Sunday, April 28, 2013

the power of "I get it."

Special needs.

I don't use that phrase very much unless I have to use it to explain something about my youngest son. Usually I say, "He has developmental delays," or I give some examples of the issues someone may need to be aware of.  Often times I just say, "He's about a year or so behind."

Bugaboo has made a lot of progress lately.  He is walking and even becoming aware of the ground beneath his feet. (This is very important on playgrounds, stairs, grass, and other people's homes.)  He has some words we can understand. He is following some simple directions.

But as he gets older, other things have become more problematic.  Often times when we are out somewhere, like a restaurant (which we don't go to very often), he has these "fits."  We can't figure out what the problem is, but he is obviously frustrated/ticked off.  Containers, plates, silverware, bowls - these trigger these "fits."  I know he has them other places, but restaurants are what come to mind as the obvious.

We had two different meals out with two different church families this weekend, and Bugaboo did really well.   The one fit he seemed to have was diffused quickly.

But tonight at small group he could not settle down. Random things ticked him off. Unknown things ticked him off. The Hubs took a shift at the beginning, and I took a shift at the end, and our small group and the hosts' dog tried to entertain him/keep him happy - which did work for a little bit.  They have prayed for his testing results which we had this spring, but since we are newer they don't know all of Bug's history.  At one point something was asked (kindly) about him or me or something, and I just started to cry.

I hate crying in front of people.

We have only been going to this church for a few months, and this small group even less. The tears wouldn't stop. I wasn't loud. I couldn't really talk. I just cried and said, "I'm sorry." I think I said a few other words.  The more I tried not to cry, the more the tears kept escaping from my eyes.

Tonight as I sat with my youngest in someone else's kitchen, I realized that I have a label.  "Special needs mom."  I'm crying even now as I type it - not out of anger or a sense of unfairness.  My tears are from frustration because I do not know how to always help my child.  I do not always know how to explain my child to others because I do not  understand it all myself.  I do not have a clue what the future looks like for my youngest. I'm crying because this motherhood thing, no matter what, is the hardest thing I've ever done, even if it is the most rewarding.

I went outside. I was doing okay watching the small group kids play kickball, and then the older ones helping the little ones do a few rounds of Simon Says.  No more crying, and Bugaboo was running up and down the length of the deck.  Then one of the ladies of the group came out.

She looked at me and said, "I get it."  Then she hugged me and I cried, "I'm sorry."

She repeated, "You don't have to be sorry.  I get it. I get it."

For a few minutes she shared life with me - she who has grown children just a bit younger than I am. And all I could say was, "Thank you."

As were loading up the car, another mom my age stopped me and gave me a hug and offered to help me one day this week. I tried to apologize again for my tears, but she stopped me and hugged me again.  And all I could say was, "Thank you."

Friday, April 26, 2013

five minute friday - friend

Joining with Lisa-Jo's community to write for five minutes on a topic. This week it is on the word "friend."


I remember the day I lost my first baby before the first trimester ended. After a long drive from Minnesota, I finally made it to my hometown, and you just happened to be there for a visit, too.  I don't remember if I talked to you on the phone, but I'm pretty sure my mom called you for me.  You drove over to my house that evening.  And we just sat in the living room that used to hold my birthday parties and science projects.  I have no idea what you said, but mostly I know we just sat in the quiet, you letting me grieve the way old friends know how to do. I remember tears, but mostly I remember that you were just there.  The timing of you and I both being in Illinois at that time was a God-thing amidst the event the felt not at all like a God-thing.

We play a lot more phone tag these days than actual conversations because unfortunately that is just life.  I need to do better.  You have been such a true friend for over two decades, and for that I am thankful.


Five Minute Friday

Sunday, April 21, 2013

what I think about (while The Hubs studies)

We have just a few weeks left of nursing school for the semester. I think we are all ready for summer.  I use we because even though it is The Hubs actually pursuing the nursing degree, it is definitely a joint effort - this newest twist/adventure in our lives.

He comes to bed around midnight at least half of the nights of the week. The Hubs has classes and clinicals, plus a job which involves paperwork at home and driving around three or four counties to counsel children or families. On the weekends once the kids are in bed, we veg out in front of the t.v. with a Redbox movie and the remaining Girl Scout cookies from the fridge. During our drive to church or before our heads hit the pillows, we still talk like we always have. Trying to solve the world's problems. Making ridiculous and hilarious statements in our sleep deprived states. Figuring out our faith as we feel the weight of being responsible for these two precious little boys.

One night a week or so ago I think I had already dozed off before he came to bed.
 "Are you happy?"  I heard him ask me.
"Good because I just want you to be happy."

And I am. Actually content is a better description.  Happy is so dependent on circumstances, and I am not happy every moment of every day.  However, I go to bed every night and sleep as peacefully as one can in this crazy mixed up world. I have peace. I have joy. I have hope.

I'm on a different part of my journey now. I'm almost certain that God is up to something. Same me, same faith, same life, but with some newness. Not for the sake of new, but for the sake of growth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


While we were eating dinner at Subway tonight, a man and his daughter came in.  She looked to be about eleven in the beautiful awkwardness that is eleven years old. Her clothes seemed like they were from last summer, as they didn't quite fit nor did they quite match. Her whole demeanor was just endearing.  I could not overhear much of what she was saying, but she was happy and animated and used her hands just enough while talking to her father.  The best part of the scene was he was listening to her. Intently. His attention was on her as they stood in line to order. I don't know if she was discussing white or wheat, or if she was telling him about playground drama, but I do know that he was listening. They both looked sincerely happy.

At ten-thirty tonight both of my children were finally asleep.  It had been a long evening. Across my computer screen I saw these words:

"Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise." (~ Andy Stanley)

linking with Emily

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

leaving soccer practice and realizing I am a snob

The last few weeks when I take Bugaboo to therapy, there is a woman in the pediatric waiting room.  In just a couple of visits she has shared much of her life story with me.  I know more than I ever wanted to about the delivery of both of her children. As we wait, I hear firsthand her phone conversations with her husband, who is a truck driver. After she hangs up, she summarizes for me the conversation I just overheard. Sometimes I just want to be left alone to check my Facebook while my kids play with the toys. But of course I do not tell her this.

Tonight I took Bubby to his very cold and windy soccer practice.  I had jackets, but no blankets or chairs.  More than once the couple next to me offered me one of theirs. But they smelled different, and their appearance was very different from mine. So I told them no thank you. They also shared some of their life story with all of the parents tonight.  I nodded and smiled in all the right pauses, and I froze my butt off on the hard ground.

The woman at the therapy center pulled a bottle of bubbles out of her purse to give my kids.  The couple at the soccer game not only cheered on their own son, but they encouraged everyone's child tonight during practice.

I realize what a snob I am sometimes.

I live on a side of town that gets judged by some people on the other side of town,. Every time it happens it angers me because I feel like being poor or having a small house doesn't define a person..  And yet, I define  people, not with my words but with my passivity.

Because I don't want to hear some stranger's story, I inwardly cringe each time it happens.  But then everyday I get online to read lots of strangers' stories and often do some over-sharing of my own. What if I paid as much attention to the woman in the waiting room with me as I did to someone I have never had an in-person conversation with? What if I did a better job engaging with the parents on the sidelines who may have just as much to insight to offer as that link a friend posted?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

a letter to my ten year old self

I've done letters to my college self, and my teenage self, so when I saw my friend Emily's link up to the topic of letter to my ten year old self, I almost passed.  BUT the majority of my teaching career I spent working with nine/ten year olds, and that is a fabulous age. AND this prompt challenged me a bit more than the other letter prompts have. ALSO go check out Emily's blog for other things - I am especially fond of her BPR posts. If you want to know what that is, you will have to go to her blog.

Dear Ten Year Old Amanda,

Ten was a really good age for you (for me?).  Things are about to get turned upside down in the next few months and years, so I would like to tell you to enjoy the moment, and hang on for what is up ahead.  You do survive AND THRIVE, but you are about to have your world turned upside down.  It will be okay. Eventually it will be okay, sweet girl.  Stay true to yourself and tune into Jesus. I know right now you know all about Him, but you don't really know Him.  You will. He is going to meet you when you least suspect it and most need it, and He will keep you going from then on.  You'll see.

Here are a few other things I would like you to know, right now, as you wrap up fourth grade:

  • Play kickball, knock-out, and kick-the-can every chance you get.  These will be some of your best memories.  You don't know it yet, but you are so lucky to get to grow up on 11th Avenue A riding bikes up to Franklin Elementary and the Dairy Queen.  Be kinder to your friends, and don't worry about getting a boyfriend.  Give Maggie an extra hug now and then - you'll know why in the future.
  • Don't worry about being tall or having big feet.  Your feet eventually stop growing - well until you have babies, then your right foot will decide to grow again. Yes, just the right one.  And yes, you have babies, but you don't end up naming them Dominick or Felicity.
  • Don't be in a hurry to stop playing with your dollhouse.  Yes, the one in the basement that is big and pink and has a heart that says, "Mandy" on it.  You have the rest of your life to read Seventeen, so don't start now.  Go play. Imagine. Create. Be a kid.
  • Keep writing.  I see you with your notebooks of stories and poems and diaries.  I love your boldness at sharing your thoughts with others through words.  In high school you will get discouraged by some teachers, but I hope you will realize they are just bitter old women who don't have a clue about writing from one's heart.  You will always be a writer, so I say this to you at ten just as I am saying it to myself right now - KEEP WRITING even if you are your only audience. 
  • You will ignore this piece of advice, and I understand why. It is about to be your only act of rebellion. Some teenagers drink or smoke or become promiscuous.  You will give up piano just because it is the only thing in your life you can control.  You will look back on this as one of your biggest regrets.  So please, don't stop taking piano lessons. (But when you inevitably do, don't beat yourself up over it in the years go come.)
  • Enjoy your friends.  Enjoy sliding down Alison's basement stairs in sleeping bags. Enjoy singing New Kids on the Block at slumber parties. Enjoy trying to knock each other off the teeter-totters at recess.  Your friendships will change as a teenager, but as an adult you will be able to reconnect with some of them via this awesome new invention called The Internet. 
  • Ten is the year you meet a new friend, Jane. She will continue to be your best friend even in adulthood.  You will see each other through life's crazy ups and downs.Ten is also the year you have the best teacher ever in fifth grade.  She will help you through a rough patch in your life, and you will want to become a teacher because of not just the wonderful things she does in the classroom, but because of the type of person she is.  She will also introduce you to the show "Voyage of the Mimi" which will be your first introduction to your future celebrity crush, Ben Affeck.
  • Be nice to your brother. Yes, he is annoying right now.  He will be annoying for a long time.  But you will grow up and realize he is actually pretty cool. You will be glad to call him friend, and you will be amazed at what a good uncle he is to your kids, one of whom ends up being his mini-me. Be nice to your mom, too.  You are going to yell and scream at each other a lot (more than you are currently doing), but she will always be one of your biggest advocates and will become one of your closest friends.  I know you don't believe me, but it's true.  And you know how she sings goofy songs at random times?  You will eventually start doing that. But you will never really catch on to making your bed every morning.
I think that is all for now.  Learn a lot. Don't be afraid to try new things.  Maybe try a new sport (yes, I know you won't take my advice on that one, but I had to try.)


(okay this is a sixth grade picture, but close enough!)

See also: a letter to my fifteen year old self,  a letter to my eighteen year old self, and my future self writes a letter

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

the way

One of my college friends came to speak in chapel at our alma mater today.  I packed a backpack of goldfish crackers, crayons, and sippy cups, and drove down the road to hear her.  Another dear friend drove from Oklahoma today for this event.  We sat in the balcony, me with my boys and she with her husband, and watched students file in, just as we did a decade ago. Except now they are allowed to wear shorts in chapel, which was a no-no when we were there.

The music started, and I didn't know any of the three songs that they sang.  We sang a lot of Shout to the Lord when I was there, but that didn't make the worship set today.  Our friend was introduced and we cheered loudly. I made sure to not stand up and shout,"Walther Second South!" as I once did at a pep rally. My youngest had a hard time during the message, so we sat in the hallway for half of it, but I could still hear. And I was so proud of the words Lisa shared, the person God has called her to be, the way He has changed her, the way He has changed most of us in the last ten years.

She only had about an hour after chapel to visit, but it was good catching up. Then Deb and I drove up the street for lunch and talked in person the way old friends do when they haven't seen each other in months.  We spent two hours filling in the details without having to give the back story of crazy family members, disappointments, challenges, exciting things yet to come.

Bugaboo had a hard time at lunch. He gets like that sometimes when we are out in public. He gets frustrated or he fixates on something, and his lack of communication skills means he screams/cries, and I am left feeling a little helpless as I try to calm him without much success.  My tears welled up over hamburgers during Bug's episodes. I felt embarrassed, sad and frustrated. My dear friend looked across the table a few different times today and told me, "You're a good mom.  You're doing a good job."  It meant the world to me.

A decade ago we were surviving living on a floor with thirty other young women.  We were eating ice cream in the hallway or ordering pizza on Sunday nights.  We were hurrying in from the cheap theater to make curfew on Fridays and regularly listening to Sara Groves as we contemplated what to do with our lives.  Where I am right now is not at all where I thought I would be ten years ago.  Some of it is exactly what I wanted, and some of it would have terrified me if I could have looked into the future back then.

Our floor was called The Way. My freshman year we painted a verse and other things on the walls.  Back then that verse didn't mean as much to me - it meant listening to God's voice about a major, a career, and hopefully a husband (didn't find mine there).  But today I sit looking at that old picture, "This is the way, walk in it."  This is the path God has for me right now - to be a mom to my two boys and to somehow make a difference in the world around me right in front of me.  God's voice doesn't just direct college students, He is still directing me, a decade later. "You're doing a good job. Keep walking."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

soccer games and styling gel

Bubby had his first soccer game (match?) this weekend.  It was adorable.  His team's first practice was cancelled this week due to weather, so shortly before the game (match?) the coach went over drills.  Let me just say that my son's shining moment was when they were stretching and counting to ten he kept counting "...eleven...twelve..."  We are counting on the academic scholarship, friends.

During the game my firstborn did some spinning, some gazing at the wrong side of the field, some pretend air-sword fighting with the coach's son, and had the chance to throw the ball in. There was a small bit of running after the ball.  I know nothing of the sport except that you kick the ball into nets, and you can't touch the ball with your hands.  I was glad to see that Bubby, unlike one of his teammates, at least understood the "don't pick it up" rule.  The highlight of the morning though was watching him run with one hand on his head. Why was he running this way?

His mommy spiked his hair this morning, and it was the windiest day ever.  Therefore my sweet boy was very concerned how his hair looked.  All. Game. Long.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

singing through disappointment

Sprawled out on my lap right now is my two year old. I feel him breathe, hear the soft, steady snore, and sense that his drool is seeping through my denim onto my knee. His hair reminds me of a baby chick - fluffy and sticking up all over the place. Some of it glistens with toddler sweat. He has crashed after an exhausting session of therapy today.

Genetics called me back after lunch with the results we have been waiting on for about a month. Normal.  A sigh of relief, but when I hit "end" on my phone the tears come. I grip the kitchen counter with both hands, and I can't stop crying. But I do. There are goldfish crumbs and pickle juice to wipe up, mouths to clean and Play-doh to get out.

I used to be an educator. My husband is a counselor switching over to nursing.  We know about labels.  We know the pros and the cons, the promises and the pitfalls.  But the label of  "unknown" or "undiagnosed" is just as hard. There is no "undiagnosed child awareness day" or ribbon for me to stick on the back of my car. And I know that these things don't really do much. Yet I also know that without a label, in a few months, as we hit three years old, we may be left without options for services.

Underneath the sadness and frustration of today's news, or really lack thereof, hope still rests. Like a seed buried in the dirt, I find myself thinking he may grow out of this.  We have no picture of future limitations because we have no label. And though I fear hoping, I continue to do so because I have greater fear of the absence of hope.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

In the other room, my preschooler is calling out, "Look at my train!"   As I step over endless wooden tracks, I will place my sleeping child in his crib and try to convince the awake one of the value of rest.  I will sing the song that has been my anthem - through miscarriage, through NICU stays, through heartbreak, through all of the unknowns, not as a coping mechanism but because I believe it to be true.