Momma’s Boys

May 7, 2011

“Why do boys have to be so annoying?” Emma asked Ethan.  “I don’t know. Why do girls have to be so dramatic?” he replied.  I heard this conversation the other day when the twins had been playing together all afternoon and apparently were starting to get on each other’s nerves.  Ethan had been annoying Emma and she of course had been reacting in typical girl fashion by being overly dramatic about the annoying things he was doing.  She still doesn’t seem to realize that the dramatic reaction is what makes annoying her so much fun and just encourages Ethan.

It has been interesting for me to watch the relationships that have developed between my children and how different they are.  Emma and Drew have a much different relationship than the relationship between Ethan and Drew. The same goes for the relationship between Emma and Caleb and Ethan and Caleb … the brother / brother relationship is not the same as the brother / sister relationship.  I grew up with only one brother and one sister so I didn’t notice this difference until I had kids of my own.

This video clip shows that special bond of “brotherly love” and I can see Drew and Ethan doing something like this about 10 years from now.  (Ethan would definitely be the uncooperative one in the t-shirt!)

Happy Mother’s Day!

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 As parents we often feel like a broken record … telling our kids the same things day after day, week  after week, month after month. Here is a list of things I would never have imagined I’d have to tell my kids more than once, but sadly I was mistaken.  To many people these may seem like common sense, but if you have kids you probably have figured out that kids have to learn common sense and it’s our job as parents to teach them by “reminding” them as often as necessary of these essential life lessons.

  • Don’t lick the toilet seat
  • Stop jumping on your brother
  • Don’t  eat Playdough (or pennies, or paperclips)
  • No, you cannot play “Let’s see who can stay up until Midnight”
  • Yes, we have to wear clothes EVERYDAY
  • No, you cannot play with water balloons in the house
  • Don’t put marbles up your nose
  • Stop annoying your sister
  • Don’t wipe your snotty nose, dirty hands or chocolate face on Mommy’s new dress
  • No, I don’t want to see your booger
  • Yes, they had electricity when Mommy was your age
  • No, you can’t play “fireman” and use real matches
  • Don’t  grow up too fast ….. Mommy is going to miss these days.

Life Happens

March 4, 2011

I drove by a church sign this week that read, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”  “Wow, that is so true” I thought.  I know that my life hasn’t turned out the way I had planned. 

I never planned to be a pastor’s wife – my husband was not a pastor or even a youth pastor when we got married.  I never planned to have a child with Autism – in fact, after my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I said that probably there was something wrong with the baby and God knew I couldn’t handle raising a child with special needs.  I never planned on having twins – After having Drew and Caleb we said we would only have one more baby, but God had a different plan in mind for our family.

I have always been a well-organized person who loves to plan and make lists. I love to have things go according to those plans and I love to accomplish tasks and cross them off my list. I also find myself getting stressed when I things DON’T go according to plan.

  After Drew was born I was exhausted but still managed to keep my house tidy and accomplish a few things on my ever-growing “To do” list.   Although there were times when I felt very overwhelmed by this new addition to the family, I had no idea that this was just the beginning. 

When Caleb came along I started to struggle a little more.  The house wasn’t quite as clean. I started to care less about whether or not I had make up on or what my hair looked like if I was just running to Walmart or the post office. I also started to notice how forgetful I had become and I was even having trouble in my cluttered office finding a pen and paper to write down things I could no longer remember.

Shortly after the twins came along things started to go downhill at an alarming rate.  The house was in total disarray … toys all over the floor, dishes piled in the sink, and juice stains on the couch and carpet.  Not only did I not care about my hair and make up, but I even ventured out in my pajamas once or twice when we overslept and I had to rush off to get Drew to school on time. Granted, my pajamas were sweatpants and a t-shirt, but I would have NEVER gone out looking that way back when Drew was little.  

One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is to ask for help. Realizing that I can’t do it on m y own and that I am not in control has been hard for me to accept.  I have had to learn to ask my husband, mom, mother-in-law, friends and kids to help me get things done and not try to be super-mom and do it all alone.  I have also had to learn that God has things in control and I don’t need to worry about every little detail of life, but rather turn these worries over to him. 

There were two times in my life that I must not have been doing a very good job of learning these lessons because they were times I was forced to ask for help due to circumstances beyond my control. One was when I was put on bed rest when I was 7 months pregnant with the twins. The other was when I broke my ankle and was put in one of those very lovely and oh-so- stylish boot casts.  In both these instances I was forced to ask for help because there was no way for me to do things on my own.  In both these instances it was the month of December which is already a stressful and busy month with all the Christmas preparations and things going on at church. 

I was really overwhelmed wondering how in the world things would get done but it amazed me how many people were there to help. I had my mom and mother-in-law that helped with the kids, did laundry and cleaned my house. My husband did all the grocery shopping and chauffeured the kids and I around.  There were people in the church that brought meals and checked on us to see if there was anything they could do to help. I even had my friend (and roommate from college), Becky, who came over and wrapped all my Christmas presents for me!  I knew that there were lots of people around me that cared for me and wanted to help and all I had to do was pick up the phone and ask.  It was hard at first, but it got easier as I started learning the lesson that everyone has to ask for help and there are certain times in our life that we need help more than others.

 Last night as I was upstairs getting the kids in bed I noticed Emma was missing. I started looking around the house and found her down stairs in the kitchen with all the lunch boxes lined up. “It’s time for bed Emma, what are you doing down here?” I asked.  “I just wanted to help and pack the lunches for you and surprise you” she sweetly replied.  It warmed my heart to have Emma help me, especially since I hadn’t even asked for help.

Worries and “What-ifs”

February 6, 2011

Until I became a mother I never really understood why my mom worried so much. She was always worrying about my brother, my sister and I and she always would say things like “Watch out for cars!” or “Be careful riding your bike!” as we were on our way out the door to play.  Now that I have kids of my own I hear myself saying these same warnings to my own kids as they are on their way out the door.  I also find myself worrying when the kids are sick or hurt or even when I hear a siren outside my window.  It makes me think of the Shel Silverstein poem about the “What-ifs” that crawl inside your head.  I have all these worries and “what-ifs” that play games in my head and often make me start to lose faith in myself and even in God. 

I sometimes lie in bed at night worrying about money, about my children’s future, about my job and even about the cluttered and messy house that I can never seem to find the time to clean.  I worry that I am not a good enough mother or wife and I worry that I am not doing enough at home, at work or at the church. I worry about our oldest son, Drew, who will be driving in 3 years (yikes!) and who will be dating in the near future which means the promise of young love, but also the pain of heartbreak and broken relationships.  This is the time of day when all the “what-ifs” crawl inside my head. “What if my kids don’t do well in school?”, “What if Caleb (our son with Autism) never talks?”,“What if something happens to my husband or I?”, “What if we can’t afford college for four kids?”, “What if ….”  Well, you get the idea.  It’s at times like this that I have to stop the worries and “what-ifs” from consuming me and remind myself that God has everything under control.  When we have Faith in God’s plan it helps eliminate the worries and fears that we may have. 

During times when I am struggling to not let the fear overcome my Faith God uses other women to speak into my life. Women are wired uniquely and gifted to specifically speak into the lives of other women. That is one of the things I love so much about the Women of Faith Conference that we take a group of women to each year. It is so meaningful and relevant because it is other women talking about their struggles and the problems they have faced and it makes you realize that you are not alone. There are other women out there that feel overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood … there are other women out there that get that dreaded call from the school that their child is in the Principals office … there are other women out there that worry that they are failing at trying to balance housework, kids, a job and the ever-present battle to try and maintain their sanity in the process.  God uses our relationships with other women to speak to us and encourage us.  Nothing quite lifts your spirits like a phone call with a friend or a “Girls Night Out”. Our friends can help us by sharing their similar experiences and letting us know that they have the same worries about their children, the future, and whether or not they are a “good mother”. 

So if you are like me and often have visits from the “what-ifs” or have worries that consume you remember that you are not alone.  Call a good friend, your mother or your sister and talk to them about what you are going through. Have them pray with you and ask them to continue to pray for you as you are going through a rough patch or difficult time in your life.  As you begin to let go of the worries and “what-ifs” you can replace them with the “what-abouts”.  “What-about the way God has always taken care of my family and I?”, “What-about the times in the past that God has worked things out even when the future seemed hopeless?”, “What-about the great friends and family I have that are praying for me and are there for me?”, “What-about the wonderful and awesome God we have that loves us unconditionally?”  When you start to count your blessings instead of your worries the day will seem much brighter and those “what-ifs” won’t stand a chance!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

(This is part of a Blog Hop for Women of Faith – to see other blogs click here : http://www.womenoffaith.com/blog/2011/02/your-favorite-bad-feeling/ )

Goodbye

January 30, 2011

The padding was gone and there were stains covering the fabric. The recliners were broken and there was a large tear in the arm. A tear so large that the wood frame was slightly showing. Our sectional couch had surely seen better days.  Like the day we purchased the couch 14 years ago and had it delivered to our home.  It had looked a lot smaller in the showroom, but in our living room it was much larger and took up more space than we had planned.   Dwight and I were so excited because it was our first piece of furniture that we had purchased since we had gotten married 4 years earlier.  All the rest of our furniture had been hand-me-downs or had been given to us.  We didn’t have any children at the time, but we were trying to get pregnant and hoped to have several children over the next few years. 

Over the past 14 years this couch has shared many happy memories with our family.  Memories of Thursday night Seinfeld, Friends, & ER parties with my parents and my brother and his wife.  Memories of sleeping on the recliners with our newborn babies lying on our chest so that we could get some much-needed rest. Memories of our children laughing and singing along with Blue’s Clues, Dora, and Barney.  Memories of pizza and popcorn on New Year’s Eve each year.

Today we said goodbye to our beloved sectional couch.  A couch that was worn and tattered but was a wonderful couch to come home to and relax after a long day.  As our couch was being moved out of our home the kids hugged the cushions and said goodbye.  They talked about their memories of fun times they had on this couch and looked forward to the happy memories we would have on our new couch.   So here is to another 14 years of memories … memories that will be sure to involve meeting girlfriends and boyfriends, wedding plans, and possibly grandchildren.

Surprise!

January 18, 2011

“There’s baby # 1 and there’s baby #2” the doctor pointed to the two fuzzy objects as I sat straight up and stared in disbelief at the ultrasound monitor. I was in my fourth month and had just recently come to terms with how I was going to handle a third child, but a third AND a fourth?  Dwight and I had been married 9 years and had 2 beautiful little boys : Drew, who was 5 and Caleb who was 17 months old.  We had always planned to have 3 children, and although I had gotten pregnant sooner than expected we were very excited and we were already talking about names and deciding where we would put the crib. However, we had no idea that we were getting the two-for-one special (aka: twins) “Where in the world are we going to put them?” I wondered as I continued to stare at the two heartbeats on the ultrasound.

This pregnancy had gone much like the other two except for 1) I had been eating non-stop and 2) I was gaining weight at a much faster pace.  However, since eating and gaining weight are related I just thought I really needed to cut back on the pizza, french fries and cheeseburgers I had been craving.   I had come in for my monthly check-up and thought this would be a pretty uneventful visit.  However,  I was measuring larger than normal for 18 weeks along and so the doctor had decided  it wouldn’t hurt to do a quick ultrasound there in his office to check and see if there might be more than one baby.

“Well, all I can say is that God must have a sense of humor” I said to the doctor as I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that I had two babies growing inside me.  “Of course he does” the doctor replied back with a smile.  Dr. Blake had been my doctor for all of my pregnancies including my first which was only 8 weeks and ended in miscarriage.  He and his staff were all wonderful and I knew I was in good hands as far as the pregnancy and delivery were concerned – it was what would happen after the birth that scared me. There was no way I would be able to return to work after this  – how would I afford childcare for 4 small children ?  How would we feed four children if I wasn’t working ? So many questions – my head was spinning and I know that it must have shown on my face because the nurses were very encouraging and kept saying things like “Everything will be work out”  “If anyone can handle this we know you can”, etc.  Very sweet of them, but I wasn’t as confident in myself and my mothering skills as they were. 

The rest of the pregnancy with the twins went quickly and the closer I got to my due date the more scared I became.  I was put on bed rest at 32 weeks because I had already dilated to 4 cm and was having contractions 5 minutes apart.  I was also given medicine to stop the contractions.  This medicine did not help at all with my nerves because it made me very jittery and high-strung.   I had to go in for a non-stress test every week.  It’s a good thing these tests were measuring the babies stress levels and not my own personal stress level because I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown. With all the worrying about the impending birth of the twins, the racing hormones in my body and the side effects of the medicine to stop the contractions I was an emotional wreck.  I was torn between just wanting to have the twins and get it over with and wanting them to stay in my uterus where they were a lot easier to care for than they would be when they came out.  At 36 weeks the doctor decided it was time and we welcomed Ethan Thomas (7 lbs, 5 oz) and Emma Nicole (5 lbs, 8 oz) into our family.

When we brought the twins home from the hospital their oldest brother Drew was very excited and wanted to help bring diapers, pacifiers, or whatever else we needed and even wanted to help entertain the babies when they were cranky.  During the pregnancy he had been a little unsure how he felt about adding to our family. One night he had told Dwight and I that once the babies came he would be moving in with Grandma and Grandpa Brock.  “It’s been nice living here, but I think it’s time for me to move on.”  Dwight and I were shocked by this news and asked him why he didn’t want to live with us anymore. “Oh, it’s not that I don’t like it here … it’s a pretty nice place and the food is OK, but once the new babies come there won’t be room for me to live here anymore.”  Drew is a smart boy and he had counted up the bedrooms and knew that there weren’t enough rooms for two more family members.  Since he was the oldest he assumed it was time for him to move out.   We explained to Drew that we already had plans to build on an addition to our house with two more bedrooms and another bathroom, but that even if we hadn’t we would never kick him out.  “Whew, that’s a relief!” Drew said as he gave me a big hug. “I’ve really kinda gotten used to you guys and I think I might miss you.”

Caleb was not even two when the twins came to invade his home and he was not happy at all.  He had been the baby of the family and he already had been upset that during the pregnancy Mommy’s lap had continued to get smaller and smaller. Now that the babies were here it seemed to him that Mommy was always holding one of them and these babies sure were noisy for being as small as they were.  If I were holding one (or both) of the twins he would walk past me by going out to the other side of the room, making sure to be as far away from the babies as possible.  He once found one of Emma’s socks and brought it to me but he carried it by a small string sticking out from the toe of the sock as if it had cooties or baby germs that he wanted no part of. 

Caleb was first diagnosed with Autism when the twins were only around a year old I remember worrying that I had been given more than I could handle.  I know they say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but maybe God had more faith in me than I did in myself.  However, looking back I can see how the twins being born when they were really was perfect.  They have helped Caleb so much that I know he would never have made the progress he has without his little brother and sister to keep him engaged in the world around him and to help include him and love him just the way he is.  Emma is like a second mommy to Caleb and she helps watch out for him and make sure he is safe. Ethan is a great buddy for Caleb and when we were teaching Caleb sign language Ethan made up a special sign for “chase” since that was a game that he and Caleb loved to play together.  It’s amazing how an unexpected surprise turned out to really be an unexpected blessing.

Miracles Come in All Sizes

January 10, 2011

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein

Having a child with Autism has tested my faith and my relationship with God.  I have had to try and continue to have faith that God hears my prayers even though he has not answered them (or at least answered them the way I want him to).  Eight years ago my husband Dwight and I had two children, Drew (who was 5) and Caleb (who was 1) and we had just learned that we were expecting twins. This was a big shock and our lives were turned upside down.    In January of 2003, after being on bed rest for a month the twins, Emma and Ethan, were born – one month early.  The first few months of sleepless nights, endless loads of laundry and diaper changes were all a blur.  To add to the stress during this hectic period in our lives, Dwight and I started noticing changes in our middle son, Caleb’s, behavior and development.  He was not talking like he used to and he began to withdraw and became very destructive.  At first we just thought it was regression caused by his adjustment to the pregnancy and birth of the twins.  After all, Caleb had been the baby of the family and now there were two new babies taking all of the time of attention of his parents and grandparents. 

We tried putting Caleb in speech therapy through an early intervention program to see if that would help. After a year of speech therapy and very little progress we decided to have him evaluated again by our pediatrician.   After her evaluation she sat Dwight and I down and broke the news that from everything we had told her about Caleb’s behavior and his regression in speech and communication, it was very likely that Caleb had Autism.  She referred us to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis where they had a special center for diagnosing and treating children with Autism.  As I looked over at our sweet, blonde-haired, blue eyed little boy, who was quietly spinning around in circles in the corner of the room I couldn’t help but ask the question, “Why would God let something like this happen?”

Of course my first reaction to Caleb’s diagnosis was denial.  There is no way my child has Autism.  He’ll grow out of this ‘destructive phase’.  He’ll go back to being the happy, cheerful and social little boy he was.   He’ll start talking again and everything will be back to normal.  I started reading and researching everything I could on Autism. I read books and looked up experiences of other parents on the Internet. Google became my new best friend and I spent endless hours (mostly in the middle of the night since my days were filled with raising four children) and tried to find a miracle cure to bring back my little boy.

I would also pray every day that God would heal Caleb. I prayed that he would have the miraculous reactions to some of the treatments we tried as I had read that other children had.  There were many parents that claimed they gave their child B-12 shots, vitamin supplements or put them on a gluten-free diet and the child just woke up one morning and was talking and all the behavioral problems were gone.  They claimed that their children had been cured from Autism and that is what I wanted. So I chased every rainbow, trying treatment after treatment and praying to God, begging him to make Caleb “normal” again. 

As the months passed I went through many emotions. I was mad at God, mad at myself, mad at these people who gave me false hope in the treatments that they claimed would cure my son.  I felt overwhelming guilt. Was it something I did when I was pregnant that caused this?  Is it because I am a bad mom? What am I doing wrong? Why are other Autistic kids being “healed” but not Caleb?  I would read stories of other parents that told of how they had recovered their children from Autism and I had done all the things they had.   It just depressed me to read these stories and I kept asking God, “Why won’t you heal my son?”

I wanted the BIG miracle but as I continued praying and listening to God I began to realize that maybe God’s plan was not the same as mine.  I started to notice little glimpses of hope that God was working in Caleb’s life in small, yet amazing ways.  Some of the things we noticed would really not seem that amazing to most parents, but to us they were nothing short of a miracle. Little glimpses into Caleb’s world that let us know that God was there and he did hear our prayers.  Every time my fear and discouragement started to overwhelm my faith God would send one of these small miracles to remind me that he had a plan.

One night when Caleb was taking a bath and playing with his foam letters I noticed him lining up letters like he was trying to spell something. I saw he had a “C”, an “E” and an “A” and thought maybe he was trying to spell his name. I was so excited because I knew they had been working on writing their names at the special needs preschool he was attending.  I continued to watch as he lined the letters up trying to figure out what he was spelling.  “ICE AGF” was what he had spelled out.  I didn’t recognize it at first, but when I did my excitement level climbed leaps and bounds above where it had been when I thought he was spelling his name.  He had spelled out the title of his favorite movie “ICE AGE” and since there was only one “E” in the foam letter set he had used the “F” for the second “E”.  Not only did this mean he knew how to spell the title of the movie, but he also had great problem solving skills for a 4 year old!  This small miracle led to other miracles in communication as he went onto spell other words he learned from his movies and DVD’s. He started with words like “Lighting”, “Effects” and “Production” and then moved on to spell longer words and longer phrases.  Next, he began spelling words he could use to communicate his wants and needs like “drink”, “cracker” and “play”.  We still have magnetic letters on our fridge so he can use those to communicate if we can’t understand what he is trying to tell us. 

Several months later we were potty training Emma and Ethan and were blessed with another small miracle.  Caleb came into the family room where the twins were playing and he pulled out the waistband of Ethan’s pants and looked down his pants to see his underwear. He then pulled out his own waistband and saw his diaper.  He immediately took off his pants and his diaper and pointed to Ethan’s underwear.  I said to Caleb, “Do you want to wear big boy underwear like Ethan?”  Caleb didn’t reply in words, but he got very excited and started jumping up and down and squealing with delight.  “OK, I told him, but that means you have to go potty in the toilet like a big boy.”  I gave him a pair of underwear and within less than a week he was potty trained.  This was a big surprise because I had been trying to potty train Caleb for over a year and he had shown no interest at all.  I had read that potty training children with Autism is very challenging and sometimes next to impossible.  I was so thankful for the miracle that Caleb was able to cross this milestone with such ease. I was also amazed that it was possible because of the miracle that Caleb had noticed Emma and Ethan were potty trained.  Caleb had become withdrawn and would retreat into his own little world where he didn’t really pay attention or care about what others around him were doing.  This was the first small miracle of many where God showed us that Caleb was starting to notice the world around him and that he wanted to be a part of it.

Caleb has overcome so many obstacles and made wonderful progress over the past few years.   He is mainstreamed into a Third Grade class with an aide and is learning academic and social skills from the other children in the classroom. He has a wonderful teacher, aide and support system at school and also an excellent team of therapists that he works with two days a week to help him with speech and sensory issues.  I am so glad that we did not lose faith just because God did not give us the big miracle that we were praying for.   When we have faith in God’s plan and we let him take control, wonderful things happen.

(This is part of a blog hop for Women of Faith.  Click here to view other Women of Faith Talk Back entires)