Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Frail

My head is a mess right now.
Life is a whirlwind of three little boys and their crumbs and their opinions and their love.

"LIKE that, Mama!" is the littlest's favorite phrase. He says it with his face all screwed up into a frown to make sure I am understanding, which is good, because what he means is: "I DON'T like that, Mama."
He says it about kisses and about bedtime and about silly games that I play. Sometimes he is teasing me, and often he is not.

"Go to park RIGHT now." He also says with a stamp of his foot for emphasis.
He'll be 2 in less than a week. My baby. Will be 2. And in less than a month I will be 35.

"Mom, I wouldn't give you up for a hundred million dollars!" Says the middle child, upping his ante from his usual "I love you more than candy."

He has to be extra loveable since he is also extra-into-everything.

For the first time in his life, at 5 years old, these past few weeks he has been falling asleep without my presence in his room. Which has meant that I have had to clear out those bathroom cupboards from all those odds and ends I had forgotten about, since his insatiable curiosity does not rest when he is supposed to be. Things like Vaseline and toothpaste, and nail clippers.
He ties everything into knots. And cuts holes in things. And pours water into things.

Did I mention that he never stops talking? And he almost always prefaces his speech with: "can I tell you something?" But trust me, it is not a question.
 He is exactly the sort of boy that I always wanted in my life. And he totally exhausts me.

"Why did God make me this why if he didn't want me to be this way?" Asked the oldest, snuggling in bed with me one afternoon earlier this week as we talked about the hurt that hides behind anger.
"And why does God let people get hurt and hurt others all the time, Mom?"

They're good questions. Important questions. Questions that I can attempt to answer, and will, but that he will mostly have to have answered by God Himself. Questions that I didn't anticipate having to answer so early in his life. I don't feel ready. Not for the teenage eye rolling and the existential depression. It is too soon. It's not fair. Children are supposed to be so simple.

Though I can clearly recall feeling rage at that thought when I was a child too. Children are not as simple and easily pacified as adults want to think.

At his request we have been slogging through the book of Genesis at night, after our more relaxed reading. We are in the thick of the story of Jacob, and  hoots and cheers have gone up as the boys recognized their names in his sons.
"Jacob wrestled with the angel all night" I read to Aquaman. Because that was how Jacob did everything. He had to struggle.

Aquaman can identify with that.

I hardly know which way is up or down these days. I hardly have time to make a plan for each day before we are off and running at the speed of light. We are less than a month away from the end of the school year, the worst school year ever, and I am thrilled to say goodbye to it, while at the same time, respectfully terrified of the upcoming summer.

The younger 2 still like the park, and can be entertained for an hour with a set of blocks, and find simple errands somewhat interesting, and are almost always up for the beach. The oldest is skeptical of all of it. He hates school but the monotony of home makes him ridiculously irritable. He is difficult to take out because his frustration tolerance is so low and his fuse is so short that he might erupt at any moment and he is difficult for me to handle while also jostling the younger 2, and while also not being totally embarrassed by the stares.

I have high hopes for the summer because I know school and homework have been the biggest sources of frustration in his life, but I find myself fearing that he will find a way to replace them with something else over the summer.

I just finished reading "the explosive child" for the 2nd time, and was encouraged by the reminder that Aquaman's behaviors are mostly indicative of a developmental delay in his ability to tolerate frustration. And just as I shouldn't blame a child's speech or gross motor delay on myself, I shouldn't blame myself for his delayed emotional maturity, I just need to give him the support and tools that he needs.
But that doesn't help much when people are giving your child dirty looks, and talking loudly enough to make sure you hear that they disapprove of him. I am not going to lie, it is really really hard. And sometimes I have felt very alone.

This morning everything was going along smoothly. Aquaman even did his out loud reading after he woke up because he hadn't had time to do it yesterday. There was complaining, but it was minimal. As the older boys finished their breakfast, Aquaman was pestering The Dude and making him cry. Just normal big brother stuff, but it was too early. After comforting The Dude 3 times, I finally told Aquaman to knock it off. And what did he do? Kicked over the chair, stomped his brother's feet, threw his shoes across the room  and began repeatedly kicking another piece of furniture in what appeared to be an attempt to break it.
And what did I do? Probably what any mother who has a cold and hasn't slept in weeks with a teething toddler, whose job is falling apart and whose husband works 70 hours a week would do...I grabbed him by the arm and pushed him out the door and told him to get out of our house.

I felt angry. "How dare he act like that?" I felt scared: "Who is this person I will be unleashing into the world someday?"
And angry and scared are not the way to parent.

Mom fail.

I know all the right things to do. I know that he needs me to stay calm. I know that he needs me to be gentle. But I couldn't.

I dropped him off at school while he was still in tears and came back home feeling like a failure. It still hangs over me, reminding me. He is a special kid who needs a lot of extra, and I am failing him. I can't do it.

But that's ok, because that's life in the frailty of this human body. We fail but we can't wallow in our failures. I am reminded of the importance of nurturing myself if I am ever to get through raising this very special child.
I am reminded that my identity is not a mom. I am a child of God. And there is no condemnation with Him. When I cry out to him asking him why? Why do we hurt each other? I find only grace there, only forgiveness, only mercy, and only healing. How we need healing. And I can't give healing before I have received it for myself.

JT is working 3 nights this week at his 2nd job, but the end is in sight. He is planning to put in his notice by the end of next month.

We need him at home. I have felt like a single parent for too long, and I am weary from it. And I can't even begin to fathom how tired he has been from the schedule he is keeping. By the end of May he is planning to resign from his banquet job and we both feel like a tremendous burden has been lifted from our shoulders.

Don't get me wrong...this job has been an enormous blessing for us. We were able to save almost his entire paycheck from the 2nd job and now have enough money for a nice used minivan without any debt, which has been our goal, and still have a decent amount of emergency savings.
We probably won't get one any time soon because I get a sick enjoyment out of delaying these sorts of pleasures, but at least we know we could.

There will still be lonely weekends ahead, the life of a first responder's wife. But at least there will be the promise of his return before we are all asleep to look forward to, and just the anticipation of that has brought hope shining back into my heart.
And last night, JT took Aquaman to the firefighter's award ceremony....just first born and dad time. Grown up stuff. Aquaman needs that time so badly, and I am happy for them.

JT's parents got us passes to Sea World for the rest of the year and the kids and I went with JT's mom last week. We had a lot of fun, the weather was perfect, the crowds were relatively thin, and the kids mostly behaved.








 Aquaman enjoyed it so much that it is the subject of the book he is writing for homework. I am so tired of homework.

My career is hanging in the balance of uncertainty right now. Seeing the writing on the wall of reductions, we have been reduced to a skeleton crew and every 2 day week that I return it is a question of who will have resigned, or who has been hospitalized from the stress, and what jobs have been eliminated. They are hiring now, and I have been intending to try to increase my hours to 30 hours a week next year during school, so I briefly entertained the idea of returning over the summer just to guarantee a position, at least until the next wave of layoffs and changes.
But one 10 minute glance at my planner told me that it just wasn't a good idea. I think by next summer the older 2 could do some camps and a college kid could come in and help out and we could figure it out. But this year, Greystoke is still so little, and The Dude has not even started Kindergarten, and Aquaman is so restless and irritable.
So this will be our last summer with 5 day weekends, and it is going to be filled with science camps and swim lessons and Aquaman, who is obsessed with the children's pastor at our church, is signed up for every single activity that our kid's ministry at church is doing, including 6 5 hour fun and devotion filled Tuesdays, a morning surf camp, and a 3 day camp right before school starts back up. I am making a bucket list of things like visiting the Inlet, Rainbow springs, the Sebastian splash pad, and the Orlando Science Center.
I am going to soak up this summer and all its chaos and fights and all its opportunity to just be there.

I am going to try to ignore the stares.

My littlest never sleeps. My oldest is frequently angry. My middle child puts the H in ADHD.

My career often feels like it's falling apart. My husband and I barely have the time and energy to smile at each other as our lives pass in the dark of night.
Sometimes I want to run away and hide.

The struggle is real, and the struggle is accomplishing something.

Next week I will begin operation night wean of my sweet little baby, and if history repeats itself, I'll be even more tired and incoherent for the next few weeks than I have been.
Right after he turns 2, JT and I, and the one person that we became, will celebrate 9 years together.
I'm skipping work the week after so we can spend an entire day together, just us, while the kids are at school and their grandparents.
I hope we don't just collapse and sleep the whole time.

I am totally overwhelmed, completely exhausted, and terminally uncertain, so you'd think I'd actually be pretty miserable too, but what's funny is, I am not.
Because I am right where I want to be. In over my head. Out of control. Throwing my hands up high in surrender.
I am laugh out loud until you feel like crying at Si on Duck Dynasty happy. I am tired like you just got tossed and turned in the washing machine of the ocean during a hurricane swell but you just popped up and got a burst of that moist and glorious salt water air.

The kind of tired that makes you hungry? You know that kind of tired.

 "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Friday, April 8, 2016

White space

So much is happening, sometimes it feels like too much to process. It's Friday, and I am so glad. Even though weekends are crazy, and even though JT was supposed to get the weekends off this month and now he doesn't.
There are less pickups and drop offs and errands on the weekend. There is no homework drama, and less social issues.
We'll have a tball game.












We'll go to the beach.







We'll spend a lot of time at home playing Legos, I'm sure.
The past couple of weeks have been crazy, Spring always seems to be.
We have stayed mostly healthy which has been nice, it's been a healthier year other than Greystoke's ears, which have now cleared up at last, and he is sleeping much better. I am actually getting enough rest to wake up earlier on my days off.
But there are field trips and endless forms to fill out and the summer to plan.
I was so excited about Aquaman's field trip to the zoo last week but it did not go well.


He has been having a lot of trouble again, and that is exhausting. He is emotional about everything. Everything is too much. There are conflicts in the cafeteria. He feels bullied by normal little boy behavior. Anger is his first response to everything. The nightmares are back. The lying in bed imagining faces staring at him.



He sees the speck in the eyes of everyone around him, and while sometimes it feels like he is oblivious to the log in his own, I think it is actually just that it cripples him too much to look at it. He feels helpless against it. He feels helpless in general I think.


There were fights at the zoo. Aggressive behavior that he has never resorted to until this year.


I caught him in a wild flurry earlier this week and hugged him and told him that I knew this isn't who he is, he just feels hurt and scared, and when I said that the dam broke, and he cried for a long time.




He reminds me of a wild animal that has been backed into a corner. Too scared to do anything but attack.







After the field trip when I talked to him about it he said "that's because all I really want to do is run away with my hands over my ears and close my eyes, but they follow me then, and they laugh at me.


He is going back next week to talk to Mr. N, his counselor, about all of this, because I know he needs tools to help him cope, and I don't know what they are.


I am worried about school, and we are going on a tour of a Montessori charter school next week, and I really think Montessori would be a great fit for him, but it's too far away. And it's still a public school. And sometimes it just seems like he's too square and all these holes are too round, and part of him is going to get chopped off, and some people might be ok with that, but I don't know if I can be. I like who he is. He needs refining, to be sure, the corners need some softening, but to have his whole shape changed? I don't want that to happen.
I love our little school. We went to kindergarten orientation this morning, and I was reminded of that. His first two years went so well.
I love that 90% of the people who go to it live within walking distance. I love that it feels like a family. I love Aquaman's Tk1 teacher, who always stops to hug him and call him brilliant, and spoke of his quirks with a respectful smile.
I am not against public school. But Aquaman has special needs without a label, and that makes public education hard. Some kids always bob to the top. Some kids just seem to know what to do. But some kids need extra gentle guidance, and this year he hasn't gotten it. And while I know he will learn from it, I wonder sometimes WHAT he will learn from it. This year he has learned intolerance from an intolerant teacher. He learned violence from aggressive schoolmates.
I would like to think he has also learned some resiliance, but he seems instead to have become more sensitive and not less. I know that God can and will turn all things into good, but I also know it is a parent's job to protect and provide for their children. Not the government's.


So, for now, I pretty much have no idea what to do except to keep going. To keep hugging him and accepting him and guiding him and teaching him and trying to help him feel safe. I know that worry accomplishes nothing, so I push forward with optimism, because one year won't define him, and maybe next year will be better.

So much is happening and changing. Greystoke will be 2 in just a few short weeks. We'll be night weaning then, which brings up the old new dilemma of family planning.

I'm ready to close the babyhood chapter.





I realized it when one of my friends told me she was pregnant again. I felt so happy for her and just a little bit sad for me because I know we can't handle any more. I wish I could have more and more little people to call my own, but I am so so thankful for our three wonderful boys, and I want to give them what they need, and I don't feel like we could with one more.


I felt sad for about a day, and then a couple days later I took Greystoke and The Dude to the zoo and I saw all the moms there with their babies in front packs and their toddlers, and their endless conversations about sleep schedules, and I realized that those days are over for me. Even if we had another one, those days are over because my other kids are bigger and by now our schedules revolve around school and homework and activities and errands and babies and toddlers are just along for the ride. There aren't the same amount of endless hours for hanging out at the zoo talking about sleep schedules.

And while I enjoyed those days while I was in them, they were hard days too. Uncertain and self-conscious. And even though I am certainly uncertain and self-conscious now about my big boy and his big emotions, it's a different kind of uncertain.
So, though a part of me wants more and more babies, it's the same part of me that wants to home school, and be a stay at home mother. It's the idealist side of me that wants what I perceive to be the perfect setup, and that doesn't exist in this world. In this world, things are messy, and we have to say no to some things in order to benefit other things. And while love sometimes wants more and more and better and better, love has to draw a line somewhere, and we seem to have reached it.

I've been thinking about working more.

And 3 years ago that totally freaked me out, but now I feel ok about it.
We need JT to be home more. The boys need their dad.
So basically how I have left it is, if the perfect thing opens up, only during school hours, that can be started in the fall, then I will enroll Greystoke in preschool this year. He still feel a little young to me, but I love FBI's preschool people so much that I know he would be fine. But I am letting God put it right in my lap, and I am not going to stress about it. If I get another year mostly at home with my little one then that will be just fine with me.

So that's where I am today.

With weaning and saying goodbye and school questions and parenting uncertainty and identity crises.

But I'm doing fine, because I read about something in a Lysa Terkeurst book the other day, something called white space.



It's something I already knew about, because I'm an artist inside, really, even though I can't make a craft or paint a picture to save my life.

When a piece of art is judged as truly being art, the critics look for something called white space, which is just what it sounds like. Blank spaces, white still left on the canvas. Room.

Lack of white space is a sign of commercialism, a sign of advertisements. The busyness of it steals something from a piece and cheapens it.

White space is feeling the breeze off the canal while your two littlest boys put their toes in the water. It's standing still to watch the fish jump. It's a gift to myself, and it's a gift I have chosen and will continue to choose for my children.


We can't be beautiful if we don't stop to see the beauty. If we're just running around from one destination to the next with our to do lists, then the ways of this world win.

God has made me in such a way that I can't let that happen without getting pretty depressed. I am willing to bet we were all made that way.



So as hard as I am seeking after following God in the choices I make, in the work that I do, and in the way that I love my children and my husband, I am keeping white space close to my heart.


We are God's masterpieces, God's amazing works of art.