Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Only a Year

Ladybug, 1/13

Ladybug, 12/13

How do you measure a year?  How do I measure this year, especially?

Turkey, 1/13


Turkey, 12/13

3,650+ diapers changed.

Turkey, smiling during diaper time

1,461+ sippy cups filled.

Ladybug, waiting for the plane and armed with sippies

2 times at a hospital bedside waiting on a child to wake up from anesthesia.

Ladybug, sedated in Billings

3 kitchens packed and unpacked.

Etowah kitchen, #2 of 4 kitchens in 2013

3 church homes.

Bridwell Heights Presbyterian, Kingsport
Fairview Baptist, Athens


Glasgow Evangelical

2 girls' first steps.

Ladybug
Turkey

2 SUVs purchased, 2 cars buried.

The Flying Dodgeman, RIP 04/14/13
"Don't laugh, it's paid for" Camry, RIP 03/17/13

Patty the Pilot

Nikki the 4Runner
 2 dogs surrendered.

Fritz & Kraut during move from Church Hill to Etowah

8 pediatric specialists.

Waiting on a skull doc
 730 good nights & I love yous.

Turkey

Ladybug
Countless books read.


Sometimes the day goes on forever.  It feels like there is no end to the diapers, the sippy cups, the toys in the floor, the runny noses and tangled hair.  The dishes are always piled up, the laundry is always a mountain, and the floor always needs vacuuming.  The list of "should do's" always feels longer than the "doing good on's."

But this time last year, neither girl could say a word.  This year, they can both say what they want.  Neither could walk.  This year, not only are they walking but climbing.  This time last year, I was bashing my head trying to get both girls in the back seat of a '96 Camry.  This year, I climb up into a Pilot to load them in car seats.

You never know what a year will hold.  If you'd told me this time last year that I'd be sitting here now, temps barely above 0, with who knows how many inches of snow on the ground (I've not gone outside to measure!), I'd have said you were nuts!  Time moves on, whether we want it to or not.  Enjoy the things that are good, knowing they'll pass... and endure the things that aren't so good, knowing those will pass too.  God knows what the next year holds, and He will give us the grace to get through it!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

On an eve...

For the last time, I find myself on the eve of a gender discovery.  Tomorrow's the big day, when we find out if this is Baby Girl Pedde #3, or Baby Boy Pedde #1.  The sad part is, I am far more excited about the OB giving me an inhaler and some antibiotics for some serious bronchitis if not pneumonia than I am about finding out whether or not we'll be inundated with more pink!  Such is the affliction of a 3rd child, I suppose... or else it just goes to show how sick I really am!

At least this kid gave some mighty kicks visible from the outside today, which I appreciate since that lets me know that despite my misery, he/she's doing just fine in there.

I ordered Turkey's special book today; poor thing is getting a used library edition since apparently the book is out of print.  Oops.  If this turns out to be a 3rd girl I'm not sure what book I'll get for her; most "special" books tend to be about moms and sons.  We've not read every book in our new library's children's section, though, so maybe I'll come upon another good one.

But, I think I'm going to get a copy of The Runaway Bunny for all three kids.  I don't remember ever hearing this story before we were given the Mechanic's childhood copy shortly after Ladybug was born.  I don't think we owned it in my childhood home.  The first time I read it, I was a tad disturbed. "I will become the wind and blow you to where I want you to go."  Um... not my role as a parent.  I felt the Mama Bunny was rather controlling, and at the time, I found any form of control revolting.  But the more times I read that book, the more I understood... "if you run away, I will run after you, for you are my little bunny."

That's it.  That's my parenting philosophy, plain and simple.  Counseling, mental health, addiction, abuse... where they run, I will run after them.  Whatever it takes.  For they are my children.  And that's what I want to get across to them.  They will grow up, they will make their own choices, they will make mistakes.  And I will love them.  And I will be there.  Whether or not I like their choices.  Whether I approve of their career.  Whether I approve of their spouse.  Whether I approve of their child-rearing.  Whatever the case may be... if we need professional help, we'll get it.  That youtube video of the girl in the abortion clinic calling her mom?  Heaven forbid my girls walk that path, but if they do... I want them to know that I will come for them.  And cry with them.  And love them through it.  That there is nothing they can do or say to take away that love.

And I know I'm risking reaping a whirlwind by saying these things.  Because life tends to take funny turns, and the problems of the parents tend to multiply in the children.  And the things we say are challenged more than we'd ever dreamed.  But I want it said.  I want it recorded.  So that on those days when they are driving me up the wall, when they dump half their antibiotics on the floor, smash goldfish into the carpet, and get me up 6 times a night, I'll remember.  So that when they are teenagers, with attitudes and hormones and strange friends & horrible music, I'll remember.  So that when they are "adults" and I don't believe it, and they're making choices and I'm thinking they're crazy, and they're telling me all the stuff I did wrong in raising them, I'll remember.  I'll remember the love that started with that first positive test, the first glimpse of a flickering heart on an ultrasound, the first time I felt each of them move, the first time I heard them cry... a love that grows deeper as it grows more difficult, a love that grows more fierce as they challenge it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Fly

"Look at Mommy.  Look at Mommy's eyes."  I point to the bridge of my nose, between my eyes.  And Ladybug points to her nose, without making eye contact.  

She turns her head.  I turn with her.  She looks the other direction.  I stay in her face.  She looks up, I move my head up.  She looks down, my face moves right with her.  

Eventually, for a fleeting second, her eyes lock with mine.  "Good job, we can read the book now."

And Llama Llama Mad at Mama gets read for the 3rd time today.  And I really just want to fly away.  

I want on a plane to someplace warm and sunny.  A beach would be nice.  Someplace I'm not fighting to keep the drafts out.  Some place it doesn't take 15 minutes to get the kids into their snow suits and mittens and where they don't fall flat on their faces 3 times on the way to the car, spread eagled in the snow, unable to move thanks to all the layers I packed on them.  

I want to fly away from this world of fighting for eye contact.  It's been a week, and I'm tired of it.  I'm sick of almost every interaction becoming a battle for that elusive skill.  And I read the books in hopes of finding a reason she doesn't have it.  And sometimes, I find hope.  Other times, I read the list and realize they're describing my child without ever having met her.  I'm used to the idea of fighting for eye contact during discipline, or from a teenager, but when they just want to read a book and you still have to fight for eye contact... it's draining.  It's a constant reminder of something I don't want to be reminded of.  

I want to fly to a normal world.  To a simple world, of a toddler's questions, of constant "what's that?" and "why?"  Where the coming month is filled with holiday parties and wrapping gifts and singing carols, not with developmental assessments and autism centers and therapy.  I long to fly to a world where I hear a childish rendition of Away in a Manger sung by my own child.  I'd even settle for Itsy Bitsy Spider sung next to the Christmas tree. 

I want to fly to a place no plane could ever take me.  But since I want to fly to a dream world, I might as well make that dream world include a beach. 

Stop:  That took way more than five minutes, mainly because of a one year old shutting herself in the bedroom, the one and two year olds using moving boxes as stools and not always staying upright, a reading of "Where's Baby's Belly Button?," and a couple loose shoes. Thankfully, the only hard and fast rule is to leave some encouragement for your link-up neighbor.  Come join us at Lisa Jo's blog for 5 minutes (even if it's spread out over an hour) of writing without obsessing over perfection.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Mother's Reaction to the Journey to Answers

I'll admit, I shed some tears that night.  I'd figured I would, no matter what I was told; pregnancy makes me prone to crying.  But after battling to get her to bed that night, when I would talk very seriously to her and she'd just smile and laugh, I began to loose faith that this is just normal toddler behavior.  I began to realize how out of control I'd begun to feel, that I was losing the ability to reach my child, to connect with her.  And it may be normal, I don't know.  I've never had a toddler before.  And every child is different.  But having yet another person say the word, and losing all my arguments against it, my defenses crumbled.  Because my arguments against it aren't from a maternal instinct of what is or is not true about my child.  They are from a selfish instinct.  The instinct that says, I am not ready to be the parent of an autism spectrum child.  That I can't handle a mental problem.  I feel I can do surgeries.  I can do medical.  I may not want to do it, but I feel confident that I can learn to manage medical situations.  But mental... psychology was my least favorite and worst subject in nursing school.  I didn't get it.  I hated those clinicals.  I want to understand my child.  And I don't understand autism, or PDD-NOS, or auditory processing disorder, or any other diagnosis that might be on the table right now.  And that scares me.  How can I raise a child I don't understand?  That thinks and processes differently than I do?

And my reactions in the past week weren't helping my thoughts.  I'd gotten so frustrated that it felt like I was talking to a brick wall.  That we weren't able to do a simple task that she'd been capable of doing just the week before while she was in her "lights on everybody's home absorbing everything" phase. (She does this every so often, times when it seems like she can hear and she reacts and responds and is, well... normal.  And they always give me hope that she's going to catch up soon.  And then she goes back into her world, often for months on end.) And I remember thinking, sitting there in the floor surrounded by Cheerios, that I hoped she had a hearing problem so that I'd know that the reason she was sitting there staring blankly and not moving was because she wasn't hearing my instructions.  She was just in her own world...

And I've said that so many times.  She's just Ladybug.  She's in her own world.  Leave her in her own world and she's perfectly content.  Interfere in her world... she might take kindly to it and she might not.  But I don't want her to be in her own world.  I want her to be in my world.  I want her to see what I see, hear what I hear, enjoy what I enjoy... I want to connect with her.  To understand her.  To know her heart.  Not in some sort of controlling way, but in a loving way.  So that I know how to help her.  And I think that's what scares me the most about this journey we're embarking on.  That I won't know how to help her.  That she'll be beyond my reach.  That she'll stay in her own little world, and I'll be shut out.  And when she's frustrated, and crying, I'll be clueless to know how to reach her.  That what I do will only make it worse.  And that kills my mother's heart.

Today, the llama and sheep and goats came to our side of the field, and got up on the dike so that we could see them.  I grabbed the girls and went out in the chill, bare feet and all, to see the "amina" (animals).  I sat them on the porch railing, and we watched them.  And they watched us.  And we talked about the llama mama, and the sheep that say baa, and the goats that say meh.  And she smiled.  And she and I looked at the same thing without effort.  And she repeated the names and sounds.  We connected.  Side by side, not face to face, but I'll take it. And I treasure those moments.  Because yesterday, nothing I did could reach her.  We talked.  We disciplined.  We distracted.  And nothing worked.  And I felt that distance so keenly when Turkey stopped sobbing and melted into my shoulder the instant I picked her up, pure love.  Some of that, I'm sure, is just toddler.  It's two.  Or personality.  I was never a loving child.  But I can no longer hold fast to the idea that there is absolutely no other issue with her outside of pure medical science.  Because I don't know.

And what little reading I've done has said one thing loud and clear: early treatment is the closest thing to a cure you'll get.  Waiting only makes things worse. So when our EIst called this evening to ask how quickly we wanted to move forward, I told her to go for it.  I want the assessments done, all of them, to get as much information as possible so that we can help her the best we can.  I've heard of autistic kids "slipping away" and I don't want that to happen.  I don't want the feeling of not being able to reach her to get any more frequent or desperate than it already has.  If we do the assessments and she's negative, awesome.  But we have to know... we have to try.  Even though it hurts so bad to admit it.

The Journey to Answers...

So I'm unsure how much to record here... detailing the lives of our children is a new problem my generation of parents faces.  Before, the most you'd do was in baby books and journals, which could be burned if necessary, but now what we record is forever saved on some hard drive or cloud or archive that I don't understand.  So if things disappear from here, I may be moving them to a more private location, or deleting them from the readily accessible web.

Our time in Billings was much more productive and overwhelming than I'd anticipated.  We saw five different doctors in addition to the sedated ABR.  So here are the results...

The ENT was great; tall and skinny so I guess he reminded her of the Mechanic since she let him pick her up.  He cleared her for anesthesia and made sure her ears were in good enough shape for testing, since she had a cold.  He mentioned a possibly dairy allergy... apparently dairy allergy can cause problems with hearing/ears without other strong symptoms like anaphylaxis. With her peanut allergy and eczema, other allergies may need to be considered, especially with the amount of dairy she consumes.  Something to check into...

The audiologist was also terrific.  She was able to do the sound booth test, which Ladybug failed, checked her tubes, which are functioning fine, and was even able to do the ear-bud test that we'd tried twice and hadn't been able to do.  But, the results, while not as bad as the soundbooth, were still abnormal enough to justify doing the sedated test, so off we went to meet the anesthesiologist.  Amazingly, Ladybug had only asked for milk once despite being NPO since 8pm the night before.

The hearing test was functionally normal.  There is a mild hearing loss in a certain range of frequencies that does not impact communication, either the ability to hear voices or to learn to speak.  So, we have no need of hearing aids; yay!  They do want to continue monitoring her hearing because of the cranio, I suppose, and the partial hearing loss to ensure it doesn't progress into something that would affect her.  But for now, her hearing is essentially normal.  When I say her name, or give directions, or say a word, she is hearing me.

The question then is, why are we not on track with her communication?  Why has that consistently been behind?  When I asked the audiologist who performed her test, she told me that we don't know precisely what she is hearing, only that the sound is reaching her brain and the brain is reacting to it.  She may be "misinterpreting" the sounds... whatever that means.  I don't know if she can misinterpret to the point of hearing Charlie Brown adults, or if misinterpreting means she doesn't recognize the difference between my voice and the hum of the refrigerator.  But, regardless, the problem does not lie in her ears.  It's not a simple medical issue.

Physically, she did great with the anesthesia.  They had to stick her at least four if not five times for the IV, which they finally got in her foot, but thankfully I wasn't there and she was already asleep at that point.  They gave her Versed to chill her out before the procedure so they could get her sedated easier, and it was actually kind of funny.  Poor little thing was sitting in this giant hospital recliner with her doggie Wubbanub, and her bunny, and her new hippo the surgery center gave her, and she started just falling over to the side.  She'd get this glazed look, and then she'd rouse and try to babble or watch the cartoons, but then she'd glaze over again and start slumping.  I told them I needed a prescription for that stuff to go home with!  It'd sure make car trips a lot easier!

Our cranio clinic was the part that was a lot more than I'd expected, but that was a good thing.  I feel confident that these people are going to do what is best for Ladybug without me having to hound them every step of the way, persuading them that something is going on with her.  Our first visit was with a geneticist; despite the known genetic mutation, we'd never seen a professional in this field.  He took a detailed family history regarding the cranio and any known developmental delays, and found it interesting that despite multiple cranio patients in the family, developmental delays have not been an issue for anyone except the first to have cranio, whose mother was told he was going to die because they didn't know anything about cranio or the surgeries to correct it.  He wants us to come to a genetic clinic in his office to discuss further testing to search for other mutations that might explain the delays.  He said even a small inversion can be enough to cause problems, and with one mutation already documented, the idea that others might have problems isn't far fetched.

The second visit was with the actual cranio surgeon.  I was so pleased... while I didn't get exact answers, I got someone who is going to dig a little to figure out how best to help Ladybug.  He had a great bedside manner with Ladybug, interacting with her to try to make her comfortable.  The most refreshing thing was he said we had done the right thing as parents to push to keep her monitored when we felt something was wrong.  It was so encouraging to hear that we've not lost our opportunity to fix any problems, and that he's looking past the textbook cranio of "obvious within a few months, surgery in the first year, or no problems" to consider the strange history of our family.  He differentiated between "functionally closed" and closed sutures, which cleared my confusion regarding when sutures are supposed to close.  They "close" around 2 years of age, but they are not "functionally closed."  They are able to continue expanding until a person is in their 20's. So the question is going to be, are her sutures "functionally closed" or did they just close early but are going to continue allowing her head to grow.  Right now, her head is at the 50% which is great, although I need to look back and see what her head circumference percentiles have been from the get-go.  He is going to obtain the actual CT images rather than just the reports to decide for himself if he thinks there might be a problem with compression of the brain.  Compression could cause delays, and would need to be dealt with.  He's going to see her again no later than 6 months, sooner if he sees something in the CT that needs to be addressed more quickly.  (This is the CT from this past January.)  Depending on what he sees, she may need an MRI to check the brain itself.  That means another sedation... sort of hoping that isn't needed!

The last visit, and the most overwhelming, was with a developmental pediatrician.  She wasn't originally scheduled to see this doctor, but after hearing a more detailed history from us and interacting with her they felt she needed to be seen.  I'd thought of trying to locate a developmental pedi after the practically normal hearing test of the previous day, but wasn't sure how I would find one being in Glasgow where we're short on actual pediatricians.  I have no problem with family doctors, that's who cared for Ladybug for the first 18 months of her life, but when you get to this point you need something a little more detailed.  Thankfully, that was worked out for me without me having to say a word!  This doctor observed Ladybug while asking us some questions and reviewing her history, and then asked "has anyone mentioned the possibility of autism to you?"  I cringed.  Yes, they have, and I've pushed that possibility out of my mind and out of her charts.  I was insistent that we not consider that until we dealt with the medical issues of hearing.  But now that hearing is off the table... I couldn't push it away any longer.  But I had to argue, just a little.  She's affectionate.  And Ladybug conveniently hugged the Mechanic's legs to prove my point.

And the doctor agreed, yes, she's physically affectionate, but not mind affectionate.  Huh?  Normally, I'm on top of the terminology in medical offices, but this one I'd never heard.  She pointed out that Ladybug had yet to look either of us in the face, wasn't making eye contact, wasn't watching for our reactions.  She admitted she'd only been observing for 5 minutes, but we couldn't argue... since birth, eye contact has rarely been there.  It's so rare, it seems normal to me, at least for Ladybug.  But when Turkey came along, I realized what a difference there was... she and I locked eyes at less than 2 hours old.  And the eye contact is long, and frequent.  I've noticed the difference, and I've tried to dismiss it... Ladybug's older and has grown out of eye contact.  Or come up with some explanation.  But apparently my explanations aren't right... she should be having eye contact, and she's not.  We discussed her social interaction, or rather, lack of social interaction.  And the doctor suggested we have her do a detailed developmental assessment, coordinated through the early intervention network but using the resources of a different region than what we're in.  I thought we'd had quite a few assessments, but apparently this is different.

But, as devastating as just the mention of that word was to me, the doctor left us with hope.  She gave us a task: don't give Ladybug anything she wants until she makes eye contact.  She told us to get in her face, to move with her, until she looks us in the eyes, and then immediately reward that.  She said if we catch this, whatever it is, at age two, we can teach her appropriate social interaction.  If we wait till she's school age, it'll be too late; she'll be set in her ways and we won't be able to change her.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Though the Fig Tree Does Not Bud

Call me melodramatic if you wish.  Or just call me an emotional pregnant woman in pain.

The next few days hold a lot in store for my little family.  This pregnancy is proving to be, like the other two, a tad worrisome.  This particular doctor isn't concerned, on the other hand, he isn't the one constantly wondering if the little heart is still beating or if the blood and pain are signaling that there's a problem.  Of course if there is a problem, there's very little that could be done about it anyway, since bed rest isn't exactly an option when you have two toddlers.  So I'll just keep watching and waiting and praying and hoping for the day when I can feel definite jabs and kicks and squirms to let me know things are okay in there.

I head to Billings tomorrow, and Ladybug will be having her sedated ABR on Thursday.  It's going to be ugly.  She can't have anything to eat or drink after midnight, but we have to see the ENT and the audiologist before we can go to the surgery center, and her procedure isn't scheduled until 1230.  That's a long time for a child that is constantly wanting milk and saying "hunry."  And as much as she hates doctors now... I feel sorry for our fellow patients, because I doubt I'm going to be able to control the screaming.

And then Friday she'll see her new cranio doctor.  We'll get that second opinion we've considered several times.

On one hand, I don't want my child to have a hearing problem.  I don't want her to have to have hearing aids.  I don't want her to have surgery.  I don't want her to have to get put under yet again, and have her hair shaved off, and have a big scar, and go through all that pain.

On the other hand, I am tired of wondering why.  I'm tired of the delays, the frustrations, the fluctuations in understanding that she has.  I'm tired of wondering if she's not picking up the Cheerios because she can't understand what I want her to do, or if she's not picking up her Cheerio's because she's being a typical stubborn disobedient toddler. I'm tired of stomping my foot or clapping my hands to get her attention and people looking at me like I'm treating her like a dog.

I fear that we may get no answers.  I fear that we may get answers with solutions that aren't pleasant.  There's no good end to this.  And yes, I know that's the worst possible way of looking at things.  Once again, pregnant emotional hormonal in pain woman here.

I want a simple, pain free fix.  Cheap fix would be good too.  In short, I want a miracle.  I want her to wake up and suddenly be all caught up.  For her head to be just fine, for her muscles to be strong, for her words to be clear, for her to be able to answer a simple question like "Where do you hurt?"

Sunday, in a guided prayer (which was new to me), we were instructed to think of someone in the Bible that God did something for.  And then we were supposed to praise God for His grace towards that person, and for His grace towards us.  Immediately I thought of the many examples of children being healed.  My God is capable of that.

And then the sermon was about how we react to unanswered prayers, prayers that aren't answered the way we want in the timing that we want.  And we went through example after example of people who prayed, and who God didn't answer them with an immediate yes.

This of course left me thinking, how am I going to react as I'm driving back Saturday?  Any news I get is going to be difficult.  And with this pregnancy, what if the pain continues?  What if something happens to this baby?  What if I get some sort of unexpected news at my next appointment, or my next ultrasound?  Will I be able to say, as Habakkuk said,

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Truth

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather at Lisa Jo's blog on Fridays to write with abandon for five minutes.  Only steadfast rule is you have to go visit your "link-up" neighbor and leave them a pleasant note.  When the anger and hate and drama of the internet gets me down, this is a place of comfort and encouragement!  Come join us!

Start:


Do my actions make the truth clear?

Does the tone of my voice, as well as the words, speak the truth that I want my girls to know?

Or is the truth lost in the muddle of frustration, anxiety, and exhaustion?

I never wanted to say "you're driving me crazy" to my kids.  But I did.  And when I plopped them in their beds and came back out and sank into the couch, I wanted to take it back.  Because while it's true, it's only a tiny piece of truth.

What is so much bigger is my love for them.  How, even on the craziest days, this is what I dreamed of as a little girl.  How I wouldn't trade my time with them for all the pillowtop mattresses and microfiber sofas and solid wood end tables in the world.

What truth do they hear?  My oldest is having a major hearing test done next week, a kind that requires sedation.  So she may not even hear all my words.  What she does "hear," are my facial expressions.  My grip on her arm that conveys "you're in trouble young lady."  My "why are you up?" expression instead of the "I'm so glad you're here" that I want her to see.

How much of the truth do they see in me, and how much is just clutter?

Stop

Friday, October 18, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Laundry

I did laundry today.

It was wonderful.

Wow, now how often do you hear that said?

You have to understand... I have been without a washer and dryer of my own for two months.  Two very long months.  Months of toting the laundry through the alley to the laundromat.  Months of quarters.  Months of trying to remember which machine actually works efficiently.

I had taken my own in house washer and dryer for granted.  I hated laundry.  But I had it easy.

Now... I don't enjoy it, really. But, I look at those machines, and have three thoughts. After this week, the first is, at least I'm not in a puddle or riverbank beating my clothes with a stick.  The second is, these two machines are evidence that God answers prayers, even for washers and dryers.  And the third... Will I ever get caught up, cause this family makes a lot of laundry!

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather each Friday at Lisa Jo's blog to write, without obsessing over perfection, just letting thoughts flow from a single word prompt.  Come join us!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Smart?

Someone said my child was smart today.

I was speechless.

I didn't know what to say.  I'm ashamed of what popped into my head.

I've bought into the "tell a kid they're smart and they won't work as hard" mentality.  So I focus on "good try."  Or "I'm proud you're working so hard on this."

But outside our little house... smart is still the word.  I hadn't thought about the lack of it bothering me. Until I stood there, at a loss for words, because someone called my child smart.

A refreshing point of view, and yet, a dagger through my mother's soul.  How do I view my own child?  I can get so bogged down with the problems that I don't see what she can do.  I focus so much on getting her to put two words together that I don't enjoy the way she says the one word unlike anyone else, or I don't appreciate how she signs please so often her sister thinks it's a sure way of getting a bite of what we're eating.

How to balance realism with hope, knowing what needs to be worked on with what can be celebrated?  I haven't figured it out yet.  Some days, I can think of little else.  Others, I convince myself we're normal and everyone else is advanced.  And who defines normal anyway?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

Back on the kindle... computer died, again. Good grief.

Go

Some days, I long for ordinary. No moving. No packing and unpacking. No doctor visits besides well child checks. No therapy. No specialists. Just waking up, drinking coffee, doing laundry, fixing dinner, reading a book, and going to bed. Day in, day out, no surprises.

And there are days I try to deceive myself into believing that's my life. And I procrastinate the packing. Or I try to convince myself that I'm ordinary and everyone else is weird. That struggles and problems are normal.

And truthfully, they are. Because of sin, problems are ordinary. Yet, I sometimes resist that thought. My problems are special. Even in little things, like being on time, I let myself think that I shouldn't be expected to arrive on time, after all, look how young and close in age my kids are.

Nothing new under the sun... others have walked this path. I'm not alone. And while my problems, my doubts and fears, my struggles, are just ordinary, there's an extraordinary grace and love that can carry me through.

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather at Lisa Jo's blog to write without obsessing over perfection. Come join us!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Question With No Answer

Why?

This is one of those posts in that category of not special needs, but special needs.  Where I talk about how my life as a parent isn't what I thought it'd be.  Where I find myself in offices I didn't think I'd ever be in, discussing problems I never knew existed outside the NICU.

It's more than just "why my kid?"  Definitely far more than "why me?"  It's like asking "why does digestion occur?"  I'm not asking for a great philosophical explanation.  I'm asking for the mechanics, the building blocks of stomach producing acid and the muscles contracting and the cells absorbing.  I guess I'm asking "how" as much as "why."

Because it seems like there's always something.  And while I knew when we received the FGFR2 mutation diagnosis, we could be spending time in offices I'd hoped to avoid, I didn't anticipate the broad range of issues we've encountered. I don't think I could have.  Because it's not like all of these issues are linked to cranio.  If they are, it's not documented in any research article I've ever read, and I've read a bunch.

And of course, I wonder if there's something I did.  Did I not heat the lunch meat long enough?  Was it that hot dog that gave me the stomach ache?  Did I not control my sugars well enough?  Was it the stress of that horrible summer?  Why is this child the way she is?  Why does she have to struggle?  Why does her body just not function the way most bodies function?

I want a simple answer.  I want a diagnosis.  A gene.  Something they can point to and say "this is the cause of all the problems, because they're all linked."  And most importantly, I want them to say "and here is what the future looks like.  Here are the other things that might happen and what we can do to help avoid or treat them."  I want a blueprint.  I want a syllabus.  I want a map.

I don't do well at this fly by the seat of your pants thing.  I like a flight plan.  I like to know what's going to happen, when it's going to happen, and what I need to do to prepare.  I hated surprise outings on weekends as a kid.  "Where are we going?"  "It's a surprise."  "What do I need to wear?"  "Clothes."  "What kind of clothes, outdoors or indoors?  Active or sedentary? Seeing lots of people?  Dirty or clean?  Do I need food?  Should I bring a book?  How long will we be gone?"  "Just get ready."  Argh.  I hated those kind of trips.

Yet, that's exactly the trip I'm on.  I'd like to imagine that the rest of my parenthood will be smooth sailing.  But it won't be.  I'd like to imagine that her muscles will strengthen, her hearing will be fine, her head will not change, her development will go away, and nothing new will come up.  But after the last two years, I know that's about as likely as pigs flying.  And it's frustrating. Because I want to prepare, to study, to ready myself for what's ahead.  But that's not how life is.  It's especially not how life is when your child isn't "normal."  And who defines "normal" anyway?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bitterness

In honor of being real.

Needy family moving to town, in need of bed and dresser.

There I was, in church, looking over the bulletin.  And a giant green monster rose up inside me.  The green monster of... bitterness.  Wait, green monster is supposed to be jealousy you say?  Well, sometimes behind that jealousy is a root of bitterness.

Why should they get something for free?  What qualifies them as needy?  We only have an air mattress.  No dresser.  Why should someone give them what we're living without?

Bitterness.  I've seen what it can do.  It's a blackness that can creep through families and destroy.  It can suck the joy out of life.  It can bring gloom that lasts longer than any unending winter.  It seeps through your body and infects your mind and your heart.  And then it finds its way out of your mouth.

In our small group, we spoke of the calling of the first disciples.  How Jesus called them to follow Him, and they immediately left their boats and everything and followed.  And we were asked what that must have been like.

Leaving everything is hard.  I didn't leave everything.  I left most things.  And some days, it angers me.  It irritates me when I have nowhere to put clean clothes because we left our nice dressers behind.  It makes me upset that I sleep on the couch because I can't sleep on an air mattress with another person.  It frustrates me that one of us has to sit on a step stool for dinner because we left our table and chairs behind, and I could only afford to buy a card table with two chairs, and a booster seat is tied to one of them.  And the laundry baskets.  That part makes me mad.  It makes me irate.  It makes me see red.  I had a lovely laundry organizer, and two hip baskets, and two baskets for diapers and kids clothes, and a convenient bathroom hamper, and a pretty hamper. And we didn't bring them. Now, I have a college style mesh hamper that is impossible to carry one-handed and is falling apart because it's not big enough for a family of four.

At this point, we've been without most of the stuff in our UBox so long that I don't even remember what's in there.  Except I know that everything I've mentioned above is not in there.

And I find myself focusing on what I don't have.  What I used to have, and no longer have.  What I'm having to spend money to replace.  Used to, I could say to myself, you really don't need anything right now.  It'd be nice to have some decorations, and pictures on the walls, and a centerpiece, and some wreaths, and a new couch, but you don't need them.

But let's be honest.  Laundry hampers are just about a need.  If you don't have them, I'm not sure how you're supposed to deal with four people's dirty laundry.  It's driving me crazy.  "Honey I need whites done."  "Well, where are your whites?"  "I don't know."  "Well, I'm not going through that explosion of a room in there.  If you want your laundry done, you have to get it to me."

Yeah, that's not good for marriage.

And of all things, the sermon was on peace.  He started off with the example of wondering where peace is in the midst of kids going crazy around you.  And then he gave several other examples of where peace can be lacking.  I identified with almost every one of them.  Money.  Family relationships.  The state of the nation.  How to parent our kids.  Common stressors.

So how do I go from the seeds of bitterness to having peace?  Because I don't believe peace is a Pollyanna attitude.  It's not a stick your head in the sand either.  It's not denial.  It's deeper than all that.  And as the sermon title said, I don't get it.

Some days, I do.  I think I've documented some of those days on this blog.  But right now... yeah.  I'm not there.  I'm not sure where I am, but it's a long way from the smooth waters of peace.  As I said in small group when asked if we were in the boat with Jesus, or on the shore trying to figure out what He's talking about, I asked can we be in the sea?  Somewhere between the boat and the shore?  Drowning? Cause that's where I'm at.

No ending this blog post with some cheerful thought or spiritual insight.  Just being completely, honestly real.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Write

I've always wished I could draw.  Or paint.  Or do something creative like that.  Something to express what I see.

If I can't draw, I wish I could write poetry.  I wish the words would just flow in this beautiful river of expression.

I've wished for an outlet.  A way of expressing emotion, thoughts, all the things that jumble themselves up in my head until they scream for a way to get out.  A way to express beauty, happiness, anger, sadness, loneliness.  A way to simply get it out of my head.  And yet, a way to be able to look back as well.

I can't draw.  I can't paint.  I can't write poetry.  I can't sew anything creative.  I can't even make much with Play Dough besides a snowman and a snake.

So in college, I started a blog.  Just a place to put down my thoughts, my opinions, the songs that were speaking to me.  Occasionally, I'd write a story.  A short page, but it was enough to release the emotions that were pent up.  The hurt, the betrayal.  The slamming doors.  The silence.  Writing helped to quell the pounding of my head.  It didn't stop the ache of my heart, but it at least calmed me to the point I could think straight.

That was back in the Xanga days.  Now, I tend to just write about everyday events.  What the kids are doing.  What our family life is like.  Yet, even in that, just by expressing what I feel about these simple things, it helps to process what's going on in my life.  And the part I love most about writing, even simple things, is that I can look back 3 or 4 years later and realize how much God has brought me through.  It reminds me that even when I felt that overwhelmed and frustrated, He came through, even though I couldn't see it at the time.

This is why I write.

STOP

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather at Lisa Jo's blog every Friday to write about a prompt word, without worrying about perfection.  Come join us!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Five Minute Friday: True

I actually have a real computer and keyboard this week, and I miss Five Minute Friday!  The email showed up on Thursday, and while I read it, I somehow missed that it was the FMF post... my brain is gone!  Ah well, better late than never...

True

Wuv, true wuv...

Yes, I hear true, I think Princess Bride quote.  I'm such a geek.

True love.  The kind of love that doesn't get posted all over Facebook about just how awesome your husband is, how your heart goes pitter patter when he comes in the door, how you're so madly in love with him... Because while your love may be real, it's not always going to look like that.  

Some days, true love is going to be wiping a child's runny nose because your wife has already done it 50 times that day.  Some days, true love is going to be leaving the coffee maker set up so all she has to do is touch a button rather than have to deal with scooping grounds in a half-asleep fog.  

Some days, true love is five loads of laundry at the laundrymat.  Some days, true love is a roast in the oven.  Some days, true love is eating dinner even when it's burned.  

Some days, true love is keeping your mouth shut.  

It's not always about flowers and chocolate.  It's not about the romantic mood and dinner by candlelight and steak with wine.  It's about thanking God for His blessings and then picking the sippie cup off the floor and reminding your toddler not to throw food in the floor and getting sweet potato out of the baby's hair and then, somewhere, in the midst of all that, finding out what happened in your spouse's day.  

They don't make coloring books showing this side of love.  They make coloring books full of beautiful flowing evening gowns, updo's, and dancing, with a fair amount of candlelight dinners and passionate kisses thrown in the mix.  I guess the nose wiping, coffee making, knee-deep in toddlerhood love isn't very coloring book worthy.  

True.  Real.  Changing diapers true love.  Warming the milk when I really think you should learn to drink it cold true love.  Reading the same book for the 10th time today true love.  

When you think about what true love is, when you remember that true love isn't all rosy cheeks and staring into the eyes of your spouse or child, it frees you to admit that it's hard.  It's not natural.  The initial fluttery feeling may be natural, but the day to day real life living... that's hard.  It's easy to love when the house is clean and everyone's well behaved and the dishes are done and a beautiful dinner's on the table with candles.  When life doesn't look like that... well, thank God for other women who are willing to admit the truth that you don't have to have it all together to have true love!

Stop

Written as part of community of bloggers who gather at Lisa Jo's blog, usually on Fridays although it's okay if you're late, to write without being hindered by perfection.  Simple rules, write for five minutes, give or take, about a word, post your link, and then visit your link neighbor's blog to leave some encouragement.  Come join us next week!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Five Minute Friday: She

She.  Safe. Healthy. Empowered.

That's what the book said.

She. Stressed. Harried.  Exhausted.

That's the reality.

She.  The very word brings to mind so many roles, so many places and relationships in which she is supposed to be.  Mother. Daughter. Wife. Friend.  So many areas to fail.

The dishes aren't done, the dirty laundry is piled and the clean hasn't been put away, supper made the smoke alarm go off. The children have snot down to their chin and one has crayon fragments in her diaper while the other attacks the door like a tiger trying to get out of the cage she's been locked in all week. Out of touch with friends, not doing a good job at making new ones. Family in shambles.  Spouse neglected and misunderstood.

She.

She wonders if it's like this for everyone.  If it's just her that's messed up this badly.  If things will ever change.

The brown and desolate miles surrounding bear down into her very soul.  And she weeps.  She gives in and allows the gloom to spill forth, finally acknowledging that she's not okay. She's not as strong as she needs to be.  She's not at home here, and she despairs of ever really finding home.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.  
He leads me beside still waters. 
He restores my soul.  

She. Secure.  Held.  Embraced.  In the love of her Father.

STOP

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather on Fridays to write from a prompt word, without obsessing over perfection. Come be encouraged!  Lisa Jo's blog.

Still on my kindle... hence my absence the last two weeks.  Within a month... keyboard! I hope!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Introvert's Dilemma: Facebook Friends vs Real Friends

Friends.  How do you make them? Do they just happen, or does it take effort?

Do you ever feel you've forgotten how to make friends?  

In this age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and numerous other social media sites, we're constantly connected.  We find out what people say they're thinking, what they want us to know they're doing, what current events they have opinions on. And we share the same.  

It's perfect for the introvert.  Controlled interaction.  Lots of information that lets us feel involved, but with the ability to turn it off at any time.  Someone irritates us? Block their feed.  Someone posts non-stop?  Change their status to"only important posts" so we see if they take a trip or have a baby, but we don't have to see what they ate for dinner. 

There's no hanging out.  No smalltalk. No beating up on your kids or dripping spaghetti sauce on your tablecloth. 

But can you really make friends this way?  Can you make friends without it? 

Having just moved to a place where I knew no one, I find myself thinking a lot about friendships.  At what point do they move from acquaintance to friend?  I'm Facebook "friends" with one person from this area.  The rest I only interact with face to face.  And I find that challenging.  Because, as an introvert, I hate small talk.  I don't understand hanging out.  I don't shop in a pack, can no longer spend hours on the phone, and don't enjoy parties.  

I've spent time evaluating my ability to develop friendships, and there's really only one time I made friends.  In school, I had lots of acquaintances but really only one friend that lasted.  But it was at my first college that I truly made friends.  Why?  The intensity of campus life.  Tiny campus, we all took the same classes, so we all had the same exams and papers.  Common stressors.  We were in a jello mold; we ate together, lived together, went to church together.  We had common things to talk about, and common struggles, and we opened up to one another and helped each other along.  It was beautiful, and ugly.  It was community.

In my other colleges, life was much different. They were bigger, and I'd lost the illusion of being in one place for four years.  So I put no effort in. At two colleges, I put in anti-effort; I was there for a degree, I wanted top grades, and I didn't want relationships to get in the way.  I'd been burned, I'd been told friendships were part of why I was failing, so I eliminated them. 

So what now? I've lived in three locations, and haven't truly built community anywhere.  I'd just started when we left our home of three years.  And now, in our fourth home, I find myself at a loss as to how to even start.  There's no safe place.  Little common ground.  And there's the added dynamic of children; my kids get shoved around.  So in order to keep them from being traumatized, I find myself spending "social time" ensuring my kids aren't getting walked on, literally and figuratively. 

How do you make friends when you're broke and only have two chairs, one of which holds a booster seat?  How do you develop relationships when most of what you know of someone is what's in their grocery cart is nothing like what's in yours?  Can you become friends despite differences in discipline, in beliefs, in practices?  

It's so much easier on Facebook and birth boards than in real life...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Forever

I walked into the concrete building with a leash wrapped around each hand.  A couple was at the office window so I waited my turn.  I noticed the poster on the wall, titled "Forever."  I scanned it and agreed with most of it.  Until one bullet point.  "Not just until you move."

That sent me over the edge.  I'd been crying off and on all morning, but I'd composed myself for the short drive.  But there, in the hallway, I lost any composure I'd had.  And when the couple left and the lady asked how she could help me, and I opened my mouth, all that came out was a sob.  And she said, "I'm guessing we're here for a surrender."  And all I could do was nod.

You see, I was at the Alger County Animal Shelter in Munising Michigan, with our two beagles, Fritz and Kraut.  And the next morning, the Mechanic and the girls and I were leaving for Montana.  And we had nowhere to go when we got there.  I'd called every landlord in town and in the neighboring towns trying to find a place to rent that would allow dogs, with no luck.  I'd communicated with humane societies and rescue agencies trying to locate a foster home until we could buy or find a pet friendly landlord, with no luck.  We'd had family members in Michigan ask around about foster homes with no luck.  I'd explored every option I could think of for the previous month and nothing had worked.  We were down to the wire, and there just weren't any options left.

I'd looked up the shelter online and found they were essentially a no-kill shelter.  And as I sat in the office the lady explained that there weren't any other dogs in the shelter and that they'd find good homes for them.  They would be fed better food than they even got at home.  The young man assured me as I said goodbye that he'd take good care of them, walk them and such.  I knew they were in good hands.  I knew they were better off than they'd ever be in a Tennessee shelter, what with the overcrowding and difficulty in placing hounds.

But it didn't make it any easier.  Even now, I'm typing through tears, and that's hard to do on a kindle.

I was told I could come back to see them before we left the next morning, but it was too much.  I couldn't stand to see them behind bars again.  I'd gotten them out from behind bars, and it was killing me to leave them there again.  I even sent the Mechanic down with their crates because I couldn't stand to see them locked up.

As we drove out of town the next morning, I made sure to not look towards the shelter..  But the next day, somewhere in the middle of North Dakota, I got a call.  It was a man, who with his wife had just adopted Kraut.  I tried not to tear up since I was driving, but it was such a relief.  Yet, there was something bittersweet too... he said Kraut was following his wife from room to room, and it was a little hard to accept that someone else was going to be getting his affection.  Today, nearly three weeks from when I left them, I talked to Fritz's new family.  I'd worried about him, that he was still in the shelter, and so I was relieved to hear he'd been chosen by a family.  The same bittersweet feeling... someone else will be greeted by that wagging tail and his "I'm so glad you're home now feed me please" look.

Sometimes, forever is cut short.  Sometimes, despite everything you try, a move does mean the end.  I hope that a future shelter or wherever we get our next dog, when we own a home, can understand that.  I hope that they can understand, sometimes, forever means forever in my heart.



Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Worship

One day, I will feel the joy of keys under my fingertips again.  I like buttons; touch screens are overrated.  But here goes, week 5 of FMF kindle style.

Worship

The lights flicker to signal for people to find seats.  The amps get turned on, the electric guitar straps are hung over shoulders, microphones are checked.  And we worship.

Across the country, a few hours earlier, a piano plays a classical piece with strains of a hymn strung across the complex chords.  An ancient tune and even more ancient words rings beneath the steeple.  And they worship.

In the time zone in between, a piano plays, but its tune is a little newer.  An acoustic guitar accompanies, and ancient words echo through the gym to a tune written by some college students a few years ago.  And they worship.

Worship.  Nothing to do with the building.  Nothing to do with the musical instruments.  All to do with the heart attitude of the people, who gather to worship together.  Young moms learning to worship in 30 second spurts in between settling sibling squabbles and retrieving rolling pacifiers.  Elderly learning that it's okay to sing sitting down.  Middle aged folks putting the battle of the teenage years to the back of their mind and hoping some bit of the beauty sinks into the heart of the slouching and pouting walking hormone beside them.

Rejuvenating our spirits for the week ahead, when our moments of worship are interrupted by screams and leaks and requests for a certain book to be read for the fifth time today.  Or does the moment of worship simply change direction, change focus?  Caretakers of giant eternal souls in little messy toddling tornado bodies.  What greater act of worship is there, than giving a cup of water to the least of these?  I'm pretty sure Jesus is okay with us substituting milk or juice. =)

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather at Lisa Jo's blog every Friday to write without obsessing over perfection and the "not good enough" bug.  Then we read, get encouraged, and pass along encouragement.  Come join us!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Streams of Water

I felt it again.  The squeezing, pressing weight in my chest.  The spiraling of my mind to an ever growing list of needs and wants.  I felt the fog of anxiety creep around me like the dampness found near the Tennessee River in the early morning.  It penetrates to my soul and grasps it in its clutches.

This battle starts before my feet ever touch the floor.  I stumble into the kitchen and make a cup of coffee, in hopes that the warmth will drive away those icey fingers that are digging their nails into my mind.  And yet the onslaught continues.  As I wake up, the list grows longer.  Driver's licenses. Vehicle registration and tags. UHaul to get our stuff.  Brake problems. Transmission problems. Deposits and rent.  Shoes. Winter clothes.  Engine blankets.  Credit card bills. Medical bills. On and on.

I see the chicken carcass on the stove. The bottle cap on the counter.  The food that was supposed to be refrigerated that is still in the sink.  The missing coffee mug that appears from the bedroom.  And my blood boils.  And I struggle to hold my tongue.  At least I succeed more in that than I do restraining my mind.

Stress cleaning would be easy right now.  Returning to bed, pulling the covers over my head and blocking the world out is tempting.  But neither will help my heart.  Tomorrow, there will be other things to grate my nerves.  The bills will be more numerous since I need to call the post office to inquire where my two weeks worth of bills are and why they haven't been forwarded.

Instead, I open the leather bound pages and beg for relief.  For my soul to be stilled.  For the peace beyond understanding to flood my mind.  On my own, I whither, shrivel, rot.  Only when I return to the root, the life giving stream, can I even hope to love, trust, and serve.

Stay quiet a few more moments sweet babies.  For your mommy to feed and care for you, she must first be fed and cared for herself.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Picture in Words

Since I still have no way of posting pictures from my camera, and therefore haven't bothered taking them, I finally decided to record in words what our new town looks like.

If you've never been west, it's foreign.  I'd never even seen the Mississippi River, so this was all completely new to me.  (Btw, I drove over the Mississippi. It wasn't impressive. Of course, it was also no bigger than a creek.)  And I'm told Western Montana is very different from here, but since I've only seen pictures I'll just have to take their word that there really is a reason this state's name means mountain.

The two main words to describe it are flat, and brown.

Now, I must admit, it's not as flat as I thought it would be.  There are these strange, round knobs all pushed together on the northern side of town.  They wouldn't even count as hills in Tennessee, but surrounded by flat they seem like hills.  The National Weather Service has a station up there, the church we're attending is up there, and there are some really expensive houses along this strange ridge-like cluster just west of town.  More on those houses later.

But with the exception of those, it's flat.  When you look towards the horizon, it's a long way away.  There are no tall buildings to obstruct the view. Very few trees unless you're on the riverbank.  You can see for miles and miles... and there's not much in those miles.  That's why the speed limit on the roads outside of town is 70mph; there is nothing to limit visibility so if you're willing to shake your vehicle to death from the bumpy roads it's safe to go fast.  And if you don't believe in giving your vehicle Shaken SUV Syndrome you can be passed on the extremely long dotted line stretches.
MY
It is just as brown as I imagined.  Oh, there are some green yards, but only if the owners water them.  And if you have a well, you can't water, so there's a lot of brown grass.  But a lot of the brown doesn't come from dead grass.  A lot of it is very much alive; around here, brown often means money.  The majority of land is farm land, and I'm guessing what is grown is wheat and hay.  It's definitely not corn and tobacco and soybeans.  There are many varieties of brown, but... it's still brown.

Even the river is brown.  The Milk River runs just south of town, but it's not your typical river, nor is it white like the name implies.  I don't recall if it was Lewis and Clark, (who came right through here; the main street through town is the Lewis and Clark Trail) or some other explorers, but whoever it was called it the Milk River because it looked like tea with a little milk in it.  It's really rather nasty looking, especially having just come from the shores of Lake Superior, with the bluest water I've ever seen.

And then there are the roads.  Which are also brown, for the most part.  See, in Montana, "road" has a broad definition. It may mean a smooth paved road.  It may mean a road full of holes, I guess because of the salt during the winter.  It may mean a gravel road, or a dirt road.  It may mean a washboard.

Here are two examples: just after we crossed the border from North Dakota into Montana, I saw a sign on Highway 2.  "Pavement ends"  There are quite a few of those signs here.  That sign didn't begin to describe what was ahead.  We came to a dead stop a mile or so after the pavement ended. Now, keep in mind that I don't drive on unpaved roads.  I have never had reason to drive on an unpaved road.  The South is not as uncivilized as people make it out to be.  While stopped, a lady in a hardhat came walking up the "road" talking to each car.  So I turned off Patty the Pilot and rolled down the window.  I was greeted by a "Welcome, Chattanooga, where is that?"  When I told her SE TN, she asked what brought us here, and I told her where we were moving, she assured me the road used to be paved, and would be again, and there was only about five miles of unpaved road that we would be escorted through before we reached pavement again.  And she ended with "Welcome to Montana!"  Great...

The other example was found while yard-saling Friday.  One of the very nice houses, I'd guess $250,000-500,000, was hosting a neighborhood yard sale with lots of kid stuff.  Unfortunately, in order to get there, I had to drive up one of those lump-knobs on a washboard gravel road.  I had a line of cars 4 deep behind me.  I apologized to the lady behind me who stopped to chat as we walked to the sale and explained that I was from TN where everything was paved.  She laughed and said she'd grown up on that kind of road so was used to them.

Clearly, the people are going to be what endears this area to me, not the scenery.  98% of the people I've met have been very nice, the drivers for the most part are understanding of the out of towners' wrong turns and prolonged blinker use since I'm not quite sure where my turn is.  Perhaps the snow that may appear as early as October and stick around till April will cover the brown and soften the lines of this new world outside my window.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Last

Still on my kindle; one day, I'll be able to spill my thoughts onto a keyboard without watching for a machine to figure out what word I'm thinking of, which is very distracting. But, here goes...

Last

Three thoughts jump to my mind when I hear this word, last.  

No. Not acceptable.  Work harder. Work smarter.  Study more.  Train more.  First place.  Top of the class.  99th percentile.  Last means you're doing something wrong.  To whom much is given, much is required.

These thoughts are imbedded so deeply into my soul that it still cringes when I compare myself with others.  Just this morning, I made my husband breakfast.  Not because of kindness, but because I needed to make up for being the last adult out of bed every morning this week.  I don't do last.  I don't always come across as competitive, but take me out of the athletic arena and I'll compete, silently, with you on just about anything else.  

Then there's the last time. The last time I walked through my Church Hill house.  The last time I drove through Knoxville.  The last time I scratched my dogs behind their ears.  The last time I drove either of our cars before they got smashed in Atlanta.  I tend to dwell on lasts... and sometimes I dwell so much in memories that I forget to live in the present.

And that brings me to this: the last child.  The child that is yet to exist in this world, but that is being planned for and calculated about and sometimes debated about. (I will not have another September baby! I refuse!)  I'm going to be a basket case.  Poor kid... with Ladybug, anything she did for the last time would be followed quickly by her sister.  Yes, it sends a twinge through my heart when she decides that she can go down the big slide by herself, but I still have Turkey to slide with, and swing in the baby swing. And as she crawls all over and I miss the stationary bouncy seat days, I comfort myself with the thought that there will be another floppy infant who can't quite coordinate hands with mind.  

But assuming we are blessed with one more... am I going to be so troubled by the last of everything that I end up a tearful mother rather than a joyful mother?  Or will I have the opposite problem?  Will I be so overwhelmed by the challenge of 3 that I miss noticing those last times?  

It's a fine line to walk, between first and last.  Overly competitive and apathetic.  Prideful and lazy.  Melancholy and flighty. Mournful and frantic.  

Contentment.  Contentment to be right where I am, surrounded by the people I am, doing the things I am.  Whether I'm in first or last place, doing a task for the first or last time, doing it with the first or last child, or the one in the middle... grant me grace to be content in whatever state I am.

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers, who gather at Lisa Jo's blog every Friday to write about a prompt word, without obsessing over perfection.  Come join us!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Home... but not home

It's sinking in. This isn't a vacation. It's not a trip. It's permanent, at least for the foreseeable future.

This is home.

But it doesn't feel like home.

And there's not a thing anyone can do to help.  People are nice. The church has folks who have gone above and beyond to help and welcome us.  We've gotten involved.  But it just doesn't feel like home.

It's a process, I suppose.  Something that only time can do.  They say home is where your heart is.  And a large part of my heart is here.  But there's a piece of my heart in two furry critters in Michigan, one of which is still in the pound. And there's a piece of my heart in the green mountains of the Appalachians.

Watching my children struggle has made today especially difficult. I was unpacking a box and unwrapped a family picture, and I showed it to Ladybug. Usually, I'll point out family members and she'll try to say their names. Not today.  She sat in my lap, held the picture, and didn't say a word. And in her own toddler way, I think she was missing them.

I can put pictures on the mantle. I can meet people.  I can unpack boxes and hang up clothes. I can stop making wrong turns.

But can I accept this place as home?  In my heart, not just in my head?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Trials of almost two

So much I want to write about, so many pictures I want to post, and I'm still restricted to a Kindle.  But, we had internet installed today, much sooner than I'd thought, and we might be making the treck to Billings this weekend to get our stuff, which finally made it the 30 hours.  All in time...

I wanted to record a little of what this move has been like for Ladybug.  She'll be two in about six weeks, and that's a hard time in the best of circumstances.  She's at that age of developing independence, yet still needing so much help.  She's at that age where she knows those blocks stack a certain way, that puzzle piece goes there, but she's just not coordinated enough to get them how they're supposed to go.  She's at the age where she knows what she wants, but can't quite express what exactly she needs us to do. And it's very frustrating to her. And to me as her mommy too.  Many times a day we have conversations that sound like this: "elpa elpa!" "Help with what?" *puzzled look* "elpa elpa, peese?" "What do you need help with?" *stomp feet, scream*

I try to remember that this is normal (right?), and that the screaming and tears are going to be worse than before because everything is different. To add to the madness, I'm also limiting the Wubbanubs to nap and bedtime only, for both girls. Turkey doesn't care, but this is difficult for Ladybug.  I know, though, that we'll be moving homes at least twice more in the next few years, so I can't justify waiting any longer.

We took Ladybug into church with us Sunday, and that's the most subdued I've ever seen her not sick. She just laid her head on her daddy's chest and held her Wubbanub.  It is very different from what she's used to, so I guess she was just coping... makes me wonder what's going through her head.  Really hoping that this is the last time we make such a move and that this truly becomes home.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Small

A small hand tugs on my arm.  A smaller hand reaches her spoon before I can get it into her mouth and smacks it onto her tray.  And instead of feeling big, I feel small.  Inadequate.  In over my head.

Being new to Big Sky Country reinforces the feeling of smallness.  The sky is bigger.  The horizon is further away.  Even the mosquitoes are bigger.

I've never been described as big, except my belly while pregnant. But nothing has made me feel as small as two little girls. And being so far from everything familiar causes the smallness to resonate, louder and louder, till it becomes deafening.

So what is there to do? One small thing at a time. One small diaper. One small outfit. One small bowl of mush and one sippie cup at a time. One small room clean at a time. One small box unpacked at a time.

Little by little, inch by inch, by the yard it's hard, by the inch, what a cinch. Never stare up the stairs just step up the steps, little by little, inch by inch. ~Patch the Pirate

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Homeless

Still on my kindle.  I keep waiting till we get our computer set up, so I can use a real keyboard. But it's somewhere between Chattanooga TN and Billings MT.  And even if it were here, it's not like there's room to put it in this motel room.

See, that's where we live right now. A shabby, decor straight from the 70s, brown shag carpet, hard mattress and pancake pillows motel room.  With a dorm fridge and a microwave.

When I tell a local where we're staying, I get a look.  And some say something along the lines of "at least it's not the __, there are drugs there." And I quickly explain that this place has new owners, it's clean, sort of, and the weekly rate here is less than two nights at the nice place in town.

We went two weeks between jobs. Drove over 4000 miles between the two vehicles. Left behind the majority of our furniture and stuff.  McDonalds has become a second home and is now the definition of real food. This is us. We're not rich. Not in material things.

But this is what we chose. We wanted to drive into town together. To have our first visit to church as a family.  And the housing market out here is such that we have two pack and plays, a high chair, a booster seat, and a child's rocking chair in a run down motel room and call it home.

The good news is, this shabby little room makes that basement apartment look like a gorgeous mansion. Hoping to get a lease for that new home today.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Lonely

FMF on my kindle, so I'm not being as strict on the five minutes as usual.

Lonely

I drove across the open prairies, in Patty the Pilot with my children in the backseat and every inch of space full. The sky was huge, bigger than anything I'd ever seen.  It was flat, flatter than anything I'd ever seen.  The sun seemed far away.  And it was beautiful.  This was the spacious skies and amber waves of grain the song spoke of.  And yet, I had tears running down my face. Not tears in awe of beauty.  But tears of loneliness.  Tears because it was so different.  My eyes and brain created illusions of mountains where there were none, forming them out of clouds and shadows. Behind me were family, friends, my dogs.  Before me... flat.  Different.  Foreign.  Lonely.

I was thankful the Mechanic was behind me, otherwise it might have been tempting to do a u-turn and head back to the Upper Peninsula, where there were at least familiar looking woods. 

Then Rich Mullins sang "I am home anywhere, if You are where I am."  Are we ever truly alone?  There's always Someone who knows my story.  Always Someone who understands me.  God is just as much present in the middle of nowhere Montana as He was in East Tennessee.

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather at Lisa-Jo's blog on Fridays to write about a prompt word without obsessing over perfection. Come join us!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Confidence

"Therefore do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."  Heb. 10:35-36

I've read the Bible through several times in the last two decades, but I don't recall ever noticing this passage.  Funny how different things can jump out at you, depending on what point you're at in your life.

I'm currently anxiously waiting the Mechanic's call to the realtor to find out if we have a house in our new town.  If the answer is yes, we get to make the 18 hour journey together, this week, and start our new life together.  If the answer is no, he will make that journey alone, and the girls and dogs and I will be left in the cabin in the woods for an unknown amount of time, the fate of the dogs unknown as well.

I've said recently that I'm all out of optimism.  I was optimistic when we had two interviews in the town we really wanted to move back to, and I was optimistic when those interviews went really well, but when those doors were slammed shut in our face I began to lose my optimism.  I was optimistic when we got the job in Montana, but when I started trying to locate a rental house I lost even more of my optimism.  The closer we got to D-Day, the more my optimism waned.  The horrible journey up here killed it completely.

It's not necessarily a horrible thing to be left behind.  The cabin in the woods is beautiful, and it's not as isolated as I'd imagined.  The grocery store and gas station isn't more than 10 minutes away, the beach is even closer, and I've learned my way around enough to feel comfortable getting out on my own.  It's the uncertainty.  The wondering if we're going to be able to keep our dogs or have to leave them at a shelter.  The wondering how long I'll be here alone with the kids.  The wondering if the Mechanic will be able to find a decent house to rent, or if we'll end up in some cat-urine covered trailer 20 miles away from the nearest grocery store.  (Yes, that happened to someone out there.)

But I'm commanded to remain confident.  What promises can I be confident in?  I'm promised to have my needs met.  Of course, Christians have gone hungry.  They've been homeless.  And I'm in no danger of either one of those; one way or another we will have food and a roof over our heads.  There must be something else, then, that has been promised.  Something more than simple material possessions.  That all will work to my good.  The good He has planned for me, not the good I have planned for myself.  That He will meet all my needs.  The needs as He sees them, not the needs as I perceive them.  That He will never leave or forsake me.  That He will give a peace that passes all understanding.

It's confidence in the Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who gives good things to His children.  Not the prayer of Jabez kind of thing, where I expect a mansion and maid service.  But He will give what is good for me, when it's good for me.  And that's not always what I want when I want it.