My Thoughts on Social Distancing

I want to preface this post by saying hello to readers who have been following my blog for years. I am sorry it has been so long since I’ve written, and that is a change in plan to make. It’s not as though I can rum out of material to share with three joyful and hilarious children running around! I felt compelled, however, to share these particular thoughts that have been rattling around in my head. And, so, hello again and I hope to see you soon.

It felt surreal. That first moment when I read my email from the school announcing that they would be closed for five weeks, I truly couldn’t wrap my mind around such a thing. The first day that I got the kids up, packed lunches and my laptop and dragged them to work with me it became more real. After only two days I began to wonder how I would survive five long weeks of my children whining while I tried to get work done. That’s how I thought of them- like some kind of burden. I have always loved my children but that was the place I was in then. I became stressed, overwhelmed, especially when Chris acted out.

After only a couple of days it became apparent that we needed to stay home. The government was about to shut down all non-essential businesses soon anyway. I cried as I tried to pick out enough thread and fabric to keep me busy for- how long? No one knew. I said goodbye to my grandma, who we are renting the studio space from. I brought home my machines and some customer projects, all the while the thought of keeping up work overwhelming me beyond belief.

Each day my anxiety built, coming to a peak when Dave was laid off for the foreseeable future. I was angry. We just sold our house, we were finally catching up on finances, how would this affect us? Would it ruin everything we have worked so hard to build? The kids were hyper and it was so difficult trying to work from home and get in all of their school work. I was so tired and depressed.

I cant say it happened overnight. It wasn’t like a switch was flipped, but gradually I began to adapt and feel better. I realized I didnt have to set an alarm and keep the kids on a regular schedule. We could get more sleep. We could do a little bit of schoolwork but also play games, do arts and crafts, and go outside. I cut up fabric and taught the kids how to make a tote bag. I began encouraging them to explore the expanse of our yard as much as they could, to get dirty and wet, to use their imaginations. I asked them what they wanted to learn. We talked about World War II and I watched them listen, truly listen. We started having game nights, and taking long walks together as a family.

This time is making me realize so many things about my life. My priorities, the people I love, and what makes me happy are all evolving. I am well-rested. It’s amazing how good it feels to slow down, to listen to one another, to enjoy each other. I have taken the time to really appreciate my husband and all that he does. I am less anxious and more engaged in the moment.

So, while many of you are waiting for the world go go back to normal, I am here safe and content in my loving little cocoon of surrealism. I do want our home sale to be able to move forward, and to have a steady income, but other than that I am feeling so centered right now.

I have taken the time to think deeply about my spiritual path and about changes that I want to carry through in my life when this pandemic is over. I know that we do have to go back to normal, but I also realize that I really need to make a new normal for myself and my family.

I dont want people to keep getting sick, or for the death toll to continue to rise. This illness that is ravaging the world is nothing short of tragic, and I dont wish to undermine the negative effect it is having to anyone. I just wish to point out that slowing down our lives, being with our families, and taking into consideration what is truly important is something good that can come of this. Take the time, during this time, to love, to laugh, to grieve and cry, to meditate and reflect. And then when we can leave our homes again, try to take some of that with you. ❤

 

 

My Son, the Empath

Christopher is intense of emotion, and I have described him this way for as long as I can remember. When I was little my great-uncle used to recite a poem that went, “There was a little, with a little curl. When she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was very, VERY bad.” My son reminds me of this poem. Not that I would I ever call him bad, but he does have some very bad behavior, and when he gets into his defiant ‘mode’, as I refer to it, there is no getting him out until he is ready. No consequence matters to him when he goes into one of these fits of rage.

Most of the time, however, my son is the sweetest little boy I have ever known. He is far more affectionate than his sister and will sit cuddled up with me for hours on end. He loves to give  hugs and kisses and for me to snuggle him until he falls asleep at night. He likes to be helpful and carries groceries in from the car, helps put his laundry away, and asks to help cook dinner. I think you get the gist of how he is two extremes, and there is no in between for him.

Over the last several months, we have noticed a new trend. Chris is VERY sensitive. One day I was driving and a song came on with a rather sad melody, and it was about the end of a relationship. Not realizing that he was even paying attention, you can imagine my astonishment when I turned around to see my son with silent tears streaming down his face!

It’s the same with movies. Other kids get scared of monsters and villains, and these don’t seem to bother Chris much. Instead, situations where parents or children are in peril make him suddenly burst into tears. We watched a movie last night where a young girl was reunited with her father after many years, and Christopher stood staring at the tv, tears streaming down his face. I could tell he was holding back and I reached out for him, to comfort him, but he got angry and ran from the room.

Chris feels emotions so intensely, but he doesn’t understand what they mean. He doesn’t understand that it’s okay to feel empathy and it’s okay to cry when you are sad. He is embarrassed and angered by his own feelings.

I’m not worried by this. I see something in my son. I see him becoming a great man, someone who cares deeply about others and uses that to help people. For now, I will work to help him understand his feelings and to accept them.

Ever-evolving Mommy

Hello again. It’s been a long time. I used to apologize when I had been away from my blog for an extended period, but I don’t see the need anymore since I mainly do this for myself. Also, I have been immersed in life. What could be better than that? Sometimes you have to know when to take photos and when to put the camera down and just enjoy the moments as they happen, and I suppose it’s the same with my blog.

The children are fantastic. Leah turned nine years old yesterday. She has bruises and scrapes all over her legs, evidence of her tomboy side. She also loves to be on stage performing and has been in several plays over the last couple of years. She is smart and loves science and art. She is also funny and has many friends.

Christopher is four, and while he is still a handful and throws us curve balls all the time, he has come so very far. He just finished his first year of pre-school and he grew in leaps and bounds over that year. He knows how to interact with other children now, he listens better and takes direction most of the time. He is sweet and such a mama’s boy.

And…we are expecting again. Our baby girl is due for arrival around August 1st of this year and we couldn’t be more excited! We didn’t plan it this way, but each of our children are going to be 4 1/2 years apart, making motherhood quite a different experience for me.

Lately Leah has been doing a lot of growing up. She gets moody and gives us an attitude out of nowhere. Last night, on her birthday, she came out of her room after we thought she was asleep and she was crying. She didn’t know why she was sad, but it had hit her out of nowhere and she just needed a good cry in my arms. As I held her I realized that we were moving on to a whole new phase here, and it was one that I haven’t mentally prepared for yet.

I have always thought about motherhood in terms of babies and young kids, but my Leah is becoming a young lady now and our relationship is changing. The way in which I talk to her is evolving. And yet, I am starting over again with a newborn at the same time. Some may be stressed by this, but I can’t help but feel lucky. What an incredible journey, to experience mothering an infant three times, all during such different phases in my own life and maturity. What a blessing to have had so much time to savor the baby years of each child, while also learning to nurture relationships with my other children as they grow and evolve.

My life is always an adventure. I am so looking forward to another baby, and even though I am sad to slowly let go of Leah as my little girl, I am also excited for what this next stage will bring, and what it will mean for our relationship.

Life goes by so quickly. I have learned to enjoy and cherish each moment.

#Metoo

I almost ignored them. I almost didn’t post it. My gut reaction, my first instinct, is not to talk about it. We are taught from a young age not to talk about these things, after all.

The day went on, and more and more of my friends were posting these two words: Me too. I saw how brave they all were, and I felt inspired. I felt that maybe this could be the start of something, just by people seeing that we truly do live in a rape culture.

I was lucky enough to make it to my twenties relatively unscathed by men. The men in my life, my father and stepfather, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and husband, were all respectful of women. But in college, I was exposed to more of the world. I met a man, and a friendship was built out of pity. He told me he was dying of cancer. He didn’t look well, and he missed a lot of class. I had no reason not to believe him.

I began spending my time between classes helping this guy study and keep up with his school work. I just felt badly for him, trying to make something of the life he had left. But, apparently, he was just a predator.

Over our spring break he sent me an email. He asked if I could get together. I thought he needed help catching up on work, but he then said he wanted to get a hotel room. He wanted me to sleep with him. I replied that I was sorry if he had gotten the wrong idea, but I was married. He tried to guilt me with his death story, but luckily I was smart enough to recognize his game by now. I sent all of his emails to my advisor.

The college handled it well. They immediately kicked him out and warned him that he would be arrested if he so much as set foot on campus. They met with me and asked if they could do anything else. But here is what I felt: shame.

I was embarrassed that I had fallen prey to this kind of person. I felt guilty for having spent time with him when I was a married woman, even though it was innocent on my end. I was so ashamed that this had happened to me and that I had to send all of these personal emails off to be read by so many eyes.

The school advised me to see their counselor, and I am so grateful that I did. She assured me that I had done nothing to invite this person to harass me. She was amazing, but I still told very few people about the incident. I still felt guilt and shame. I haven’t talked about, or even allowed myself to think about it until now.

Rape culture has taught women to keep our mouths shut. To forget instances like this and move on. We live in world where victim blaming is so normal, that when this happened I was actually racking my brain for ways to blame myself. That’s why I am proud of us for the #metoo movement. We are not being quiet anymore. We can’t allow this to go on. Whether you are comfortable actually sharing your story or you just want to leave it at two words, you are helping to show the world, men and women, how prevalent this issue is. It doesn’t matter whether you are the victim of a violent assault, or simply have had something said that made you feel uncomfortable. Either way, it’s NOT okay.

Lets teach our daughters not to stand for this. Let’s teach our sons to be respectful, always. Let’s come together and build a better future.

Battlegrounds

IMG_4961.JPGWhen you’re the mother of a child with special needs, it often feels like it’s you and your child against the world. It’s hard to go anywhere or do anything when you don’t have a clue when the next meltdown will occur. It’s hard to endure the looks of strangers when the meltdown does occur, and people assume that your kid is a brat. It’s hard to feel frustrated with your child, while also feeling guilty because no one else gets him the way you do, and it’s hard to continue to be patient, day in and day out.

I often wonder if I should say something to people, to try to explain his behavior. But then I realize that I don’t even have all the answers to be able to explain. More importantly, I owe them nothing. What should I care if a stranger wants to raise their eyebrows and judge me on my parenting skills when they know nothing of my life? So, I stay focused on my son and on doing whatever it is he needs to be soothed.

Sometimes we get into a groove and things are wonderful. We recently spent a good two months of bliss as behaviors improved and meltdowns became less frequent. Life was normal rather than a battleground. And then regression hit. Back to meltdowns, escape maneuvers, sensory induced freak-outs, and aggression. Back to every single hygeine habit being a giant battle, not eating, and mood swings galore.

Days like today are hard. I fight an internal battle to stay patient and understanding when all I want to do sometimes is cry or take a day off. But, mommies don’t get a day off!

So, I get through it, often one minute at a time. And then I tuck my beautiful son into bed and listen as his breathing evens out. I feel his little arms wrapped tightly around mine and hear him whisper one last “I wove you mommy” as he drifts off to sleep, and all is right with the world.

My son does not have an official diagnosis yet, other than high anxiety. That doesn’t matter. A diagnosis will be helpful, but it won’t define him, and it won’t change our relationship in any way. I love him, and he loves me, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

To Three, or Not to Three?

THAT is the question!

I have always wanted a big family, and I love babies. The snuggles, the smell, all the “firsts” that we get so excited for. But lately I find myself wondering if we really want to start all over again. Leah and Chris are getting so independent, and (Hallelujah!) Chris is finally sleeping better. Do we really want to go back to midnight feedings?

Christopher is also starting pre-school in the fall, which breaks my heart, but also is a little exciting. We have already surpassed the age gap that we would have wanted for another tot, and I have recently lost quite a bit of weight, which begs the question, am I willing to stretch this skin back out again and allow hormones to do their magic on my body that I have worked so hard for?

All of those seem like good reasons to throw in the towel and admit that we are done with the baby phase of our lives. But then I see pregnant friends, ultrasound pictures, or a sweet little one will smile at me and the feelings come rushing back! Being a mom is the greatest blessing, and an amazing adventure. I am not sure I can really say that I am done!

Ugh, what a dilemma! Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section!

 

When Italian Tempers Flare

It’s not even officially summer vacation yet. There are still two half-days left in the school year and my kids are already fighting.

Remember all of my posts about my heart melting because my kids love each other so much? Yeah, not so much lately! A day barely goes by without at least one incident resulting in tears or at least whining and tattling!

Today, I had a totall kook-out. Once again, we had barely walked in the door from getting Leah out of school when they started. They went into the pantry for a snack and I heard Chris scream,

“No Leah! Those are MY food!”

I quickly got up, but they were faster. They emerged from the pantry in a full-on tug of war over a bag of cheese doodles. Yes, cheese doodles; something I normally refrain from buying because I don’t actually know what they are. And there are my two children, yanking a bag of the offensive orange (whatever they are) back and forth.

So, I lost it.

“WE ARE NOT GOING TO DO THIS ALL SUMMER LONG!” I screamed, “FIRST OF ALL, I DO NOT BUT ANY FOOD FOR JUST ONE PERSON. ALL OF THE FOOD IN THIS HOUSE IS FOR EVERYONE TO SHARE! AND YOU-” I looked at Leah, ” YOU DO NOT GO AND YANK ON SOMETHING IN SOMEONE ELSE’S HANDS! THIS IS RIDICULOUS!”

With that I plucked the bag from both of their grasps, poured two small bowls full of stupid cheese doodles, and held the bowls out of their reach until they both apologized to one another.

What am I in for???

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Worth Every Penny

Lately I have been feeling very stressed about finances. Last December, my husband and I were finally able to buy our dream home. This was an amazing goal for us to teach, but we are definitely feeling the strain, especially since I only work per diem.

My jobs ebbs and flows, and while there are times where I have tons of hours, right now is a time where there are hardly any. I have been half-heartedly applying for full-time work, but also considering the implications if I am to do so. How much will childcare cost? And most importantly, what will I be missing out on, and who can possibly care for my children well enough?

Wr make ends meet, but many sacrifices are made for me to be at home. In light of everything going on with Chris lately I don’t even know what we would do if I worked more.

Yesterday I had an epiphany. Christopher and I took a walk through the little village where we live in our new house, and found “the old iron spring”. Chris was delighted and loved sticking his feet in the water. When I asked if he was ready to head home yet he replied,

“Not yet mommy. I just wove it here with you!”

In that moment, my heart nearly burst with joy, and I knew that I have been making the right decisions all along. Every penny that I miss out on is worth the hugs, kisses, smiles, and memories that I am blessed to make with my children each day.

the sacrifices we make for me to be at home are nothing compared to the sacrifices I would make if I worked full time. Sure we would live more comfortably, but I would miss out on so much more important things. Being a mom is my calling.

So Proud

For those of you who are new readers, or who don’t remember this, four year old Leah did not want any siblings. When she heard the news that we were expecting her little brother, she was angry with me. She told me that she wanted to be an only child forever. When she came to see him in the hospital, she glared defiantly at me and didn’t ask to hold him.

Our first night home, however, she gave in. I will never forget how exhausted that little girl was, after three days of being juggled around by three sets of grandparents (and spoiled, too!) She couldn’t hold up her facade of not having any interest whatsoever in the little pink, chubby faced boy peering at her from the blankets. For several weeks she would tell me that she was only pretending to love her brother to make me happy, but it was apparent that she was only trying to protect her bruised ego; she was hooked. She was smitten.

When a child has been raised as an only child for 4 1/2 years, it isn’t easy to suddenly have their world turned upside down by a new baby. And it certainly didn’t help that Christopher was no “easy baby”. He required a lot of time and attention. Leah sat quietly by, observing the small bundle that was taking over her mommy’s life and biding her time until he was old enough to play.

Play, they did! As Chris began to walk he quickly learned how to go to her bedroom door and knock relentlessly until she let him in. He learned to call her name from his crib for some extra smiles and attention, and that she could open up a popsicle almost as well as mommy could. As for Leah, she took it all in stride, learning that it’s fun to be the “boss” and to have a built in playmate who is always up for whatever adventure you have in mind.

I just want to say that I am so incredibly proud of my little girl. Raising Chris is no easy task. Even at 3 1/2 years old he still takes up a lot of my time and attention. There are appointments every week, and the infinite patience that I have had to develop to deal with his meltdowns. 99% of the time, my daughter is exceedingly patient, kind, and tolerant of her brother.

It isn’t easy to be a superstar- the oldest child with the highest expectations from mom and dad. Keep your grades up, don’t whine, be a good role model for your brother. But she does it all, most of the time without being asked. She is talented in so many ways, and yet she know how to just have fun and be a little girl as well.

I hear the patience in her voice when she explains things to Chris. Sometimes I see her getting frustrated, and there are even times when she uses her older sister status as an excuse to be bossy. But for the most part, she is just his partner in crime and most of all, his best friend. As a parent, there is nothing better than watching your children love one another.

Leah Noelle, you will be eight years old soon, but I should say eight years young. You are still so little, less than a decade old. You have many experiences yet to come and life lessons waiting to be learned. But even so, you are wise beyond your years and kind beyond anything I have ever seen. I know that it’s not easy, but I need you to know that I see you. I see everything you do to help me, and I appreciate it. I am so proud of you.

Not Alone

When you picture your future as a kid, teenager, or young adult, most of us picture perfection. A marriage to the spouse of our dreams, a house in the suburbs, good working vehicles, family vacations, and 2.5 perfect children. As we get to that point, however, we begin to realize that life doesn’t come in a perfect little package like that. Life is hard work! Relationships take effort, even if you are with your perfect partner. You have to work hard for the career you want and advance before you can afford that dream home and those nice cars and vacations. And then there are the kids. They don’t just come out perfect.

It takes a lot of work to raise a child, and a lot of personal decisions on how you are going to do so. Even those who may be aware of this, however, usually will imagine themselves having children who are healthy. It’s so easy to think “that will never happen to me” when you hear about children with health problems, autism, etc. The term Special Needs doesn’t come up when we are thinking and looking forward to our future children.

And yet, it happens.

My daughter was an easy baby. Everything came easily from sleep-training (okay, it didn’t seem so easy at the time!) to potty-training, to acclimating her to school. She was well-behaved, even mannered, smart, and eager to please. And, she still is! For those who have followed this blog from the beginning, you will be pleased to know that Leah has turned into a lovely young lady of almost 8 years. She plays sports, sings, acts, and does extraordinarily well in school.

And then there is Christopher. As an infant, he was a little trying. He didn’t sleep much, and he would ONLY breastfeed. No bottles, not even with my pumped milk. He was stubborn. As a toddler he was ornery, but it didn’t seem more so than any other one or two year old. However, as Christopher approached the age of three, my instincts were screaming at me that there was something more, something beyond ordinary toddler issues. He was continuing to throw tantrums, yet they seemed so much more intense than anything I had ever experienced. When Chris is happy, he can be the most joyful child in the world, but when he is unhappy look out! His emotions are wrought in intensity. His meltdowns were frequent, monumental, and could stem from nothing.

Last fall I made a decision to get some help. I wondered if I was more lenient with him, but when I would go over it in my head, it seemed apparent that he was getting the same upbringing as his sister. I thought that if I sought the assistance of a behavioral therapist I could learn some strategies to deal with his behaviors.

Let me just pause here to explain something- I was burnt out, yes. Every day was a struggle, a battle of wills with my son. But you all need to know that I ADORE this child. He is my son, and I saw every side of him. My biggest fear was the world would never see the joyful, funny, sweet side of my boy if they got too caught up in the other things.

The first appointment was just me and the therapist. When I sat down I didn’t know what to say. There was so much to my son, how could I begin to describe him? As I begun to talk, however, it got easier. The therapist nodded thoughtfully as I described my days with Chris. And then it happened; I began to hear about things such as Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder. I began to hear about special needs, and IEP’s, and developmental pediatricians.

Chris has been in therapy for almost 6 months now and has made many strides. He isn’t as freaked out by certain textures as he used to be, but he continues to struggle with loud noises. His meltdowns are still intense, but they are becoming less frequent, and easier to calm. He also gets OT through the school district and has an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. I still have a lot of unanswered questions (he has no official diagnosis) and a lot of hard work ahead of me. You see, as the parent of a special needs child it will be my job to fight for him, to advocate for him to get whatever he needs. He is above average cognitively, a very smart little guy. Chris struggles mostly with anxiety and social behavior.

I am learning more every day. There is a lot to this, and I can’t possibly put it all into one blog post. But I just want you all to know that I get it now. No one has the picture perfect little family that we pictured for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that our lives are not rich and fulfilling. I would not change one thing about my son, even the challenges we face. We will face them together, head on. I will fight tooth and nail to get him whatever he needs to learn and have a good life. And, I will share my plight here, with you. If you are facing a similar situation, it so helps to know that you are not alone. Not everyone who sees your child have a meltdown is thinking that they are just a brat. I don’t. I get you. I see your child and I see your struggle. You are not alone.