10.23.2017

We All Have Something

Since we are on the topic of Liam.....recently I took Liam to see Madeline's therapist, Miss H. You see, one of the main comorbidities of people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. While OCD affects around 2% of the general population, 30-50% of people on the autistic spectrum also have symptoms of OCD, if not full fledged OCD. Liam has been displaying some signs of anxiety and panic recently so we decided we would have him seen, hoping to get on top of anything before it gets out of control. (Yes, I still live under the illusion that I have some control in these matters!) While at that appointment, I asked Miss H if it was appropriate to talk about Liam's diagnosis with him and she confirmed that we should probably speak with him about it sooner than later.

So, here's how that went.

Liam, Lily, Solomon and I were sitting amongst the mess of the little boys' bedroom before bedtime when I impulsively decided: Hey, let's have that talk now, without any plan or thought about it whatsoever.

"Liam," I started. "Do you now why you go to the support teacher's classroom everyday?" (Lily's eyes widened.)

"No," Liam said, full of smiles and an air of laughter. "But everyone goes there sometime."

"No, not everyone," I replied. "Do you know why you go to the social skills class in school?"

"Yes....um, no," he admitted.

"Well, do you know how we went to see Miss H last month because you were having some anxiety?"

"Yes....."

"Do you know why Madeline goes to see her?"

"Yes. Because she has OCD," he said enthusiastically. (You could almost see him tallying his score in his head.)

"Do you know what OCD is?" I asked.

"Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," Lily chimed in.

"OCD is something Madeline has that makes her brain work a little differently than other people. She has to take medicine to keep it under control and she goes to talk to Miss H in order to work through the ways her brain is different," I explained. "And recently your brother, Aidan, was diagnosed with ADHD because his brain works differently as well. His brain is like your dad's brain and my brain and most likely Lily's brain. We all have various levels of ADHD which means we have issues with certain things like organization and focus and distractibility among other things. You have something different with your brain, too. It's called ASD which stands for Autistic Spectrum Disorder. When you were a little boy, we noticed you did some things unlike other kids and so they evaluated you and diagnosed you with Aspergers which is kind of a high end form of ASD."

"Well, what does Solomon have?" Liam asked.

"Nothing," Lily said.

"Not that we know of anyway," I added.

Liam looked at Solly, grinned and then ecstatically blurted:

"Ha! We all have something....except you, Solly! You don't have ANYTHING!"



 * * * *



So,  admittedly, I didn't see THAT coming.







10.16.2017

My Made For TV Movie

Just to be clear, I did not make a movie. But sometimes I feel like I am in the middle of one, that the plot is unfolding with obvious foreshadowing, crystal clear yet dynamically developing characters (oh the character sketches I could turn in now....if only I were still in 9th grade!) and the most humorous and/or grace-filled moments in the most unexpected of places.

But, the problem with being the woman who defines "mess" in "hot mess mom" is that sometimes I miss things....like, big-ish things.

A few weeks back for instance, I was standing near the soccer field, randomly taking over the concession stand duty while watching Lily play when I got a call from Kurt. Liam had just hit his first home run.

Now, I use that term as loosely as a definition can be used. You see, it was the first time Liam had hit a ball that went beyond the foot in front of home plate. For reference, a few weeks before this, my bestie neighbor, who had graciously donated her time to take Liam to his game since we were stretched too thin (aren't we always?), called to tell me that Liam had hit the ball. "Well, he made contact," she said, which she assumed he had never done before because the entire crowd went wild. It was a proud moment for him, one that Kurt and I completely missed but heard about for several days following.

But this was different. Liam had actually made contact with the ball AND the ball moved forward, straight to the pitcher. And then, as if that were not enough to be completely thrilling, just when one thought the play was over at first base, the first baseman missed the catch and Liam, in all his determined glory, kept running. ("Run, Forrest, Run!")  He must have had it in his head that he was not stopping until he was either safely home or undeniably out because base after base he ran, through mistake after mistake by the infield who, much to everyone's surprise, simply could not stop him. The angels were smiling on him that day (actually, probably every day to be honest) because the kid, who at nine years old still struggles to run straight half the time, made it all around the bases and safely home to the cheering and adoring fans. My understanding is that both teams' parents were cheering when he arrived at home plate.

Now, I have heard the story so many times, I feel like I was actually there. Liam, who crossed home plate, half laughing, half crying, tears rolling down his face and his whole body shaking in complete exhilaration, had just hit his first "career home run" as he would tell us later.

I arrived an hour too late. Because I'm mom of the year. Duh. (And to make it worse, Kurt showed up right AFTER it happened. The fact is, when you have 5 kids, you miss a lot of things. Sigh.)

Somewhere toward the end of the game, the coach put Liam in left field, next to where we were sitting. We watched as the pitcher threw the ball, the batter swung and hit it; up, up, up it soared, straight toward Liam. Liam watched the ball, adjusted his feet just slightly, actually put his glove up in the air and by the grace of the baseball gods, he caught that fly ball.

Out!

His eyes widened. He took a double look at the ball in his glove to make sure he had actually caught it and started waving the ball in the air, cheering for himself. "I caught it!"

He was as surprised as the rest of us. "Did you see that?! Did you see that?!"

Everyone went wild. You would think he had just made the final play of the World Series. It was the first out of some random inning in the middle of a random rec league game. But for him, it was a highlight in his life. The kid who almost quit last season because of fear now hit an in-field homer and caught a fly ball for an out, all in one game. Progress.

He has a blessed life, even in light of his differences. Or maybe, just maybe, it is because of his differences that we are able to see the little things as blessings. And when "life" hits the fan, it is those blessings that continuously hold us up, when we remember to let them.

Admittedly, sometimes it feels a little like living with Rudy....or living smack dab in the middle of Rudy, our own little made for TV movie.... And we are oh so grateful.












7.18.2017

More then Enough

Recently I read a blog post from one of the few bloggers I follow. And apparently I like this blogger so much that if you would have asked me her name ten minutes ago, I could not even have recalled the beginning letters. (My attention to detail may be lacking in a few areas....as it turns out, Adderall does not fix everything.)

At any rate, she recently reposted a post that I loved the first time around and clearly she did too because she sent it out again (or maybe she was just out of ideas that day.....or even more likely, maybe it just popped up again when I was trying to clear out the 4,000+ emails in my inbox.....please read my above statement about some things NOT being fixable!)

Her name, for the record, is Ann Voskamp. She is a Christian writer and mom and farmer's wife and I will admit to admiring her on so many levels. Maybe even wanting to BE her at times. But mostly, I am inspired. Like most people frantically making it through this life, I need grounding and Ann offers that in ways I don't even know I need sometimes.

This particular post she wrote really hit home though. To put it simply, she offers you three words, neatly packaged in a sweet little story, to remind you that what you get in life is sufficient. Those words, "I get enough," inspired my new mantra:

I get enough.
I have enough.
I am enough.

Whenever I feel shortchanged, I remind myself that, like the child in Ann's story, I get enough. I get enough of everything I need. Food, water, sunshine, happiness, sadness, challenges, all those ordinary days that seem to last forever and go by too fast...oh, and oxygen! (Laugh, but until my doctor got my asthma under control this allergy season, I was not getting the oxygen I needed and trust me, you definitely want enough of that! I now hoard it. I admit it. I am an oxygen hoarder because I now know how much I LOVE to breathe!) But seriously, I get enough. Growing up, I had incredibly generous parents who gave me more than enough. Now that I am an adult (at least on paper) I have an amazing husband who provides us with a life beyond what I could have imagined. And while that doesn't mean we have no problems, I can honestly say, I get enough.

And because I get enough, I have enough. I have enough messes to clean up; my house is bigger than I could possibly stay on top of....if I lived in a third world country, I could host the whole village....and maybe the competing one down the street with the second watering hole. I have more kids than I can keep track of, more activities than are humanly possible to manage alone, more ideas and dreams than I know what to do with and even if I may try to tell you otherwise, I do. not. need. any. more. cowboy boots. (Or chickens. Or rabbits because holy guacamole, forget the carrots, we have RABBITS coming out our ears!). I have enough.

But the big one. The one that I need to tell myself and hear most often. The one thing I need to believe with all my heart and soul lest I mess the whole of this life up and waste it chasing something I cannot even pinpoint:

I am enough.

This last year, I turned forty. 4-0! About six months before that happened, I started freaking out. Like really, truly, clearly-having-a-midlife-crisis, all out panicking. Now, I do not believe I know anyone who, at some point, doesn't question who they are and what they are doing with their lives (you know, unless they are, say, six) but this was a real monster of a wall. Who am I? What am I? What am I doing? What have I done that is important and noteworthy and worthy of this life I have been given? What about me and my plot in life is good and noble and lasting? What will be my legacy? Do I even have one? If I die tomorrow, will my life have mattered beyond my family and few friends? (And no, don't argue with me that my life's worth is in my having 5 ridiculously wonderful kids because my rabbits do that every. single. month....not impressive.)

Six months I tortured myself. Maybe even longer. And then my birthday came and went, like all 39 before that, and the monster at the end of the book was just me and life kept rolling along and when I finally settled down and realized forty is no big deal, I began to grasp that our ultimate purpose, our ultimate worth, is not some big, impressive something that needs to be acknowledged by the world. Really, it isn't even about us at all. It is simply this: We are, we exist, because God loves us. Created in His image, for His love alone, His hope and desire for us is beyond our comprehension. You. Me. We are enough. Enough for God to create, to wait for, to hope for, to fight for.....Enough for God to love. Even enough for death on a cross. We are enough.

It isn't showy. It isn't an Ivy League degree or a high powered job or a wardrobe of designer clothes or a segment on the national news. It doesn't put us in the spotlight of the world or even in our tiny towns. It doesn't make us a rock star to a flock of chickens or help us win soccer games or fold the laundry or put dinner on the table or build our clientele. And yet.....it is more than enough. More than we could possibly imagine or create for ourselves. And if we, if I am enough for that, I am enough for anything.

And so are you.

****

And since everything sounds cooler in Latin, I leave you with a new mantra to try out for yourself:

Adepto Satis,
Habeo Satis,
Ego Sum Satis


And if I were preaching this in a church, I would now cheesily have the congregation sing (to the tune "We are the Church"):

I am enough.
You are enough.
We are enough together.....

And they would go about their day, humming it to themselves, remembering. (And trying to get that blasted tune out of their head!) Just like you will. (You're welcome!)

Much love to you all my friends!

(p.s. Don't trust my Latin....)






6.13.2017

To Where Does Time Fly?

"Mom, I saw something really funny at school today," Lily says.

I try to listen but anymore, the rush of words spewing from the mouths of my kids seems to get jumbled in my already crowded brain and the best I can do is stare at them blankly. Sometimes I nod. 

"Lily, I am so sorry. I couldn't concentrate on all of those words. Could you repeat it?"

"Oh, I totally get that!" she says honestly. "So, I read this at school and it is really funny:
Friends are like snowflakes..... 
If you pee on them, they go away."

The humor snaps me back to the present and I glance over at Lily. We laugh for a very long time. 

* * * *

How did it get to be summer break already? These last few weeks and months have flown by yet in the getting here, their heels were dragging! Or maybe those were mine. 

For months I fretted over the impending decade change that I experienced on this year's birthday.....I lost my way, found it again, lost it, stopped bothering to look for it.....but found it anyway when I stopped freaking out and realized that the monster at the end of the book was just me....still me.....fury, lovable old Grover Graceful Chicken. (With an emphasis on the old now I guess.)

Where did the time fly off to anyway? 

Playing soccer against a high schooler recently, he was unable to take me on 1v1. He had been smack talking the other boys all day so I said, "Hey, how does it feel to be beat by a lady old enough to be your mother?" 

It was really funny at the time but when I pause to think about the truth behind it, I'm stumped. How did I get to be the adult around here? I pondered this question as I helped cut Solomon's fingernails yesterday. He was complaining that it hurt and Lily told him: Well, THAT'S why I do my own! I flashed back to conversations with my grandparents about how to cut and file your own fingernails. I must have been about 5th grade and my grandparents were taking me out to lunch I think. I don't know why it was just the three of us but the moment still stands vividly in my memory. My grandpa thought we were still talking about using the nail file properly but grandma and I had changed the subject to the best way to cut your dominant hand's fingernails, yet there he was, chiming in: "I just hold it still like this and move my other hand back and forth across it like this."

Grandma and I took one look at each other and burst into giggles. 

Grandma is 98 now and Grandpa has been gone for over twenty years. And somehow, someone thought it was a good idea to put ME in charge! I mean, for real y'all. I still laugh over 'friends being like snowflakes because they both go away if you pee on them'......that's who's running this show! (At least in part....)

The absurdity of it struck home last week when I emptied out Solomon's school backpack. 


Look closely......what doesn't belong? Ding ding ding! That Leatherman knife/tool combo probably doesn't belong in the kindergarten classroom. But this adult in the room? She did not even know she was missing one!

"Solly, you can't take knives into school buddy," I told him, withholding my chuckles as best I could. 

"You can't?" he asked, as if he didn't realize it until just now. (He's sneaky, that one.)

 "No, Solomon. They will expel you from school if you take in a knife. Do you know what that means?" I asked. He shook his head no.

"It means you wouldn't be able to go back to school anymore," I declared. 

There was a pause before he slyly responded: "Really......hmmmmm."

The wheels are a'turnin'. I want to tell him, "Hold on to this moment, Solly, because someday, someone is going to get the bright idea to make you the responsible adult in the room and...." OH! MY! GOOD! LORD! 

You have all been warned! 


 
 

3.10.2017

Sollytude

It's that time of year....Lent. If you would have asked me in the fall about the next Lenten season, I would have given you all sorts of wonderful challenges I wanted my family to accept. I started writing about conquering fear. I had epiphany moments where I ran straight into the face of some of my own fears and knocked them out of the park. At least temporarily. I focused on supporting kids through their fears: Lily, afraid to "try out" for a solo at school. Madeline, afraid to keep pushing through her anxiety with a new soccer team. Aidan, well, he's another story, one wrought with apathy more than worry (maybe a topic for next year).

Then LIFE happened. Fat Tuesday arrived and quite honestly, I did not even realize it was upon us until it was almost too late. Maybe we would just take a pass. Let the challenges and the sacrifices move around us, through us, by us, into the Easter season. God is good after all. And that goodness is with us regardless of our deeds.

But the girls insisted: they wanted to give up something. Sugar? Desserts? For Madeline it became obsessive and I started coaching her on the notion that maybe giving something up was not a good idea for her mental health right now: try adding something like "Being nice to your sister" or "Making your bed."

"What are you going to do, Mom?" the girls wanted to know.

"I am not focusing on that which I take into my body. I am going to work on giving up the frivolous spending. There are too many odds and ends we do not need. I need to put a stop to the buying of those things. And that it mostly on me."

"What are Solly and Liam going to do for Lent?"

"They need to cut back on screens: You know, read more, watch/play less."

And then Solly proved that maybe there were other things he needed to give up.

You see, over the last year he has really begun to take his camouflage seriously. He hides in bushes. He squats down, quietly waiting, barely breathing, until he thinks you can't find him and then he ambushes you. It's cute.....it's hilarious really.....unless you are the neighbor who is supposed to be watching him and all of a sudden he is gone. MIA.

I was sitting in the dentist chair, my mouth full of who knows what, the hygienist asking questions I could not physically answer even if I wanted to, when the phone rang. Madeline was sitting there and I had her call the mom back. She quickly handed me the phone and I listened as this neighbor frantically explained that she could not find Solly anywhere. She had gone upstairs briefly to get her stuff and when she came back down, the door was ajar, he and all of his belongings gone. She searched her yard, yelling. She drove up the street, checked all my doors, which were locked. And by the way, "I really have to leave like right now!" (to get her son to an appointment.)

"It's ok, just go. He is in the neighborhood somewhere, I am positive. I will just call the other neighbor and see if she can find him."

"I can't leave your kid!" she exclaimed.

"It's fine, really. I will come home if I need to." (Obviously he is the fifth child, not the first!)

At that point, I call my bestie neighbor and ask if she is home.

"Why yes! I was just getting ready to drive your son up to your house 'to get something'; I found him sneaking through my yard," she said.

"Of course you did. He was hiding from his friend's mom," I explained.

"Well, he is fully decked out in his camouflage today," she laughed.

Yes, yes he is. As with every other day.

I am fortunate to have good friends. Solly is fortunate he is so darn cute.

"By the way," she said, "I asked Solly why he wanted to be at home when there was no one there. He said he likes it when everyone else is gone, because it is nice and quiet."

I guess the kid has to get his Sollytude somehow.....

The next day, after apologizing profusely to the other mom (this is the SECOND time he has wandered off on her watch....I might have to reexamine his going over there come to think of it), I picked up her son and drove the boys to school.

On the way there, his friend dramatically exclaims: "You were REALLY BAD yesterday! You should not have left! My mom looked everywhere for you! She was yelling for you and even went all the way to your house looking for you!"

Solomon snickered.

"I did NOT leave!" he insisted. "I was hiding in your bushes the WHOLE time and she couldn't see me because of my cammo! I saw her leave and kept hiding until after she got back! My camouflage kept me hidden! BUT I WAS RIGHT THERE THE WHOLE TIME!"

And not to compare my kid to God or anything, (but, you know, if the Fatigues fit.....), well, sometimes in our chaos and the frantic mess of life, we think we have been abandoned. We might even search wildly, thinking that our yelling and shouting out and worrying will bring Him closer......but like my little Camouflaged angel, He is there, hushed: watching, waiting, maybe even ready to ambush us when we least expect it.

Sometimes we just aren't looking in the right places.

Sometimes we just aren't really looking at all.

Sometimes we just require a little Sollytude....and the picture clears and we see what has been right in front of us all along.

Maybe Lent is not really about sacrifice at all. Maybe it isn't about that outward showing of "giving up" or "taking on"....maybe it is actually about simple openness: slowing down just enough to see that which is already there. Listen closely my friends. He comes in a gentle whisper. And maybe wearing cammo.....

Happy Lent Ya'll.




He was told to get ready for bed.....this was his answer.

I'm not kidding about the hiding in the bushes....
They don't call it "amBUSH" for nothing!

Solly takes on Colonial Williamsburg


Even Soldiers have off days.....(He thought he was getting a shot.....he wasn't.....I just let him think as much!)








1.12.2017

On Prayers with Children

"Jesus, tender Shepard, hear me,
bless this little child tonight.
Through the darkness be down near me
Keep me safe 'til morning's light...."

Dear Younger (read: inexperienced) Self:

When you start to tack on blessings at the end of your children's night time prayers, keep it simple. Please just trust me here. Your time becomes far more valuable (and your patience quite a bit shorter) and well, you see, if you start adding pet names it might go something like this:

God bless Daddy, Mommy, Aidan, Madeline, Lily, Liam, Solomon, Leroy, Stripsies, Storm, Oreo, Sparkles, insert the names of 6, nope 12, chickens, wait, make that 24......no wait.....

And then, oops, Sparkles, the fighting fish, went all kamikaze and jumped ship.....out of the tank (we are guessing) and well, I'm pretty sure the cat ate him....because there were no remains.....not anywhere. And then Oreo, well, that abscess was no joke and while his jaw got bigger and bigger, to the point of caricature, his body withered away until your kid found him stiff as a board (and the only thing you could think to say, but fortunately knew not to, was "Well, I guess the vet was right after all!" but then there was that constant reminder every single night that his name was missing). And then, a chicken will die, and then another, and you will subtract their names and with those down, you pick up a couple more rabbits and Messi and Morgan quickly become a family of six, but instead of keeping them all you only keep two, so while you added Messi and Morgan and Ham and Baggio and Ranger and whatever the heck the orange one was named, you will have to cut a few from the roster when they get sold off. And then Leroy will break the Dish and run away with the Spoon and while we are going to pretend he did not get eaten by some bigger animal and is now just shacked up at a better home, after months go by, we scratch him off the list as well, and then those 6 cute peeps are now 58! And who names ALL 58 CHICKENS?! I know you think you will but I assure you, you get over that when you realize you can't tell those six white silkies apart at all! NOT EVEN A GUESS! And get this, you hatched them! All. By. Yourself! (Well, you know, with the help of those hens.) But you can't even tell which is which! Oh, and while we are at it.....you know those three black roos you thought you couldn't live without? Larry, Moe and Curly? Well, don't add them to the prayer either because they do MUCH better at someone else's farm! I know, I know, so hard to imagine now. But one day you will speedily gather up six thoroughly unnamed chickens, throw them in some make-shift cage and just haul them away to someone else's house, without a second thought at all......BECAUSE YOU HAVE WAY TOO MANY GOSH DARN ANIMALS!

So please, when you start tacking on all those names, just stop. Ask yourself: is this REALLY the road you want to travel?

(No! The answer is NO! Put away that quizzical look and shake your head back and forth because it is unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, N-O!)

"God bless Daddy, Mommy, Aidan, Madeline, Lily, Liam, Solomon, all of our Pets and all of our friends and loved ones (See? It even works with people!)......help me be a good child, praise in Jesus's name. A-frickin-MEN!"