Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Season of Thanksgiving

When gathered around the Thanksgiving table, how many people say they are thankful for surgical scars?  Or that they are thankful for debt?  Or that they are thankful their house is messy?

This time last year, things were feeling rather bleak.  We had much to be thankful for, but things were ugly on multiple fronts.  I was struggling to cope with a possible autism diagnosis for Ladybug.  I was dealing with her bad days, waking multiple times a night, watching regression and struggle and wondering if things would ever get better for her.  We had gallons of water freezing inside our house.  The Mechanic was freezing on an air mattress in the concrete unfinished basement that was called a bedroom.  We were bathing the girls in a Rubbermaid tote, and washing our dishes in water that was nauseating. 

This year, we have two new surgical scars.  And I am more thankful for them than anyone who hasn't been through this kind of thing can even imagine.  One scar brought me a baby boy, whose smile as soon as he sees me can brighten even the roughest day.  Yes, we have a pile of NICU and flight bills, but he came back to me healthy.  Those first few hours were scary, and those two days without him were probably the hardest I've faced, but they have made me treasure him even more. 

The other scar brought my oldest daughter back to me.  She's no longer slipping away, but blossoming, growing and learning at a scary rate!  Her quickness to smile and laugh, the pictures I now have of her looking right at me and giggling, make her stack of bills worth every cent!  Yes, her scar is going to be more visible in two places than it "should" have been.  But to me, those places are like pillars that the Israelites put up, to remind them of the great things God had done for them.  She is healing, she has skin covering those wounds that we battled for nearly 5 months. 

We have a mortgage.  Sounds like a bad thing, but it means we have a house.  A house that is ours.  Well, ours and the bank's. But no "mean man" has any right to come into our house and threaten us.  My heart doesn't race when I hear a knock at the door.  I have an appreciation for a roof over my head that I've never had before.  A permanent place to call home, with a kitchen, and separate rooms, and working heat, is something that we take for granted until we face living without them.  We would never have been sleeping under the stars, but living in a camper with a newborn and two toddlers would not have been pleasant.

Our house is messy, but mess means life.  And our house is full and overflowing with it.  Turkey works together with Ladybug to create the biggest mess they possibly can; if one book out is good, all the books off the bookshelf must be even better!  We have special drawings by Turkey on the bookshelf, and no matter where I put it she always seems to manage to get into the margarine.  With two toddlers, the mess and noise level don't simply double, it's as if it quadruples. But I can't imagine not having Turkey right there in the middle.  You can't help but smile when she comes out wearing the 3rd outfit of the day, with the shirt and pants on backwards, or only wearing a diaper and an upside down coat, or wearing absolutely nothing except shiny red shoes and a hat.

I truly have much to be thankful for.  A husband who loves, protects, and provides for his family.  Three beautiful children, full of life and joy and challenges.  And even a dog, despite him living up to his name of Chaos.  Material possessions that need to be picked up, dishes that held food that need to be cleaned, and grace that strengthens when my blessings overwhelm me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"I thought you said we needed to rest?!"

"The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." 
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.  But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowed, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.  
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages!  Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
When they found out, they said, "Five - and two fish."
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people it down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.  Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people.  He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.  The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand."
I needed time.  The immense needs of my family were overwhelming.  I was ashamed of the voice I heard coming from my mouth.  The visible reminders that having three bodies that require constant supervision lest they destroy things or harm themselves or each other, and the thought that things are going to get worse before they get better when the 4th becomes mobile and also requires constant supervision, came crashing down on me so hard I could barely hold my head up.  I found myself clutching my coffee and sitting on the couch staring into space, hanging onto sanity by a thread.  I felt I was fighting sitting in a corner, beating my head against the wall.

I realized the stupor I was slipping into, recognizing a place I'd been before.  I don't want to go there again.  So I thought I'd take some time to read Scripture.  I'd recently had a blog post arrive in my email about controlling anger as a mom, and one of the things mentioned was that even Jesus said to be by yourself in a quiet place, quoting Mark 6.  Of course, I was frustrated by the fact that I wasn't even able to use the bathroom yesterday without someone putting butter in their hair, so I wasn't sure how I was supposed to accomplish alone time without disaster spreading.  But I sat down in the floor of the bedroom, turned to Mark 6, and started reading.

I smiled when Mark records they didn't even have a chance to eat.  Don't young mothers know what that's like!  One day this week it was 2pm before I had anything besides coffee, and I'd been up since before 7.  I was a bit jealous when I read they went away to a solitary place; must be nice to be a man and not have to take the kids with you. But then I realized what the next story was.

Not only do they not get to enjoy solitude because Jesus teaches the people that followed them, but He turns to them and tells them to feed them.  They're exhausted.  Probably hungry.  Worn out.  Stressed.  And were hoping for some time to rest and recharge.  And now they're being asked to serve?  From the very guy that told them to get some rest?  In frustration, I imagine, they point out how expensive that is, and I'm sure they were also thinking they didn't want to go shopping and cook and spend more time on their feet.

But what does Jesus do?  He performs a miracle.  He spreads their resources beyond anything imaginable and enables them to serve in the way He asked.

And at that moment, in walks a crying Karen, face covered in snot and missing her pants, hair still messy from the butter escapade yesterday.  And she puts her head on my shoulder.  I pull her into my lap and realize she has a dirty diaper.

Yes, Jesus said they needed to rest.  And God says He will lead us beside quiet waters.  But that doesn't mean we're actually going to get to rest in the here and now.  He is capable of spreading my resources beyond anything I could imagine.  My patience.  My kindness.  My mental strength and creativity to deal with the challenges of multiple toddlers.  He has expanded our material resources and proven Himself capable of providing.  He is just as capable of providing for the mental and spiritual and emotional needs as He is the monetary and practical needs.  What an incredible realization.  What an awesome God.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bountiful Baskets Adventures

Since moving to the middle of nowhere, I have been challenged to find quality fresh produce for reasonable prices.  The girls love fresh fruit, but even bananas aren't good quality here just because of the distance they have to be transported.  And everything is more expensive.

Despite hearing about it before I ever moved out here, I just recently began participating in the Bountiful Baskets coop.  I've been extremely pleased with the amount we receive for the price, and the quality is much better than I can typically find in the stores.  I've not had decent strawberries since we left Tennessee, but my last basket included some that tasted like they were straight from heaven.  I really didn't want to share them with the kids!

Because it's a coop, you don't pick and choose what is included in your baskets.  I'm a boring shopper since the range of fruits and vegetables I've been exposed to is rather narrow, so this has been a great way of adding variety to our diets and exposing the girls to new things.  There are many things I won't buy at a store because I don't know if we'll like it or have no idea how to prepare it, but when it's already in the fridge I don't want it to go to waste.  We discovered we love pluots thanks to this new adventure in eating. I learned about avocados, made homemade guacamole, and now have some mushed and frozen just waiting for CJ to be ready for something besides rice cereal.

But today... we had the adventure of artichokes.  I didn't even know what they were when I picked up my basket Saturday.  But I'd heard of artichokes so a quick Google Image search confirmed that is what they were.  Another search led me to a Wiki-How article for how to prepare and eat them.

They tasted okay.

The girls love them.

I won't be buying them at the store.

I mean, really, who came up with the idea of eating these things?  At 65 calories per artichoke, I'm pretty sure I expended more calories trying to get the miniscule amount of edible... stuff?... out of them than I actually consumed.

Not exactly the most toddler-friendly meal

This...

...yielded this.
Now, the rest of the meal, which included steamed broccoli from our Basket, and made-up-on-the-fly stir fry of chicken, orange peppers (also a new food for me from Bountiful Baskets), onions, a few artichoke leaves as an experiment, and on my and Kelly's plates mushrooms and water chestnuts, seasoned with soy sauce and Dale's, was much more filling and also a big hit.  Despite their bulging bellies, I also gave the girls fresh cantaloupe from our Basket as "dessert."

I think I could get used to actually having fresh foods on hand. =)  Although, I can live without the artichokes.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Drowning in Blessings

"You've got your hands full!"

I couldn't count how many times I've been told that in the last 2 years.  No one thinks you have your hands full with one child who appears healthy.  But add another child less than a year later, and your hands are suddenly full.  Add a third child a year and a half later and you are guaranteed to hear that phrase every time you go out.  And if they see you out with the puppy too...

So I've developed a mental list of comebacks for that oft-repeated phrase.  The simplest is, "Yes, I do!"  If I feel exceptionally spiritual that day, I might say "Yes, full of blessings!"  When I'm sick, my response has been "No kidding."  If I only have two children with me, I might tell the person "this isn't all of them, there's another at home."

I frequently feel overwhelmed.  Like I'm barely treading water.  Basically, I'm drowning in blessings. They are blessings that are wearing me down, stressing me out, and turning me into someone I don't want to be.

Or am I allowing it to happen?

The saying goes that you can't change or control anything but yourself.  Now granted, I'm trying to change my children.  If I didn't try to change them, they'd be in pretty sorry shape when they turned 18.  I'm trying to change my dog.  Little puppy bites are sort of cute annoyance.  Big dog bites are a hazard.

But what am I doing to change myself?

My husband mentioned something he'd like me to work on last week, and my immediate mental response was, "I can't."  I caught myself before I said it out loud and realized, that's a pretty lousy attitude to have. Why can't I?  Because I'm a mom?  Because my kids are close in age?  I have a ready list of excuses for just about anything extra. While my children do limit what I can do, I'm setting myself up for failure and a continued trend of under-achiever by immediately shifting into the mental mode of "I can't."

So when I finally got a minute to take a shower today, I did some soul searching.  In between the prayers of "God please don't let the dog electrocute himself while I'm in here," I determined that I'm expecting myself to change without doing anything to help the change along.  Oh, I need to do a better job at cooking, cleaning, teaching, laundry, decorating, you name it... But just saying it isn't doing me any good.  I'm just letting more responsibilities pile up and getting further behind in everything.

The more behind I get, the more stressed I get.  The more cluttered and messy my house is, the more clenched and uptight I get.  I lose patience.  I can't focus on anything. And I get plain old hateful.

So I believe I finally listened to God's command to DO something.  To make a change.  It's one I've thought of before, often in fact, and yet always had an excuse. I still have excuses but I'm working around them.

I'm cutting ties with Facebook.

For a week. =)

Wow, you might say, a whole week, that's a great sacrifice.  In sarcasm, of course.

Little steps.  We'll see what happens. And after a week, I'll re-evaluate.  Did I get more accomplished?  Am I less stressed? Or am I so isolated and desperate for adult conversation that I'm driving my husband crazy?

I do have a few people I want to keep up with as they have babies or as their children have health problems.  I'll probably post pictures at the end of my week. But the scrolling, the window shopping into people's lives, the black box of time, is what I'm wanting to separate from.  Just to see what happens.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One day, I'll get around to catching up on this blog.  At least I kept Ladybug's story updated on her CaringBridge site, although there's a lot more "mommy perspective" I'd like to record here.  Someday...

But for today, I need to get something off my heart and into words.

There's not enough time.

Seems ironic that I am taking the time to type that.

But it's clogging up my brain till I need to get my thoughts out, and then maybe I can come up with some solutions.

I'm not talking about just having time to do the dishes and laundry and sweep.  I struggle with that.  But there's so much more I want to do, and I feel like time is slipping through my fingers like sand.

My two girls are primed for learning.  They are absorbing everything.  Repeating everything I say.  Picking up on things we say often without even realizing it.  Learning songs. Memorizing.  And I want to capture this time and sink truth deep into them so that it's always there.  Verses, songs, principles of life.  And I want them surrounded by beauty and order.  And I want them to start making memories.

But at the end of the day, I look back and wonder, what did I do today?  I survived.  Barely. Three meals on the table, or at least on the high chair trays, a few tablespoons of pee in the toddler potty, a few more in the floor, a few books read, a few blocks stacked, many many many many many many many "stop, no, don't, be nice, be loving, leave your sister alone, let your brother sleep, gentle, don't pull hair, share" over and over...

And this is where I start wondering why I thought 3 children in less than 3 years was a good idea. Because this is it.  This is the only chance I get.  I don't get a do-over.  I don't get to realize any mistakes and fix them for the next kid.  I don't get to savor these little years.  (Well, it just seems a lot harder.)  They are flying by, and I'm going to blink and I'm going to have three elementary schoolers.  And then heaven help me three teenagers.  And then they'll be gone.

I'm doggy paddling.  Holding my head above water, occasionally sinking under but then fighting my way back up for air.  But that's not a fun way to swim. Just listen to Ladybug's screams from the community pool every night for the last two weeks during "Aquatots."  But then there's Turkey's new found style of swimming: drifting.  She floats with her little behind up in the air and has no control over her direction.  She floats whichever way the current takes her.  And I don't want to parent like that either, aimlessly being carried towards whichever focus is being talked about on the radio today.

What's the verse, something about redeeming the time?  And then I read horrible news stories about children, sexting and being preyed upon by sick people, and I watch poorly behaved children and adults, and I wonder how in the world I'm supposed to train them right.  I need 40 years, not 18.  Holy cow.

I guess that's why we're commanded to teach when we lie down and rise up and walk along the road.  That's the only way you have a hope of teaching them all they need to know.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

3AM Catch Up

I'm beginning to think the odds are that I'm not going to sit down and actually get to type on a keyboard anytime soon.  As is, I'm on my Kindle wondering if CJ will go back to sleep on his own. And the answer is quickly becoming no. He was asleep till I had to put him down because his oldest sister was crying. =/

To sum up recent events and the reason I can't manage to sit down with a keyboard,, here's a run down of the last few months.  I was put on restricted activity to try to prevent preterm labor, told to sit down if I had contractions which meant I was basically couch-bound from 31 weeks.  Plumbing problems caused me to call my landlord at 35 weeks, who pitched a fit over the state of the house.  8am, two toddlers with lots of toys, a mom who can't be on her feet more than 2 minutes at a time, sorry that you have to step over some toys.  And a basement is meant for storage.  After being verbally threatened and intimidated, I chose to not follow doctors orders as closely as I should in the interest of keeping a roof over my family's head.

I needn't have bothered, because there was no satisfying this man, as proved by his refusal to even answer questions as to how we could get things to his satisfaction, instead storming out the door while harshly telling us to get out despite our efforts to meet his unclear demands. So in the midst of preparing for Ladybug's surgery, making travel plans and planning for expenses, petitioning insurance for better coverage, and preparing for the arrival of my son, I was given an eviction notice.  The day we received the official notice, the stress proved to be too much and I went into labor at 37 weeks.  Attempts to stop it were unsuccessful and CJ came bursting into the world at 1937 on April 21st, weighing in at a healthy 7 pounds 11 ounces and 21 inches.

Unfortunately, despite his weight he was not ready to be born.  With multiple problems going on, he was airlifted to the nearest NICU just a couple hours after birth, without being held by me.  The Mechanic made the 5 hour drive to be with him, church friends took care of the girls, and I sat in a hospital bed with empty arms.  Thankfully, he got his act together quickly and I was able to hold him for the first time at around 50 hours old.

We were released from the hospital and I survived the first week home alone with all three children, despite Ladybug being in a complete meltdown over the chaos.  The Mechanic's mom came for CJ's scheduled birth and mercifully helped pack, calm many tantrums, and kept me from completely bleeding out.  We were kicked out wrongfully on May 18th, spent the night homeless in a motel with a basically autistic 2 year old one month away from major skull surgery, a one year old, and a barely 4 week old, in addition to a 4 week post-op mom.

We thankfully closed on a house on the 19th and moved in that afternoon.  Within 5 days we became official home owners when suds started seeping from pipes in the basement while doing laundry.  Over a week later, we are throwing up our hands in surrender and calling a plumber, while carefully restricting how much water goes down the pipes at a time.  The plague of 50 year old iron pipes in this neighborhood just happened to hit us in the first week; gotta love our luck, when even an inspection wouldn't have caught this.  Oh yeah, and California's emission laws have meant we've been down to one vehicle for over a month and a half now, since there's only one mechanic in town who'll work on foreign cars.

But through all this, the Lord has provided.  It's been incredible.  I really want to record in detail what's happened, because in future years I want to remember just how faithful He has proven Himself.  I just have 3 inches of bills to take care of, three suitcases to pack, an entire house to unpack and prepare for helpful guests, in addition to keeping my girls from yanking out each other's hair or smothering their brother with kisses.  And several trips to the laundromat to make while we wait on the plumber.  =)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Battles

As I submitted my complaint to Amazon, I couldn't help but think... "not another one."  Another battle.  Another thing I'm arguing over.  The stakes vary drastically. This one was minor, $15 and a teddy bear's missing pajamas.  Another battle I'm in is a $15,000 insurance appeal.  We're in the midst of a lawsuit over a wreck that has drug out over a year, all because someone in a position of authority can't admit they ran a red light. Then there's the battle for the roof over our heads and my ability to feel secure in the house I pay for.

It's draining. All this tension. All this strife.  And I wonder, am I doing the right thing?  Just because you have the right to something doesn't mean you should claim that right.  But should you let someone threaten you in front of your children?  Should you allow them to say unfounded things that cause you to cry for an hour?  Or should you stand your ground and insist on the law being followed to the letter, decreasing the chances of there being anything to set him off?  Do you notify Amazon of a seller's false advertising, or do you just swallow the loss?  Which then risks someone else being ripped off.

And it's easy to think "what would Jesus do?" and only think of his mild side, led as a lamb to the slaughter.  Yet that's not the full picture of Jesus.  He also drove people with a whip and flipped their tables, and verbally assaulted the Pharisees, calling them names a lot worse than what comes across in our translations.  There's a time for each reaction.  But wisdom to know when each is appropriate is what I'm lacking.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Desperate: Chapter 2, Part 2 - Charity


Continued from previous post.

...Charity.

As we face a major surgery on our child multiple states away, right around the same time that we have another baby, charity is something that we're having to face.  And I say that like it's a bad thing.  It's not.  But it's hard.  Another friend, whom I know only through a mutual friend and her CaringBridge website for her son Malachi, wrote about how difficult it was for her to accept staying at a Ronald McDonald house and to accept the various gifts of time, basic essentials, prayers, money, and many other things that they were given.  She put it so well, that charity is something they were used to giving to other people, not something they should be receiving themselves.

We've been on the receiving end already in the last year.  And it's something I've struggled with.  I don't know how to respond.  When asked how they can help, I often draw a blank.  I'm so in the mindset of handling things myself just the way they are that I can't even begin to think of what someone else could possibly do for me.

But Leah (Malachi's mom) put it so well.  I believe this will link to her post, but if not, it's the one from Dec 22, 2013 titled "All I Got For Christmas Was My Two Front Teeth."  She said that there are seasons.  And yes, right now is a season of receiving.  I have to be realistic about what I can handle.  There are areas I'd like to participate in, people I'd like to serve in a tangible way, but I also have to realize that at this point in time... I'm swamped.  I could definitely manage my time better, but even with perfect time management I think at this juncture of my life I have my plate as full as it needs to be.  Just like there are organizations I'd love to be giving money to, but I have to be realistic as to what my bank account will support.  But eventually, there will come another season.  As the sermon today talked about, our circumstances are temporary.  This too shall pass.  And one day, maybe later this year, maybe next year, maybe 5 or 10 years from now, things will have changed.  And I will be the one able to give and serve.  I look forward to that day.

And ultimately... we're all on the receiving end of charity.  That's what grace is.  We didn't earn it.  We didn't even ask for it.  Yet it's given to us.  And when we tighten that upper lip and resist, and say we can handle it on our own... we're being prideful.  As humans, we can't do this on our own.  We need other people.  And we need God.  And when we shut ourselves up in our little "I can do it myself" boxes, we're just like that toddler that I'm seeing some glimpses of in Turkey.  Getting red in the face and frustrated but smacking away the hand that offers to help.

Perhaps I have found yet another reason that we were moved to the middle of nowhere Montana.  In the journey here, I've been forced to admit that I need other people.  I tried to do all the packing myself for our first move.  And my church family bailed me out at the last minute.  I felt horrible... I was ashamed... but they dug in, got dirty, and it was an incredible picture of the body of Christ.


 My family bailed us out during the second move. We hooked Patty the Pilot up to that overloaded UBox and watched her sink and sink and sink until we realized there was no way we could haul that trailer an hour away.  And my brother-in-law brought his truck and got us out of our mess.  He and my sister-in-law came in and cleaned up the disaster we left behind, and my mother-in-law sold and donated and just in general dealt with all the stuff we left behind. And once again, I felt horrible about it, I was ashamed that I hadn't been the perfect housekeeper and stayed on top of things and been some kind of super-woman mover.

We came to this tiny town, and the receiving continued.  People from our new church moved new-to-us furniture into our house, while we were gone for Christmas.  Our landlords helped my husband gut and dispose of a deer.  We've been given food. We've had cash given to us right when we had to purchase must-be-made-of-gold ear drops for Ladybug.  We were gifted plane tickets for Christmas travel.  We've even received Ham radio equipment at great discount, just because that's how people around here are.  And who knows how many prayers have been given for us.  Random people come walking up to me in stores and at church and ask how I'm doing... and I have no idea how they know me.  But I'm guessing that my updates on Ladybug that go to the prayer group aren't falling on deaf ears.  And I must admit, when they ask "now who is this?" our family is pretty easy to identify!

I grew up in a family that gave.  It was sort of big deal, not to announce it to other people, but to make sure I knew that they were giving.  And that's a good thing for a child to learn.  But... I needed to learn to receive.  Really needed to learn it, apparently.  Because receiving teaching humility.  It teaches that sometimes, you're not good enough.  And that's okay.  Because that's where grace and mercy come in.  If you can't accept help from other people, how can you really accept help from God?  How can you grasp it?  Because there's always that thing in the back of my mind that wants to say "I'm a good person, I can earn grace."  But when people just give you things, help you out, when you really haven't had or taken the opportunity to help them first?  It takes you down a notch.  And that RUF saying, where you're never so bad you're beyond the reach of God's grace, and you're never so good you're beyond the need of God's grace, finally hits home.

Desperate: Chapter 2, Part 1

The Go-It-Alone Culture (On Needing People)

I haven't been as regular on recording my thoughts brought about by this book as I'd hoped to be, but that's nothing new.  I either haven't had time to write or I've had other things to write about... life has been a little crazy!

What's funny is I had planned on writing about this chapter this evening, but before I got started my home phone rang.  We only got that phone when we realized the landlords weren't calling us because our cell phones were long distance for them, so it doesn't ring very often except for salesmen and debt collectors for people we've never heard of.  So it was a pleasant surprise to hear a voice from someone I actually know.  Our conversation included her telling me there were some people that wanted to do something to help us out, something that would make my life as a mom easier.

I was floored.  And I honestly wasn't sure what to say. I'm finding myself in that situation a lot recently.

This chapter talks about how we as moms can isolate ourselves.  We don't want to inconvenience anyone.  We certainly don't want to admit that we're struggling in areas we think everyone else has under control.  We just try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and figure out our own problems. We don't make the effort to build relationships with other women.  That takes time and emotional energy and sometimes it feels like more than we're capable of handling with all our other responsibilities.

This was a hard chapter for me, because it speaks to an area that I really struggle with.  I am very much an isolationist.  I am getting out more here in MT than I ever did in TN, and it's stretching me.  But I have seen what happens when women isolate themselves and I don't want that to happen to me and my family.  So I'm making the effort, but it's not an easy thing.  A friend of mine from college who moved even further than I have wrote a beautiful post about what it's like to be the new girl, especially as an introvert.

Sally sets a wonderful example of how to make friends in a new town.  And I read that and think, this is great!  But it's simply not in my comfort zone.  I have to ask myself why?  Why don't I invite people over?  Why am I hesitant to join others in their homes or set up a meet & greet with other moms?  This is my second time through this book, and the first time this chapter left me feeling inadequate, like I clearly wasn't doing as much as I should be to reach out into my new community.  But as I read the rest of the book, I realized that I can't conquer every area of my life at once.  You can have too many good things.

I hate my house.  I am a horrible housekeeper on top of that.  Put the two together and you have a place you're ashamed for anyone to see.  I am an introvert, so I need to be comfortable in my surroundings before I bring other people into them.  One of the things the Mechanic and I wanted when we first got married was to be hospitable, but that just has never really happened.  But I want to get to the point that it does.  So I need to get my cart and horse in the right order.  Work on my housekeeping, work on adding beauty to my home so that I am comfortable in it, work on meal planning and improving my ability to keep a grocery budget... and then, work on expanding my social circle through my home.

However, that doesn't mean I can ignore the need for other people while I work on improving these areas of my life.  And that brings me to a subject that this chapter doesn't directly speak to, but it came to my mind anyway.

Charity.  To be continued...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Results of the Eval

The girls and I survived our solo trip to Billings this week; three years ago I would never have imagined I'd travel 5 hours alone through the middle of nowhere in my 3rd trimester with two toddlers.  Now... eh. Box of extra blankets/winter gear/kitty litter in the back, DVD player propped on the armrest for the kids, box of snacks in the front seat... And I've got the getting into the hotel alone down to a science! I was so thankful, though, that the roads weren't as bad as I'd feared they'd be.  Billings got over 6 inches of snow just a couple days before we arrived, and was supposed to get another 6-12 inches the day we left, but I only drove about 15 miles with scattered ice/packed snow, except for the side streets which were still completely covered.  Thankful for prayers and sunshine!

So, the autism evaluation.  I'd been dreading it since November.  But I left completely happy with the results, which were... nothing!  They didn't make a single diagnosis.  No label.  *happy dance*

Here's what we did learn. (Which, I must brag... is exactly what I'd said after my own research.)  She's delayed.  Well, duh.  She has several red flags for autism spectrum disorders.  That is what people who are only around her briefly focus on.  However, there are two categories required for an ASD diagnosis.  One is social interaction/communication.  This is where her red flags are.  She definitely has problems in this area.  The second is behavioral rigidity.  This is where we find the classic sign of lining toys up instead of playing with them.  And while she does show a few problems here, she displayed none while she was being evaluated.  So they do not feel they can diagnose her with ASD at this time, and feel doing so or putting any other diagnosis on her would be premature, since she'll be having surgery that may impact her delays. 

I am perfectly okay with this.  Normally, I want answers.  But in this case, I want the treatment first and then we can consider if answers are actually needed.  They would like to see her back 6 months after her surgery to re-evaluate and see what's happened.  I'm all for this and think it's great that her progress (which I fully expect to see) will be documented so well.   

So a bit more detail... my report on her behavior does indicate some of the behavioral rigidity that is needed, but I didn't feel she exhibits enough to put her on the spectrum and they agreed with me.  I frankly feel that the difficulties she has in this area have been caused by us as parents.  I mean, you can't take a child through 4 different houses in a single year and expect her to come through completely unscathed.  In addition, she is my child.  And she's her daddy's child.  And we both can be a little OCD.  We're talking the child of a mom who sorts her M&M's by color.  The child of a dad who breaks his fries into two even lengths and then swirls them in the ketchup in a very certain manner, twice one way and once the other, before eating them.  So if she wants to line up her Teddy Grahams before eating them and insists on all doors being shut, I think she's entitled to do so without being labeled as autistic! And for once, the medical world agrees with me.  *sigh*  What a refreshing change! 

As for the social communication area, this definitely needs some work.  I knew she was weak in this area and that's why I was willing to go through this eval, in hopes of getting some tips on what I can do to help her.  She needs a different mother.  I'm a very reserved, sedate type of person.  But Ladybug doesn't respond well to that.  As the child psychologist discovered, she is perfectly capable of totally ignoring that type of person.  But the more animated and dramatic she got, the more Ladybug responded and interacted.  So I am going to have to work on that myself.  Ah, what we do for our children... =)  This will also be important for me to keep in mind if we ever have a choice in her teachers/therapists.  

Her communication is of course a problem area, but I was pleased to hear they feel she is "primed for language development."  It pains me that we are in an area where there is no speech therapy available until age 3; if we were in TN, she would be in speech no doubt.  But since we are where we are, they gave me some tips and resources that will let me help her myself until she's old enough for professional speech therapy.   At this point, despite the fact she is very difficult to understand, they said not to worry much about articulation but to just focus on expanding her language.  I've always practiced the "no baby talk" rule because I believed that was best for language development, but apparently, at least in Ladybug's case, I need to revert to toddler-speak.  Because she will repeat back anything I say, I'm to break my sentences down to 3-4 word phrases.  Then, when she repeats back 2-3 words, I can repeat what she said and add a word, and so hopefully get her to build her phrases.  

This sounds incredibly easy, but it's hard to put into practice!  For example, she's no longer in a crib but if she were, I'd go get her and normally say "Are you ready to get up?  Are you hungry?  Do you want to eat some breakfast?"  Instead, I need to break that down to the bare essentials.  "Ladybug want out?  Ladybug hungry?  Ladybug want eat?" And give her time to repeat back each phrase if she will, repeating back with correct pronunciation what she said and adding an additional word.  And at some point practicing "me" vs "you" and trying to connect those prepositions for her.  Perhaps this comes naturally to some people, but after speaking to her in full adult language for 2 and a half years, this is a hard habit to change!

Her weakest area was actually pretend play.  You never realize until you go through this with your child how important pretend play is for development.  When they told me what she's "supposed" to be doing I was floored.  I've been thrilled to see her imitate any pretend play at all.  But, the heartbreaking yet awesome thing is her play peer would be ~18 months.  Well, I have one of those built in!  I expressed concern about the complete lack of interaction with other children, despite how well she interacts with adults, and they explained that if I have her in a room with a child her age, they are so far ahead of her in their play skills that they are going to ignore each other.  What I need to do is focus less on age and more on skill level.  This isn't a case of the child 4 steps ahead of her being able to help her along like I thought; I need a child who is at most one step ahead.  Turkey is the perfect play partner for Ladybug.  And the examiners showed me some very practical ways that I can encourage interaction between them and help Ladybug to that next level of play.  

Overall, I was very impressed with the evaluators.  Not once did Ladybug show stress by her hand/mouth movements or biting herself.  She actually had fun.  I could tell she was mentally worn out towards the end, but the way they handled everything meant no meltdowns.  They provided excellent care for Turkey, thankfully by a retired RN who recognized that she was really sick and had the developmental pedi take a look and listen to her to make sure we were safe to head home.  (Pretty bad reaction to her 2nd flu vaccine I think)  And they explained their decision about diagnosis so well and gave me lots of practical tips to take home.  We kind of wondered if we were wasting our time since we're having surgery done no matter what at this point, but I definitely feel it was beneficial.  Plus, the developmental pedi fully agreed that surgery out of state is the best option for us, which was nice to hear. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Mother's Thoughts on a "needs surgery" email

How do I describe the thoughts and feelings I experienced when I got the email saying my daughter needs surgery?

What mom wants to hear that they're going to take the back of her child's skull off?  This isn't like putting tubes in ear drums.  This isn't like getting put to sleep for a non-invasive test.  This is big, to quote Barney Fife.  This is a procedure that's only done one place in the entire USA that we know of.  This is bloody.  This is painful.  This is messy.  This is expensive.

But this is her chance.  This is what I've fought for, since I first found out she had closed sutures at 15 months.  I didn't know this procedure exactly was what she needed, but I knew something needed to be done.

And incredibly, or maybe it's not so incredible given the last few months, when I got that email, I had peace.  Finally.  Despite probable out of network doctor.  Despite being in Texas, which is a long way away from Montana.  Despite facing balancing a newborn baby and a fresh post-op child through Denver airport, which wasn't the kindest to us car seat-toting parents. Despite having no idea how to handle caring for Turkey, who may very well be upset at seeing her big sister unable to jump on the bed.

It'll work out.  I really believe that, just like this crazy move to the middle-of-nowhere Montana, God has opened this door.  And He's closed the other ones.  I think He gave me a brain and a gut and when I no longer feel comfortable, it's time to move on.  In all honesty, finding this doctor, knowing to check for this particular brain malformation, was a fluke.  If I'd just trusted our first doctor, none of this would be happening.  And I think God's had His hand in this.  And His hand will see us through... through the insurance battles, the airports, the surgery, the recovery, the medical bills... It may not be pleasant.  Just like the move out here hasn't always been pleasant or easy.  Sometimes, you have to deal with grey shag carpet in the dining room and kitchen sinks that don't like to drain.  There may be challenges with what we face now.

But He is in control.  He is the Great Healer.  And He is going to take care of my child.  And while I need to believe that no matter what, I must admit, it's a great comfort to me to know the name of the person He's going to be using!

I'm taking her on a trip for her autism evaluation starting tomorrow.  Last week, I was dreading it.  I didn't know how I was going to get through it without crying.  Now, I no longer fear it.  They can say whatever they will.  I know the doctors say they can't promise anything, but I believe this surgery is going to give my child a chance to learn and develop like she did in December after her skull changed shape overnight.  There will be things to work on, but whatever label they want to stick on her is not the end of the world for me anymore.  I have hope.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Who do you really trust?

I was on my hands and knees picking up craft pompoms, pretend baby bottles, shape blocks, and puzzle pieces. (btw, this is horribly painful when you are 36hrs post-TDaP shot.)  The house was silent, which is a rarity.  Pandora had timed out, the Mechanic was at EMT class, the kids had gone down easily at 1900.  And a song phrase ran through my head that I'd been pondering off and on since hearing it this morning.  I'd first been introduced to it at our church the first week in Glasgow, but it'd been quite a while since I'd heard it.

"You are peace, You are peace, when my fear is crippling."

I've been in desperate need of that peace.  My fear, my anxiety, has gotten to the point of crippling.  I've needed to cry and release some of the tension, but I haven't been able to find that release.  The anxiety is too deep to be released by crying over some sappy movie or song.  But finally, as I sat on the couch this afternoon, holding my phone with the MRI report and a notebook next to me (those things have been within arms reach of me pretty much constantly since Monday), a few hot tears spilled out.  I was sitting there thinking how there were tons of things I needed to be doing, but I couldn't focus on any task long enough to finish.  I was so angry that this doctor wasn't calling me back.  I blamed him for my failing my glucose tolerance test.

And I wanted to know, where is this peace?  Cause I didn't have an ounce of it.

And while picking up the swath the two toddler hurricane had left behind, it occurred to me.

I'm placing my trust in doctors.  We pray every night for the doctor to call us and tell us he will help Ladybug's head so she can learn easier and not hurt.

And while you do need to trust the doctors who are making sure your child continues breathing while under anesthesia, and you really need to trust the doctors who are slicing your kid's head apart, ultimately... while they are tools, they aren't the healer.

I'm angry. I'm frustrated.  But, this doctor is not the end-all of my child's healing.  God can use him, if He so chooses.  Or God can slam the door shut in my face and say no, this doctor isn't going to do surgery on your child.  Or God can say no surgery at all.  He can heal her without surgery.  He can chose not to heal her at all, with or without surgery.  I'm trying to play God.  I'm trying to manipulate circumstances in the way I see fit.  That is part of my job as mama bear, in a way... but I also need to realize that I'm not completely in control.  And neither is the doctor.  And neither are the two, or three, of us put together.

The only way I'm going to get peace is to realize that God is the one in charge of my child's brain and skull, not me.  Not the doctor.  Not the other doctor.  Not the other other doctor. And I've got to trust Him enough to be willing to say, You know best, and I chose to trust You.

Nothing can prepare you for parenting...

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Chance

I sat in the floor and listened to her. And I could understand almost everything she said. We had a simple conversation, about stacking blocks and her little brother and a fellow playmate' s snazzy boots. I watched him pretend to drive a truck, and then pretend to fix the roof of the truck, or had it turned back into the slide house again?

When I got home, after I fed everyone lunch, I pulled her into my lap and squeezed her.  And I held and kissed her head, for once not feeling the lumps but thinking only of the heart inside that little body.  I hope and pray for now she has no idea.  It may be hard to believe given all I write, but I honestly forget how different she is.  I'm not interacting directly with her age often, so I don't realize what a gap is growing.

Is she oblivious? I hope so.  How long will she stay that way?  Will she be able to make friends?  I talk about her new friends, try to learn their names so I can talk to her about them in hopes that calling them friends will create reality.  She won't be two forever, and it doesn't take long for little girls to form cliques.  They throw daggers far too early.  How long will it be before they're thrown, and before she realizes she's excluded?

This is why I'm fighting for surgery. I want her to have a chance. A chance to develop normally.  A chance to be able to communicate and build friendships with her peers.  A chance to learn without having to struggle for every gain. I know there are no guarantees. I know there's a risk of complications. But if something doesn't change... how behind will she fall? How isolated will she be?  And how much hurt will her heart experience?

I'm trying to teach her to hug.  To teach her to give and receive affection.  Because just giving her affection isn't working.  But I can't teach everything.  I need her to have a chance of absorbing it, the way her sister does.  I'm not asking the doctors for a miracle. I'm just asking for them to give her a chance.

Friday, February 14, 2014

FMF: Garden


1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..


Go:

I grew up with gardens.  My dad had a vegetable garden every year that I can remember, as did my grandparents.  And now, living in farm country, I'm surrounded by gardens of wheat and other stuff I have yet to be able to identify.  I've never gardened myself and really wouldn't know where to start, I'm sad to say.

But, I do know in order to have a good garden, you have to continually work on it.  There are seasons of intense activity, and seasons of slower activity, but there's always something to be done.  You may be planning the arrangement, ordering seeds, filling the ground with compost.  Or you may be weeding and watering and pruning.  Or you may be harvesting.  But it's a long term investment.  It's not something you start and a month later you have your reward.

In the midst of my battle over Ladybug's head, I've thought so many times "I just want this to be over.  I want this to be behind us so we can move on with life."  Just this morning, I said the doctor had 10 weeks to get her taken care of so I can have this baby in just over 11 weeks.

While I might should push for rapid treatment, I can't allow myself to think that it will all be over in 10 weeks, though, even if the doctors cooperate.  There's no guarantee.  Surgery might fix her issues, but some might be left.  Some may have nothing to do with her brain and aren't fixable at all.  Complications might arise after  surgery.

Children are like plants in a garden.  They take time, and there's always something.  By focusing on having it behind me, I might be setting myself up for disappointment.  I'm in a season of frantic activity right now, but that doesn't mean my reward is going to be sitting on a porch drinking lemonade next month.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Desperate: Ideals & Going Under

Oh, how I identified with this Sarah Mae in this chapter... I too had an idealistic view of the type of mother and wife I'd be.  I dreamed of being the mother on the street with the neighborhood kids gathered around the counter eating fresh baked cookies and doing their homework.  I imagined myself playing tea party with my girls, baking cookies with them at a young age, with their hair tidy and smelling sweet. I'd be the consistent disciplinarian, always on the same page as my husband, yet never raising my voice or getting frustrated.  I pictured myself greeting my husband at the door with a kiss and having homemade goodies available for him to snack on, a from-scratch dinner in the oven ready to eat at 5:30pm sharp, the house clear of clutter and myself decent and presentable.  You'd never catch me wearing the same clothes two days in a row.

But somehow, my imaginary life and my real life don't seem to be on the same page.  Most of the time I don't raise my voice or get frustrated, but it happens more often than I'd like, and the frequency is increasing.  Not the direction I want my motherhood to be going.  I couldn't tell you the last time I baked cookies.  I couldn't manage a brief conversation with my neighbors in the doctor's office, let alone have I had their kids over.  I've never cooked with my girls, and more often than not there's food in their hair.  I don't greet my husband at the door. Dinner wasn't ready tonight until 7:30pm.  Until the last few days, I've been doing good to clear a path from the front door to the kitchen.  And I've fallen into that horrible habit of not wearing clean clothes each day if I don't have to go out.

On one hand, this bothers me immensely.  I'm living the life I dreamed, but I find myself playing some second-rate part, just barely scraping by, focusing on surviving each day.  I find myself frustrated by my lack of knowledge.  I have become angry that I was supposed to be prepared for life, and yet I feel I got a bunch of book knowledge that is so useless I've forgotten it, but I don't even know how to get stains out of my children's clothes.  I am irritated by my lack of experience in how to keep a grocery budget reasonable; breakfast and lunch were almost always ready-made items that I'm told are a big chunk of my excess spending.  Oatmeal that isn't instant in single-serve packages?  Tuna casserole or rice & beans instead of Lunch Buckets and Hot Pockets?  These are foreign concepts to me, yet I desperately need to learn them!  I may have come from a family that gardened, but the knowledge of when and how to plant and how to preserve the food did not get handed down.  I sat inside with workbooks while the planting happened.  I played or read while food was canned and frozen.  If only I'd known as a 14-18 year old what I know now, I'd have been in that dirt and in the kitchen finding out how to do those things!

Yet it's also easy to fall into the trap that what I'm living is acceptable.  It is normal.  But normal doesn't always mean right.  I should be seeking to improve, not be content to wallow in my messy cluttered overwhelmed life.

The key seems to be, what is my attitude in seeking to improve?  And how am I trying to do it?  While I use websites to try to discover how to get macaroni & cheese stains out of Turkey's shirt, am I allowing myself to harbor anger that I wasn't already taught this?  When I ever get around to making those apple muffins that aren't from a package, am I inwardly stewing that I'm having to try to cut our food budget when I don't even have a dishwasher?  When I bite my tongue and don't snap at my toddler for knocking the vacuum over for the 5th time today, am I just doing that so I can brag that I didn't lose my temper today?  And am I trying to do all this in my own strength, the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" method?

Because that doesn't work.  I've tried that method, and I've been lucky if it's lasted 24 hours.

The only way to change, the only way I can hope to become the mother & wife I dreamed of, and the only way I can keep going when I fail miserably, is through Christ.  Through His grace, and His love.

I don't have the willpower to control my tongue, let alone my thoughts and heart attitudes.  When two toddlers can wreck a room in 10 minutes that it took me 3 hours to clean, my natural response is irritation and frustration.  Or despair.  But, if through Christ's grace I can look at my children as He sees them, I can do more than get angry.  Or withdraw onto the couch and attempt to ignore the situation.  I can try to get into their world, I can speak love to them, I can redirect and train and create memories.  For those mess-makers are what He describes as "such is the kingdom of heaven."  Were all the children who came to Jesus that day developmentally advanced?  Or did He reach out His hand to the withdrawn one in the back who hadn't said a word?

And when I slip... when I get frustrated and speak too harshly... when I ask accusingly, "What is wrong with you?  You did this last week, why can't you do it now?  Stop thrashing your head, pick up the crayons, do it now!"  And when, within seconds, that dagger stabs my heart and I realize the tone that just came out of my mouth, and I'd give anything to be able to take it all back... Christ's grace can enable me to accept His forgiveness, ask for hers, and hand over hand, if that's what it takes, gently help her to complete the task.  And His love can then flow through me as I calm and distract.  His peace and ability to heal can guide my worries into prayers as I rub her lumpy head and try to look into her eyes and understand what's going on in there.

I can't do it alone.  I can't do it through my own power.  And all the "me time" in the world can't substitute for putting God's words into my mind and heart.  I've let myself slip, and my family has paid the price.  I've succeeded in drinking my coffee before getting the children up for most of the last month... this coming month, I think I need to drink something in addition to my coffee, the Living Water that will spring up into eternal life. (*splish splash* and make me whooooole... sorry, now the song is stuck in my head!)

Monday, January 27, 2014

The latest...

So I know there's a way of organizing posts into nice little sections... need to figure that out.

This is a newsy post, mostly a record for myself so I have some context for my other posts.

The latest thing in the family is the ordeal of trying to get Ladybug's head taken care of before Squirt gets here in 14 weeks.  (Yes, he'll get another nickname once he arrives.)  At the moment, we have her on antibiotics, allergy medications, and must-be-made-of-gold ear drops in an attempt to clear up some sort of respiratory infection and rid her ears of fluid.  This is so we can then get clearance to have her put on a ventilator for her brain MRI.  She's been sedated 3 times before, but each time she's continued breathing on her own.  This time, though, I suppose because it is a longer procedure, the sedation is going to be deeper; they will actually have to insert an artificial airway and breathe for her.  When I found this out my mommy heart skipped a few beats, but then my medical side took over and realized it's okay.  This is what I'm told they'll be using, called an LMA (laryngeal mask airway); it's between a bag mask and full intubation. I've played with these in CPR/ACLS classes; fun stuff till it's real.
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/82527-overview#a09

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/82527-overview#a15
Basically, if she goes under and gets ventilation with any sort of cold/illness, it runs the risk of turning into pneumonia.  An adult can be told to deep breathe and cough; a toddler, not so much.  When I try to get her to cough on command, she gives me a little fake cough which doesn't do diddly squat for her lungs.  She's not been completely well since we landed in TN over a month ago, so as much as I want to hurry this along, I know waiting is probably best.  She certainly doesn't mind taking medicine; she loves the stuff, which is sort of disturbing actually...

The worst part of trying to get her well is keeping her from picking up any other germs.  There have been 3 cases of whooping cough confirmed in the county since January, and not vaccinating is pretty popular up here. (not going there not going there not going there)  We're vaccinated, but that can't guarantee 100% protection.  So basically we're going to be staying in for the next couple of weeks, which I hate to do but don't feel I have much choice about.  If I thought she wouldn't have been disappointed, I'd have kept her out of the nursery this morning at church; she's a creature of habit, though, so going to church and not going to nursery to play might have caused some issues. But no library story hour, no play group, no museum, no starting day care one morning a week like I was really looking forward to...

The reason behind all this, if anyone ever reads this that doesn't already know, is that we are looking for signs of increased ICP (intracranial pressure).  The best of the best doctor in the craniostenosis field gave me some suggestions for tests after I emailed him a brief history and some pictures and CT images of Ladybug's head.  One test, a basic eye exam, we do routinely anyway; another test, an rVEP, which is basically an EEG while looking at a specially designed moving pattern, can't be done in the state on pediatric patients.  So that left us with an MRI, which our "local" cranio doctor had also mentioned as a possibility at her November appointment.  I'm having our local pediatrician order the test since I haven't heard back from our "local" cranio doctor about the radiologist's opinion of the correct CT scan. 

I feel I'm walking a bit of a tightrope at this point... doing what I feel is best for my child while risking making medical professionals angry with me.  This is either going to cause them to respect me, or it's going to cause them to dislike me which may or may not spill over into their treatment of my child, possibly children if Squirt also has this issue.  The doctor I know I'm not making mad is in Dallas, and that's a bit of trek to make... but if that's the best person to treat our children, then we'll do it.  

But back to the increased ICP... I'm unsure just how much they can tell about that from an MRI.  I know they'll be able to tell how much space between her brain and her skull there is; how definite they are about how much there is supposed to be at this age I'm uncertain.  They will be looking specifically for a condition called a Chiari Malformation.  This is where part of the brain, the cerebellum, is pushed down into the spinal column area.  This is not a good thing... when you start squeezing the brain enough to cause that, you have issues.  From what I've read, this is prone to happen when the lambdoid and sagittal sutures are closed, which Ladybug's are at least partially.  Also according to my research, this can cause symptoms that can be mistaken for autism, and these symptoms can wax and wane depending on the ICP at the time.  Hm... sounds a lot like Ladybug to this mama.  I'm not positive she has this, but it's a big enough possibility that I feel this test really needs to be done.  
http://www.chiariinstitute.com/chiari_malformation.html

If something is found wrong on this MRI, it is quite possible that we'll need to act quickly to correct it.  Since I'm 25 weeks pregnant now, this is why I'm pushing to get this done ASAP.  If my child needs surgery, I need to be there with her.  But I'm 5 hours away from any place that could do anything she needs, potentially 1,500 miles from a surgeon who will do what she needs. And traveling after 34-35 weeks is pretty frowned upon... On one hand, I'm upset that we were shorted an entire month thanks to a mistake, but on the other hand, had the mistake not been made I might not have felt the need to even do this test without the "local" doctor saying we needed to do it. Once we're on the other side of this, assuming there is another side, I might go into more detail about just what I've dealt with in the last two weeks.  Suffice it to say for now, it's been ugly.  

So that's what has consumed me most recently.  Turkey is just along for the ride, using her grin to endear herself to everyone but fully capable of bursting into a full blown lay down in the floor kick her feet fit at any moment her will is challenged.  Every child is challenging in their own way... parenting is a wild ride!  And Squirt, as far as I know, is just hanging out, packing on ounces and inches, practising to be a soccer player. Hopefully I'll have packed on a few pounds myself at my appointment tomorrow; just hope I haven't overdone it and sent myself into GDM!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thoughts from Desperate: #1

* My sister-in-law recommended a book to me, and told me whatever I was reading, stop and get this book.  I told her I thought I could take a break from Bleak House, given that I've started that poor book 3 times now and just can't seem to get into it like I usually do Dickens.  So I went to Amazon and downloaded the book onto my Kindle.  It's more than I've ever paid for a Kindle book; I usually refuse to pay anything at all, at most 99 cents, but I've not even finished the book and I'm glad I spent the money.  There is so much going on in my life right now that I wanted to blog with a little more structure, something to give me incentive to do more than just rant.  So I hope to reveal a little of what the pages of this book have said to me, chapter by chapter, because it seems to speak right to, and from, my heart.


Section 1: The Dream Life... Altered
"Ideals and Going Under"

I reached the end of the chapter, and as much as I wanted to surge on to the next chapter, I read the verses and questions.  Often, I don't do this; I always plan on coming back to them, which I rarely do.  But this time, I took the few moments, thinking that these ladies know how busy motherhood is and wouldn't have just thrown questions and verses in unless they were really truly important to the message of their book.

And in the short time it took me to read the questions and verses, and then read the verses again, I felt tears running down my cheeks and falling onto my bulging belly.  Isaiah 41:10 has been such a vital verse to me since I heard its phrases sung in college, yet I had forgotten it in the last month.

I had been sitting there feeling anxiety creep its icy cold hands around my heart and start to squeeze.  A fellow cranio mom had suggested that I might want to speed along the process of getting testing done on my Ladybug.  I'd planned on trying to combine our trips so that we could make the five hour drive to Billings just once.  But this mom correctly pointed out that if something came up wrong, we'd need to move relatively quickly with surgery, and I wouldn't want to be in the position of needing to get my child surgery but not being able to travel because of my late stage in pregnancy or having a newborn.

So I mentioned it to the Mechanic.  And upon a minute's thought, he too agreed that we should probably move quickly.  I said I'd smooth it over with the specialist I was sort of bypassing by reminding him that I had more than one child to consider in the situation.

And I felt guilty.  And overwhelmed.  The two primary advisers who'd been commenting on our cranio journey each had a single child.  They'd been able to devote themselves fully to their cranio kid without worrying about any other children.  Yet here I was, facing trying to get Ladybug several tests before I was unable to travel, and trying to allow enough wiggle room so that if something was wrong we could deal with it before the new baby arrived.  And I recalled the last 3 weeks of pregnancy with Turkey, how miserable and incapable of doing almost anything I'd been.  And I remembered being in the grocery store just 3 days before having Braxton Hicks and realizing they were stronger and earlier than even with Turkey.

And that fear crept in.  What if I can't do this?  What if I can't get all these scheduled in time?  What if I have to make a decision about a major surgery too quickly because I'm rapidly approaching my due date?  What if we need to travel and I can't?  What if... and the various scenarios swirled through my mind.  And I felt so far from the medical services we need... five hours driving time with not a single McDonalds.  And I pictured myself waddling trying to get both girls into the nasty gas station bathroom with me because we have no other choice.

And yet... Do not fear. For I am the Lord thy God.  I will uphold you with My right hand.

He knows.  He may not be a mother, but He loves with a mother's heart, while still remaining God.  He knew when He created me that one day, I would walk this path.  That one day, I would face this seemingly impossible juggling act.  That one day, I would find myself burdened down by the weight of trying to decide what to do, when to do it, how much to push, all overshadowed by the fear of more mistakes.  That great weight of responsibility, that feeling of "I have to stay on top of it all, because if I don't something can get messed up."  And goodness knows I'm capable of messing up enough myself.  I thought I had a specialist eye appointment, and it was only after about 12 hours that I stood in a certain spot in the dining room and realized I'd stood in that exact spot and called and cancelled that appointment a month previous, thinking we didn't need it.

But He knows.  He's in control.  He has been in control, all along.  And He knows my tomorrows.  More importantly to me at this moment, He knows my child's tomorrows.  As I've pushed for answers, my anxiety concerning what might happen if we find answers has increased.  I've had nightmares of strokes in the surgical suite, of tiny wheelchairs and starting from scratch at age two.  I've had terrifying mental images of cradling my limp child.  I always thought I could cope with surgery just fine.  But now, just as we push to test to try to find out if anything even needs to be done, the worst case scenarios fill my head.  Because I know I'd blame myself.  I pushed.  I drove these people crazy.  And this is what happened.

But God knows her future.  He controls it, despite me, despite medical staff, and yet through me and through medical staff.  And I need not fear the tests.  I need not fear the answers they bring.  Or the answers they don't bring.  I need not fear treatments, or therapies, or years of continuing in this vast unknown of "is today going to be an awesome day or a day of throwing our head around, wailing, and being unable to communicate?"

God is capable of healing.  He could say the word, and all her challenges could be gone, instantly.  He could cause her to meet every developmental milestone, early even.  He could smooth those bumps and dips.  But He hasn't chosen to do that.  And while it sometimes makes me mad that He could "fix" all this and He keeps choosing not to, and it even seems like sometimes He keeps allowing more stuff to happen to complicate matters... His ways are higher than my ways.  Would I be forced to trust Him as much if Ladybug was just like Turkey?  I'd be forced to prayer, yes, such as "God what do I do with this temper?"  But that out of control feeling?  That feeling of complete helplessness, of doing all I can do and yet it still not being enough?  It takes a different kind of trial to get to that point.

And I know that God has more trials ahead of me.  Because this is how He sanctifies me.  This is how He teaches me.  And this is where those verses are so important... He will strengthen me.  He will help me.  He will uphold me.  Alone, this time by itself would undo me.  And the thought of even more trials to come could send me to the loony bin.  But I don't have to walk this motherhood thing alone.  I don't have to do it in my own wisdom, my own strength, my own abilities.  He gives me children.  Then He gives me grace to raise those children.  So many times I've looked at others and thought "I couldn't handle a child like that."  Yet... God gives me the grace for whatever child He gives me.  I don't have to handle it.

So when I shut down... when I just want to curl up under a blanket and hide... when I can't deal with another regression, or tantrum, or error, or dirty dish... when I think I can't take another day... I need not fear.  For I am promised help. Strength. And endless grace.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Superwoman Envy

Do you ever look at someone else and think to yourself, "What is wrong with me?  Why can't I be like them?"

And then do you find yourself getting mad?  At yourself?  At that someone else?  At some third-party that has nothing to do with anything?

I've had some moments of feeling pretty good about myself recently.  I've made some progress in some areas, took some action, got some results.  I had a little pride building up.  A little mom-pride.  Many other areas still need a lot of work, but I've kept my head mostly above water, sort-of, so I felt I could indulge in a little pat-on-the-back for myself.  I'd made progress, and that's what I cared about.

And then today, in church, I got smacked so far down in the ground you'd think a meteor had hit.

I didn't take it very well.  Why do they have to be so good and godly?  Why do they have to be involved in both home AND foreign missions at the same time?  Why do they have to make my life look so easy and me look so bad?  Why can't I just be surrounded by normal people, not these super-families?

Yeah, my attitude got pretty ugly.

And in the space of a few hours, I went through the gamut of emotions.  The anger.  The "woe-is-me I'll never amount to anything."  The "they're probably screwing up their kids."  The "I should be more like them."

But what finally occurred to me is, God doesn't call each of us to the same thing.  For example, Moses tried to do it all.  And his father-in-law very wisely said, stop.  Delegate.  Let someone else handle some of these needs.  In the early church, they realized the apostles couldn't do all the teaching and all the serving.  So they divided the church leaders and gave some the responsibility of teaching and some the responsibility of serving the widows and orphans.  God doesn't ask for us to do it all.  He asks us to do what He asks of us.  At this moment.  And He asks us to do it wholeheartedly, with His strength, to His glory.

Am I called to foreign missions right now?  To pray and support, yes, but to actually go?  No.  Am I called to foster children right now?  No.  I feel no call for that at all.  I feel pressure, that that's what good people do around here, but there is no call from God.  What am I called to do?  Right now?  To love my husband and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to my own husband.  That's it.  I struggle in many of these areas.  There is much work to be done in me.  And if I were to take on additional responsibilities, frankly, I'd be disobeying God, because I'd be forsaking what He has called me do right now.

That doesn't mean I won't eventually be called to something else, even if I'm not perfect in these areas.  I'll never be perfect.  But I'm pretty sure that when He does call me to something more, He'll give me the grace to continue with these basics.

Right now, I'm called to fight for my daughter's medical and developmental health.  I didn't ask for this job.  I didn't want this job.  I wanted healthy children.  But God gave me this job.  He allowed genetic problems, he allowed medical mistakes, he allowed my education, and he equipped me to fight and research on her behalf.  It's time consuming.  If I added additional "good things" to my plate I wouldn't be able to do this for her.  Does it sound as good as going on a mission trip?  No way.  Does it look as good as caring for orphans?  No.  But is it my call?  Yes.  And so does how it sounds or look matter at all?  Nope.

I have many other callings listed in those verses from Titus.  I only mention loving my children because I think that's the one I'm doing best, and frankly, the one I put the most energy into. =/  Those others... well... not doing so good in those areas, but they are important.  They are my job, right now.  So the comparing, the envy, the anger, the self-doubt... it needs to stop.  I need to focus on what I'm called to do, not on what other people are called to do.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Encouragement

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..


Go:

I so often look for encouragement from outside sources.  From other people.  Through text messages.  Phone calls.  Facebook.  And when people I know don't supply nearly enough, I go to people I don't know.  Blogs.  And more blogs.  The internet is full of sources of encouragement.  

Yet, sometimes, it's still not enough. 

And while this may not sound like the most Christian thing to say, I'm going to say it anyway.

Sometimes, the source of encouragement needs to be myself.  

Yes, I need to encourage me.  

By acting.  By changing.  By realizing no one can fix my problems for me.  No one can tell me exactly what to do.  Sometimes, I need to consider my options, make a decision, and act on it.  

I need to order that preschool workbook and commit to putting structure into my child's life and taking charge of her education, rather than just hoping everything works out. 

I need to e-mail that doctor and get that 3rd opinion, even when I know it may bring news I don't want to hear.  Or news that may leave me asking, how am I going to pay for this?  

And when I take action, when I take a deep breath and say here we go Lord, stop me now if this isn't what I need to be doing cause I don't know what else I can do... encouragement happens.

Because I realize, I'm not a little girl anymore.  I am an adult.  I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am responsible.  I can be led by God, and I don't have to wait on someone else to tell me what to do.  Because no one else has walked this exact path I'm on.  I need to trust that God gave me a brain, and that He will guide me to what I'm supposed to do.  

And when I need to, I am capable of doing it.  

Stop.