London Fog

I’ve barely had time to process our trip to London. When you’re an introvert, you just soak things up. Tuck your experiences and memories away in your cave, then when everyone else is gone bring them out so you can look at them and think about them all by yourself. Some of the things are shiny and wonderful. And others not so much.

Dan did an awesome job documenting our adventure in a mini travelogue that he posted daily on Facebook page.

But it’s the in-between moments that are still messing with me the more the jet lag wears off.

  • Traveling with a highly deregulated child is challenging. And that’s me choosing a gentle word for it.
  • The architecture took my breath away. I was busy looking at buildings and flowers and “missed” all the Porsches, Maseratis, Bentleys and Yeezys my kids were on the lookout for.
  • People used to look at our family and think or say , “Awwwww”. It was very different this time around. I have a lot of feelings to unpack on this one…
  • The countryside was stunning. I would have thrived in a little town in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do but read and write all day long.
  • People don’t know how to walk in a crowd. They are probably also the terrible drivers. And there are a lot of them.
  • There was a definite “feeling” about London–the consumerism and narcissism was nearly suffocating.
  • The weather was, shockingly, incredible. London loved having us.
  • An American blowdryer turns into a blowtorch in Britain. We made some memories…
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One small step forward

A friend shared good news today. It reminded me that I’m more prone to vent the negative than celebrate any size victories.

A few nights ago, I was washing dishes. Mr. T came out of his room and asked me to come lay on his bed with him while he fell asleep.

This has never happened before. 

Like ever.

I dropped the dish I was washing and it shattered into smithereens and my foot was bleeding but I just left it all and limped with a shredded foot to go lay in that bed.

Well, not the dish breaking or bloody foot part, but if there had been a glass dish in my hands or I was starring in a sitcom, that would have conveyed the shock I was experiencing in that moment.

I laid on the bed listening to 39 Clues. We giggled every time the voice actor talked in a weird voice or shouted one of the character’s names, “DAN!”

All of a sudden the little guy rolled on his side and wrapped his arm around my shoulder and heaved a huge sigh. He said, “I wish I could fall asleep every night like this.”

This has never happened before. 

Like ever.

After a few minutes I had to return to the three other kids who needed homework help and those pesky unwashed dishes.

The following morning, he woke up in a fantastic mood. He said, “Last night was awesome. Can you come in every night like that?”

And that is the closest I have come to getting an “I love you, mom.”

Because that has never been said before. Like ever. And sometimes the opposite is shouted at me (shoot…see, it’s so much easier to default to the negative!)

Who knows if we’ll ever get there, but I’d like to think that maybe someday that part will come. And this invitation into his room…well it’s a step in the right direction and definitely worth celebrating.

“DAN!”

giggle, giggle

 

Scream louder

I love being screamed at.

Especially while driving.

Thankfully, it was just me and him. This time, his siblings were spared the peripheral damage.

For no real reason. That’s often how it is. There’s no inciting incident, just some bottled up rage that had to come out full force and full volume on the way home from karate.

  • Maybe because he came in 3rd place out of 4 losing to lower belts during sparring practice?
  • Or because he was up past his bedtime last night?
  • Or because he refused to eat the string cheese–I knew he was hungry and so did he!
  • Or because I just could NOT understand or correctly answer the absolutely off the wall question he was repeatedly asking me over and over…and louder and louder…
  • Or, most devastatingly, for no reason at all.

Because something inside him said, “you’re angry, let ‘er rip”. No matter that it’s your wonderful, sweet, loving, patient, takes so much crap from you and keeps coming back in for a hug mom.

I’m learning how important self-care and hope is in this season. I end up the brunt of misplaced and unprovoked anger, frustration and unkindness. And later when I’m still trying to just breathe and he doesn’t even remember doing it…or just won’t admit it. Dear Jesus, please take the wheel! I’ll be curled up in the trunk hiding from the monster…

Looking forward to some more specific answers beyond four letters in the near future. ADHD. It’s so much bigger than its little acronym lets on…

We’ve recruited an entire team to help us from every angle. All the people! All the things!

Yet, this alone space…it’s so loud and complex here.

So until we figure out how to connect and support each other, carry on beleaguered warriors. I have to believe the fight for this one is worth the bruises.

Survival mode

I’m stuck.

And I don’t really know how to talk about it.

We’ve been working for years to try to get to the bottom of it–to find a cause. Which would indicate that somewhere out there is a solution.

But the reality is that when it comes to the brain, there is still so much unknown and a whole lot of nasty stigma that is forcing us to wander a land between called “survival mode”. We know too much to go back, and have come to far to want to. But there isn’t yet a way forward. So it’s one day at a time, one step at a time.

We need a term like special needs. But I don’t think most of humanity thinks ADHD and all of it’s complexities is special.

I wish others could understand that we’re dealing as best we can with an unseen, under-understood and as of yet, un-treated ghost that daily haunts our child. Or not, because somedays it doesn’t. And on those days, we’re cautiously optimistic, but stumped when it returns again full force or more. For no reason at all. How do you study something that seems to have a mind of its own?

I wish we had a term that doesn’t shame or mis-identify, but lets others know when someone is deregulated in the moment. Where we wouldn’t have to explain that if we knew how to fix it we would, but we don’t, and this is his “normal” and we’re all gonna be ok someday.

At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves as we continue to jump through all the hoops, appointments and tests. And dream of that elusive “someday” that gives us just enough hope to press the button for survival mode one. more. day.

It’s always at camp

Paper1Every year at camp, something happens to me.

One year it was overhearing a camper’s heartbreaking wish.

This year, it happened in a bathroom.

At first, I thought maybe my “moment” was hearing my daughter singing her heart out in the bathroom stall. Which, was indeed quite adorable. I want her to be uninhibited in her worship–even if that means belting it out in a bathroom.

But that wasn’t my moment.

As we were scuttling back to the auditorium, a leader rushed up to me and fumbled, “excuse me, could you please come help a little girl in the bathroom?

“Where is she?”, I asked.

We walked as fast as we could…he threw out, “it’s not one of my campers…my campers said there was another little girl in there just…really upset.”

My mind went to the worst place.

As I rounded the corner and reached the bathroom door, a girl emerged. She was almost as tall as me and…well…stocky. It looked like she had tried to part or style her hair, but it just came off like a bad cut exacerbated by a bad perm–like her mom knew she was struggling with her weight or size or confidence and had tried to give her the gift of a salon hair-do, but even that wasn’t working out for her.  She had red “I’ve just been crying but have pulled myself together now” eyes, so I knew it was her.

“Are you ok?”, the other leader asked.

Instantly, she melted into tears again…

“It’s ok”, I told cooed. “What’s going on?”, I asked as she tried to hustle away.

She had a panicked look on her face, but I needed to know she was alright, so I pursued her down the hallway a few steps.

I don’t exactly remember what happened next, but amid tears and a down-turned face, the story tumbled out in bits and pieces…

She had been trying to hold it…there was only 1 stall in there…everyone would laugh at her…she had peed all over the floor…she just wanted to leave…everyone was going to make fun of her…she just wanted to get back before anyone found out…

I was relieved. This was fixable. It was not the “worst thing” as I had imagined like we all do when you hear of a little girl sobbing in the bathroom…

Without thinking twice, mom-mode kicked in and I just did what I would have done for either of my own little girls, and what I would wish for anyone who was in the vicinity of one of my little girls should they ever be in a crisis of this sort.

I asked her if she was OK–she said yes.

I asked her if she was wet and needed to get changed or if she could just go back to the auditorium–she replied, ‘only a little on my shirt, I don’t think anyone will notice it’ before the crumpled-face crying and embarrassment and shame of it all hit her again.

I told her I would take care of the bathroom, then I pulled her pee-soaked, bad permed, camp-smelly self into a hug and whispered, “you’re ok, it’s all ok, you just get back to camp and all you need to worry about is having a really good time.”

Then, I went into the bathroom to take care of the mess. And it was an ocean. And there were only those thin, scratchy brown paper towels that don’t soak up a sneeze and don’t change shape or color even when immersed in a sink full of warm water.

I began covering the puddle with the brown rectangles and watched them do nothing but float on the top. I gingerly stepped on a few to see if that would help the absorbency process along any…

My new sneakers…

The smell of the urine…

My gag reflex…

The camper that had been in the stall during “the incident” and now at the sink asking, “what is that on the floor? what happened?” knowing full well what it was…

Oh God, help me!

“Oh, something just spilled…and I don’t want anyone to slip and get hurt”, I willed the words out of my mouth around the threatening gag reflex. She stood there and watched, waiting to see if I grimaced as I bent down to scoop up the sopping, dripping cloths with my bare hands.

Dear God, give me strength to do this.

Nosey Nancy finally left when she saw that I wasn’t losing my cool and wasn’t offering up any more details.

Four rounds of stubbornly impermeable brown towelettes later, I managed to dry the floor enough for it not to be a slip hazard. And my dinner was still intact.

The leader who had asked me for help was lingering in the hallway to thank me for assisting the distressed camper–apologizing for dragging me into the situation.

“Life is already hard enough for some of these kids…it’s a tough age…camp isn’t always easy…I just didn’t want her to worry about this on top of it all”.

Always. There is something that happens at camp. And it’s usually to my heart.

Skip n shop–a new gift

As we’ve been thinking more intentionally about our growing children’s birthdays, trifles are just that to them. Although they enjoy unwrapping presents, we found that they often sat on the counter where they were unwrapped gathering dust for a week or more.

Don’t get me wrong, they loved unwrapping and squealing at the surprise inside. But the getting was way more fun than the keeping. Especially the responsibility of having. to. put. them. away. (cue torturous sounding GROAN)

So, as Orange parents trying to be tuned into what our kids REALLY want, we put on our thinking caps.

One day when I was wishing I had a third or fourth ear to listen to everyones’ days all at once on the drive home from school (yet another “gift” we give to our children…more on that one later…) I got an idea.

I ran it by Dan who thought about it for a few minutes–just because making it happen x 4 would mean a little bit of planning in advance and definitely some sacrifice on our parts. But in the end we decided it would be oh so worth it.

10155973_10154104276130161_2068209213174261056_nOur eldest daughter was about to turn 9. One of those “weird” ages…when they’re too old for Barbie, yet too young for things like tattoos or a car. She already has a bike and a scooter, a microphone with a stand and speakers people, about 437 Beanie Boos and an old iPhone that she uses for educational apps at school. What more could this girl want?

This where the plan came into play at just the perfect time. Dan–being the graphic designer–put together an awesome certificate. And not just any certificate…no “free hugs” here, baby!

We weren’t exactly sure how it would go over as we usually wrap the “biggest” or “best” present of the birthday (which is usually from us) in gold wrapping paper. This year, it was gold wrapping paper in the shape of a wonky, origamically challenged envelope…not exactly visually stunning like the large, easy bake oven or Barbie castle boxes of yore.

Our sweet birthday girl opened the envelope as Dan and I held our breath waiting for her reaction.

Granted, she is our drama girl, but her reaction was good. I mean, Oscar nomination good.

She squealed and could NOT stop talking about when we could plan to go, when she could skip school and have us all to herself, where all we could shop and spend her birthday money, where we should go out to eat, what music we would listen to, what she would wear, which Beanie Boo she would bring along with her in which purse. It was game ON, high five, in the bag, best present ever, baby!

Our other kids looked stunned that something in an envelope could be the object of such delight to their sister…and provoke such a sense of envy…they wanted a skip and shop too.

#winning

SKIPANDSHOP We did the same with our next child’s birthday, our younger daughter. She was in. her. glory. until she had purchased the 3 items she wanted to buy, then she simply wanted to go home, assemble and play with her new toys in our presence with no distractions or need to share our attention with other siblings. So. Relaxing. What a gift…not just to her, but we found it has turned out to be a gift to ourselves as well!

#winningagain

Liam Skip and ShopOur firstborn son just turned 11. And he does NOT like getting gift cards or money.  So we were a little nervous that our #winning streak might be interruption on this one. We made sure to purchase gifts in advance that he could unwrap…which was nothing more than copious amounts of Lego sets. All of which he assembled before bedtime on his birthday night.

We had to think a little harder about his “skip n ______” day, but I had my antennae up for just this reason. When he mentioned watching Captain America with a friend this past summer and that a few friends at school had seen the new movie and in a store he pointed out an UnderArmor shirt featuring Captain America and said, “he’s my favorite hero” (<–kid of few words, so when he speaks, we listen), I did the math. He received a “skip n watch” to go see the new Captain America movie in the theater. On a school day.

He expanded the experience by suggesting we get the first Captain America movie from RedBox to get Dan and I up to speed on the good Captain’s origins before we head to the theater to watch the “new” one–knowing my introvert he just doesn’t want to answer all my questions during the movie in the theater, but he also is one for “the whole series”.

#stillwinning

I love how my kids are transitioning from “stuff” to “experiences”–making memories and helping make that really hard-to-get one-on-one time with parents-of-four-kids a reality.

What are some creative ways you do or have heard of to intentionally have fun over time with your kids?

Three Thanks

imagesThis morning my fashionista daughter was struggling with her outfit for church. And by struggling I mean complaining that she did not have shoes that “matched” her outfit.

I’m talking about the my hippie morphing into a hipster daughter…the one that NEVER matches. She is fearless in what she wears–loud colors and prints mished and mashed in ridiculous amounts of layers to achieve her intended look.

So when she complained that she had no shoes to match her outfit, I was truly at a loss.

I cocked my head and looked at her hard for a minute. The issue wasn’t with the matching, the issue was a layer deeper.

We lined up  the four pairs of summer shoes she had to choose from and picked the “least awful” pair–some plain black flip flops.

Then we sat down and had a chat:

me: Look at your flip flops. Can you think of three things about them that you are thankful for?

she: <haughtily> I have shoes.

me: Yes. I can’t tell you how many children I’ve seen in poorer countries that don’t have a single pair of shoes, much less four pairs to choose from. What else?

she: <a tiny bit less haughtily>They aren’t broken yet.

me: That is something to be thankful for. Do you know that in some countries you are not allowed to go to school unless you have a uniform and shoes? Some kids want to go to school so badly they wear broken flip flops or shoes that are too small and hurt their feet, or too big that give them blisters because that’s how badly they want to go to school. It’s a privilege to have shoes that are not broken and fit you perfectly. Can you think of one more thing?

she: <begrudgingly> They are comfortable.

me: Who gave you those shoes?

she: God.

me: How do you think it made God feel that you complained about the good shoes He gave you?

she: Sad.

We practiced a real-life lesson in gratitude today. Not just she, but also me.

I needed to turn this exercise onto myself today more than once. More than twice. And I promise you every time I ended up in tears and so grateful to my heavenly Father for the many blessings I have the gall to complain about.

I relish this precious God-moment today. This parenting thing is such a giant mirror revealing that I still have a lot of growing left to do.