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.