Friday, December 4, 2015

Singing on a bad day...

"Mommy, why you singin'?"

"Because singing makes me happier, and I've had a bad day."

A few minutes later...

"Bwess da Woord, ah my tole...  I had a bad day, but singin' make me happy."


Well, if nothing else, my children will learn some good songs and that singing can make a bad day better.

As I was listening to my "strength" playlist while fixing dinner towards the end of a very trying day, I was brought back in my memory to the last time I listened to that playlist over, and over, and over again.

My daughter had just been diagnosed with autism and was facing an MRI that I feared would reveal more problems and need for more surgeries.

I felt helpless.  I was so discouraged, and wanted so badly to fix everything, but there was nothing I could do.  I'd been doing everything that was suggested, and trying to find more to do was just overwhelming.  All the programs cost money we didn't have, there was no intensive therapy available within 5 hours.  And I'd worked so hard, so long, to try to avoid the very diagnosis she'd been given.

My husband sent me out to a field, to look at the open sky and rest in the God that made it.  And while there, I was able to say, "thank You, God, for the autism."  And over the next few weeks as we waited on the MRI, I sang over and over, "Though You slay me, yet I will praise you.  Though you take from me, I will bless Your name.  Though You ruin me, still I will worship, sing a song to the One Who's all I need" by Shane & Shane.

And while I sat in that hospital, I played those words over and over in my head: "I come, God, I come, returning to the One Who's broken, Who's torn me apart. You strike down to bind me up, You say You do it all in love."

And we came through it.  Six months later, there have been no more brain surgeries.  Many problems that seemed like a brain problem were caused by something controllable with a strict regimen of Miralax and fiber gummies.  She has made great progress, not only tolerating but enjoying social activities such as Awana and preschool.  Just a few weeks ago, she walked to children's church with her sister without me.  That was huge!  The autism isn't gone, but we're not regressing, and we have great hope that she'll be just fine.

Life was pretty good.  Busy.  Chaotic, which is normal for us.  But good.

Then, some things I had let get lost in the shuffle of life with 3 young children suddenly became urgent problems.  Then water started bubbling out of a hole in the basement floor.  Then I did a load of laundry and we had small fountain and a growing stream in our basement.

Suddenly, life wasn't good anymore.

Suddenly, "I'm thankful for indoor plumbing" wasn't just something to get a laugh at the Thanksgiving table, but it was a serious "I'll be thankful when we can actually use ours again."  At first, my panic was simply, how are we going to pay for this?  Then it became, can we get this fixed before the ground freezes?  Then it became, can we even find a plumber able to do anything?

And I was panicking.  I was ready to get out in the yard with a shovel myself.

But the kids threw shredded paper all over my freshly cleaned living room, and so I put on those songs.

And I was reminded... over the bowl of rinse water to be discarded outside... God is as much in charge of my pipes as He is my daughter's brain.

So what if this is happening because I haven't been faithful in tithing?

Do I discipline my kids just because I'm mad at them and want them to suffer?

Or do I discipline them in order to get them to a better place, a place where we can enjoy a relationship, where they can be functional and able to grow into what they are capable of doing?

Even in the discipline... the point isn't what they did wrong.  Not really.  It's part of it, and it's important for them to realize their mistakes.  BUT... in most if not all cases, a focus on the positive will do just as good a job helping them to make better choices.  Tonight, they spread shredded paper all over my clean living room.  Had I told them not to do that?  Not really.  But what they need to learn is not "don't spread shredded paper," but "be kind and considerate."  Which is more relational and less a rule.

I may feel like I can do more in this situation than with Ladybug's brain.  I can tithe.  I can help haul concrete, or hand pipes, or make coffee in disposable cups for anyone helping us.  But if that's all I do... I'm missing the point.  At least I think I am.  Because the point may be less about do x, y, and z, and more about, trust Me.  Let Me handle it.  Take that tithe money out, even though that means there's more month than there is money.  Bring Me the plumbing problems, because I've already got a plan for how you're going to get through the winter.  I knew about that crumbling pipe, and the in-the-way gas line, and the half-dead trees, and the friends with skills, and the lack of plumbers.  And even though it was your mistake, I knew about that misunderstood and misplaced bill too.

And I don't want anyone to think I'm putting words in God's mouth.  I sure haven't heard Him audibly speak any of that.  But I do know for a fact that nothing surprises God.  That He's in control of everything.  So... maybe that's what He's teaching me?

Or maybe he just wanted my kids to hear me singing on a bad day, so they'd learn that it helps.

Friday, November 6, 2015

You Can't Mess Up Your Children

I've been giving a lot of thought recently to my children's future education.  In 21 months, my oldest will be starting kindergarten, somewhere.  (Yes, I've given that much thought to it that I'm counting down in months.)  My middle child will also have the option of starting kindergarten then as well.  Where and how they are educated is of major concern for me.

I'm afraid of this decision, because I'm afraid of messing up my kids.  I was home schooled, and I do not want my children's lives to turn out the way mine did.  I have heard awful things about the public school system and fear my children will turn into another bad statistic.  Any private school in our area will be brand new, so no one knows what kind of result those will have.

Even though I know at any point I can change my mind and do something different if what I choose isn't working out, I still fear this decision.  What if that one year or less totally messes them up?  What if they end up behind, or scarred academically, or emotionally, or spiritually?

And this morning, I realized exactly what I was doing.

I was making myself equal to God.

Actually, worse: I was making myself more powerful than God.

I believe in the sovereignty of God.  He says He knew all of our days before we were even born.  He has a plan.  He has written a story.

By saying that I'm afraid of messing up my kids, I'm saying I'm afraid I'm going to mess up His plan.  As a character in His story... how could I possibly do that?

My children are known and created individually by God.  He has a plan for each of them.  Every moment of every day has been ordered by God.

Am I capable of surprising the God who ordered every moment?  Am I able to mess up His plan for my children?  Am I so powerful that my mistakes hinder the God of the universe?!

By extension... my idea that my life is messed up is completely wrong.  I didn't blow it.  My parents didn't blow it.  Not in the grand scheme of things.  Because God is in control, and He both knew and planned the seemingly messed up parts of my life.  Sin plays a part, but sin is not more powerful than God.

That battle I have with the quote, "you are exactly the mom your kids need," because I felt I did not have the mom I needed, is pointless.  She was the mom I needed, because even in the hurt, God used that to draw me to Him.  If my emotional needs had been met by her, if we had a beautiful relationship, would I be as reliant on my Heavenly Father?  I don't know... but I know His plan is good.

If you don't believe in God's sovereignty, in the doctrine of predestination, I'm not out to convince you.  But with those beliefs as my foundation, messing up my kids is impossible.  Because God's got this.  He's ordered, planned, and crafted a story for His glory.

Now, this doesn't mean I get to lay on the couch eating Doritos and letting my kids fend for themselves because that's God's plan for them.  But I don't have to be paralyzed by fear of messing up.  Because I love my kids, I research, plan, learn, and do my best for them.  I pray, and I trust God to lead me, knowing that what appears to be a mistake to me is part of God's plan to glorify Himself through me and my children.

God doesn't make mistakes.  So I can spend less time worrying, and more time allowing the God of the universe to guide me.  Knowing that He will guide me, and that He loves my kids even more than I do, takes a heavy weight from my chest.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sands of Time

Life is always moving, always changing.  As a mom, I feel like I start to get an idea of what I'm supposed to be doing in a certain stage of life, and then a child develops a new skill or we move into a new stage of development, and I'm left thinking, "wait... I just figured out the perfect nap schedule!  What do you mean you no longer need that morning nap?" 

With both my girls now in preschool, I feel I have moved into a new stage of life.  Our calendar, which used to stay pretty empty, is now color coded.  I feel as if I spend hours of my life each week buckling kids in and pulling kids out of car seats. I have alarms on my phone to remind me to drop kids off and pick kids up.  

I have reached the stage of life that isn't going to slow down on its own.  From here until the kids are significantly older, we're going to have opportunities for many things.  School, church, and medical activities.  Sports and social events.  Requests to volunteer, to teach, to bake, to participate.  

I've heard through the years, the importance of being able to say no.  Of how our schedules can get so full that we don't enjoy our families because we're so busy rushing from place to place.  

I'm not sure why I thought I'd be immune to that. 

But now... I look at my calendar, full of good things.  I look at my house, half-finished projects, produce drawers full of good intentions.  I look at my children... and they aren't babies anymore.  I don't have a baby now.  They are taking steps away from me, towards independence, which is exactly what they should be doing.  The child I thought was my baby has realized he can tell me "no" and express his own opinions.  The child I was beginning to despair of ever dressing herself is now able to follow a picture schedule for her morning routine with not much more than redirection back to her schedule.

Drifting... putting out fires... surviving.  However you want to describe it, this is a point in life that I can just see how many good things I can cram into my day.  And then realize, maybe at the end of the day, or maybe at the end of my life, that I forgot about the most important things.  

I wasn't feeling great today so when the kids had rest time, I sat down and thought about the vision I had for my life as a late teen.  I jotted down the four things I remember having in my vision statement I'd written.  Those four things are still what I believe God asks me to do with my life.  

Then I graded myself.  

The best grade on my self-evaluation was a C.  The number one thing I'd written down?  I had to give myself an F.  

Then I jotted down what I thought were the reasons behind my "grades."  They ranged from self-centeredness and negativity to distractions and a reluctance to be vulnerable.  

There's a lot of talk about being intentional.  Intentional parenting, intentional discipleship, intentional blah blah blah.  And I've sometimes wondered, is that a Biblical concept?  I'm beginning to think it is.  Because, if you aren't intentional, you are... unintentional.  Unplanned.  Frankly, taken to the logical extreme, not intentional means chaotic.  Random.  And that isn't God's nature.  He planned the most incredible plan ever.  He orders all of creation.  He holds all things together.  So does He intend for me to live my life in a chaotic, haphazard sort of way?  I don't think so.  Because He also commands me to do all things for His glory.

And while life happens, I don't think I can really claim allowing 5 dozen eggs to spoil in the fridge because I forgot to make the egg muffins I promised my husband I'd make can in any way be done for His glory.  (I've not let that happen... yet.  But at the rate I'm going, it's very possible!)

So, rather than focusing on the details, which change so quickly, I'm going to try filtering things through my priorities.  I want to look at my end goals, and make choices and changes that will push me towards those goals.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Cost of a Clean Floor

I scrubbed my floor this morning. After an apple juice spill yesterday, which no amount of wiping can de-stickify, it needed it.  Once hot chocolate was splashed on top of the apple juice stickiness just moments after my "Why are you out of your seat with your hot chocolate? Please sit down," the decision was made: the floor HAD to be cleaned today. 


I put the kids downstairs in the basement.  There are a ridiculous number of toys down there, so it seems like a great place to lock the kids so I can get something done. 

After I finished scrubbing, I noticed it had been remarkably calm.  Usually, they're standing at the gate screaming either for me or at each other.  So, with trepidation, I went down the stairs.  Little Bearcub was playing nicely with toys, just like I'd hoped.  But the two girls... they were both behind a closed door in Little Bearcub's room. 

And this is just a small piece of what I found when I opened the door: 


That is, in fact, an eraser.  Glued to the wall.  Those faint circles?  Well... those purple Elmer's School Glue Sticks that say they go on purple and dry clear?  It's true. 

One bag.  I missed putting away one bag of school supplies.  Now, I have two walls, a door, and a crib coated in glue, with some "Poop Goop" diaper cream thrown in for good measure.

The girls asked, "You sad Mommy?"  I said, yes, yes I'm sad.  I'm also angry.  Figured I might as well use this as a lesson in feelings, that there's more to life than happy and sad, which is all Ladybug is aware of currently.  

I cleaned up the girls as best I could, did a quick wipe of the walls to remove the large chunks of glue, comforted a baby boy who had practiced his stair climbing skills but rolled back down them before I could catch him, and got lunch for everyone. 

It was a pretty quiet lunch from my end.  Normally, I chat with the kids about the colors and shapes and numbers of what they're eating.  Today, I just insisted on pleases and gave them their food without comment.  I sat down in the other room and did some thinking.  

I thought about how many days it is till school starts and I get a couple hours at a time down to two children.  

I thought about how frustrating it is to put in effort cleaning, only to find an even bigger mess has happened somewhere else.

I thought about how angry I was with myself for not ensuring the glue made it behind a locked door and onto a high shelf. 

I thought about how irritated I was that I'm trying to keep a clean and orderly house, but for every step forward I make we go backwards two.  

I thought about how it's not fair that some people have regular child care by family so they can be hospitable and actually maintain instead of trying to brush their teeth while eating Oreos.  

In between these thoughts, the girls had wandered in and were talking incessantly, and I explained to them that I was upset.  That just like Ladybug, I need to calm down and be alone for a little while.  So I asked them to please go into their respective nap rooms and I'd read them a book once I'd calmed down.


Little Bearcub has his one year molars coming in, and so he was screaming.  When he stopped screaming, I went in to check on him.  And this melted my heart. 



I went into Ladybug's room, and she, of course, had put on pj's and was trying to find the matching shirt.  And wrapping other shirts tightly around her arm if they didn't match.  Team Quirky here. 



 I took Little Bearcub downstairs and put him in his slightly de-stickified crib, and sat down to read Turkey a book.  At that point, I knew I needed to record this day for myself, so I tried to snap a picture of her, but before I did, she plopped down on my lap, and this is the result. 


I have so few pictures of my kids looking at me. Even fewer of me looking at them, because I'm usually behind the camera.  I don't do posed pictures, have a vendetta against selfie-sticks, so I pretty much don't exist according to the pictures.  

Whose job is it to make sure the house is as child proof as possible?  Mine.  Who is responsible for making sure the children are properly occupied during the day?  Mine.  Whose fault is it when the day goes to a glue stick?  

Mine.  

Yet, when I got angry, there was a long list of things I was angry about, and only one included my own responsibility for the mess. 

It doesn't matter that most parents don't have to deal with SPD.  It doesn't matter that most parents don't deal with both SPD and three children ages 1, 2, & 3.  It doesn't matter that my life isn't as cushy as I'd dreamed it would be.  

It's my life.

They're my monkeys.

This is my circus. 

And it's my job to make it work. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Never Stop Trying

"When children know their differences will be supported by you saying you will never stop trying ways to help them find their very best voice, their fears rest." - Peyton Goddard

Tomorrow, I will drive myself and one of my daughters five hours south.  I've told her we are going to the "big city," and promised we will go shopping to get her some shoes that won't squish her feet, before we go spend the night in a "room."  We'll take the car to the "car doctor" the next morning, and then we're going to see a doctor who wants to see "how well you play." Then we'll get the car back from the car doctor, and drive the five hours back home.

The adult version is we're finally getting recalled parts replaced in our vehicle, and we're having another developmental evaluation done on Ladybug.

I picked up two books from the library that I'm having a hard time putting down.  One is The Spark, about a mother raising a child who is a genius.  The other is I Am Intelligent, about a mother raising a child who is autistic and becomes mute after abuse.  When I scanned them in the library, I was drawn to them because they are both mothers whose children are different.  They don't fit the mold.  And both moms doubted themselves.  They wondered if they were making the right decisions, and they felt alone.

I'm sure every mom doubts herself, and every kid is unique.  But there's a distinct difference in my feelings and thoughts about parenting Ladybug and parenting Turkey.  Turkey's a pretty typical kid.  She's not easy, at all, with a dangerous combination of stubborn and cute.  But her temper, and her refusal to get in the pool... and her inability to follow the crowd and therefore going the wrong way while playing London Bridge simply cracks me up.  Turkey will figure things out.  She'll adapt.  With simply love and prayers for wisdom, she'll go far.  She's charming, and smart, and is going to be fun to watch turn into a young adult.

I'm out of my depth with Ladybug, though.  So much potential... so much intelligence... so much personality.  Locked up. Trapped.  I get glimpses.  And I want the rest of the world to see those glimpses too.  Her love for books, love for learning... the experiences she's had in her short life, the creativity and persistence she can show when she sets her mind on something will take her far.

Sunday, I walked Turkey back to the nursery, and Ladybug to children's church.  We do this every week.  But I wanted her to walk on her own power, with the other children, to her class.  She knows the adults.  She knows the other kids.  She's familiar with the church.  So I positioned her in the front of the crowd, hoping they would sweep her along.  I told her to go with them.  Told her to follow the adult, by name.  And then I kept walking... hoping she'd go.  Hoping if I just let go, she'd do it by herself.

When I got to the other side of the large room, I turned to make sure she was following her classmates and teacher.  She hadn't moved.  I could have kept walking to the nursery and back again and she still wouldn't have moved.  So I went back, took her by the hand, and guided her into the classroom.  I gave her a gentle push, told her to go sit with the others, to listen to the teacher, and to have fun.

When I walked back from the nursery, I peaked around the corner to check on her.  And what I saw nearly broke my heart.  She was sitting.  She was listening, or at least not making noise.  But she was a full two feet from every other person in that room.  In the very back.  Alone.

And it brings tears to my eyes.  Alone is no way to live a life.  Solitude is good, and very important to us introverts.  But you have to let people in.  You have to let a few people get close.  Friends are important.  And I have no idea how to help her with that.

As I've read I Am Intelligent, Peyton, the autistic adult, speaks about how her mother's chronic worry affected her.  How she felt like a disappointment to her mother, yet her father looked at her as joy and accepted her just the way she was.  And her mother didn't mean to view her as a disappointment; she simply loved her and wanted the best for her.  And I wondered if my concerns for Ladybug come across the same way as Peyton's mother's did.  But then I read the quote at the top of this post.  And I thought, yes, this is a promise I have made to my child.

So we will drive tomorrow.  And when they ask me what I hope to get from the appointment, I may break down and cry.  Because all I want, is to know how to help my child.  How to help her find her best voice.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Storms


Once again, I find myself waiting anxiously on news concerning the inside of my child's body.  We have the initial report, but because this condition is so rare, I really don't trust what just any radiologist has to say.  I want the images themselves in my hands, and then pass them along to doctors who see this condition on a routine basis.  

The initial report is very similar to last year's report.  But she's had major surgery, leaving me thinking... shouldn't things have improved?  Shouldn't something have changed?  And while I'm relieved we don't have a syrnx or tethered cord so severe any radiologist can spot it, I'm also left asking, what is wrong with my child?  Pain like this isn't normal.  Regressions I've heard people talk about have lasted up to a month, not six.  

I was crying out for wisdom yesterday, and I realized that I just want my child "fixed."  I want an answer.  I want to have something to do that will just fix it all.  That will cause a complete turn around.  That we'll get through a rough period and then she'll potty train herself in two days, she'll be able to coordinate her arms and legs, she'll never complain of hurting, she'll be calm in baths, she'll be able to make friends.  And the phrase "God gives and takes away" had been bringing tears to my eyes as I thought about the surgeries that might bring her these rapid improvements, but that also might take away her life, her mobility.  I'm not exaggerating the danger of this surgery.  There's a mom right now on a support group I'm in whose daughter could walk prior to surgery, but now can't, and is entering a rehab program to try to get back on her feet.  These surgeries are no joke.  Bad stuff happens.  

But it was pressed on my heart yesterday, that still small whisper that I'm usually too distracted to hear... "I'm taking away the plans you have for your daughter so that I can replace them with My plans for her." 

It was so clear.  So... true.  I'm a Presbyterian, so I'm not one to see the Devil under every rock and hear God's voice in every songbird. :) But I also don't really fit in with Presbyterians because of my views on the Holy Spirit.  I don't personally hear God's voice often, but this time... I believe He spoke into my soul.  And Scripture confirms what I heard.  "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Over and over in Scripture, God says he has a plan.  I just taught my children's church kids that last week.  Over and over, He says that He is not man, He does not change, He is unfathomable.  He says that man plans his steps but God directs them.  

I believe in God's sovereignty.  But to put it into practical terms... It's easy for me to say, God is the creator.  God is in control. But to say... God made my child's cerebellum to decend 5-8mm into her spinal column.  God's hand is on that restricted CSF flow.  God has connected her nerves in such a way that she loves the feel of oatmeal but can't stand a gentle touch.  And God is good.  That's a lot harder.  It's easy for me to say God is good when I look at my Turkey and my BearCub.  God has done marvelous things.  And yet... Ladybug is also a wonderful creation of God.  He was just as involved in her as He was in Turkey and BearCub.  

I know I've said this many times.  I keep coming back to these truths.  And it's because every so often, I try to take back control.  Things get hard, and I want it all fixed.  I want it to all go away.  I want a cure.  

But when I stood in front of Bridwell Heights Presbyterian Church, and I took those baptismal vows... I gave my child back to God.  I affirmed that she is His.  That I would pray with and for her... not that MY plans and dreams would come true for her, but that HIS will would be done in her life.  I said I would teach and train her in God's ways, not for my glory and purposes, but for His. 

So I wait... and my heart is torn between wanting something to fix and wanting to avoid more doctors and surgeries.  And begging for wisdom on when and where to push.  And trying to rest in the truth that God is in control, that He works all things for His purposes, and that He is good. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hurry Up, Monday...

This morning, I received the phone call giving me the time for Ladybug's MRI on Monday.

At that moment, on the other side of the country, a 19 year old young woman was buried, in part because of the very reason my Ladybug is having an MRI.

I'm a numbers person.  I like research, and stats, and evidence based practice.  And I know the vast difference between the medical situation of that young woman and my daughter's medical situation.

But that fact of the matter is Chiari can be deadly.

Everything has the potential of being deadly.  I told a young mother of a child with cranio just a few days ago that her child was more likely to be killed in a car accident on his way to surgery than he was to die in surgery itself.  I handed over my child to have her skull removed, broken apart, and pieced back together again with confidence knowing the odds were in her favor and that God would protect her.

But our days are numbered.  We're not given a guarantee of anything.  And while I have no fear of the anesthesia, or the MRI itself... I fear what it could reveal.  I fear what the treatment could be.

And on days like today, when I can't push that brain malformation out of my mind because it's staring me in the face on the calendar... I fear what it could cause.

And sometimes, I'm angry.  I've even caught myself thinking, "what I wouldn't give to JUST be dealing with cranio right now."  I see moms freaking out about what to me are simple cases, and I think, they have no idea... I'd love to trade situations.

If you'd told me I'd have that thought 3 years ago, when I first found out that Ladybug had cranio, I'm not sure what I'd have said.  I remember being comforted by the fact that it was fixable.  I remember thinking, it's not diabetes, it's not some sort of chronic condition, it's something you go in, fix, and move on.  Like the rest of the family had done.  I remember telling my family that very thing before I ever got married, that it was fixable!  It was a big deal, but it wasn't... I felt like I could handle it.

But some days... I'm not sure I can handle Chiari.  So I agree with John Newton... "I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith and love and every grace, might more of His salvation know, and seek more earnestly His face.  Twas He Who taught me thus to pray, and He I trust has answered prayer, but it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair." (And I have thought through this song many times, wondering if I have any right whatsoever to use it because these trials are external, not internal.  But then, with more thought, I realized that every external trial can cause internal trials, by way of doubt, worry, realizing that your words say one thing but your mind's actions say another... so yes, it is applicable.)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What I Should Be Praying

Once again, my child is challenging and growing my faith.

My mind is spinning, I'm researching symptoms and conditions and treatments.  And my gut is once again telling me there's a problem.  It hasn't been too far off base yet... and this time, the treatment scares me. 

I don't know what to pray for.  I don't know if I should pray that this is just a mysterious pain that goes away and we have a completely normal MRI.  Or if I should pray that there is a tethered cord that explains everything and can be surgically corrected.  Or if I should pray for something more typical like a syringomyelia that can also be surgically corrected. 

I found myself frustrated, stressing out because I can't decide what's the best option.  And then I realized... I love the songs "Bring the Rain" and "Praise You In This Storm."  But when the opportunity presents itself, when the rain comes, and I'm facing a storm... I start stressing, and worrying, and getting upset because I don't know what to pray for.  

What exactly I pray for shouldn't matter.  Because what I should be praying is "Thy will be done."  For strength, peace, patience, wisdom.  




For when we pray, God answers.  And sometimes, we don't like how He answers. 



A Glimpse

I think I received a glimpse into my child's world today.

It wasn't pretty.  It was uncomfortable.  I described it as "my senses have been raped.  Violently assaulted."  


Since the birth of my third child, my womanly hormones have turned vicious. Once a month I turn evil.  I feel insane.  I over-react.  I can't focus.  I don't remember anything I'm supposed to do.  I literally walk in circles like a crazy person.  It's rather scary, especially since I'm the sole care-taker for three rather helpless children.  

So combine that point in my hormonal calendar with the dog not having been let out after he ate dinner the night before, and the fact the dog got into the baby prunes that were set out as a reminder to take them to the food bank, and you have disaster.  I, of course, had forgotten to set up the coffee maker on auto the previous night, so when I went into the kitchen to start the coffee, I had quite the rude awakening.  Thankfully, I saw it before I stepped in it.  

The combination of the foul smell of dog urine and feces, plus the aroma of baby food prunes, combined with the 409 w/bleach that I coated the majority of the floor with, was enough to strip the membranes of my nasal passages.  It was awful.  And to do all that before I had coffee?  After cleaning and fixing my coffee, I tried reading my Bible and calming down.  But I immediately riled back up when I got irritated by something minor.  The springs in the door were squeaking and making a racket.  The kids started screaming.  The dog started barking.  Car doors were slamming.  My shirt was sitting on my shoulders wrong and irritating me.  And I realized I had clinched my fists.  I wanted nothing more than to go into the bedroom, spray lavender scent, and hide.  

Instead, I put on a calming DVD for the kids (thank God for Praise Baby!), poured myself a 2nd cup of coffee, closed my eyes, and put my nose directly over the coffee.  I did some deep breathing, prayed for the Holy Spirit to take over the hormonal rampage on my mind, and after a few minutes of staring at the pretty brown of the coffee and bathing my senses in beauty, I felt much better.

And it was then that it occurred to me... I had been acting like my Ladybug acts.  She doesn't have the hormonal issues that apparently make me extra irritable and sensitive, but that feeling of constant assault, overwhelming smells and sounds... is that what her life is like?  Because if that's how the world seems to her... no wonder she acts the way she does!  No wonder the least thing can trigger a meltdown.  The thought of having to interact with people, of keeping our appointments for that day, had been overwhelming prior to my few moments of beauty.  I have control over what I do; I had the option of cancelling, the option of just not going anywhere.  She doesn't have that option.  She is at the whim of my desires, essentially.  So when she attempts to exert control over any small thing, like buckling herself, and it doesn't cooperate... meltdown city. 

Perhaps, I need to closely consider the effect her environment has on her.  While I have put off any decorating in her room because of the mess that she makes in there, perhaps she needs that room to be calming and beautiful.  Maybe we shouldn't have gotten rid of the Ladybug-cave.  Maybe she needs an area in the house that is all her own, that is calming and soothing and full of beauty, where her senses and nerves can be calmed, rubbed the right way, and she can just chill and relax.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

What happened to self-discipline?

I am concerned.

There is this terrific sounding app coming out by Proverbs 31 ministries (a great organization, imo).  It's called First 5.  And in the promotional e-mail, they had this to say:


I'm all for getting women to read their Bibles.  I'm a better mom, I think a better wife, and simply more attentive to the Holy Spirit's guidance when I read my Bible regularly.  I have a horrible memory, so I need that daily reminder despite being raised on the Bible stories.

But every choice has a consequence.  And there is one statement in that flyer that really bothers me.  "It will ALLOW you to put God first."  (Emphasis mine.)  Allow?!  I wasn't allowed to do that before?  I'm not allowed to do it without the app?  I did a quick definition search, and I believe this is the intended meaning in this context: "give the necessary time or opportunity for"

There's another thing that "allows" me to put God first.  Self-discipline.  I'm learning that discipline is a bad word for many people, but I expected better from the Christian community.  This group is pro-submitting to your husband, so I wouldn't think that's a no-no word here.

I went years without regular Bible reading.  I just didn't make time for it.  I'd start, last a week or two, if that, and then give up again.  But for the past several months, I've done better.  I've made a point of reading Scripture BEFORE Facebook or e-mail.  It really wasn't that hard.  I simply told myself not to push the Facebook bookmark until after I'd read my chapters.

Now detoxing from Facebook throughout the day has been a lot harder.  But those first few minutes of my day?  I'm filling them with something.  I'm finding that easier than choosing what to do instead of Facebook.  It's simply reading God's word instead of other people's opinions.

If we as women don't have enough self-discipline to put off social media for five minutes, or however long it takes you to read whatever system  you've chosen... it's as if we're conditioning ourselves to have no self-discipline for anything!  There are apps to tell you to workout.  Apps to tell you to drink water.  Apps to tell you to read your Bible.  Do I need an app to tell me to wash the dishes?  An app to tell me to fix dinner?  An app to tell me to mop the floor?  I shouldn't.  If I'm honestly forgetting to do something, setting an alarm isn't a bad thing.  But what it comes down to is self-discipline.

I just don't want my children to rely on apps to run their lives... I want them to know what needs to be done, and have the self-control to prioritize.  And if they really have a hard time resisting social media before Bible... how about just putting their hard copy Bible (do those even exist anymore? :) ) on TOP of their smart phone on the nightstand?

Monday, May 18, 2015

One Year...


One year... 
All our earthly belongings spread between friends' garages and horse trailers and a motel room.
Struggling between anger, despair, excitement, and confidence. 


 I thought I was moving toward forgiveness.  It's a process.  Amazingly in a town this small, I had not seen the cause of all this chaos in these pictures since he stormed out the door yelling.  When I saw him this weekend at a book sale, my heart rate skyrocketed and my chest tightened in a way I've not felt since leaving that house.   Fear was illogical, yet it wasn't really anger I felt.  Was it because of a lack of forgiveness?  Was it essentially PTSD taking over? Will I ever be able to see him and not have a fight or flight response?


What I do know for sure is that God provides, as the pictures for tomorrow remind me.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Making the cut...

You wouldn't think hospital employee's take business trips, but occasionally they do.  So while the Mechanic is in Chicago training on a likely multi-million dollar piece of lab equipment, the kids and I get to relive memories of our single-parent time in Tennessee.  Then, I single parented for two weeks at a time, so this less-than-a-week doesn't seem bad.  Of course I have more children now, and they are bigger handfuls, but we'll see how it goes.  I'm actually looking forward to seeing how disciplined I can be and how much I can get done as the only adult in the house!  

One thing I'm excited about doing this week is continuing work on something that definitely made the cut even though it isn't specifically in my lifetime goals.  There is a wonderful organization started by two cranio moms called Cranio Care Bears.  They send care packages, free of charge, to any family with a child undergoing a surgery for craniosynostosis.  Completely volunteer and donation driven, the most important part of their care packages is the prayer ribbon chain.  Each link has an encouraging verse or saying on it, usually written by someone who has been touched by cranio in some way... some parents make them while their child is in surgery, others do ribbon drives for birthdays or class parties. 
Ladybug with her prayer ribbon chain just before leaving for surgery

Care package goodies and BooBooBear (from their store)

With the handmade blankie from her care package, post-op
 In honor of Ladybug's first "cranioversary," coming up in June, I set a goal for a certain number of ribbons I wanted to send.  I'm about half way to my goal and have till June 18th to meet it!  I stocked up on books on CD and Waltons DVDs from the library that can play in the background while I write on ribbons this week! 
I might be slightly addicted. 
If anyone wants to contribute to this organization, their website has instructions for how to donate , through money for shipping, ordering from their Amazon wish list and shipping it directly to them, collecting needed items yourself, or making prayer ribbons.  You can also shop for cranio awareness items in their store; all proceeds go to the care packages!  

Friday, May 15, 2015

On Social Media and Goals...

Pondering my goals and priorities... 

Time is in short supply.  There are many things that are okay, aren't sin, aren't harmful.  There are things that can be used for good.  But are they worthwhile?  (And yes, I'm spending time on this... because writing out my thoughts helps me think)

I'm stuck on Facebook.  I've taken a break from it twice this year already.  And it just keeps coming to mind.  I have excuse after excuse for why I don't delete it completely.  There are good things that come from Facebook.  I share pictures with family and friends far away.  I claim I get to know people better through Facebook.  I say I get to encourage and educate other moms of cranio kids.  I say I get to find out prayer requests.  

But what is Facebook causing me to miss out on?  Because everything I chose to do means I'm choosing not to do something else.  

So when I log on, what am I saying "no" to?  Cleaning.  I don't have a dishwasher, and saying I'm "waiting on the washer and dryer" is a joke, because in this house there is ALWAYS laundry to be put away.  Reading, either quality books for myself or reading to my children.  Playing with my children, or paying attention to them at all.  Praying.  Studying Scripture.  Meditating on a hymn.  Giving serious thought to anything.  Cooking.  Exercising.  Managing money. 

What am I saying "yes" to?  I can encourage people on Facebook.  I can see prayer requests and say a short (distracted) prayer.  I can gossip.  I can come across harsh and judgmental.  I can get irritated, or stressed, or worried about the way other people live and raise their children, or the viewpoints of others, or their opinions of me.  I can be encouraged and held accountable for healthy living. 

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Does Facebook fit this definition?  Does what I read, and what I post, follow the command of this verse?  If I'm honest... no.  I can pretty much count on one hand the people on my "friends" list who spurn me on to a better life, whose posts, shares, and comments fit the qualifications of that verse.

It's pretty clear to me that I need to make changes.  Intentional, flexible, focused... 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Progressing or Drifting?

As part of a healthy living and exercise group I'm a part of on Facebook, I have been giving thought to my goals, my values, and my passions.  I'm a relatively analytical, unemotional person, at least compared to most women, so I've had a hard time getting in touch with any emotions regarding my lifestyle.  I'm okay with that though, and am focusing on the benefits that being unemotional can have.

This morning, I took the time to put that anaylytical side to use in evaluating my life.  I thought about what I had stated as my overall goals, thought back to what I remember writing as my goals and purpose for my life back in high school/college, and then thought about my typical day.  I asked myself a hard hitting question: is the way I live each day pushing me towards my goals, or am I simply drifting?

Then I thought about the things I complain about, the excuses I use, the things in my life that drive me nuts.

The one big thing, the common link that stood out, was time.  I always claim I don't have enough of it.  I've said this week I needed to freeze time till I could figure out what I'm supposed to do.

Every human is allotted 24 hours in a day.  Some people accomplish a lot in their 24 hours.  Some accomplish pretty much nothing.  So the question isn't how much time I have, but rather, how I'm using it.  Am I being a good steward of my time?  Or am I wasting it?  Am I spending my time on things that have nothing to do with my goals, my purpose?

And I feel like I'm on repeat... which means this is a chronic problem for me.  Maybe I'm feeling time slipping by and that's why these same thoughts are occurring so often.  I'll have two children in preschool next fall, my baby is on the verge of walking, and I feel like they were just born.
So if I drop off the face of social media, nothing's wrong.  I'm just streamlining and focusing. =)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Does SPD Mean To Me?

After reading The Out of Sync Child and realizing sensory processing disorder (SPD) describes my Ladybug far better than any autism spectrum disorder, I mentioned to her pediatrician that if SPD is real, she has it.  And she asked me what that meant to me.

That is an excellent question.  I either think I am crazy, over-diagnosing completely normal childish behaviors, or I feel like no one else has any idea what my life is really like.

So for me, SPD means...


  • As my child gets older, she requires more effort and attention, not less.  She gets physically and mentally harder to parent, not easier.  I look back at nights of colic and think, that was easier.


  • Any mistake costs me time.  A cabinet not latched.  The kitchen not blocked off.  A jar not put away.  And typically, it doesn't cost me a few minutes.  It often costs upwards of 30 minutes, sometimes more, by the time I clean both the child and the surroundings, in addition to the cost of the item wasted.  There is NO room for error. 

  • I must weigh the need to go to the bathroom or anything that takes me out of sight of the kids against the risk of finding mayhem when I return. This means simple things, like showers, toileting, personal hygiene and maintenance, must either happen at 6am or it doesn't happen at all.
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  • Every event, every day, is approached with "how will she cope with this?"  Meltdowns are more likely after social events.  I decide whether or not the benefit outweighs the possible consequences.  Changes in plan are often accompanied by screams and resistance.  She may appear very placid in public, but when we return home, the windows may rattle as she apparently simply can't cope with anything else.

                                                                
  • I am to the point of deciding my time would be better managed by devoting myself 100% to my children during their waking hours, rather than trying to get anything accomplished around the house.  Because if my attention is elsewhere, she is likely causing mayhem that will take even longer to repair.
     
  •                                              
  • I am continually running on empty.  I am mentally exhausted.  I am constantly trying to come up with things for her to do, ways to stimulate her senses and meet her seemingly unquenchable desires.  Ways of handling her meltdowns.  Forms of discipline and training that will work.
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  • I struggle with hope.  Because things are getting harder.  I look forward to her being in school.  But I wonder if I will need to home school, and how in the world will I do that?  Every time I've thought things are getting better, they've stopped improving.  And I try to focus on what has gotten better.  Such as, she is no longer obsessed over closing doors.  Yet what has that been replaced by?  Painting herself in oatmeal & Nutella. Can we go back to the door closing?                                             
  • I feel guilty.  Because I'm living the life of which I dreamed.  And yet... I can't wait for bedtime.  I want to enjoy my children.  I reach the end of the day and my creativity and patience are long gone.  I feel foolish for having so many children in so few years.  I could never have known what it'd be like, and I wouldn't trade any of them, but I still sometimes feel guilty for putting them through a childhood like this. 





     This is part of why I have started making extra effort to get pictures of the grins that come when she's enjoying something.  Because I need that visible reminder that something I'm doing is working.  That I'm not making her miserable all the time.  And I take pictures of the messes, because as much as I'd like to forget them sometimes, I want to remember so that when my children are grown and I see a mom struggling, I will remember that these years that are supposedly awesome can be really tough.  
And I am aware that every child has their own unique challenges.  Just about all kids get into things.  Many kids enjoy getting dirty.  Most kids pitch fits.  And 3 is a tough age.  Each individual thing depicted in the pictures above, for example, is not what bothers me.  It's all of it together.  It's the daily, multiple times a day, stuff that exhausts me.  Perhaps, in another year, I'll say to myself "you really were nuts.  She's grown out of all that and is a completely normal kid and you over-reacted."  But in the meantime, if using techniques created for kids with issues helps, then I'm going to read those books and use those ideas.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"This is Only A Mountain, Tell It To Move, It'll Move"... Or will it?

In my mailbox this afternoon was a small card.  Someone was kind enough to bless our family, with not only including us in their daily prayers but also letting us know that we're in those prayers.  Having just dealt with yet another pair of poo filled underwear, and having not dealt with it well, this was such an encouragement to me.

On the front of the card was this saying by a Bonnie Jensen.  "There is nothing more powerful than a faith-filled prayer -- it has the grace to comfort the soul and the strength to move a mountain."

This brought to mind a song I had been meaning to write about... a song by Jason Castro entitled "Only a Mountain."  The premise of the song is, I would presume, Matthew 17:20, which says "He said to them,“Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

While living in the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee, I enjoyed hearing this song.  I thought it was a great song.  But, with a few more years and a few more pounds under my elastic waistband, it no longer sits well with me.  It had been months since I'd heard it, but when it was played on the radio a few weeks ago, I was on my way home from yet another visit to a local surgeon because of Ladybug's chronic wound.  

And it occurred to me... no.  You can't just bounce around to a song singing "You don't have to find your way around it; tell it to move, it'll move. Tell it to fall, it'll fall."  I understand there were good intentions behind the writing of that song, but it reveals the dangers of taking a single verse without the context surrounding it.  Especially if you have not been blessed to have had the full Bible taught to you, this could be very frustrating.  "My mountain isn't moving.  Maybe I don't have enough faith.  Maybe God isn't real, since that's what He's supposed to do and He's not doing it."

Now granted, if you're basing your faith a single song you have other issues that need to be addressed, but still...  God does not promise to move every mountain upon our command.  There are many faith-filled people who beg God and fully believe that He can do as they request, but He answers no.  

I'm aware of a mother who is full of faith.  She believes God can heal her son.  She believes in miracles.  She's seen them happen.  But her son is two years old, and he did not leap out of bed this morning and great her with spontaneous language.  She had to get out of bed, lift him from his seat, strap on his braces, and continue trudging up the mountain in front of her as she spends hours feeding and burping and pleading for an ounce of weight gain.  She prepares mentally and physically for yet another surgery.

I'm aware of a woman who is full of faith.  She believes God can cure her of cancer.  But this morning, she woke up, got out of bed, and continued trudging up the mountain before her.  She is preparing for surgery.  She strives to think positively and take care of her body while it fights cancer.  
I have a mountain.  It's a crater in my child's head.  I've encountered mountains before, called craniosynostosis, called Chiari Malformation.  Could God have healed my daughter from any of those?  Yes.  He could have.  Did I believe Him capable of unfusing her skull without any surgical intervention?  Yes.  Did I believe Him capable of giving her brain room and pulling that cerebellum back up on top of the skull base?  Yes.  Did He choose to move that mountain for me?  NO.  

I asked.  He said NO.  He left that mountain there.  

Why?  

I don't know.  But I do know, God's will was for me to climb that mountain.  It was not His will to move it.  

Will God move the mountains in front of the other two ladies I mentioned?  I don't know.  He can.  I pray He will.  But, if He chooses not to move them, I pray that they will have the strength to keep climbing.  Even if it feels they are slipping backwards.  Even if it feels it will never end.  

Because the God who is capable of moving mountains, is also capable of strengthening the feet, the hearts, the souls of those who are climbing them.  

And so, back to the quote.  Which I love.  This Ms Jensen, whomever she is, has it correct.  She does not say that prayer will move mountains.  She says it has the strength to move them.  And it has the grace to comfort the soul if that mountain is not moved. 

Are you facing a mountain?  When you pray, do you believe that not only is God capable of moving that mountain, but that He is also capable of equipping your feeble self to climb it?