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?  


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.