Thursday, February 27, 2014

Co-Parenting: The Silent Partner

There is a new show called "Raising Fisher" or something like that.  Have you seen it?  I missed the pilot but got episode 2 on my DVR.  It was pretty funny and cute and made me feel good when the entire family was sitting around a candle lit dinner eating takeout smiling and laughing with each other.  What a picture perfect family. 

But wait. 

That couple had just gotten divorced. 

Say what?!?!

That picture doesn't look anything like what I have seen in broken marriages and relationships.  In fact, the image that media wants to put off about perfect co-parenting families really boils my blood (Trophy Wife?!?!).  Show me a real life situation where things are that hunky dory and maybe I will have a glimmer of hope.  

I usually see the situation between me and Michael's dad (D), as very positive.  In reality it's not positive at all - unless the fact that we don't argue is considered positive. 

It's impossible to argue with someone if they won't talk to you.  

Every Thursday I call D to ask about Michael's week.  I want to know about school, his friends, did he get to do fun stuff like go to a movie or visit his grandparents house?  I want to know what his life is like at his dad's house and have some pointers on how to talk to Michael when I pick him up.  This curiosity seems normal to me.  But.... maybe it's not? 

D NEVER calls me.  I'm lucky if I get a text saying Michael is sick and staying home from school.  D has not called once this entire school year to find out about Michael's week with me.  This tells me D doesn't care.  Maybe D wants to pretend that Michael doesn't actually have a life over here? I really don't know. 

Every once in a while the four of us sit down for dinner: both sets of parents.  Sounds nice right?  And it is.  On the surface.  We smile and chit chat and order drinks and food.  They offer to pay sometimes as long as we don't order alcohol.  Their beliefs tell them alcohol is wrong so instead they order root beer and mountain dew.  They always leave my one margarita on a separate bill for me and Mr. Sexy to pay for.  It's awkward.  But it's also stressful.  So I always try to ask the server to throw in some extra tequila.  Wink wink. 

Then we talk about Michael.  School.  His friends.  His behaviors.  Then we brainstorm.  Oh, wait, I'm laughing too hard.  I brainstorm.  Mr. Sexy brainstorms.  D and his wife don't usually have anything to say on how we can improve our co-parenting relationship or how we can guide Michael through his struggles.  It's nice that they always agree to our ideas.  It's not so nice that a week later D tells me they won't do it.  I'm completely fine with new ideas on how to parent.  I'm even fine knowing he is going to be parented completely differently at his dad's house. 

I am NOT fine with his dad and step-mom telling me one thing and then "changing their mind" once they walk out of the restaurant.  

I know things could be worse.  Voldemort is a great example.  It's just that things could be better as well.  So much better. 

The facts are: 

D and his wife are good people.  They love Michael.  They are nice - as far as I can tell.  

Mr. Sexy and I are good people.  We love Michael.  We are nice, too.  

So why can't we just get along like they do on TV?!?!  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To Wean or Not to Wean?

That is the question.

And we all have answers!

The interesting thing is that they are all different!

With my first, Michael, I was planning to breast feed for at least six months.  That date quickly moved
to one year.  I loved breast feeding.  The connection I felt with him was powerful and comforting for both of us.  I was also a single mom although I did date his dad during a portion of Michael's first year.  Michael's dad had a lot of family in the area and they seemed to always be around and they ALWAYS wanted to hold the baby.  I think this is why I hoarded our nursing times.  Every two hours on the dot I just had to take him from which ever auntie or grandma and hide in a private, quiet room for a good 40 minutes.  It was our hideout.  We got to reconnect.

I did, however, have some issues where I almost lost milk.  Working full time and then getting  very sick on top of that did nothing good for my milk supply which never seemed to fully come back.  So by the time Michael hit one year his dad was ready for Michael to stay with him overnight.  His theory was  that since my goal was one year, that goal has been hit, let's move on.

On one had I was ready to move on.  The weaning happened like a snap and he had his first overnight with his dad.  I'm not aware of any crazy emotional stuff that went on for either of us.  I am thankful that the transition was smooth.

The hardest part was transitioning to one overnight stay with his dad per week.  Then two.  Then three.  And now our schedule is week on, week off.  There is no right or perfect way to co-parent just like there is no right or perfect way to wean or when to teach your kid that bumps and bruises happen when they jump off the couch.

My experience breast feeding Deani has been significantly different.  I have really enjoyed it and was looking forward to it throughout my entire pregnancy.  But now that she is 11 months I would be perfectly happy to be done.  I think this speaks to the stability I have in my family and in my marriage.  I get to be home with Denai all day: cranky, happy or otherwise.  By the time Mr. Sexy gets home she is his until bedtime.

I plan to wean in about a month but I don't think I will do it cold turkey.  I will probably just gauge how she is doing, how I am feeling and go from there.  If she is ready to be done with a snap, well, so be it.  I still get to spend all day with her.  No love lost.  If she wants to nurse before bed for a few months, well, maybe.

I've got to be honest here.  I'm looking forward to being able to have a few beers and not be concerned with my breast milk!

Linking up with Wifessionals today!

A Beautifully and Wonderfully Made Me

At the bottom of my recent blog post, Journeying Towards Acceptance, is a beautiful picture of my daughter and I on my wedding day.  That picture used to hang, framed, just outside her bedroom door.  It was a reminder of who we are to each other regardless of the bumps along the road: mother and daughter.

This morning that frame is shattered and the photo ripped in 6 pieces.

Trying to live up to the image of being all-loving, forgiving and understanding is an impossible feat.  For me, at least.

The broken photo is my favorite of us.  We are both beautiful, smiling and happy with our worlds.  But that still-frame in time doesn't show the endless chaos that takes place as our worlds collide daily.  Moment by moment I make a choice:  Will I be calm, understanding and loving in my reaction?  Or will I allow anger to take control?

Today my anger focused in on one smiling woman and a happy girl.  Today those two people don't exist.  At least not together.

I believe in demons and angels that walk around with us and whisper ideas into our minds.  I believe in a heaven and a hell and in God and in Satan.  I believe that through even the slightest opening of a door evil can slither in and we are none the wiser until that evil reproduces itself over and over making its presence impossible to ignore.  Much like weeds.  I hate pulling weeds.  So when they're tiny, harmless, barely there, I ignore them.  What I should do instead is pull them out because they have no roots yet.  But wait awhile and their roots will grow.  I have come across some weeds so large and deeply rooted I couldn't pull them out even with all my strength.  That's when I realize I need to call for help.

I had to ask for help once.  A few months after being married my life changed and I learned things about myself that have changed me forever.  That's a tough story to tell and not one for today and probably not for a very long time.

It's been a long road since then and we have come so far as a family.  I began the process of learning to separate emotional lies from Biblical truths.

One huge realization that took way to long to figure out is that I don't hate Marie.  I don't even dislike her.  It's quite the opposite actually.  But does that make sense next to how angry I feel towards her when she acts out yet again?  No, it doesn't.  It makes absolutely no sense at all.  

Anger is my go-to emotion.  It's strong and powerful so that it easily clouds my true emotions.  The ones that are okay to feel and even embrace at times.  Such as disappointment.  But as I am feeling disappointed every single day, well, that emotion gets drab.  Anger, on the other hand, well I can really feel anger.  It awakens all my senses and makes the cold house feel incredibly hot.  I can feel the semblance of control as I hear power coming through my voice and I can see the effects that has.

But how is any of that positive and good for my family?  For my husband?  My kids?  What about the baby, the most innocent of any of us.

I really wanted to stop the line of anger issues with me in my family.  I wanted to learn to be better and show all of my kids what Jesus' love looks like.  But that's not what's happening.  Even if I'm not using words, my eyes can say so much.

Today I am feeling very beaten down.  I'm upset because that is so different from the past few days of feeling accomplished, optimistic and like a grade A parent.  Like I have said before, when I get lazy in the fight Satan attacks.

I've been to counseling a lot through my life but there is only one guy that I really liked because he helped me see things about myself that still stick with me.  Here's what he had me do:

First, I drew a picture of myself and drew/wrote what I liked about me.

Then, on a paper protector (plastic sleeve thingys), I wrote everything negative that I saw in me in black marker.

Well, when you put the black marks over everything that is good and true about me it's awful hard to see all that good stuff.  In fact, I couldn't read any of the words or see any of the pictures.  It was all a jumbled mess.  This is what shows.  What I see, what others see, what shows best, are the black marks.

 When I look in the mirror I tend to see a beautifully, wonderfully made woman overshadowed by black marks of sin.

Isn't this something we all do?  Isn't this what causes rifts in relationships?  I can rarely get past those black marks in other people - even in my own family.  My parents, relatives, my kids, myself, my friends.

The flip side is that we each can have Jesus who sees the black marks but He can erase those, piece by piece so others can see what he sees.  The beautifully and wonderfully made person in the mirror.

So today, that's my prayer.  All my reflection shows are the black marks and I see too many to count.  Today, before I go to sleep, I have hope that Jesus will erase just one of those marks so that a small piece of the beautifully and wonderfully made me will shine through.  One shining light in the midst of the dark.

Disclaimer:  The picture was shattered against a wall when no one else was around.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Just Chattin

I came across a really wonderful blog post today (Lisa-Jo Baker) and I realized I was in the process of writing a blog post in her comment section!  So I sent in my comment and realized I have more to say about this topic!

God has called me to do the unthinkable: Homeschool my 12-year old step-daughter who has down syndrome.  I also have two other kids with aspirations of one or two more.  

My life is crazy and a lot of times incredibly overwhelming.  Some days I just need to have a good cry on my husband's shoulder - and the tears always start over something silly (like an American Idol song. No joke). Every day is full and every day I am being stretched far beyond a capacity that I thought possible.  

Insecurities tell me I am not good at homeschool and I do a poor job of being a mom.  But I just have to remember that's not truth.  And I tell myself: "I think that's not true.  Actually I'm pretty sure that's not true.  Honestly, there is now way that's true!" God put me here in this season for His purpose.  That's good enough for me. 

'Nuff said.  And actually I didn't touch this from copying it from my comment.  I guess I said all I needed to say...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Journeying Towards Acceptance

I'm linking up with Kaitlyn today for her Friday series:

My daughter doesn't have Asperger's.  But she does have a disability: Down Syndrome.  

Also, biologically, she is not my daughter.  This would would make me her step-mother and I have only been in her life since she was eight years old.  

Step-mother. Step-mom.  Mom.  Mommy.  Mother.  Caregiver?   

Who am I? 

In Marie's world, I am her mother and there is no other.  Even after meeting her biological mother a few months ago Marie still has one mom.  That's me.  

And if I'm being honest with you, sometimes that down right pisses me off.  

See, I wasn't supposed to be her mommy.  I was supposed to be her step-mommy.  I had aspirations to be the best, too.  And before V (bio mom) left town three years ago, I was the best.  I looked past all the weird things Marie did all the time.  She has down syndrome for crying out loud.  I didn't even know what that was until I met Mr. Sexy and worked up the nerve to ask him about it.  Then I had to do research.  Lots and lots of research.  

Four years later I still don't understand down syndrome.  I still don't understand Marie. 

Well, I became Marie's full-time mom just a few months before Mr. Sexy and I married.  Towards the end of the school year Marie lived with me and my son in my two-bedroom apartment while Mr. Sexy lived with my parents two hours away so he could work until the wedding.  During those months leading to our wedding day I wrote Mr. Sexy three letters at three different times, each one giving him an out to our engagement.  I felt like I was going through hell and we weren't even married yet.  How was it going to work to become a loving family?  

In my letters I poured out my heart leaving nothing to the imagination.  I told him how I yelled at her and made her cry as my non-understanding of her was the gateway to anger leading me down a very dangerous path.  I have spent the past three years learning that my anger is not at Marie but with something else.  She just happened to be an easy scapegoat.  
God has been hard at work in my family.  And so has Satan.  There is a constant tension and when I relax Satan attacks. 

This next line is hard for me to admit and believe in my heart and believe in my head as truth: 

Marie is teaching me every day. 

When I'm too hard on her because she is not putting dishes away correctly, she is later able to smile, hug me and forgive me.  When I'm beyond frustrated at the fact she ate more inedible stuff and I lash out with a tongue of fire, she will later accept my apologies and return with her same love and affection.  

Bottom line: She loves me.  As much she doesn't understand me, she loves me. 

For a long time I thought I hated her.  Her differences were in my face, taunting me constantly.  I thought I disliked her so much that I would wish V would come back and whisk her away.  Then I joined an amazing support group and was able to talk openly with other women who understood how I felt.  The encouragement and truths they told me stunned me, motivated me, and gave me hope. 

"You obviously love her very much" is a comment I received so many times.  At first I shook my head (isn't that awful) and was taken aback because love was not what I was feeling.  As I heard this phrase from my friends over and over again I began to see the truth behind the words. 

I wanted her to succeed in life and when she didn't I was disappointed which looked like anger instead.  I wanted her to stop peeing the bed because she was getting a rash from the pee and it looked like it hurt.  I wanted her to stop binge eating in the middle of the night because one day it will make her overweight and sick.  I wanted her to stop chewing her fingers because it made her look weird to her classmates.  I wanted her to talk in sentences because friends and strangers weren't able to communicate with her well.  

I wanted a huge list of things for her.  But in my eyes she fell short over and over and over.  
Finally the darkness covering how I see her is starting to lift.  I actually think our new endeavor of homeschooling is causing relationship change in a positive way.  Now Marie and I spend all day together.  All day.  A year ago I was happy if she spent all day in her room after coming home from school.   Now we talk all day and I am teaching her things.  I am learning how her mind works and am challenged constantly to find new ways of getting information to make sense to her. 

We still have our off days.  She still likes to find random stuff to eat (and we are working on this).  She still pees the bed if we don't wake her up through the night.  

I'm finally starting to see her for HER apart from the down syndrome.  In my mind she used to be a walking Down Syndrome.  I know that's wrong and terrible to even think, much less voice out loud or on the internet where anybody can take my words and misinterpret them.  But it's the truth.  For so long I have struggled to see past the appearance.  Now, years later, I'm finally starting to see her heart.

Marie amazes me at every step of life.  It's hard for me to accept that God placed her and I in each other's lives for a purpose that will and already does bring him glory.  Our story isn't about me, or her or my amazing family.  It's about His Story.  I am lucky to have a part in it. 

Step-mother. Step-mom.  Mom.  Mommy.  Mother.  Caregiver?

So who am I really?   

Logistically I'm her step-mother and I accept that title on paper.  Emotionally, however, I finally accept my earned title of Mother.  

Naked Vulnerability

A dear friend sent me a text over the past week asking for prayer for her one-year old baby girl, her first born, because she had her second seizure.

I'm guilty of not always following through on my promises to lift others up in prayer even when I'm specifically asked.  It's interesting.  It's almost like I have to push myself to break down some invisible barrier just to send a few words up to Jesus.

 Prayer should be the easiest thing ever.

For me, right now, it's just ... not.

That day, however, I pulled that elusive barrier down, shut my eyes, and began to tell Jesus about my friends.  It didn't take long for my throat to get tight, my eyes to well up and I had to stop.

Prayer seems to make life become a reality.

Reading a text can sometimes be like reading a line from a book or a poem or a tweet.  It's easy to detach emotionally.  So when I let my friend's words sit in my heart and whisper through my lips, the weight of reality set in.  I found myself vulnerable and unsure about the future.

Talking to Jesus has become an elusive past time that is now filled with insecurities and doubts.

Blaming the choices I have made, such as a choosing to homeschool, is not the answer.

My reality is that I have let go of the fight.  At some point I started to relax and something told me everything was fine and would continue to be fine.  No, actually something told me things would be better.  I just needed to relax.  All that relaxing has led to higher tensions, flashes of an angry heart and someone who is giving off the portrayal of being beaten down by life.

Well hell no.

The elusive "something" will not be allowed to control me any more. 

Talking to Jesus about my friends, my kids, my burdens and even my joys opens up my heart to His unfailing love and faithfulness.  The weight lifts yet  it feels like an unwelcoming naked vulnerability.  At first.

With time, practice, faithfulness and hope, I will give  Jesus my heart piece by piece.  I will find that as I learn to take refuge in Him, again, I will be steadfast and beautifully vulnerable.

Yesterday I prayed for my friend.  Today I will pray for me.  Naked vulnerability awaits.    

Friday, February 21, 2014

5MF: The Lies I Hear

Five Minute Friday5 minutes of unedited writing on the subject: Small

Yesterday the pediatrician told me that my baby girl is too small.  "Significantly underweight" is what she said. "Malnourished" is what I heard.  "Bad mother" is what went through my head.  "Failure" is what I felt.

Lately emotions have been hitting hard everywhere I turn.  The pediatricians office, an innocent comment from the sick hubby, a stupid comment on facebook, even American Idol!  It's ridiculous.

This week has been a hard one full of sickness and managed stress.  Mr. Sexy took three days off of work due to the plague.  That was 3 days of taking care of all 3 kids, attempting to keep everyone eating food and not throwing it back up, homeschooling Marie and I even attempted to chop firewood for the first time ever.  I was channeling my inner Olympic Champion this week.

Needless to say, she did not come out during the wood chopping ceremony.

When the pediatrician basically told me my baby girl was too small I was once again in a vulnerable state.  Denai's 4 shots she had a few minutes later didn't help this.

Mr. Sexy is good to repeat back positivity in opposition to my tender heart.

"You are a great mother."

"Denai is healthy."

"Denai is beautiful."

"Denai is happy."

"You are a success."

::big sigh::

I'm so happy he is finally getting better.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

She Got the Bronze!

Today I gave my kids love, time, patience and energy in a way that doesn't happen all too often.

My morning began with waking up late.  Then Michael threw up on our way to school.  Thankfully we had just dropped Mr. Sexy off at work so it was easy to turn around and get him cleaned up.  Then Michael barfed again on the ride home.  Fun.

Michael barfed 5 times by lunch.

After getting home that morning, cleaning up the mess, getting Michael situated on the couch and Denai down for a nap I could focus on Marie.  Turns out out internet wasn't working again so she wouldn't be able to work on her lessons or participate in her LiveLessons (webcam chat room/classroom deal).  Awesome.  Well, I'm no quitter and I devised my own lesson plan of sorts based on what she is currently learning in her online program.

It went swell.

Yes, swell.  It was interesting to see how little information she is retaining and how important patience is going to be in her lessons.  We sat for 45 minutes while she tried to answer the question, "What is different between this picture of the kitten and this picture of the cat?"  It was brutal.  And soooo boring!  I almost fell asleep.  No joke.  When it comes to coming up with her own ideas, Marie needs a lot more practice.

Less than an hour after Denai's nap I heard her screaming.  Awesome.  She really needed a solid nap.  Her eyes were puffy and red and she was covered in snot.  Great!  It turns out she grabbed ahold of a cold along with her crazy bad diaper rash which makes her cry every time we have to wipe her.  It's terribly sad to change her diaper these days.

So yes, what a day.  It's now just about 7:30pm and I'm SO READY FOR BED.  But not yet.  We fixed the internet for the first time today plus I have to watch at least part of American Idol with Mr. Sexy before I pass out.  Side note:  We have followed American Idol for years and this season is so far the best!  Woot woot!  Although Scotty McCreery's win was pretty phenomenal too...

Anyways.  I gave myself to each of my kids in a way that doesn't happen often.

Evan: Lots of TLC.  I rubbed his back every time he barfed and cleaned up mess after mess.  Poor kid.  I felt awful for him.  I served him fresh water, crackers and pedialyte popsicles.

Marie: I gave her time and attention that I normally don't.  We sat in the den, looking at each other, talking to each other, and hopefully at least one of us was learning something.

Denai: She needed me to coddle her for a bit.  I'm not a fan of coddling but every once in a while it's needed.

The most interesting outcome of today was Marie's change in demeanor.  When it was time to pick up Mr. Sexy from work she was all about announcing that she had her snow boots, hat, gloves, scarf AND a book to read for the car ride.  I ALWAYS tell her she needs her hat and gloves but she never grabs them when it's time to go!  And I haven't seen her initiate bringing a book in the car for a long time.  Reading in the car is good.  I used to get so much reading done there as a kid.

Another interesting element that came out of today is my sense of fulfillment.  I conquered!  The vomit, the alternative mini-school program and the extra sensitive Denai.  I didn't yell once, although I'm pretty sure I got angry over something stupid.  But hey, I'm no saint and we all know that!

I'm just feeling like a deserve a medal.  Probably a bronze though.  If I look on Pinterest I'll see what all the gold medalist mom's are doing for their kids who get sick and do school at home.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Better Together

I have been at a total standstill with writing for a while now.  Every time I sit down to write it' not coming out how I want.  I've been stuck.  Not just with writing, though.  I've been feeling stuck emotionally.  Overwhelmed may be a better word for it.

Valentine's Day/Weekend is probably a great example.

I always always always am looking forward to the holidays that involve me getting pampered by my very romantic Mr. Sexy.  This year, however, my birthday was overlooked by me. (yeah, my birthday is a holiday)  Mr. Sexy was the one who kept reminding me my Big Day was coming.  He had really fun plans for us but then I wasn't feeling well.

Valentine's Day was no different.

On Friday I was actually feeling excitement for what Mr. Sexy had planned for us.  He always plans something amazing and seems to enjoy how his plans always change last minute and always has great stories for me about it.  Well, no offense to him whatsoever, but Friday started off not that great.  I pretty much spent a lot of the day feeling sorry for myself as my facebook wall was covered with girls posting pictures of flowers and sweet gifts.  I hadn't received any flowers or chocolates; not even a love note.  I was sad.  I knew Mr. Sexy had plans for us that evening; but I still felt disappointed.
From early last week.

Looking back I believe my emotions were completely out of whack.  Even as I was going through them I knew I was being silly because Mr. Sexy does wonderfully romantic things for me all the time.  I get flowers from him just because he feels like it (providing we have money in the bank ;p).

So when I picked him up from work after driving for half an hour with Miss Denai crying because she hates driving as much as we sometimes do, I nearly broke into tears when he pulled a bouquet of one dozen roses out of the trunk.  They smelled wonderful.  Once again, my emotions were overwhelming - this time in a more positive direction.

That's when I started pressing him to find out what our definitive plans were for the night.  He really likes the surprise and prides himself on knowing me well enough to cater our plans to what I will truly enjoy.  And that, my friends, is why his plans are ever-changing.  He is always right, too.  Valentine's Day was no exception.

He did finally reveal that we would be having a romantic dinner at home.

I shut down.  The disappointment was overwhelming and I didn't know how to tell him.  He did tell me he tried to find a sitter... but that didn't matter to me.  What mattered was that our house, for me, during this time, was not a romantic place, much less a place I wanted to spend what was supposed to be the most romantic day of the year.  (a cliche, I know)

We got home and I followed my directions: Go in the house, take a sharp left into the bedroom and stay there, relaxing with my flowers until Mr. Sexy comes to get me.

I spent all my relaxing time feeling stressed, tense, disappointed and sad.  To sum it all up: Emotionally overwhelmed.        

I knew I was being disgustingly ridiculous. While I was sipping a glass of merlot, watching Grey's Anatomy reruns and holding my roses, Mr. Sexy was cleaning the kitchen, making dinner, putting Denai to bed which took an entire hour, setting up a romantic scene for us and keeping the other two kids downstairs and entertained with dinner, a movie and sleeping bags.

I could see Mr. Sexy's disappointment when he came to get me for dinner.  Instead of getting dressed up like he wanted me to, I was still wearing my fuzzy pink bathrobe.

The candles and set up were replicated from his proposal.

Yup.  I was definitely acting like a spoiled brat.

Everything he had done was amazing and I felt incredibly guilty for not being able to appreciate it.

 What I wanted was to be taken out on the town.  I wanted to be dressed up in heels and a cute little dress so Mr. Sexy could "show me off."  I wanted a chef cooking my meal so then Mr. Sexy and I could spend that time holding hands and smiling at each other instead of being in two separate rooms for two hours.  I knew restaurant lines would have been horrendous but that's part of the gig.  I would have enjoyed holding hands and walking around the mall waiting for our dinner time to get closer and closer.  No kids, not even a tiny cute one.  Just him and me.  This is all I was thinking as I sat down to my romantic candlelit dinner.

He knew something was wrong by my puffy face, my pink bathrobe and just by my demeanor.

It's times like these where I see our marriage at work.  We did think about simply getting drunk that night.  But that's now what either of us wanted.  We knew there was something wrong and we needed to work through it.  So we did.  And it was intense.  I still don't think he completely understands why I was as upset as I was.

And honestly, neither do I.  The evening he had planned encompassed so many things we both love: Candlelit dinner, dancing and one of my favorite romantic movies (that last one isn't a fav of his).

I'm proud of us for getting through our Valentine's evening, as messy as it was.  Once everything was out in the open I finally felt the weight of my depression lift and I was able to move past barriers.

My husband is amazing.  I think I really hurt his feelings.  He showed it a little bit but not as much as he could have.  That's where silence comes into play.  He allowed me to express myself to the fullest, yet he kept himself in check.  He didn't flip out on me.  He didn't yell at me, call me mean names, head off to bed without me or bring out the liquor.  Instead he sat next to me and listened to me cry, talk, then cry some more.  I saw his sadness over and over again which didn't help me feel better.

What did help me feel better was his arm around my shoulders.  Him whispering in my ear, Even though I don't understand what you're going through, I love you more and more every day.  And finally, when I thought he was turning the romantic music off, he changed the tempo and we had a lot of fun swing dancing to some our favorite songs.  We finished the night with dinner, dessert and The Notebook in front of the fireplace.

My Valentine's Day card. 

Even though I don't understand what you're going through, I love you more and more every day.

In these moments he takes my breath away and I know how truly loved I am.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Ruffled Feathers

I need to talk very frankly right now.  If I wind up hurting someone's feelings I'm sorry.  I share intimate details about my family with whoever wants to hear which leads way for offhanded comments.  A lot of the time I can shrug them off.  Today, however, that just isn't the case.

I remember the first time I met Marie.  She was 7.  It was my turn to watch the kids upstairs during Care Group (like a Bible study).  She was loud, obnoxious and she had control over the entire room by singing loudly and rocking in her rocking chair.  She didn't care to quiet down even when I asked her nicely and sweetly.  Oh boy!  I was finally able to entice her and all the other kids with a book.  And then Marie, with her hair in a fro from a long day of school and play, was in my lap and in my face.  It was so, so awkward for me!  She was way too big for my lap but in her mind it was the best spot.  I did finally ask - actually demand - that she sit on the floor so I could see the book. I really love this memory and I hold on to it.  It's the memory of our first connection.  She felt safe to throw herself into my lap.  It made me feel special, like she liked me.

I didn't know she had down syndrome at the time.  I only knew there was something different about her.  At this point her dad (Mr. Sexy) made me nervous and I was embarrassed to ask what I thought was a silly and rude question: What's wrong with her? (Okay, that sounds a little rude.)  I'm pretty sure someone even told me what she had but it was so ... weird ... to me that the name didn't stick at all.

"She doesn't look like she has down syndrome at all!" 
(This is not an exact quote from anybody in particular.)

Mr. Sexy and I get these comments all the time.  I didn't realize why it ruffles my feathers just slightly until Mr. Sexy said it like this: I feel like it undermines our struggles. 

That may not be true.  It may be illogical.  It may not be fair.  But that is truly how it feels.  I struggle day in and day out with the fact that Marie has down syndrome.  She does things all the time that are not typical of the normal kids.  Her face twitches, she licks her lips so much they are constantly flaky and dry, she doesn't speak well considering her age, she is generally slow and simple and she will eat herself sick.  I don't say these things to be mean or diminish who she is in any regard.  I am simply calling it like I see it.  She has down syndrome.  These are some of the attributes that come with it.  And yeah, they are the negative ones.

All this to say: It doesn't take much effort to realize there is something about Marie that is different from your neighbor kid next door.  It only takes a few minutes of talking to her or watching how she behaves or even by hearing me talk about her to see it.

It's okay not to understand it.  It's okay to ask about it - although I understand that would be scary especially if you don't know the parents!  (I was afraid to talk to her dad about it at first.)

But someone telling us Marie doesn't look like she has down syndrome ruffles my feathers.  That is basically saying they don't know our family in the slightest.  And that's okay too.  We don't have to be friends with everybody.  But why broadcast that ignorance?

"My kid does that all the time!" 
(This is not an exact quote from anybody in particular.)

Again, I hear this A LOT.  And I get it.  People want to relate.  I've done this too!  We want to have something to say.  We want to try to encourage or make light of a situation.

But again, hearing this statement rubs me wrong and usually I can brush it off.  But today I'm having a difficult time doing so.

I think Mr. Sexy still says it best: I feel like it undermines our struggles.

This may be wrong, irrational, unfair and you may not understand it.  But I have to be brutally honest today.  I HAVE TO BE.

I classify many of Marie's behaviors as weird.  Marie does weird things.

When your kid is three and learning about play dough she has to eat it.  It's a right of passage.  She may nibble on it for years to come.  But there comes a point when she realizes it's too salty and it's not meant to be eaten.  So she stops.  Well, Marie doesn't stop.  So while your kid can make the connection that it's time to grow up a little, my kid can't make that connection so she turns into a teenager doing things your kid has forgotten they ever did!

Marie wets her bed.  She is 12.
Marie at a bandaid today.  She is 12.
Marie at a tube of Chapstick, Neosporin and diaper cream on Sunday.  She is 12.
The day before that she shared a carton of ice cream with our dog.  She is 12.

I have a huge list of weird things Marie has done or eaten.  I don't think my list would bore you either.  But for the sake of time, let's move on.

Every time she does something weird it hurts.

I want better for her but have no idea how to make that happen.

My hurt quickly spirals into anger.

That anger results in broken relationship.

So as I continue to share the deep struggles I have with my daughter I will be working to grow a tougher skin.  It's just that today is not that day.  Today I'm weak from the exhaustion of the fight against down syndrome.  I do fight it.  I want to erase it.  Ignore it.  Squeeze it out of her.

But I can't.  I know this truth in my head.

Emotionally, however, I'm still choosing to fight a fight I won't ever win.

How lame is that?!

Disclaimer: I know that nobody has intended to ever hurt me or my family with comments.

Mommy's Favorite Onsie

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dear Lord...

It's too much.
Something has got to change. 
This isn't working. 
Every day is a fight. 
A fight to survive. 
Lord, only You know the truth to these words. 
My heart is overwhelmed from exhaustion.  
I'm reminded to lean into you. 
You will replenish my soul. 
You will mend what is broken.
You will find what is lost. 
You will get us through today and then tomorrow and the next day. 
Lord, I thank you so much.
I give praise and I worship you right now through the tears
because somehow, someway, for some reason, this is all about you. 
Me, my happiness does not matter. 
But giving you glory in every situation does. 
So I will do my best, Lord. 
And I will sing my praise songs
and remember how great you are. 

As I'm writing this, it's almost 7 at night.  No one has had dinner.  Mr. Sexy has dinner in the van.  But now the van is stuck in the snow on our driveway carrying our dinner and the rest of our groceries.  So now Mr. Sexy is hiking up the driveway, in his work clothes which are dress pants and dress shoes, hauling chains for our ford truck so he can hopefully get our van out of the ditch.  

The other day Mr. Sexy post this on facebook: Why is EVERYTHING an Uphill battle?!?!?  I got on his case about complaining about how difficult our lives are.  "Maybe everybody has problems like these and the difference is they have enough money to fix the situation and we just don't."  I have no idea if that's true.  

Last week our truck got stuck in a ditch and even with the help of some friends we weren't able to get it out.  Finally we got the truck to safety after a week of snow and having to hike around and lug logs to our house by sled.  We were excited to finally be able to plow our driveway but it turns out the plow got bent in the mayhem and needs to be fixed before we can use it again. 

And now the van is stuck in the middle of our unplowed very snowy driveway.  It holds dinner.  A dinner that used to be warm and probably smelled delicious.  Also Mr. Sexy works part-time from home.  This is a working night.  Oh, and we need firewood lugged from the woods to our house, chopped, then it can thaw and be used tomorrow. 

We are both ready to tackle life and have something work like it's supposed to.  On one hand I guess one poor decision has its road of repercussions.  On the other hand, shouldn't  getting home after a long day at work be just a little bit easier?

Also, I haven't touched on some very recent struggles with Marie.  It's been a very difficult few days that I may write about later.  Maybe.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Writing: Hot Topic Central

5 minutes on the topic: Write. 

I have caught myself lately starting to write about something that doesn't need to be written.  It's usually a hot-button topic that will most definitely stir up controversy.  I have wondered, is that worth it?  Is that the point of writing? 

My conclusion is that for me, it's not.  

I don't want to be on a soap box all the time trying to tell the rest of the world how they are wrong and I am right. 

We are all different with different opinions, desires and ways of life. 

That is A-OK.  

There are aspects of my life that naturally come up that may be seen as "hot-topic."  I will write about those because it's my life and I have personal investment in it.  Such as down syndrome.  Step-parenting.  Alcohol.  Parenting. Marriage.  Sex.  Writing.  

Hmmm that list looks a little scary as I read through it.  Hot button central!  It's a short list that I have strong opinions about.  They will look different for other people.  The way I choose to parent my kids is different from my friends.  Alcohol consumption is a personal choice that I have made that some family and friends would never even consider.  And down syndrome, which relates to being a step-parent, well, let's just say I make mistakes and I share them with the people around me.  

That was 5 minutes of un-edited writing scary bliss.  I have re-read it a bunch of times and want to change some things but that would be against the rules....

Five Minute Friday

Binge Eating and Down Syndrome

A few nights ago I found an empty carton of Dreyer's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream hidden under Marie's bed.  I only knew to look for something when I discovered chocolate in her sheets.  The carton was basically full; I was the only one who had eaten out of it and I eat only a few bites at a time right out of the carton.

Marie sneaking food into her room, into her bed, into her stomach is not new.  Yet I still become terribly angry.  Her past binges, such as when she ate Mr. Sexy's birthday cake, come back.  I work very hard to forgive and realize where Marie is at with these issues.  So far I feel completely helpless and struggle with letting go of the past because it feels like she will battle binge eating for the rest of her life.

In fact, last night, I caught her AGAIN.  That's twice in two days.  Michael invited her upstairs to read with us.  Instead, she left her room, saw a spoon that had old, crusty cheese on it, ate the cheese then went back to her room.  I noticed.  This situation feels hopeless.

We have scheduled a doctor's appointment so we can discuss this food issue and her bed wetting issue.  We have exhausted all options in trying to help Marie overcome these obstacles.

Her binge eating and bed wetting go back years and years.  Interestingly, however, Marie stopped binge eating and bed wetting when Mr. Sexy moved them away from V (her biological mother).  They lived this way for about nine months.  No urine soaked bed sheets.  No empty refrigerator by morning time (Marie typically binges in the middle of the night).  Then V re-entered their lives.  Binge eating and bed wetting became huge issues once again and have yet to stop all these years later.

I do believe that these two issues are mostly, if not completely, emotionally related.

That doesn't make it any easier.

Mr. Sexy and I have had a few theories on why Marie continues to struggle.  One huge idea is down syndrome.  Marie seems to have no impulse control.  She sees something she likes so she picks it up and takes it.  Sometimes it's my bracelet I left on the coffee table or one of Evan's toys or a leftover egg sandwich she finds in the kitchen.  Most of us figure out these behaviors are unacceptable at a very young age.

While I believe Marie understands these behaviors are unacceptable, even while she is doing them, there is something that pushes her to do it anyways.  Almost like she can't think clearly.  A connection issue.  The wires in her brain aren't communicating properly.

Marie is very thin which is not the norm for a person who has down syndrome.  I'm not entirely sure why this is.  When I have asked other parents who have a child with ds they are surprised when they hear my stories about Marie's getting up at night to eat a loaf of bread or an entire jar of peanut butter.  I used to think this was something lots of other parents experienced.  Apparently it's not that typical in the ds community.

So that got Mr. Sexy and I thinking.  Marie is thin because we control everything she eats because she has very little impulse control.

 Her first summer visiting her grandparents out of state I freaked out when her Pokni (grandma) was surprised that Marie ate like 3 corn dogs and wanted another.

Marie will almost always say yes to more food no matter what it is.  Most of her conversations, with friends or with herself, revolve around what she has eaten and what is to be eaten next.  Hmmm is this a ds thing or an emotional thing relating to V?

In my experience people who have down syndrome are significantly overweight.  Even the kids.  I don't have any friends who have a child with down syndrome so I cannot speak to their eating habits and exercise habits.  I only assume a lot of kids who have down syndrome eat a lot and maybe what they eat aren't the most healthy choices.  Again, I am guessing and assuming here.  I'm very curious on this issue.

If a kid who has ds cannot decipher between hunger and feeling full, who makes that decision?  The parents, right?  Marie honestly cannot accurately tell us how hungry she is or isn't.  It's a complete guessing game and if we are unsure we add a little more food to her plate - just in case.

So what if she is obsessed with food because we constantly suppress these desires?  What if we gave snacks throughout her day, candy as a reward for a job well done, soda with lunch, ice cream every night, 3 hot dogs if she wants.

I can tell you one thing.  We would have one unhealthy kid on our hands.

We are not interested in teaching Marie unhealthy eating choices.  We are not interested in allowing her to binge eat in the middle of the night and then pretend it didn't happen.

Two barf spots in the clean-up process.
The empty carton of ice cream is still sitting on her dresser as a reminder.  This isn't to be mean or anything like that.  We are aiming to prove a point that she won't forget.  So far the point is being made.  She doesn't like to remember when she has made a mistake.  It makes her sad.  Allowing Marie to throw away the container immediately would be like allowing her to forget it ever happened and move on - only to do it again.  In fact, we later realized that our dog shared the ice cream with her and ate so much that she threw up the next day.  Guess who got to clean up that mess?

It feels like everybody has opinions about these struggles.  I am very interested in the opinions and ideas of parents who have experience with down syndrome and impulse control like what I have described here.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Blogging 101: This Is How She Did It

For a long time I have looked for a one-stop-shop to tell me what to do with my blog in order to make it grow.  For the first time I found that at Momspective, Blogging 101: This Is How I Did It.

I decided to make a list of her advice because I do really well with lists.  It helps me feeling accomplished and gives me direction.  Originally I was going to keep my little list private but then I figured others might be interested in the advice and maybe I would attract even more ideas on how to make my blog awesome like so many that I read every day!  I claim to understand computers but in reality I don't understand what html is.  Apparently Google will help me with that.

Anyways, thank you Julie for this amazing free advice!!

1. Blog name.
Short and memorable. Creative.

2. Purchase domain name.
One year's worth.
Eventually buy all domains (.org .net ect)

3. Blog design.
Look professional.  Google will help.

4. Pay someone to host.
Lagniappe Marketing:
attentive, affordable, detailed.
will apply plugins as necessary (facebook twitter ect)
good for beginners who are looking to network (aka ME)

5. Set up a feed.
Set up ALL of them and put them on my page. Everyone follows differently.

6. Moderate comments only.
Get Akismet Spam plug in. (Maybe only for wordpress bloggers)

7. Monetize blog.
Build following then sign up with an ad network.
Start with Google Adsense
No flash, no pop-ups, nothing in blog post

8. Ad space.
Don't leave blank space asking for advertising
Ads on one side, personal promotions on other.  Keep it clean looking.

9. Bio.
Who are you?  Why are you awesome?  Background?
General overview of stats
Where I'm from
How to contact
No ad rates

10. Social Media
Connect to all of them.
Big companies look at Twitter number, Alexa rating and Google Page rank.

11.  Reviews.
Only what fits my blog.
Don't let them bully me into non-biased review.
disclaimer policy
review things on my own so companies can see how I do it.

12.  Affilliate marketing

I like to do lists in order, starting at the top or #1.  It makes me feel better.  But I may have to go out of order with this one.  Anyways, wish me luck!  (I'm still not convinced I made the right choice in using blogger instead of wordpress.  Blogger is just what I know and Wordpress scared me when I was looking into it.)

Wordless Wednesday: Brrrr!!!

Messy Space Messy Life

Someone once told me a messy living space (house, bedroom ect) is a sign of a messy heart.  In my personal life I have generally found that to be an accurate analogy.  I could even substitute the word 'life' in the place of 'heart.'  Whether or not this analogy is at all accurate, at the very least I feel messy when my house is messy.

As much as I want to be able to write a fun, happy, flowery blog post this morning, I just don't have it in me.  There are some days, some periods of life, where it feels like too much.  Today is one of those days.  This week has been one of those weeks.  And it's only Wednesday.

Homeschooling has been a major stressor.  We have been stumbling through the program and I seem to be constantly finding something I should be doing that I wasn't fully aware of.  Yesterday this resulted in Marie skipping her speech lesson because I just found out she had a social skills lesson at the same time.

Another aspect of homeschooling is that Marie has down syndrome.  I'm still not in a place of complete acceptance so as I spend my entire days with her I constantly and consistently try to poke and prod the down syndrome out of her.  I know that doesn't work.  Maybe that's why I feel so overwhelmed.  I'm tackling down syndrome eviction and learning to homeschool at the same time.

I don't think I can separate those two.  Down syndrome and homeschool.  I don't think I can sit down to work with Marie and not deal with the annoying fact that she has this disability.  So I guess I'm saying that if I'm not able to get past what I find annoying and frustrating about her disability, we won't be able to move forward academically.  Hmmm That's not where I wanted this conversation to go.

Homeschooling has taken up a lot of my time and my energy.  It's more than I expected.  My house and the way we all eat are suffering the repercussions.  I basically don't cook - I barely eat breakfast or lunch.  And sweeping?  Vacuuming?  Doing dishes?  Those are all staple stay-at-home-mom things to do.  That and watch soap operas with a cup of coffee right?  I don't do any of those things.  I don't have "perfect moments" anymore.

A "perfect moment" usually involves something very yummy to eat while I watch a favorite TV show and I'm by myself with no interruptions from anyone or anything.  I don't even answer Mr. Sexy's phone calls when I'm in the middle of my "perfect moment."

I miss having those.

Also, as of 6:30 this morning, we ran out of firewood - our main source of heating.  We have a  truck we use to haul logs from the woods to our house where it all gets chopped up and thrown in a big bin by our wood stove.  We use this same truck to plow the driveway.  Well, in the midst of all the recent snow we just got, the truck got stuck and so far we have had no luck in getting it out.  There is lots of firewood to be used but hauling it way over here one sled-full at a time is a laborious process.  With Mr. Sexy working two jobs now, he just doesn't have enough time to make everything happen.

So, life is messy.  The house is messy.  Our car is messy.  I.  Feel.  Messy.

I will get over it.  I have already opened a discussion with Marie's teacher about schooling difficulties.  So far we are able to get up our driveway without needing to plow - although we have had a few close calls.  We drive a mini-van after all.   (Thank God for snow tires.)  And today I'm wearing long-jons and making the kids double up on pants and sweatshirts.  (We have central heating but I try not to use it because it's crazy expensive.)

I hope I don't sound worried or like I'm totally freaking out.  I'm not.  In fact, I'm pretty much amazing.  The stress has been building these past few days and I am not handling it perfectly.  But I'm handling it.  You couldn't say that about me a year or two ago.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hey! It's OK!

Hey!  It's OK...

...that homeschooling is stressful.

...that Marie licks her lips like they're chocolate.

...that the firewood for today is almost all gone.

...that I didn't blog yesterday.

...that Marie prefers her sleeve or her tongue to get rid of her snot.

...that I forgot to sign Michael up for a play this week.

...that Denai never made it out of her pjs.

...that I wanted a beer with breakfast - and had coffee instead.

...that I haven't brushed my teeth yet.

...that floors are so messy I won't walk around barefoot.

...that some days just don't happen like I plan.

You know what?  I feel a little bit better now that I've aired some of dirty laundry! ;)

Linking up today with:

Airing My Dirty Laundry

5 Reasons to Smile Every Day

I'm so incredibly grumpy today.  It's worse than yesterday and I got a lot more sleep last night.  I stole this photo from Rory because it made me smile.  Just a little.

So.... 5 Reason to Live Smile?  Hmmmm....

1.  Miss Denai's 2-tooth smile.  This morning I got to see her smile just after waking up.  So precious.

2.  A really good book:  The kind you can't put down at night.  The one you bring with you to the grocery store in case the line is very long.  The one you wish was never over because it is just that good.  I haven't read that kind of book in a long time.  I should find one...

3.  Kisses.  Not just any kisses, mind you.  The ones where Mr. Sexy grabs me around my waist, pulls me close and revs my engine just by the touching of his lips on mine.  That's passion folks.  And I would live another day just for one more of those passion-kisses. 

Sexy Wedding Day
July 23, 2011

4. Friendship

Some friends drove all the way to my house in the woods, in the snow, just to hang out with me for the day.  It made my week.

5.  Really cute tights with leg warmers and snow boots. I feel stylish and ready to hike through the snow all at the same time.

None of these were really too serious.  Of course I live for the normal things like love and family.  I just wanted to stretch my emotions right now and think outside of that box and try to get over my grumpy state of mind.  It sort of worked.  I'm really excited about my tights, leg warmers and boots that I'm wearing today.  :)

Coffee chat at Time Out for Mom!