The Test

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I find myself on the eve of my son’s black belt test. Just a few short hours from now we will know if he will have it in him to concentrate and remember what he’s learned these past few months, or if he will chuck it all for daydreaming and lack of focus. Black belt?! Did I say black belt? Ah! No! I mean his YELLOW belt! What I believe I meant to say was that my son’s testing for his yellow belt (only one step up from his white) is as stressful for this mommy as if he were testing for his black belt! And to think I have so many more testings to go through before I get used to the butterflies and anxiousness I have been feeling during his past few weeks of training.

I had always wondered why my mother was such a nervous wreck during my many horse shows as a child. There were times when the only thing that held her watching (and holding her breath) in the stands were he fingers wrapped around the metal bleachers. There was always a sense of relief after any big show that I never understood. I usually took the shows in stride. Did my best and tried to have ‘fun’ like I was taught. Winning was great, but coming out of the experience enjoying it was supposed to be the point of it all right?

Now I’m living the other side. The parent side. Not only have I invested endless money and time into this child’s Karate classes, but I’ve also gotten a taste of my child’s success. I’ve watched him practice at home, seen him improve in class and in school and am so darn proud of that little boy for how far he’s come! Now the pressure is on and I want him to know it!

Jonah knows how important advancing to yellow belt is as well. He knows because he’s had a taste of what he can accomplish and I believe he feels the push to finalize this part of his training. Moving on to a yellow belt opens up a whole new world of training and discipline that he loves so much. To fail and stay a white belt for a month longer would be frustrating and disappointing. I know he feels this and I know he is aware of what is at stake and I believe he will raise to the occasion and pass this darn test!

Last week in Karate class the kids who were eligible to test for a new belt were put through pre-testing to check for readiness. This just happened to be the day that Jonah had had very little sleep the previous night and I also found out the following day that he had eaten next to nothing the entire day! He was lazy, distracted and had very poor technique. His instructor was noticeably frustrated with him and I felt like burying my head under my chair until it was all over. I wonder how many moms run screaming out of the room because their kid is doing horrible during a pre-test?! I choose to stay put. Good choice 😉

We all knew he could do much better including himself and he did not qualify to test for his yellow belt that afternoon. That mini failure sparked all sorts of feelings in his father and myself, but we harnessed our reaction of dismay and disappointment and turned it into a teaching moment. We explained the importance of that entire class to which Jonah replied, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that class was so important?’ And that was the point at which he began to take on ownership of something that was his. He realized through that moment that he was in control of his success or his failure. He’s never had that responsibility before.

We worked the next two days on respect, being sharp in his moves and talked a lot about focusing on his instructor. The thought passed through my mind so many times of how difficult it must be for such a distractible little boy to be reminded over and over to focus and pay attention when in class. And this is what happened.

Due to the holiday weekend, we had to take him to a Friday afternoon class that was not his normal time. It was a small class with mostly white belts and my kid was on fire. He listened to every instruction, moved quickly, had good technique and got to re-test for his readiness to test for his yellow belt. He did so much better and got the okay to test!!! But even better… as class was finishing up, the instructor pulled out a handful of medals and proceeded to tell the class that because of their excellent focus and discipline that afternoon, that he was awarding them each with a medal of discipline! Jonah’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor!

That reward could not have come at a better time. It was a direct correlation between an award and Jonah’s attentive behavior and obvious change in attitude and focus that caused him to earn something very, very special. And he knows this. That’s the best part. He apologized to me later for having poor focus previously and I explained to him that had he not learned what poor focus was he would have never been rewarded for proper focus. Lesson learned and rewarded!

We started Jonah in Karate right before spring break in March of 2014. He had been asking to start for about six months prior to that and after collecting enough funds from our tax return, he was able to begin. He loved it as soon as he slipped on his oversized uniform. He carried an ear to ear grin the entire time during first few lessons and is still the kid with the loudest kiaps and ‘yes sir’s’. Concentration is not his strong point, but there has been great improvement there as well.

Jonah has been able to push his body and his mind in class and because of the success and self esteem he’s achieved in Karate, his school life has also improved remarkably. I came into Jonah’s classroom mid April, shortly after class had begun, to drop something off and his teacher greeted me with a look of surprise and wonder. She told me, ‘Jonah has decided to sit at a group table. He made that choice on his own. I’ve been trying to encourage him to sit with his group all year!’ This was HUGE! At the beginning of the school year, Jonah was too overwhelmed socially, that he opted to sit in his own chair at his own desk, segregated from the other kids. His level of interacting with them included fighting with them, pushing and shoving them and watching them from the outside. He didn’t know kid’s names and didn’t really care to. The day he choose to sit at his group table he started making connections with his classmates. He now remembers the majority of his classmates names! Plays with a few of them at recess and carries on normal kid conversations! Are you kidding me?? My heart is full to see these changes! I no longer get reports from his teacher about Jonah’s playground mishaps with other kids. I don’t hear from any teachers about Jonah’s poor choices. Now, I do have to admit that there are a handful of circumstances and people that have been instrumental in these changes in my son. These things I intend to elaborate on when I have time to collect more thoughts, but the start of it all began with his involvement in karate and I know in my heart that it has and will develop skills in him that will carry him far into his future.

There is no magic trick that will help every kid in the same way. Kids like Jonah need something to latch on to. It’s different for every one of them because every one of them is different. Karate works for Jonah. It’s the first real thing he’s ever had to ‘own’ all by himself. It’s his level of commitment and discipline that allows him to advance and as he advances he becomes more and more driven to succeed. And when we are driven to succeed, we figure out how to get to where we want to be the fastest way possible. To see this skill developing in Jonah blows me away. I have doubted so many, many times in his short life if he would ever really succeed. If he’d ever connect socially or emotionally with others. And here we are, at the end of his 1st grade school year, after a lot of patience and tears and notes from the school. Here I am seeing the fruit of our labor and loving the positive change.

Yes, he will succeed at something. He will succeed at many things. And I am ever so thankful for the handful of people who have sacrificed themselves to look into Jonah’s world and learn Jonah’s language. We are already able to steer him in a direction that is leading to abundant life. Will he earn his yellow belt when he tests on Friday? I believe he will. And I promise to sit and suffer in quiet agony and breath a silent sigh of relief when it’s over 😉


Filthy Hands and Snake Holes

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We took a quick trip to Lowes this afternoon. Well, as quick a trip as possible with children involved. It was late, approaching bedtime and my kids were wired for crazy. They invented a new form of floor skating using speed and flip flops. Fortunately, the store was pretty empty because keeping them under control was nearly impossible.

Amazingly, an employee asked us if we needed any help and she quickly escorted my husband to the aisle containing the side paneling he needed to patch up the hole he had to tear into the side of the bathroom cabinet the other morning before work. Now why would a sane man do something like that just before heading to work? To remove the snake who had wedged himself between the wall and the cabinet of course!

And while we looked at cabinet panels my children proceeded to skid their hands and bodies across the store flooring coming up with filthy dirt laden hands which my daughter proceeded to lick off!!!! Can you say insta vomit?! YUCK!!

And that’s when the store employee expressed her relief that her girls were gladly grown and out of her house and that she couldn’t wait for the moment of them leaving to come while she was raising them.

I started to agree with her and then I had a reality check and stopped. That was NOT my take on childhood. Not at all. My kids drive me crazy. Insane. To tears. But I in no way am in any hurry to rush them to grow up and get out. And that is what I told her. That they are my littles and that I only get them little once and for even in the midst of flip flop floor skating, tool tag in Lowes and licking filth covered hands, I am in no hurry to leave this world of raising small children behind.

I enjoy my children. I treasure them. And it pains me to know that I will never have an infant or a toddler or even a four year old again in my life. Yes, there will be granbabies I’m sure it will be great, but my children are my little people and they are literally growing up in front of me every single day. I treasure them and I miss them when I think about the future when they are gone.

I am not capable of enjoying every moment with my children. I recently read a blog post releasing mothers of the guilt of not enjoying every moment of their children’s lives. I know some people are wired to love it all. And those people have 20 kids and drive them around in a bus and never travel because they are paying too much gas money to drive the kids around in that bus. That is just not me. I’m a 2 kid max type of mom. The thought of another makes me want to run screaming for the hills! But I am well suited to the ones I have. As crazy as they are and as hectic as my little boogers make my life, I cannot imagine a day without them. And I struggle daily knowing that time is moving very fast.

I just enrolled Mickey into Kindergarten and Jonah will be moving on to 2nd grade next year!  Where or where has all of the time gone?! Just a few short years ago almost to the day, (May 1st 2006) I told my husband that we were expecting our first. And now look at where we are. In only 3 short years I’ll have a child in the double digits! That’s just not fair.

It was obvious that I had to develop a coping mechanism for the grief that I experience when I quietly think about my children and how soon they will be children no more. And so, I am slowly coming to terms with reality.

I first tell myself that this life they live belongs to them and much like myself, growing up and becoming myself was glorious. I in no way want to hold my children back from their futures. They are happy to grow older. They embrace the change and for their sakes, I will embrace the change as well.

I have also decided that as they get older and their interests change, so will my traditions with them. My kids probably have 3 maybe 4 Christmas mornings left where they will actually want to receive toys for presents. The wonder on their little faces on Christmas morning will soon change from excitement to knowledgeable expectation and their desire for noisy toys will be replaced with Ipods and phones that make noise and gift certificates to their favorite stores. And to that I choose to cope by allowing them to enjoy their gadgets just as they enjoyed their toys not too long ago. And as they change, I hope to instill new traditions that fit their age and maturity such as volunteering to help a needy family or selling trinkets at a Holiday Bazaar. Christmas as I know it will be different, but it can grow into a more meaningful and rich experience. Change is so hard, but it has purpose.

I believe another way that I have learned to cope with my kiddos growing older has been to discover what fulfills me. I cannot spend my days living vicariously through the lives of anyone, let alone my children. I think so often, parents get so wrapped up into what their kids are doing that they feel lost when it comes to themselves personally. Fortunately, I have an artistic nature that is too stubborn to stay locked away. Regardless of the hectic chaos that I call my life, I have managed to develop and run a booming business that thrives off of my talent and creativity. Daily, I am able to express my artistic side in my job and because of that, I feel fulfilled. My work is separate from being a mom. It is all me and my business has been very successful, which has given me a confidence in myself that was not there before. When I’m creating, I am more than a mom or a wife or a housekeeper. I am an artist and an individual. And that sense of who I am is crucial for me to exist independently of my children.

The hardest part of change is… change. It’s uncomfortable and with children it happens so quickly that it rips your heart out, but at the same time fills it back up with more joy. The joy of seeing my little boy mature and hold friendships and the joy of seeing my little girl spend the day at school instead of clutched to my side. I do not change easily. I like the same burger every time I go to Jaspers, the same type of jeans that fit comphey, the same routine.

But change is inevitable and necessary and no one can stop time.

Mickey has told me a few times, ‘Mommy, you’re going to be so much happier when Jonah and I grow up and leave your house. It will be quiet and not messy and you can sleep in more.” And my response to her has always been a chuckle, and then a reality check. “No Mickey, I don’t want you to grow up too fast. I am going to miss you being little so much when you are older. I want to enjoy you for a little longer if that’s okay with you.”

Raising children is hard. I suppose I do give off the impression that I can handle no more and I do often ask for quiet time. But that’s an expression of the moment. I would not change being the mom of Jonah and Mickey for anything and I would gladly slow time to spend more moments with them when they are small. I have found that if I keep looking at my children as who they are right now, and don’t focus too much on who they were and what I’ve lost, I am able to smile and be content with what I’ve gained and enjoy what is to come.




Vans and Rats

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We bought our van a year ago next month. Growing children and a small beat up Honda Accord were becoming increasingly difficult. Every time we had company I had to squeeze in the back between both children because I was the only one that could successfully fit. Sticking my husband back there wasn’t an option. In order to fit, he had to wedge himself in sideways between the seats and let those long spider legs hang through the little passage between the front seats so he could practically help the driver. After getting in and out from back there after a weekend of company, my thighs looked like they were used for punching bags rather than a trip to the grocery store.

But the final straw, the final push to convince my husband to purchase our van was that wedding season was only a month away and we had to have a vehicle that could transport large wedding cakes to venues. And oh what a difference it has made!!!

We ended up with a Toyota Sienna and it just happened to be a lovely green. Jonah’s favorite. It had everything we’d been praying for for the past two years and more. The kids named him ‘Vanney’ and he has become part of the family. He dings at you if you take off your seat belt expressing that he’s mad at you. He opens his door for you only when the he’s stopped because he cares about you and he turns off the front passenger air bag so that Jonah can ride to school in the front seat because he likes to have him there. It is so cute how my children have given this van a personality.

This winter was cold. Record breaking cold. The kind of cold that killed off our bushes cold and the kind of booger sticking to the inside of your nose cold.

This cold drove many little critters into the walls of our bathrooms and our garage and in the early spring we started to notice that things in the garage had been chewed. Mid-winter we actually began to smell that smell that means only one thing… death. And after a lot of searching we found it. A bloated, rancid, maggot filled rat behind the washing machine!!! I made my husband clean that up with about 4 bottles of bleach. Still creeps me out.

Then the inevitable. There was a rat in the van! And I found it out in the worst way. I had a box of cookies in the back of the van overnight. When I got in to drive the next morning the rat had drug a cookie all the way up from the back to the gas pedal and ate what it could. It was a 4 inch round cookie!

After close inspection, we discovered the rat had been chewing up various things in the glove compartment, carpet under the seats and had built some sizable nests in the air filters. That explained the strange smell I’d been detecting all winter.

My husband loves Vanney. He treasures the thing. He cleans it out often. Spends lots of time taking care of it. I think he’s in love with the fact that it simply makes life so. much. easier. And that it has bells and whistles.

You should have seen his reaction to a rat chewing up his beloved Vanney. A glaze of hatred and disgust came over his face when he realized the horror that this little rodent was doing to his van!

We immediately took a trip to the co-op for rat traps and within a few days we caught her and her friends. Every time the kids begged to play with the dead rats. Disgusting! True love is blind? Something weird like that.

For now the wild rat problem is gone. I haven’t heard them in the walls for a while now and although I know they are still roaming about outside, I’ve seen no evidence of them in the garage. Whew. What a mess, but it’s under control right?

Jonah has been asking for some time now to get a snake. A Ball Python to be exact. I have no opposition to snakes. Well, the ones with no venom. I don’t do rattlesnakes. I almost adopted a Ball Python years ago when volunteering at Wildlife Images.

We told Jonah that he would wait until he was 8 to adopt his snake. It gave me a little time to research them and figure out how to successfully keep a reptile like this alive and well. Of course we got the opportunity to adopt one much sooner than planned and we are now the proud owners of a beautiful 3 year old male Ball Python whom Jonah named Skip. I can go into more detail about Skip later, but I will say that it has helped improve Jonah’s behavior in very positive ways. It is similar to the effect of a child getting his first dog. There’s a special connection there between the two that I don’t really understand because… it’s a snake. It’s not affectionate. It’s. a. snake. But for some reason it works for Jonah and he’s head over heals in love with this snake and he’s doing better in school. Go figure.

So, this snake eats mice. We’re told it eats two mice once a week. I decided to buy it a rat for it’s first meal. Fatten him up and make him happy. We get him this expensive feeder rat and he doesn’t want to eat it. Maybe he was too nervous being in a new place? Maybe the rat was too big? Whatever the reason, the rat didn’t get eaten. Instead, my friend Melissa comes over and starts loving on the rat. And that was it. The rat is now ‘my’ pet! I named her Nibbles and I LOVE her!

In the mean time we bought Skip two stupid dark mice (we were told she likes the dark ones). I put them in a tall box overnight because Skip wouldn’t eat them either. They stank and were ugly enough not to become beloved pets. Overnight, they escaped into the garage!!! Hadn’t we just had this problem a month ago with the rats?? The following day, I see that our cat Jazz has caught one of the mice and consumed it. A few days after that Jonah found the other one looking for food in the driveway! Domesticated mice are not smart. Lucky snake got to eat that one.

So I decided my precious rat needed a better cage and a friend. I found a great rat condo on craigslist and when I went to buy it the guy gave me a really cute baby white rat with black eyes. Yay. My husband was just thrilled with that. Little did he know I had plans for one more. I’d already set up a time to meet with the lady and she was also bringing me farm fresh eggs. No way I could turn that down. So yes, one more rat. A little dumbo baby and it was oh so cute!!!

We kept that one a secret for a little while. My husband found out when he told me ‘only 2 right’ and I just looked at him. Then I told him to look in the cage and count the rats. Yep… he LOVED the little dumbo. Ha!!

That’s it. No more. NO more drama. I got multiple rats to stop my kids from fighting over my Nibbles and they still fight over them all. There’s just no winning. I get an expensive, beautiful, exotic snake and the kids fight over it’s food. You just can’t win! It’s just like buying an expensive toy so they can play with the box.

So there are still rats in the garage. They have just changed from vermin to pet status and are now cute and cuddly and not destined for rat traps because they live in a rat condo. We are slowly growing into a petting zoo. What can I say? I have loved animals from the time I was born and my daughter has taken on the same adoration for them. The next step is to move to a hobby farm!

As for the van? The air filters have been replaced and the only bad smells inside of it are related to congealed milk cups hiding under the seats or from wet clothes forgotten in the back. Normal kid smells, not bad animal smells 😉 And as we quickly approach a year with our Vanney I often think about those long trips in that little Honda and am amazed how we ever coped. Our van is a true blessing as are our new additions to our household. Life is a journey. You might as well fill it with what you enjoy and for us that means lots of animals and frequent trips away from those animals!!!


Let them eat cake

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A few weeks ago I had a cake consult with a couple who brought their children with them. We gladly accepted having the kids there and also knew that any time kids have to come to boring meetings it can be trying on everyone. I really did not mind and it was important for the oldest to be there because he was trying our gluten free cake.

The children ages were under a year, 3 years and 8 I believe. We met the couple at the door and as they walked up the stairs I could tell that the father was not a happy man. He grumbled at the crying baby, yelled at the middle child and really lit into his oldest, who was obviously not his biological son.

The mother explained that her oldest was recently diagnosed with ADHD and that they had switched him to a gluten free diet to try to reduce some of his symptoms. She also said she’d seen no difference.

The boy was much better behaved than my son would have ever been in most situations. He knew he was coming for cake… something sweet that he’d not had in a few months due to his diet restriction. Yet all he carried was an excited grin and expecting body language. He sat quietly on the couch while we adults talked about the boring wedding and the design of the cake.

When he was finally called over to eat his anxiously awaited cake, his ‘father’ began to yell and belittle him and the boy shut down. He told the boy to stop fidgeting, calm down, keep his hands to himself (he was nothing compared to Jonah). Then when the boy was finally allowed to eat the cake the ‘father’ criticized him for eating the frosting first and I felt so bad for the poor kid that I helped him get a scoop of cake and frosting to quiet the man.

We brought the boy 2 samples for him to try. His parents let him eat one. Boundaries are good and I respect that, but his younger brother got away with at least 4 samples while the oldest child patiently carried his final sample in his anxious little hand, but dared not eat it.

Both parents saw what was happening and neither of them intervened or praised the boy who was containing himself so well while his little brother gobbled up sample after sample. Instead, the ‘father’ continued to throw insults at both children and most of them hit very hard on the oldest boy.

It was so discouraging to sit though. Many times I praised the little ADHD boy who sat and played as quietly as possible with his brother amongst the attacks by his father. Both Melissa and I nearly called the whole thing off on account that we could not stand the abuse any longer. I so badly wanted to rip that little boy away from his family and take him home with me.

I understand children like this little boy. I saw his pain and he was so far gone. So far swallowed up by the abuse that not even my praise made a dent into his body language. He would not make eye contact with me, would not respond to my questions or praise, hardly had enough courage to acknowledge that he was in a room with anyone other than his brother and disapproving father.

As the consult finished up the boy told his mom that he really, really wanted to eat his second bit of cake. The mom told him that he should wait and eat it at the baby shower they were headed to because they wouldn’t have anything there he could eat. Or he could choose to eat it then and have nothing at the shower. Of course he choose to eat it then, but the ‘father’ intervened and insulted the boy for making such a decision and refused to let him eat it. Of course we heard the father fuming all the way down the stairs and Melissa and I just looked at each other with crazed, upset looks of frustration.

If my child had a diet restriction, I’d sure as hell provide some sort of delicious option for him at any function we were attending. In fact, I’d make sure my children were well fed before the event so that I knew they could handle themselves through a boring cake consult and a 3 hour baby shower! I’d also make sure that my child with diet restrictions had just as many food options as his brothers even if that meant putting them all of the same diet restrictions. What child wants to be pegged out as the ‘weird kid’ who can’t eat what everyone else eats?! If your whole family chooses to eat the same way, then at least your family and you are weird together.

What hit me the hardest that day was the lack of respect that I saw. It was a lack of respect toward a child with disabilities, but also a lack of respect to a human being. Four human beings if you count the mom and the other children.

I do not understand where adults got the idea that children were made to sit and listen and be quiet in all situations. That’s just never been something I could grasp. Why is it that a child reaches this invisible threshold of acceptance at a certain age where their thoughts and ideas and words finally mean something? Where they reach an age that makes them suddenly worthy human beings and adults suddenly accept them into the ‘privileged adult thinking’ club.

Although my children were created by me (by God thorough me) they were not created for me.

And sometimes I truly do think that I was more so created for them.

A baby is born a blank slate. Ready to grow and learn and innocent to anything good or bad in this world. As an adult, I have grown into that knowledge. As my children grow, I choose to relay the realities and pleasures of life to them and grow and mold them for their future. Children truly do need a guide, an example and a support system of rewards and consequences which includes discipline. I as a parent am the lucky one who gets to figure out the right balance of all of these things.

But a major roll of being a parent and being an adult is showing respect. When I look at my child I see him as 7, but I also see him as 15 and 20 and 25 and on and on. Because if there were no time constraints, he would be all of those ages at once and to me he is all of those ages. He’s only a part of who he will be in 10 years, but who he is now is a portion of who he will be in the future. We simply build to our depth as we grow older, but that 7 year old boy will still be a part of my son when he is 35. He might even still act like a 7 year old when he’s an adult because men really never do fully grow up 😉

That is why it is hard for me to understand why children magically pass this acceptance threshold with adults when they reach a certain age and then become worthy of respect. Shouldn’t respect for one another be something that’s taught from birth?! I respected that my baby needed to wake up 20 times during the night while she was weaning and scream and drive me crazy and I respect that my little boy needs to hide in the corner when he feels embarrassed and I respect that he tells me ‘I’m mad at you and I don’t like you’re ideas,’ when I’m putting him in time-out.

And I will continue to respect their actions and ideas as they get older and more advanced in their thinking. Why? Because I have those same actions and ideas and frustrations. I continually ask myself, ‘how would I feel if I was told that those ideas and feelings were wrong and needed to be silenced?’ It personally would be horrid to be shut down and disrespected over and over again. After a while I would withdraw, give up and hide who I really was.

I will not silence my children. I will discipline of course and give consequences and direction and healthy correction, but I will not silence them.

I want to hear their plans, ideas, how they understand their world, what makes them mad, why they cry, who frustrates them, what they want and when they want it. Sometimes I will simply listen and when necessary, I will correct their delivery and direct their ideas and give instruction in a loving manner and always in a way that shows them respect. And in turn I will teach them to respect those around them including adults, fellow classmates, babies, animals and their planet.

And I will always teach them that just because you’re tiny doesn’t make you less of a person. Little people can do huge things.

If anything, the incident at the consult made me appreciate my family in a deeper way. It really made me appreciate my husband and his caring manner as a father. I told him about what had happened and he hugged Jonah and told him right away how proud of him he was.

It is good to be reminded often to value each other. To humble yourself and recognize your mistakes. And to apologize often to those who need an apology. I strive for transparency in my life and every attempt of my parenting comes from my belief that respect is not earned, but that it is an essential act of human awareness.



Please excuse the mess. The children are making memories.

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There are days when I think it would be easier to set fire to my house rather than muddle though the extreme mess any longer! Mess goes hand in hand with children. I remember my room as a kid. I used to make trails though the clutter just to get to my bed and closet. But I was a girl. Clutter meant tiny plastic toys, wooden blocks, tons of stuffed critters and paper crafts. Anyone living with a boy will understand that the kind of mess we deal with daily is filth! Mud, dirt, sticks, snakes, bugs, dead things, leaves, more dirt, worms that have a dirt of their own, slime and our latest… slugs. Joy!

I make messes of my own and have enough time and energy in the day to make and clean up my mess, provide for my families most basic food needs and then sit down for a rest. My son lives surrounded by clutter. He feels awkward without it. It’s his compulsion to create chaos within his surroundings. I’ve become accustomed to it. Learned to look past most of it.

On occasion I secretly sneak into their bedroom or toy room at night with my garbage sack and toss broken or annoying things. I then stuff the bag far down into the outside garbage and cover the bags with at least 5 feet of the stinkiest of garbage to discourage dumpster diving. You think that the bag going into that garbage would be sufficient, but no! Not with Jonah lurking around. I cannot tell you how many times my child has brought to me broken, smelly, dirty, smashed ‘things’ that I’ve tossed and that he’s dug out of the garbage! Then I have to put on my midnight bandit gear and head back into the room late at night for a clean swoop of the things I’d already tossed that were now growing strange smelly things all over them! I’ve learned that the best time to stuff the dumpster is the evening before garbage day. It much reduces my chances of reliving the scenes from Toy Story about sad toys who know their demise. I know they are all watching me and I do feel guilty every time I toss a toy that ‘looks at me’! And the WORST example of toy tossing guilt was when I tossed no other than Jonah’s Buzz Lightyear! This poor toy had lost both arms, wings were left dangling. He was just a torso with a head and a sound box. I kept that sad, sad toy around for over a year all broken and never played with out of guilt. I finally sucked it up and tossed the poor toy down into a crevice on the right side of the garbage can. But every time I opened that garbage lid and tossed something in, it triggered his sound box and I heard him shout ‘This is an intergalactic emergency!’ Imagine my horror.

Mess is mess. I have come to accept it, although I greatly despise it. My husband literally twitches when he comes into the house. The carpet creeps him out. He complains of ‘smells’ coming from the children’s room. Says their bathroom smells like a train station. I suspect he holds his breath most of the time while in the house. Too bad there’s not an app to remove bad smells. I am only one person, and a very hard working one at that. I cannot accomplish it all and when I consider what it would take to have that tidy little pinterest house I know it’s just not worth it to constantly fret about it. There’s better things to fret about, like in just 4 short years my boy’s childhood will nearly be extinct. In a few short years my kiddos will have grown enough to hopefully keep the mess down and then it will just be me and my mess (because my husband claims he makes none) and I will miss the little people who once cluttered my house and cultivated many of my grey hairs.

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I recently read a blog post about clutter and friendship. The author claimed that once the mess got out of control in her house, she felt so bad that she stopped having people over. That she might need to de-friend some of her friends because they could not accept her because of the condition of her house. She encouraged those who came over for a visit to look past the mess, sit on her laundry filled couch and have a real conversation with her as a person. This hit home! I’ve stopped entertaining because of this exact reason! Not that I was much of an entertainer to begin with, but at one point we did have people over for dinner or a BBQ or to come watch a movie. The thought of having company over hasn’t entertained my thoughts for years because I just don’t have it in me to tidy my house for the critics. If you want to come over that’s great! But understand that it’s crazy here and you might run into a few worms or even worse… a slug.

I have always lived in a sort of organized chaos. I’m sure that’s why God picked me to be Jonah’s mom. I understand the need to create and creating causes mess before it results in something beautiful. Jonah has always been hands on and has a need for open space. His vice is digging. With his hands, with a shovel, with a rock, with the cats tail. It doesn’t matter. If he can use it, he will dig with it.

2014-02-23 15.53.18Living with Jonah is much like living with a loveable Labrador. We had a few of those growing up. These dogs were kind, and smelly and messy and we loved them. Yes, Jonah is much like a Labrador. He needs lots of exercise or he’ll chew up your stuff, or cut it or smash it or tear it apart with his little fingers. So, we gave him a digging hole. And he digs a lot! He says he’s excavating and that he’s building a sidewalk. He fills his ‘work zone’ with water (his other obsession), creates the perfect consistency of mud and begins to dig trenches. He fills these trenches with his perfect mud concoction and smooths it down, pats it and lets it dry. It’s actually quite brilliant. His understanding for these things is beyond me.

Jonah has a boss. He’s had him since he was 2. His name is Kink.  I’m sure his boss is really his alter ego. This man does amazing things! And he’s great at construction. The things this man has done. He’s brilliant! Jonah also has workers. Gotta have someone to boss around right?! His workers are Box and Rocks. They aren’t around as much anymore. Maybe they have moved on to a new construction company? One time Box was involved in an accident in his white truck. It was fatal. But he miraculously came back to life ‘just like Jesus’ at the hospital! It only took him hours to heal up and get back on the job. Awesome for Box!

Jonah has his needs to dig, to feel the sun on his face and breath the fresh air and to make those amazing boy messes. So we let IMG_4194him. It causes problems at times, can be destructive and travels from yard to house, but I have to let him dig. He deserves his space. He’s not a scrapbooker, he’s a mudder. He doesn’t make cards, he makes mud murals. There’s beauty in that too. Beauty in the way his mind works. Beauty in his vision to build a hospital. These developing skills will benefit him in the future. He is channeling his interests and showing us his ‘love language’.

I’ve learned so much from this boy through simply observing him. He needs his workers and his boss to build his confidence. He role plays construction situations that are so similar to the real world. I’ve been commended by the autism specialists for allowing him to dig and giving him an outlet and space to be… Jonah. That’s what’s important to me. To allow my children to be themselves and to enjoy what they do best. This confidence in excelling at home, at something he loves, will help him build a foundation of success in the ‘real world’. His skills are practical and I am very excited to see what he does with himself as he gets older!

Mess is mess and it is temporary. I have future plans for new furniture, clean carpets and lots of entertaining dinner parties, but that can wait for now. I really do understand the cheesey quote ‘ Please excuse the mess, the children are making memories.’ It’s enough of a part of my life it could be my motto! So, I rest easy tonight amongst the clutter and the dirt on the carpets and the thought of 2014-02-23 16.58.36that slug that did not remain in it’s container. Because outside, on the wall of the house my children left me a love note. Something so messy, that will be so hard to clean up, but also something so precious that I plan to keep it there for just a little longer 🙂 I love my kids and I choose to accept their mess.


The skirt

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My daughter has a skirt that she absolutely loves. She wears it on all occasions, but she favors it most over her grey leopard print jeggings. I bought her this skirt just before Halloween from Walmart. It had no price tag so I got it for $4 with the warning that I would not be allowed to return it. No worries. I knew from the beginning it was not going back. There was only one, just like there is only one Mickey.

It has a tye dye under layer and a black spiderweb mesh that hangs over the color. It’s soft and light and she loves it! She knows it’s 2013-11-03 14.31.27a Halloween skirt, but I predict she will be wearing it until it simply does not fit any longer. All winter she has worn this skirt, her leopard print jeggins, her royal blue kitty shirt and her pink and blue heart rain boots. And she trots around with her curly hair bobbing down over her shoulders with a spunk like no other. She is my Mickey. She is unique in every way and an inspiration to me to live life to it’s fullest and to not fear to be who I enjoy being!

Mickey spent the first 15 months of her life strapped to my back in a backpack. She was not a happy baby. She didn’t laugh much, nor did she smile. She cried and fussed… a lot. The backpack was my only solution. So what was that little baby doing for all of that time on my back? I believe she was watching. From the very start she watched her brother. She watched him play, watched him scream, watched him smack her across the face with his drumsticks (ouch!!). She watched everything I did. And apparently she learned.

Aside from her extreme timid nature, Mickey was a normal baby. She developed her skills right along with the other babies. She learned to talk at an average rate. But at 21 months she did something not so average, at least for me. We had just come home from a week long vacation in Sunriver and the week before vacation she was trying to use the potty. I assumed she was just being curious and didn’t allow for any of that on vacation, but the day after we got back, she took herself to the potty and said,

‘This is how we do it.

We pee on the potty.’

And that was it! A week later she was awarded with her very own pretty pack of panties and not long after that she refused a pull up at night because Jonah wasn’t using one! I understand now that all of her watching was also the result of a lot of learning and a lot thinking. She spent the time to put two and two together and has continued to watch, think and learn at this same rate.

I have had the joy of having a ‘bonus’ year with Mickey this past school year. Her 5th birthday was in December so she missed the cutoff for Kindergarten by a few months. She is ready for preschool, but we simply could not afford to send her. I think that’s okay. Mickey has grown in wit and confidence in just this past year. It was once my fear that she would never adjust to social situations. We spent many hours trying to adjust her to the church nursery, leave her with a babysitter, leave her with grammy, sometimes even her daddy wasn’t welcome to hold her! I didn’t leave her with a sitter for the first two years of her life! It was extreme. So extreme that I despised her! She overwhelmed me in every way. She physically and mentally drained me. But that has changed. Those clingy years seem so long ago, but as I think about them they bring back the difficult memories.

Mickey has always looked to Jonah for her confidence. I believe they both owe each other greatly for the people that they are. They are a symbiotic pair that would not have ever developed as individuals without each other. Jonah exudes boldness. He has no fear and lacks tact. My biggest fear for my children was that they would follow in my footsteps of crippling childhood shyness. Mickey is the perfect storm for the ultimately shy child, but her brother has rescued her from this demise. She’s watched him interact with people and she’s mimicked every move with wit and boldness. She is confidant because her brother has been the best teacher in the world of personality. He’s given her the ‘okay’ to come out of her shell and embrace life in a way I would have never predicted. Praise God for Jonah! I believe that God placed him in her life for just that reason. To rescue her from a life hiding in the shadows. He is a direct answer to my pleading prayers to not have shy children.

Now that Jonah has been in school and struggles socially, I believe the tables have turned and that Mickey has been Jonah’s rock. Her love, acceptance and tolerance for her brother has given him that strength to keep trying in school even though some days are so, so hard for him. He defined friendship to the autism specialist as:

‘someone who will listen to me, play what I want to play and loves me like my family. My sister is my best friend.’

Her impact on him is just as powerful as he has been for her. Together, they have created an inseparable bond and rely wholeheartedly on each other even though they now claim they do not always need each other. Well okay, they will grow apart, but they will also always posses a bond that is the foundation to who they are now and who they will become.

So, back to that skirt. Mickey’s baby and toddler years were rough. Without an understanding of where she’s come from it’s hard to appreciate who she is now. She is who she was meant to be and because of her tenacity and influence from those closest to her she is now growing into her personality.

This past weekend we went to Redding as a surprise trip for our kiddos. They were ecstatic! We stayed in a motel with a pool and took them to Turtle Bay where they got to see lots of animals and feed the lorikeets! While playing in the water feature, Jonah got a bit out of control and splashed a large girl dressed in all purple. She was at least 10 years old. In response to being splashed, she 2014-02-16 15.19.23literally soaked my kids! This must have been an acceptable practice in the family because her mother, who stood no more than 10 feet away, watched in approval. My kids gasped out in a chorus of screams and tears as they came sobbing to us. ‘That big girl got us wet! She soaked us!’ Jonah’s response was that he hated her. He wanted to smash her face. Mickey was very unhappy as well, but took a different approach. She wanted to go into the reptile house and see the animals. She knew she needed to find a solution to her wet clothes and move on. After taking a few moments to compose herself she said, ‘Oh okay! I have an idea!’ She then ripped off her soaked shirt and pulled that little tye dye Halloween skirt up over her chest giving herself a skirt tube top! I could not help but laugh and thank her for her attitude and take plenty of pictures! What a refreshing twist to a sour situation. No face punching. Just a little attitude shifting and we were off to the reptile house!

This is what is so precious about my Mickey. She is practical. She is flexible and she is kind. Her love for life and animals and her family are evident. She tells me daily, sometimes hourly, how much she loves me. She is also honest, but in a 5 year old innocent sort of way. Just tonight she said, ‘daddy I love you, but I really love mommy more because she’s my mommy.’ Funny thing, I was the same way. I loved both of my parents, but I related to my mom the most and still have a bond with her that will stand the test of time. My Mickey sees life with a twist. I’m not sure where her comments come from. If I ask her to repeat them she can just like she was saying them for the first time! She is hilarious and truthful. Here are just a few Mickeyisms that I’ve remembered to record:

We saw a man walking into Target the other day wearing pink pants. Mickey’s response? ‘A man in pink pants?! What will they think of next?’

Tonight I told her the dentist wanted her to start flossing every night rather than every other night. ‘Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.’

Last week she caught the cats sniffing each other: ‘NO! Don’t do a butt sniffing contest!’

After playing with her beanie boos: ‘If my head was as big as a beanie boos… It would fall off! If my head was as big as a T-Rex… It would wobble off.’

On a Saturday morning when I just wanted to sleep in: ‘Why does it take you so long to get up in the morning?’ Me: ‘Because I’m an adult and I like to laze around.’ Mickey then says, ‘Daddy always sleeps around!’

After seeing a large pile of leaves this fall: ‘Holy nugget jumping cats!’

And the final silly story from a while back… We were in Portland at a hole in the wall eating establishment and Mickey had to use the potty. She proceeds to have a poo, looks down into the toilet and says, ‘It looks like a flower! I’m not done yet. I need to put another petal on it. Okay, I’m done making art now!’ Tmi? Maybe, but it was hilarious!

Childhood is fleeting. All parents feel that twinge of pain in their hearts as they consider how quickly their children have grown.2014-01-20 15.51.36 Babies do not last. Toddlers toddle into children and children quickly move into preteens. It’s history from there! I cherish my littles, but daily I am focused on 18 and 21 and 25. Not because I want to rush them, but because I want every influence and impact I have on them count for that day that they start making those adult decisions on their own. Every day marks a world of growth in my children, but it also marks a day of growth in me. They are as much a part of me as I am them and they are forever changing me. I think different, act different and cherish time (or lack of) differently. And my dear Mickey, at 5 years old, imparts such wisdom in me that she stops me in my tracks. She is an old soul.

She told me the other day that it would not be fair for me to not let her grow up and move away. That it was her choice to make and her life to live. She promised to come visit, but said, ‘It’s my life to live. Enjoy me while I’m little because I won’t be little for very long and you should enjoy me for me now.’ Her 5 year old wisdom is deeper than many adults I know. Yes, it is her life to live and live well. It’s her time to discover, grow and challenge. She is a treasure, but just knowing that she understands this fact, that she will grow up and move on from me, breaks my heart! I almost felt a panic to grab her and demand she take it back! But she is right and I am proud of my girl for knowing and being brave enough to tell me. She is a treasure. Someday she will understand her impact on her mommy, her brother and all of those lucky enough to know her. I love my baby girl!


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Remembering Grandpa

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When this time of year comes around I approach it with thoughtfulness and contemplation. Valentine’s Day. A day that never held much significance for my husband and I. It always seemed a little forced and more like a ‘Hallmark Holiday’ and we never had enough funds to scrape up for gifts and dinner anyway. If we celebrated, it was simple and we didn’t ever go out to the crowded restaurants. No need to make a fuss.

Now that we have children we are ‘forced’ to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a small way. My kids seem to find a reason to celebrate any day for any reason. The other day they celebrated the marriage of their toy Beanie Boos who were cousins and loved each other dearly. Well okay then…

Valentine’s Day does hold a significance for me now. It has since 2006, because it was the day that my father passed away. I remember that time like it was yesterday and although the pain of losing him from a 5 year agonizing battle with cancer at the time was bad enough, it is so much more evident these past few years. My children have no grandfather. They hardly have family. My mother has been a bright and shining light in their lives and has carried the role of grandparent, but until this past year, my son had no clue what a grandfather was. I explained to him that a grandfather was a man grammy. Lol! It took a while to sink in, but he has friends who have grandpa’s and after a while he not only understood, he longed for that missing figure in his life. While putting him to bed tonight he told me, ‘I wish I had grandpa all to myself. I wish he was here.’

As my children grow older, I often question God’s hand in taking my father home so early. He was only 60 when he died. He was full of life, active in his church, loving to his children and ready to take on the next chapter of his life with my mother. Why take him before he is finally blessed with a boy?! Why did he have to miss out on a grandson who is the spitting image of him with the exact love and passion for life? And why, oh why was it that I became pregnant with my little boy only two months after my father passed away?! A baby that we had waited to have for over three years was finally within our reach and the man who we thought would be enjoying this child with was gone. It was not a coincidence. It was an on purpose. It truly was God’s will, whether I or my mom or the rest of his friends and family wanted it or not. I accept that every day and instead of mourning his loss all these years later, I have tried my hardest to process those feelings of sadness and loss into creating memories of him for my children, so that he is real to them.

A month before Christmas this past year, Jonah came to me asking about fishing. Fishing has been a hot topic in his six year old boy ‘to-do’ list and something I was supposed to teach him last summer, but that goal for me was overridden with a busy wedding season. I’m committed now. He’s gotten me to promise to teach him as soon as spring hits the valley! When my father passed, I was given his most treasured possessions… his fly fishing vest and his fly rod. I was always my dad’s fishing buddy. Long after my dad had given up on the fish for the day, I was the one that kept us out on the water until the moon started to raise above the horizon. My father and I experienced many sunsets together, over pristine lakes and wild skies or the huge irrigation ditches of the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife refuge in New Mexico, where we fished for those huge catfish with fishing rods baited with nasty chicken livers. My dad didn’t fear the stuff. He lovingly baited my hook every time and would then hand the line over to me and say, ‘Go get the big one’. Maybe that’s why I’ve convinced my son that you fish with a fly and bobber. Not as messy and smelly!

As Jonah pelted me with questions about fishing and about his grandpa, I decided that I would introduce him to a few of his grandpa’s things. I got down the vest. It was full of brightly colored flies that my dad had tied himself. I showed Jonah the little forceps that my father used to remove the hooks from the fish’s mouth and the clippers that he would use to tie on a new fly. I explained how grandpa made the flies and how he managed to catch fish, about deep cool water where fish loved to rest and when the best time of day to catch a fish might be. He soaked it up. He asked more and more questions and begged to go fishing like grandpa. He then asked me about grandpa’s gun. My father’s other most treasured possession was his shotgun. He even had it specially designed for his short stature so the barrel is shorter than a normal shotgun. Jonah was amazed that I’d gone dove hunting with my dad a few times as a kid. Amazed that his mom could do something so exciting! This kid needs a grandpa! This 2013-11-26 20.50.18kid is his grandpa! I put the vest over his little shoulders and it hung handsomely off him. Then we got out the shotgun. I explained safety briefly. Told him there was no ammo, but never to point it at anyone and that when he was old enough, his daddy would take him shooting. I let him hold the gun and carry it around. The kid was in heaven and hasn’t stopped talking about it since!!

Jonah and Mickey are at the age where family is everything to them. Not just mom and dad. Jonah craves close relationships with his extended family. He craves a relationship with his grandpa. But in a strange way, he has one. I knew my dad as a physical being. We fished together, lived together, fought together and grew up together. I miss him. Jonah knows a different person. He knows his grandpa is in heaven, that he died before Jonah was born and that his grandpa did cool things in nature. He has his own idea of what his grandpa is, not was. And interesting enough, I believe that because of my father’s once being alive and now living in heaven has helped Jonah understand the concept of God. He has never seen his grandpa, but knows he’s real and lives in heaven. Being able to understand this, has made God real to him as well. He’s told me so many times, ‘how can God be real if we can’t see or hear Him’. I’ve explained in various ways, but used the example of the wind. We can’t see or feel the wind, but it’s there and we can see the affects of the wind. The same is true with his grandpa. We can’t talk to him or hear him, but he was there and he was amazing and I’m here because of him! My husband and I knew him, he was married to grammy and we all have stories about him. I almost wonder if that was part of God’s plan for taking my dad so early and giving me my baby just weeks after his passing. Maybe it had something to do with Jonah’s faith. Jonah’s understanding of who God was because of his grandfather’s legacy.

I will never know God’s purpose for taking my dad at that moment, but I choose to persevere and work with what God has given me. He’s given me a little boy and a little girl who long for family. Where family togetherness is everything. A little boy who bears the physical crooked grin of my father and a little girl who has the same soft hazel eyes. I see him every day in my children. I hear him every day in my son’s loudness. I laugh from him every day in my daughter’s quirky sense of humor. I feel him everyday in my conviction and determination to stand up for what is right and make a stand for what I believe in. He was a strong man. The strongest I know. He has embedded in me an inner foundation of strength that leads to my odd comments and firm stance on issues. He probably had no idea what he imbedded deep down into my inner being, but I owe him everything for the woman I am today. And to honor him, to carry on his legacy, I plan to embed those same convictions and strengths into my children. His legacy will live on in me and in my children and God willing, in their children. Happy Valentine’s Day.








The worm garden

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Some days just do now flow well. This was one of those days. More so, one of those evenings. I had to run to the pharmacy after my husband came home from work today. The expectation back at home was to clean up from dinner, work on a little homework and have the kids in the bath so that we could make an easy transition into bed by the time I got home.

I was gone for about 45min. I should have stayed out longer. It is no secret that boys love worms. They love dirt too and water. My boy and his sister love these things and it is my son’s obsession to bring some sort of combination of them into the house. We have had the recreation of a swamp in our living room, complete with snakes and grubs. The bathroom sink has been transformed into a mud pit where secret bucket loads of material from Jonah’s outback digging pit have traveled into the house. This evening, as I returned from picking up my blood pressure medicine (wonder why I need that?), I walked into a house covered in mud and dirt with occasional worms. Muddy footprints tracking from the back door to the living room. Rich black dirt all over my recliner in the living room. An egg crate filled with dirt and worms on the couch. Little muddy hand prints slimmed down the front of the dishwasher and my kitchen table. And the best part? Some sort of water, black dirt, worm pit all over their bedroom.

No momma wants to see this, especially when they trusted that hubby was holding down the fort while she was gone for a bit. But hubby put it down straight when I demanded to know why this had happened under his watch. He simply said, ‘they do these things so fast and although I knew some of it was happening, I choose to walk away and let them play just like you let them do.’ That’s all it took to diffuse most of my frustration toward him because it’s true. You see, the boy acts so fast that you choose to pick your battles with him. Sometimes, we as parents just want a break. If you hear your children playing joyfully and know that they aren’t fighting for just a few moments, you take those few moments to give yourself a break or take that time to pay a few bills or check your facebook. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that we’ve learned to tune out some of those things that should be listened to!

To add to the frustration of the evening, the kid lost his homework. It’s gone. I had it last night… it’s fallen into that homework abyss that children love to lose things in. So, as they got into the bath to clean off some of that lovely worm dirt, I dove into cleaning up the bedroom. It was worse than I thought. I should have taken a picture! Worms and dirt mashed all over the carpet and their little table. Containers of muddy, wormy water placed all over the room. Mickey’s little wooden doll bed (something to never get wet let alone hold water) was now filled with enough water to house a fish. Yuck!! Are you kidding me?!! My final step after dumping water, confiscating items and wiping off mud, was to vacuum the nasty floor. But the black dirt was too wet to vacuum up. Instead, the rocks got sucked up and the dirt smeared into the carpet! It. Was. Horrible! And my feet and legs hurt so much from a day at work of constant standing that I was nearly in tears. Thanks to our carpet cleaner and my diligent husband the floor got a much needed shampooing and looks much better. We powered through, the kids got their lectures about no mud, dirt or worms in the house again… ever. Yeah right!

And then the kids get out of the bath… because there is broken glass in the bath! Really?! For whatever reason, Jonah brought a glass cup into the bath and Mickey dropped it. I’m surely relieved they didn’t get cut. I’m also thankful that they had the sense to get out instead of trying to pick it up themselves. It’s what happened next that summed up the entire evening. Jonah came out sulking in great hesitancy of telling me what had happened. This is when I know that he is powering though his guilt. Wrestling with the pain of disappointing me and his obligation to tell the truth. This is when I have to put on my pleasant face and push aside my anger and frustration. I have to look past the situation and look into the heart of my child. This is where the learning takes place and where character is built and it’s my duty to provide an atmosphere of acceptance and praise so that my son will choose the right choice instead of hiding in his guilt.

I reassured him that he can tell me the truth about what happened and he did. I accepted his answer, but also aired some frustration and Jonah melted down. He blamed himself and told me that whenever there’s a problem it’s because of him. That he is blamed for every thing that goes wrong at school and because of him and the things he does he has no friends at school. That he wants to have friends in class, but he ruins everything and no one wants to be around him or be his friend. If there is a problem, it is Jonah’s fault. This is the burden my little guy lives with everyday at school and at home. He then told me that because kids don’t want to be around him, he gets angry and hits them. I am both devastated by what he’s telling me and elated that he is processing these thoughts and emotions so clearly! Good job Jonah! You just explained a world of hurt and emotions that you experience daily at home and at school instead of raging and attacking me! Awesome job Jonah.

We can clean up the messes. We will address the issues. In time, they will calm. It is a process. Some days are much more difficult than others. But as my little guy shared with me what was really going on inside of him, I was able to take to heart what was important tonight. There’s no need to hold a grudge and hang the messy, muddy, wormy house mess over his head. We discussed the situation with him. He knows that level of mess is not welcome. He will try it again. That’s just what he does. But he also knows that he can trust his family. That we accept him for whatever he does and that we love him unconditionally. That’s what it’s all about in the end. Growing a child who is accountable to his actions and who can process his emotions and feelings. These are very difficult for Jonah, who has so often muddled though his emotions and lets them fly out with rages rather than words. As he went to bed tonight he was noticeably shaken. Still trying to process everything that had happened this evening as a result of the worm garden. But tomorrow I will try harder to accept my child and take notice of his good choices and give him responsibilities that he can acheive and compliments to help him feel good about himself. And I will go to bed tonight wondering if I’ve done enough and if I’ll be strong enough to keep it up tomorrow.


Please, don’t stare…

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I remember a specific time, when Jonah was 3, that I needed to make a trip to the local craft store to gather fabric for a Halloween costume that I was working on with a friend that evening. I had just put baby down for a nap and had a small window of time to go to the craft store, get my fabric and head to my friend’s house. For some insane reason, I offered to bring my son with me. I wanted to spend time with him. I explained to him that we were going to my most favorite store and that he needed to be a good boy and obey mommy. Looking back, I realize that I was either dreadfully naive or completely insane! Probably both because I suffered from major sleep deprivation and fantasy ideals of bringing my son into an environment that I enjoyed so he would too.

I let him look around the store and he ended up playing on the foam mats. But 3 year old boys quickly escalate semi-fun situations to ultimate-fun-destructive-crazy-loud (and embarrassing their mother) situations. Before I knew it, he was crazily pulling out twin sized foam mats onto the floor and jumping on them like a scene from WWF and dragging them throughout the isles, caking them with store floor dirt! Ahhhh!!! In my favorite store! My reputation was at stake here. I frequented this store! People knew who I was! I couldn’t risk getting kicked out!

It probably took me over 15 minutes to get him away from those mats and redirect him (kicking and screaming) to the fabric area. Once there, the fun continued. Jonah played peek-a-boo running crazily in and out of crowded fabric isles. I ran after. Tried to cut him off and catch him and finally gave up. I had to get my fabric. I was on a mission and a time constraint of course.

I finally picked what I needed and went to take my number realizing that there was a sea of faces surrounding the cutting table. I think I was number 725 and they were currently helping number 2! Ahhhh!!! Everyone in the entire valley had come to buy their last minuet halloween fabric. They were all clutching their precious 40 percent off coupons in their sweaty little hands. I considered leaving, but knew I was there to get the job done and was on a time constraint. How hard would it be to wait there with an antsy 3 year old? Again… insane and naive. We would have to wait. And wait. And wait. I believe it took around 45 miutes of waiting. It was a great bonding experience with my son. That’s what I wanted right? I ran after him through isles and isles of fabric, returned to the foam playland over and over again, and once I finally had a proper restraint on my son, he proceeded to lay on the floor and jam his little 3 year old foot into my crotch and kick me over and over and over!! If I picked him up, he punched me in the back, face and stomach. As soon as he was down on the ground the kicking to the crotch continued and out of my child came maniacal little laughs from a messed up little face that was torn with boredom and overstimulation.

And the people watched. All 724 of them. They scowled and looked disapprovingly at this mother that could not discipline her son properly. And I felt like a pile of slop being poured out all over the ground. Unfit and unworthy of being a parent and knowing that somewhere I had screwed up bad enough with my child, that I could not even control him in a simple fabric store! Overwhelmed with feelings that I was such a bad mom because I choose to bring him with me there, instead of the park. And because I had no choice of leaving and coming back without him. We were stuck and I had defeated my intentions to love and spend time with my son. Devastation, anger, resentment… I wanted to scream at the line of disapproving onlookers and say ‘Why can’t I go next?! Do you not see what I’m dealing with?!! I don’t know what’s wrong with him! It’s been like this every moment of my life since he was born! Don’t stare! Help me!! Help me!!’ But I said nothing. I suffered in silence. Sucked back the tears and put on a plastic face of calm and disinterest.

After a lifetime of waiting and a sore crotch, I walked up to the cutting counter. My son immediately took off back into the fabric. The onlookers continued to stare. I told the lady the dimensions. Did not engage in eye contact or conversation. But something did happen at that counter. My ‘inner red’ or my inner strength emerged. It was a defining moment for me. You see, I knew I was being judged. I knew I was being watched. I knew I had disappointed everyone in that fabric line. But it didn’t matter. They did not live my life. They didn’t see his turmoil, feel helpless for him during his inconsolable rages, love him more than life itself only to get attacked over and over and over. They didn’t matter and they were not kind. My son mattered and teaching him to control himself mattered and showing him unconditional love even when I wanted to knock him to the floor mattered. So I took my freshly cut fabric,  tackled the kid as he ran out of an isle, forcefully slung him over my shoulder and marched him to the checkout counter as he flailed, laughed maniacally and screamed guttural screams hanging backward over my shoulder. You’d think I was carting around a mini demon!

And then we got to the check out line… and all 724 people that had recently cut their fabric were waiting in at least a 45 minuet line, clutching their little precious 40 percent off coupons in their sweaty little hands. They all looked at me with my demon child slung over my shoulder as I walked to the front of the line and announced (very difficult for a major introvert) ‘I’m going next. You DO NOT want to wait in line with this child’. No one said a word. They looked at me in shock. I turned away, went to the next check out stand, forcefully plopped my kid down on the counter and made my purchase. The clerk did not exchange words with me and nor I with her.

I’m sure there were words exchanged after I left the store that day, but I don’t care. I’m still proud of myself for standing up for my rights as a mother to know when enough is enough and to put my foot down in front of a disapproving audience. You see, parents of children with disabilities struggle with more than any onlooker could ever, ever understand. What you see from an autistic child’s melt down at a store is something that parent sees every hour or every day, or so it seems. When my child is raging, he is absolutely inconsolable and has very little control over his impulses, actions, words (if he can form any) and physical reactions. It is terrifying to me and to him and over 7 years of experiencing this, I have learned to cope and calm him, but this behavior still cripples me momentarily. I have endured him raging in his room for what seemed like hours slamming his head into walls. Or having him lay at my feet, back arched, eyes rolled back, foaming at the mouth and uttering guttural screams like a demon possessed child. All in the name of autism and at the time explained by everyone as normal ‘boy’ behavior. Seriously?! Even the professionals were hesitant to put a name to the behavior and so this mother formed many, many coping strategies. Life was stressful in those early years and there was a constant level of tension that I carried around daily.

I became the ‘super calm’ emotionless mask of a mom because any form of emotion seemed to set my child off. We thrived off of routine and I feared even an unexpected trip to the grocery store because even that had the potential to make him absolutely crazy! I did smile and play and get frustrated and yell…, but when I could see him physically change, I knew we were in for a rage and my coping strategies took over. My reaction was misconceived by my husband and mother as a lack of discipline. Absolutely not! You see, I knew that the ‘normal’ way of dealing with certain behaviors didn’t seem to work with mine. He understood his world differently, explored it in great detail and raged if things were out of order. Looking back, I wish I would have had that one person step in and point out his rigid behavior. I didn’t have a smart phone at that time in life, so easy googling of these symptoms wasn’t routine, but I was also being told by everyone that it was ‘normal’ boy behavior.

But I digress. This past year has been so much calmer. I find myself understanding the temper, successfully communicating actions and feelings and seeing very positive results from my big 7 year old. His diagnosis (although devastating at first) was the biggest relief since the day that child was born! I have finally been able to forgive myself for his behavior and accept him for the little man that he is. It’s not his fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not societie’s fault and not his daddy’s fault (well, maybe a little). NO one is to blame. But everyone can help. You see, autism is being more readily diagnosed, but it is still socially very misunderstood. The parents and family members who experience an autistic child in their daily lives are forced to see the world in a completely different way. I believe that over time, our society will begin to understand and hopefully embrace autism instead of fear it, embrace these brilliant little God made people. The change starts on an individual level. If you see a child raging out of control in the store, don’t stare… ask if they want to go in front of you in line. Give them your spot in the fabric cutting line or let them have some space when playing at the park. If we can all be aware of our surroundings and actually notice that there are kids with special needs around us, we can become more sensitive to their needs and just understanding and offering a kind word means the world to a parent who lives daily in the darkness of autism.





Why the Red Hair?

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Change is an inevitable part of our lives, but there are certain aspects of life that experience more drastic change than others. For me, the change from longing for a baby to the mother of two young children was enough to throw my mental self into a search for my identity. As responsible parents, my husband and I choose to ground ourselves with jobs, house and experience before we tried for a baby. Although you can never be fully prepared in any way for what adding children to your relationship will bring, we were more mentally grounded than many and prepared ourselves as much as possible for life with baby.

After 3 good years of trying and one devastating miscarriage, we finally received our right into parenthood! Less than two years later we were the owners of two beautiful little beings, but when my daughter was about 6 months old this mommy felt the tragedy of complete loss of who I used to be and the sadness of what I had been reduced to. I figured motherhood was a death sentence at times, and I say that with a sense of humor, but also in all seriousness. You see, it wouldn’t be revealed until 4 years later, that my son was autistic. He was violent to my daughter and myself and we suffered daily from his ‘demonic fits’ that left this mommy in horrified terror. My daughter (whom is the love of my life now and my mini me) was so clingy that she spent the first 18 months of her life attached to me on a backpack. My knees hurt, my back screamed for a break, I was up almost every hour of the night and each new day I got to look forward to a 2 year old boy who melted my heart with joy at one moment and was attacking me with fits of rage the next. At the end of the day I was one mentally and physically exhausted mother who felt like I was just a shell of what I had once been. I had been reduced to something I had never imagined and that time life was very, very dark.

I share this not for sympathy. Not in any way. I share this because I know there are moms and dads out there that are at loss with their newly acquired parenthood. Mom’s who have given their all and have no more to give and wonder how long this can last before they are done. I was at that point of devastation. Where day and night blended together into a huge lump of exhaustion and defeat. The good news is that those days are behind me and that through prayer and support I have embraced change and been able to raise above those very dark first few years of parenthood. Which leads to the red hair!

When my daughter was just over a year old, I decided I needed some sort of outlet from my stay-at-home day to day. I joined the local Curves and started getting out for some exercise in a social atmosphere. It was difficult to make a commitment with my needy littles. Just leaving my husband home with them for an hour seemed to him like a lifetime and gave me just enough time away to contemplate my get away plan 😉

Working out, eating right and losing weight is a difficult enough task when you’re able to dedicate yourself to it and nearly impossible when you have the constant demand of little people tugging at your pants and screaming in your ears all day long. I did eventually get into an effective grove and started to get back into a weight that I felt comfortable with and with that came an inward confidence. One that grew slowly and once it was established enough inside, it started to once again flow out of me.

And that’s when I got a little more daring with my hair. I had it cut short and added red highlights! I believe that the red highlights signify my inner me or my inner confidence. I refer to them as my ‘inner red’ and the bolder I became inside the more my true personality has come out and the redder the hair has gotten. You see, in September of 2013, I went all red and that truly does correlate with the inner confidence that has grown inside of me. It will come out more and more as I share with you what has built this confidence, but I will say that once I was able to embrace some of me and establish who I was inside, I was able to slowly shed that feeling of despair and replace it with that feeling of self worth. And I know now that the very children that tore me to bits and destroyed me in the beginning have been the very people that have poured into me a new level of confidence that has allowed me to love deeper, try harder and fight for what I believe fiercer than I have ever fought before.

I am a changed person. I feel like the start of parenthood was like being put into a fire, but God has used those early years to forge me into something beautiful, something powerful, something that has given me more meaning to life than ever before. And for that I am truly thankful. I encourage every mother who faces these struggles to find her ‘inner red’, embrace it and let it come out. Change is hard. Downright devastating. But it is more powerful than anything to use that change to find a stronger person on the other side.