The Ups & Downs of Progress

Let me start by saying that I am honestly thrilled for every step forward my son takes.  Truly thrilled!  However, there are some of his not so “normal” traits that I never want him to lose.

This realization hit me a short while back when yet one more playschool mom informed me that her daughter planned on marrying my son.  I laughed and said that she’d have to get in line as he seems to be amassing quite a group of girlfriends.

I shared this cute little anecdote with my husband that night who commented, “That’s sweet.  I wonder why all these girls are in love with him.”

Aside from the fact that he is the best looking little boy ever, in my humble opinion, “It’s probably because he doesn’t pull hair and tell them they have cooties like the other boys.”, was my response.

It was a simple comment that really got me thinking about what other “normal” little boy things he doesn’t do; and that I don’t want him to do.

He doesn’t reject affection from me

As he nears six years old, my boy still climbs up on my lap to snuggle.  He still asks to be picked up and held.  He still loves lots of kisses and tight hugs.  I realize that this alone doesn’t make him unique from most others his age, but he even allows and welcomes this in public.  There’s no, “MooOOOoomm, my friends are watching!”

He doesn’t tease or bully

He loves to play with other kids and we are working hard at learning how to ask kids to play with him.  He doesn’t discriminate as to who he does and doesn’t want to play with.  He may not pursue a relationship with someone who’s been mean to him in the past, but aren’t we all like that?

This does not mean that he is a perfect boy, he still fights with his sisters over who’s turn it is or who gets that toy, etc., but I’ve never seen or heard him call anyone a bad name or refuse their friendship because they don’t measure up to his standards.  He won’t always accept the invitation from other kids, but he’s not mean about it.

He is genuine

My son will not craft a fake persona to take advantage of a situation.  He won’t act nice to you then badmouth you behind your back.  He is who he is and he likes what he likes.  Perhaps he could be a little more subtle in his declarations of what he doesn’t like, but that is another area that we are working on.

 

As parents of young ones, we long for our children to grow up and get to the next stage (potty training, school, not needing a babysitter, and so on) all the while lamenting the loss of innocence and hard life-lessons which they endure along the way.  I remember my mother telling me a few years ago that the hardest part of having grown children is that you can no longer fix their hurts with a simple kiss and hug.  Those are days that I do not look forward to.

I’ve always said that my biggest problem with autism is that I don’t want my son’s life to be any harder than it needs to be, but somedays I wonder if maybe there aren’t harder times he may be able to avoid?  I realize that the last statement is simply a mother’s hope and not a fact.  He’ll still endure hurt and pain, regardless of autism.  But don’t we all wish we could just keep them in the bubble just a little longer?

 

Wendy

 

Leaps and Bounds

A beautiful thing happened last night.  A dream that I had long given up on came true; my son said, “I love you, mama.” to me completely on his own!

He’s said it before with prompting, or copying his sisters, but never on his own.

I was laying down with him, trying to help him sleep, gave him a kiss on the forehead and he said it.

“I love you, mama.”

His bed may have been cramped, what with sharing it with every stuffy in the room, and crazy hot (he sleeps with a heavy sleeping bag AND a weighted denim blanket) but in that moment, there was no where in the world I would have rather been.

Nowhere!

I can remember the first time my girls uttered the same phrase, and it was heartwarming and special and one of those moments that I treasured in my heart.  I’m not trying to downplay their accomplishments, but I knew the moments would come with them, it was just a matter of “when”.  With my boy, it has always been an “if”.

Two weeks ago was another leap.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of where my son is on the spectrum, is his inability to communicate pain and sickness.  Again, the girls can tell me if it’s a tummy ache or a scraped knee.  With him, however, if I can’t actually see the incident it’s little more than a guessing game.  This particular day, he was upset about a “boo-boo” – not uncommon.  I asked, as I always do if I can’t see it, where the boo-boo was.  I expected him to simply restate that he was suffering from a boo-boo when he surprised me again.

“On my arm.”

Wait. What?

This ability to explain his pain has just opened up a whole new world to our family.  No more guesses (well, not as many), no more frustration.  He can say it and I can help him!

Your child’s stumbling block may not be words.  Perhaps it’s trying a new food, sitting in a waiting room and NOT needing the iPad, tolerating a public event without headphones on.  Whatever it may be, celebrate each tiny victory as though your child has just won Olympic gold.  Quite likely, he/she has worked harder to reach this milestone than many medalists!

In a month from now, when the memory has faded and this new step is part of everyday life, remember it when your child seems to be reverting.  Those days when you’re exhausted from the fight.  When your already shattered heart sustains more damage because it’s just not fair that someone so wonderful should have to work so very hard to do the things everyone else takes for granted.  On those hard days, remember the good.  Don’t just remember what he achieved that day, remember his smile because he KNEW what a breakthrough he’d made.  Remember that for that moment, your heart was whole and soaring.

Remember that moment and start looking ahead to the next one.  Never stop dreaming big, big dreams for your kids.

Remember that the victories you’ve already had, you probably never expected.  The one you’re not expecting in the future will happen.

It’s coming, mama.

Confessions of a Lazy Mom

I was the perfect wife and mother…until I got married and had kids!

If you read my original post, My Unexpected Journey, you’ll see that I had big plans about how life would go.  I also had plans about my plans and back up plans for all these plans.  Every eventuality was covered.

It must be understood that these plans hinged on the fact that my children would be perfect angels…because I would be the perfect mother.  This I failed to have a back up plan for, since there was just no scenario I could dream up that would include normal kids.

Eight years into marriage and six and a half of those being a mother tell a different story.  It must be understood that much of my current state of being is hinged on the fact that I’m tired!

By the time my first baby started sleeping through the night, I was one month away from baby number two so my nights were constantly being interrupted by third trimester pregnancy stuff.  By the time he started sleeping through the night I was well on my way to baby number three.  Baby number three has only recently started sleeping through the night – just in time for number two to have not infrequent interruptions to his sleep.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me, just making excuses,  stating a fact.

So here’s how my standards for perfection have taken an unexpected twist.

  1. Fifteen Minutes per Week

That’s how long my house is clean to the standard that I’d allow my mom in with her white gloves.  In a previous post, Meaningful Minimalism, I mentioned that I have one day set aside for full house cleaning.  I find that on a good week I have roughly a 15 minute window to survey all I see and be impressed with myself.

The ever so important lesson I have learned in this is that for the other 10065 minutes that my house is, uh, less than stellar, it’s okay.  That doesn’t mean that I like the way it looks most days – but that I have come to understand that a messy house doesn’t make me a bad person.

2.  Quiet Time – It’s not just for babies anymore

I am an introvert.  I need time by myself to recharge.  This is not easily accomplished with a husband, 3 children and a part-time job.  Did I mention that I home school?  So said children are never “off at school”.

My older 2 children get some quiet time in the afternoon while the youngest naps.  This is also my quiet time.  I either read, watch a “mommy show” on Netflix or call/message friends – guilt free of any household task.  I have learned that my oldest also benefits from this time on her own and it makes for a much smoother afternoon for all of us.

3. So I Saw This Thing on Pinterest

So many of my organizational ideas have come from Pinterest!  Crafts or activities for the kids, home school ideas, recipes and “Life Hacks” that I use originate here as well.

4. Kids are washable

This is a lesson that my husband has had to teach me, and continues to remind me of.  I don’t need to hover over the children constantly to keep them in pristine condition.  The grime they get on themselves will come off.  Although, my youngest is learning that the grease from daddy’s tractor often takes a harder scrubbing or an extra day or two!

5.  I don’t reinvent the wheel

Many wives and mothers have gone before me and I love to glean from their knowledge and experience!

I adore mentorship and make a point to partake of these types of relationships whenever possible.  I have had official mentors in my life – the kind where I ask her if she is willing to take on a project as complex as me, and I have had relationships with women who I just learn from.

I listen to their stories with intent of learning and applying wisdom to my own situation and admire them for being real with me.

As I struggled to potty train my son, I would think back to a story I was told roughly 15 years ago by a mother who had struggled in a similar way with one of her sons.

As I delve into year 2 of homeschooling, I seek out every homeschooling mother I know (or simply know of) to pepper with questions.  The list could go on and on.

The mentoring relationship isn’t always advice based, however.  There are women whom I trust that I learn all types of life lessons from.  A dear friend and I were having coffee awhile ago and I took the opportunity to invite her to speak into my life.  To offer loving correction when she sees me mess up and to tough love me when I may be feeling a little sorry for myself.

If you have never thought of being mentored, I urge you to consider it!  Find someone who you respect, have similar values to and are able to spend time with on a somewhat regular basis.  Then be really brave and tell this person that they are allowed to point you in the right direction when your compass may be a little off.  I can promise you that you will be better for it!  And perhaps someday you can be that person to someone else.

 

So offering myself grace has made a world of difference to my whole family.  When mama’s relaxed, the whole family is relaxed!  Of course there are times when things just need to get done and fun has to fall by the wayside, but my goal is to make those times the exception rather than the rule.

What has life taught you?

Wendy

How a Puppy Almost Ruined Us

The whole process really started a few years ago when the kids began bugging us for a dog.  Back then the answer was easy… “I’m NOT potty training a dog until all my kids are potty trained.”.  I still had one in diapers and one on the way so this seemed like a safe statement to me.

Unfortunately, what I saw as a good excuse my children took as a promise.  This spring/summer marked a glorious new, diaper free chapter in our lives and I lived in blissful contentment…and then the begging started.

The “NO” came easily enough at first.  I’ve had dogs, I know how much work they are.  I’m not ready to deal with another creature’s poo yet.

Then I’d have days where my heart was a little softer but my husband would give the firm NO.  Or he’d have a soft-hearted day but I was firm.  Then both of our hearts started to soften at the same time.

We’d go into the city and see the pet stores or the pet supply aisles and sigh a little.  Then we’d wander in a little and just look around.

You can imagine what happened next.  Yep – we went to the SPCA and met the sweetest, cutest, cuddliest little pup!  He snuggled up into my neck and I was jelly.  I caught myself rocking and bouncing him like a tiny baby.  We paid the deposit but had to wait two more weeks to take him home as he needed another vaccine and to be neutered.

Those weeks were spent puppy proofing the house, teaching the kids that they couldn’t leave all their tiny toys laying around.  We bought a bed, a kennel, some toys, food and treats.  We told everyone we saw about our exciting news.  We.  Were. Pumped.

As the X’s on the calendar began to consume the blank spaces, moments of “what are we thinking” began to worm their way into my head, though, I gave them no heed.  I simply chalked it up to the fact that I was just being realistic about what my next long while will be like with training and not romanticizing the experience.

Then FINALLY Monday came.  We all woke up excited and happy.  The plan was to pick the kids up at daycare after work, drive to the SPCA and live happily ever after.

I got a call asking me to come two hours later than I had planned and I found myself oddly relieved.

3:00 came and I piled the kids in the van and off we went.  We spent the whole drive trying to agree on a name, to no avail.  We walked into the building and the kids all started calling him Rusty as I filled out the remaining paperwork and paid the balance.

The drive home was bliss as everything that Rusty did brought sheer joy to my children.

Rusty was just as sweet as we expected him to be.  He didn’t bark unless he needed to go outside.  He already knew to do his business outside!  He was well behaved and loved to cuddle and play.

I felt uncomfortable emotions rising up in me and I quickly stuffed them deep, deep down.

My husband came home from work and commented, “Yep, it smells like dog in here.”  and I was instantly upset with him. How dare he disrespect our new little bundle of joy?!

The evening went on and the emotions kept creeping up my spine.  We played, we trained, we oohed and we ahhed.  Then – my oldest daughter said the one sentence that brought me crashing down.

“So, mom, what do we do if Rusty gets sick?”

It was an innocent and thoughtful question – and it sent my emotions spiralling out of control.

“We take him to the vet.” I answered.

My husband looked at me and recognized the fear in my eyes and my inner struggle to hold myself together.  It’s a look he hadn’t seen since I’d been able to get all the depression and anxiety under control.

The worst part was that neither of us knew why.

The evening went on and the kids went to bed.  Rusty continued to be an ideal little pup.  He slept through the night.  I didn’t.

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What little sleep I had was fitful and troubled.  For some reason I was afraid of this puppy.  But more than that, I was terrified of the fear.

Morning came far too quickly and my husband got up for work.  He took Rusty outside, fed him and bonded.  When he left, Rusty gave the slightest of whimpers.  I got out of bed and spent time playing and cuddling with Rusty.

Okay, he’s still a sweet little thing.  Just focus on the positive.

I was determined to keep my self-talk positive and grounded in reality.  I did okay…for a while.  The children awoke and doted on Rusty.  We played outside, we played inside.  We took him for a walk to the town office to get a dog licence.

Rusty continued to be perfect.  I continued to lose my mind.

I was texting with my mom and sisters, who I’m so grateful for!  I love that in these times I can be honest with them without fear of judgement.

I tried all the grounding exercises.  I tried to enjoy watching my kids love on this little mutt.  The anxiety just kept building.

I called my mom.  I think it was about an hour long conversation.  My mom loves me and advised me to take Rusty back to the SPCA for the sake of my sanity.

I called my little sister who has a dog and could understand my feelings.  My sister loves me (and sometimes she likes me, too) and she advised me to just give it a little longer and maybe Rusty would prove to be a great asset to our family.

I called my big sister who can talk me down from pretty much anything.  She loves me too and advised me to put my emotional well-being ahead of my guilt.

I called a very dear friend who always makes time for me and my family and is like family to us.  This friend loves me and advised me to give it a few more days and do my best to restore my bond with Rusty.

 

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Rusty loving my oldest daughter

I texted my husband to ask how his allergies were.  I’ll admit that I was angry that he wasn’t sick from having a dog in the house.  I wanted him to say that it was unbearable and we had to get rid of Rusty.  That’s an easy and logical decision.

Throughout this day and these phone calls I became more and more of a wreck.  I couldn’t hold in the tears any longer.  I found myself trying to hide from Rusty.  Rusty kept finding me and giving me this look that begged me to love him.

I even called my husband at work and I NEVER call him at work.

I had to be on the phone.  I had to be talking to people because left alone with my thoughts was NOT a good place to be.

On top of all this irrational and so very unexpected anxiety was a load of guilt too heavy to bear.  I went from Best Mom Ever to Worst Mom Ever in less than 24 hours.

I did this.  I said yes to getting a dog. And now I knew in my heart of hearts that I had to say no.  I got my kids’ hopes up and now I was going to dash them against some very jagged rocks.  I was being mean and selfish.

In the fog of guilt, however, was the lighthouse of truth.  My kids would get over it.  Both my husband and I had dogs growing up and both dogs met untimely deaths.  We both coped and moved on.  My kids would too.

By the time my husband had come home from work I had resolved in my heart that Rusty needed a better home than I could give him.  I was perking up.  As an added twist to the saga, my eyes began swelling shut and hurting in a way I had never experienced. Apparently now I’m allergic to dogs too.

This story has a happy ending.  Rusty now goes by a new name and has the perfect home with my daughter’s best friend.  He has some four legged friends there too and my kids get to visit him regularly.  There were tears and questions, but within two days my children had basically forgotten that they even had a pet and I have had no anxiety since the new family told me they were keeping him.

I’ve had many theories as to why I reacted the way I did to Rusty, but the truth is that I just don’t know.  God doesn’t always answer the question, “why”, but that’s okay.  I trust Him anyway.

How Did I Get Here???

There were so many days that I was tempted to quit. The only reason I hung in there was because I knew that giving up now only meant that I had to start starting over again.

Hello again – it’s been awhile.

Several of you have been asking where I’ve been these last two months and the short answer to that question is; on another adventure.

Generally, a response like this would conjure up images of travel, education, or some epic and emotional learning curve.  Perhaps building a new house or travelling the lecture circuit or rising to some level of fame.  Discovering some long-lost relative who admires my pluck and has decided to leave us a vast fortune.

Those are all lovely thoughts which, for me, would have to begin with “Once upon a time…”.  The truth behind my absence is this:

Potty Training

Rather anti-climactic, isn’t it?

My son turned 5 in May and previous attempts (and there have been many) to train have led to nothing but frustration and tears.  All mine.  He couldn’t have cared less about it, hence the frustration.

I’ve talked to his therapists, I’ve read every blog and case study I could get my hands on.  I bribed him with everything I could think of and nothing worked.  I put the potty in front of the TV and played an endless loop of YouTube potty training videos.  It never worked.  He just didn’t care.

If one more person told me that “No one ever graduated high school in diapers!” I was going to snap.  The truth was that I didn’t believe that this statement would necessarily hold true for him.

Then, approximately 6 weeks ago, I woke up one morning with the realization that we were out of Pull-Ups and the determination to NOT BUY MORE!

His currency is the iPad, so that’s what I used.  You want the iPad?  You sit on the toilet.  The first couple of weeks we got some incidental successes, but still plenty of accidents.  At this point, my 2-year-old decided that she wanted to play the iPad too so she also wanted to sit on the potty.  I didn’t expect much from her, but hey – who am I to argue???

It was around this 2 week mark that I had my first major breakdown…at church.  Yes, it was embarrassing, but I was just so exhausted by this whole process with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.  I believe that my exact words were, “Potty training is kicking my butt!”.  Not my highest point.  However, it was a turning point!

I know that those who witnessed my tantrum prayed for us.  I know my Mom was praying too.  She was my cheerleader through this all.  If you’re reading this, mom, you already trained 3 daughters, and now you had to train one of them to train – thanks for sticking it out with me!

It was around then that the successes became more intentional and frequent.  My son now just goes to the bathroom himself when he needs to and my daughter is able to come tell us when she needs to go!  Two weeks ago, tomorrow, I brought the last diapers from my house to our church nursery.  I may or may not have done a happy dance the whole way!

So what has this whole process taught me?  Besides the fact that I loathe potty training – wait, I already knew that from my first child – that some of the best things in life are hard-fought for.  There were so many days that I was tempted to quit.  The only reason I hung in there was because I knew that giving up now only meant that I had to start starting over again.

I have other mountains in my life to climb; many of them I have started and stopped before.  Some of them more than once.  That second (and subsequent) start is always more difficult and the defeat seems to come faster and more easily each time.

I determine to persevere.  I determine to let God have control over each circumstance.  Yes, God cares about potty training too!  There were times when I felt disrespectful talking to Him about something so, so, uncivilized…but He cares about EVERY detail of our lives.

I will enlist more cheerleaders and I will be a cheerleader to those who need one.

What mountain are you facing?  Have you faced it before?  Don’t be afraid to tell people what you need from them as you climb.

“Honey, I know you love chips but while I’m trying to get healthier, I need you to not bring them into the house for a while.”

“I need you to remind my why I started.”

“I need a hug.”

“I need you to just be positive.”

You’ll be surprised how appreciative people will be of your honesty.  We all want to help each other, but we don’t all know how.  I’d be devastated if my well-intentioned but counter-productive words tripped up someones progress.

Face that mountain and take the first step.  Just one. Don’t worry about the next step until you’re upon it.  You’ve got this!

 

Wendy

Meaningful Minimalism

I don’t like chaos!

I have never been one of those people who thrive on pressure or do their best work on a deadline. If you are one of those people – I admire you, but I don’t understand you. Not even a little bit.

Sure, a deadline can cause me to get things done because they have to be, but I can assure you that it won’t be my best work. I can also assure you that you don’t want to be around me during, or for a while following a time crunch. I get snappy and grumpy and more than a little yelly (it’s a word in my mom vocabulary). Even I don’t want to be around me then.

Just over 3 years ago, my oldest daughter caused me to take a good hard look at myself under pressure and how I affected those around me.

I have a bit of a side business during the Christmas Season where I bake and sell goodies. At this point I had not yet learned how to schedule orders properly and often committed to more orders per day than I should have.

This particular day I was extra snappy, grumpy and yelly and my then 3 year old just wanted my attention. I snapped at her far too harshly. She turned on her heels and headed straight for our bathroom. What I heard out of her mouth next was not only adorable, but wonderfully humbling.

Jesus,” she began, “I’m getting really frustrated with mom. I need some help here!”

She walked directly toward me with a confidence and purpose that I was unaware a 3 year old could possess.

Mom, we need to pray. Now!”

And we did. And I repented to my Saviour and then to my daughter. Both forgave me instantly and I knew that something needed to change.

I would love to tell you that I woke up the next morning a new woman and from that moment on my life was chaos free…nope. It has been slow.  It has backslidden more than once. It is still a work in progress, but progress none the less. One step at a time. No quick fixes or one size fits all solutions.

Here is how it started for me:

  1. Trimming the Excess

The summer following the above mentioned episode my husband and I sat down and took a good hard look at our finances and realized how we were being nickeled and dimed into living paycheque to paycheque. We looked at all the subscriptions we had and how little we really read any of them.

It was fun to get the latest issue of a magazine in the mail or the newspaper delivered daily, but we weren’t getting our money’s worth out of them. We would mindlessly flip through and read less than 10% of the actual publication. We cut out all but one and that one has become one of my husband’s birthday gifts since the renewal time coincides with his birthday.

My husband quit smoking. I don’t need to explain ALL the benefits of that one! I had quit previously when we decided to start a family.

We also took a look at how much he was spending almost daily at the local convenience store. $2 this day and $5 the next was adding up to $300/month! He started taking water with him to work in a giant thermos and cutting back on the other impulse items.

We cut down our cell packages. Huge savings there and we still had all the minutes that we needed.

The most difficult cut for us was our satellite TV. We had so many excuses but eventually came to the conclusion that BECAUSE it was so hard for us to give up was precisely why we needed to. TV had far too tight a grip on us.

We signed up for Netflix and after a bit of an adjustment period, I can honestly say we don’t miss having the dish. We certainly don’t miss commercials!

With this step done, we were saving hundreds of dollars each month. The benefit was not only monetary, but this relieved a great financial strain which relieved an emotional strain between us.

  1. Guarding Our Schedule

    I actually know people who's calendars look like this.  It makes me tired just looking at it!
    I actually know people who’s calendars look like this. It makes me tired just looking at it!

A few years ago I had a couple of girlfriends over for coffee and they looked at the calendar on my fridge and commented how nice it must be to have so much free time. It is not by accident or laziness that our calendar stays clearer than most people’s with young children. We work hard to keep it that way.

There are so many reasons to guard your time, and your reasons will not mirror mine. My husband and I were both blessed to grow up in Christian homes and it is of utmost importance for our children to have the same blessing. God comes first in our house!

That doesn’t mean that we spend every waking minute in bible study and prayer and live perfectly wholesome lives. Not even close. However, Sunday morning worship service is ALWAYS part of our schedule. We only miss church if we are out of town or very, very sick. Going to church doesn’t make us Super Christians, but it recharges us, teaches us, connects us to God and to others. My heart always grieves when I hear of families who have decided to trade church time for family time.

“Sunday morning is our only time to just relax and be together” is a common phrase.

I’ll tell you something – those two things are meant to go hand in hand! Relax together in God’s presence.

We also don’t over schedule our children.

Our oldest 2 attend BG Club twice yearly for 10 weeks at a time and we as parents love it and our children love it. If it conflicts with other activities, the other activities lose. Our oldest also does soccer in the spring. Our son tried it last year and did not have a good experience so he opted out this year.

I know my big girl would love dance, but it is more of a financial and time commitment than my husband and I are willing to give and she is just fine with that. We don’t feel like our children will lose out on their childhood if they don’t have EVERY experience available to them. Our belief is that they will gain more by having parents who are present and happy than they would by being rushed to and fro and having parents who are financially and emotionally drained.

I also have one day a week that I do my house cleaning. Of course I clean every day, but the dusting, floor washing, nooks and crannies cleaning happens every Thursday. My close friends know that if they show up unannounced they will see me in my cleaning dungarees with hair poorly pulled back and my kids probably still in pyjamas. They have been warned.

Again, I don’t like chaos and this ritual helps me conquer that.

  1. A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place…Even Papers

Oh vile paperwork. My nemesis!

Bills that have been paid, but need to be filed. An expense claim sent in to our insurance provider, awaiting payment. Home school marking/corrections.

Papers are so thin, but can create such an overwhelming presence in my home. It was so easy to just close the door.

A few months ago, I saw this thing on Pinterest. I tweaked it slightly but I now have a small hanging file box with folders for each day of the month and each month of the year. If the water bill needs to be paid on the 10th, it goes into the file dated the 10th. If I’m waiting for my expense cheque to come back I will file a note for the expected day to follow up if I haven’t received it yet.

Our mortgage renewal comes due in August so I have a note in the August folder to deal with that.

I go through the folder of the appropriate day and deal only with what is in there. When a new month starts I open that month’s folder and file everything according to the day it requires attention and start all over.

I also use this for my daughter’s lessons. She is in Kindergarten right now so it works. I know I will need something more complex as the years go on, but that’s a job for Future Wendy!

This is working and takes up minimal space!

  1. Meal Planning

I don’t mind cooking, but I have great difficulty coming up with ideas of what to make each day (I call my mother often and apologize for groaning at whatever she made for supper). This usually leads to procrastination which leads to either convenience foods or a quick trip to the grocery store. Impromptu trips to the store also usually lead to unplanned and unnecessary spending. Ugh.

I have admired the meal planners out there for a while now but was intimidated by the idea of it. I had tried before and failed, often because when I looked at what I had planned for the day I didn’t feel like making that. So I wouldn’t.

Four weeks ago I finally committed to not only planning our meals, but also STICKING WITH THE PLAN!

Guess what? I am loving it.

I do NOT get this fancy!
I do NOT get this fancy!

I do NOT post on a fancy chalkboard or other Pinterest inspired piece of art what the meal plan is. That only invites “helpful” suggestions from my family which leads to frustration (see: grumpy, yelly). Nope, she who cooks, plans.

I also do NOT let my feelings take me off course. If meatloaf is on the list, meatloaf shall be on the table even if I’m in the mood for chicken.

One weekend I didn’t get around to planning and for three days I was back into frustration and lack of ideas. I sat down and planned out the remainder of the week and the pressure just melted away.

Another beautiful benefit is that, because I plan with great intentions and before the weariness of the week gets to me, I plan healthier meals. Because I stick to the plan, we eat healthier meals.

  1. Wants vs. Needs

Marketers are just so talented and blurring those lines for us, aren’t they? And I find so many of their lines easy to swallow.

Just recently I was flipping through the Home Hardware flyer and saw a remarkable machine that combines and 12 cup coffee maker with a single cup brewing system that uses K cups.

Gasp. Where has this been my whole life? I. Need. This.

Why do I need this? Because it would take up 2 less inches on my counter than my existing 12 cup coffee maker and Keurig….that I already own. Hmmmm. I want to pay $80 for a machine that replaces 2 machines that I already own. Both of which are in perfect working condition.

But I could sell the other 2 machines for probably $30 so then the new one would really only cost me $50. Well, realistically I’d probably be better off to just put the other 2 in the camper….

Seriously. These thoughts went through my head. More than once!

This mindset shift is a tough one for me. I could come up with so many excuses why my want is justified, or why the purchase is really a need. The truth of the matter is that I just need to think things through more, and take more things to God in prayer. You may think that praying about buying a coffee maker is silly, but God cares about every aspect of our lives. Shopping included.

Saying yes to this purchase would have meant a no to something else either now or further down the line. That something else could be anything from extra grocery money, to clothes for the kids, curriculum or even just extra padding in the savings account.

That is the question I ask myself now before purchases (most times). If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to later?

It’s taken me 3 years to implement these changes and none of them happened simultaneously. Each was a step at a time with enough time between to get used to the changes and let them become our new normal. There are more changes coming, but not until we’re ready for them.

Wendy

 

How do you keep life simple?  I’d love to hear what has worked for you!

The Beauty of Belonging

Have you ever been in a room with total strangers and still felt more relaxed and comfortable than with people you know?

It happened to me on Thursday.  I took my son to his therapy session at the center and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot there was just a peace that came over both of us.

As we entered the building I didn’t have to hastily grab his hand so he couldn’t run back out the door.  He talked to and counted the fishies in the tank as I checked in at reception.  The nice lady told us to follow the green feet to our waiting area and my son took her at her word.  His head was down as he bounced from footprint to footprint, almost crashing into people a few times…but here’s where a good morning turned great.

Those people he almost crashed into?  They smiled at him…and me!

They didn’t frown at him with a “careful there, kid” actually aimed at me.  They didn’t cast judgmental glances at either of us.  They didn’t offer me advice on how to discipline my son.  They just smiled and said, “Good morning.”

In the waiting area were two other mothers with their sons.  We exchanged greetings and smiles and turned our attention back to our boys. It seems pretty normal, maybe even a bit rude to not engage in a bit of small talk; but it was wonderfully freeing.

My son loves to bolt away on me and those who know me well know that if we’re out and about I will maintain a conversation with them to the best of my ability, but I will constantly be scanning to make sure he is still nearby and safe.

The situation was the same on Thursday, but I didn’t have to explain myself.  One of the other moms was sticking very close to her boy to make sure he didn’t end up on top of a toy about to jump off.  Mom number 3 was watching her much younger son pull himself up on the furniture and take a few steps.  Her hands were constantly ready to shield his head from bumps with his very frequent falls.

None of us demanded explanations.  None of us shot the glance that told each other to lighten up.  None of us asked, “So what’s wrong with your kid?” (yes, people do that).

As the littlest boy hung on to the big round coffee table for dear life, my boy walked around it tracing the edge with his finger.  As he got close to the little one his mom looked at me before I could even tell my boy to be careful or go the other way and said, “It’s okay, they can just work around each other.”

And they did.

It was that exact moment that my heart soared as I realized that this is our tribe.  These people with similar circumstances asked nothing of us by way of explanation.  We all just got each other.

If you have a child with special needs, you know how beautiful these moments are.  Moments where they can be themselves and not a label or diagnosis.

I had coffee with a friend this morning.  This particular friend has been one of my son’s favourite people since day one and continues to be so.

She is another one who just allows him to be who he is and she embraces his uniqueness without trying to “fix” him.  She also doesn’t let him get away with bad behaviour on her watch because she knows that he knows better (just like every other kid out there who tests boundaries).

These beautiful moments pop up from time to time and I thank God for each and every one of them!

On Valentine’s Day I dropped all 3 kids off at the free babysitting night that a church in town put on as a gift to parents.  When I went to pick up the kids, I had a brief conversation with one of the supervisors who also knows my kids from daycare.  She mentioned that during the movie my son was walking back and forth under the screen but she made sure that none of the other supervisors tried to pull him down as that was just his way.  He wasn’t being loud or disruptive, he was just doing his own thing.

In our church, basically every Sunday, most of the people will keep a subconscious eye out for my son.  They do this because they know that he is a runner and chances are that at any given moment me or my husband will come looking for him.  Without us saying a word, we often get a, “He went that way.”.

These moments make my heart smile.  These moments sustain me through the more difficult moments.  These moments remind me that God is good and that He cares about us and that my son will be okay.

These moments are a gift and I cherish each and every one.

 

Wendy

In the Midst of the Battle

*This post is not intended to garner sympathy or attention for myself, but rather to help you understand what it feels like to sink into/be in despair.  If you have never experienced this (be thankful), my hope is that this will help you understand those around you who are struggling with this darkness.

We KNOW that life isn’t is bad as it seems in those times, but we feel stifled by the despair nonetheless.  A hug is more helpful than being told to “suck it up”.*

 

I’m sitting in a hospital bed right now, fighting two battles.

The first battle is and infection in my foot.  It started Wednesday afternoon and took a hold of me swiftly and severely!  At first I thought I had caught a crazy stomach bug – I’ll spare you the details.  My husband came home from work to find me under 5 heavy blankets shivering violently.  After he added a heating pad my body calmed down a bit.

The next morning I saw the doctor because my foot was getting painful and I knew there was more to this than the flu.  He gave me antibiotics and strict instructions to monitor things closely and go into Emergency if there is even a hint of spreading.

10PM that night we called a friend over to stay with our sleeping kids while my husband took me into the hospital where I was started on Intravenous antibiotics.  Perfect, I thought, a couple days and I’ll be as good as new!  We left the hospital with crutches and an appointment for my next dose of IV.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the next morning did not find my foot better.  I was hoping for some improvement, at least a little.  Deep down inside of me, the other battle was beginning.

This was Friday morning now and my weekend consisted of laying on the couch with my foot up and going to the hospital 3 times daily for IV.  By now the pain had subsided (mostly) but the swelling was not going down.

Monday morning I saw the Doctor again and he pleaded with me to let him admit me into the hospital.

“What about my kids?  I have to look after my kids!”

“Please think about it.  We should be seeing better results by now.” he gave one last plea.

I hobbled to my van and texted my hubby what had just been said, put the phone down and drove to the  hospital for dose #11.

The nurse gave me the same pleas.  My phone buzzed.  I opened the text from hubby telling me he will take the week off so I can get better.  I got one of the good ones!

I relented and the process started to get me all set up in my tiny cube of a room.  Sterile and windowless.  That is how my soul was beginning to feel too.  The ticking of the clock and the hum of machines to keep me company I was feeling forgotten.  I’ve had visitors and that has been great, but where has God been for the last 6 days?

I chastised myself for letting my emotions get the better of me.  I know – I KNOW –  that He has not abandoned me, but the invisible infection of my heart was telling me differently.

Maybe if you were a better person, the infection hissed, this wouldn’t be happening to you.  It’s because of every bad thing you’ve ever done.  You deserve this.

You might as well give up now.  They’re not telling you everything – this is way more serious than they’re letting on and now your kids have to grow up without a mom.  Just pull the blanket over your head and go to sleep.  You can’t fight it – just give up.

STOP IT! I scream inwardly.  Lies.  All lies!

Not that I’ve never done bad things, I have and do and will because I’m human.  But I’m a forgiven human washed clean by the blood of Christ!

But there are moments when “standing on the promises” are not enough and the infection overwhelms me.  Last night I struggled, but held it together.  Today I couldn’t.  Today is Tuesday which makes tomorrow one week since this started and I’m no better off physically and definitely worse off in my heart.

Today I have cried.  A lot.  Today I am not strong.  The nurses notice and are being extra delicate with me.  Today Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9].

In my darker times of depression, I find myself running to God almost superstitiously.  Maybe if I pray just right, or read the right number of chapters of my bible, etc. then God will heal me.  I know that’s not how it works.  He’s not a genie in a lamp that needs to be rubbed exactly 3 times then will grant me my wish.  I’m believing for healing.  I’m expecting for healing.  But I’m listening for what God has to teach me in this too.

As I type this, I’m listening to “Blessings” by Laura Storey.  If you’ve never heard it, please take a moment to listen.  This song has seen me through many a dark time and it is perfect for where I am right now.

So where does this leave me?

I will fight, I will persevere because I know I am not fighting alone.   God is with me.  Family and friends are praying for me.  I’m anticipating a few more days here yet.  The battle rages on, but ultimately it has already been won. flourish

Today is the following Monday.  Almost a week since I wrote this last post.  I have been out of the hospital since Thursday, but have since developed an allergy to one of the medications.  The beauty is, I can laugh at that now.  It’s a testimony to how far God has brought me out of this pit.

Last Tuesday, when I wrote the original post, I did one of the hardest things possible when in such a deep depression – I reached out.

I called a few of my trusted friends and told them that I wasn’t doing well at all and that I couldn’t cope on my own.  These people prayed for me, and they prayed hard.  That afternoon already saw a huge improvement in my mood.

My husband brought me some of my favourite comedies to watch and smuggled in some popcorn for me.  All the little things like this definitely helped pull me out of my pit, but ultimately it was God who healed the infection in my soul.  He also continues to heal the infection in my foot and each day sees great progress!

Wendy

 

Navigating the Spectrum

It will be six months tomorrow.

For half of a year, my son has officially been autistic. So much and so little has changed in six months.

I can still so clearly remember the day of the diagnosis. I remember getting back into the van and going out for lunch before heading home. I remember how hard I had to work to hold it together and how shocked I was about how shocked I was.

We picked up a few groceries since we were in the city and I wanted to buy my son a toy, a treat, something. I don’t know why I needed to do this so badly, it wouldn’t change anything. Maybe it was because I felt so helpless as a mother right then and that was all I felt like I could do.

The ride home was quiet. I was so ashamed of myself for having to struggle not to cry. What kind of terrible mother gets so upset about something like this?!?!

He didn’t have a terminal disease. He didn’t have a degenerative condition. It was just autism and it could be so much worse. And wasn’t I expecting this? I knew this diagnosis was coming.

I pulled the papers out of my purse and read them again just to be sure that I heard her correctly.

“….a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is appropriate…”

I just couldn’t figure out why I was so upset; all that I knew was that I was.

We pulled into our yard and walked into the house. My dear friend who was watching the girls was kind and sensitive enough not to ask anything. I’m pretty sure that she could read it all over my face anyway. She knew my son better than most people. From day one, she has been his favourite “church aunty”. I asked how the girls behaved and she told me some of the silly things they had done. I thanked her again for her help. She hugged me and left.

The rest of the day went just like any other. I put away the groceries, made supper, the kids had baths and went to bed.

The next day came and we knew it was time to start moving ahead with things. I called Autism Services and set up a home visit. I started looking into some of the equipment that I thought may be helpful for him. Weighted blankets and toys. A pea pod. Maybe even a service dog. My boy is a runner. A highly non-verbal wanderer. He has gotten away on us twice and those have been the most terrifying moments of my life. There are dogs trained to help kids like that.

My husband came home after work, and again the evening went like any other. Supper, play, bedtime.

Now I was finally ready to talk about things. I confessed to him how surprised I was at how hard I was taking this and how guilty that made me feel. We talked about how to go about telling people. Should we tell people? This isn’t the kind of thing you announce on facebook. I had already told my mom the previous day and my friend who had been watching the girls called earlier and we talked about it then.

When I say we didn’t know whether or not we should tell people, it had nothing to do with keeping things secret. We were more concerned with him being seen by others as just a label instead of himself. We decided that as people asked (some of our closer friends knew that we were going through this process) we would tell them and just let the word get around as needed. No sweeping declaration, no vow of silence.

The next few weeks came and went. During this whole time, my son and I had been making weekly trips to the center for his group therapy sessions. I found my greatest comfort in these times. There were two other kids in the session with him; a little boy accompanied by his mother and a little girl accompanied by her grandmother. The other boy had been diagnosed months earlier and the little girl was still waiting for her assessment.

During these session, we caregivers sat in an observation room and were able to visit. I told the ladies that he had been diagnosed and there was just an understanding. No pitying looks or insensitive questions. I admitted to them how I had been feeling and that I was going through a period of mourning.

The grandmother seemed a little taken back by that, but the mother understood. Not mourning that my son had some terrible disease or anything, but mourning for the future that he very likely will never have. When our children are born we have certain expectations (whether we realize it or not). They will graduate high school, be successful in their career, fall in love, marry, have a family of their own, etc.

These are things that my son may never experience. His education I’m less uncertain about. I know that he’s smart. I also know that his educational process will look different that most kids’.

The other mother talked about her own mourning process and how just when she thinks that she’s through it, another wave of sadness often sweeps over her. Strangely, I found comfort in that. In knowing that I’m not just some crazy and selfish mom, and that someone else understood. She provided me with helpful information about who to connect with, funding available, what else to expect as a mom. I’ll always be grateful for her help that day.

I have since come to realize that a large part of my difficulty with getting the diagnosis is that even though we were expecting it, there was always this glimmer that maybe it was something else. Something easily changed so that my boy wouldn’t have a lifetime of struggles. That glimmer is gone now. autism definition

Throughout the past six months, my son has made some great strides. He is more able to ask for things that he wants, or be able to say “no thank you” to things he doesn’t want instead of just reacting with fear or anger.

A month ago I took him to the doctor to be checked. The standard procedure with him has been that I sit him on my lap, hold his forehead with one hand, his chin with the other while the doctor gags him with the tongue depressor to get him to open his mouth so he can check his throat. This time, my boy willingly opened wide and said “aaaaahhhh”. He also happily let the doc check his glands and lungs.

WOW!

I don’t know who was more amazed, the doctor or me. Okay, I thought, if he’s this good with the doctor then maybe he’s ready for the dentist.

Last week I took him in for his first dentist appointment. I explained to the hygienist beforehand that he is autistic and I didn’t know how he would react. We agreed that we’d be more concerned with checking for cavities and if he allowed her to do a cleaning, great. If not we’d try again another time.

I brought him in and he sat happily in the waiting area with no fear or anxiety. Our hygienist approached him and introduced herself. My son looked at her and introduced himself! Then motioned to me and said, “And this is mom.”

What. Just. Happened???

He has NEVER done that before! Every female within earshot “awwwww-ed” and I grinned from ear to ear.

He does that. He has those days when he just amazes me with his progress. He also has days when it feels like we’re going backwards. Those days come less often, but they are hard. Remember when I said I had taken him into the doctor? One of the hardest things about the communication issues that he has is that when he is sick, he can’t tell me. I can see signs like a runny nose, fever, etc.  What I can’t see is an owie tummy, a sore throat or a headache. Those moments shatter my heart!

A few nights ago he woke around midnight, highly agitated. I gave him a hug, but it didn’t help. I tried to sing his favourite song and read a story. Nothing but more agitation. I asked him if he was feeling sick but his response was, “feeling sick”. I asked him if he’d had a bad dream to which he replied, “bad dream”.

The problem with echolalia is that it’s difficult to decipher if he’s telling me what he needs, or just repeating. I tried everything I could think of and fought the urge to just sit down and cry with him. Forty five minutes later I got him a drink of water which he chugged back like he’d been wandering The Sahara. I refilled the newly emptied cup, he took it and marched happily back to bed.

I was relieved that he was settled, but bewildered that he was unable to tell me that he was thirsty because that’s something he has been able to say or sign for quite some time now.

My choices are to let the frustration get me down, or just keep moving forward. Some days sinking into despair looks appealing, but that doesn’t give my boy what he needs, so forward we go.

We continue using his PECS sheets and some sign language. He’s really focused on simple addition and reading so I am riding that wave for as far as he’ll let me. He loves the Leap Frog cartoons, Super Simple Songs on YouTube and music and learns so much from those things.

We live in a wonderful community that embraces him beautifully. His playschool teachers are amazing people who don’t just ignore him, but don’t try to force him to be someone he is not. His daycare workers are great and just let him be himself but don’t let him use his diagnosis to get away with bad behaviour.

My oldest daughter amazes me constantly in her patience with him and her understanding that sometimes he just needs mommy’s attention and that she’ll have to wait. I know that God has big things in store for this girl that He has just filled to the brim with compassion and love. I try to take her on outings one on one as often as I can because I never want her to feel ignored.

We continue to navigate this new territory unsure of what is ahead, but fully confident of Who is in control. Thank you, Lord, that you go with us every step of the way!

 

Wendy

“So I Saw This Thing on Pinterest…”

As far as my husband is concerned, this phrase ranks right up there with, “We need to talk.” or “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”!

Most husbands would just roll their eyes, maybe groan a little wondering what food they’ll be eating out of a mason jar for the next week. My husband, however, would LOVE IT if that was his biggest inconvenience.

Unfortunately for him, he knows that my latest idea will be HIS newest project. I have some talents; baking, writing, quoting movie/TV lines to fit anywhere in a conversation, and I tell some of the driest and lamest jokes around (yes, I am proud of that one)! Working with my hands? Other than the baking and writing… “not so much” Mad About You (see what I did there?).

So because God didn’t gift me with a talent for building or crafts or any of that stuff, He gifted me with my husband. I can SEE the project in my head. I can carefully plan out the steps. I can get all the supplies together and watch tutorial after tutorial…but my hands just can’t do it! Hubby, on the other hand, not only has the talent to build whatever I want, but to translate the vaguest and most poorly thought out concept from my head into an actual THING that looks like the thing it’s supposed to be!

He amazes me time and time again. Not only that he can MAKE what I kinda sorta think I want, but that he can make it better than I even conceptualized it! Not to mention that he actually has the patience to do the harebrained projects that I come up with in the first place!

Two years ago, I asked for some shelving in the basement storage area. I got a full U-Shaped storage area with shelves built specific to the storage containers I have so that nothing has to be stacked on top of anything else, right up to the ceiling. It also included a bar to hang out of season coats for the next time we need them so if winter hit sooner than expected, I wouldn’t have to tear apart the basement hurriedly looking for jackets and ski pants for the kids.

Shortly after that, I asked for a basic stand to put my front load washer and dryer on (I’m way too cheap to pay retail prices for those!) so that the kids would quit pressing the buttons and washing or drying nothing. I got fantastic, strong, steel frames that custom fit my set, had rubber feet so as not to damage my floor, and space to store my laundry baskets on those rare occasions that all the laundry got put away.

rainbow snack
Playschool snack on a rainy day.

Now, there are some Pinterest ideas that I have successfully completed. My life/bills/home school filing system, marshmallow and Fruit Loops rainbow snacks for playschool, many of our suppers originated with a Pinterest search. Those things I can do, but I still wouldn’t
have had the ideas on my own.

IMG_0278
Hand painted growth chart custom made by a very dear friend.

I also have friends who are crazy talented, including the one who made my family this amazing growth chart this summer.  It is admired (and often coveted) by everyone who comes into this house. It not only charts the growth of my children, but
distracts guests from the, uh, lived-in look that is my house most days.

I have a sister who can create the most beautiful art with the photographs she takes.  She also has the ability to host amazing events and make her guests all feel special and unique and loved.

 

My other sister is able to really peer into peoples’ circumstances and see their needs. Then she is the type to “do the work” to meet those needs for people with no thought of the cost to herself. Need a driveway shoveled but feeling under the weather? She has it done before you even think to ask. She also has the gift of being able to talk me down in my more anxious moments, or cheer my up in my depressed moments. No easy task!

My mom bakes and knits amazing things; my dad is the baby whisperer (he has soothed more fussy babies than I can count, including my own).

My oldest daughter can take ANYTHING from around the house and create some type of craft or instrument out of it. I could go on and on and on about the talented people that I know, and I’m sure that you could too. I just love the variety that God has placed in us!

Just like God enabled my husband to be talented where I am not, and vice versa, He brings others into our lives to walk along side of us and help us do what we can’t do on our own. Sometimes that means that our friend creates something beautiful for our home. Maybe a family member helps us develop a talent so that we can not only do things on our own, but also bless others with our talents. We are not created to go through life relying only on ourselves.

Neither are we created to rely solely on others. God wants us to depend on Him! Other people can fill some of our needs some of the time, but only God can “complete” us. People will let us down, whether intentionally or not, but God won’t. He can’t. It’s not who He is.

Our talents and abilities come from God. We are to use them for His glory. To help or encourage those whom he has placed in our lives. To help others see and develop the talents He has placed within them.

And don’t think for one second that you only get one set of abilities and that’s it. Ask anyone who’s known my for the last 15ish years and they have heard me say that teaching is absolutely the worst possible thing I could be asked to do. I loathed it, I was terrible at it and the students suffered. Whether it was Sunday School or anything – it was not a good idea to put me in that job.

Three years ago my daughter started BG Club and I signed on as a helper in her class – crowd control for preschoolers, I can handle that! In the third or fourth week, the teacher had to step down because of a change in her work schedule and I was thrust into the position. I begrudgingly (oh so begrudgingly) endured it for the next three sessions. I took one session off because I had a newborn and thought that was it. I was free!

“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in” (you knew that was coming!). But something happened. God changed my heart and gave me a love for these kids and this club and suddenly I was able to teach and teach well.

If He can make me love and be good at something I had detested most of my life, he can develop talents in anybody!

Now I continue to teach BG Club and home school my daughter.

What are your talents? What talents do you want God to develop in you? Who has he placed in your life with abilities to complement yours? More importantly, whose life has he placed you in? And how can you be a blessing to them?

I would love to hear from you!