Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Friday the 13th

I am not superstitious. Black cats, broken mirrors, no big deal. But boy did we have a crazy Friday the 13th last week. 

One of my children, who shall remain nameless to preserve is pride, woke me up a little before 5am. He said he had gotten up to go to the bathroom but had gone in his closet to get clothes first. Somehow he had started peeing everywhere. In his room. On the carpet. Not in the bathroom. In the toilet. Where pee normally goes. We do still have some peeing in bed issues with certain people in our home due to the meds they are on to help them sleep. But this type of peeing all over your closet, room, hallway, and bathroom floor like you're wielding a garden hose that's gotten loose is a first. So my sweetheart went to take a shower. (Incredible. Wish this child would pee everywhere more often so he would voluntarily bath more regularly.) I went to get the clean clothes that this child had attempted to get before his urine got away from him.

I realized there was a LOT of pee to clean up. I went downstairs to fetch the dog pee remover. 

Of course the bottle was empty. I should have known then to just go back to bed and wake up on the 14th.

I went back upstairs to check on the showering boy. I came into the bathroom and saw blood spots all over the floor. I looked at my child who was standing naked by the sink, trying to figure out where the blood was coming from. (Please remember it's 5 am, I got to bed late, I was woken twice by other children during the night, and I had had no coffee yet by this point.) It took me a minute to understand my child was telling me he had a bloody nose. This particular child never gets bloody noses. Weird. I taught him how to pinch his nose. I woke up Daddy to man the shower front while I figured out how to de-pee the floor.

By 5:30am I was totally exhausted. But we got it under control.

When it was time to take Ella to preschool, the dog had been being so well-behaved I decided to leave him out of his kennel while I was gone for the 30 min it takes to transport Ella to school. Terrible decision. When I got home, I found our Elf on the Shelf- Bubbles- on the floor in the living room with his face chewed off. Major panic. Ollie had eaten poor Bubbles to bits. Ella and Aidan would be devastated. How was I going to fix THIS?? I've had to do a lot of triage in my mothering years, but nothing to the extent that Bubbles needed. There was just no saving him.

Alex went on the hunt for a new elf. I had Santa write a note explaining to the kids that Bubbles had to come and stay at the North Pole for a Special Secret Elf Project. When Ella found the note in the place Bubbles had been, she was very concerned, until a smile spread across her little face as I read her the note from Santa. All day, she had anyone who was available read the note to her. All her brothers had a chance to read it to her. Daddy read it to her. I read it to her five times. She loved it. 

That night we introduced our new elf to the family. We had a Family Meeting about what his name should be. We had a major war over it, but finally decided on "Cuddles." Let me just say, Daddy suggested "Patrick" and "Bismarck." (What kind of elf names are those?) Needless to say, the rest of the family did not vote for those two names. Sorry, Dad. I think your elf-naming skills have gotten a little rusty.

A couple hours after Ollie had decapitated Bubbles, I found him with a mouth full of candy cane. Wrapper and all. This dog has a crazy sense of Christmas Spirit. I've never had to get candy cane out of shih-tzu beard before, and let me tell ya, it's not easy. 

That afternoon, Aidan had a couple hours of therapy. I took Ella with me and we waited for Aidan to finish. Ben and Jonah stayed home, then Alex picked them up for family therapy and we met at The Therapy Tree. That night was my night to host a monthly support group meeting upstairs at The Therapy Tree with the non-profit I work with- CORE (Community Outreach and Education). It ended up to be the craziest evening ever. The kids were going bonkers after all the therapy they'd had, Alex was stressed out, everyone kept texting me about their woes, all while I'm trying to be run a meeting to help fellow parents who have kids with special needs. 

It was a day full of Crazy. I'm not superstitious, but there are some days that I could do without.

Pee and blood to start my morning. A decapitated, defaced elf. Candy cane to be dug out of a shih-tzu's beard. Kids going bananas after oodles of therapy. Trying to ignore it all, move on, and run a meeting, knowing my family is going completely bonkers.

I knew I should have gone back to bed that morning and gotten up the 14th. 

Pink Flags

We have had an especially tough couple weeks. Rages have exploded unexpectedly like popcorn in a microwave that you forgot to watch. These ferocious explosions of popcorn kernels leave a nasty stink in their wake. Kids don’t seem to be feeling well, but nothing major ever really comes of their icky symptoms. Irritability and weird issues abound. Holidays always make the kids a little out of whack, and so does the change in season. I always forget that until our OT reminds me. Every season. You think I’d learn, after 11 years of dealing with SPD.

Ella’s therapists and I have noticed some pink flags. Not red flags, but almost. So we’ll call them pink. She is making progress in a lot of areas like not shutting down if other kids enter her personal space. Or being appropriately goofy with other kids. Things like that. But after therapy last week, our speech and occupational therapists came out with Ella, and sweetly and gently said they were seeing some things that we need to work on. Just some pink flags, as I call them. Nothing major to worry about yet, but things to work on so that they don’t become major worries. Ella’s body and brain seem to have a lot of similarities to Aidan’s at that age. There are things with Aidan I wish I had recognized earlier as red flags and worked on them more aggressively. So I’m extremely grateful when therapists give me a heads up as to any pink flags they see.

Ella doesn’t open her palms when she plants her hands on a flat surface—she is protecting her nervous system from sensory input. She mis-hears or misunderstands things. She hears things incorrectly. She has some speech thingies that we need to work on. All of this made my heart sink a little.

So again, no red flags, but little pink things to work on before we have to raise a big red flag. We’re attacking the pink-ness aggressively. We’re brushing Ella again, which always almost instantly helps with sleep, mood, and appetite. She’s still not eating great, and is still a little more irritable, tired, and clingy than normal, but she is sleeping so much better! One thing at a time. Watch out, pink flags. We’re on a Pink Banishing Rampage. No red flags allowed.

Aidan got in big trouble at school, two days in a row, for being inappropriately noisy in the bathroom. He pretends to be superheroes all the time, everywhere he goes. So two days last week, he was pretending to be Wolverine during the class bathroom break. Not good. He was yelling, in character, and being loud. Big trouble. Not necessarily because of the behavior just those two days, but because this has been an ongoing issue for Aidan all year. He is completely oblivious to what you can and cannot say or do at school. He has impulse control issues. He doesn’t think through his actions before he does something and understand what the consequences will be. He's never trying to misbehave, he just gets caught up in the moment of excitement in his Imaginary Superhero World. Aidan’s teacher has been quite patient and understanding with him all year about this issue, and so finally he got in trouble. Two days in a row. Not good. Aidan usually has no behavior problems at school, so this was a blow. Both to him and me. This made my heart sink a little more.

Ben. Dear sweet Ben. In tears after school one day, he sat on my lap and wept out his anxiety about school. He poured out everything that is happening there that he is worried about. He says he cries at school most days. He tries to hide it so he cries at recess or in the bathroom. He said that sometimes he needs a break so badly that he climbs into his locker and shuts the door and takes deep breaths.

Now my heart was as low as it can go, picturing my poor little boy scrunched in his locker, taking deep breaths because the world is too overwhelming and he needs a small break, and this is the only place at school where he can find peace and strength to continue with his day. As my boy sat and wept, I prayed for strength to not dissolve in a puddle of tears myself. My heart is so entwined with my children’s hearts that when they feel such deep sadness I feel tangible pain too.

I emailed Ben’s school team that night and explained what Ben had told me, and let them know he did not want me to tell them because he is embarrassed to be struggling so much. But I said this is totally unacceptable. We’ve taken away his ability to call me from school when he is anxious. We’ve taken away his comfort of going to the nurse’s office when he is anxious and needs a break. So he has to have something to replace those things in order to continue being able to handle the stress of school.

So far I haven’t heard back from the school team, but I understand that before the holiday break everything at school is nuts. So if I haven’t heard anything by the time school starts in January, I might be knocking on some doors.

I think that for some kids, they do school on autopilot. They do what needs to be done. They get ready for school like they’re supposed to, do their homework when they’re supposed to. They just ‘get’ how to do school. It’s not that easy for my boys, which is a frustration for our whole family. Homework is a logistical nightmare. Yes, the school has a website where homework is posted. Yes, the boys have assignment notebooks where they are supposed to write down all their homework each day. Yes, both boys have a resource period where a teacher is supposed to keep on top of what is due when for the boys, help them with study skills, etc. Yes, I’m supposed to check the website every day with the boys and sign their assignment notebooks every day also. That’s the Great Plan for School Success. And you would think it would work and the boys would be successful.

But no.

Somehow even with all those things in place, homework isn’t done. Homework is missed. Misplaced. Forgotten. Thrown away. The boys don’t get the right worksheets. They don’t know what is due when. They leave their assignments at school that should come home, and vice versa. They don’t always write down all the homework assignments. Some days I spend so much time driving kids to therapies and psychiatrist appointments that I forget to check the school website. Sometimes Mr. Literal (Ben) refuses to do a homework assignment because it would be late and so the time has come and gone for him to be able to turn things in so he CANNOT do the assignment. Jonah doesn’t understand that even if you turn in an assignment half done, you’ll get more points on it than if you don’t turn in anything. So you might get a C grade instead of an F. We’ll be happy with  C! We’ll be satisfied with a C! Turn in a half-done assignment so you can at least get a C!!!

My poor old heart can’t take much more of this, I tell ya. As a parent, you live for your kids. You love them like crazy and want them to be healthy and happy. So when all all all of them have a week where they are struggling and weird things are happening that don’t usually happen, it really hurts your heart. Most weeks at least one kid at our house is struggling with something, but usually not all four. Quite an adventure these past few weeks. I hope that just being there for our kiddos, over and over, every single day, as best I can, will help them gather strength to face all their struggles. We'll stay vigilant and strong, and work to eradicate our pink flags that sag our weary hearts.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


My youngest son recently turned 8. I remember turning 8. It was my "golden birthday" - when you turn as old as the date of your birthday. We were in Africa, so Mom had had to figure out two years in advance what her 8-year-old daughter might like and pack that into barrels to ship out to the bush of Africa. I got blue and yellow roller skates that year, and it was the best gift ever. My darling husband asked with loving sarcasm in his voice "Where did you roller skate if you didn't have paved roads or sidewalks?" I'll have you know that we had roller skating parties in the Bible School where my dad taught students who would become pastors. Mr. Smarty Pants. The missionary kids would gather once in a while and skate together in the big room with a cement floor, tables pushed to the side of the room. I don't think we did it very often, but I remember it being the most fun ever.

As my kids pass different milestones, it brings back memories of my own childhood at that stage. When my twins turned 7, I realized how small I was when I had to go to boarding school. Now that they are 11, I realize how independent I had to be, and how good at it I was much of the time. Sometimes I hold my kids to a higher-than-necessary standard because of who I had to be during my own childhood. Since I wasn't with my parents except every other week for a weekend, I never got help with my homework! I didn't have a computer because we didn't have electricity all the time! I didn't have someone holding my hand through life the way I do for my boys. Which is also why I do all those things for them. I'm glad I can provide a constant source of support for them like I didn't have all the time.

When I'm frustrated thinking about all the things I had to do on my own at my kids' ages, I try to remember that they are completely different beings than I am. They live in a different world, they have different challenges, they have a totally different experience living life than I did growing up. They have access to anything and everything they could ever imagine wanting or needing. They have 800 types of shampoo to choose from at the store. They can get anything they want to eat at any time. They know things about computers I will never understand. They ride escalators like it's no big deal, and tell me with sweet concern "Mama, I'll hold your hand because I know you're scared of escalators." 

I try not to judge my kids based on my own childhood. My own childhood was unique and amazing and gave me so many gifts that have made me who I am today, and I am very grateful for those experiences. I'm worried whenever our kids have a present-recieving holiday that they will be disappointed with what they get, that they will want more, bigger, better things. But they always surprise me and are very grateful for the things they get. On Aidan's birthday he was overjoyed to get the gifts he got. He was thrilled with the little Minecraft cake I made for him. He was grateful. It puts a smile in my heart knowing that my children know the feeling of gratitude and contentment. 

We fight a lot of battles every day in our home. Sometimes World War III erupts because Daddy asked a boy to put a container back in the fridge. Sometimes we have meltdowns because a boy doesn't want to brush his teeth, or walk back upstairs to get his socks. Most days there is at least one boy trying to get out of going to school, wanting to stay home because of anxiety. Pretty much every single thing that the kids have to get done every day has the potential to be a huge battle. Every thing. From getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed to taking a shower or bath to doing homework to getting in the car or getting out of the car to having to wear a coat in winter...

When you fight battles all day every day, you tend to get worn out. You have to find ways to stay fresh, joyful, strong. You have to find ways to take care of yourself. I hate it when people ask if I'm taking care of myself. I guess it's because I know I'm supposed to do that, but often there is just no time or I just don't have the energy. Sometimes I'm good at taking care of myself, and sometimes I'm not. I just do my best. I try to do the best I can to take care of my kids and my marriage and myself. I'm human, so sometimes I'm not very good at these things. Sometimes I totally rock at them. It just depends on a lot of factors.

It's good to remember that when it really matters, my kids know how to be grateful for the blessings they have. They know how to be kind to others. They know how to be compassionate. I try to remember these fantastic qualities my children have when I'm battling yet another fight about eating dinner when it's dinner time or putting on pj's to get ready for bed. In the big picture of life, I hope my kids have the skills they need to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted people. Every milestone my kids hit, I am reminded of my childhood and how different my kids' lives are from mine. But some things stay the same because my kids are part of Alex and me, and we are content and grateful for what we have. Hopefully our kids will always be able to see the blessings they have in life too.