Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tomorrow or Never

There's never enough time in the day, and that is why I am sitting here writing, mid-morning, in the middle of the week.
Greystoke is napping and there is one hour until I pick up The Dude from school. Usually this is when I put away laundry, the laundry that is currently overflowing out of the pack n play in the closet which is our makeshift laundry room. This is usually when I put something in the slow cooker, and vacuum the floor.
But today, I decided to be different.
Actually, last Thursday was the first time I decided to be different. Wednesday I kept feeling like God told me I needed to take some time when things were quiet and sit and read my Bible and ignore the mess around me. But for some reason, I just kept hopping up to do all the stuff around me that pressed me to get done.
That night, I was lying in bed, minding my own business and trying to fall asleep when I suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I had a feeling of impending doom.
It totally annoyed me. Panic attacks are what happen to people who are anxious and worried all the time. I'm not those people. Yet here I was. I ended up having to take a Benadryl to fall asleep that night, and I have since also traced my difficulty falling asleep to reading on a backlit tablet in bed too, so I stopped doing that.
And Thursday morning I ignored the crumbs all over my floor and read my Bible during Greystoke's nap.

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
-1 Peter 5:4-7

We've had a lot going on lately. It's been easier to wrap myself up in the busyness that feels like it will fall apart if I pause instead of taking the time to give my grief to God.
Sometimes it feels like the hand of God is holding us down, not letting us up. But what it is really doing is protecting us. When we relax under His hand, when we let go of our anxiety, there is so much comfort under the warmth we find there.
It is pride that makes us run around so constantly, as if the world will fall apart around us if we stop. The laundry was still there when I finished reading. The crumbs were still on the floor. But honestly, they'd be there again in 10 minutes even if it was spotless at school pickup time.
On Saturday I talked to my sister K. During our conversation, she said something that I would have thought would have made me sad, but instead it filled me with admiration and conviction and hope: "I can be happy without kids." she said. She didn't say it through tears, she didn't say it through doubt, though I am sure occasionally the doubt consumes her. She's not giving up yet. She's going to keep praying and trying a little while longer, but she can be happy. It's a truth we all know. We can be happy without x,y,z. We can learn to be content in any and all circumstances because we can do all things through the strength of Christ. But still sometimes you just need to say it and hear it to realize the truth of it. Thanks, K.
School and homework and life outside of school is going better for Aquaman, but not without a fight and more anxiety.
Things kind of came to a head the night Aquaman announced, after crying off and on for several hours over being forced to write a thank you card over and over and having the teacher tell him that 1) he wasn't trying, and 2) his writing should look like that of the perfect little girl's beside him, that "The biggest thing I have learned in the first grade is that there's no use doing my best."
I sent what I thought was a nice note to the teacher because I thought he would want to know how discouraged Aquaman was, and also because I don't think that forcing a 7 year old who has fine motor and attention and anxiety problems to do something over and over again was helpful. But the teacher responded in, what I can only assume was an emotional moment to basically tell me that he was right and I was wrong.

Luckily, my friend S came to the rescue again by writing a response to him for me that respectfully requested some specific interventions to help Aquaman not just do his best, but hopefully enjoy learning again. Things like not expecting him to copy off the board, but giving a copy to him on his desk, giving him lines to write on, sometimes letting him write without picking on his handwriting (he told Aquaman the other day that the words he wrote in his journal were just made up because he didn't write in d'nealian...and mind you they were printed in a way you could clearly read them and were even spelled properly), and grading his 1st try not making him write things over and over.
I never got a response, but Aquaman says that when he turns in his papers now, the teacher doesn't even look at it, just points to the basket.
Aquaman is just so sensitive, and so astute, and sometimes that can hurt you when you're 7.

 He knows the truth. We all know when people in charge of us aren't doing things the right way. A lot of Aquaman's intelligence comes out as emotional intelligence, despite his trouble actually being able to manage his emotions. He has high ideals about how people should respond to each other. He values honesty highest of all. So social nuances, or ways in which adults try to trick children are very painful for him. He wants respect. Everyone needs respect.
And so we try to make things better, because high ideals are good. But we also have to recognize when some things just are, and he is starting to get there now that we are having an open dialogue about it. Sometimes people are just different from us. Sometimes they don't understand us, and we don't understand them. Sometimes people in charge of us ask impossible things of us.

We have to try our best, but we have to let the rest go. It is ok to recognize when someone in authority over us is not doing what's best for us. It's ok  to speak up for ourselves and ask for what we need in a respectful way. And then pray for God's strength to get through it.
I don't think it's any coincidence that Aquaman is having this hard year 1) after he accepted Christ last year. Satan doesn't like kids who love Jesus. They are dangerous. And 2) after we found Coastline Community Church. God knew Aquaman needed it.
Aquaman loves pastor B. He loves going to church. He goes to sleep listening to the children's sermon podcasts. He is not getting what he needs at school, and sometimes it kills me inside that he is not getting the spiritual guidance and is probably really getting the opposite of that at school 6.5 hours a day. But he has a mentor at church. Suffering and difficulty make us thirsty. And he is thirsty for God. He is strengthening his fledgling spiritual muscles stepping every day into situations that make him uncomfortable. And I have to believe, in the long run, we will see beauty come from it.
Almost every day when we pray together before school, when we say Amen, he wipes tears from his eyes. As much as it breaks my heart, I am happy to see those vulnerable and broken tears instead of the anger.
I asked him things have gotten better since we started this journey to help him, and he said "yes!" When I asked what it was, he said "Vista!" The gifted program. He missed 3 boring worksheets in class the first day that he went, and didn't even have to make them up. And: "the kids in Vista don't get mad at me all the time like the kids in my class do."
Tuesday night, I prayed before dinner and thanked God for puddles and Vista and little things that make us smile, and when I said Amen, he leaped out of his chair and gave me a spontaneous hug with a huge smile on his face.
That made some of this fighting worth it.
Aquaman probably won't be a doctor. We've been reading Judy Moody Dr is in the House this week, and taking the time to look up some of the medical terms she brings up, and look at pictures of things. Aquaman has been totally disgusted. The Dude also asked one night how big his heart was, and we looked that up and talked about it, and saw a picture of a heart and Aquaman almost lost his mind. When I told him I guessed he didn't want to be a Dr., he said "Why would I? Everyone comes to you with their disgusting problems and the only reason they are coming to you is that their problems are so disgusting that they can't fix them themselves!"
Such a compassionate child....
But last night he told me...I don't want to see a cut open human body. But a cut open computer...that's my thing!
I giggled when I saw this because it totally looks like the stereotypical engineer's napkin planning. Rudimentary and to the point. This is Aquaman's "map to the Lego store."
The Dude has been thinking a lot too. He'll be 5 in one week, and he is just suddenly recognizing words out in the world. He is very occasionally reading words on books. His writing his even sloppier than Aquaman's was at this age, but mostly because he is so busy looking around at all the things that he doesn't want to miss.
He is a fierce defender of his brother, and I most have to watch out for his being aggressive when he is defending his older brother. He will fly off the handle and punch anyone who gets his brother upset, and considering that is not hard to do, social occasions can be stressful.
He is listening to everything we say, taking it all in, wondering about it.
The night of the dreaded thank you card fiasco, he lay there holding my hand in his bed and said "Mom? Why does Aquaman's teacher want his writing to be as good as the girl in his class? Doesn't he know that Aquaman can jump higher than that girl?"
Thank you.
This is why we don't compare kids to each other. Some write better. Some jump higher. We were all made different. I love that The Dude sees this already.
Right now he is really into animals attacking each other. I have really been trying hard to listen and answer all of Aquaman's and The Dude's many many questions, because I feel like Aquaman is not learning the things he is really interested in at school, so maybe he can learn them at home.
Every day the Dude asks me: "who would win? A hippopotamus or a crocodile?" etc etc etc etc.
I know all the stats now. Ask me sometime.
For his birthday he is getting a skateboard from mom and dad, a tablet from one set of grandparents, and a kid sized guitar from the other. These are all things he is passionately interested in. He is eclectic, and charming, and he makes friends wherever he goes. 5 is going to look good on him, I can tell.

Greystoke is growing and changing every day. He will be 22 months old next week. He is regularly speaking in sentences now, though most of the time he is still pretty quiet. Yesterday after the store he was in the car and said "I want juice box, Mama!" and I had to do a double take because he hadn't said 2 words the whole time we were at the store. He's just that way.
When he leaves the nursery at church, the workers always call out: "I love you!" because he is just so lovey with his white blond still pretty bald head and his ears that stick out just a little and his sleepy looking eyes, and his body that moves at the same time as his mind in this fluid fashion that I have not seen before in one of my children. 
Yesterday I took off his diaper and he ran outside and peed in the bushes. 
He's becoming just one of the boys, but whenever I'm holding him at night as he falls asleep and nursing him and I tell him I love him, he lets go to say "Mama's baby!" with a big smile on his face.
Mostly he's Daddy's boy. Yesterday, in the car, I asked him who his best friend was and he said without a moment of thinking: "Daddy!" I have to pry his fingers off Daddy's shirt when he leaves for work. 

And now it's night-time. Greystoke woke up early from his nap and then I picked up The Dude from preschool and we went to Sears to get a garage door remote, and the library to get more Captain Underpants books for Aquaman and some real books for me to read at night so I can sleep again. When I told Greystoke he could pick out one book to take home he frantically ran to the shelves and stacked 5 on top of each other and then stumbled to the check out desk behind me. He loves books. The Dude didn't want a book, he always wants a DVD. And he came to the check out counter and asked very sweetly if he could have just one more and I let him, and the lady beside me said my children were so respectful and my jaw almost hit the floor, because my children are crazy and usually I am just trying to keep them from tearing the whole library apart.

Then we picked up Aquaman, and on the way home from school he punched The Dude for mentioning writing, and lost his Legos for the day, and was so upset that when we stopped to see Daddy at work for a few minutes he wouldn't get out of the car to play on the playground. When we got home I tried to program the remote but Greystoke and The Dude kept fighting and then The Dude got into the dirt, and then I had to put laundry away, and empty the dishwasher that is finally fixed and make dinner, and quiz spelling words, and do math flash cards, and Aquaman read captain underpants to all of us on the kitchen floor while the little two got smoothies everywhere and I tried to make dinner.

But we got our time together, reading and talking before bed, and then Aquaman fell asleep listening to Pastor B, and I finally got the new remote figured out, and here I am with my peppermint tea.
JT is at the Crowne again, and will be there tomorrow night too. Both jobs are crazy right now, and he is so tired, and I wish I could help, but at least there's dinner in the slow cooker, and the house is about as clean as it gets, and he's got a remote for the garage now.

As always, it takes a lot of time to write, but as always, I am glad I took the time and did. Everything that needed to got done, and the other stuff will get done tomorrow....or never.
And I can be happy with that.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentines Day Wanderings

It's 8 pm on Valentine's Day evening and the first time I've had the chance to write for a while.
Aquaman is patiently teaching The Dude to read his Lego Ninjago book
My Valentine is asleep upstairs. Leading up to today, he worked 4 double shifts in a row. Today he had the whole day off. We all went to church together, and out to lunch. Grandma took the two older boys to Awana and they are both spending the night with her.
So JT and I had a couple hours to take a walk together, eat dinner and have whole conversations together (though we were both too tired to be terribly coherent). We alternated giving each other massages and told each other Happy Valentines day, and then I left him in bed because I've been wanting to write for a while. Needing to. Even though I have no idea what to say about anything.
It's been a hard couple of weeks. A lot has happened.

My sister K got the best news of her life one day and there were so many happy tears. Pregnant. And then, just like that, the tears were the sad kind. Life's like that sometimes, I remember now.
My mom just lost her little brother to the same thing I lost my big brother too a long time ago, and as Aquaman was falling asleep that night, he caught the picture of him that was on Facebook and said "who is that man, and why does he look so sad?"

And I didn't have an answer for him, not really. I mean, the Sunday school one that I know about how he forgot to ask Jesus for help. Because sometimes we get so sad we forget to look up.
It was last week, sitting in church, and then later having a conversation with JT about Aquaman that I remembered how cruelly the enemy seeks to devour us all.
God allows it, He must allow all of it. And he shapes it and fashions it and uses the broken places, but He weeps over it too. He cries with us. I know He does.It's why I've only had the heart and courage and energy to open the Psalms lately. It's the only thing I can relate to, and even then in sort of a most distant way.
I haven't had time to grieve it all, to process it all.
Life marches on like a taunting metronome. No time to stop. Loss has not stopped my kids from needing to eat and dream and play and dirty their clothes.
I haven't felt like enough, like there is enough of me, or like I am doing enough of what I should. I couldn't be there to sit beside my sister on the couch for hours and cry for her babies with her.
But I couldn't be fully there for my own babies, who found me sometimes crying in the kitchen while I prepared their food. "God can do anything" The Dude has reminded me over and over again.
"I love you more than candy, Mom."
Which is pretty much the biggest compliment you can get from a 4 year old kid.
This week the dryer timer knob broke which doesn't seem like a big thing, but it took a week to get the part and in the meantime we had to use pliers. I lost the diamond out of my engagement ring. It's gone. The dishwasher broke. A perfect sized glass got jammed into the sink disposal last night and it took me 10 minutes to get it out and for some reason that seemed like the end of the world.
When I get just a few minutes to get something done around the house, I am paralyzed by the million things that need to be done. Thursday I chose to clean the kitchen. An hour later I picked up The Dude from school and made he and Greystoke lunch and the kitchen was completely destroyed again.
We have been so healthy this winter. Greystoke seems to have survived his last cold with only one night of mild croup and no ear infection. The Dude hasn't wheezed at all with his most recent cold. Aquaman hasn't had so much as a sniffle in months. I'm thankful for that. Last year we all had the flu at this time.
Yesterday, the 4th day in a row of JT's doubles, I was starting to get a little shaky with fatigue, but now, after an evening of rest and conversation with my best friend and forever Valentine, life at least feels minimally possible.
JT and I fell in love in Haiti. We barely knew each other then. I didn't even think he noticed me until the plane ride home.
But he bought a card there from someone who made them. It had a heart sewn on it.
He saved it and gave it to me 4 months later for Valentine's Day.
I love him. We're not really gift givers, and we don't have much time for dates, and right now he is working so much, but when he is with me, he sees me and he listens to me, and he loves me, and there is something so amazing about that.
Tomorrow I will be working and he is staying home with the older 2 who have the day off of school for Presidents Day, They are so excited to spend a day with Daddy, and without the interference of their sweet, bossy and busy littlest brother.
Work is really really hard right now. I am there 2 days a week but they just keep piling more and more on me, and I think that is the hardest thing. I can't possibly be enough at home. I can't keep up with all the work, I would love to have just a few 1 on 1 moments with my oldest son but I never get to do that, and then on top of that I face an impossible task at work too.

But it's not all humdrum life is hard stuff either. Because, life is hard, and it's extra hard right now, and I'm just pressing on and pushing through it. I'm not talking much, and I am listening more, and mostly God is quiet, like He often is when He wants us to keep pushing deeper. I am trying to resist getting busier just to fill the silence. Silence is good sometimes. It's important, even when it is scary.
But there is so much fun to be had each day too, and maybe that is part of my sorrow, because I feel guilty about it, when I look around sometimes and see so much pain, and yet also see how insulated I am and have been from it. But guilt doesn't solve anything.
Things are going better with Aquaman still. He still hates school but his complaining limits are working well. He is still having moments of aggression, and has lost his Legos for whole days at a time, I got him a chew necklace since he always has Legos in his mouth and I think that is one of the ways he soothes himself. He loves it, and wears it around the house, but is too embarrassed to bring it to school.
I also got a wiggle seat for him to sit on while he does homework, but he's too embarrassed to bring that to school too.
We've talked a lot about how all he has to do at school is his best, and how he will never please everyone all of the time, and I think he understands it to some degree.
I still think that, though his teacher is a great a teacher, and especially a great beachside teacher (perfect for all the tiger moms), he just isn't a perfect fit for Aquaman.

I read this quote regarding the high emotional needs of the highly intelligent the other day that summed up perfectly how I feel about it: "They need teachers and programs that focus not on the magnificence of their brains, but on the fragility of their hearts. Unless their heart is intact, no learning can happen."
-Jennifer Aldred
That, I think is what I have finally concluded in my dissatisfaction with my dealings with the school system. Maybe I am not even asking for something that they can give.
Last year, Aquaman's teacher was a gentle and kind soul who went to our church. I still hope The Dude will have her next year.
But really....the school system and I have totally different goals for Aquaman's life and it's hard not to let that bother me.
They want him to be successful. I asked him what that meant the other day, and he told me it meant making a lot of money.
I want him to follow Jesus. That's my definition of success.
So I am struggling a little with this. I know that if public school is where he must stay, which given our situation at this point, it is, that God can and will provide a way through it.
I met with the principal, the teacher, the special ed coordinator, school psychologist, guidance counselor, and gifted teacher this week in an intervention meeting. They basically convinced me that Aquaman is "just" gifted. They feel that he is frustrated that he simply can't make his hands keep up with his head (though they did also admit that he appears to have fine motor delays, but also said that he cannot receive services for this without an identified learning disability, even though dysgraphia is a learning disability that involves fine motor delays and yet they do not want to test him,,,,because he is on grade level even though he is also miserable).
I was ok with that for the most part. I understand doing the cheapest intervention first, which will be to start him in the gifted program ASAP. I am not exactly sure how 1 hr a week is going to drastically change his general attitude toward school but I am trying not to be cynical.
They did say that one of their main focuses in this program is social emotional skills, and I know that will be good for it. His first day will be in 2 days....they are visiting an assisted living facility. I love that.

The Dude is so sweet right now. He is energetic and tiring and his pants are always falling down.
He holds my hand every chance he gets. He loves when I sit and eat lunch with him after school. He likes to make forts and he hasn't been tying as many knots lately but I think that's because he has used up every piece of rope and string in the house.
He still loves school and his teacher. He wants so much to please his big brother. He can be shockingly kind to his little brother, and then trip him onto his face the next instant. It must be confusing business to be a little boy.
And Greystoke, oh Greystoke he is changing so much every day. He is obsessed with books. Everything is books. Always piles of them everywhere and he wants to read all day long.
His speech has suddenly exploded. He is saying occasional 4 word sentences now, though mostly still only 2. My favorite most recent ones: "I ride choo choo Mama?" and "I go pop" when talking about the zoo. And today he got stuck on "ready, set, go!" and said it over and over at the store.
He rides the big swings all by himself. Sometimes he falls off and then he just lays there for a while. Then he smiles and gets up and says "go boom!"



So I guess that's all to say that life is a big fat wonderful mess.
When I think about the future sometimes I want to have a panic attack, and when I think about all the pain in the world, sometimes I want to put my head in my shell.
But instead, I am just living today, one day, one hour sometimes, at a time.
I keep my head poked out, and I make myself look at the pain, even when it's hard.
Because the pain is part of life just like the beauty, just like the really funny parts.
I know how it ends.
God wins.