playing our song

My relationship with my husband didn’t begin in the most conventional way. We met in what was basically a religious cult, and grew to be good friends over time. Around five years later, he began to show some interest romantically, but I wasn’t feeling it yet. Another couple of years later, I finally came to my senses and we were married a year later. I definitely love my husband dearly, but I’m not what one would consider an overly touchy-feely soft and gooey person. I’m practical. I’m not all that into PDA and I’m definitely not a lovey romantic. I feel bad for him, because he is definitely a romantic in his way, but our relationship has always been one of best friends at the foundation with some romance sprinkled on top every now and again.

Way, way back in the beginning he began singing “our song” to me. Actually, he sang three lines of our song to me and then it would always trail off into humming. I’d never heard the song, and hand to god, I’ve always thought he just made it up. He’s always insisted it was a real song, but I had never heard anything that sounded remotely like it, and I just thought he was mixing up something he’d heard once upon a time and put his own spin to it- which was equally great to me. It’s a sweet little tune and early in our marriage he’d sing or hum it to me all the time. Now, it’s usually when he grabs me in the kitchen and slow dances me around or if he knows I need a little chuckle. Do you SEE what a loving romantic I’m married to and how it’s so sad that I’m such a cold fish?! Poor sap.

I’ve been noticing that as we’re getting older and the kids are growing up and life is settling down more, I definitely have become more sentimental and maybe even a little gooey – if only every great once in a while. This week; however, I fear I may have fallen head over heels totally, madly in love with this man. Smitten. Sixteen and a half years later, and he finally got to me.

A few weeks ago we were driving and all of a sudden I heard a very familiar tune. It was the song. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock! He just kept laughing at me and telling me he knew it was real. I was in such disbelief that I didn’t even listen to all the words, we just kept laughing and it was honestly just so surreal. Earlier this week, I flippantly mentioned that I wish I could hear the song again because I wanted to hear the actual words (still thinking he’d made up his own version, haha!)

Yesterday I was in the shower, and I hear him come in and start setting up his music. He always listens to music when he’s in the shower, and I never do. For a split second I was giving an eye roll that he was messing up my quiet time with his music. Then, I heard the tune. I opened the curtain to see him give me a little twinkle-eyed grin, and we both chuckled.  I stood in my shower listening to that song with tears streaming down my face.  It’s like that song was written for us. He’s been carrying around this song in his heart for seventeen years, and I’m just hearing it for the first time. I can’t explain why, but it’s exactly what I needed right now.

Our marriage has always been rock solid. We had to fight for it, and we’ve certainly had our share of battles to overcome over the years. They’ve always brought us closer, and we have always been best friends but sometimes the lovey romance gets lost in the shuffle. Hearing that song, and knowing that this is what he’s been singing to me in his heart all these years has left me in a puddle. It’s nothing short of a gift to my soul right now. Even after seventeen years, our love can be renewed and deepened by one simple act- one simple song. That’s probably the best gift I’ve ever been given. I didn’t even know I needed it, but it’s like a cold drink of water on the hottest day- just the fresh start that I needed for this season of our life.

Thanks to some guy named Sammy Kershaw for singing our song.

(I know that this is just a mush-fest display of affection that is super out of character for me, but I just needed to get it out there.)

it’s about to get real REAL around here

In an effort to undo approximately 12 years of all but ruining my children in the area of personal responsibility, I have recently launched Operation Grow Up. Don’t tell them. They don’t know about it yet. They think I’ve just turned into an evil witch determined to destroy their lives.

Okay, in all seriousness, my 16 and 13 year olds might be a teeny-tiny bit behind what some would advise for personal motivation and self-discipline. If there is one thing I am not going to release onto the world it’s people who can’t take care of themselves in a pinch. So, this summer we are going to work a little extra on some life-skills development. I’m already equal parts looking forward to it and dreading the ever-living shit out of it. I’m looking forward to imparting my vast wisdom of how to actually survive at life, and I am loathing the idea of how much push-back and whining is about to ensue. I’m sure some of the activities are going to be borderline fun for one of them, but I’m positive the fun isn’t going to last more than 5 minutes.

Here’s some things I’m planning to work on:
For the 16 (who plans to get a summer job, but at the very least will be babysitting for cash)

  • Apply and interview for jobs
  • Open and manage a checking account (yikes. I’m most scared of this one.)
  • Develop a personal budget and *fingers crossed* actually follow it
  • Learn to change a tire and other car/driver related things that I’m still working on
  • Email etiquette – practiced by taking over communication with college contacts!

For the 13 (who, up to this point, hardly cleans his room and unloads the dishwasher with any regular success. ugh.)

  • Learn to do laundry and begin doing his own from now till forever
  • Basic money management
  • Basic cleaning skills- things like strip, wash and replace sheets. sweep and mop (thoroughly!) and similar tasks.
  • Purchase gas and fill the car tank
  • Wash and clean cars – inside and out

Tasks to work on together (read also: learning better teamwork with people who think differently than you)

  • Meal planning, budgeting and shopping. I’m thinking Elle will be the boss and supervise Jordan, but I’m also wanting him to plan and execute a week of lunches and her a week of dinner.
  • Basic table and social etiquette
  • If we survive this, I will think of other similar tasks. 🙂

This might seem small and silly to some, but this will probably take all of my mental energy for the summer, ha! I just need these kids to realize a few things:

  1. The things that magically happen in their world on a daily basis while they’re at school or at play aren’t done by magical fairies. It’s hard and thankless work, and it requires sacrifice.
  2. Accomplishing those things also provides a great deal of personal satisfaction and pride in your work ethic if you do them well.

Cross your fingers for us. It might be a bumpy ride this summer.

first grade

I became a helicopter mom in the first grade. Okay, obviously I did not become a mother in the first grade, and we all know there were no helicopter moms in the 80’s, but the foundation was definitely laid that year. My destiny was determined by a series of unfortunate events and a skewed sense of reality.

You know how you have those weird memories of your childhood that are just a perfect snapshot, detailing every tiny nuance? If you ask me to provide that amount of detail about what I had for breakfast just this morning it would be impossible. Ask about the first grade Christmas gift exchange party of 1983, and I’ve got you. I think I’ve recounted parts of this story before, but my perspective on it has certainly changed over the past few years.

My first grade year started with Ms. Pam. She must have been pretty pregnant already, because by Christmas she was out on maternity leave. Miss Kelly came in as a long-term sub, and I’m just now realizing that these are the only two teachers I ever had that went by their first names. It must have been their youth. A short time before the holidays, I’m sure there was some announcement about a Christmas party complete with gift exchange. I remember drawing names for a fellow student to buy for, and the rule of a maximum price tag on the gift. I’m 99% sure my mom and I did the shopping the night before the party. I have no idea what I bought my classmate, or even Miss Kelly, but the gift for Ms. Pam is etched in my brain forever.

We wandered the aisles of Walmart for quite a while, searching for the perfect gift for Ms. Pam. I remember my mom asking me repeatedly how much we were allowed to spend on the gifts and my response being somewhere between $.50 and $5. I don’t know. It was certainly difficult to find something suitable in that price range. I’m sure I had the details wrong, whatever the number I came up with, because I just remember it being quite the ordeal to find that perfect gift.  Finally I found a tiny red candle that was in a white ceramic dish and smelled strongly of cinnamon. I think it had a lid with a heart or angel on top of it, but that part’s a little fuzzy. I remember being really excited to take it to the party and bestow it upon my teacher. I think she was the first pregnant woman I really knew, and she was magical to me.

The next day at the party, once all the gifts were exchanged and kids were bouncing around on sugar highs, I overheard the two teachers talking in concerned teacher voices. Being the ever curious child I was, I listened in to the conversation without their knowing. After hearing bits and pieces of their chat, I realized they were talking about me and the gifts I had brought to the exchange. Ms. Pam had received some very generous gifts, that even my six year old brain had deduced were NOT within the set price range- a handmade baby blanket being the one that stands out most. They were questioning my homelife and wondering what was going on and the stability of my family.

Well into my adulthood, whenever I recalled this memory I would get the same pit in my stomach. I felt embarrassed- less than the other kids, and that same red hot feeling of shame would wash over me. I hated those teachers. I hated them for making me feel like my gift was less than the others that they received. I hated that my mom wasn’t at that party when so many of the other moms were, and that I was left to just feel those feelings all alone. Later, I hated that she didn’t know the details and expected a six year old to know and how that ended up causing me a lot of hurt. And I still hate the smell of cinnamon candles.

A few years ago, when I looked back on that conversation between two teachers, I realized that they weren’t gossipping about a kid who couldn’t afford to bring a decent gift for the teacher.  They were having one of those conversations that concerned adults do when something seems off about a kid. They weren’t aware that I had misunderstood the rules of the exchange and told my mom that we couldn’t spend more on the teacher. They picked up on the fact that my mom, who was working no less than two jobs to support our severely messed up family, was most definitely not in tune with the goings on in the first grade. They saw past the precocious teacher’s pet and found a hurting little girl who was living in a world of alcoholism and abuse from a dad that wasn’t fit to care for a child, and a mom who was working so hard to put food on the table she didn’t have a clue about much of anything that was going on in my life.

Something happened to me in that stupid party, and for years and years of class parties and school events without a parent in sight after that. As seems to be the case with much of my generation, I swung so far in the opposite direction it might have become a little unbalanced. When my kids entered school, I was present for every single possible moment. I was working part-time, but I made sure that I was always there for every meet the teacher, class party, ice cream social, drop-off-to-pick-up moment. I would break laws to make sure I was one of the first parents to the pick up line and that no child would ever be forgotten or picked up late on my watch. Once I went to work full-time, I made sure Jim was on the same page. I would call him (and still sometimes do, much to his annoyance) to make sure he didn’t get so busy in his day that he lost track of time. When they were in daycare, I was a mess. I was neurotic to the point that I eventually quit working full time and became a work from home mom. The decision wasn’t consciously made because of my issues (Jordan really struggled in daycare,) but I’m pretty sure my neurosis did not help my children in any way. Once I was a full-time mom I volunteered in classrooms, chaperoned field trips, dropped off forgotten items, brought in birthday lunches and cupcakes, provided the BEST teacher gifts for every holiday and teacher appreciation day, did much of the work on science fair projects and on and on and on.  I got a little better in middle school, but I still volunteered more than the average parent. And then somewhere along the way, I just got really tired.

More recently than I’d like to admit, I realized that my behavior was just not okay. My kids don’t have the ability to grow if I don’t let them out of this tiny little pot I planted them in. They don’t live in a home where dad is abusive and mom can’t manage to take on any more responsibility. They are nurtured. They have security and stability. They just need more room to grow. Now I fear that my hovering tendencies have done too much damage and they will never leave this nest fully developed. Whenever I want to claw my eyes out in frustration that they seem unable to fully take responsibility for much of anything, I blame myself on a whole new level. Mom-Guilt is the actual freaking worst! Somehow we will all find our way through this, of that I am ultimately determined, but I’ve got to tell you- this really really sucks. Find a balance people. As early as you possibly can- find a freaking balance somewhere between that little girl at the gift exchange and wherever the heck we are right now. 🙂

 

 

reflections, eighteen

The past number of years, the exact amount I’m not even sure of – however long I’ve been writing- I sit down on a quiet December morning and write this post.  Just like this, I sit by the glow of my Christmas tree while everyone else is quietly, peacefully in their spot, and I write my reflection on the year as it wraps up. Many of these get filed away in the “my eyes only” folder. I’m not sure yet which folder this will get filed in – “public consumption”, “maybe later”, or “my eyes only” are the options.  It seems these days, “maybe later” is the winner, and later never actually comes. The day to day ramblings about the details of our lives became so personal that it seemed irreverent to just throw it out there for “public consumption” even though “in real life” I’m once again becoming about as public consumption as you can get. My time of hibernation and my “I can do it myself” attitude has drawn to a close this year, and I’ve never felt so free.

It feels right to just spaghetti throw this time of our lives against the wall of life and hope that it’s done enough to stick. Even as I type that, I know it’s not. So many things were begun in this year that are still incubating in our lives. It only feels right to note life’s benchmarks in their beginning stages, so I can look back and remember my thoughts as they were developing. This was not an easy year; in fact, it was the hardest I’ve ever survived. Jim and I have regularly alluded to this in vague facebook posts stating “so grateful to have the people we do supporting us as we face the hardest time of our life” and so on. We throw it around casually in conversations, “this is the hardest year EVER.” That’s really saying something, considering our life together has rarely been easy. We chose the least travelled path, and that thing’s a bitch to navigate.

This year began on its heels for me – as a daughter, as an adult, and as a mother. Days before Christmas 2017, I said goodbye to my mother for what looks to be the last time. I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my parents since I was about 12 or 13, which has only grown more toxic over time. My parents are good people; this is not about them not being good people. We are just not good together. I bring out the worst in them, and I don’t like who I am when I am caught in the dysfunction that is our relationship. After years of back and forth and uncertainty, on a rainy December day that was everything Christmas in Seattle, my mother’s last words to me were “you’re just a fucked up person with a fucked up brain and that’s all you’ll ever be.” I returned some nasty comment akin to “well you gave me this brain” and hung up the phone ashamed of what I’d just said, but sure of one thing: I really was done. No two people should bring those things out in one another- not over the course of twenty years of adult relationship. Despite our efforts, it seems we will never be able to heal a relationship that I’m not even sure how it became so damaged.

I was not an easy child. Actually, I think I was a pretty easy kid. I was most definitely not an easy adolescent. Life happened – abuse, divorce, moving ten or more times in so many years, more abuse, loss and so on. By the end of high school, I was falling apart mentally and emotionally and no one knew how much- definitely not me and probably not my mother. I was sent away to a place that hoped to provide some kind of guidance and future for a life that otherwise would have probably ended in drug abuse or suicide on my part. My parent’s last ditch effort at hope for a productive life ended up being a cult that eventually just did more damage in different ways.  By the time I was a functioning adult, the road between my mother and I was so full of potholes and dead ends, I’m not sure it ever had a chance of repair. We most definitely do not have the tools to make it so 1500 miles apart. I am a constant disappointment to my parents, and somehow they always seem to think I blame them for it. If I’m being honest with myself, it’s an enigma that I just don’t have the energy to unravel right now. It was better to just throw in the towel than continue to hurt one another to the depths that we did in almost every conversation we were having.  A day or two after that last phone call, I sent an email explaining this the best I could at the time. I described what I hoped would become a new way of relating for us- the “terms,” so to speak, of what an adult relationship could be for us. I never heard anything back. Message received. Twenty-Eighteen has been a year of mourning that loss, and discovery of the freedom that it weirdly brings in my life. It’s a double-edged knife that cuts and heals at the same time. I hate it, but it is truth. Just as so much in our life right now, it is in process…

A few months into the year, we began facing our next hurdle.  As I was looking back at my own teenage turmoil, Elle’s was also hitting its stride. Fifteen seems to be the witching year for the women in this family. Hormones, trauma, really shitty brain chemistry…I guess we didn’t stand a chance.  In April this year, Elle was admitted to our local Children’s Hospital in the Adolescent Behavioral Health unit, also affectionately known in our dark humor household, as the nuthouse.  She tried to commit suicide. Saying those words still takes the breath out of my lungs. My bubbly, sparkly, always shining child was hiding a pain that no one, not even her mother that knew all of her secrets (or so I thought,) knew about. When puberty kicked in for Elle, so did memories of a years-long childhood sexual abuse that we had no idea the magnitude of. Its affects on her was twisting a web in her mind that none of us could fathom, and the dark corner of her mind was starting to creep into places that we were oh so unaware of. What seemed to be the typical ups and downs of teenage hormones and attitudes began spinning out of control so quickly we couldn’t catch our breath- none of us. The day she came to me and told me we needed to go to the hospital is etched in my memory as only trauma can be. The sight of your child in the room of a children’s hospital wing that looks more like a prison cell with a bed in it than the weirdly comforting bed for sick people, will leave you shattered in a way I can’t describe.

It took Jim and I two days to tell anyone the depth of what was happening to our little girl. We could not bring ourselves to say the words out loud. He cried first- for a full day, and as soon as I knew he was okay, I cried. For mind-numbing hours we just sat and cried and questioned. How had we missed this? Why didn’t we know? What had we done wrong? How had we failed her? The feeling driving away from the hospital, leaving your baby in the care of someone that isn’t you, and not knowing for how long or what will happen next, is excruciating. It is a hot poker stabbed so violently into your bleeding gut that your mind can’t even compute the pain in words that could ever be uttered; and much worse, you know that no matter how much you are hurting in that moment, she is hurting more. It is literal hell on earth.

Eight months later, she glows again. She shimmers and shines and laughs and… she cries. She cries real tears- tears that communicate real feelings, real pain, real sorrow, sometimes even real joy. She is no longer dull on the inside, unable to face the feelings that consume her but make no sense. As much as I love hearing that belly laugh again, I love seeing the tears. It means she is allowing herself to feel. She is alive.

Oh, she makes teenager decisions that have greyed my hair ten years’ worth in six months. She is me. My mother always told me she would be – spoken as a curse and a revenge for the hours of worry and heartbreak that I caused her. She defies, she challenges, she is wild and free and stubborn and obstinate. She is me. Oh Lord, is she me. And she is Jim, thank all that is good and holy, she has just enough of him to keep me from killing her myself. And I. love. every. minute. Oh sure, there are days I ache for peace. For one moment, I just wish I could have peace- peace of which I haven’t experienced since… I don’t even remember. This is my new normal. Teenagers, they give you no peace. But I will savor the moments. I won’t allow my heart to grow so hard against them that I no longer have the strength to care. I’ll never throw in the towel for my kids. I’d rather have chaos and heartbreak than peace ever again, if that’s what it takes to be their mom. I’ll never give up on them. Never.

In the midst of the giant things, life has remained steady in the small moments. The day in and day out of monotony. As I began working full-time for the first time since my kids were tiny, things shifted in a way that we couldn’t have imagined. Jim’s role as “Mr. Mom” (I do SO hate that term!) Jim’s ever-evolving role as Dad has had him handling all the doctor’s appointments, to the tune of two days a week usually. It has taken his attention from work more than we like, so I recently moved to part-time. If this doesn’t go well, we are resigned that our family of “extra needs” just wasn’t cut out to have a working mom for now.  We’ll know for sure in a few months where that’s going.  For now, I am beyond fortunate to work for a company that has made a way for me to make this work. I can’t begin to describe how grateful we are. But I hate working. I’m a mom to the core of me, and even though my kids need me far less than they ever have as their caregiver, they need me so much more than ever as their partner. This is the time in their lives that I want to be there to walk alongside them as they navigate life. However that works out, I’m hopeful that this season of life is at a great turning point for them- for all of us.

Jordan… oh this kid. He has been a champ this year considering all that has transpired. I’ve gone from doing every little thing for him to shouting orders from my desk in between phone calls as he gets ready for school. (I work from home, but am chained to my phone/desk during my work hours.) He is embracing growing into his new responsibility about as much as you’d expect…begrudgingly. And yet, he succeeds. This kid, who relied on a regimented schedule the military would be envious of, is learning to go with the flow. A phone call ten minutes before school lets out that he’s going to have to take the bus home no longer results in a meltdown. He takes the bus. This kid who needed help getting his pants on in the morning now fully dresses himself AND TIES HIS SHOES (most of the time.) This kid…this kid is going to be okay.  He is a quiet storm, but I think in a good way. This year, the focus will be on him. Puberty is going to begin at any second. I feel it brewing, and I am terrified. Please be thinking of him this year…God help us I’m not sure I’ve ever been more scared of anything. hahaha.

Twenty-Eighteen was a hard one- in ways I’m sure I still don’t even recognize. The one thing that it brought me, its gift to me that I didn’t even realize I wanted or needed, is my need for my people. We had been visiting Elle during our one-hour of visitation on the second or third day she was admitted in the hospital. In the car ride home, I looked at Jim and asked if he’d talked to anyone yet. We both expressed how we didn’t even know who to turn to. It’s not that we didn’t have people in our lives that we could talk to- my best friend of over twenty years lives ten minutes away, she would have been here in five if I had called her. My in-laws are minutes away as well. We have a tribe, and they are dear to us. We just forgot how to need them. We have been fighting battle after battle for our sixteen years of marriage. It has NEVER been easy. I don’t know what the hell we’re doing wrong, but we don’t ever choose the easy road. Somehow along the way, we linked our arms together, put our heads down to charge into battle, and never looked up. We were fighting alone, the only way we knew how. For the past several months, I have slowly started to look up, and what’s even better, around. My people, the ones that matter- the ones that have been through countless battles with me before, they’re still here. Still ready to link their arms with mine and hold me up when I can’t stand any longer. They are a gift of which I can’t comprehend. They are truly my tribe.

It may have taken literal hell on earth to remind me of what true, unconditional love and friendship means this year, but I will never take it for granted again. We all go through battles in our lives, and we all do it in our own way, but I don’t think we should ever do it alone. We may have to cut away the things that weigh us down to make room for the things that move us forward, but I think that’s okay. It’s scary and hurtful and HARD, and I admittedly don’t understand the whole of what that means right now, but for now…it’s healthy and right.

As I look forward, I hope twenty-nineteen is kinder and more gentle to us. I am hoping for new life. As those around me assign a word for their new year, a goal that they plan to achieve or a principal to live by, I assign a hope. Sometimes you don’t have the energy for a goal, but hope never fails.

mama bear

It’s midnight and Jordan has been asleep for three hours. In that time, he’s sleep-walked into the living room where Jim and I were watching TV twice. Each time there was a sense of panic in his eyes and he was talking about whatever dream he was experiencing through tears and the obvious confusion that comes when you’re walking around dead asleep. As funny as his sleep-walking and talking can be at times, this one has left me feeling gutted. 

It’s been a tough week for him. He was sick earlier in the week, but then he got well enough to attend a going-away sleepover party last night for a friend who is moving. It was a big step for both of us- his first sleep over with more than very close family friends and definitely his first large group sleepover. It wasn’t the best experience for him- some of the kids were very rude and treated him unkindly- but I was so proud of how well he did. The mama bear in me wanted to go and do what mama bears do when he told us how things went, but Jim and I know that this is part of life for all kids. We just need to do our part to teach him how to maneuver this time in life and trust that he’s going to be okay. (Within reason. I’m still me and can still go full on mama bear when I need to.)

After we picked him up from the party we went to a family BBQ with lots of people, stimulation and more opportunities for his anxiety levels to rise. The BBQ was at a house on a small cove on the lake, and Jordan’s big sis and her friend floated out into the cove on a giant float-toy. Jordan decided to go in the kayak to “rescue” them and, even though he’s gotten into that dumb kayak 20 times without tipping it, he just couldn’t do it today and kept tipping it over. It was so frustrating for him, but he was trying to rush so much to go and save the girls. He didn’t like them being out there without a rope or way to get back in. Some of the family was watching him struggle to get into the kayak, and of course it was comical, but to him it was far from funny. I could see his struggle- wanting to rush to get out there, feeling everyone watching, being so embarrassed that he kept tipping over. It was just an overall tough time, but again, Jim and I were so impressed with how he handled himself and how he bounced back so quickly. 

When we got home, he was so exhausted he just conked out. It’s been quite a while since he’s done a lot of sleep walking. I know being as tired as he was is a big part of it, and anytime he’s had a lot of anxiety he’s really a sleep talker. I can’t get the kid to give me three sentences about his day while he’s awake, but if he’s sleep talking I know it was a doozy. 

After his second time up tonight, we couldn’t get him to settle down enough to get some peaceful sleep, so I just decided to go to bed with him and try to keep him calm. In the time it’s taken me write these few paragraphs, he’s wrestled around three times and told me “We just can’t stay here any more. These people are not okay!” “We have to go. They don’t want us here and they’re just going to keep hurting us,” and “It doesn’t matter how nice you are to them, they will just keep trying to hurt us. This is a horrible place!” This is the same thing he’s been saying for the last two hours. 

I don’t know what he’s dreaming about, but as I lay here comforting him the knot around my heart just keeps tightening as the tears stream down my face. Maybe he’s dreaming about a video game. Or maybe the tension and anxiety from the last few days while he’s been holding it together so well are finally finding a way out. 

I know that nothing that has gone on in his world is so horrible. Kids feel left out at parties all the time. And I can’t count the times I felt the red heat of embarrassment creep over my face when someone laughed at a clumsy mistake I made as a kid- or even as an adult. This is life. But when you’re an incredibly sensitive kid managing more in life than the average person, it just sucks a little extra. And when you’re the mama bear of that kid, you just feel a little extra mama bearish too.  

Here’s hoping the nightmares end and peace can settle on his tired soul tonight. 

every little thing…is okay

Jim and I were in a new doctor’s office the other day answering an hour and a half interview about Jordan.  I’ve lost count of how many doctors we’ve had these conversations with at this point. Much less than some people I know, but more than I care to think about…six, eight? I don’t know.  We get to the part where they ask about his birth.

“Was it an exceptionally stressful time?” Is there really part of the last 15 years that wasn’t exceptionally stressful? I can’t remember.

“Was it a typical birth?” As typical as a planned C-Section is, yah.

“Was there any concerns immediately after delivery?”  Well, his initial APGAR scores were low and it took forever for him to cry, but within a couple of minutes no one was worried anymore.

Jim chimes in.  It wasn’t that long, babe. It was all less than a minute; it just seemed really long.

He and the doc share a knowing glance…

Well, here we are again. Me trying to come up with reasons that force it all to make sense.  I could see on the doctor’s face, this isn’t new to him. I’m sure moms everywhere are trying to put their finger on the WHY, even after we know there’s no way of knowing the why, or maybe the why isn’t a why but more like 50 whys. Or there’s no why at all.

But I want a why. I want to blame something. someone. even if that someone is me, that’s okay.  I get tired and I want answers, so then I can finally fix it. I’m a fixer.  It’s really the worst thing you can be when you have a kid who isn’t always typical, because…there’s just no fixing some things.  And then you feel guilty for even thinking that your perfectly amazing child would ever need fixing.  And so the cycle goes.

These past few weeks have been a little more challenging than normal.  Not with Jordan; he’s actually excelling, I think.  It’s been challenging just within our family as a whole. Finances are tight, as they are this time of year: recovering from the holidays, paying for sports fees and gear, a huge car repair bill – the usual stuff.  But the usual stuff sometimes feels more stifling when you’re a one income family.

Years ago, we made this decision. We will sacrifice financially so that I can be there for both of the kids in the needs that are unique to them.  There have been times when I’ve gone back to work when we really needed it, or when we thought the kids were ready, but then realized maybe they weren’t. I’ve owned and run successful businesses from home, but it always ends with us feeling like the kids are taking a back seat and that I need to focus on them.  It’s hard – finding that balance. It’s hard for everyone.  I think, and I’ve heard from others too, it’s even harder when your family is a little more than typical.

Studies say the average family with a special needs kid spends $17,000 more per year than other families. Co-Pays and prescriptions alone add up to more than half of that in our family (never mind deductibles that I don’t even want to think about.) Then you have therapy expenses, special purchases, and the truck loads of kinetic sand and silly putty I’m constantly searching for, and…you get it.  I’d say $17k is the understatement of the year.  Sometimes I just have to acknowledge these things to keep perspective.  Sometimes I just need to tell myself it’s okay.

It’s okay that I don’t bring in $60k+ per year like most of the women my age and with my background.  It’s not time for that.  It’s okay that sometimes money gets tight and the only explanation I have for that is that “shit gets hard sometimes and we just have to get through it.”  It’s okay to feel suffocated by all of the needs and demands and “I DON’T FUCKING KNOW RIGHT NOWs.”  It’s okay.

It’s okay to not have the answers.  It’s okay to need to cry when no one is looking for no reason other than I can’t stop the tears from falling.  It’s okay to be sitting in a therapist’s office answering intake questions about my son and suddenly realize everyone in the room knows that I’m probably the one that most needs the therapy.

This is being mom to someone that needs more than the “average” kid. Whatever that means. And we’re all okay, or at least we will be after a hot bath and a good cry.

 

 

 

 

the best /adult/ part of the season

Every year Jimmie and I host an adult only Christmas party full of shenanigans and with a ridiculous theme.

See…shenanigans.
shitters-full-pic

We used to host it at our house. (This pic was at our house during the “Christmas Vacation” themed party. I would never allow myself to wear pants that uncomfortable and, quite frankly, UNFLATTERING out in public- and we won’t even talk about Jimmie.)  A few years ago, the party outgrew our house.  We wanted to keep up the tradition, and wanted to make it open for our friends to bring their friends, so we created the Annual Christmas Crawl.  You guys, this event is quite honestly the best thing you can experience in your life, if you like to have fun.  It’s ridiculous on so many levels I can’t even tell you.

What’s a Christmas Crawl, you say?  Quite simply, it’s a pub crawl through the most amazing dive bars in our neighboring small town you can imagine, right in the middle of the most stressful time of year.  Every bar has a challenge or activity and it’s just seriously the most fun you can have within the law (mostly.)  This year’s “guests” topped out at around 60 people when everyone was actually present and accounted for.  There was a lot of wandering aimlessly by some people and a few “oh my god, does anyone have eyes on _____” a few more times in the night, so I don’t think we were ever all actually together.  Grown ups have a lot of stress around the holidays, and an adult night that isn’t spent with your work people, your family or your kids, tends to get a little bit rowdy.

The beauty of the Christmas Crawl, is that it’s an open invite for anyone and everyone. We start by inviting our friends, and we all but beg them to invite their friends.  Like most people our age, we have friends from a lot of different circles of our life. Everyone from family members that we love hanging out with, to friends from our kids’ schools or sports teams to neighbors to the “how did we even meet?!” friends.  This means, the friends of friends crowd is even more diverse and eclectic.  It’s amazing!

We start the night an awkward group of people that loosely resemble middle-schoolers lined up on the opposite sides of the gym at our first school dance, and end the night with some dude you don’t know nestled in your bosom while your husband holds him up and his wife swears he’s been roofied because this is SO out of character (and it truly is.)  It’s truly the most magical time of the year. This year was especially amazing, because around stop number three or four, we just starting adopting people from the bar into our group.  We seriously made friends with a guy who Jim and I immediately made our Facebook friend and decided was now part of our family whether he likes it or not.  He’s front and center of our group photo from the night, as he should be!
christmas-crawl-group
(This is just a sample of the group, hopefully small enough to protect the identities of the innocent.)

This year’s theme was holiday/festive pajamas.  Jimmie was Olaf and I had some ridiculous winter onesie on.  It was…epic. I tried to think of any other word to use because that one is so done, but that’s really all I’ve got. Jimmie in a giant, white, fictional snowman pajama suit can be nothing less than epic.  Most of our friends got into the spirit of it all, and those that didn’t were wishing they did by the end of the night (whether they admit it or not.)

olaf-christmas

EDIT- Jim just read this and demanded I add funny details for everyone to experience…

My favorite part of the night is a little game I like to call drink or dare. It’s full of stupid challenges that intend to 1) break the ice among strangers and 2) embarrass as many people as possible. Some of the challenges are mild: high five every person in the bar, call everyone “Chief” for half an hour and take a selfie with a stranger are a few of my faves. Other challenges are a little silly: every time you laugh pump your arm like Tiger Woods…you get the drift. My personal favorite was “go caroling with a group of friends.”  Imagine your family sitting in a cute little pizza place and a group of strange, possibly drunk, men coming around in their pajamas singing Christmas carols. That happened. And here’s a little video of a small part of those events…


One of our friends was dressed in a Rocky onesie. Everywhere we went he sang the theme song and raised his arms like the champ. Everywhere. And then there was our group Santa Clause. This little outfit is probably illegal in most states. 


I’m honestly not sure why the town of puyallup even allows us to keep doing this year after year. We are complete menaces. 

Probably the most fun event of the night is the photo scavenger hunt. Here’s a pic of the challenges…


It’s amazing what total strangers will do for you to help you win a stupid scavenger hunt that has no real prize. 

I have no other point to make except to tell you that you need this in your life.  Start planning it now. Make a reason to get all of your friends together for something like this- or however best fits into your life.  It’s the best grown-up part of our holiday season.  We walk away amazed at the friendships and love that we have in our life.  Wishing you the same joy and love in your holiday season…