Saturday, March 26, 2011

We Are Not Alone

I ordered Chinese food today at our local place, and while I waited for my food, a lady walked in to place an order.  She was the kind of lady that I would assume demands attention wherever she goes. A few words immediately sprang to mind when I saw her: classy, beautiful, poised, elegant.  She ordered her food in a quiet, polite manner, and than sat down next to me on the bench to wait for her meal.

As I sat there waiting, I did a little silent inventory of myself.  I was wearing old jeans, ratty gym shoes, and my husband's t-shirt.  My hair was in a messy pony tail, and I was wearing a little mascara and some lip gloss (OK, chap stick).  I slouched in my usual style on the bench, feeling every one of those extra pounds I desperately need to lose.  Then I began to take inventory of her.  She was tall and skinny and carried herself like a model.  She had a beautifully tailored jacket on, long skirt with matching top, gorgeous boots on her feet.  Her skin was flawless, with perfectly applied make-up--even lip stick.  Her hair was swept into a low twist at her neck without a single fly-away strand.  Her jewelry coordinated perfectly to her outfit.  Her long nails were polished without a chip.  As we sat there, silently waiting for our food, I began to feel quite self-conscious about my appearance!

Then she sighed.  Not one of those "oh, I'm so hungry and tired and now I have to wait for my food" sighs.  No, this was more "The weight of the world's on my shoulders" type of sigh.

My heart immediately went out to her, because I know that sigh.  It's the sound you make when you feel like life's defeated you.  I glanced over at her again.  And this time I saw something more.  I saw the circles under her eyes that no amount of make-up can fully cover.  I saw the way she pursed her lips together as she rubbed a well-manicured hand across her temples--a hand that was shaking slightly.  I realized that I was not all that different from her--that on another day, in another place, that could be me.  That has been me!  Because, no matter how much I try to present a perfect facade to the world outside, I too have days when the problems of this life have beaten me down.

People ask me all the time, "How do you do it?"  How do I raise two children with unique needs?  How do I run back and forth for therapies and counseling appointments and still have time to breathe and maybe do the grocery shopping?  How do I not get overwhelmed by it all?  And I don't really know how to answer that question.  If I was honest, I would say that I sometimes I just don't.  Sometimes I literally crawl back into bed and sleep the day away.  Other times I walk out of the house and try my hardest to forget about everything at home for at least four hours.  And many more times than I would like to admit, I just sit down and cry out of frustration and fear and anger and sadness at what this life has given me.  Not all the time, mind you.  Most of the time, I just do what I have to do, because it's my life and I accept what I've been given.  But sometimes...well, that's why I knew what that woman's sigh was saying even before I looked again.

I never answer that question honestly, because that would involve letting someone look a little closer, and see the person I really am, not the one I present to the world.  Kind of like the woman in the restaurant.  I don't know what she was dealing with, but when I looked beyond the presentation she wanted everyone to see, I saw a sad, tired person who was struggling inside with something.   I wondered briefly what I could say to her, but then my food was ready.  As I left, I caught her eye and gave her a smile, hoping to convey in just one smile that I understood exactly how she felt.

There's a song on the new Jars of Clay album that they've been playing on the radio here a lot.  The first time I heard it, I cried.  The lyrics told me exactly what I need to hear.  Read the words to this song, and know this: that we all suffer, and we all need help once in awhile.  And we're all holding on to the lies this world tells us--lies that say we need to be perfect and present a strong front in the face of adversity.  Lies that say we need to be self-reliant and take care of our own problems.  We're all wearing robes that society tells us we must wear.  We're claiming names that God never intended us to wear, names like Superhero or Failure.  But guess what?  We're not alone.  None of us is.  I'm not alone, and the woman in the restaurant is not alone, and you're not alone in whatever your facing either.  It's OK to let each other see who we really are.   It's a lesson I'm trying to absorb.  Maybe the next time someone asks me how I do it, I'll tell them the truth.

Shelter by Jars of Clay
To all who are looking down
Holding on to hearts still wounding
For those who've yet to find it
The place is near where love is moving
Cast off the robes you're wearing
Set aside the names that you've been given
May this place of rest in the fold of your journey
Bind you to hope
You will never walk alone

In the shelter of each other
We will live
We will live (Never walk alone)

We will live
We will live (Your arms are all around us)

If our hearts are turned to stone
There is hope we know the rocks will cry out
And the tears aren't ours alone
Let them fall into the hands that hold us
Come away from where you're hiding
Set aside the lies that you've been living
May this place of rest in the fold of your journey
Bind you to hope
We will never walk alone

In the shelter of each other
We will live
We will live (In the shelter)
In the shelter of each other
We will live
We will live (You will never walk alone)

If there is any peace
If there is any war
We must all believe
Our lives are not our own
We all belong

God has given us each other
And we will never walk alone

Enter to Win a Give-Away from Soft Clothing and the SPD Bloggers Network

If you know my kids at all, you've picked up on the fact that they are very "picky" about their clothing.  Squirrel prefers dresses with tights, or comfy pants (think yoga pants) with snug cotton shirts.  Munchkin refuses to wear anything with a zipper or button.  He lives in sweat pants and t-shirts.  Squirrel's very particular about her sock seams lining up perfectly, and will only wear a certain kind of underwear.  Munchkin could care less how his socks go on, but wants to wear his shoes on the wrong feet because he likes the extra pressure they provide that way.   Both kids hate tags in their clothes.  Munchkin won't wear a sweater or sweatshirt, because it "chokes" him.  Squirrel hates collars because they "itch" her.  Munchkin really hates wearing a coat, especially one with buttons instead of a zipper.

My kids aren't being picky.  They both have some measure of tactile defensiveness, though they each show it in different ways.  This means that certain textures on the skin can actually cause them pain, distress, or just discomfort.  They can't ignore it, or deal with it--it will take over their thoughts until the problem is fixed.  

So I have learned to supply them with clothing that they will wear.  Yes, it means that on Christmas Munchkin wore black cotton pants with an elastic waistband and a red t-shirt instead of the cute Christmas-themed 3-piece sweater set a friend gave us for him.  And it means that Squirrel goes to school everyday with her collared uniform shirts driving her batty. And I'm sure that strangers are tempted to call Child Protective Services on me because my children are walking outside with no coats on, while I am bundled in hat, scarf and gloves and it's 30 degrees out.  But for the most part, we get along fine with our wardrobes--we've learned to make it work for us!  

So, anyway...I discovered Soft Clothing Company awhile back, and have purchased several items from their clothing line.  My kids love their clothes.  They are all made of soft cotton, with flat seams and no tags.  Their socks are awesome--if they made them in adult sizes,  I'd buy for myself!  They are offering a great give-away just in time for Easter, along with the SPD Blogger Network.  Follow the link below to sign up for a chance to win a great Easter basket from Pottery Barn Kids, filled with many cool toys and books, and a Spring outfit from Soft Clothing!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Diagnosing the World

I'm posting today at the SPD Blogger Network, about trying to help the kids in my life get the help they need, without overstepping my bounds.  I know other teachers struggle with this too.  But me?  I refuse to sit back and do nothing when I can no longer help a child myself and they need more than I can get them.  It's made me unpopular with some parents, but for the kids I have helped, it's all worth it!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hot Wheel Tracks and the Path to Good Behavior

I was talking to the van driver at the day care this week about Munchkin's behavior on the van after school.  It's getting out of hand.  He hits the other children with his seat belt and his book bag.  He screams at the top of his lungs.  He kicks the driver's seat.  He slides out of his booster seat onto the floor (and ends up choking himself on the seat belt in the process).  It's really bad--the driver's had to pull the van over many times lately to deal with this behavior.  I understand why he acts this way (he's worn out from school, full of pent-up energy needing to be released, and overwhelmed by the noise level in the van); but I also understand why it can't keep happening.  I've been in the car with Munchkin when he acts like this.  It's really hard to concentrate on the road!

So, we've tried to come up with a behavior plan to stifle these problems.  The driver tried putting a movie in the DVD player.  Sometimes that works, but not always.  Then I made a simple picture reminder card--it said "No Feet On Seat" with a picture of feet propped up with a line through it,and "Quiet Voice" with a picture of a finger on the lips.  The driver wouldn't use it consistently, though, so it wasn't effective.  So I came up with a plan to use good old-fashioned bribery to straighten this out.  I told Munchkin how he was expected to behave on the van, and said I would buy him Hot Wheel tracks after 10 good days on the van.  He was elated (he's been coveting those tracks for awhile now, what with his "tracks obsession" and all).  And, sure enough, he behaved perfectly on the van the last two days of this week.

So, as the driver and I were talking, he told me, "You know, if he can behave for a bribe, then that just shows me he should be able to behave everyday."  At first I was really angry about that.  I mean, Munchkin cannot behave everyday--he just can't.  Even a neurotypical child cannot behave every day!  But take a child whose social-emotional skills are equivalent to a 3-year-old's, add a 7 hour school day of trying so hard to hold it all together, and then throw in a hot van with a kid on each side of him, a TV going, and kids trying to talk to each other, and he just. can't. hold it. together.  But then I started wondering...

Can he do this everyday?  Is it really necessary to reward good behavior, or should we just expect it, or even insist on it?  He does ride the bus to school every morning without any of these problems--but then again, each child has their own seat, and there's a bus aide.  Come to think of it, there are lots of things Munchkin does well at school or in therapy, that he will not (can not?) do at home or at day care.  Is this because school and therapy are both very structured, whereas home and day care are not?  Many people have told me that he "plays" me.  And it does seem true that his behaviors are more intense for me than for anyone else.  Am I too lenient with him, because of his difficulties?  Or am I just more tolerant and understanding about those difficulties?  Is he more at ease with me, and able to "let loose" around me because he feels comfortable?  Or am I just exhausted by all his meltdowns, so I give in to him in order to avoid another one?!

Talk about difficult parenting!  There's no parenting book out there that can help me.  They are all written with a neuro-typical kid in mind, and most of what they recommend does not work with Munchkin.  It's all trial and error here, and constantly changing.  What works for awhile will undoubtedly quit working soon after.  We've tried it all, and then, at the end of our rope, we try it all again.

Sometimes I feel like I make too many excuses for Munchkin.  I allow his diagnosis to become a crutch to support his inappropriate behaviors.  Not intentionally, of course!  I think that, in an effort to be sensitive to what he's feeling sensory-wise and to understand when he's over- or under-stimulated, I automatically assume he's acting a certain way because of these things.  Maybe sometimes he's just acting poorly because he can!  Or because he wants his way.  Or because he's stubborn, willful, and even just disobedient!

The problem is, how do I know the difference?  Until I figure this out (which I pray happens before the pre-teen years!) I guess I will just keep trying something else, until we find what works.  And right now, the Hot Wheel tracks seem to be working!

My only solace in this whole situation?  I know every single parent out there struggles with their child's behaviors.  My situation may be different than yours, but we're all trying to figure it out as we go!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stress Less

Seems I’ve been bombarded lately with words about STRESS.  Two weeks ago, we had an in-service at work about stress management.  There was a special guest last week at my monthly Special Needs parent group who talked about how to have less stress in your life.  And this weekend I attended a conference where one of the workshops I was put into “randomly” was on stress.  Someone is trying to tell me something here.  I’m just too stressed to get the message.

So, in an effort to be healthier, live longer, and take better care of my family, I am committing myself to de-stressing my life.  Starting….now.  Here are the steps I will take to make this happen.  And since I am great at saying these things, and bad at actually carrying through on them, all of you can hold me accountable.  Just don’t push too hard…I might punch you.

Seven Things I Will Do To De-Stress My Life:

1.                   Cut out caffeine.  No, really, I will.  In my 20’s I never touched the stuff.  Then I had kids and couldn’t get through the day-after-the-sleepless-night without a little boost.  Then it required a big boost.  And now I can’t live without this drug of mine.  So I know the only way I will succeed is cold turkey.  WARNING to those around me:  Giving up caffeine is likely to cause more stress before it relieves it.  So I will be a little cranky for the next, oh, two weeks.
2.                 Eat more fruits and vegetables, and less leftover chicken nuggets and pb & j crusts.  I used to eat fruits and veggies at every single meal.  I’m not sure when I got away from that, but I realized the other day that I had not eaten a single one for two days!  I’ve gotten in the habit of skipping breakfast, eating junk for lunch, and picking off the kids’ plates after dinner.  Besides less stress, I’ll have less inches around my waist.  Bonus!
3.                 Say NO to people more.  As in, NO, I won’t do one more thing at church.  And, NO, I won’t volunteer for anything at Squirrel’s school.  And, NO, I don’t have time to cook a meal for that new mom.  And, NO, I can’t be on that committee, no matter how important the cause.  I just don’t have any more energy to say YES to anyone asking me to do anything. 
4.                 Stop feeling guilty.  For everything.  I waste too much energy beating myself up for what I can’t do.  Time to focus on what I can do.  Because, gosh darnit, I do a lot of things, and I do them well!
5.                 Sleep more than 5 hours a night.  And since refusing to get up and take the kids to school and go to work will get me into trouble, I guess this means I need to start making myself go to bed before the clock strikes midnight.
6.                 Exercise.  I hate this one.  I am not one of those people who enjoys exercising.  Call me lazy, but I don’t want to move.  I’d rather sit on the couch and watch tv, or lay around and read a book.  Preferably with a bag of chips and a Pepsi.  But I really do feel better when I exercise.  And let’s face it…Munchkin’s not getting any smaller, so I better bulk up so I can continue carrying him around in meltdown mode.  ‘Cause I don’t see that little problem stopping any time soon.
7.                 Take care of me.  Get a massage, get a haircut, get a new pair of jeans.  You know, all those things I haven’t done yet this year.  Or maybe not last year either, if I’m honest.  And while I’m at it, I’m gonna go on a date with my husband.  And start working on my crafty stuff again.  I mean, with all the things I’m saying NO to, I should have time to do something for me, right?

So wish me luck (especially with number 1!), and maybe even consider joining me.  Because if you are a mom, then you probably need to take a few of these steps yourself.  After all, and as I've heard three different times this month already, stress will literally kill you.  And we need to be around for a long time still to take care of our families.  After all, we know they couldn’t survive without us.  Right?

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Son Rides the Short Bus

I was at my special needs support group last night, and as I was sharing about trying to get the ball rolling for Skye's IEP (which is not going well), one of the ladies said, "It must be hard for you when your kids' disabilities are not visible.  I mean, I've met your kids and I would never know they had any kind of disabilities."

Yeah.  It's hard.  I mean, my kids appear to me healthy, normally-developing, strong-willed kids.  And, in most ways, they are.  But spend a day with us, and little things start to make you go "hmm..."  Like the way that Munchkin has to lick everything and screams at the top of his lungs for what seems to be no reason.  (Except, believe me, he has a reason.  The rest of us just don't get to know what that reason is.)  Or the way that Squirrel chews her fingers until they bleed and bites her arms, leaving bruises, when she is stressed out.  Or just the every-day chaos that envelopes our home with two children who can let loose with all the sensory overload that they must try to control in school.  And if you just look around my house, you'll see picture schedules for each child, and a "how-to" guide for brushing teeth and getting dressed, and little reminder pictures all over to help them remember what needs to be done.  Most houses with elementary school kids don't need those!

But if you aren't with us for long, you won't see that.  You'll see Munchkin hiding under the table in a restaurant, or yelling loudly that something smells weird, and you'll wonder why we don't make him behave in public.  You'll see Squirrel hide behind me when the cashier talks to her, and refuse to make eye contact or talk to the strange woman, and wonder why we haven't taught her to be polite to adults.  You'll see Munchkin run screaming from his Sunday school classroom, after smacking the child next to him and telling the teacher NO for the tenth time, and wonder why we haven't reigned in his difficult behavior.  You'll see Squirrel (and Munchkin, for that matter) chewing holes into their clothes, and ask them something stupid like "Does that taste good?  Aren't you too old to be doing that?" and wonder why we let our kids act like babies still.

So, yeah, it's hard to have children with "invisible" disabilities.  Most of the other parents in my support group have children with much more obvious needs.  They deal with feeding tubes, and wheelchairs, and assistive devices for speech, and seizures on a daily basis.  Everyone looks at their child and knows that this child has special needs.  And while there are many idiots out there who still don't get it, most of the world knows that this child cannot control the way he acts.

And me?  Well, I deal with people asking me things like, "Are you sure he has autism?  Because he's so smart!"  (Yeah, the thousands of dollars we spent to have him diagnosed make me pretty sure he does.  And many kids with autism are's a neurological issue, which doesn't always affect IQ.)  Or, "Why is she in therapy?  She seems fine!"  (Because, again, the team of doctors who diagnosed her know their stuff. And by the way, many people "seem fine" and are struggling inside!)

The problem is, we have a messed-up view of "Special Needs Kids"  that defines them.  Part of it, I think, comes from our upbringing.  When I was in school, the special ed class was kept completely separate from the general ed population.  They rode their own bus, ate lunch in their own cafeteria, had all their classes in their own self-contained room.  If it wasn't for a friend who's brother was in that class, I may not have ever known it existed.  And the children in those classes had visible needs.  Children like Munchkin wouldn't have been in the Special Ed classes 30 years ago.  They would have been the trouble makers, the class clowns, the nerds, the ones who got picked on in the regular classes--they wouldn't have been identified as having special needs.  Children like Squirrel never would have gotten special help.

(You know how I can say that with complete confidence?  Because I was a child like Squirrel.  Had I been evaluated at age 8, I would have received the same diagnosis as her!  But they didn't catch things like that back then, so I sat in the back of the room, and kept to myself, and occasionally got in trouble for being too talkative or too hyper or too wiggly, but mostly just floated through school without drawing any attention to myself except as the smart kid.)

So, when you see my children, remember that special needs can take on many forms.  It's not always something you can see.  In fact, in this day and age (when 1 in 94 kids is diagnosed with Autism, and 1 in 20 has SPD) there often won't be any visible signs of special needs.  Don't be so quick to judge the child who's acting up in public, or the parents who seem to be at their wit's end.  You may be seeing something that neither the kid nor the parent can control!

Gone are the days when the kids on the short bus were different from "the rest of us."  My kid rides the short bus, and you know what?  He's not all that different from you or me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Something for you to ponder (wisdom from two brilliant men)...

My skin is kind of sort of 
brownish pinkish yellowish white. 
My eyes are greyish blueish green, 
but I'm told they look orange in the night. 
My hair is reddish blondish brown, 
but its silver when its wet, 
and all the colors I am inside 
have not been invented yet. 
Shel Silverstein--Where the Sidewalk Ends

"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope...and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."  
Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Monday, March 7, 2011


I'm posting today at the SPD Bloggers Network.  This is a network of parents with children who have Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, or other neurological issues that create sensory problems.   The network's goal is to encourage and support parents, and provide information to others about SPD.  If you know a parent who could benefit from this network, please share the link with them!

Today's post is all about my amazing, beautiful, creative, remarkable daughter.  Check it out!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Know My Days!

This post was written last night, but I was out all day and didn't get it posted until now.  So let me update for today--nothing's changed!  Read on...

Children with Autism need routines.  In fact, those routines are critical.  My son's special education teacher, Ms. Jones, is AWESOME about the routines.  And he's thriving in her classroom.  But this week a lot of routines got messed up, and we are dealing with it big time now that the weekend has arrived.

I'm not talking about the meltdowns, although those are plenty.  I'm not talking about the running, screaming, jumping off of things, hitting the sister, pulling the cat's tail, tackling mommy--although that is rampant too.  No, what we are dealing with is a little more sinister and a whole lot more amusing.

Let me back up to the cause of all of our issues this weekend.  Last Monday, Munchkin's bus never came to pick him up for school.  I drive my daughter to her school, and usually we have exactly enough time to get him on the bus and get her to school on time.  Because she's in a private school, they actually charge the parents a fee when the child is late.  So we operate by a pretty strict schedule because I refuse to pay that fee!  When the bus time came and went swithout said bus, I forced Munchkin (kicking and hitting and crying) into his carseat and drove both kids to school.  Then I half-dragged/half-carried him into school and handing him off sobbing to his teacher.  Who, incidentally, was looking pretty frazzled already, and her class hadn't even arrived yet (the whole class rides the same bus.)  Who also made a comment to me about the bus throwing her whole routine out the window.  (See?  She KNOWS how all-important that routine is.)

Tuesday...the bus still did not show up on time.  Not wanting a repeat of the day before, I dragged my husband out of bed and made him wait with Munchkin for the bus.  It came 35 minutes late.  Turns out there was a substitute driver for the week, and she couldn't figure out the route.  Munchkin reported to me that Ms. Jones told the class the driver would be late every day this week, and they would have to skip Circle Time because they wouldn't get to school in time to do it.  He seemed ok with this arrangement, so I figured Ms. Jones had done damage control there.

Wednesday, the bus was only 10 minutes late.  Thursday, 5 minutes.  Thursday afternoon, Munchkin happily reported that the class did Circle Time for the first time that week.  Friday, for whatever reason, they skipped it again.

And...that brings us to our current situation.  Somehow, in all of the missed Circle Times, something got messed up in Munchkin's internal calendar.  I should have realized it when he came home Thursday saying "We have a no-school day on Friday."  But I just calmly corrected him, saying his no-school day was actually on Monday.  He seemed really confused, and I thought that was strange--the kid lives and breathes the calendar.  He can tell you the date today and what day of the week it will be 9 days from now.   He knows every holiday, birthday and day off school each month by date and often by day of the week as well.  (I don't know how he does it.  I can't even remember what today is. )

Then Friday, he came home telling me he had a four-day weekend.  I corrected him, counting off Saturday...Sunday...Monday.  Three days.  He had a meltdown.  Boom!  Just like that, he was on the floor, crying and insisting that he knew it was only Thursday and tomorrow was Friday and then he had four days off of school and that Friday was March 4th and that was tomorrow and...  I stood there flabbergasted.  And quickly soothed it over by saying, "Ok!  Mommy might be wrong!  It's ok!"  He stood up, wiped his tears, and told me, "I KNOW you're wrong, Mom, because I KNOW my calendar days."  (sniff, sniff)

So, today we got up and I reminded him that Grandma was going to babysit him this morning.  He got upset again, because Grandma was not supposed to watch him until SATURDAY.  But this time I was prepared.  I got the calendar off the wall and showed him where it was written down for Grandma to watch him on Saturday, and look!   That's today!  I then showed him that Friday, March 4th WAS a school day, and he went to school yesterday.  I thought I was explaining it all pretty well.  Munchkin, on the other hand, looked more confused than ever.  And when I finished, he explained to ME exactly how wrong I was.  I sighed, and said, "Well, we're going to Grandma's anyway, so get your shoes on."

Throughout the day, I have tried to help him understand that it really is Saturday.  I told him tomorrow is his cousin's birthday party--on SUNDAY.  I reminded him tomorrow is a church day.  I reminded him that Monday--in two days--is a no-school day.  I've shown him the calendar on my phone, on my computer, and on Grandma's wall.  All to no avail.

Even now, as I type this, he is telling me, "You guys are confused on your days in your head.  It is Friday.  I only knocked 3 days off of my chart in my head for March.  Today I knocked off 4 days.  And tomorrow I will knock off five days.  And Sunday will be the sixth day.  And we always go to church on Sunday.  Not Saturday."  Accompanied by several versions of the months of the year and the days of the week set to song.  (I asked him what he meant by knocking the days off in his head--was he using his imagination?  He rolled his eyes and told me, "Days of the week are for real.  They are not in my ima-ji-gation."  Yes, that makes it much clearer.  Thank you for explaining that to me.)

I do get it, though.  I have long understood that this child has a visual calendar of the whole year in his head.  And somehow, by not doing his Circle Time routine at school this week, his visual calendar is off by a whole day.  He still can tell you the date nine days from now--it's simply one day off.  I get it--but how do I make him get it?  I've tried.  My husband has tried.  My daughter has tried.  "I don't know why everyone is so confused about what day it is!" he says.  We are all cracking up.  And yet, we don't know what to do.  So we are humoring him, hoping his teacher can help him figure this out on Tuesday.

And in the meantime, I just took a break from typing this to tuck him into bed, and told him we'd be going to church on "Saturday" this week.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Where Two Roads Meet

I think that I am about to embark on a new journey.  Scratch that.  It's not completely new.  I've tried this journey once before.  It didn't go well--I had to turn back.  But I'm considering  trying it again.  It's not that big a deal.  People take this route every day.  Most are fairly successful at it.  Some even enjoy it!  So I am going to push off and start down this new path, and see what happens.

I think I am going to be a stay at home mom.

Some of you are laughing.  You do it everyday!  You don't see what the big deal is.  Others are laughing because you already get it, before I even say another word.  Whatever.  I'm not laughing.  I'm scared out of my mind.

You see, I've tried the stay-at-home mom thing.  I felt that it was what was expected of me.  I'm from a religious background where the unspoken expectation is for moms to stay home and raise the children while dads earn a living.  My mom did it.  She never worked until her last child went to first grade.  Then my mom got a job driving a school bus, just so she could be home when we were home.  She had summers off and all our school holidays.  I always "knew" that I would grow up, get married, have kids, and stay home and raise them.  Just like all the mothers I knew.

So when my daughter was born, I did it.  I quit my  job teaching preschool to stay home and manage a household and raise my daughter.  And I hated it.  I mean, sure, I loved being able to see my daughter grow and learn new skills, and being able to hold her and love on her.  But I was miserable.  There were all these sensory issues, which I had no clue what to do with.  There was the constant crying, which usually led to me crying right along with her.  I didn't know where to go for help, so I just stayed home and tried to do the best that I could.  But I became really depressed.  I was lonely, exhausted, and unfulfilled.  I felt like a complete failure.  I couldn't even do the basic mother's duty of taking care of her own child!  And even worse, I didn't want to.

After a lot of soul-searching and attempting to overcome much, MUCH mother's guilt, I went back to work.  My old job (at a day care center) was thrilled to have me back, and allowed me to be the teacher in Squirrel's classroom, so it really was the best outcome for both of us.  I continued to work with her class until Munchkin was born, when I moved into the Infant room and cared for him at work as well.

And I have never looked back at that old road.  I gladly embrace my role as a working mother, and I don't allow myself to feel any guilt about it.  I truly believe there is no such thing as "the right thing to do" when it comes to motherhood--there is only what is right for you.  And working outside the home is definitely what's right for me.

And yet...

I've reached a fork in my journey.  A place where What's Right For Me no longer shares the same road as What's Right For My Kids.  At some point this year, these roads split back off onto their own paths.  Now they are intersecting, and I must choose which one to follow.  And so I am switching paths.  I am planning to take the summer off of work to stay home with my children.  I'll return to work when they go back to school in the fall.  And, like I said, I am scared.

The fears keep me up at night:  What if I can't do it?  What if they drive me absolutely batty?  I'm not the most patient person in the world with them (which is ironic, since I teach Kindergarten and have no problem being patient with other people's children!)  Sometimes I think my own kids bring out the worst in me.  Especially my daughter--we are carbon copies of each other and butt heads continuously.

What if I get depressed again?  (It's an ongoing battle for me.)  What if I just can't handle the stress of it?  And what about the financial burden it's going to put on us?  What if we can't pay our bills, or afford the kids' therapies?  What if their sensory needs are more than I can handle?  What if I can't offer them the structure and routines they need? What if my best efforts just aren't good enough, and they regress or start losing skills they've learned this year?   What if...what if...

Do you see why this journey terrifies me?  The logical part of my brain tells me to quit worrying.  But most of the time, that part doesn't speak loudly enough to drown out the emotional part.

And yet, I'm excited too.  It would be so nice to take them on field trips, and go to the beach, and teach them to swim, and have picnics in the park.  And I'm even excited to have time to take care of my house!  Maybe it'll be clean for more than a day once in awhile.  Maybe I'll even have time to finish painting (six years after starting).  And cleaning up the jungle of a yard that we inherited from the previous owners and haven't touched in the six years we've lived here.  I can even get the kids to help!

So here I am, about to set out, with anticipation and much trepidation.  There is still a hurdle to overcome if this is going to happen--and it's a big one.  More like BRIDGE OUT AHEAD than BUMP IN THE ROAD.  But I feel this is where God is leading me, so this is where I am mentally preparing to go.  Thank God I have a few months before I travel this road!  I think I'm going to need all that time to prepare.  I'd love any advice you can give me, especially from those of you already on that road.  That's the part of this journey I am most excited about, I think--meeting others on the same path.  This time I know I'm not alone!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Come Taste the Colors

Hi.  Chances are if you've found this site, you're either

  1. a member of my family;
  2. a friend who is humoring me by checking this out; or
  3. someone who, like me, is looking for a place in this new cyberworld of relationships where they can fit in and find support on this crazy journey we call Life.

However you got here, welcome.  I'm glad you've come.  Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, relax.  I promise it will be entertaining.  And maybe inspiring.  And you might even learn something about yourself or your kids or God. Not that I am some Master Teacher--but I learn something new everyday from my life, and I have a feeling my life is not all that different from yours.

Like many of you, my journey on Earth has been arduous.  It's been exhausting.  Painful.  Heart-rending.  I used to be so envious of those people who had it all together.  The ones who were all sunshine and lollipops and rainbows and butterflies and...well, you know the ones.  I used to wish my life was JUST LIKE THEIRS.  That things would be easier for me.  That the pain would go away and never come back.  That the struggles would lesson and the trials would dissipate.  It seemed like one thing after another after another has haunted my life since childhood.  That's not to say there weren't great things in my life too, but often the trials loom up larger than the blessings.

But many years ago, I met my Glass-Half-Full Husband. I decided to change how I see my journey, and start living in the blessings.  The Bible says that God knows the plans He has for ME...and that those plans are plans to PROSPER me and NOT to HARM me.  So I embraced that promise and began to trust God to create the good experiences I so craved.  And shortly after, Life became amazing and good and trouble-free!


No, I continued to experience trials.  But as I trust God and "lean not on my own understanding," I have realized that God has given me a difficult load to bear for a reason.  (He promises not to give us any more than we can handle!)  And recently I have come to believe that this reason may be so I can share my journey and help others along the way who may just need a friend who truly understands.  And in return, I'm hoping you will help me.  Because I don't have all the answers.  If I was to take a test on Life, I'd fail it.  So maybe together, we can find the answers we need.  If nothing else, we'll laugh and have fun along the way.

So come with me.  See the beauty in this messed up world.  Taste and see that God is good.  Enjoy the colors and smells and sights and sounds all around you.  You may even learn to view things in a whole new way.  I know I have.