A Voice In The Night

I’ve felt completely frazzled lately.  Our girls have been talking incessantly.   They talk from the time their feet hit the floor in the morning until they put their heads on their pillows at night.  They ask the same questions over and over again and I answer them over and over again.  They give me the current Zoe report.  Zoe’s our cat.  Zoe’s asleep on the car.  Zoe’s eating her food.  Zoe’s walking down the driveway.  Zoe’s coming up the driveway and she’s got a mouse in her mouth.  Zoe’s sitting on the front porch.  They talk about how Daddy has to go to work later and that they want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  They talk about what kind of cupcakes and presents they want for their birthday. They ask where Taylor’s going and then after she leaves they ask “Where’s Taylor?” until she gets back home.  They ask what that noise is that I can’t seem to hear.  They ask “What’cha doin?” all day long.  Especially if I’m in the bathroom.  They talk about their beloved animals and their favorite cartoon characters. Garfield likes lasagna and Chance ate a button.  They tell me it’s raining and that there’s a squirrel in the yard or a bird in the tree.  They tell me they have to go to the bathroom.  Every single time.

I’m a gal who enjoys quiet.  I’m not sure I even remember what quiet sounds like.  I’ve found myself hiding in my bedroom eating Hershey’s Kisses more times than I care to admit.  Chocolate is my friend. It helps me find my happy place.  I’m almost always in my pajamas by 6 p.m. just waiting for bedtime.  It’s amazing how many questions a couple of little girls can ask between the hours of 6 and 8:30 p.m.  And unfortunately my brain turns into goo during those hours and I can’t even process what they’re saying.  I say “uh-huh” to whatever they say even though I have absolutely no idea what they’re saying.

Once their pajamas are on and their teeth are brushed I say the two words that don’t seem to mean much to our girls.  Stop talking.  Some nights they stop talking and fall asleep quickly.  Some nights they don’t.  But once they fall asleep something totally amazing happens.  The house is quiet. I like quiet.

After an extremely difficult day I heard a voice in the night.  She whispered in my right ear the words “I love you, Mommy!”  I don’t normally enjoy being awakened at 3:30 in the morning.  But I smiled and said “I love you too, Hopey”.   And then my heart melted a little and I began to cry.  I cried because our girls voices are a gift that I had been seeing as a burden.  I began to think about parents of nonverbal children.  They would love to hear their child ask a million questions.  They go to bed at night wishing they could hear the words “I love you, Mommy” or “I love you, Daddy”.   My heart broke as I prayed for parents who can’t hear their child’s voice. And I thanked God for changing my perspective and showing me that our girls voices are a gift.

I still have days when the constant chatter can be difficult to endure.  I got 4 hours of sleep last night and I’m not handling the chatter very well today.   I will probably be hiding in the bedroom this afternoon devouring a handful of Hershey’s kisses and desperately trying to find my happy place.  God will remind me that tonight the house will be dark and quiet.  And I will receive the greatest gift that a mommy can ever receive.  I’ll hear those four words “I love you Mommy”.  Not once but twice.

When Thanksgiving Doesn’t Look Right

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When I was little I loved watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving every year.   I would get excited when they started showing the commercials announcing the day and time that it would be on TV.   And I hoped that we didn’t have to be anywhere that night because we didn’t have a VCR to tape it.  If we missed it….we missed it. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without Snoopy and Woodstock.

I still watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving  with our girls every year.  We giggle when Snoopy fights the chair.  We giggle again when Woodstock sticks Snoopy’s ear in the toaster and then butters it.  And we giggle some more when Snoopy begins to toss plates filled with toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jellybeans to each guest around the ping-pong table.  But there’s one person who isn’t giggling.  After all the plates have landed on the table Peppermint Patty completely loses it.  She yells “What’s this?  A piece of toast? a pretzel stick? popcorn?  What blockhead cooked all this?  What kind of a Thanksgiving dinner is this?  Where’ the turkey, Chuck?  Don’t you know anything about Thanksgiving dinners?  Where’s the mashed potatoes?  Where’s the cranberry sauce?  Where’s the pumpkin pie?  Peppermint Patty angrily tosses her popcorn on her plate and then Charlie Brown quietly gets up and leaves the table.

Peppermint Patty didn’t care that they were eating at a ping-pong table surrounded by mismatched chairs.  She didn’t care that they were eating outside instead of inside.  She didn’t seem to have a problem with any of the guests.  She was having a good time until Snoopy started putting the food on the plates.  The sight of toast, pretzel sticks, jellybeans, and popcorn sent her over the edge.  Peppermint Patty didn’t think Thanksgiving looked right.  She made the mistake of thinking that Thanksgiving was about the food.  In that moment she failed to realize that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the people who are sitting around your ping-pong table.

Sometimes Thanksgiving just doesn’t look right.  My mom had a broken leg one Thanksgiving and my mother in-law had a broken hip last year.  Thanksgiving dinner looks different when moms can’t cook.  And it tastes different. too  But all that really mattered was that our family was sitting around the table together.

There was another Thanksgiving that really didn’t look right.  My younger sister didn’t come to Thanksgiving dinner because her baby boy had just been born. I wanted to act like Peppermint Patty and scream “What kind of Thanksgiving is this?  Where’s Cathy?  We can’t eat Thanksgiving dinner if she’s not here!”  I’m thankful that was the only year that she wasn’t sitting at the table.

We want Thanksgiving to look like it did last year.  But sometimes it looks different.   And sometimes it will always look different.  It may look different to a special needs family who is spending Thanksgiving at the hospital instead of at home.  It may look different because of a divorce.  And it may look different because your heart aches for the one who is no longer here with you.  I pray that God’s presence will surround you as He carries you through this holiday.

This Thanksgiving let’s be thankful for the food we have.   If the gravy is runny and the mashed potatoes are lumpy just smile as you eat them and be thankful it’s not cold toast and jellybeans.  Forgive the blockhead sitting across the table from you.  And remember that he probably thinks you’re a blockhead sometimes too.   Be thankful for everyone sitting around your table.  And pray for those who are hurting because someone they love can’t be at their table this year.

The Gift In A Plain Red Cup

I felt weary and frazzled as I sat in the parent’s lounge.  I was enjoying a quiet moment with no drama when a man entered the room.  He walked up to the vending machine and put his dollar in.  The vending machine didn’t like his dollar.  He put the dollar in again.  It spit it back out.  He put it in again.  It spit it back out.  Then he started yelling at the machine.  I jumped because it’s usually very quiet in the parent’s lounge.  I’ve never heard anyone yell at the vending machine before.  I wondered if he realized I was in the room.  Surely he wouldn’t be acting like that if he knew someone was watching him.  After numerous attempts the machine finally decided to accept his dollar and he left with his snack.  And I sat on the couch thinking about how I would’ve handled that cantankerous vending machine.  I would’ve tried twice and then given up.  I would’ve walked away thinking that it was God’s way of telling me that I didn’t need a Snickers.  I certainly wouldn’t have yelled at the machine.

Then I suddenly realized that I had just judged a man who I didn’t even know.  I had no idea what was going on in his life.  Maybe he hadn’t had anything to eat all day and he was famished.  And then when the machine kept spitting his dollar back it sent him over the edge.  Maybe his child had just been diagnosed with a condition and his nerves were on edge.  Maybe his wife left him that morning.  I don’t know his story and I never will.  But if he wanted to yell at the vending machine it was really none of my business.  The man left the room not knowing that I had judged him.  But I was still wrong for doing it.

We live in a world where people are constantly judging others.  We think we have the right to judge Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Josh Dugger for their choices.  We judge stay-at-home moms, working moms, moms who bottle-feed, moms who breastfeed, parents who homeschool, and parents who send their kids to public school.  People read facebook posts and blogs and they hide behind their computer screen and pass judgment on people they’ve never met.  They judge people for saying things that they never said.  There’s no end to the things that we judge others for.  And, of course, it’s important to judge a business for the cup that it chooses to serve its beverage in.

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Oh, the plain red Starbucks cup.  It’s a huge deal, isn’t it?  The Starbucks Christmas cup controversy makes me want to sit in a corner and cry.  I want to cry because we live in a country where people make a big deal out of things that simply do not matter.  And as all of this coffee cup drama is unfolding here in America a child in a far off land wishes he had a cup of cold water to drink.  He’s drinking water that’s eventually going to kill him because it’s full of parasites.   All he needs is for someone to send $48 to help build a water well.  And then he and 9 other children would have clean water for the rest of their lives.  He would be thankful to have a cup.  Any cup.  And meanwhile here in America we’re so busy giving our opinion about the cup and judging Starbucks that we don’t even think about the needs of others.  God help us.

Matthew 22:37-39 says Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”   And that’s all we need to do.  We need to love God and love others.  We need to see people through God’s eyes and not judge them because of the choices they’ve made.  We need to take time to get to know people and their story.  And then we’ll understand why their choices are different from our choices.  If we’re busy loving people we simply won’t have time to judge them.

Perhaps we need to read Matthew 10:42.  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.   And then we should go and give a cup of cold water in His name.  It would change a little boy’s life even if the water is in a plain red cup.

photo credit: http://www.theodysseyonline.com                      

Happy 1st Blogiversary

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It was November 4, 2014.  I had just hit the publish button for the very first time.  You Want Me to Start a Blog? Are you Kidding Me! was suddenly floating around in cyberspace.  My heart was pounding and my knees were shaking.   I was way outside of my comfort zone and I honestly had no idea what I was doing.  And now a year later?  I’m still outside of my comfort zone and I still don’t really know what I’m doing.

It’s not been an easy year.  I’ve typed in the middle of the night when little voices weren’t talking to me.  I’ve had to lay down my pride and publish things that I really didn’t want anyone to know.   I’ve pushed through when writer’s block ran over me like a freight train.  My husband grabbed my hand when I almost drowned in a sea of criticism.  He pulled me out and he told me to keep going.  I kept going when everything in me wanted to give up.

The main reason I didn’t give up is simply because I’m stubborn.  I made a commitment to blog for one year.  I was going to blog for a year no matter what happened.  At the end of September I counted the weeks until November 4th.  And I whispered to myself that I would be done.

The very next day I received a comment from Ileana.  She had read my Taking the Long Way Around post.  She said that she’s familiar with taking the long way around and that she’s very blessed by my blog.  I was suddenly reminded of why I started this blog in the first place.  I felt isolated and alone.  And I knew that there were other families out there who felt the same way.  I hoped that my words would touch hearts and that my story would help others live their story.  If my blog touches even one life then it’s worth my time.  I sent Ileana an email and thanked her for her comment and she encouraged me to keep writing.

So this isn’t the end of Two Upside Down Turtles.  It’s a new beginning.  It’s a new year for us to share together.  Thank you all for your support over the last year.  I’ll keep writing and I hope that you will keep reading.

I would like to end this post with a walk down memory lane.  Here are my Top 10 posts from the last year.

10.  When Your Faith Shatters you learn that God hears your prayers even when His answers seem to tarry.

9.  Brett made the reservation for our family to see the ocean and we began Waiting For Something Awesome To Happen

8.  Something Awesome Happened  when Mikayla and Hope stick their feet in the ocean for the first time.

7.   She just does it different than you do.  Hope Through Daddy’s Eyes

6.  Our family sees the ocean for the first time but Mikayla & Hope want to go to the swimming pool. Hoping Something Awesome Happens

5.   Life is short.  We should Just Let Them Have the Cotton Candy and enjoy their smiles.

4.   I Can’t Do This Anymore so I asked God if He could do something to make life better for our family.

3.   The girls yelled I Want a Corn Dog! and then I had a meltdown in the church parking lot.

2.   I chose to enjoy what I have instead of wishing for what I don’t have in Why am I in Holland when I Really Wanted to go to Italy?

1.     I learned that she probably walks in a pair of shoes that I don’t have to walk in.   To The Lady Who Shook Her Head

The Kindness of a Stranger

She hadn’t felt well for a few days.  The coughing and sore throat turned into cold chills, fever, and more coughing.  She researched and found that she had the symptoms of pneumonia.  I called the doctor’s office first thing the next morning and we were off to get an official diagnosis.

She was asked to wear a mask while we were sitting in the waiting room.  She looked so tired and pale. She couldn’t talk without coughing so I had to go back with her to answer all of the questions.  The first thing they did was take a strep test.  Negative.  Then we were asked to go to the hospital for a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia.

The receptionist handed me the x-ray orders and I turned to open the door to leave.  I felt her hand on my shoulder and I knew that something was wrong.  As I turned around I noticed that her eyes looked strange.  Everything had went fuzzy and then black.  I caught her before she went down.  The receptionist quickly grabbed a chair so that she could sit down and then she ran and got us a wheelchair so that I could get her to x-ray.

There I was walking through the hospital pushing my girl in a wheelchair. It was a strange feeling to know that she totally depended on me to get her to where she needed to go.  I had no idea when I woke up that morning that I would be thankful for a wheelchair. But I was.  We wouldn’t have made it all the way to x-ray without the wheelchair.

After the x-rays she climbed back in the wheelchair and we started on our way back to the van.  We took a different route leaving x-ray than the one we had taken going in.  I found myself faced with the obstacle of a closed door.  I opened the door and then I began to struggle with how to hold the door open and push the wheelchair.  Suddenly a man appeared and asked if he could help us.  I thanked him as he held the door open for us. He held a second door open that led to the outside.  I pushed my girl through the parking lot, she climbed in the van, and I took the wheelchair back to the doctor’s office.

The call came a few hours later.  The diagnosis was pneumonia.  I ran to the pharmacy. picked up the prescription. and knew that she would soon be healthy again.  But my heart still felt heavy.  It felt heavy for the mom who doesn’t get to take the wheelchair back into the doctor’s office and leave it. My heart felt heavy for the mom who has a child with a medical condition that isn’t going to go away with a quick trip to the pharmacy.

Today we pulled into the hospital parking lot.  She walked in and registered for her follow-up x-ray.  I was thankful that her temperature was normal and that she wasn’t coughing.  I was thankful that she didn’t have to depend on me to get her where she needed to go.  And I was thankful for the lessons that I learned.  Walking is a gift.  A wheelchair is a gift to those who aren’t able to walk.  Simply holding the door open for someone can be one of the kindest things you can ever do.  But most of all I learned to be thankful that this trial was temporary.  Because somewhere tonight there is a weary mom loading a wheelchair into the back of her van.  She’s hoping that someone will offer to open a door for her.  And she wishes her situation were only temporary.  But it isn’t.  As we lay our heads on our pillows tonight may we each say a prayer for her to have strength to face tomorrow.  And may we brighten her day tomorrow by smiling and holding the door open for her.

Taking The Long Way Around

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I was feeling totally exhausted as we pulled into the church parking lot that Wednesday evening.  The long drive to church seemed longer than usual. I wasn’t up for the challenge of keeping the girls corralled while I punched their names into the computer at the check-in station.  So I asked Brynna to stay in the van with them while I went in and got their name tags.  I came back to the van, slapped their name tags on the front of their shirts, and thought it would be a breeze to take them to class.  But it wasn’t.  She touched her.  And then she touched her back.  And then she called her a name. And then she called her a name back.  I told the teacher it hadn’t been a good day, wished her good luck, and made my way toward the sanctuary.

When I picked the girls up after class the teacher marched over to me, smiled, and she said “They were as good as gold!”  Really?  After the day of turmoil we’ve had they were as good as gold?  I didn’t see that coming.  But I was thankful.  We loaded in the van for another joyful hour-long ride home.

We were halfway home and it started to rain.  The closer we got to home the harder the rain began to fall.  I was completely stressed out because I was having trouble seeing the road.  All I wanted was to get home, crawl in bed, and call it a day.  We were finally getting close to home.  All I had to do was turn right, drive a few miles, and we would be home.  But my gut was telling me to drive around the long way.

The road that leads straight to home sometimes gets under water when it rains really hard.  We had been away from home for nearly 5 hours.  I had no idea how much rain had fallen during that time.  I knew my nerves weren’t up for the challenge of backing up in the dark to find a place to turn around if there was water in the road.  The last thing in the world I wanted to do was take the long way around. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to drive around.  So I heaved a deep sigh and took the long way around.

I was tired and totally irritated.  So I did what I always do when I’m tired and irritated.  I started to cry. When it’s raining cats and dogs and you can barely see the road it’s not the best time to start crying. But I did.  It had been a day that felt like it was never going to get over.  And taking the long way around was making a really long day even longer.   I couldn’t see the yellow line or the white line.  I was just hoping that I was on my side of the road.  Every now and then other vehicles were coming towards me.  Their headlights helped me know that I was on my side of the road.  I was thankful that I wasn’t the only one traveling this road.

As the rain pounded our van I began to think about how this moment reminded me of how I often feel about our life.  Raising Mikayla & Hope feels like we have to take the long way around while a lot of other families get to take the road that leads straight to home.  A lot of our days appear to be dark, rainy, and lonely.  Sometimes I feel as if I’m fumbling around in the dark and I can’t really see exactly where I’m going.  But the truth is that there are others that are taking the long way around.   And their lights help me see where I’m going and my lights help them see where they’re going.

Sometimes in life we get to take the road that leads straight to home.  Maybe you found your spouse when you were 18 years old.  Maybe you had a pregnancy that was smooth sailing with no complications.  You have a compliant child who is a breeze to raise.   Your kids get good grades in school.  Maybe your family is in good health and rarely spends time at the doctor’s office. You’re able to pay your bills every month without any problem.  Be thankful because not everyone gets to have these things.

We all have times when we have to take the long way around.  Maybe you’ve been waiting for many years to find your spouse and you wonder when he/she is going to appear.  Or your spouse left this earth and you’re raising young children alone.  Maybe you’re in the middle of a high risk pregnancy that seems long and scary.  Or you’re waiting and hoping that you will one day be pregnant. Maybe you went to the doctor’s office and heard the word cancer and you have to start a long road of treatment.  Maybe you have a chronically ill child and you spend more days in the hospital than at home.

The long way around can seem really long.  We often don’t understand why we have to travel a road that we have no desire to be on.  I enjoyed only a few moments of my high risk pregnancy.  It was a nightmare that ended with our preemies lying in NICU isolettes.  We were so thankful the day that we got to bring our babies home.  The long way around wasn’t without purpose.  A couple of years later a friend found himself in the NICU with his triplets.  Brett was able to encourage him and have empathy for him because he had once sat in the exact same NICU holding our babies.  Our long way around helped someone else through his long way around.

Our long way around with Mikayla & Hope isn’t without purpose either.  It’s taught us that different is ok.  It’s taught us that each of us develops at our own pace.  Some kids develop slower than other kids.  Slower isn’t wrong.  It’s just slower.  It’s taught us to not judge parents who have a child in the middle of a public meltdown.  It’s taught us that every accomplishment needs to be celebrated.  Because little victories are actually big victories in our world.  This blog was born while we’ve been taking the long way around.  I hope and pray that it helps families who are on the same road that we’re on as well as families who are on a different road.

When I pulled into our driveway that night it was still raining cats and dogs.  As I was sitting and waiting for the garage door to open a strange thing happened. The rain instantly stopped.  I could finally see again and it made me smile.  I smiled because I would’ve much rather taken the road that leads straight to home.  But the truth is that I learned more when I had to take the long way around.  I learned that I’m not the only one taking the long way around.  I learned that we need to bring light to our path and help others see where they’re going.  And I learned that sometimes it rains so hard that we can’t see where we’re going.  But the rain will eventually stop and we’ll be able to see again.  Our journey home was longer than I wanted it to be but we still got home.  All that mattered was that we were home.

When Your Faith Shatters

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She giggled and smiled as she bounced the ball around the dining room.  Then we suddenly heard the sound of glass crashing to the floor. It was just too overwhelming and ironic that my plate with the word Faith on it was now shattered.  The past few weeks have been extremely difficult.  My faith in God has felt as if it were shattered into pieces much like my plate.  Brett began gathering up the broken pieces.  I asked him not to throw the pieces away.  I just couldn’t handle the thought of seeing my plate thrown into the trash.

It all started a few weeks ago when faceless people out in cyberworld began to personally attack me.  I had no idea that writing about my life could upset so many people.  Or that those people would take time out of their life to tell me what they think of me.  People who love me told me that it doesn’t matter what strangers think about me.  And it doesn’t.  My worth and value do not come from what anyone thinks of me.  But their words still hurt.  When I crawled into bed that night and my husband wrapped his arms around me I began to sob.  And I told him that I wasn’t ever going to write another blog post.  He told me that he didn’t think that was the answer.  He reminded me that a well-known pastor is constantly attacked on social media.  But he gets up every day and he keeps doing what God has called him to do.  And my dear husband encouraged me to do the same.  But I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.

As I was still trying to process the attacks from cyberworld, a stranger at a theme park yelled at one of our girls and told her that she was stupid.  It’s one thing to attack me through a computer screen.  It’s even worse to yell at my girl and tell her that she’s stupid.  What is wrong with people?  Why do they think they have a right to say whatever they want?  Why are they so cruel?  My world was becoming a dark place.

Everything felt like it was spiraling out of control.  Our family was disappointed when the door was suddenly closed on a new journey we had chosen to take.  My heart was broken.  We had a couple of extremely difficult weeks with our two turtles.  Bad behaviors that the girls had conquered suddenly began creeping back into their lives.  I was discouraged and I felt like a complete failure.  And then, of course, there were the normal demands of life mixed in with all of the extra struggles.  I ended up with an extreme case of anxiety.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I didn’t want to get out of bed. The pages in my Bible just seemed to be full of words that had no life.  I struggled to pray.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  The only reason I was going to keep going was because I had no choice.  It was like I was in the bottom of a pit and I didn’t know how to get out.

Then I had an emotional breakdown in public.  That was the last thing in the world that I wanted to happen.  I didn’t want everyone to know that I was a complete mess.  Wonderful, loving people tried to comfort me but nothing they said made me feel any better.  I desperately wanted to talk to someone who understands the struggles of raising special needs kids.  That night I didn’t find anyone. I felt a loneliness like I’ve never felt in my life.

A friend came the next day and took Mikayla & Hope to her house.  She had no idea what I was going through.  She just wanted to spend the day with our girls.  Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  And she brought chocolate which was also perfect.  She took the girls to her house two days in a row and they had a lot of fun.  I was so thankful to have a little time to myself.

Then I got a facebook message from the only special needs mom that I’ve found in our very large church.  She shared encouraging words with me that were exactly what I needed to hear.  Her special needs journey looks a lot different from mine.  But the feelings and emotions are very similar.  I needed to know that I’m not alone.

But the truth is that I was never alone.  There’s one person in this world who understands completely. When I was lying on my bed crying uncontrollably the door opened and he stepped into the room.  He sat down beside me, he rubbed my back, and he kissed my forehead.   Yes, this man understands. Eleven years ago he had no idea that our twin girls who were growing inside of me would have special needs.  He didn’t know that our life was going to suddenly take a turn that we weren’t expecting.  He didn’t realize that he was going to have to trade in his dreams for our girls and start dreaming new dreams.  He had no idea that the journey was at times going to try to steal our joy, our hope, and even our faith.  He feels the same things that I feel.  As I looked up at those same beautiful eyes that I first fell in love with 25 years ago, I realized that I’m never alone.  And I’m thankful that I get to spend every day of my life with this man who loves me even when I can’t get out of bed.

My faith was never really shattered because faith isn’t about what I can see.  Faith is believing that God hears my prayers even when His answers seem to tarry.  It’s believing that God is listening and He loves me even when my eyes see the opposite of what I’m praying for.  Faith is believing  that our girls will accomplish great things in their lives.  It’s believing it even in those moments when they seem to be going backwards instead of forwards.   Faith is choosing to believe that there’s good in the world even when I feel overwhelmed with the bad.  Faith is choosing to keep going even when I feel like I can’t.   The every day struggles are very real.  I’m exhausted and my emotions are still out of whack.   But my faith hasn’t shattered into pieces and fallen on the floor.  It’s still intact.

 

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see ~ Hebrews 11:1

 

When You Feel Like You’re in a Pig Pen

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I was paid to shovel manure when I was in high school.  My sisters and I got off the school bus, changed our clothes, and went out to feed the pigs. Occasionally we shoveled manure.  It was not fun. Actually, it was disgusting.  But we worked for this man named Dad who paid really well.  We needed what every teenage girl needs.  We needed clothes.  Smelling like a pig was a small price to pay to be able to go to the mall.

My Dad has always said “I get to go to work”.  He never says “I have to go to work”.   There’s a lot of difference between get to and have to.  When I get to do something I look forward to it.  When I have to do something  I’m dreading the thought of doing it.  My dad looks at work as something to enjoy not something to dread.  Being able to work is a privilege.  We’ll be sitting in my mom and dad’s living room on a Sunday afternoon and my dad will look over at Brett and say “Did you get to work yesterday?” Working on Saturday is a have to situation for most people. But my dad thinks working on a Saturday is something that you get to do.

I’ll have to admit that my dad’s perspective on work didn’t make sense to me when I was a teenager. Shoveling manure was a have to situation.  I never once got off the school bus and said “Oh, boy!  I get to shovel manure and smell like a pig!  Can’t wait!”  I probably had a cloud over my head and looked a lot like Eeyore while I was walking across the farm to spend the afternoon with the pigs.  There was only one reason that I spent my time with pigs. Payday. Once that check was in my hand, I was almost glad that I smelled like a pig.

Some days I feel like everything I do is a “have to” and nothing is a “get to”.  I have to get up.  I have to wash the dishes.  The pig pen that we live in is a real mess and I have to get it cleaned up.  I have to referee another wrestling match. We have to take the girls to their therapies.  Some days are about as much fun as shoveling manure.  I collapse in bed at the end of the day and then I get up and I do it all over again. I need to change my have to’s into get to’s.

I need to open my eyes in the morning and thank the Lord that I can get out of bed.  Last week  I was having spasms in my back and I spent 2 days in the recliner.  I realized that getting up and walking is a privilege.  It’s something that I get to do.  I’m thankful for dirty dishes.  Dirty dishes are a simple reminder that we have food to eat.  I’m thankful that we aren’t homeless and that we have this beautiful pig pen that we call home. Sometimes driving 2 1/2 hours back and forth to Easter Seals feels like a have to.  But then I begin to think about all of the progress that the girls have made in the last year and I realize that Easter Seals is one of the best gifts that our family has ever been given.  And we get to go there every week.  I need to stop thinking “Why do I have to do this?” when I’m breaking up the wrestling match between our girls. The truth is that in those moments of frustration and irritation, my mind should flashback to the moment when the doctor didn’t give us much hope that our girls would be born.  I don’t have to be their mom.  I get to be their mom. It’s a privilege.

We all have days when we feel like we’ve been shoveling manure all day long.  We get up and we do it another day because we know that payday is coming.  It’s payday when our girls remember to put the “s” on the beginning of a word.  It’s payday every time they put their towel in the hamper without being reminded.  It’s payday every time they get their shoes on the right feet.  It’s payday every time we go out in public and they don’t have a a meltdown.  It’s payday every time they realize that they did something wrong and they say “I’m sorry”.   And it’s payday every single time our girls say “I love you, Mommy!”.

Just Let Them Have The Cotton Candy

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Last weekend we took Mikayla & Hope out  to celebrate their birthday.  We started the day with merry-go-round rides at the mall.  The girls mounted their horses and the merry-go-round started to spin.  And I saw it once again.  A daddy was riding the merry-go-round with his little girl and he was on his phone throughout the entire ride.  I was thinking about my Put Down Your Phone and Just Ride that Merry-Go-Round post.  I was wishing that this dad would read it.  It seems everywhere you look nowadays people are obsessed with their phones and they are missing precious time with their children.

Our next stop was Chuck E. Cheese.  It’s a place “where a kid can be a kid” and where parents can get a headache.   The place was packed.  And it was loud.  Our girls have sensory processing disorder, but the atmosphere wasn’t bothering them a bit.  I was in sensory overload which caused my head to start pounding.

The girls were excited.  They were smiling and happy.  Hope was in the middle of all the fun and she stopped, hugged me, and said “I love you, Mommy!”  My heart melted and I didn’t care about my headache.  Three hours passed and they finally used their last token.  We went to the counter to trade their tickets in for a prize. They had known what they wanted from the moment they walked in the front door.  They wanted cotton candy.  Great.  This is not going to be good. And so began the battle in my head.

Cotton candy makes them crazy.  I’m not really in the mood for crazy.

But it’s their birthday.  We should really let them have the cotton candy.

But it will make them crazy and we have to ride in the van with them for an entire hour to get back home.

Oh, but look at them.  They’re so cute.  And they’ve been so good.

My head was screaming “NO! Don’t let them have the cotton candy!”

But my heart was saying “Just let them have the cotton candy.”

My heart won and the girls left with 2 bags of cotton candy.

The next stop was Cold Stone Creamery because it’s always a good idea to mix cotton candy with a bowl of ice cream.  Mikayla inhaled her chocolate ice cream.  Hope inhaled her cotton candy ice cream. And then we started the venture home.

The ride home was bad.  I mean really, really bad.  The girls were loud.  They were arguing. They were obnoxious.  They were totally out of control.  My head was pounding so hard I felt like throwing up. Aspirin and caffeine couldn’t even touch this headache.  We stopped at Walmart to get a few things. Mikayla asked if she could go in.  Um….no.  We are way past the point of being in public.   So Brett ran in and grabbed the things that we needed.  I sat in the car and listened to the sounds of screaming and arguing while my head continued to pound.  I was not happy.  I even ended up crying. Why does life have to be like this?  Why can’t we have a nice family day out without all the drama?

When we got home we started getting cleaned up because we had church the next morning.  I had just put Hope in the bathtub and the phone rang.  As I was rinsing her hair, Brett came into the bathroom and he told me what had happened.  A wonderful man who lives just up the road from us had been killed.  He was only 36 years old.  I felt like I was going to be sick.  I ran out of the bathroom and went into my bedroom and shut the door.

A moment ago, I thought I was having a horrible day.  Now I felt so foolish.  A beautiful woman in her 30’s was now a widow.  Two handsome young boys and two adorable little girls no longer had a daddy. A mom and a dad had just lost their son.  Two men had lost their brother.  A grandma had lost a grandson.  My heart ached for them.

I immediately thought of James 4:14 You do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Life is only here for a moment and then it’s gone. Last week this family would have never dreamed they would be facing life without him this week.  Why did this have to happen? There is no answer.  It’s heartbreaking for those that he leaves behind.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going        John 14:1-4  

This man loved the Lord and he served Him well.  A place was prepared for him in Heaven.  There is peace in knowing that he is in Heaven but there is still a process here on earth of grieving.  This family must pick up the broken pieces of their world and trust God to help them go on.  Before you go to sleep tonight, would you say a prayer for my friend Erin and her children? and for the entire family? They need comfort and strength that only God can give.

I can’t help but think about the daddy on the merry-go-round.  What if it had been his last day on this earth?  Would he want his daughter’s last memory of him to be “Daddy was on his phone when he rode the merry-go-round with me”?

What kind of memories do we want our family to have of us?

Is it time to put down our phones and read a book to our kids?  or play a board game with them? or take them to the zoo?

Is it time to stop texting and start calling people and telling them how much they mean to us?

Is it time to forgive that person who hurt us so deeply that we didn’t feel like we could go on?

Is it time to stop scrolling through facebook to find out what is going on in our friends lives and start spending time with them?

Is it time to stop arguing with our husband/wife and be thankful that we have him/her?

Life is short.  We should just let our kids have cotton candy and enjoy their smiles.  We should ride the merry-go-round with them and leave our phones in the car.  We should make as many memories as we can.  We should be thankful for the memories made even when the making of the memory gave us a bad headache.  We should place our head on our pillow each night and thank God that we have a family.   Phones and facebook will pass away.  But memories will last forever.

And please remember to pray for Erin and her family.

 

 

 

photo credit: http://www.clowns4kids.com

What’s Wrong With My Brain?

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Mikayla & Hope have speech therapy every Monday at 2:00.  Hope and her therapist had already started their session.  Mikayla was quietly waiting for her therapist to come and get her.  It was 2:05 and she still hadn’t come. She must be running behind schedule. 2:10 and she still hadn’t come.  That’s strange. She’s never been this late before.  At 2:15 the light bulb inside of my brain went off.  I remembered that the therapist told me last week that she would be away for training and wouldn’t be able to see Mikayla this week.  She even gave me a paper to remind me that she would be out.  The paper disappeared inside of my purse and I completely forgot we had even had the conversation.  What is wrong with me?

I received an email last week from Taylor’s violin teacher.  She said that Taylor had missed her violin lesson. What?  You’ve got to be kidding me!  Taylor has a lesson every other week.  I was positive that she had went to a lesson the previous week.  A quick look at my checkbook proved that I was wrong.  It had been two weeks since we paid for a violin lesson.

I paid a bill online.  They said I hadn’t paid it. Yes I did!  I’ve got the paper to prove it! It’s right here in my extremely organized file system.  15 seconds later it was in my hands.  I couldn’t find a confirmation number anywhere on that paper.  But it clearly said “please press final authorization to complete your payment”.   What?  I didn’t hit the final button to make the payment? Really?  Someone must have been screaming for toilet paper and I just thought I hit the authorize button before I ran to save the day.  We had to pay a finance charge of $1. At least I made the mistake on a bill that was $12.

I get so frustrated when I do these things.  I’m a perfectionist.  I’m “a place for everything and everything in its place” type of gal.  I despise paying late fees.  I’m embarrassed because Taylor’s violin teacher was waiting and wondering where she was.  I used to work in a doctor’s office.  People who didn’t show up for their appointment and didn’t bother to call annoyed me.  And now I’m one of those people. Great.

I want to be that young 20-year-old girl that I used to be.  She could remember everything.  She wouldn’t have forgotten that the therapist wasn’t going to be there. She never forgot an appointment and she was always 15 minutes early.  She paid every bill on time.  Her house was clean and dust free.  What happened to that girl?

Our two turtles keep me up until 11:00 or even midnight some nights.  Last week Mikayla woke me up at 4 a.m. to say “I love you, Mommy!”  I sometimes don’t get enough sleep because the girls keep me up.  And sometimes I can’t sleep because my brain that doesn’t seem to work during the day goes into overtime at night.

What should we do about this?

What should we do about that?

Maybe we should take the girls somewhere for behavior therapy?  Wonder how much that will cost?

Which night this week will I have time to wrap the girls birthday presents?

I’ve got to get those homeschool books ordered.  The free shipping code expires in a few days.

I’ve got to remember to buy some white sandals for the girls to wear with their Easter dresses.

Did I pay the gas bill?  or is it still in my purse?

Is there anything that we can do to teach the girls to not talk so loudly?  I need to google that.

If there isn’t anything that we can do about them talking so loud, I need to remember to buy some ear plugs. 

I’ve got to remind Brett to pick up the prescriptions on his way to work.

I need to call and make an appointment for Taylor to get her bridesmaid dress altered.

Brynna’s tap shoes are too small.  I need to ask her teacher to order some for her.  The recital is coming up.  I’ve got to remember to do that.

What should we do for Taylor’s high school graduation?

Ok.  Now I know what happened to that young 20-year-old girl.  She turned into a 43-year-old exhausted mother of four.   That 20-year-old girl had a spotless house because she had all the time in the world to keep it clean.   She didn’t have little girls who liked to make messes. She never made mistakes paying the bills because no one ever screamed for toilet paper.  She never forgot an appointment because she rarely had an appointment.  She wasn’t thinking about therapies, violin lessons, tap shoes, prescriptions, graduation, or a bridesmaid dress.  Life was so simple.

But you know what?  When life was simple no one called me Mom.  I’m glad that I traded in my simple life for a new name.   Now that I’ve changed my name to Mom I get to go to violin and dance recitals.  I get to buy birthday presents and tap shoes and white sandals.  This spring I will get to see Taylor graduate from high school and be a bridesmaid for the first time.   And I get to wake up in the middle of the night and hear a little voice say “I love you Mommy”.

I sometimes still feel like I’m that 20-year-old girl.   Sometimes the checkbook balances on the first try and no one screams for toilet paper.  I love those days.  Last week I dusted and vacuumed the living room on the same day.  I was on cloud nine.  Taylor made it to her violin lesson this week.   I even remembered to add extra to the check for the new books that her teacher gave her.  The girls had appointments for shots and we showed up 20 minutes early. Yes we did.   My sister works at the health office and she is my witness.  It really did happen.  I forgot to tell Brett to pick up the prescriptions and I need to remember to pay the gas bill that I found in my purse.  What’s wrong with my brain?  I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with my brain.  I think it’s just full of thinking about four girls who call me mom.