Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Listening Heart

One of my friends just started a job.  He was put with another person to assist and be trained.  After his first day, I asked, "So how did it go?"

He replied, "It was great!  It was really nice to be with someone who actually listened to everything I said, and let me talk, and let me ask all the questions I needed to."

Oh.

That left me wondering, how often do I truly listen?  How often do I take the time to stop what I'm doing and really hear what the other person is saying?  How often have I let the other person's talk fade into the background while I wonder about finances or dinner or schedules or whatever else crosses my mind?  How often have I said, whether truly or in jest because I just didn't hear, "I'm sorry; I wasn't listening to you"?

I am ashamed.  I tell people frequently, "I'm here for you.  If you need a listening ear, I'm available.  You can talk to me."  The truth is, yes, I'm available to listen--at the same time as I focus on a hundred other irrelevant things.

Here's a common example of mealtime conversation:
6-year-old:  "Mommy, did you know that Pluto is a dwarf planet?"
Me:  "That's really cool.  Eat your food."

Why?  Why the constant attitude of "Get this task done quickly so we can move on to the next task"?  Yes, sometimes we're in a hurry, especially in the mornings.  Why can't I get up fifteen minutes earlier so we can slow down a little?

The fact is, I can.  I just don't like to.  I like my sleep.  I like to hear my own thoughts instead of focusing my mind on what someone else is saying.  I like to let other people make the effort of conversation.  That attitude, however, is not productive, and if I continue, I will drive people away.  My children.  My husband.  My friends.

The fact that someone who cared enough to listen was the important thing my friend took away from his first day, should tell us all how vital it really is to just pay attention.  It also speaks, unfortunately, to how accustomed he is to not having people listen.

It's time for us to make a change.  It's time for me to make a change.  Put down the phone, the tablet, the book, the puzzle, the laptop, or whatever is keeping you from giving full attention to those around you.  Phones and games have their place; sometimes we do just need to chill and relax.  And honestly, sometimes in public I use my phone as a Do Not Disturb sign.  When we're with the people we care about, though, let's make sure we're actually with them--not on Facebook or buried in a book or playing Dragon City.  (Unless, of course, it's mutually agreed upon to hang out and ignore each other.)  We can do this.  I can do this.  I am determined.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Treatments, New Hopes

So, a while back I promised you a blog about why I'm feeling so down lately. Then France happened, and the Syrian refugees, and I just haven't had the energy to spare to write anything else of real significance. 

A lot has been happening. You might remember that back in June, I told you that Matthew was being put back on Tysabri for his MS. The same Tysabri that could potentially cause him to develop PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy), which could potentially kill him. In January 2013 they found antibodies for it in his blood and stopped the Tysabri treatments immediately. This year, after no other medicines were effectively treating the MS, his doctor made the decision to try Tysabri one more time.

Well, between June and October the amount of antibodies in his blood went up times five.

Times FIVE.

That's huge.

He was immediately taken off Tysabri again, and his doctor said he will never, never, NEVER be put on it again. The problem then was, what medicine COULD he be given? Tysabri is one of the heavy hitters, and we'd already seen that anything less was ineffective for Matthew. When he takes the weaker medicines, he might as well not be taking anything, but with horrible side effects.

So we settled on a Very New Drug called Rituximab. It's a twice-yearly infusion, although initially he'll get two doses two weeks apart.  We went in November 24 for him to get his first dose, and we were there from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.  That is a LONG day.  Midway through he started to get bad chills, nausea, and dizziness, so they paused it until the symptoms went away.

Being Matthew, he insisted on going to work anyway that evening.  He would be fine, he said.  So I dropped him off about 6:30; he said to pick him up at 11:00.  Well, about 9:15 I got a call saying to come and pick him up.  I set off (it's a half hour drive), and when I was almost there, he called again saying I'd need to take him to Emergency.

Chills, nausea, dizziness--yep; it had all come back.  The ER staff gave him medicine which got rid of the symptoms and sent us home.  He's been okay since, except for one more short bout of chills the next day.  Other than that there haven't been any problems that we've noticed, but his doctor said she wants to meet with him tomorrow.  He's having another infusion Tuesday, so this time they're going to take more precautions ahead of time so hopefully he won't get the nasty side effects.

I am tired.  I am so unutterably weary.  Life is weighing heavily on me with medical and financial concerns, and last night I received even more medical concerns.  Some days it's all I can do to get out of bed and face the day.  I want to hide in a cave somewhere and pretend the world doesn't exist.

Since that's not an option, thankfully I have good friends who bear me up.  I feel so very alone most of the time, and when they come over it's like light and sunshine entering my house.  I don't know how I'd manage without them.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Anatomy

Guys.  Guys.  And yes, I'm addressing you of the male persuasion.  I have something important to talk about.  Something vital to your health and sanity, and to that of those you love.  It's time for us to talk about your monthly visitor.  Your regular unwanted guest.  Your period.

You don't have one, you say?  My, how disappointing.  Well, I know how easy it is to trivialize something to which you cannot relate, so I'll do my best to put it in words you can understand.

Let's start by preparing the womb--I mean, your testes.  For the purposes of this experiment, your testes will be known as the Human Development Chambers (HDCs).  Every four weeks, your HDCs begin the process of interior decoration.  They're hoping to welcome a live-in guest, you see.  They put up soft, squishy wallpaper and install even softer carpet.  They spend three whole weeks making everything perfect for their guests' arrival.

When the fourth week comes, your HDCs are shocked to realize that no guest has landed on the doorstep.  They become angry, and in a fit of rage they begin ripping up the carpet and slicing off the wallpaper.  They hack it, they tear it, and they begin sending it down the Evacuation Tube (along with a lot of blood) straight into your underwear.  Congratulations!  You've just gotten your period.

You can expecting this state of ranting and dropping chunks of wallpaper down the tube to last for approximately a week.  Of course, you're still expected to work and carry on as usual.  Stick that pad in your underwear and go about your day with a smile, pretending you don't have several pounds of tissue and blood building up between your legs.  Don't forget to use the bathroom at least every two hours, so you don't have any unfortunate leaks and spoil your favorite jeans!  And you might have to change your sheets three or four times.

With all this turmoil happening in your lower regions, naturally your brain gets irritable and distracted.  You forget things.  Your lower back aches in sympathy.  You scream at your significant other for forgetting to buy chocolate.  And whenever you express anger or frustration--even if it's totally justified--your friends wink knowingly at each other and brush it off with, "Is it That Time again?"  If you dare to mention your condition to your female friends, they respond with, "Gross!  Don't talk about that!" or, "Whatever; it's just a period.  All men get them."

When the tirade from your HDCs is finally over, you breathe a sigh of relief.  Don't worry, though--they'll start decorating again right away.  And since the whole cycle takes four weeks (not one month), you can expect it to happen thirteen times every year for approximately thirty years of your life.

There are a couple of ways to avoid your period, of course.  You can go in to a clinic and have your reproductive system surgically removed, but then you run the risk of being rejected by potential life partners who want children.  Or, you can allow yourself to get pregnant.  You might even think that being pregnant is totally worth not facing a bloody mess every four weeks.

So you get little babies growing inside, and for the first few weeks you don't notice much.  Then suddenly, dear God, you are starving like you haven't eaten in fifteen years.  You gobble everything in sight, and then you realize that your body won't tolerate it.  All the food you ate comes right back up.  You can expect this to go on for about three months, while your HDCs (and their protective covering) grow to the size of potatoes.  Your jeans don't fit, and you start wearing sweats a lot.

For the next three months you're mostly okay on the nausea front, although you're still eating enough for a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The doctor tells you this is normal, although your HDCs have now swollen to the size of cantaloupes.  Even your sweats don't fit now.  You have to buy special clothes which are freakishly expensive, and everyone comments on how "cute" you are.

The next three months see your HDCs increasing to the size of jumbo watermelons.  "How is this even possible?" you wonder.  You worry that your body won't be able to support the weight.  You need yet more new special clothes, and your significant other groans as they take out their wallet.  "More clothes?  Can't you make do with what you've got for the next two months or so?"  You try to make them understand that you genuinely can't fit into anything, so unless they want you to go out in public naked or wearing a blanket muumuu..

And finally, finally the day arrives when your sweet little babies are to make their appearance.  You have the option of having a doctor slice you open and remove them, stitching you up afterward, or of pushing them centimeter by centimeter out the Evacuation Tube over the course of several hours.  You'll probably still need stitches if you choose the latter.  Whichever way you go, finally you have your precious little ones and it is so worth it.  Your insurance allows you a whole two days to recover in the hospital before you're sent home.  You know you'll have a few months before you have to face The Period again.  And then, with all your sensitive bits still swollen and aching, your significant other asks:

"So, how soon can we have sex again?"

Monday, November 16, 2015

World, My Heart Is Heavy

World, my heart hurts for you.

I'm sure by now, everyone knows about the terror attacks in Paris.  Most also know about the attacks in Beirut.  We are all hurting and saddened, with no clear picture of how we can change this mess.  May I first suggest that we stop the infighting?  It seems like every time I go on Facebook, I see posts along the lines of, "Sure, you care about France, but what about Beirut?"  As if we can't care about both at the same time.

I looked up the Wikipedia list of terror attacks this year.  There were far too many for me to post here, so I'll just stick with the November ones:


  • November 1:  Palestinian rammed his vehicle into Israeli soldiers in the West Bank
  • November 1:  Car bomb was detonated on a hotel in Somalia, opening it up; perpetrators then starting shooting and throwing grenades; Al-Shabaab
  • November 3:  Palestinian stabbed 3 people in Israel, including an 80-year-old woman
  • November 3:  Palestinian stabbed a 71-year-old man in Israel
  • November 4:  Sulemain Shaheen rammed an Israeli border patrol officer in the West Bank
  • November 4:  Suicide car bomb near the Police Officers Club in Egypt; Wilayah Sayna, affiliated with ISIL
  • November 5:  Suicide bomber attacked Qalamoun Clerics Association in Lebanon
  • November 6:  Unknown sniper shot two Israelis near Cave of the Patriarchs
  • November 6:  Baraa Issa stabbed an Israeli in the West Bank; member of Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades
  • November 6:  Palestinian shot IDF soldier in the West Bank
  • November 7:  Multiple bombs set off across Baghdad, Iraq; ISIS suspected
  • November 9:  Sulemain Shaheen rammed his vehicle into a hitchhiker station in the West Bank
  • November 9:  Palestinian woman stabbed Israeli guard in the West Bank
  • November 9:  Two Palestinians stabbed Israeli in a shop in the West Bank
  • November 9:  Two suicide bombers detonated in a village in Chad; Boko Haram suspected
  • November 9:  14-year-old suicide bomber detonated at a mosque in Cameroon; Boko Haram suspected
  • November 12:  Suicide bomber detonated in Lebanon; when crowds gathered, a second detonated; ISIL
  • November 13:  Gunmen ambushed & shot a family car with 7 passengers in the West Bank
  • November 13:  Attacks targeting Shiites in Baghdad, Iraq, including suicide bombing; ISIS
  • November 13:  Series of attacks in Paris, France; ISIS
This is the official list from Wikipedia.  I searched each terror attack in an attempt to verify these incidents.  Some look like the dates are wrong.  I've linked the articles I could find.

Some of these might not seem like much.  A shooting here; a stabbing there.  What's important to remember about all of these is:  The attackers had no personal issue with the individuals they attacked.  All the victims were merely members of a hated group.  Shiites.  Israelis.  Police.

Hate is in the world, and it's real.  Fighting amongst ourselves about which terror incident is worse, or who cares more about the tragedies, or whether or not we should do a French flag overlay on our profile pictures, does nothing but cause division.  It separates us instead of uniting us.

Mourn for the Paris victims.  Mourn for those in Lebanon; for the Shiites in Baghdad; for the family attacked in their car; for those in Cameroon; for the villagers in Chad; for all those caught in conflict in the West Bank; for the police in Egypt; for the Israelis; for those in Somalia.  When their stories are told, don't trivialize them by saying, "Yeah, but do you care what happened to this other group?"  All these attacks are important.  All are tragic.  They should not have happened.  It is not wrong to mourn one group at a time.

Let's stand united on this.  Terror is real, and arguing will only further its cause.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Great Zucchini Race

I'm three four days late posting this, but I'm finally here to tell you about The Great Zucchini Race.  Now, you might not have realized that zucchinis are capable of racing.  They have no visible legs, and I've never yet seen one wriggle like a worm.  However, an annual tradition at Rowan's school is, indeed zucchini racing.  Rowan decorated a lovely zucchini.






















All the kids were given their zucchinis on Monday.  The race was held Friday, which meant we had four days to get this guy ready.  Naturally, we put it off until Thursday evening.  I am not an artistic person.  Craft projects send me into panic overdrive.  I kept hoping someone else would volunteer to help him with it, but when no one stepped forward, I knew I had to do my motherly duty.

Nail polish! I thought.  Surely nail polish would give it a nice, hard coating, while also making it smooth and streamlined!  I thought maybe a few racing stripes.  I wasn't factoring in Rowan, though.  Rowan wanted a CAT wearing PANTS and a SHIRT.  Yeah, if you can't tell that from the picture, you're not alone.  I think it looks more like a pig.  ("Rowan, if it's a cat, where's the tail?"  Rowan, disdainfully:  "It's a Manx.")

FYI, if you ever decide to use nail polish to decorate a zucchini, here's a helpful tip or two I could have used:  Buy 10 bottles of the same color.  Pour them all into a container.  Get a larger paint brush and dip in.  I really, really wish we had done that, because OMG, it took forever to paint that thing with a little, tiny polish brush.  Grandpa did the wheels, which were awesome.

Friday we sent him off to school with his zucchini in a box.  Savanna, Henry, Grandma, and I went over in the afternoon to witness the event.  Rowan's was first on the ramp.  It went a decent distance, but was nowhere near the winner.



Actually, not all the zucchinis really raced.  Only the ones in the Fastest and Furthest Distance categories got sent down the ramp.  Other categories included Prettiest, Sparkliest, Tallest, and Heaviest.  Here are some of the other contestants:



I bet you never imagined you could do so much with a simple garden vegetable!  Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and everyone had a good time.  (Apart from the kindergartner who broke down in tears when his zucchini failed, but he was soon comforted with Twizzlers.)  So far Rowan's school has done an exceptional job of Making Learning Fun, and that is very encouraging.  I hope it continues to be a pleasant experience for him!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I'm Sending My Children To School (And I Don't Want To)

My 6-year-old and my 3-year-old are headed to school this fall.  This is a surprise to me, because I have been planning for their entire lives to school them at home.  I have a variety of reasons, as do all parents who choose to homeschool.  Firstly, they are both autistic, and it can be quite difficult to work with them.  Secondly, they are extremely active, and not designed to sit still.  Thirdly, no matter how wonderful their teachers would be, they would not receive the same level of care and attention that they get from me at home.  No one knows them like I do, not even their dad.  I know (usually) what sets them off, what calms them down, and how to deal with tricky situations.  I am home with just them, so any emotional crisis can be given my full attention immediately.  Teachers, while excellent, simply don't have that flexibility.

Henry, the 3-year-old, is mostly non-verbal.  We started having him tested by the school district back in June.  The testers recommended that we put him in a preschool to improve his verbal and social skills.  We reluctantly agreed, and he's due to start in just a few weeks.  I am terrified.  Henry does not deal well with change, particularly changes where he won't see Mommy.  I am waffling between sending him off to preschool against his will, or keeping him home and cuddling him.

As for Rowan, the 6-year-old, we've been leaning toward Connections Academy, an online free public school.  Friends of ours have gone through it and said it's wonderful.  This is the route we thought we would go until five days ago.  But here's the thing--Rowan wants to actually go to school.  A physical school building with physical classmates and a teacher.

A physical public school is out of the question.  Rowan alternates between extreme childishness and extreme adult-like speech.  He is extraordinarily sweet, but if he is handled wrong, he will go into an emotional shutdown.  Public school would eat him alive.  That left us with just private school as a physical option, and we were sure we couldn't afford private school.

Still, we arranged a meeting at a small local private school to weigh our options.  We met with the administrator and the woman who would be his teacher, should he enroll.  And--oh dear!--it sounded absolutely ideal.  Rowan would be in a mixed first and second grade classroom.  Only eight other students were enrolled for that classroom.  Wednesdays are special activity days, with activities ranging from gardening to cooking.  Rowan's potential teacher took him to her classroom for placement testing, since he did not attend kindergarten.  She came back and said that in writing, spelling, and math he scored as a solid first grade.  His reading is at a third grade level.  He loves her and the school already.

So how could we say no?  We believe this will be a thoroughly positive experience for Rowan.  He mostly associates with adults.  He needs and craves social interaction with other children, but in small groups.  Large groups are terrifying for him.  In every way we can imagine, this school sounds perfect.

We're having to make some lifestyle changes, of course.  We've shut off our cable service.  We've consolidated our cell phone plans.  Even that might not be enough.  With both Rowan and Henry gone, at least for the mornings, I might have to get a job.  I'm sure we'll be feeling the pinch of tuition soon.

I don't want to send him.  I don't want to send either of my boys to school.  I have always planned to keep them home with me and teach them myself.  I have been preparing for it for years.  I don't know what I'll do without them here.  I may yet keep Henry home, although I'll probably give him at least a week in the preschool to see how he adjusts.  For Rowan, though, it's time for him to stretch his wings and try them out in a new environment.  So far he's handling it better than I am.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Social? Antisocial? How about Selectively Social?

A month or so ago, some truly wonderful family members decided to treat me to something special.  They bought a ticket for me to a Ladies Night event, full of massages, nail treatments, and bonding with other women.  They purchased this without consulting me, because of course you don't tell people when you're planning a surprise.  They presented it to me--Wow!  An evening of fun and pampering with lots of other women!  And we've already paid for your ticket, so make sure you don't skip out!

Maybe that sounds like heaven to you.  I fought the urge to run screaming and vomit in terror.  Instead I pinned a smile to my lips as best I could and thanked them, albeit a bit stiffly.  When I got the news that the event had been postponed, I nearly cried with relief.

Few things inspire more anxiety in me than hearing the words "group of people" and "must go" and "bonding time."  Oh, I like people.  I do.  I like almost every person I meet.  Forced socialization, however, is something I just can't handle.  When I'm put into a social situation where I'm expected to mingle, I feel like a rowboat set adrift in the Pacific Ocean--no compass, no sense of direction, no guide, nothing to sustain me, and only a couple of piddly paddles to set me going one way or another.  But when I don't even know which direction to head for, what's the point of paddling?  I might as well lay back and let the sharks eat me.

Today I finally explained to one of the gifters that I really, truly do not want to go.  She seemed baffled, and kept asking why.  I did my best to explain:  It won't be relaxing for me.  It won't be fun.  I will be stressed and anxious the whole time, and that's not a pleasant experience for me.  I'm not sure she ever understood.  I think she was offended that I rejected her gift.  It got me thinking, though, about a few other similar situations.

Years ago a friend invited me to a house-warming party.  I foolishly accepted a ride there instead of taking my own vehicle.  My friend was immediately caught up in the crowds--yes, crowds!--of people, chatting happily and showing no signs of stopping.  I spent the evening huddled in a corner, pretending to talk to another very uncomfortable girl.  I caught sight of another person sitting alone in the office, a comfortable door between him and the crowds, and I envied him.

A few years later, some other family members bought me a gift certificate for a massage.  A massage!  How wonderful!  How thoughtful!  How delightful!  I never called to make an appointment.  I could never quite pinpoint why I didn't; there always was some reason why I couldn't do it just then.  It was only today that I finally nailed it down:  They paid a stranger to touch my naked back without my permission.  Here, look!  We paid an exorbitant amount to have you take off your clothes and let a strange person touch you!

That might sound like an extreme overreaction, and perhaps it is, but this is my body and I get to decide who touches it.  I'm sure the masseuse would have been wonderful, but the fact remains that I didn't get to select her.  I was not given the opportunity to decide if this was something I wanted or not.  I am grateful, really, that my family gives me gifts they very obviously value so much.  I just wish they had bought the massage for themselves and gotten me a CD instead.

So is it just that I'm an introvert?  Am I antisocial, or a people-hater?

No.  I am just selectively social.  I really do like people.  I can chat easily to other parents on the playground and random old ladies in the grocery store.  I go to church and smile and greet people.  I can do all that, but it exhausts me.  It tires me beyond belief, and then I have to crash by myself for a long time to recover.

That might sound like introversion to you.  Introverts get their energy from being alone, right?  

The thing is, I also get energy from being with people.  Specific people in specific places, and in small groups.  By "group" I mean no more than three or four people maximum.  Except for when I'm with my immediate family, I am comfortable socializing in three places:  my own home, the park, and a coffee shop.  In my home, if I'm not involved in a conversation, I can busy myself with fixing tea and preparing snacks.  I know the territory and can move where I need to so I don't feel awkward.  At the park, I move around a lot to keep up with my children.  This keeps me from sitting in an awkward silence.  At a coffee shop I can busy myself with my cup.  Not much conversation is expected there, anyway.

And yet, I love to be surrounded by people.

Yes, I love to be surrounded by people.  Not all people, mind.  A few of my friends; a few of my stepson's friends.

I like the sound of conversation swirling around me as I sip my tea.  I like hearing laughter and joking as I change a diaper.  I like contributing a sentence or two as I pass cookies around.  I like having them present, having them in the house, in the room, without feeling the need to entertain them.

So what's the difference?  The difference is that these are people with whom I am supremely comfortable.  They know me.  They know what to expect when they see my home.  They don't have any crazy expectations of me.  More importantly, I know what to expect of them.  These are people who have woven themselves into my heart and made themselves family.  They know my fridge and pantry; they know where the tea is stored.  I have tested them with small fragments of my soul and they have not disappointed me.  They belong here, in a way I could never describe with words.  Having them around is simultaneously relaxing and energizing for me.

So do I get energy from being alone?  Yes.  Do I get energy from being with people?  Yes.  Both of those can also weary me beyond belief.  It just depends on the situation and the people involved.

If you're not yet one of my inner circle, I still want to see you.  Yes, you.  I really do like people.  Just--one at a time, please?  That will give me an opportunity to focus on just you and get to know you better, instead of feeling harried and pressured to chat up everyone at once.  I might even bake cookies.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Too Much Facebook?

I read a post today entitled, "Why Men Criticize Their SAHM Wives."  I like the post a lot.  It has some very good points.  And although I have a wonderful, fabulous, amazing, supportive husband, I realized that I have been judging myself for some of these things.  On some things I know I could definitely do better, but there is one point in particular where I wonder--over and over in my mind until I want to scream--if everyone else out there judges me for.  They're probably not, but that doesn't stop me wondering.

Facebook.

Oh, Facebook.  Nearly everyone I know has a love/hate relationship with it.  It's a great way to stay in touch with family.   It's full of mindless drivel.  You can reconnect with old friends.  Some old friends might be better left in the past.  It's entertaining.  It's a time-sucking vacuum.

When it comes to moms, Facebook is a deadly trap.  There are so many fabulous pages and communities where we can find other moms and say, "At last!  Someone who gets it!"  That is a wonderful thing, of course, but there are other posts out there, too.  Posts that say, "Put down your phone," and "Limit your child's screen time," and "You're spending too much time on Facebook."  Ironically, these get posted on Facebook.  I understand these posts, and I partially agree with them, but the end result is that I feel guilty any time I pick up my phone--even to take a picture of my children--or check my Facebook notifications.  And I wonder if all my Facebook friends think I'm neglecting my children so I can just play all day.

So for the purposes of clarification, and also so that I can see it in print for myself, I'm going to explain.  Yes, I probably spend more time on Facebook than I "ought" to or "need" to.

Here's what you see:  I start off the day by sharing a post at 6:30 a.m.  That early, and already I'm Facebooking!  At 1:50 p.m. I share another post.  Maybe I even comment on a few things.  At 2:43 p.m. I share another.  Then another at 8:56 p.m.  I imagine the commentary:  Is she on her phone all freakin' day?  Doesn't she do any work?  Her poor, neglected children.  Her poor husband.  It must be awful to be around someone so addicted to her phone.  No one has said this to me, of course, but the articles and blog posts I see on the subject seem to stab me personally.  Maybe it's just that I always feel like I could do better.

Here's what you don't see:  Shortly before 6:30 a.m. I awakened to a small child lying on my hair.  I very carefully extricated myself from the bed and headed for the bathroom.  No one else was awake; this was my time.  I checked my notifications and played a few games of Candy Crush.  I left the bathroom and found that both of my children had woken up and were downstairs.  I scrambled into my clothes as quickly as I could and ran down to make sure the front door and the back gate were closed and locked.  It's been hot out, and we've taken to opening up the house in the morning.

The morning passed with minimal fuss--for once--and then it was time for church.  You didn't see me there, telling my distraught 6-year-old that he couldn't take the stroller to church to play with.  You didn't see us stop on the way so that I could explain once again that it is not okay to stand the very edge of the curb, because it make drivers nervous.

You didn't see that I had to stay in the children's church for the whole service with my 3-year-old clinging tight to me, wiping his nose on my shirt and snapping my bra straps repeatedly.  Snap.  Snap.  Snap.  You didn't see that I carried my 6-year-old all the way home from church, with him sobbing that he didn't have a chance to play the Xbox.  You didn't see the way I forced myself to be gentle and speak calmly when he bit my shoulder in an attempt to muffle his sobs.

You didn't see how desperately I watched the playground while we ate lunch with another family, visually tracking my children so fiercely that I hardly noticed what I ate or who sat near me.  You didn't see the way I ran to where my sweet, precious, autistic 3-year-old had blundered into a group of boys twice his size, who tried to talk to him and couldn't understand why he just ignored them.

 You didn't see the way I pushed the merry-go-round around and around and around while my 3-year-old balanced precariously on a rail, watching the patterns of dirt as he whirled by.  You didn't see the teenage Down syndrome girl who sat by him.  You didn't see how sweetly they smiled and babbled to each other, her mother looking relieved that we didn't run away.

You didn't see my panic when I realized that my 3-year-old, who had been playing in his room just five minutes before, was no longer there.  Five minutes of taking a break with Facebook and posting something.  Never mind that I was thoroughly exhausted from the day already; my mommy guilt said that I should have spent every waking moment glued to my child's side.  Mommies don't need or deserve breaks.  Facebook made me lose my child.  You didn't see my overwhelming relief when my husband found him playing in Grandpa's camper.

There are so many more things you didn't see, and don't see, and that I really don't see either, even though I'm living them.  I see the sparkle in my son's eyes when I sit down to play trains with him, and instead of feeling happiness at his delight, I feel guilty that I haven't been playing with him all morning.  I fold a basket of laundry, and instead of feeling accomplished, I chide myself for not doing it earlier.

So do I spend too much time on Facebook?  Yes, I suppose that could be argued.  I could read a book when I take a break.  Better yet, I could just work without pause, without taking any breaks.  Here's the thing, though:  If I am allowed pauses in my day, why not Facebook?  Why is it any worse than anything else I could be doing?  With it, I can share fun stories with my family.  I can connect with other people who are just like me.  I am the administrator of a support group to strengthen and encourage people.

Like anything else, Facebook is a tool.  It can be used wrongly, but when used in a good manner it can strengthen, support, and build up.  It is a vehicle in which we travel to community.  When I can't get out to see people in real life, I can turn to my online friends and they say, "I understand.  I've been there.  You can do this."

Perhaps the judgment I should be worried about is my own.

What do you think?  Is Facebook a hindrance or a blessing in your life?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Enough

This evening I had to leave my house shortly after dinner, and I did not return for a few hours.  When I came home, Matthew had done a load of dishes, changed the laundry, and put the children in bed.  This might sound like an ideal situation to you, but to me it just felt like yet another confirmation that I am a lousy mother and wife.

I am not a natural multi-tasker.  Something I have said frequently to Matthew is, "I can do housework OR I can take care of the children.  I can't do both."  Truthfully, I do a bit of both, but I can't do them at the same time.  I simply can't.

Multiple sclerosis complicates things.  Remember that it's Matthew who has it, not me.  This is something I have to keep in mind every moment of every day, because it affects every moment, both physically and emotionally.  What does this mean?  It means that in everything Matthew does--watering the garden, doing laundry, doing dishes, taking kids to the park--he is in horrible pain.  He takes three painkillers multiple times every day, just to bring the pain down to a level where he can walk and function.  Even then he still hurts with every step, and fatigue hits him like a freight train after thirty minutes to an hour.

So apart from the obvious, what does this mean for me?  It means that every task I do counts for less in my mind, and every break is less excusable.  I load the dishwasher?  That's part of my expected duties; nothing special.  Matthew loads it?  I know that every moment on his feet was filled with pain and exhaustion, and my gratitude to him is through the roof.  At the same time, I then feel completely inadequate, because if I were doing my duty, Matthew wouldn't have to lift a finger.  (FYI that's in my head, not his.  I think.)

Every tiny little thing I do feels like not enough.  If I were really dutiful, the house would be spotless and sparkling every moment of every day, and I would have the kids in the park for at least four hours every day.  If I sit down to take a break while Matthew is working, I feel like a dreadful person, because I know he's much more exhausted than I am.  If I take a break while he's taking a break, I still feel dreadful, because he's collapsing because he has to.  I just want to sit down and not work for a moment.  If Matthew sits down and plays a game, it's because he can no longer stand.  If I sit down and play a game, I'm a lazy, slothful person who's neglecting her work.  That's what it feels like, anyway.

Back to multi-tasking.  One of the biggest things for me is that my children L-O-V-E physical attention.  It often feels like they need to be attached to my person every moment of the day.  Henry in particular was very clingy today.  I sat with him and watched a 50-minute episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, twice in a row.  During that time, Matthew walked through carrying a laundry basket.  My immediate reaction was guilt--I should have been up doing that, instead of lounging on the couch with my baby!  And yet, don't my children need my attention, too?  Where do I find the balance between giving attention to my children (very necessary) and giving appropriate attention to household duties (also very necessary)?  And where do I fit in time for my husband, and time for myself?  Do such things exist?

 I haven't found the answer yet.  If I ever do, I'll be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, I'll go on doing the best I can, because here's the thing:  I am enough.  God put me here, and when I am not sufficient, I can draw on His sufficiency.  Together we are enough.  I just need to remind myself of this every hour.

An extra load of laundry probably wouldn't hurt, too.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hospital Fun

To celebrate his 71st birthday, my dad went to an exclusive getaway where he was waited on hand and foot, getting not only breakfast in bed, but lunch, dinner, and snacks as well.  It's called the hospital.

Well, technically he went in on Thursday.  For a week he'd been having terrible pain from his hip to his foot, and he was having a lot of trouble walking--when he could walk at all.  My sister spent a lot of time Thursday trying to persuade him to go, but neither he nor my mom wanted to face the looooooong emergency room times.  Also, his leg was hurting so bad that he couldn't ride in a car for more than five minutes at a time without having to stop and stretch his legs out.  So--they called an ambulance.

The doctors initially were looking for a potential fracture or blood clot, but after numerous tests, those were ruled out.  They haven't found an official cause yet, but it's suspected that there's a nerve problem.

Today I got to go in and spend all day there with my dad and one of my sisters.  We've been trying to keep one of us there at all times so we can better advocate for my dad to the doctors.  The physical therapist and occupational therapist this morning said that in their opinion, Dad is not safe to come home at this time.  They want him to go into a skilled nursing facility.  Since we couldn't reach a care facility, due to the holiday weekend.  The therapists then suggested that he stay at the hospital at least until Monday.

This evening Rowan and I went to go see the fireworks show at the park.  He had an absolute blast!

I would write more, but I keep falling asleep over my keyboard.  I can't write more tonight, and that's a fact.  See you all later! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why I Am Neither For Nor Against Legalized Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday, the Supreme Court's decision regarding same-sex marriage sent my Facebook newsfeed into overdrive.  I saw a lot of extremely polarized views, mostly either, "OMG this is the best thing ever!!!! #lovewins," or else, "OMG this country is on a downward spiral now!!!! #fallennation."  I don't agree with either of those views, but don't mistake me for being neutral, because I'm not.  I did see a few "neutral" posts that basically said, "I don't agree with it, but as long as it doesn't affect me, what do I care?"  That's not my viewpoint, either.

Brace yourselves.  I might be making every group angry.

I firmly believe that homosexuality is wrong.  I also believe that sex between a man and a woman, outside of the context of marriage, is wrong.  I believe that greed, indifference, lust, and covetousness are wrong.  I hold these beliefs because I am Christian, and I believe God's Word.

The thing is, God didn't put me here to legislate my beliefs onto others.  Yes, I believe what God said to be true, but nowhere did He say that I should enforce His Laws onto the country where I reside.  Or, to quote 1 Timothy 4:16, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine [emphasis added]."  Take heed to myself--pay attention to the way that I am living my life; to my standing with God; to how my life lines up with the Bible.  That doesn't mean I shouldn't care about my neighbors.  We need to pray, always pray.  But prayer is not the same as forcing someone to live in what you perceive is the correct manner.

This country where God has placed me was founded on the principle of personal liberty--that is, the liberty for each individual to live his or her life in the manner that he or she chooses, so long as it does not harm anyone else.  That means I have the right to seek employment where I choose, vacation where I choose, and marry whom I choose.  My neighbors also have those rights, even when I disagree personally with their choices.  And really, if you believe in God-given free will, you must recognize that God allows us to choose.  He allows us to choose wrongly.  He allows us to make mistakes.  He allows us to do things that will hurt us, because He loves us so much that He wants us to freely choose Him.  There wouldn't be the same joy in us choosing to follow God, if we were forced to do so.

At the same time, I believe that officially recognizing same-sex marriage is a mistake, because when "love" is the only listed requirement, that opens the door to all different kinds of love.  Incest?  Sure.  Pedophilia?  No problem.  After all, why shouldn't two brothers be allowed to marry?  It's not like we'd have to worry about their genetics when it comes to children.  And with so much push to allow young girls access to birth control without parental consent, isn't that basically saying that they already know their sexuality better than their parents?  So why shouldn't a 10-year-old girl marry a 35-year-old man?  Studies have already been done to determine if pedophilia is really just another sexual orientation.

The problem we have here is having the government involved in marriage at all.  It wasn't always, you know.  For many years marriage was a social institution, recognized by priests and villages but not regulated by the state.  The state has its claws in now, and it won't retract them easily.  Being in charge of marriage--something most adults crave--gives the state too much power.  If government were to remove itself from marriage, including all tax benefits, etc., marriages could once again be performed by priests, rabbis, shamans, or what-have-you, without needless coercive redefining.  Those who want to marry someone of the same gender can easily, in this day and age, find someone to perform that ceremony.  Those who want male-female only relationships can find places that line up with their beliefs.  And when government is removed from defining marriage, it can better protect children, which is one of its intended functions.  Of course children should not be allowed to marry, but when "love" is officially recognized as all that's needed to marry, that line can become blurred.

The point in all of this is personal liberty.  God gives us liberty.  Our Constitution is supposed to affirm that liberty.  It is not just to force an entire nation to abide by your personal beliefs, whether they be heterosexual-only marriages or love-makes-a-marriage marriages.  Get government out of marriageIt should never have been in it to begin with.

So yes, I believe same-sex marriage is wrong, but not any more so than homosexuality itself, or sexual relationships outside of marriage. The Church, however, is not the State, nor should it be.  They each have their separate functions.  Carey Nieuwhof wrote an excellent piece about this.  

Live your life.  Live it the best way you know how.  Don't force others to fall in line with what you believe, whatever side of the issue you're on.  Be kind, be generous, be thoughtful.  Be the kind of person you want to meet.  You're much less likely to be frustrated with others' perceived idiocy that way.  And for heaven's sake, if someone around you is loudly spouting a different viewpoint, don't engage in an argument.  Maybe you could offer coffee, and a chance to discuss differences in a civil manner.

Another good read:  Why Christians Should Oppose a Government Definition of Marriage  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

32

Today is my birthday.

My birthday.

I don't usually do a lot to celebrate, because it's my stepson's birthday also, and because as the years pass, I really don't feel the need for a huge celebration.  A bit of peace and quiet is what I like the most.

This year, though, I was kept busy all day.  By 9:00 a.m. my sister and I, along with Rowan and my sister's two children, were busy taste-testing cake, frosting, and fillings.  Okay, it was for a cake for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, which will be celebrated this weekend, but I see no better way to start off my birthday than with tasting frosting!  I hadn't even had breakfast yet!

...Which leads to, after the taste-testing, we dropped off Rowan and my sister's eldest at my parents' house, and she took me out for brunch.  I can highly recommend Oregon Crepes in the Pringle Plaza!


 I came home and a good friend, Neil, had stopped by to visit.  He brought me a lovely card and two boxes of Earl Grey tea.  Hurray!  Unfortunately I was very, very tired by this point, so I went up for a birthday nap while Matthew and Neil chatted.  Birthdays are exhausting!



I woke up when my lovely friend Julie showed up to babysit my kids, while Matthew and I escaped to Dairy Queen (paid for with birthday cash from Carol).  It's so nice to get out with him without children!  And then Julie bought delectable margherita pizza for dinner. <3

And to top it all off, Wednesdays are VariTechnical Artistry days (VTA for short), which is what we've renamed our writer's group.  VTA days are my favorite days!  How wonderful and fitting that my birthday should land on a VTA day!  So Savanna, Richie, and Fletcher came over to join us.  Savanna brought me an absolutely gorgeous copy of Peter Pan.  I am so excited to read it with Rowan!  And I got to see artwork from Richie, and I had time to write, and Henry is asleep now, and Matthew is taking care of Rowan, and even though three people have gone home now, Savanna and I are still sitting and writing.





   



All in all, this has been one of the best birthdays ever.  I loved every minute.  And now I'm off to read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator with Rowan, which is even better.  I am so very blessed!  Thank you all for giving me such a wonderful, fabulous, splendiferous, absolutely magnificent day!  I love you all!

Father's Day, and Other Happenings

Life has been busy.  It's been hectic.  It's been crazy and exciting and rushed and insane.  The house we live in officially went on the market a few weeks ago, which means we've been attempting, with mixed success, to keep our house at the height of realtor perfection.  I have never been particularly neat (although I would love to be), and with two small children in the house, it's been challenging.

So.  Last week another realtor contacted our realtor and said he'd like to show the house Saturday evening.  Naturally, we have to be out of the house while it's shown.  We elected to just sit in the park across the street while it happened.  We waited and waited and waited and waited....

At last Paul called our realtor and he said he'd been trying to reach the other realtor, with no success.  Extremely annoying, to be sure! 

Then yesterday, Father's Day, our realtor had an open house planned for our house.  Paul told us it was from 1 - 4 p.m.  Our house was still mostly neat from Saturday, but a few things needed to be touched up.  We all felt the pressure of time.  Tempers were short, and sometimes got lost.  Matthew watered the garden with Henry, and then, bless his soul eternally, took the small ones and Noah out of the house and to the park, so that Paul, Carol, and I could clean in peace.  And wow, we made it look dazzling.  I even finally managed to get the study cleaned up.




We were out of the house before 1:00, and we made our way to Minto Brown Island Park in Salem.  We figured it would be a good place to hang out for a few hours.  I had to make a run to the store for a few necessities, so Matthew again took the children (he amazes me!) and Noah took Lili to the dog park.  That's right; we had our dog with us, too.  Around 2:15 I got a text from Paul:  It turns out the open house was actually scheduled for 2:30 - 5:30.  We'd been out with the children for an hour and a half, and THE OPEN HOUSE HADN'T EVEN STARTED YET.

To make things more difficult, the kidlings were tired of the park.  I thought of my parents; I had really wanted to go see my dad on Father's Day, but I thought they might still be in Seattle.  My mom's brother is in the hospital there.  I figured I should call anyway and find out.  And...they were home!  I asked if we could crash their house with five people and a dog, and my mom said, sure!  Bearing in mind that they live in a single-wide trailer with a very small (but thankfully fenced) yard.  And two of my sisters (one with her husband and two children) and one of my brothers were already there!  Haha!

So there we went.  The children were charmed by Lili.  She is very sweet and playful.









 My brother-in-law grilled steaks, one of my sisters made a delicious Asian salad, my mom made fabulous baked potatoes, and we had a fabulous time.  Hurray!  And Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Henry and the Broken Bone

Monday last week, Henry (3 years old) fell off a ladder.  Twice.  At least, I'm assuming it was twice; we didn't actually see it happen the first time, and since Henry is mostly nonverbal, he couldn't tell us.

Anyway, the realtor who's listing our house was over to take pictures, so I had put up the ladder to the loft in Henry's bedroom.  I left it up because, well, since he learned to climb he's been very careful about it and has never had a problem with it.  I was downstairs talking with a friend when Henry started howling.  I zoomed up the stairs and got there at the same time as Matthew.  We found Henry lying on the floor, crying.  I picked him up and snuggled him until he felt better, and Matthew took the ladder down.  I went back downstairs.

About five minutes later the howling began again.  I raced back up the stairs to find Henry on the floor again, and the ladder up.  Rowan, our 6-year-old, had put it up.  (I must admit that I am somewhat impressed, as the ladder is very heavy.)  He reported that Henry had fallen from the second or third rung--not very high.  We didn't worry much about it then; I snuggled Henry for a long while, but he still was upset.  I gave him ibuprofen and he went to sleep for an hour.

When he woke up, the crying began again.  This can't be right, I thought to myself.  He shouldn't still be in pain from it.  Matthew agreed, and we took him to the ER.  It's a small one, and usually not very busy.  That night, although it was busier than usual, we got in to a room within 30 minutes.  When the doctor came in to examine Henry, he did a very quick exam.  "No contusions on the head.. standing straight.. can't feel anything wrong with his spine.. Okay, take him home and bring him back if he starts vomiting."  He explained that they don't like to do scans on small children unless they see something obviously wrong; and he said that it was perfectly normal for Henry to still be crying four hours after the accident.  I thought the first part sounded logical, but I knew it wasn't normal for Henry to still be crying.  Maybe I should have pushed more.  But the doctor was already moving on to the next patient, so we packed up and went home.  (The fact that we were hearing phrases from the patient next to us like "abscess" and "groin" and "scrotal sac" might have had something to do with it.)

Henry cried Tuesday.  We gave him more ibuprofen, and then he was happy for a few hours until it wore off.  He cried again.  He cried Wednesday, and I noticed that he wasn't using his left arm.  He also wasn't sliding down the stair railing, like he usually does.  I decided to call his doctor.  His regular doctor.  We went in that afternoon and his doctor said he most likely had fractured his arm.  He put Henry's arm in a splint and gave us orders to go to the hospital (a different one) and get x-rays.

I know his seat belt is wrong.  I fixed it.

It turns out he had fractured his arm.  It was what the doctor called a "buckle fracture."  He said to leave it in the splint until Monday, then bring him in to the clinic for a cast.  Poor Henry!  To be trapped in a cast for the summer!  I told my family about the situation, and they were all very indignant.  My brother-in-law, a volunteer firefighter, said he was going to "raise Hell" with the ER about not doing scans that first day.  I am torn between being angry and being understanding.  When you have a patient like the one next to us, it can be easy to dismiss a small boy showing no outward signs of injury.  On the other hand, my boy deserves thorough treatment.

Well, we went in Monday to get Henry's cast.  The doctor asked if he'd been trying to take the splint off, and we said no.  He said he would recommend just leaving it in a splint then, since it was mostly stable, and then we'd also be able to take it off for bathing.  We decided to go with that option, and he made a molded splint for Henry.



Henry is much happier now that his arm is stabilized.  I think it must really have been hurting him.  The doctor said he just has to wear it for three weeks.  He's already begun sliding down the banister again.  Lord help us in the next few weeks!

At the doctor's recommendation, we put a sock over the splint to keep it clean.  Henry is fascinated.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Children

I'm nearly at the end of a long day, and I am just so done.  Drained.  Exhausted.  Finished.  It's not that the kids were horrible (they weren't) or that bad things happened (they didn't).  Being a mother is just so darn tiring.

Before anyone jumps on my case and says that fatherhood is tough, too, let me just state that I am already aware.  It's tiring.  It's exhausting.  Okay.  But this post is about me, and I am not, and will never be, a father.

And in this household, at least, while Matt works at least as hard as I do, he just doesn't get swarmed by the children like I do.  That's what really gets me -- having small beings fling themselves at me and on me All Day Long. They pet my legs.  They caress and mangle my hair.  They sit on my head.  They butt their heads into my stomach.  They are completely without mental boundaries in their attack on me, touching me in places I don't want to be touched, then flitting away before I can reprimand them.  That's just in fifteen minutes, but they can keep it going all day.

When I am done preparing their food and sit down to eat my own, Henry in particular will climb on my lap, purposely putting his beaming face between me and my fork.  If I try to duck around him, he moves his head to maintain the blockade.  This morning he kept trying to put his feet in my cup of tea, I guess because I was giving it too much attention (drinking it).

And the bra snapping.  I don't know why Henry is so fascinated by it, but any time I pick him up or sit next to him, he tries to reach in my shirt and snap my straps.  This is strictly Not Allowed -- I always remove his hands, and then he sobs in anguish, making me feel like a heartless mommy.

I love my kids.  Really, I do.  But by midmorning I am ready to hop on a plane to Hawaii and not look back for a month.  I keep telling myself I'll sit down and write after they're asleep, but half the time I fall asleep with them, and the other half I'd usually rather do something mindless, like play Candy Crush.

...To prove a point, it's 2:58 a.m. now, and I've just woken up again next to my peacefully slumbering children.  I obviously I didn't get done whatever I was planning to do after the kids passed out. Eat ice cream, maybe?

I should add that I love my children very much, and on the extremely rare occasions I've been away from them for the night (maybe 5 nights in 6.5 years), I've missed them like crazy.  They are sunshine bursting through the walls and windows, flooding my soul with the joy of summer.  They are high-pitched shrieks and laughter, endless giggles as they chase each other through the house.  They are sweet little arms wrapping around my neck, little heads nestling on my shoulder, little voices whispering, "I love you, Mama."

They are the pinnacle of my life thus far, my trembling heart walking around in reckless little bodies. They are my everything, and I love them so very much.

I bet I would love them even more after Hawaii.