out how to put that nicely, and, well, that’s pretty much it.} Since he turned three-ish, no matter what we did, we could NOT keep this boy’s pants up. I always assumed it was a genetic thing because neither Bill nor my dad have any discernible buttcheeks to speak of; their chicken-legs just morph right into their back and Keaton has the same body structure so I didn’t think about it until I noticed his tummy one day. Every morning before breakfast I’d help him dress and I’d cinch his adjustable waist pants as tight as they’d go because there is seriously nothing to this boy, he is all spindly in the limbs and his tummy is so flat it’s practically concave. But then immediately after breakfast, which would be something like, a banana and Cheerios or strawberries and waffles, his stomach would be huge. No, really, HUGE. Pregnant looking. His shirt would rise up and he would inch his pants down because they were pushing on his middle and causing discomfort. But then they’d ride low and become too loose, hence: Butt-Crack Magoo, which is what he’s known as around these parts. {I should say, he thinks his own butt is highly hilarious and doesn’t mind the nick-name, should you think we’re giving him some sort of butt related complex.}

All this to say, once that boy puts any food at all in his system, his stomach gets hugely distended, ridiculously bloated. This is the one symptom that does not clear up when we go lactose/dairy free. No matter what we put in him, his tummy puffs out. And upon seeing this, the doctor’s eyes got huge and he made eye contact with me for the first time since entering the room ten minutes before. “Whoa. This isn’t normal. That is just FULL of air. Listen!” He said of the echoing sound as he tapped on Keaton’s belly. “Uh, yeah, I know. I just told you about that. ” He then asked me to repeat everything I had just said from the beginning and after some thought we agreed to schedule an upper scope and a sigmoidoscopy to see what’s going on in there and to biopsy the tissue in his esophagus, stomach and intestines.

The procedure went really well, though I will say it is so strange and surreal to watch as your child is put under. Keaton is such an easy-going kid though, so there was no fear, no nervous build-up, only excitement over getting to watch Spiderman in his hospital room and getting to pick out which smell to give the mask as he breathed in the anesthesia. It took him longer than I thought it would for him to succumb and close his eyes and I have a feeling they didn’t give him the right dose because they told us it would take him a half hour to an hour for him to come to afterward and a very shocked looking nurse rushed to our room when it was over to let us know that “Um, so, he’s already awake and trying to sit up!” I asked Keaton if he woke up during the process or if he could feel anything and thankfully he said no, but it was cutting it pretty close.

The results of that showed he has an ulcer that is trying to heal itself but otherwise everything looked good, including normal results on all the biopsies. The two major things it confirmed was that yes, he has a severe dairy allergy and lactose intolerance and no, he does not have Celiac, which pretty much floored the doc. He said if you brought Keaton into a room of 100 docs ALL of them would immediately diagnose him with it as he “presents textbook Celiac”. I asked if I should try to remove gluten from his diet anyway just to test it {this is not something I want to do, I LOVE gluten, or rather I love food and gluten seems to be in 90% of it} which he didn’t seem too excited about and told me to hold off until we do a barium study to see if there’s anything wrong anatomically.

That brought us to this week, in which we trekked back to the hospital and had the poor kid drink quarts of that chalky crap as they x-rayed him over four hours. And again, I cannot emphasize how well Keaton took this, just happy to play his new Star wars game on the iPad as he sucked down the orange flavored barium, proclaiming it super tasty, which, GROSS. Think of McDonald’s old “Orange Drink” only thick and chunky. It might’ve had more to do with the fact that he had nothing to eat or drink since the night before. We haven’t gotten the results back yet, but the radiologist said everything appeared normal which will come as a relief to my mother who likes to remind me that her great uncle or grandpa or some such was born with an upside-down stomach and didn’t find out until he was an old man.

The dairy/LI issue will just be a part of life for him. When it’s this severe this young, it most likely means he will not grow out of it which isn’t the end of the world but it is a pretty big lifestyle change. There is no magic pill he can take to help him digest it better. Although they exist for adults, the pediatrician tells me they are all but useless and not recommended for kids. Cheese and butter are staples of Midwesterners diets so dinners are hard. Cheese and milk are huge snack items and staples of hot and cold lunches. And ohmygod don’t even get me started on pizza. Birthday party? PIZZA. Family gathering? PIZZA. School party? PIZZA. Crazy-busy run-around night? FROZEN PIZZA. Book-It reward? PIZZA. Friday night? PIZZA. You know what’s NOT fun for a five year old? Replacing all those PIZZAs with SALAMI SANDWICHes. And he loooooves pizza. I know in the kid-allergy department this is far from the worst thing to have to deal with. I can’t imagine what parent’s of kids with severe nut allergies must go through when sending their kids to school cafeterias which are packed full of peanut butter sandwiches that could seriously put their child in the hospital. I get that that is so much worse of a boat to be in than my inconvenient no cheese, milk or butter boat, but still.

The other problem you run into with kids that can’t have any dairy is that you tend to over feed them fruits and veggies, which then results in many of the same undesirable side effects that started this whole thing. For awhile the poor kid lived off of apples, oranges, grapes, peanut butter toast and hot dogs and… that’s it. What makes this suck even more is that he is my GOOD eater. He will try anything and not really complain even if it’s not his favorite. He almost never refuses food and eats good-sized portions. I feel so bad when he asks for more and all I have to give him is his 4th damn apple of the day.

I will consider my little guy very fortunate if the tests comes back normal. I don’t want something to be wrong, although if that something wrong could be fixed and this whole problem could just go away… well, that might have been more desirable that what we’re looking at now which is, pretty much no different from where we were three months ago. All the “normal” results leave us in pretty much the exact same place that we started in and I know Keaton just really wanted us to find him a way to have yogurt and pizza and cheese sticks like all the other kids in his class and nope, that’s not happening. The biggest mystery seems to be the stomach distention and while it’s not painful for him it does cause a fair amount of discomfort and once his modesty starts kicking in, a fair amount of embarrassment when he can’t keep his pants up. I’m sure I’ll find solutions for him. I guess I wasn’t too hopeful for any kind of resolve from his issues but I need to know, and more importantly, I need him to know that we did everything we could to figure this out for him. And while we wait for the answer, whether it be in the coming months or years from now, we’ll be there with him, our special little Butt-Crack Magoo.

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You watch their chicken-scratches turn into letters, into words, into sentences, into stories. You listen as they repeat words you read from books, memorize them, then clumsily sound them out themselves- going from a pained emphasis on each letter until the realization of what they are speaking takes on meaning and ta-he-e becomes “the” and ba-aaa-laa-laa becomes ball. You see the clothes that once piled up at their ankles and folded down over their fingertips travel up their legs, their arms until they are too snug and tight to force down their growing limbs. I am a witness to it all, but still, every year the results of picture day sort of shock me when I see all that mysterious, sneaky growth that took place right there in front of me.

*All photos taken by Lifetouch Photography except for the two lighter backdrops of Keaton which were taken by Elizabeth Westerhaus Photography.

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