Friday, September 21, 2018

Be Amazed

Last weekend we went to visit my husband's aunt for a housewarming get together.  I love spending time with our extended family and I love any time that my kids get to spend time with any of their cousins.

While we were there my 16 year old nephew was sharing card tricks to the range of 3-12 year old cousins who were in attendance.  I happened to pass through to check on JellieBean when Buggy asked him to show me his card trick.  I dutifully sat down and gave him my utmost attention.  He did his card trick and I immediately let out a, "Whoah! That's cool!" He looked at me a little doubtfully at first, but there was no denying my sheer enjoyment.  He leaned back and said, "That's the reaction I wanted."  He waved towards his younger cousins and said, "They just sat there. They weren't amazed."  And his cousins nodded seriously and said, "Yeah. Now show her another one." They were just as entertained by my reaction.

My nephew showed me another card trick and was pleased by my reaction. He said that I was the audience he wanted to have and we made deal that he would learn a few new ones and he would show them to me at the next big family gathering. And it struck me, "Be amazed."  I think that phrase could be said about any of the simple pleasures in life. As I read through past posts on my blog I notice that the common thread is about time passing us by too quickly. I am almost trying to hold onto time, but it slips through like water in between by fingers.  I can't catch it and I can't hold on to it. But I can enjoy it while I have it.

The littles quickly figured out the card trick and offered to show me the secret and I declined.  I didn't want to know. I wanted to be "amazed." I spend so much of my life trying to coordinate and organize my family of six that most of the time I don't take the time or feel that I have the time to be amazed. I only see my to do list and I keep pushing through.

One of the neat things about having more than one child and especially having four is that by the time the next one comes around you are a little more confident in your parenting abilities that you can absolutely enjoy the time you have with your kids. Or if you have one kid, as time goes on you realize, "You've got this" and you can relax and enjoy time with your kid and not worrying about every little thing.  I have a friend who makes the most of every minute she has with her kids. They are always going on adventures even if it's to the little beach by their house. They are looking at seashells, little creatures, enjoying the feel of sand or water between their toes.  She clutches to those small moments in time because when she at work, she has to be 100% percent on the job as a labor and delivery nurse and in that job, time is of the essence. I have another friend who works mad hours and I scroll through her instagram pictures of her time at the park, out for a meal, or out for a run with her little one.  And there are times I feel like I should be doing more of that; Just enjoying time with the kiddos and to be amazed at our surroundings and the new skills they have and want to share with me.

Peter reminded me to "be amazed" with the small pleasures.  As I sit here waiting for my JellieBean to be released from preschool, I am enjoying the clicking of the keys as I type, I'm watching the falling leaves outside my window, and I am enjoying the contented feeling of drinking a rare hot mug of tea.  I don't have to be anywhere immediately. I can take a breath and reflect. My preschooler's advice might be the best one given today, "Enjoy your time with Daddy while I'm at preschool." Even at three years old she has unlocked the secret to happiness: "Enjoy your time."

So as we hurtle through the weekend and all the activities it holds: What will amaze you?

"So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.  Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun." Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NIV)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Slowing Down

Oh, how I wish I would talk to my younger self, 11+ years and 4 babies ago, sitting with that brand new baby and say, "Nothing matters, but spending time with your little one.  He'll sleep through the night. He'll potty train. He'll learn to dress himself."  Here I am with "baby" number four and she isn't really a baby anymore. She decided at 18 months that she wanted to potty train and before her third birthday she successfully potty trained, mostly from her own doing  She's also dressing herself and getting into her seat at the kitchen table all by herself.  Where did the time go?  As I look ahead to next year and considering preschool programs, I find myself slowing down.  And the more I want to slow down, the faster the time goes. I feel like that's the theme for this blog.  Time just gets faster the more I want to slow it down and #babiesdontkeep.

When baby #1 came around I was so unprepared. Of course I read all the baby books and took the nursing class and the infant classes.  I had been around babies.  I babysit all through high school and even a little through college. But nothing, nothing, prepared me what I was in for.  The sleepless nights, crying babies who couldn't be soothed, the Aspergers/autism diagnosis for one my children, the joy I felt when they called me by name the first time, the exhaustion I felt when they don't stop calling my name while I'm in the bathroom. 

Now, with baby #4 I know what to expect. By the time she came around, I knew that she could sleep in the same room with us in a co-sleeper and we'd both sleep better. I knew that switching to formula for her to gain weight was not the end of bonding because she needed more than nursing.  I knew that she'd eventually potty-train and probably before I was ready. And I knew that she'd be on the go and that I'd never catch up once she started walking.  And now all I want to do is savor every cuddle.  On a recent trip to a crafts store to pick up materials for a project, Beanie decided that she wanted to push the cart up and down the aisle.  Nine years ago, I would have been frazzled with 2 kids under 3 and there is no way I would have let my 3 year old push the cart.  I also probably wouldn't be leisurely wandering up and down the aisles of a crafts store looking for materials for a project that I wanted to do. 

It's always easier to do things for our kids. Put their shoes on, put on their jackets, hold their backpacks, push them in the stroller so they aren't walking ever so slowly while we are in a mad rush to get to school on time.  My husband has always been so much better than I have been with teaching the kids to become independent.  He taught the first three kids how to dress themselves. He taught the older two how to get their own breakfast cereal in the morning and how to cook oatmeal in the microwave. And I am grateful.  He helped me by teaching our children how to do things for themselves. He was the youngest of five and learned how to be independent. Like in any large family, his siblings helped him and he learned to do things on his own. I came from a small family and my mom graciously did a lot of things for me.  It wasn't until I lived on my own in college that I learned to do laundry and how to cook.  And I could only make about 3 meals when I got married. Fortunately, I've learned a few more since then.

And as I sit here contemplating that the last one started preschool today and that I started writing this post 9 months ago, I have not slowed down too much. In fact not only haven't I slowed down, but neither has time.  I'm sitting here feeling a little guilty that I am going to sit and take time to write and work on some personal goals. I have exactly 90 minutes to do that. Once Beanie gets home from preschool it will be business as usual: chores, errands, making dinner, coordinating the family calendar, and the usual to-do list.  But this 90 minutes is mine to slow down, take stock, reflect, and renewal. #thisis40

Proverbs 16:9  In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday--Running Buddy

My son and I after his first 10K
Within the last year, my oldest has taken up running races with me.  Usually it entails him rolling out of bed minutes before I leave, scarfing down a quick breakfast, and totally smoking me in the race.  At the end of his first race he said, "Mama, where were you? I was waiting for you and I was getting a little worried because you were taking so long!"  Yeah, kid, I run a LOT slower than you do!

Ever since that first 5K race, we realized that he is a natural runner and has run several 5Ks, a 5-miler, and most recently a 10K with me. And by "with me" I mean, we travel together, the starter goes off, and he's gone.  Several times he has said that he'll start with me and then take off. Hasn't happened yet. I think the adrenaline gets to him and he's gone.

I registered him for rec Cross Country. He only has to run a mile and I told him that it was good for him to work on his speed work.  We have a 5K to sign up for and I realize that it is less than 10 days away and I really should sign up for it ASAP!  I am happy to have a running buddy and that my sweet boy has found something that he enjoys.  He enjoys the race and his aunt made him an awesome bib hanger/chalkboard where he can write down his race times. I love that this is something that he and I can do this together. I strive to look for something to do with each of my children and to partake in their interests. Whether it's racing with #1, coloring in our favorite coloring books with #2, playing legos with #3, or watching Cinderella over and over again with #4. As they age, I'm sure their interests will change and I hope I can keep up.

Friday, September 8, 2017

First Week of School 2017

We are finishing up the first week of school.  I think in some ways I was more nervous than the kids.  We have a new schedule with the oldest starting middle school. He is on his way to the bus stop by the time I wake up the other kids.  He is probably finishing up first period before we even walk out the door to make it school.  Hubby has committed to taking Boogs to the bus stop in the morning which is a huge help.  I have even been able to work out a few mornings before I had to wake up the house.  I even had breakfast every single morning before I took the middle kids to school. This is a huge win because there are many  mornings where I have walked out the door without breakfast only to realize I'm starving at the end of my workout.

Boogie has had a pretty good week. He did forget his binder yesterday and Hubby came back to the house to grab it and made it back just in time before Boogie grabbed the bus.  I don't think I have mentioned it before but Boogie has been diagnosed with a learning disability and has an IEP. The last two years have been difficult with a case manager who just didn't do her job and this is by her own admission during a transition meeting. I mean, Seriously????  Already this year, Boogie's case manager has contacted me every day about things here and there and has checked in with him  She has made the transition to middle much smoother.  Boogie struggles with organization and executive functioning. As a result he has already forgotten to turn in his summer homework and has started cramming papers in his backpack. She has already started working with him on his organization. Amazing. It's like night and day between last year's case manager and this year's case manager.

Buggy is starting 3rd grade and we're blessed that she has fantastic teacher.  Boogie had her in 3rd grade and we are thrilled to be with the same teacher this year.  Buggy has just a few friends in her class this year. That will be a challenge, but she does get to see the rest of her friends during recess. She is already looking forward to signing up for her favorite after school art class and this year she wants to join the chess club.  Yes, to all of this!

Mr. Bananas had a much harder transition.  We were thrilled to find out that he has another fantastic teacher.  She taught Buggy in first grade and we are thrilled to have another kid in her class this year. Even though he had the teacher he wanted, I knew something was up when Mr. Bananas ended up in our bed every night since coming back from the beach.  The morning on the first day of school was atrocious as he woke up in a terrible mood, screaming at us, slamming doors, and basically losing his mind.  I knew it was just anxiety, but my patience was up when he slammed his bedroom door and I found him sitting in bed reading a book instead of getting ready for school.  He pulled it together and ended up have a great day. He hasn't been in our bed since, so it's safe to assume that he's more comfortable with starting first grade.

I think Beanie has had the hardest time.  All of her favorite playmates are in school and she is the last one at home. She so desperately wants to go to school.  After we dropped off all the kids at school. I went upstairs to get something and found her sitting on the floor facing the tv, which was turned off, rubbing her blanket and crying quietly.  When we snuggled she told me she missed her "sib-bings."

As the week has gone on, the mornings are smoother, and I'm finding that the earlier wake up time with the first born is allowing me to get a little bit more done during the day, whether it's an early morning work out, washing all the dishes, or putting in a load of laundry.  I miss my big kids, but I know that they are in good hands.  I'm relishing my mornings with the "baby" and looking forward to getting more done during the day.

It's Friday so tonight will be a yummy dinner followed by family movie night.  Boogie and I will get up early tomorrow for his first cross country practice and we are all enjoying a rare quiet weekend before all of the weekend activities begin in the next couple of weeks.   We're still transitioning which means tired kids, earlier bedtimes, and a quiet-ish weekend. And as I write this, Hubby has nixed family movie night because the kiddos are so tired.  We'll try for tomorrow night.

As the school week draws to an end, I am grateful for all the teachers who work so hard to provide an positive learning environment for their students.  I am grateful for the teachers who have my most precious babies in their classes.  I am grateful for the the administrations that support their teachers. Here is to a happy and healthy new school year.  Peace be with you.

Third grade and first grade, here they come!

Buggy, ready for 3rd grade

She was all smiles until she realized that they were leaving her 

"I miss my sib-bings"

After school picture. They came home with smiles.

Enjoying an after school ice cream treat.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Babies Don't Keep

Family pic with my parents
 We've only been home 4 days since coming home from our beach trip. And already, I am busy with appointments, prepping for the first week of school, fielding email, and honestly, just sucked into social media (bleh!)  Social media really is my weak spot. I like catching up with what's going on with my friends, but I'm finding myself losing time.

Last week was wonderful week spent with my parents and my father-in-law.  I loved this multi-generational beach vacation. It meant that my children were able to spend some quality time with their grandparents. And as close as we live to my parents, I wish my kiddos were able to spend time with them a little more. My father just retired, so maybe we'll get to him more often. And no, I don't mean for babysitting. I mean just to see him and spend time with him.  My mom still works full-time, so that's a little harder.

Grandpa and the kiddos
One of the best parts of our vacation is that we do not turn on the tv and I spend way less time on my phone.  I ran almost every single day of vacation and it was glorious.  During the week we put together a puzzle, went out for ice cream, browsed the local bookstore, and listened to audiobooks while playing games. My kids had so much fun playing Uno. The giggles were great. We also did one night of Settlers of Catan.  I swear my big kid really draws out the game because he likes to negotiate every time it's his turn. It drives me a little batty. But overall, it's a good time had by all.

And it's during vacation that my big kids get up without complaint to catch a sunrise. My dad started this tradition last year. And yes, it's becoming a tradition. The big kids like that they get this special time with Lolo and Lola.  It's so special to them that they don't want me to miss it so my Buggy asks me to catch a sunrise with her on another day.  I thought she had forgotten this year, but sure enough two days before we left she asked me if we could catch the sunrise. She even invited her older brother along.  It was so worth it.  We headed to the beach. I saw that it was cloudy, but we got to see the sunrise and it was glorious.  I appreciate that my sweet daughter thinks of me and tries to make me slow down and appreciate the here and now. She encourages me to be present even though my mind is racing with all the things on my "to-do" list.

On the last morning, I had woken up early. I planned to finish packing up the house and getting it ready. I was relishing a little quiet time before I had to wake up the house.  But sure enough, my sweet daughter was already awake. We opted to eat breakfast together on the back stoop and we spend our time chatting. I asked her how she felt about the impending school year. While she is excited to have the teacher she wanted, she was nervous about some of her academic struggles.  We were able to go through them, talk about them, and come up with some ways to address them this school year.  If I had gotten to eat breakfast solo as I had anticipated, I would have missed this precious time with my girl. It was time she needed with me to reassure her, to comfort her, and for her to have one-on-one time with Mama.  It was so good to spend that time with her.

As my kids start another school year: 6th grade (read: MIDDLE SCHOOL...EEEK!), 3rd grade, and 1st grade, I'm really starting to feel my time with my kids slowly slipping away.  I'm way too busy and I'm way to preoccupied with what needs to be done.  Being at the beach gives me that opportunity to slow down.  But that is only one week.  In the next two weeks, my kids will begin their fall activities. Their Saturdays will be filled with meets and games and their evenings filled with homework.  Somehow, through all that, I need to find carve out time to be present and to be with them.  Thankfully, we sit down for dinner together every night. Hubby is trying to make it home earlier, but most nights it's just me and the kids.  And I am grateful for this sliver of time to be with them and to hear about their day.  When they say "Babies Don't Keep" they weren't kidding.  May you find time for the people you love and to be present for tomorrow doesn't keep.

Monday, August 28, 2017

True Love

Always my Superman
My husband and I recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.  We were babies when we were married.  Just graduated from college and working real salaried jobs.  I remember Hubby's father interviewing us before our wedding asking if we knew what we were getting into, to which I replied with, "Of course." He said the real answer is, "No. No we don't."  He was so right. We thought we knew what we were in for, but really we had no clue. I don't know if anyone really knows.  Were we ready, yes. But did we really comprehend what we were doing. Heck no.  It has been a roller coaster of emotions and events over the last 16 years.  And yet, 16 years later, we would still do it all over again.  It was the right decision then, and it's still the right decision now.

When sharing my experiences about true love with some of the teens/young adults that I mentor, I tell them that true love is not flowers and fancy dinners.  True love is your spouse washing vomit filled sheets at two in the morning.  It's tag teaming each other when every single person in your family of six has the stomach flu and no one feels well and everyone is vomiting. You take turns sleeping and cleaning out vomit buckets. It's finding out your 8yo came home with a head full of lice, stripping all the sheets, treating everyone's head, and then picking nits out of each other's head at midnight.  It's looking across the dinner table and laughing at an untold joke. It's being able to read each other so well that few words are needed.

True love is not the fancy stuff, it's the nitty gritty life stuff and doing it together. It's knowing that you can rely on your spouse and that your spouse can depend on you.  I wouldn't give up the last 16 years and I look forward to many more of life's adventures with the love of my life.  It doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to be with him.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where do I Fit? I Don't Know.

I know. I  have written sporadically. I actually do keep up on The Discombobulated Mommy Facebook page.  It's not every day, but I still keep up and share pictures.  These days, I rarely find the time to sit and write out full blog posts. I miss it.  I miss writing regularly. I have so much I need to record and yet, life keeps me busy and I have so little to time reflect, ponder, and absorb. Maybe that's what I need to do more.

So what has prompted me to write this current post?  I just found out via Facebook, that I am a bit of a unicorn.  Yes. A unicorn. I find that I don't ever quite fit neatly into a label.  I'm too liberal for my conservative friends and I am far too conservative for my liberal friends.  Often I scroll through Facebook and I cringe and scroll on when I read such posts as: "All Christians believe..." "All Pro-lifers don't..." "All Republicans are..." Fill in the blank.  Usually when posts lump you in with "all" it's not a good thing.  Although I consider myself a writer, I don't feel that I am always articulate. Passionate, yes. Articulate, no. And therefore I rarely jump into the social media arguments.

So about 3 years ago, on Facebook, I posted a link to an inflammatory article about Planned Parenthood and those who support it.  I posted the article because of the very last sentence, "We have to care." That was the one line that truly resonated with me.  I was raked over the virtual coals by friends who were insulted and incensed by what I had chosen to post and I was asked to think very carefully about my audience and maybe I just shouldn't post those types of things. Most people didn't read the article because they were so ticked by headline.  After 3 days of going back and forth on Facebook on this one particular post, a lot of good discussion came out of it though in the end we still agreed to disagree.  Three years later, I am still hurt by what people said to me and how harshly they said it.  My heart still pounds when I think of that article and my face still flushes with embarrassment.  I never meant to insult anyone and fortunately one of my friends (who still disagreed with the article) pointed that out.  I am frustrated with myself for not being as articulate as I wanted to be and having such a thin skin and not standing up for myself a little better.

So I bring you to today.  In two days we will have a new President.  There has been a lot of frustration and anger as what our country has done by electing Donal Trump as our new president. And speaking with friends, many didn't vote for him or for Hillary Clinton.  I was frustrated that the candidates I wanted to vote for weren't around by the time it came for my state to put in their vote. So I was left with two people who I felt did not represent me. But I still voted.  As per usual, I voted with an significant issue in mind.  I voted for life. I voted for a possible third party candidate who had a pro-life platform.  Alas, he did not win. But at least I tried. I voted.

The day after the Presidential Inauguration, there will be Women's March.  Many of my friends started posting about it and how they wanted to be a part of it. I warily looked into. So many good reasons to go. So many voices to be heard. So many important topics to support and I would be proud to support them.  But again, I watched the posts on Facebook from several friends and groups. I was invited, along with others, to walk with local women, many of them personal friends. And yet, I hesitated.  I continued to watch, read, and listen.  And more and more I felt like I didn't quite belong.  You see, and what you have probably have already deduced is that I am a pro-life woman.  And at the time that the beginning preparations for the march were happening, that probably didn't matter.  So what?  But you see, as a pro-life woman, it is often asked why wouldn't one support women's rights? How could I, as a woman, not support other women?  But did you know that you can still be a feminist and be pro-life?  And actually, I wasn't sure if you could.  I knew that I was, but I knew others wouldn't consider me a feminist, so I doubted my existence.  I allowed other people to label me and set me aside solidly into one camp. It didn't bother in the sense that I was still going to support women's rights, but I would also support the rights of the pre-born.

Over the last few months I have read personal heart-wrenching stories from women about why they are grateful abortion is legal and why late-term abortion should be legal.  I wept.  I wavered in my position. I wondered and still do if there can't be a better way to support these women so that they don't have to go through still-births, horrific miscarriages, and instances where they felt that abortion was the only possible choice for them.  And I don't have an answer.  It doesn't mean I've stopped looking for one. But it does mean that I am working harder at supporting women at all stages.  Being pro-life means that we look at the whole and not just the birth of the baby. It means supporting the mamas who have made the decision to keep their babies even though their circumstances were less than ideal.  Being pro-life means providing better and affordable health care for women and the men and families who support them.  Being pro-life means, advocating for better mental health care. This one hits personally as I am who struggles, sometimes daily, with depression.  A depression that can be so profound that it has tipped to the side of suicidal thoughts as recently as two years ago.  How can I be pro-life while at the same time contemplating my own suicide.  Paradoxical isn't it?  It happens. Again, I don't fit into any one box.

We so often link pro-life advocacy and pro-choice advocacy as if they go hand in hand. But pro-life is more than just the birth of a baby.  It is  the support of life throughout various physical and mental challenges, and I am talking about the every day person, not just infants.  And I believe that being pro-choice is more than just abortion. You may disagree with me. And that's okay. Which brings me to my point.

Women are angry and frustrated with the politics surround them.  They want to march in Washington, Chicago, New York, and wherever a group of women can get together and support their ideals and values.  We want you to HEAR us. But I unfortunately found out through social media that I don't exist because I can't be pro-life and a feminist, and because I don't exist, I don't have a voice. And that is frustrating to me. So I won't be marching.  Organizers have decided to make a pro-choice platform a very big one and as a result have dissolved a partnership from one of the pro-life feminist groups who applied and was granted partnership for the march.. Oh, wait, you didn't know that there were pro-life feminists groups?  Neither did I until recently and that is when I found out that I was unicorn.  That there are others like me who feel strongly about women's issues AND the life of the pre-born.  But I digress. I am sad and frustrated to know that we as women, have alienated one another at a time we should be walking in solidarity. That we are not allowing every voice to be heard in partnership with the march.  Yes, the pro-life feminist groups will still march in solidarity. But they will not be considered a partner. And that is is to me a sad commentary of what this election has done to our country. It has divided us when we should be united.  Let us be heard.  Let all the voices carry weight.  And let us do it with compassion, empathy, and grace.

As I struggled about what I could do and what I wanted to do and how I wanted to approach the post election days and years to come, I know that I wanted to still be a voice.  So, I personally have decided to put my head down and work.  Work to help others. I will choose to be kind, to support other people, and to work for social justice. I realize that I don't need to be loud. That's not necessarily my personality either. But I can still donate diapers and wipes to the pregnancy center. I can make baby blankets for new babies. Afghans for new mamas. I can provide meals for a homeless shelter. I can provide food for a food pantry. I can bring my children and teach them do the same.  And we do it in solidarity. We do it to provide support in whatever way we can.  Sometimes quiet servitude is all that it is needed. There will always be someone more articulate, louder, more knowledgeable than I am. So instead of being flustered or insulted or labeled, I will simply be Heather. A mother. A wife. A writer. A slow runner. A person who is often discombobulated and lacks organization or the ability to keep to a schedule.  A person who will always struggle to know the value of her self-worth, but will work at it each and every day. A person with great passion. And I will try to remember to do small things with great love. And I humbly ask each of you: no matter what you believe in, please approach each day with great love and compassion. We are called to serve one another. I think we will find that when we serve one another, we will begin to unify and heal our hurting country.

As Always, very humbly yours,
Heather, The Discombobulated Mommy

Sunday, April 10, 2016

She is Worth More than Rubies

Giving my mother-in-law a rose as a part
of our wedding mass
On Leap Day this year,my mother-in-law passed on from this life and went to be with her Savior.  It was only 7 hours from the time I heard the news that she was going to the hospital and to the news that she had passed away. My sister-in-law Becky texted all of her siblings and their spouses to let us know that when she went by to visit her mother that she was disoriented and not feeling well so Becky called 911 and Mom was transported to the hospital.  At the time we thought she was dehydrated because Mom had thought she had a stomach bug and hadn't eaten or had much to drink prior to when Becky came to visit.  But as time went on the prognosis was not good.  Mom had had a heart attack sometime after the paramedics came and they were able to resuscitate her. The doctors did find that she was bleeding in her abdomen and immediately began prepping for surgery. However, as they prepped, they realized that they wouldn't be able to repair the bleeding artery and that my husband's mother was dying.  We received another text minutes after Hubby came home from work saying that the doctors recommended everybody come to the hospital. Within 15 minutes my husband was changed out of his work clothes, grabbed some food, hustled out the door and drove 45 minutes to be with his family.  Around 11pm that night, I received a text from my sweet husband telling me his mother had died.  I cried.

Hubby and his mom during the mother and son
dance during our wedding reception
It happened so fast and it was so unexpected.  The grief that surrounded us was numbing and the all of it seemed surreal. This could not be happening.  But it did happen. My husband had lost his mother and my children had lost their grandmother.

I was lucky and blessed to have had a wonderful mother-in-law.  She accepted and welcomed me into the family. My husband is the youngest of five and the last one to be married.  My mother-in-law treated me as if I was one of her own children. She shared her love of books and her strong faith with me.  She introduced me into Diana Gabaldon's Outlandish world and she prayed for me during my conversion into the Catholic faith.  She came to the hospital after the birth of each of my children, usually being one of my first visitors. She and Dad came with flowers and arms ready to hold small bundles of joy.  She cherished each of her 22 grandchildren and did all she could to spend one-on-one time with each one for their birthdays.  Mom loved being a grandmother and she was good mother-in-law.

Grandma with her 13th grandchild, Boogie
As the days slipped by one by one, my husband and I were gripped with a grief like we had never felt before. Life seemed much more vulnerable and fragile.  My husband grieved silently and spent many days with his siblings and his father preparing funeral arrangements. After a few days he spoke and shared his version of what he saw and experienced in those final hours.  My heart broke again. It was difficult to be strong for him and keep up with daily routines for our children while I also grieved.  My husband is an amazing man. His strength and tenderness are incredible.  He wrote and shared his eulogy at the funeral.  He mourned. He grieved. He met each day getting by one hour at a time.  His grief encompassed him and I felt like there was nothing I could do to ease his pain or his grief.

I also grieved and felt that I could not lay claim on the grief I had.  I felt that it could not belong to me because it was not for me to take.  It was not my birth mother who had died. Yet, I grieved. I had known my mother-in-law for nearly 20 years and she was a constant in my life. I grieved for my husband. I grieved for my father-in-law. I grieved for my sisters and brother-in-law. I grieved for my children. And I grieved for myself.  When I finally allowed myself to lay some claim on the grief, the pain eased.  But it eased in miniscule increments, like water droplets.

Grandma with her 16th grandchild, Buggy
I was touched to be asked to be one of mom's pall bearers during the funeral.  I cried as I, my brothers-in-law, and my sister-in-law walked Mom down the aisle towards the front of the church.  My sweet baby took tissues and wiped my face when I came to our pew.  My husband gave his eulogy during the wake.  My sister-in-law Mary sang and cantored the funeral service. Every person in our family had a part in the funeral service.  My two youngest greeted the visitors.  My big kids handed out programs. My oldest brought up the eucharist with his cousins.  My in-laws and husband walked Mom up and down the aisle for the wake.  We all had a part. We were all included. Every grandchild was given a part to be a part of their grandmother's exit from the physical world.  It was humbling, loving, inclusive, and sad. And sad doesn't even begin to cover it.

Grandma and Grandpa with their
19th grandchild, Mr. Bananas
When my family embraced our grief and accepted it, it was then that we were able to move on.  It doesn't mean we don't greet each day with a bit of sadness.  It meets us at unexpected times.  It comes over us.  It passes over us. It kisses our cheeks. And then it slides away, but it doesn't go far. It's always there. It lingers.  Through this sadness my husband and I have clung to each other a little more tightly. The kisses goodbye when he leaves for work are more tender. Our hugs are a little tighter. We say "I love you" in greeting and in passing.  We hold hands a little longer. We snuggle in a little closer on the couch.  All in the effort to remind each other that we are together, that are we there for each other, and that we are doing this life together.

We feel more vulnerable. More exposed. More fragile.  So therefore, we hold on a little tighter.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Grandma with her 22nd and last grandchild, Bean.
Hubby and his parents on our wedding day
Hubby and his parents at his graduation

Monday, November 23, 2015

Give a Little Grace

This morning as I waited at the school's doors waiting for them to open so that my daughter could enter I noticed a long line of cars in the parent loop.  The idea is that the parents drop off their children and then move on allowing the cars behind them to pull up and do the same.  This morning there was a car in the first slot in line and she was just idling. The cars behind her became impatient and started to honk. They couldn't get around her as there were large orange cones blocking their path and for good reason. If they weren't there the parents tend not to pay attention zoom around the car that is "too slow" and it's a recipe for disaster.  However, as it was still early and the staff member that monitors the parent loop wasn't out yet. Impatient cars were honking and the cars were lining up. Looking out into the street you could see the long line of cars in either direction. Without the cars moving through the parent loop, other cars could not get in and well, it results in loooooong lines of cars, impatient parents, and antsy children.

My friend and I were watching the increasingly angry event and decided to give a hand. While my friend spoke to the parent, I moved the cones and started directing cars to move forward and around. Mind you, I was holding my one year old and I was praying that the frustrated parents wouldn't be in such a rush to move around the waiting car that they would zoom too quickly by and nick us.  One parent was hesitant to move forward I asked if he had enough room to get by. He assured me he did, but I could see that he was debating about whether or not to approach the parent. I wished him a Happy Monday and encouraged him to keep moving. One parent pulled up to me and told me that the waiting car shouldn't be there and someone needed to tell her to move. My friend already had and I told him I was just a parent like him and not staff so "Have a happy Monday and move on."

Finally the assistant principal came out and spoke to the mother. Come to find out this was her first day of doing drop off and her little preschooler needed a one on one to escort him in.  She looked and sounded frazzled, there was miscommunication, and she was getting increasingly upset as she waited for the staff member (who never came out) to assist her.  It was all a miscommunication.

All I could think was, "Oh, that poor woman. She must be frazzled and slightly embarrassed and frustrated." She is dropping off her most precious heart to school and the long line of cars behind her were showing her their irritation and frustration.  And I thought, "Folks, grant each other grace."  How often do we move through the day irritated and frustrated with the person in front of us in line who is taking too long, the child who is moving too slowly because he wants to do "by himself!" the person crossing the crosswalk with 4 children and doing it slowly as the 4 year old wants to hop across instead of walking briskly...and the list could go on.

As we get ready for Thanksgiving and head into the Advent season where the stores will be crowded, the lines will be longer, and the sugared up children will be slightly more off as they are overstimulated by the lights  and sounds that accompanies the Christmas season, remember to grant each other grace. Greet each other with a smile and friendly hello. Hold the doors open for each other, be patient with one another, and grant each other grace.

Peace be with you as we head into the preparation of celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  2 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mama's Heart Breaks Just a Little

My sweet and goofy Boogie
We've been through some big transitions in the last year.  Bean was born just a little over a year ago and while I was learning to navigate post-partum and mothering 4 children I had to learn to navigate the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) process from the other side of the table. Being an educator, I knew the process, being a mother who has a child who may need an IEP is a whole different story.  Since preschool I had had some concerns over my son's development.  Things weren't clicking for him as I thought they should. More than once I was told that he's doing "just fine." But that didn't work for  me. You see, I could tell that he was bright, but there was a disconnect. Even though he was reading and processing and comprehending above grade level texts, he was still doing letter reversals in his writing. His handwriting was horrible and he had a hell of a time with executive functioning and following multi-step directions.  So in my 2nd month of pregnancy we started down the road of having him tested.  More than once I was told that he could be on the spectrum.  What spectrum you ask? The autism spectrum.  And quite frankly the developmental pediatrician said that my sweet Boogie walks a fine line.  He said if Aspberger's was still an independent diagnosis and not lumped under the very wide umbrella of autism, there would have been a chance he would have diagnosed Boogs as having Aspberger's. But now the diagnosis would be high functioning autism because of the way it's defined in the DSM.  But at the time, the pediatrician didn't have enough data to make that diagnosis.  He said that Boogie definitely has dysgraphia (difficulty with writing) and he is diagnosed with that.  We will have to do further testing and evaluation if we want to determine definitely if Boogs is on the spectrum.  Right now, we decided to wait.

I bring this up because this has been a tough year trying to understand my son a little more and trying to support and guide him a little more. Meeting his needs and giving him the tools and skills he needs to navigate life.  Academically he's aces.  Socially and emotionally he needs a lot more help.  So we did the IEP process. We had him assessed through the school and from their point of view he came up with NOT being on the spectrum, but having a lot of difficulty with executive functioning.  His writing disability came up. We also found out he's effing brilliant. I don't say that easily. I knew he was bright, but it came up over and over again, "Do you have any idea how intelligent your son is?" I nodded and said, "Well, I know he's bright." It wasn't until I had in my hand his results that I realized that my son is not typical. Not in any way.  And as my husband says, "Why be normal?"  He can't tie his shoes, but he can give you every single detail from every single book he has ever read. He can give you specific stats on just about every animal.  His background knowledge blows me away and often I have to say, "I don't know the answer to that, let me look it up." But he can't follow more than one direction at a time. He can't put together legos. He can't see the forest for the trees. As a result of the testing and giant discrepancy between his cognitive abilities and his writing abilities Boogie was given an IEP. So that we're clear, they (being the school system) don't hand out IEP's like they're candy. They are actually hard to come by and the school systems have a lot of keeper of the keys and they are kind of stingy about handing those out. So imagine my shock when we didn't get a 504 plan, which is lot easier to receive, but an actual IEP. My son has goals, a case manager, accommodation, and support where he needs it most.  Not only that, he was also tested as part of his application to attend a program for the highly gifted students.  So Boogs is academically in the top 3% of 4th graders in the county. (I had no idea until someone else told me the stats). So now we have an IEP and now we are switching schools to meet my son's academic needs because as it was gently put to us, they can't meet his needs at his home school because his academic needs are above his peers.  So we accepted his acceptance and now Boogs attends a school that is a 20 minute bus ride away.

I thought it would be easier. I thought that since he had an IEP he would get the support he needed while his learning was enriched. I LOVED his old school. I loved the teachers and the administration.  I felt supported, I felt like they KNEW and UNDERSTOOD my child. And they did.  They still ask about him when I go to pick up my daughter.  But every school is different. My husband will tell you our home school is like a warm hug. It is welcoming. The new school is all business. No warm hug there.  It's just very different.  We struggled this first quarter to get this case manager to follow Boog's IEP. I was told over and over again, he doesn't need the support as outlined. Nonetheless, they need to follow the IEP until we review and deem it unnecessary. After a meeting and some strongly worded emails, we are getting a little more support. Not a lot, but more.

And then, my son missed his bus this week. Not once, but twice. He missed the bus coming home.  Because of Boog's difficulty with executive functioning he has come to rely heavily on his peers. He observes routines and situations and sets into place things that will help him. When those variables change, he has difficulty going with the flow and putting in new support systems. So this week the teacher changed the seating in the classroom. End of the 1st quarter so everyone got new seats. No big deal, right? Well unbeknownst to her and to us Boogie has been relying on the two girls at his table to know when to leave for the bus. They never told him to get up, but he noticed when they left the table and he would just follow them to make it to his bus. Well now no one at his current table takes his bus. His cues are no longer there and as a result he missed it when his bus was called. TWICE this week. The second time he was just beside himself sobbing on the phone.  I calmed him down and drove the 20 minutes to go pick him up.  And here, this where my heart breaks just a little. So Boogie needs help. When Hubby and I asked him what he could do to ensure that he could make it on the bus he said he could ask his classmates/bus mates to tap him when they leave to catch their bus. Okay, so it's not taking full responsibility, it's still relying on others to help him. But it was a strategy. I found out last night that he asked a bunch of kids and most of them said, "no." They said "no." That's where my heart broke. They just said, "no."  Some had after school clubs and wouldn't be taking the bus everyday. But others who don't just said, "no." "No, I won't help you." What?  So my heart broke.  And today while relaying the story to a friend I broke. I cried. The tears that had been threatening since last night spilled.

I realize I hate the new school. I hate the lack of support. I miss the warm hug and welcoming smile.  It's so closed off and business like. So my heart breaks and I struggle with how to best help my son and support him.  In my head I go back and forth about whether or not to pull him from school. For now, I won't. He belongs in that program. He needs that enrichment. He needs that higher level of learning.  He needs that push.  But he also needs compassion, support, and guidance. I will strive to give that to him from home.  I will strive to teach him to be that kind of person who says, "Yes, I'll help you" when someone asks for help because, quite frankly, I don't want to raise an asshole. And boy it is hard to raise kids who are kind, caring, and compassionate. To some it comes quite easily, and to others, it's a skill that needs to be taught.  So I pray that I will have the tools and skill to raise my children so that they are not assholes. Don't we all want that? So let's do it.