Saying Goodbye To Easter Seals

I woke up with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes.  Today was the day we would walk into Easter Seals for the last time.  I was struggling with having to say goodbye to the therapists who’ve been in our lives for the last 2 years.  They aren’t just the girls therapists.  They have become our friends.  Am I going to be able to hold it together? or am I going to be a blubbering mess?

As I was signing in the receptionist asked me when our last day would be.  I told her today was our last day.  She said “Oh…..that makes me want to cry!”.   She talked about how sweet our girls are and how much she would miss seeing us.  Tears started forming in the corners of my eyes.   I haven’t made it out of the reception area and I’m already crying.  This is not going to be easy.

The girls OT’s came and got them.  I tried to sit and read a book but I just couldn’t concentrate.  Mikayla and Hope have always loved the therapy gym.  I went a few minutes early to pick them up so I could get some pictures.   They had a wonderful last day of OT and they were grinning from ear to ear.  It was time for them to get their prize and say goodbye.  The girls did what they do every week.  They hugged Lisa and Jill and told them that they love them.  And I watched with tears in my eyes.

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We went to the parent’s lounge to wait for their speech therapists to come and get them.  Susan came and got Mikayla.  A few minutes later Kayla came for Hope.  I asked Kayla if I could take a picture of her and Hope.  She loved the idea and she asked me to email the pictures to her.  Hope was acting a little goofy which made for some really cute pictures.  I snapped the pictures and quickly left so they could start their session.

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I could tell that a flood of tears was coming so I went straight to the restroom.  I knew the hardest goodbyes were still coming.  I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get through it.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Susan and Kayla about the girls over the last 2 years.  They’ve always been positive and encouraging.   Even on the days when the girls had an off day they’ve been encouraging and loving.

I was standing out in the hallway waiting for Susan to bring Mikayla back to me.  Brett got back from running some errands.  I was crying and I told him “I don’t think I can do this”.  Then Susan opened the door and out popped Mikayla.  She was as happy as could be.  They’d played Ned’s Head which is one of her favorite games.  I got a quick picture of Susan and Mikayla.

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Kayla and Hope joined us.  We started talking and I thanked Susan and Kayla for all they’ve done for Mikayla and Hope.   I told them that 2 years ago I prayed that each of our girls would get the speech therapist who was perfect for her.  God certainly answered my prayer.  Kayla was perfect for Hope and Susan was perfect for Mikayla.   Susan hugged me and I started crying. Mikayla walked up to me with a worried look on her face.  And she leaned up against me because she knew I was having a hard time saying goodbye.  The girls said goodbye to Susan and Kayla, told them they love them, and then Brett took them to the van.

I spent a few more moments talking to Kayla.  She said some things that are going to help me get through this chapter of our life.  We hugged, said goodbye, and I walked down the hallway one final time.  As I walked out the front door for the last time I left a piece of my heart inside of Easter Seals.  I will always be thankful for Kayla, Susan, Jill, and Lisa and every moment that they spent with our girls.12736462_10153370649442405_715711581_n

I thought about this picture several times throughout the day.  I feel like the little girl in this picture. I don’t want to give up Easter Seals and the amazing therapists our girls have had for the last 2 years. But God has asked us to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable and He wants us to trust Him. We trust that He has something amazing waiting for our girls that we just can’t see yet.

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 hope and a future.

My Moment With Mikayla

I’m so excited to introduce you to Amanda Allen.  Amanda recently taught Mikayla and Hope’s class at church and she had a sweet encounter with Mikayla. As you read, please keep in mind that Mikayla has sensory processing disorder.  She has tactile defensiveness which makes her sensitive to people touching her.  I hope you enjoy seeing Mikayla through Amanda’s eyes.

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I was teaching in the Kidz Lab at church a couple of weeks ago.  It was a Wednesday night, and seeing as how it was approaching bedtime, most of the kids were getting wild.  Hope was keeping Ms. Terry busy, and I saw Mikayla sitting all by herself with her purple Bible.  I knew she wasn’t familiar with me, but I felt compelled to go sit beside her.  I had already taught the lesson, and a leader was up front talking to the kids wanting prayers, so I was free for a few moments.

It was a moment I’ll never forget.  Here’s what that moment looked like from my eyes.

I walked over to Mikayla and sat right beside her.  She looked at me from the corner of her eyes….probably wondering who this woman was and why she was invading her space.  I leaned over and asked if we could sit together for a few minutes.  She nodded yes…still looking rather uncertain.  I put my arm around her, and she surprisingly allowed me to hold her!  Not only hold her, she relaxed immediately and melted into my arms.  We stayed like that for several minutes…totally comfortable and at peace.  My heart was won in the moment.  I prayed God’s peace into and over Mikayla as I held her close….her purple Bible resting on her lap.

It came time for me to go to the front of the room to close the prayer.  I asked Mikayla if she wanted to go with me.  She happily nodded yes this time.  So we held hands and walked to the front of the room again.  I kept one arm around Mikayla and put my other hand on the group of kids praying in front of me.  Mikayla watched me a moment, then reached her free arm out to gently touch the kids in front of her as well.  So there we stood, one arm praying over kids, and one arm wrapped around each other so gently.

I glanced at her as she glanced at me.  Both of us smiled at each other.  Then we closed our eyes and finished the prayer.  Then I asked her to go to her seat and I closed the service.  She obeyed right away, walked to her seat, and sat down.

What a calm, sweet, gentle, and peaceful moment.  A moment I’ll always cherish.  It’s a moment I pray we see more of.  It’s in Mikayla.  I want it to be her norm.  I believe it can and will be.

 

Amanda Allen is a wife and mother of 2 beautiful young girls. She is the Children’s Director at her church, as well as a children’s author. She has one book out on how to explain the death of a loved one to children, called “But WHY? How To Trust God When You Lose A Loved One”. Her other books are Christian rhyming books about 2 squirrels named Sally & Sammy. There are 2 already published, but many more in the Sally/Sammy series on the way! The 2 available right now are “Sally & Sammy Learn To Repent” and “Sally & Sammy Learn To Give”. You can check out her author Facebook page by going to facebook.com/amandaallenauthor.

The Gift Of A Lovely Family

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Maybe you saw us at Dairy Queen a few days ago.  We were the family sitting at two separate tables.   Mom, Dad, and one little sweetheart at one table.  Three sweethearts at another table.  Life is all about strategy for our family.  If our two turtles sit at different tables then they can’t kick or hit each other. We get to enjoy our meal and those around us get to enjoy theirs.

Maybe you heard our two little girls burping.  I’m sorry if that bothered you but they don’t often get to drink soda.  It was a big deal for them.  When foreign fizz enters their bodies it makes them burp.  They really can’t help it.  They said excuse me almost every time they burped.  That made me proud.  Maybe you heard the dad across the room burp while eating his meal.  I did.  I also heard his family scold him and it made me happy.  Someone burped in public and it was someone from outside of my little village. It was a good day.

I know that you heard us in the toy section at Target.  The two little girls who were talking way too loud belong to us.  I put my finger up to my mouth and said the words “Shhhh.  You’re too loud.  I’m standing right beside you.  You don’t have to talk that loud.”  I don’t have any idea why I always do that.  It never works.  But at least I’m attempting to do my parental duty.  Right?   When the word Christmas is mixed with a Target full of toys it makes our girls have only one volume.  Loud. Thank you to all of my fellow Target shoppers who were understanding.  Thank you for not holding your ears or rolling your eyes.  You made my day.

Did you notice how loud the music was in Five Below?  I sure did.  Shoppers didn’t seem to notice the volume of our girls voices because the music overpowered them.  Thank you Five Below for taking the focus off of our girls.  It was nice.  But if you want a family with sensory processing disorder to shop in your store you need to turn the music down.  And a restroom would be nice too.

I wish you could’ve met the nice employee who greeted us as we entered the Family Christian Store.  She smiled as our girls got excited about the Christmas tree at the front of the store.  She enjoyed our girls even when they were talking at full volume.  She smiled as Mikayla and Hope brought me almost every Veggietale dvd and said “We have this one!” As she rang up my purchase she said “You have a lovely family!”  I’ll have to admit that her comment caught me off guard. It was the first time that a stranger has told me that I have a lovely family.  I could tell that she truly meant it.  I smiled, I thanked her, and I floated out of the store on cloud nine.

You have a lovely family.  I knew in my heart that what she said is true.  It’s true even though life sometimes doesn’t feel lovely.  There’s nothing lovely about sensory processing disorder.  There’s nothing lovely about having a language disorder.  When I find myself in the middle of the burping and the behavior issues and the therapies it doesn’t feel lovely.  When I spend the majority of the day being a referee and telling our two little lawyers-in-training to stop arguing with each other it doesn’t feel lovely.  When life constantly feels like a series of one strategy after another it doesn’t feel lovely.  And when I’m so tired at the end of the day that I have to ask for help getting the girls to bed it doesn’t feel lovely.

But then God sent a stranger into my life.  She looked at my life and she saw lovely.  She saw our girls find joy in the simplicity of a Christmas tree.  She didn’t mind when our girls were talking much more loudly than they needed to.  She enjoyed watching them get excited over virtually everything that they saw and touched.  And she decided that it was lovely.  And that’s exactly how God looks at each of us.  He sees everything that we go through.  He sees every disorder.  He knows when our behavior needs a little work.  He sees us when we’re irritated, depressed, and ungrateful.  And He still sees lovely.

I didn’t realize when I entered the Family Christian Store that I would receive an early Christmas present.  But I did.  I received a gift from a stranger.  It wasn’t a gift that could be bought or wrapped.  But it was a gift just the same.  Perhaps is was the best gift that I could ever receive.  It was the gift of a lovely family.

It’s Almost Christmas?

I really wish that stores wouldn’t put up their Christmas trees in October.  It makes two little girls anxious.  It makes them think Christmas is coming really soon.   It’s makes them ask a bazillion questions.  And it makes me just a little bit crazy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I love having little girls who are excited about ornaments, candy canes, and new toys.  I’m just not good at playing the “how-many-questions-can-you-answer-about-Christmas-without-losing-your-mind-and-it’s-only-the-first-week-of-November” game.  When November rolls around I like to think about Thanksgiving.  I like to read The Plump and Perky Turkey to the girls at bedtime.  And I like to think about all that I’m thankful for.  I don’t want to think about Christmas quite yet.  I’m a one thing at a time kinda gal.  It’s just who I am.

So there I was at the beginning of November with two little sweethearts asking me “It’s almost Christmas?”   I told them the truth.  It was going to be a long time until Christmas.  They didn’t buy it.  Or they didn’t want to believe it.  So they kept asking “It’s almost Christmas?”  I finally found the answer that seemed to calm their anxious hearts.  I told them that Christmas is after Thanksgiving.  They believed me.  The question “It’s almost Christmas?” ceased to be a part of our conversations.

We had our first Thanksgiving dinner with Brett’s family on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  I got the honor of sitting at the kiddie table with my girls.  Hope took her last bite of food, pushed her plate away, and declared “Christmas is tomorrow!”  And then she started ordering Grandma to put her tree up.  I’ve known this little gal for 10 years.  I really should’ve seen that coming.

We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving.  Then the girls ordered me to go wrap the presents.  And the “It’s almost Christmas?” question came back to haunt us.  I decided to try a new approach.  It will be Christmas after you sleep 28 more times.  That didn’t go over very well.  So I told them that I would make a calendar that they could put a sticker on every day.  Then they can see with their eyes how close we’re getting to Christmas.  A couple of days ago Mikayla asked me once again “It’s almost Christmas?”  I told her it will be Christmas after you sleep 26 more times.  She looked at me with a blank stare and she said “Make the calendar, Mommy.”  This is what life looks like when little girls struggle with auditory processing but are strong visual learners.  Hearing just doesn’t mean much.  But seeing is believing.  A calendar was the magic answer.

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Mikayla’s Calendar

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Hope’s Calendar

This morning was the magical day when November turned into December.  They each got to put a sticker on their calendar.  Every sticker gets us one day closer to Christmas.  When you put a sticker on the number 24 then it means that tomorrow is Christmas.  Mikayla just asked me for another sticker. Sorry, sister.  Only one sticker a day.  That’s the rules.

 

Throw It Away……And Don’t Drag It Back Out Again

000_0346I had put it off long enough.  It was time to stop making excuses and bite the bullet.  So I got up early and started my least favorite job on the planet. It was time to clean out the garage.  Oh joy.  I just love spending the day sorting, tossing, scrubbing, and sweeping.  Being bone-tired and achy afterwards is my favorite part of cleaning the garage.

I started in the toy corner.  What do we need to keep? And what can I throw away?  Of course we need to keep the sidewalk chalk, bubbles, bug boxes, and butterfly nets.  No question about any of those. But do we really need 7 pinwheels?  And 5 jump ropes?  Let’s see.  Two girls are too old to jump rope. And coordination disorder makes it difficult for the other two to jump rope. So I decided to keep 2 jump ropes as an act of faith that Mikayla & Hope will one day be able to use them.  Hmmm.  An ice cream bucket full of rocks?  That’s interesting.  I dumped the rocks out in the driveway to create a future opportunity to scoop rocks into an ice cream bucket.

As I made my way around the garage I made decision after decision of whether to keep it or pitch it. Some decisions were no brainers. Such as the New Holland pedal tractor that Grandpa gave Taylor on her first Christmas.  No question about that one.  Not parting with it under any circumstances.  And then there was the garden stone with Taylor’s footprints painted on it. Definitely have to keep that. But air filters to vehicles we no longer own?  And pool supplies when we no longer have a pool?  Some things just don’t make sense to keep.

Everything was going smoothly until what I feared the most became reality.  One of my little sweethearts woke up.  She put her shoes on and she joined me in the garage.  And she did what I knew she was going to do.  It was the reason why I got up so early to start this dreadful job.  She pulled something out of the trash can and she put it back on the shelf.  Oh my, sweet Hopey.  Why do you think we need to keep that?  I asked her to put it back in the trash.  She refused.

I was frustrated with her but I realized that she’s really just a mini-me.  I’m constantly throwing stuff in the trash and then dragging it out again. Things like unforgiveness, bad attitudes, impatience, and all the why’s and what if’s of life.  I know it doesn’t make sense to keep any of these things. But I’m guilty of throwing each of them away and then digging them back out again.

I’ve decided to forgive someone and I’ve thrown unforgiveness in the trash.  But then I would see the person and I would drag the unforgiveness back out again.  Sometimes it’s hard for feelings to catch up with forgiveness.  I can picture God looking down on me and saying “My sweet Tricia. Why do you think you need to keep that?  Would you please throw it away and don’t drag it back out again.” There’s no room for unforgiveness.   It doesn’t make sense to keep it.

It doesn’t make sense to hold onto all of the why’s and what if’s of life either.  Why’s and what if’s have haunted me for years.  What if I hadn’t had so many pregnancy complications?  What if our girls hadn’t been born prematurely?  What if I hadn’t listened to our pediatrician when he told us that they would catch up?  Would our girls still have all of these struggles even if all those things hadn’t happened?  Why did God think we could handle this life?  Why does life have to be so hard for our girls?

I’ve thrown every why and what if in the trash can.  But for some reason I have a habit of dragging them back out again.  It just doesn’t make sense to hold onto questions that can’t be answered.   But it’s so hard to let go.  I will probably still have moments when I’m just like Hopey.  I will choose to drag something out of the trash and put it on a shelf.  And God will smile at me and still love me. And He’ll patiently wait.  Because He knows I will one day decide to throw it back in the trash.  And maybe next time I won’t drag it back out again.

Knocked Down But Not Out

2699_punchingclowninflatable_1Lately I’ve been feeling like problems have been coming at me from every direction.  One problem punches me, it knocks me down, and I get back up. Then another problem punches me, it knocks me down, and I get back up.  After getting knocked to the ground enough times I began to wonder if it would just be easier to not get back up.  As I was thinking about spending the rest of my life facedown in the dirt, I noticed a book on my book shelf called You’ll Get Through This.  I’ve had this  book for over a year but I’ve never read it.  I decided it was time to open it up and see if Max Lucado could convince me that I will get through this.  He told the story about meeting a bounce-back clown when he was 8 years old.

Knock him down; he popped right up.  Clobber him with a bat, pop him in the nose, or give him a swift kick to the side, and he would fall down — but not for long.

We did our best to level the clown.  One punch after the other, each more vicious than the prior hit. None of us succeeded.  Bozo had more comeback than the ’69 Mets.  He wasn’t strong; he was full of air.  He couldn’t duck or defend himself.  He didn’t charm us with good looks or silence attackers with quick wit.  He was a clown, for goodness’ sake.  Red lips and yellow hair.  Yet there was something about him, or within him, that kept him on his feet.  

We’d do well to learn his secret.  Life comes at us with a fury of flying fists — right hook of rejection, sucker punch of loss. Enemies hit below the belt. Calamities cause us to stagger.  It’s a slugfest out there.  Some people once knocked down never get up.  They stay on the mat – beaten, bitter, broken. Out for the count.  Others, however, have more bounce back than Bozo.   

I remember punching a bounce-back clown when I was a kid.  It’s true.  No matter how many times we would clobber him on the head that silly clown would stand back up.  Why is Bozo able to get up every single time that he gets knocked down?  He gets back up because there’s something hidden inside of him.  Every time Bozo gets punched the weight inside of him acts as a counterbalance.  What’s hidden inside of him makes him stand up again.

What’s inside of me is what makes me get back up after the punches of life knock me down.  God’s Word is hidden in my heart and His words are what enable me to get back up again.  Every time I mutter the words “I can’t do this anymore” I’m reminded that I can.  Because Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  He gives each of us strength to get through the next moment and the next hour.  When I feel like life has punched me in the gut and I’m face down in the dirt I remind myself that Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light (Micah 7:8)  And I find myself rising out of the dirt, brushing myself off, and going again.

When someone chooses to not love our girls it knocks me to the ground.  But I will get back up.  When people ignore our girls it knocks me down.  But I will get back up.  I feel knocked down when someone suggests that it’s my fault that our life is hard.  But I will get back up.  When our girls have a really bad day it knocks me to the ground.  But I will get up every morning and spend my days loving them.  I feel knocked down when someone mumbles their belief that our girls won’t be able to do something.  But I will believe in them even if no one else ever does.  Because with God’s help I have more bounce back than Bozo.

Sometimes You Just Can’t See Where You’re Going

300px-Flickering_scotoma   Visual-aura-300x225 As I was driving Brynna to dance class this week something strange happened.  I started to see a jagged line like the one in the top picture.  Only the line I saw looked more like a lightening bolt.  I also had some gray clouds blocking my vision that were similar to the bottom picture.  As cars were approaching me a gray cloud would be covering one of the headlights.  Or a lightening bolt would appear between me and whatever was in front of me. I wasn’t scared.  I knew exactly what was happening to me.  I started to wonder if my face or my hands were going to go numb.  But they never did. We got to dance class and Brynna smiled as she told me bye.  I smiled and told her to have fun. She had no idea that I couldn’t see all of her face.

The lightening bolt and the gray clouds are a signal to me that I’m getting ready to have a migraine.  I had migraines frequently when I was a teenager. But I haven’t had one for 10 years so I was surprised it was happening.  This was my first time having visual disturbances while I was driving and it was pretty unnerving.  We were 35 minutes away from home.  And I was going to somehow have to get us back home after dance class.

I knew exactly what I needed to do.  First I texted a friend and asked her to pray that my vision would return to normal so that I would be able to drive home.  Then I drove to Walmart to buy a Mt. Dew and pain medicine.  I know from experience that the quicker I get pain medicine and caffeine in me the better my chances are of the migraine not getting out of control.  As I was drinking my Mt. Dew I began thinking about what I was going to do if I couldn’t drive home.  My sister works in the town that I was in.  Maybe she could leave work to drive me home.  Then Taylor could drive her back to work.   So I decided I would call her if my vision didn’t improve.  Within 45 minutes my vision returned to normal.  I still had a pretty bad headache, but I felt like I could drive home.

These are the life lessons that I learned from driving with a migraine.

Sometimes you just can’t see where you’re going – Life with special needs kids is hard.  Sometimes you feel like you can’t even see where you’re going.  There are obstacles in your way that keep you from seeing clearly.  You feel as if it’s not even possible to get to your destination.  You worry about your child’s future.  Will she learn to read? Will she learn to write?  Will she learn to drive?  Will she be able to leave home? or will she always live with us?  You research what products and therapies would be best for her.  You think, you plan, and you worry. You take her to doctor appointments and therapies.  You do everything that you know to do and yet sometimes you just feel like you can’t see where you’re going.  But you keep going because you know if you stop then you’ll never get to your destination.  You keep going because you believe that one day those things that are unclear will suddenly become clear to you.

Sometimes you need to let Someone else drive – Sometimes God removes the obstacles and we’re able to drive again.  My vision returned to normal and I was able to drive home.  But if my vision hadn’t returned to normal I was going to have to scoot over into the passenger seat and let my sister drive. Sometimes I need to scoot over into the passenger seat and let God drive. He can see much better than I can.  I spend too much time steering my life in the direction that I think I should go.  And God is sitting in the passenger seat thinking “If she would just let me drive we would get there a lot quicker.  We wouldn’t have to take all of these winding roads.  We wouldn’t have to turn around and go back because we missed the turn.”  Yes, I just need to learn to let Him drive.

Sometimes you have to keep going even when you want to  quit –   I kept driving when my vision was impaired because Brynna needed to get to dance class.  I could’ve pulled off the road.  But if I’d sat on the side of the road waiting for my vision to return to normal she would’ve missed dance class. Last week I wrote my blog post To the Lady Who Shook Her Head and I was thinking that it might be my last.  Lately I’ve felt overwhelmed with life.  I’ve felt like my life needs to be simplified.  My blog is the only thing that I could come up with that I could give up.  I published my post and was surprised by what happened.  My number of Facebook readers tripled.  Then I got an email from a senior editor of the Mighty.  She asked permission to publish my post on their website.  I read the email.  I read it again because I still couldn’t believe it.  Two days ago the Mighty published my blog post and I’ve had many more readers than I normally have.  I’m thankful for more people reading my blog but I’m even more thankful for comments like these:

Being childless by choice these articles really help me to understand and have more patience. Some days my *people level* has bottomed out by the end of the work day (I’m a social introvert) but I still need to run some errands – when I find myself about to shake my head or glare I truly try to stop myself and think of these stories…I really, REALLY don’t have any idea what parents deal with at all so I take a deep breath and try to put a genuine smile on my face and quickly finish my errands.  Thank you all for sharing your stories, they touch and teach and reach a lot of us.

Hi – I was just reading your post on the Mighty, and I had to look at your blog. My 9-year-old daughter has ADHD, phonological disorder, Developmental coordination disorder, and sensory processing disorder. I don’t know where you live, and I only have one unique little girl ( I also have a great 12-year-old son) but I wanted you to know you are not alone. I understand the everyday struggles and joys. Your family is beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

My post touched someone who doesn’t have to walk in my shoes.  She realized that she shouldn’t shake her head.  My post touched a mom who walks in the same shoes that I walk in.  Both of us know that someone out there understands and we don’t feel so alone.  Last week I wanted to park this blog on the side of the road and just walk away.  But then God orchestrated a series of events to show me that I’m supposed to keep going.  He wants me to keep going even when I’m weary and I can’t see clearly.  So I’ll keep writing about the beauty in our brokenness and I’ll pray that it brings beauty into your brokenness.

And it’s time for me to scoot over to the passenger seat and let Him drive. 532309_457716370918628_1833968588_nphoto credits:

http://www.thecompleteherbalguide.com/

http://www.migraine.com

www,everythingsandnothings.wordpress.com

Let People into Your Messed Up World

My corn dog post was difficult for me to write.  I didn’t want everyone to read about my horrible day. My husband already felt like he had failed and wasn’t there for me when I needed him.  But I never felt like he failed me.  I was thrilled for him to get a break from being daddy for a few hours.  It actually made me happy to see him serving someone besides his family.  I didn’t want anyone in our church to feel bad that this wonderful event had turned into a horrible experience for me.  Our church is extremely supportive and loves our family. But on this day, they were busy.  Really busy.  They were busy loving the community by cooking, serving, dumping trash, and driving golf carts.  But there was another reason I didn’t want to write the corn dog post. I’ve always had this problem with wanting people to think that I have it all together.  Smile and act happy even if you’re dying inside. Don’t ever let anyone know that your life is hard.  Yes, you sometimes have to lock yourself in your bedroom for a time out because your children are driving you crazy.  And you eat too much chocolate because it helps you feel better.  But you shouldn’t let anyone know your little secrets because it makes you look bad.  But I overcame all of those fears and I wrote the corn dog post because I know that special needs parents are lonely.  They need to know that they aren’t the only ones who struggle.  They needed to hear about my horrible day.

Do you know what happens when you let people into your messed up life?  I’ve found out that they want to help.

I told my mom about my day.  She responded very quickly and said that Mikayla & Hope just need to come to their house next year.  Air conditioning, cartoons, and a day with grandma and grandpa would have been great.  Grandmas are the best.  They’re always there when you need them.

I messaged a friend at the end of my horrible day.  She said she wished she had known I was having a bad day.  She only lives a few minutes from the church.  She had went home for a couple of hours and she said she would have swiped up the girls and taken them with her if she had known I needed help. She told me that her house is always available to us when we need it.  She’s amazing.  The girls would have been happy at her house because she has peacocks, ducks, cats, and dogs.

A lady from our church read my blog post.  She messaged me her phone number.  She said to call her anytime we need help getting our family home from church. She lives 30 minutes from our house. Our church is an hour from our house.  She could have taken Taylor to her house and Brett could have picked her up there.  It would have saved Brett an hour of driving if we had asked her for help.  So her phone number is now in my phone.  And there is no doubt that I will text her in the future if I’m ever foolish enough to say that we don’t need to take two vehicles.

Another lady told me that she had heard on her radio at the event that someone had upset children and their vehicle was blocked in.  But she didn’t realize it was me.  She was working in the air conditioned first aid building.  And her daughter, who works with special needs individuals, was there too.  She said she would have stayed with me as long as I needed her.  Then she said that she loves our family.  I’ve seen this lady at church, but I didn’t even know her name.  But I won’t forget her name now.

And then her daughter told me that she would have been there in a heartbeat if she had known what I was going through.  She said that she would be glad to do whatever she could to help us if we decided to attend the event next year.  Then she said she would love to meet me and the girls soon.  I don’t even know her and she said that she would have been there in a heartbeat.  Isn’t that amazing?

Another lady gave me her phone number.  She told me to text her next year before I leave the parking lot.  She said she will get me and our two turtles all the food that we want before we head home.   If we aren’t able to stay for the event, she wants to make sure that we have something to eat on our way home.  Isn’t that thoughtful?

I was blown away by the fact that all of these people want to help our family.  And they came up with so many creative ways to help us.   But before they could offer to help they had to know that there was a need.  I think there are a lot of good people out there who are more than willing to help special needs families.  Yes, there will be people in the corn dog line staring at you and your little sweethearts.  They may jump out of the line because they don’t have the patience to listen to your sweethearts for even 3 minutes.  But I choose to believe that the majority of people are loving and willing to help if they just know what our needs are.  I’m so glad that I’ve stopped hiding our struggles.  My life is so much better now that I’ve allowed people into our messed up world.

 

 

 

A Lit Match, Gasoline, and an Explosion in the Bathroom

Explosion

What happens when you light a match and throw it on gasoline?  Come with me for a moment and I will tell you all about it.

We decided to leave home early and stop at Party City before the girls had therapy at Easter Seals.  The excitement of buying Olaf paraphernalia for their upcoming birthday party made the girls start talking at full volume.   I always enjoy standing in a check out line while our girls talk loud enough to be heard in the next county.  We survived Party City.  So why not go to Toys R Us?  We needed some ideas of what to get them for their birthday.  The second our feet entered the door they started talking at full volume.  They talked at full volume for 30 minutes.  My ears hurt.  My head was pounding. We left with one idea for a birthday present.  It was time well spent.

As we drove to Easter Seals, I swallowed an aspirin while I rubbed my left temple.  This is going to be a really long day.  Brett dropped us off and I gave him instructions to return with chocolate.  I watched as the girls walked down the hallway with their occupational therapists.  Sweet freedom.  45 minutes to spend with my book.  I might have enjoyed it if my head hadn’t been pounding.  That 45 minutes passed much too quickly.  I slowly walked up the hallway to gather my two firecrackers.

We had a 15 minute wait until speech therapy started.  I took the girls to the bathroom.  Turtle #1 started talking.  Turtle #2 didn’t want Turtle #1 to talk.  The match was lit.  So what are you supposed to do when your sister starts talking and you’re not in the mood to listen to her?  You kick her as hard as you possibly can.  Yep.  That’s what you should do.  Throw the lit match on gasoline.  BOOM!  And there’s the explosion.

Turtle #1 got really mad and started yelling and hitting Turtle #2.  And then Turtle #2 started yelling and hitting Turtle #1.  Ok.  What do I do now?  I told them to stop it.  That’s about as smart as telling a fire to quit burning.  So I did what any sane mom would do in that exact moment.  I decided that we were going to hide in the bathroom for the next 10 minutes.  I was hoping that no one would witness our explosion.

And then the door started to open.  Great.  There’s nothing that I love better than a complete stranger getting to watch our girls in action.  Oh joy.

She smiled as she came through the door.  Wait.  I know her.  She’s the speech therapist who saw Hope a few months ago when Hope’s therapist was sick.  I told her that the girls were having some behavioral issues and we would be hiding for the next 8 minutes until time to go to speech therapy.  She laughed and said “I understand”.

I hear those two words often.  A mom tells me “I understand” and it sends me over the edge.  She doesn’t have a child with a disability.  How can she understand?   Her child doesn’t have meltdowns and behavioral challenges in public?  She can’t really understand.  She just says she understands because she doesn’t want me to feel so alone.  But it doesn’t really help.  It just makes me feel worse.

But this lady was different.  When she said “I understand”,  I knew that she understood.  I saw it in her eyes.  She began to share about her son and the behavioral challenges they had endured together.  Then she said “I wouldn’t wish those kind of problems on anyone.  But when I see other parents dealing with the same problems, I can’t help but smile.  Because it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one.”

As we exited the bathroom, I told her about our sensory overload at Toys R Us.  She understood every word that I said.  She shared a few things she’s learned about taking her son into public places.  I understood every word that she said.  As we neared her therapy room, she smiled and said “We’ll talk again.”  I told her I looked forward to it.

Little Miss Fire went to her therapy room and Little Miss Gasoline went to her therapy room.  The explosion died for the next 30 minutes.  I sat in the parent’s lounge and listened to my head pound   Therapy ended and the fire and the gasoline had to meet once again.  The hour and 15 minute ride home was filled with screaming and arguing.  There were two reasons that I survived.  Brett had returned with chocolate and a cup of caffeine.  I sure love that man.

It was one of my worst days.  We were hiding in the bathroom and I was hoping that no one would find us.  It was one of my best days.  We were hiding in the bathroom and someone found us.  My mess made her smile.  And her mess made me smile.  Most of the time I just want my mess to go away.  But today what I needed more than anything was to know that someone else has a mess that looks exactly like mine.  I’m not alone.

The next time I’m hiding in the bathroom, I will remember this day.  I will remember that I’m not the only mom sitting in the middle of a mess.  Or perhaps I will be the lady on the other side of the door.  As I push the door open, I will smile.  I will say I understand and the other mom will see it in my eyes and she will know that it’s true.  We’ll smile at each others messes.  And we’ll find that our broken worlds don’t seem quite as broken when we realize that we are not alone.

Successes That Make Me Smile

Educational success is often measured by a single letter grade on a piece of paper.  An “A” means you succeeded.   An “F” means you failed.  I believe letter grades can be helpful, but I don’t believe that they give a full picture of a students abilities.   Kids who are auditory learners thrive in a school setting. Kids who are hands-on learners and life learners will often struggle in a typical school setting.

I’m an auditory learner.  If I heard the teacher say it and I took notes, I could usually remember it.  I was also very good at memorizing, so I got A’s and B’s in school.  But I’ll never forget the day that I got an F.

It happened in 7th grade science class.  The teacher made us dissect a frog.  I was totally mortified. What 12- year-old girl enjoys a dead frog mixed with the smell of formaldehyde?  Definitely not this one.   I can still smell that frog smell as I’m typing this.  I suddenly feel nauseous.

The frog test was one of the worst days of my life.  There were several stations and each station had a different frog. There was a pin in a part of the frog’s body and we had to write down the name of that body part.  As if identifying the parts of a dead frog wasn’t bad enough, it got worse.  We only had 20 seconds at each station.  I didn’t have a good feeling about this test.  I don’t like dead critters and I freak out when I’m under any time pressure.

None of the test frogs looked anything like the frog that my lab partner had dissected.  The smell of formaldehyde mixed with the time pressure I was under made me go brain-dead.  I only got one answer correct on the test.  I correctly identified fat bodies.  It was the worst day of my life.

I remember something else about that day.  There was a boy in the class who was known for his failing grades.  The heavens opened up for him that day and he received an A+.  It just didn’t make any sense.

Now that I know a little about learning styles, it makes complete sense.  The boy who got an A+ that day was a hands-on learner.  He was learning as he cut up his frog.  He thrived in a hands-on learning environment and he aced the frog test.  I was an auditory learner who didn’t adjust well to the hands-on learning approach.  Maybe it would have helped if I had actually touched the frog.  I didn’t enjoy one second of the hands-on learning that I was exposed to and I failed the test.  I was so relieved to go back to the teacher just talking and me taking notes. It was a world that I understood.  The boy who got the A+ was probably wishing he could stay in the world of hands-on learning.  He was successful in that world.  But he was thrown back into the auditory learning world.  He probably didn’t enjoy one minute of having to sit and listen to the teacher talk.  If he could have learned with a hands-on activity every day, his report card would have looked a lot different.  Learning styles matter.

Our twin girls are life learners.  They learn best from experiencing and observing life.  We have chosen to home school our girls.  They struggle with auditory processing and handwriting, which are two of the key ingredients of traditional school.  They excel with visual computer programs, sight words, and hands-on activities.  By teaching them at home, I am able to teach to their strengths.  We spend most of our time working on the computer and doing hands-on activities.   We also work everyday on their weak areas of auditory skills and handwriting.  We need to strengthen those weak areas, but I don’t put all of our focus on the weaknesses.  Focusing on weakness only leads to frustration.   The psychologist who tested the girls last year said that she believes that we have made the right choice by choosing to home school the girls.  It was the first time that a professional has ever told us we are doing the right thing.  It was music to my ears.

One thing I’ve learned in our special journey with the girls is that success is not about a grade on a piece of paper. Success is when they can suddenly do something that they once couldn’t do.

These are the successes that make me smile:

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Mikayla puts her shoes under her bed without being reminded.

Hope puts her towel in the hamper without being reminded.

Hope writes an absolutely perfect letter “P” for her occupational therapist.

They get an “A” on their progress report at Easter Seals.  “A” means that they achieved a goal.

They say spider instead of pider, sticker instead of ticker, and speech class instead of peech cwass.

They put their shoes and socks on without any help.

Mikayla stands quietly and doesn’t interrupt when I’m talking to her speech therapist.

Hope turned around and quietly walked away when I told her no.   She didn’t stomp her foot and demand that I change my mind. 

Those successes might not sound like much to some parents.  But let me tell you, they are huge successes.  When Hope’s occupational therapist showed me the letter “P” that she wrote this week, I didn’t know whether to cry or jump for joy.  It was one of the biggest victories we’ve ever had.  It took daily practice for years for her to be able to write a perfect letter “P”.  She persevered even though writing is one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.   I walked away looking like the proudest mommy you ever did see.  We came out of therapy, I got in the van, and I told my husband that Hope had made the prettiest “P” that I had ever seen in my life.  In my excitement, I didn’t realize that sentence sounds a little funny when he had no idea that I was talking about handwriting.  Oops.

Mikayla stood quietly and didn’t interrupt when I was talking to her speech therapist.  She is starting to show self-control, which is extremely hard for her.  It was a complete miracle that she was able to remain quiet for as long as she did.  I was bursting with pride.

I’m constantly reminding the girls to put away their shoes, put their towel in the hamper, put the “s” on the beginning of words, and not to interrupt when people are talking.  I get so weary of having to give constant reminders.  But now I’m seeing that my constant reminders are starting to pay off.

Success is when I finds towels in the hamper instead of on the floor.  Success is when I find shoes under a bed instead of in the kitchen.  Success is when a little girl writes the letter “P” and then she grins because she knows that she did a good job.  Success is when a little girl doesn’t interrupt a conversation.  Success is when a little girl says the word spider instead of pider.   I see the broken pieces of our girls lives every day.  Now I’m beginning to see the beauty that comes when the broken pieces are put together.  And it makes me smile.