Monday, August 31, 2015

Getting to the hard parts

“Momma, I’m scared that I won’t have any friends when I get to high school. I’m scared I’ll just be a geek that no one likes.”

Why do my kids always drop these confessions on me, along with grade school theological philosophy at times when I least expect it? Like in the car when I need to dedicate a large part of my brain to operating the car and answering the demands of our youngest son who does not understand or accept that no, I cannot retrieve whatever item he’s thrown to the floor board in a fit of rage. Nor can I focus on any other conversation through his wailing.

I suppose after almost 10 years of parenting, however, I should be ready for anything.

This. This is what I’ve been holding my breath with fear and anxiety over.

Every milestone. Every birthday. Every single day that inched them closer to adolescence, was met with both joy and fear that this day would come. Despite our best efforts as parents to fill our children up with the greatest confidence in the world, I just knew that the social insecurities of other kids would start to creep into their precious minds causing them to believe for one moment that they weren’t awesome people.

Growing up, I seemed to struggle with it more than my dear husband. Nothing against him, it was just the difference in our communities: small vs. large. Or perhaps some people are just more confident than others. Why is it that some people march into this world with more mental fortitude than others? It’s taken me until my adult years to grasp the concept that I am who I am because I actually am uniquely made by a Creator that does not make mistakes. It took an awful long time to get here though.

Our oldest son is coming into an age that terrifies me. Not because of the mistakes he’ll make, but because there’s some stuff coming up on the horizon that nobody but him and Jesus will be able to bring him through. Looking back at my own adolescence, I just know. All the signs are there and I’m almost frozen with fear.

On one hand, it’s awful. On the other, I feel like my own experience with people less than kind to me and my own very powerful insecurities are what have made me a very compassionate and nonjudgmental person. I’m able to see both sides of the coin faster than you can tell me your own side of the story. Tell me your troubles and I bet money my heart will actually ache like it’s my own. Many a tear-filled prayer has been lifted on behalf of my friends and family, as if the trouble were my own. I hurt for people. I can’t watch the news because my dreams will be haunted with the injustices of the world. True story: I once wrote the Mayor of our town about a neglected cemetery on the edge of our neighborhood because I felt the deceased deserved a better legacy than a weed covered headstone. I also wrote the President about saving the rainforests because it hurt my heart to think of a future without them.

In short, I don’t know what to do. I speak life into my children as often as they’ll actually listen, but sometimes, actually a lot of the time, the world is more powerful for what seems like more than just a spell.

As a Mom, I have high expectations for my children. I know they are imperfect, just as we all are, but also I see them with a perspective that allows me to adore and cherish their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Those are the things that have made me laugh until I’ve cried and melted me to my knees. These are the things that I know will make them successful adults. The things that their spouses will fall for over any of their flaws. The things that will make them unlike anyone else and make them extraordinary.

And so it goes with all of us until we just reach a point where we embrace those parts of ourselves that have always been a little off-center, but made us who we are. If we, in fact, actually choose to do so, because I know too many adults that seem to be on the other side of their lives that still haven’t managed to do this. They fight it and in that turmoil wreak havoc in every area of their lives as a result of the inner strife that causes. Including their interactions with other people…like my babies.

If ever there was a time that I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave and see that everything was going to turn out okay for my kids, now is the time. I don’t mind that my kids struggle, because that builds character, but where do we draw the line in knowing how much is too much?

I wonder what the world would look like if we just all quit worrying about what other people thought and embraced the unique differences between us all. What if we all quit concerning ourselves with who was right and started just trying to understand the other person’s point of view? Instead of arguing with other people because how dare they think something different than us, agree that those differences in opinion were exactly what created a society that allows us to walk freely without fear of oppression or violence. What if?

I think the first thing to happen is we might actually begin to embrace the things that make us different and instead of thinking that no one is going to like us when we arrive at a certain destination that we might be more excited about how many new types of people we’ll meet.

I dunno. I just…don’t know.

This is the hard stuff, at least some of it anyway. Parenting is becoming more complex. I guess that’s the way it is though. Just like a long distance race. It gets harder and harder the closer you get to the finish line.

Lord, help us.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Children are not children for very long

I’ve been dreading this time since the day our oldest was born. I vividly remember sitting in the rocking chair of the nursery and sobbing very audibly over our 1 week old son and being so overwhelmed with sorrow that he’d never be a week old ever again. The moments between the double line on the pregnancy test and the day we first laid eyes on him seemed like the blink of an eye, and so it’s gone ever since.

Children are not children for very long.
Motherhood is such a push-pull between wanting stages to pass and simultaneously last till the end of time. Naps with baby interrupted by a fussy baby’s protest of that same nap. The slip slap of feet on the kitchen floor as the dimpled bottom of a giggling and naked toddler runs away before you can get the diaper on only for them to hide and do their business behind a closet door. The hugs and kisses after a meltdown. And so it goes through parenting young children. You want a lot of it to pass quickly, but not at the sacrifice of the sweet moments that can only come connected at the hip with the bad stuff.

Even from go, you earned the name “The Teenager” because of your seemingly mature mannerisms. Fluctuating personalities and quirks similar to a 2 year old tot, a teenage boy, and an 80 year old man, I could see you growing before my very eyes, as also evidenced by the rapid pace at which we had to replace your clothes with bigger sizes.
Last night you confessed that you knew the truth about Santa, and as your father broke the news to me, a part of my heart broke into a million pieces. Not because we’ve been found out, but because of what it all represents. You don’t believe, and so I have to question if that season of the year will be as magical for you. For every mature reality you begin to accept, more and more of the innocence of your youth seems to fade. You’ll be 10 in a couple of months and this fact weighs on my heart because it’s unfamiliar territory and full of scary challenges. Some you’ll have to experience on your own and some you don’t need to experience on your own, but you’ll be hard pressed to ask for our help.

We spend so much time as babies are babies and then toddlers and preschoolers just preoccupied with trying to survive and perhaps teach you important life lessons in the mix of all the chaos. We’re so busy washing hands, wiping noses, and tying shoes that it’s easy to get distracted by the fact that time is passing. And before we know it, we’ve returned from taking another kid to the bathroom to find that you’ve gone and grown up again. Kind of like getting lost in conversation with a friend and the hours pass too quickly to even hear the clock tick by. We look up and our breath gets caught in our throat as we wonder if we remembered to tell you this thing or that thing and terrified that we were so caught up in the detail that we never saw the forest for all of the trees.
At the same time of your confession, you are showing us a level of maturity that reassures us that you just might be okay despite our preoccupation with the daily comings and goings of life. You almost relish in the fact that you know a mature truth and you cannot dare spoil the secret for your younger brothers. Like the Cheshire cat, you grin at knowing you are older now and therefore, want to prove to us that you are responsible.

You make us so proud every single day. In some way or another.

But I’m just so sad. Because it starts with one and before I know it, the other two will have grown up on me too.

Life is so hectic with 3 young children, but it’s so much fun. I have all these boys that fill my life up with chaos and hilarity that not many other people understand. I feel like I’m part of a very exclusive club open by invitation only. It’s so cool and yet, so insane at the same time.

So, you know. And I suppose I knew it was coming sooner or later, but I just didn’t want it to happen so soon.

As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.

Very, very short.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Other Boy Continued

It was April when we caught a glimpse of the other boy (Read about that here) that we had not seen in so long, we thought perhaps he'd left long ago. The nicer, less screamy one stayed for a few months, but gradually began to fade into the toddler that we were well familiar with. The one that threw tantrums that I could only describe as what I would imagine a trapped honey badger might sound and act like. The kid that was exhausting and caused me to dig deep to find any patience to tolerate or ignore.

When Lennon would dive headfirst into a meltdown, there was no way of knowing what would cause its end. Ignoring it, addressing it, hugging it out, shouting, spanking, time out, hiding from him...all of it seemed to just feed into the rage before us. It seemed that the only thing that worked was Lennon hurting himself in an act of flailing. Either slamming his head into the floor, kicking a bare foot into a bookcase, or flapping at the wall would snap him out of his rage and cause him to seek out comfort. It's terrible when your child is in distress and the only thing you can do to help him is wait for him to hurt himself and pray it happens sooner rather than later. Nothing. Else. Worked.

It was a week ago that we finally got an answer we were praying for and while we're so relieved to know that there's a legitimate reason for Lennon's angst, it also comes with a heavy realization of just what he's been going through all this time.

They say he has Sensory Processing Disorder and we're waiting for more direction on what we do next. I know Occupational Therapy is in his future, but when that starts is a great guess.

This morning one of the evaluators sent me an article and it gives fantastic insight into how Lennon processes the world.

The tears started as soon as I read the description of the car. Flashing back to all the many struggles to even put clothes on his body and my anger and frustration with not understanding why pants were such a big deal. To know he's most likely been in pain during the last 2 years and/or just completely out of sync with his surroundings...good grief I can't imagine the frustration.

Just even knowing that his struggle has a name has made all the difference in the world with adjusting to him at home. Knowing that it's way more than just typical 2 year old challenges and he legitimately cannot help himself certainly has a way of softening your heart to his plight.

My heart is absolutely broken in seeing a tiny glimpse of what he must feel.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

These are the rules of engagement

These are the rules of engagement
Joint Task Force For Toddler Relief Operation
Ground Forces Rules of engagement
Nothing in these rules of engagement limits your right to use force to defend yourself against attacks or threats of attack, otherwise known as every parental interaction in the scope of toddler life.
You have the right to use force to defend yourself against attacks or threats of attack, otherwise known as Mom and/or Dad engaging in the following behaviors:
  • Placing clothing on your person
  • Feeding you any semblance of food unrequested by you. You should assume it is poisonous and destroy it immediately.
  • Stopping you from sticking your finger or tongue into an electrical socket or strangling the cat.
Hostile fire may be returned effectively and promptly to stop a hostile act. Hostile acts to include, but are not limited to:
  • Buckling you into your carseat.
  • See Note 1.
When toddler forces are attacked by unarmed hostile elements, mobs and/or rioters (i.e. parents), toddler forces should use the minimum force necessary under the circumstances and proportional to the threat. Acceptable force to include, but not limited to:
  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Hollering
  • Kicking
  • Hitting
  • Swatting
  • Backfisting
  • Screaming Ow or that hurts.       
  • A combination of all of the above
You may not seize the property of others to accomplish your mission. Unless you take it while no one is watching and you glare at them evilly when they do see you and attempt to correct you.
Detention of civilians is authorized for security reasons or in self-defense. In other words, they are your parents and they are stuck with you
1. The United States is not at war, but you are and love is a battlefield
2. Treat all persons with dignity and respect, except for your parents and the cat. They are both plotting on you.
3. Use minimum force to carry out your mission. Which actually means to use excessive force and volume.
4. Always be prepared to act in self-defense.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

When the dentist made me question my abilities as a parent

I laid my head on the desk fighting back tears. In one awful day I managed to question everything about my life. Feeling like a failure of a mother, I gathered my children buckled them into the car and drove.
It all started with the realization that the boys were overdue for a dental checkup. Seeing as how Lennon is almost 3, it seemed like a good time to also introduce him to the dentist. Ideally, I would have rather him been seen before now, but given his behavior during the course of 2013 to now, it didn't seem fair to unleash that on an unsuspecting hygienist.
Upon calling our local dental clinic, the receptionist greeted me with a very chipper voice and explained that the boys would all be new patients given the length of time since their last visit.
Questioning her logic, I asked about the date of their last checkup.
"January...2013,"she replied.
I gasped audibly and said "That can't be! I'll have to call you back."
In a panic I glanced through my planner from 2013 and all of 2014 and could not find another appointment where the boys had seen the dentist. In a tailspin, I could feel the weight of depression begin to sink in. The disbelief that I had allowed almost 2 years to pass since their last checkup. Mind you, they aren't great with their oral hygiene, so the dentist is our professional attempt at stellar hygiene. In my mind, as long as they are making those checkups twice a year, we're doing our best. Aside from that and certainly despite our best efforts, Hayden is prone to cavities and they're idea of brushing is more closely aligned with sloppily moving a toothbrush around their mouth while chewing on the bristles. I know it seems like a cliche' excuse, but as the exhausted mother of three, half of the time I forget to brush my own teeth, much less remember to brush theirs. I always make commitments that I should really try to do better and stay on top of them about brushing their teeth, but something always gets in the way and I forget. Mind you, I've never been stellar about my own dental health. I would love to live in a world where flossing was my number one priority, but sadly it's not. We remind them and always tell them to brush and they do, but the smell of their breath tells us they don't do such a great job. If it's really terrible we will intervene but most of the time we're simply both too tired to get up and actually put the brush in their mouth. I know, I know. I really don't need the lecture. But nevertheless, here I find myself in my office on a Tuesday fighting off the the depths of depression about my failure as a mother because I haven't been able to find the time to actually make an appointment to take my children to the dentist.
I flashed back to a month prior at Sebastian's parent teacher conference where his teacher informed me that he was behind in reading. Flashing back to the year prior when we really would have buckled down to do more reading with him and I recall many, many nights with Lennon screaming throughout bedtime and it taking both Chad and me to simply make it through those nights without shaking him. That sounds horrible, I know. As I sat there, still baffled that so much time had passed since their last visit, and recalled all the events looking back through my calendar and just how many doctors appointments Lennon had, it occurred to me that dental checkups were the last thing on my mind. Reading to my middle son was the last thing on my mind during that time.
And it made me sad all over again.
I know I can't change the fact that an entire year was taken from us, and my goodness I do know that in the scheme of things of what parents deal with, this is so minor. But I can't help but be sad for all that was lost. The effects are far-reaching, and we are still dealing with it.
I suppose the dentist was just the straw that broke the camel's back. But nevertheless, I found myself feeling that if I did not get them a dentist appointment that day all of their teeth would fall out of their mouth and we would be left with gummy smiles and dentured children.
So I set off to call around and find another dentist. In my mind, I cannot possibly face their last dentist which we have now been absent from for almost two years. Not to mention, they can't even see them until March. But seriously, the perceived judgment is just too much. I have always prided myself on managing to keep it together for the most part. I do struggle with feeling like I'm on the cusp of always falling apart, but somehow things stay together.
At this point, I feel it appropriate to respond to the question I get most often, which is "I just don't know how you do it all Kellye?" And to that I would answer that I don't. I just barely keep it together. It's in moments like this that I realize that I'm doing a terrible job of doing even that. I can't seem to even do the most basic thing like getting my children to the dentist twice a year. These are the thoughts in my mind anyway.
As I called around, I stumbled upon a clinic very close to our house and I got excited when I spoke to them and learned we had actually seen this dentist in 2009 but had not yet been back. Racking my brain to determine why on earth we would never have gone back, I came up empty so I called hopeful that this might be a winner. As if the light had broken at dawn from a terribly sleepless night, the kind woman on the other end of the phone responded that they could see all three boys that afternoon. Desperate and again feeling as if I was fighting a deadline not to let my children's teeth fall out of their mouth, I joyfully responded that we'd take it! It was only after that I realized we needed to get the insurance straight and perhaps that might have been the reason we did not return for another checkup post 2009.
I asked the lady to please run our policy number and call me back to let me know if they were a network provider. She promised that she would, but hours went by with time quickly winding down until our appointment and still no word from her. With approximately 30 minutes to go until their appointment, I called again to check. "Oh let me try again and I'll call you right back!" And she let me know that yes, in fact, they were a network provider.
With exactly 18 minutes until their appointment I rushed out of my office in a hurry, arriving at the daycare at the time of their appointment. Literally running through daycare to collect my three children.
"Let's go! Let's go! Let's go! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!"
"We're only 8 minutes late" I reassured myself and fighting the damning voice in my head that is appalled at tardiness. Slamming the car in park and unlocking the doors for the big kids to unload and FANTASTIC, Lennon is one less shoe, which I dig very quickly to find under the seat. Running into the office sweating, panting, and hair a mess, I announce that the Smiths are here!
With hope and relief, I look at the Receptionist, whose face begins to contort with obvious remorse. "I'm so sorry" she started, as I fought the urge to plug my ears and ignore what was to come next.
In some crazy coincidence, another Smith family had called earlier that day. They also with 3 children and also new patients, but with another insurance carrier and an appointment directly following ours.
When I called she assumed she was speaking to that lady, the answer to her question being yes, they were certainly a network provider. For our dental insurance, they were not a network provider. Questioning what the balance would be for each of my children it was clear to me that this was not going to work out. And it was then that I laid my head on her desk and really fought off the tears.
It seems so melodramatic, I realize, but also know that I've never claimed sanity and this day was just further evidence to the internal battle I've fought since the very first day I took Hayden to daycare so I could return to work. Being a working Mom is tough. Being a Mom is tough. Period. The end.  

Monday, September 08, 2014

We're halfway there

It started when I saw him running toward me and my breath got stuck in my throat because there was no way that the long limbed man-child running toward me was my oldest son. He just seemed to have matured so much in one day’s time.

The next time, I was sorting laundry and I glanced at the tag to confirm the size so it landed in the right stack. 10-12. I couldn’t seem to catch them fast enough as the tears started to fall.
This year, on the first day of school, not only was it the first day of a new school year for our oldest and middle child, but it was a milestone for me. It was the first year I didn’t cry on the first day of school. Not so much as a tear fell from my face and my heart really seemed to be full of so much hope and peace that no tear found its way to be shed. 

After the addition of our youngest son, the Dude, I felt myself so consumed with such a different set of emotions. The birth of our first and second born was met with equal happiness and sadness. Happy over the incredible miracle that a baby is, but sadness over the fact that the pregnancy was over and those babies would never be as close to me as they were in utero. Every day outside of the womb was one step away from needing me. So much of my identity as a person is wrapped up in being a Mom to little bitties, that every year older they became, is another step away from that role. These children never stop growing, you know.
I adore babies and newborns have always been something so incredibly special to me. Even very difficult pregnancies are something to be treasured and marveled at because, I mean…you grow a human being without doing a thing. The fact that a woman’s body has been created to do that is beyond any level of my own comprehension. I love children. Every year older I get, the more I appreciate them because they are so opposite from adults and the ugliness of the world. After the birth of our middle son, I struggled and at every turn fought the idea that our family was complete, but feared that it might be and simply, I was not ready to say we were done with babies.
But then Lennon slid into this world and suddenly, his birthday did not greet me with conflicting emotions. Purely, I was just happy and our family finally felt complete. Each birthday is now met with a sigh of relief that we might finally have these baby days behind us. Although miraculous and special, I can appreciate pregnancy and newborns from afar and breathe easily and happily that those days are behind us. There’s no longing, on my behalf, when I pass a pregnant woman or a couple with a new baby. Perhaps it’s due to being so exhausted and overwhelmed by our third-born, but nonetheless, every step forward is greeted with appreciation for where we are now and excitement about the future.

But now, a whole new set of emotions has surfaced, and it’s all due to our oldest turning 9 in just shy of 1 week. Parents of children that have already left the nest will use this time to jump in to say how fast the time from 9 to 18 will go and then they’re off to college. We’re halfway there. By no means is 18 the end of our role as parents, but it’s a banner year. Technically, they’re adults and we’re less responsible for the decisions they make. It’s the beginning of the rest of their lives.

I’m just not ready for this. At all. Not by a long shot. He’s almost a teenager, and I’m enjoying the person that he is right now. He’s such a spectacular kid. Obsessed with science and enthralled with the workings of the world. I’m the only girl he’s into and things won’t stay that way for long. 

*Sigh* The Teenager will soon be a teenager.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Do the best with where you are right now

I sat at a red light feeling like an utter failure.

My children were in the back seat, the older boys arguing like typical siblings, and the 2 year old screaming like an animal. It had been a long work day and their behavior wasn’t making me feel any less stressed about leaving the office to start the long decline until bedtime.
A mental snapshot of the condition of my house surfaced at the front of my mind and the defeat felt even heavier…the laundry in a wrinkled pile on the couch, the muddy paw prints from the dog and crumbs all over the kitchen floor, the dust bunnies and thick layer of dust collecting on every knick knack, the once small, now large (thanks to our 2 year old), section of wall paper that had been pulled from the wall, the dirty moldings around the door frames and every surface of our home covered with filthy finger prints. Don’t even get me started on the too small clothes the boys had outgrown crowding the closets. Good grief, it seems we live in squalor.

The red light changes just as I hand a granola bar to the hooligans in the back seat. Probably has enough high fructose corn syrup in there to kill their livers, I think to myself, but I guess it will do until we got home for dinner. What are you going to cook anyway? I thought and kicked myself that yet again, I had not done a meal plan like I’d promised myself every week before.

30 minutes later and the boys were settled in their respective childcare areas at the gym, but not before the two-year old let me know how much he disapproved of me spending any time on myself. He wailed and screamed as I shut the door behind me and took a deep breath to get in the right headspace to attempt a workout.
Earbuds in and I’m ready. 15 minutes into a run on the treadmill and one of the women that works in childcare smiles sheepishly at me as she walks in my direction.

Please don’t let her need me. Not right now.
Crap. She does. A dirty diaper and I know this means that my workout is now over.

Maybe this time he’ll let me off the hook.
Not a chance. I change his diaper and attempt to leave, but Lennon is in hysterics and shows no sign of calming.

I collect my things and we head home.
The boys are starving, so it’s a dash to cook anything. In an effort to keep my diet in check, I opt to cook their dinner and get to mine later. An animal cracker here, a sandwich crust there, I’m on my fifth bite of whatever is in front of me before I realize that I’ve completely blown all the hard work I put in that day to stay disciplined. The 2 year old is attempting to free jump out of his high chair and the older boys proclaim they hate what I’ve prepared, even though they happily ate the same thing last week without grumbling.

This is life and it’s so easy to get lost in the constant chatter of things not turning out how we’d hoped. I wish I had hours to spend in the gym to actually complete a workout without interruption, and some days that happens. Maybe not hours, but one hour is sufficient.

Our house is dirty. It's messy. The collection of junk and stuff we don't need abounds, and maybe one day soon, we'll get to one or the other. My husband likes to lament about the condition of our home, but I just can't find a care to give.

This is where we are right now. My diet isn't perfect all the time, but I give a good effort 90% of the time. I exercise my body in some way, almost every day of the week.

Our life could be described as messy, but it certainly won't be that way forever.
One day, animal crackers and sandwich crusts won't make their way to my mouth as I scramble to feed the natives. One day, our laundry hamper will take longer to fill. One day, my car and my clothes won't be laden with food particles from the sticky hands of a two year old.
It's so easy to get caught up in feeling like I've failed because I cannot keep all the plates spinning at one time. One is inevitably going to fall and bust into a million pieces.

So right now, unite exhausted parents, unite and know that it won't be this way forever. One day, we will get it together and the stuff that's bothering us now will all be a memory.

Today, take a deep breath and know that it's going to be okay.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

All's fair in love and...parenting.

Once upon a time, two little boys accompanied their mother to Target. Their mother foolishly thought that it’d be a good idea to take said boys into the dressing room with her as she tried on swimsuits. The mother thought nothing of this plan since every modicum of modesty as it pertains to nudity in their home, had gone out the window the moment these children came into the world. The children never mentioned it and none of them made a big deal. Bodies are bodies. Little did the mother know that was all set to change in that dressing room on that fine day. 

It started with the 4 year old boy who screamed as loud as he could when he laid eyes on his mother now in the process of trying on said swimsuit, and announced with his outside voice that “MOMMA’s GOT BOOBS!!!” To which his mother turned bright red and shushed her 4 year old to lower his voice. However, knowing how children operate, this only added fuel to the flame. The 4 year old began chanting this phrase over and over again as his younger brother laughed and then began to chant along with him.

As quickly as she could, the mother redressed and collected her children and her things, face flushed with embarrassment, and marched right out of Target, never again to return to another dressing room with her least not one that she’d be using to change clothes.

True story. Aside from Hayden’s (what we considered then) epic meltdowns at the age of 2 & 3, I’d never been more embarrassed in my life. Since then, as parents, my husband and I have experienced countless other moments of embarrassment caused by our children. Like the time Sebastian pulled his pants down and peed on the floor at a store on an Indian reservation. Or the time Hayden opened his towel after undressing from a dip in the pool, to reveal his birthday suit, exclaiming to all the party goers "y'all really wanna see this!" Or the time he told his preschool teacher that he wanted to ride her boobs. We log those moments away in our minds as a sort of tally count for just how justified we will be when the opportunity arises for us to return the favor.

Hayden is 8. He’s now at the age that things are starting to embarrass him…little brothers, Disney movies involving beautiful princesses, the mere mention of cheerleaders, or asking him how many girls he kissed any day of the week. We see his face flush just before he buries it in his knees.

It’s fine to be embarrassed. It’s healthy. A little dose of humility never hurt anyone. In fact, I believe we’re all better for it.

What’s not okay, however, is to hurt someone as a result of them embarrassing you.

It was raining buckets earlier this week, so the kids got to watch movies while at daycare. The popular pick was Frozen. Now this is where I had to do a little bit of investigation as a Mom. I’m not there, so I didn’t see it go down, but what they tell me happened is they put the movie on, and suddenly, my 8 year old boy grew agitated, plugged his ears, and expressed a general and exaggerated disgust for the movie selection. His younger brother, Sebastian, genuinely concerned and confused, innocently inquired “But I thought you liked Frozen, Hayden!” And that’s when Hayden punched his little brother in the back.

My best guess is that Hayden thought Sebby was trying to embarrass him, so he retaliated.

I get it. They’re brothers, but hauling off and whopping your brother because he asked a question, is not okay.

So what we have here, my friends, is a little turnabout is fair play. We like to take a slightly different approach to discipline. It’s common in our house when our boys can’t stop fighting, to make them sit facing each other to repeat “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.” back and forth to each other. It usually takes only seconds before the tension fizzles and they dissolve into uncontrollable giggles. We could have grounded Hayden for hitting his brother, but it just didn’t seem to fit.

And this is where I profess the sheer brilliance of my husband. During a trip to WalMart, he picked up a $5 poster of Elsa from Frozen. He showed it to Hayden and told him he was going to hang it in his room. Hayden was mortified at even the thought, but I don’t think Hayden believed that his Dad would do such a thing.

Oh yes, he did.

We’re not sure how long we’ll leave it up there, but it certainly sent the message home and I’m not sure our sweet Hayden will ever react in such a way ever again. Embarrassment hits home folks.

That’s called winning.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The other boy

It was a week ago that we approached the day filled with hope and equal anxiety. After a year long struggle with what seemed to be a host of health issues for our youngest son, we were prepared that another door would slam in our faces. Surely, such a simple procedure couldn't solve the hell we were living in.

But it did. And many have asked me if I'm angry with our pediatrician, and while I'm inclined to say yes, I can't stay angry for long. As it often is found, the journey we walk provides a testimony for others. I fully believe that I'm a small part in a huge story and the path that I follow, including the stumbles and face-plants along the way, are meant to help others.

I'm not sure that anyone fully grasped the magnitude of issues that we faced on a daily basis with Lennon. What started as a nod to the terrible two's started early at the age of 12 months, slowly matured into 90 minute to 2 hour meltdowns on a daily basis, multiple times a day. Lennon was only barely using words at the age of 2 and his behavior was similar to a manic. He could toddle around the house without a care in the world and suddenly launch himself into a full-blown meltdown of epic proportions, that nothing could stifle. No amount of love, cuddling, or discipline could stop him. Instead, like a seizure, you had to let it run its course. Lest you wanted to live with a busted lip or bruises, it was best to ensure he was safe, and walk away. If you found yourself lucky enough to successfully walk away from him and not have him follow you, which was common, it was impossible to escape it completely. Neighbors have reported having heard him in the evenings when we both had our houses locked up tight. I'm certain it must have seemed like we were harboring a lunatic, or at the very least, were beating our child senseless. Nighttime was brutal. He'd often wake at 2 a.m. and scream and cry for what seemed like hours on end. He seemed tortured and tormented by what felt like something that sat just outside of our reach.

Do you know how long a year lasts when you're miserable? Do you know that misery is only compounded when, as a mother, you find yourself completely at a loss as to how to remedy the situation? I'm hard-wired by God to know how to help my children, but with Lennon, I was at a complete loss and dealt with feeling that I'd completely failed my child. To be completely honest, Lennon was a manifestation of my nightmares. He single-handedly caused me to question everything I knew about being a mother. Not many people would ever admit it, but I'm an honest person, and let's all be real, we don't always like our kids. We love them, sure, but there are days when those kids really have a way of showing you why creatures in the wild eat their young. Over the last year, I didn't like Lennon. At all. In fact, he scared me. I even sought counseling to find a way to cope. The last year has given me a new perspective on parents that shake their children. The human brain and emotional system can only take so much before it begins to find a way to seek comfort and make the discomfort stop. We never shook Lennon or hurt him in any way, let me be clear, but during the throes of his meltdowns, the thoughts that pass through your mind can be scary. It's similar to an abusive relationship where one person is scared to leave. Only in our case, we couldn't leave. Our tormentor was our son.

It's easy to blame our Pediatrician and question how he could have let something so easily fixed, go untreated for so long. But no one could have known. Lennon's issues have been all over the map, not really pointing to an issue with his ears until recently. As we approached his 1st birthday, he had low iron and was not gaining weight. He was small, yes, but when we looked at him, we didn't see a failure to thrive baby, as his pediatrician had labeled him. He didn't appear unhealthy. So our first stop was with a hematologist, and let me be the first to tell you of all the places you never want to have to take your baby, it's a hematologist. Hematologists typically practice in cancer clinics. Why would we have been referred to one? Because anemia and slow growth are symptoms of leukemia in babies. This was the beginning of the end for me. Watching them hold Lennon down to draw 4 vials of blood from his already tiny body, will always haunt me. They tested for all sorts of things, all of which Lennon was cleared.

Back to our pediatrician and despite some interventions with Pediasure and other dietary work, we were referred to a dietician and a G.I. Specialist. The dietician was a wash, as we were already doing the healthier things that were suggested like calorie dense foods, combined with Pediasure. The G.I. specialist was more helpful and really dug in to arrive at the conclusion that Lennon had acid reflux. Which was a rational conclusion to reach, given his lack of interest in food, the night wakings, and the constant state of misery he seemed to be in. So we tried Zantac. After 2 weeks, we felt that Lennon was improving, but almost as soon as he seemed to improve, he declined once again. A follow up with the G.I. doctor prompted her to put us on Prevacid granules and also, prompted her to discuss having Lennon's hearing and speech evaluated. The granules ended up being a complete joke because trying to get a spoonful of apple sauce with these granules in Lennon's mouth was similar to trying to breastfeed a python. We listened to our guts and decided to forgo the Prevacid completely and urge our pediatrician to see us to explore hearing and speech evaluations.

If you'd have asked me how many words Hayden could say, I could pull a list from my purse. I knew to the day, when he said what. Sebastian, I knew a little less, but still knew a good bit. By the time Lennon became verbal, it was a crap shoot of when he said what or how many words he could say. He's our third child, and honestly, we were so consumed by putting out the fires of his meltdowns on a daily basis, while also caring for our older boys, that I had no clue. So at Lennon's 18 month appointment, when his doctor asked me if he could say 10-20 words, I said sure. It wasn't until the G.I. specialist started asking some very specific questions about Lennon's development, that I started to really think about Lennon's capabilities.

Could he say 10-20 words really? Questionable.
Had he ever called out to me from another room to locate me? Never.
Had he ever brought a toy to me to attempt to engage me in play? Nope.
Had he ever just come to me to get my attention, when he wasn't already crying? Never.
Had I ever heard him make the sounds of an animal or car when looking at a book? Negative.

With each question she asked, small light bulbs in my brain began to brighten, until suddenly I was confronted with the reality that my son was definitely delayed and perhaps, what we were dealing with had less to do with his actual health, and more to do with his development.

Eventually, we were referred for speech and hearing evaluations. Speech was the first and after a 2 hour evaluation, she determined that Lennon was, in fact, delayed. At 2 weeks shy of 2, Lennon was functioning as an 18 month old and while 6 months seems relatively tame, in baby land, 6 months is huge. Put a newborn next to a 6 month old. Huge difference. A 12 month old next to an 18 month old. Big difference. And so it goes for each age. The speech evaluator definitely thought there was a good chance something was going on with his ears. Has he had an excessive number of ear infections? Nope. Just a normal amount. Was he clumsy? Not more than any other child his age. Does he respond to his name? Maybe 50% of the time.

The hearing evaluation was the most eye-opening visit of them all. Lennon's ear drums and cochlea barely responded to the stimulations and it was only at a high volume that he responded to the evaluators voice. All of which were consistent with mild to moderate hearing loss associated with fluid buildup and resulted in a referral to an ENT and most likely tubes. We were so hopeful that this was our answer that we practically danced into the ENT's office on the date of our appointment. The ENT looked in Lennon's ears and asked us a few questions and ultimately decided that yes, we should proceed with tubes because enough evidence was present to justify the procedure. But then, "It may work, it may not work. Usually, you only see that type of behavior with extreme hearing loss and Lennon only exhibits mild hearing loss." Everyone from our pediatrician to now the ENT were starting to throw around autism as a possibility, that the room started to spin. It was as if the wind had been pulled from our sails. So we collected our things and drove home with disappointment soaked souls.

To have felt that we were finally going to get somewhere, only to be confronted with the reality that this might not work after all and angry Lennon might just be the kid we had for the rest of our lives. Sobering. Another brick in the wall.

On the day of the surgery, I found myself so conflicted. Hope is a funny thing and even though I was beginning to accept that this was just another dead end, I was still very encouraged and hopeful. I'd heard too many stories from parents with children that had a similar dispositions to Lennons and how much improvement parents saw in their children almost immediately, that I couldn't help but attach myself to that outcome.

The surgery itself took 20 minutes. Our life completely changed for the better in 30. Because in only 10 minutes after seeing him after surgery, his entire demeanor had changed. By that afternoon, he was running and playing. He said Momma for the first time without wailing. He engaged in play with me. We laughed a lot and my heart nearly burst with joy.

Day 2 was much of the same, and so has every day since then. He's still 2, so don't mistake me in thinking that he hasn't shown those sharp angles of the former person we've gotten to know so well over the last year. But those fits pale in comparison to the meltdowns he used to have. He sat with me and let me read to him. He's repeating all sorts of words, and he's babbling non-stop. He listens. His fits last 5 minutes and even the tone and pitch of the cry is different than before.

I'm sad that we'll never get the past year back, but there's no sense in hanging my coat on a hook of anger towards someone or something that no one could have seen. The surgeon and the nurse remarked that he had "a lot of fluid" after the surgery, which leads us to believe it was even more than the ENT could even see at his first glance. No one could have known that this baby needed tubes this whole time. No one.

We're on the other side of this, and this Momma's heart is whole. My sunshine has returned and I've got my baby back.

Monday, March 17, 2014

And may the odds be ever in your favor

The day began in true Lennon form. With a back fist to my eye ball and a similar good morning to his Daddy, Lennon emitted his typical good morning greeting. (Loud and screeching are adjectives that come to mind.)

I paused and prayed, as I am wont to do these days, that today just might be different. It was his birthday after all and you should be happy on your birthday. Not dramatic and whiney and angry and all roid ragey, but happy and very much like a scene from the tales of Winnie the Pooh.

We did get lucky though and after a somewhat rocky start to the day, Lennon found his smile and also his giggle box. I do like it when he finds those, or rather, they find him. The day to ensue is sure to be fun for all.

As our children have gotten older, my opinion of birthday parties has changed. I used to be all for throwing together a nice little shindig with streamers, balloons, and an assortment of snacks. These days, I do everything I can to persuade my children to consider other options than the birthday party. They just require so much effort and planning. I'm the girl that willingly opted for a marriage at the Courthouse with the Justice of Peace to avoid all the hoopla of a wedding, so it really only makes sense that my party planning would follow suit eventually.

Let's also just be honest. Lennon is at a stage in life that consists of moments in between tantrums, not the other way around. I'm not even sure tantrum is an appropriate descriptor for his outbursts. Don't tantrums have a time limit? Say 30 minutes? I'd say once you cross the threshold of an hour long scream-fest, you've really entered new territory. His "tantrums" only worsen when he's overwhelmed or overstimulated, and I'm sure all of our friends and family appreciate the nod to proactive headache management by not subjecting them to it.

We did lots of celebrating, just more low key. It started with lunch the day before with my parents at a local pizza restaurant, which included two types of cupcakes and Lennon enjoyed double fisting a sampling of each. Next, a trip to Toys R Us to let him pick out whichever toy he wanted compliments of his Mammaw and Pappaw. As we expected, a ball (his favorite right now), a car, and a bouncy green dragon all came home with us. Later in the day, he opened an outdoor water table from his Grammy & Poppy, which his big brothers proceeded to put together and as soon as it was practicable, Lennon climbed on and tested the stability by standing in it. The next day, we hit up a local park and not another soul on the planet had the same idea, because we had the place to ourselves. Lennon got to swing to his heart's content, walk through mud, pick up sticks and various bugs, and go in any direction he chose. The name of the game was follow the leader, and Lennon was the leader, except of course when we was fully on board with whatever his biggest brother had in mind. There was playing, more cupcake eating, a visit from Aunt Kacey, Uncle Austin, and cousin Riley, more cupcakes, and finally swimming at an indoor pool. At some point in there, we managed to sneak in a 10 minute nap, and then the rest of the day he ran in circles around the house.

He's 2 and in so many ways, I sent up a celebratory hallelujah that we survived the past year. I won't sugarcoat it in the very least. The past year has been a major challenge and has stretched our parenting bones in ways I can't even begin to describe. I've questioned every ounce of on the job training that I've earned as an 8 1/2 year old parent, and I imagine that's the way it'll go for the rest of our lives as parents.

We are hopeful and we are blessed. Recognizing that despite Lennon's uncontrollable outbursts, that we are immensely blessed with not just one, but three children, that are the picture of health. One good thing about the battery of tests Lennon's been put through over the year, is that we know that every organ in his body is perfectly healthy. We are hopeful because we're finally gaining some traction on a possible answer to why our boy might be so utterly exasperated most of the time. I am ever prayerful that the lessons we've learned and the story we've told thus far, can only serve to make us laugh as we look back, and perhaps provide another exhausted parent some humor, compassion, and a means to make even just one person not feel so alone.

Happiest of birthdays to the littlest lulu.

With love from our family and to all,