Posted in boys, Christianity, culture, Education, kids, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Parenting Ideas, public school, Uncategorized

The day I taught my son the F-word

Teachable moments. You know the ones–they come up out of nowhere and scare the living daylights out of you.

“Mommy, is there a bad F-word?”

My heart stumbled. I cocked my head at my first grader. “What do you mean, honey?”

“Some kids in my art class said there was a bad F-word.”

First grade?! Already? Is this what I get for sending my kids to Public School? “Can you tell me the word?”

He smiled sheepishly and whispered, “Fruck.”

Laughter bubbled up, unbidden. So he’s still a first grader. “Well, honey, there is a bad F-word, but it’s not ‘fruck’.”

“So, what is the bad F-word?” He asked, sticking his pencil in the corner of his mouth.

“Uhhh…”
scarterstudios M018I paused, my heart tripping over itself once again. Is this what the Teachable Moment looks like? Wide-eyed, innocent, and 7 years old?

While my pause was calm and calculated, the tension I felt inside twisted tighter until it was a palpable ache: I wanted to preserve his innocence. I wanted to tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to worry about bad words.”
But as much as I mentally chided myself about the “bad influence” of public school kids, I knew that was a non-issue.

Public school or not, my kids were going to hear things and learn things from others as they grew up, public school, private school, homeschool, or Sunday school. I can’t control the moments they are not with me.

But he was here with me right now. This moment, at our kitchen table, in our home, was a safe, teachable moment.

If not now, when?

He was asking me for truth. And the truth was, “asking Mom” wasn’t always going to be his first choice.

So I took a deep breath and said, “Well…yes, honey. There is a bad F-Word.”

I told him what it was. I said the word and he repeated it, making sure he heard me right. I tried not to cringe at the profanity coming out of my baby’s mouth. Instead I pushed forward, plunging down this new path.

“Sweetheart, I’m telling you this because I want you to know the truth. But with knowledge comes power and just because you know this word doesn’t mean you should say it or teach it to anyone else.

It is not your job to tell kids at school that you know this word. That’s their parent’s job, not yours. I am very serious about this. Do you understand me?”

He nodded, his eyes wide. “Yes, ma’am.”

I looked at his face, at the soft, smooth skin on his cheeks, knowing that they wouldn’t always be soft and smooth. I would be kissing stubble on my firstborn’s face before I knew it.IMG_4869I pulled myself back to the present, savoring his innocence and openness and the questions that he asked without fear or embarrassment. That precious door was wide open and I wanted to keep it that way.

“You know, sweetie, sometimes kids talk about stuff at school. Kids think they know stuff. But that’s not always true. But Mommy and Daddy—we do know stuff. So if you ever have questions about anything that kids talk about at school, you can come to us and we will tell you the truth.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

And then I helped him do his homework.

It was such a bittersweet conversation.

As much as I want to plant goodness into every corner of my children’s lives, the fact is that the world is full of hard, nasty, evil things. I want to shelter them from that darkness. But I also want to help my sons grow to be men who will be lights in a dark world. And if I am going to teach them to be lights, I can’t ignore the darkness.
F-wordI I have to be proactive.

So, when he asked, I taught my son the F-word.

Should I have told him that we would have this conversation when he’s older? Perhaps. Maybe it was too early.

But at 7 years old, his first instinct was to come to me.  As he gets older, that instinct will fade.

The conversations we have now about language, what’s right and wrong, about light and darkness are forming his very soul.

The Teachable Moment is terrifying but, for me, being keeping the door open in order to teach my children the truth is a gift that can’t wait.

PS. House Church, Cussing, and ASD (teachable moments that DO NOT go as planned!)

How do you navigate these terrifying Teachable Moments?
Have you taught your child something huge and scary? How did it go?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

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Posted in ADHD, Autism, Benji's Story, kids, life, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Special Needs, twins, Uncategorized

Part 2: Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD? Answer: Yes

Yesterday I wrote about our experience of choosing to use medication to meet the needs of our son with ADHD.

Choosing medication was a good decision for Micah.

However, I have two sons with ADHD. Here’s the other half of the story.

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Two adorable, sweet sillies!

Benji was diagnosed with high functioning Autism in October. Before the official diagnosis, we did a lot of tests, including tests for ADHD. We turned the forms into our doctor but they kind of got lost in the chaos of the Autism diagnosis and we decided to focus our attention on therapies to help Benji’s Autism challenges.

However, a few weeks ago, when we were in a therapy session, Benji’s counselor brought it up: “Have you considered that he might have ADHD?”

I nodded. “We did some tests for that but we never had a conversation. I would say he has ADHD–”

“–I would say so too.” She interjected, kindly.

“–but we kind of just let it lie.” I paused, thinking. “Micah’s on medication and it’s helping him.”

“I can’t make those decisions for you, but medication may help Benji, especially since some of his major frustrations come from not being able to communicate effectively.”

“Yeah, it’s like, when I talk to him, he has to process what I am saying. Then he has to think his response and then how to put that response into words. By the time he starts talking, sometimes he has forgotten what the original question was. It’s really frustrating for him.”

She agreed. “Talk to Dr. A. He’ll give you some advice.”

I thanked her but didn’t make the appointment for a few weeks. It was the same angst of “do we? don’t we?” all over again.

Medication was the right choice for Micah but it was a difficult decision. We did not make it flippantly or lightly. It wasn’t a cop out, or giving up on parenting. Medication doesn’t work like that.

The way ADHD medication works is to simulate the synaptic processes in the brain, the processes that are not firing in healthy patterns. It is a physical challenge that manifests itself through mental and behavioral avenues (The glory of the human body–it is all tied together).

But just because it works for Micah didn’t mean it would work for Benji. Different kid, different parenting, different solutions.

Aaron and I talked about it a lot. One of the reoccurring themes in our conversations about both Micah and Benji was this: We want to do what is best for our kids. We want to be good parents. If we actively deny our child something that could potential help them, does this make us bad parents?

But”Good” and “bad” aside: This decision ultimately wasn’t about US. It was about our son.

Ultimately though, I made the appointment.

I’m glad I did.

Dr. A. discussed the results of the initial ADHD behavior evaluation: “Yes, he definitely has ADHD.”

But, he did not recommend medication for Benji.

“Would it help his attention? Yes. But I don’t recommend this type of medication for kids with Autism because their brains and bodies work different. Anxiety is a big part of Benji’s every day experience. The medication would help him concentrate, and maybe even communicate, but it would up his anxiety. And then we would be in a worse place than where he is right now.”

It all made sense to me. I trust what Dr. A. said, as he is a developmental MD who is an expert in Autism, ADHD, and a many other challenges that kids face.

Even more than trusting an expert though, I trust my own observations about Benji.

Yes, he does have anxiety, sometime debilitating, and we we have a weekly therapy regimen and a bag of parenting tools to help with his anxiety (and many other challenges).

I don’t want to do anything to compromise his growth.
IMG_7939-2594342979-OSo, here’s the bottom line. I have identical twins who both have ADHD.
One is on medication
One is not.

Choosing medication to treat your child’s ADHD is not a one size fits all solution, even for two kids in the same family, even if they are twins.

Only you, and your team of supportive professionals, can decide what is best for your child, what will help him grow, thrive, and be the best version of himself, and ultimately what will help you both have the healthiest relationship together as parent and child.

So, the question is: Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD?

For us, the answer, not-so-simply, is Yes.

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. Please share your experiences below! I’d love to read a part of your story.

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

 

Posted in Autism, kids, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Special Needs, Uncategorized

What therapy is like

It was Thursday so the mother took her son to therapy. The boy was happy and eager, willing to please, until his Speech Therapist jarred him out of his Normal.

The therapist was a good therapist and knew that in order to help the boy to grow, he needed to be stretched.

She told him that she wanted to play with the blue pieces for their game, knowing that this was the boy’s favorite color.
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And the growing pains hit, violently.

The mother watched as her son shouted, ran away, threw a chair, slammed toys, was disrespectful, and hid behind a beanbag.

The mother knew what the therapist was trying to do, but the mother’s knuckles grew white on the edge of the table and her cheeks burned.

She wondered if she should do something.

But, like always, she didn’t know what to do, just like she never knew exactly what to do when the out-of-control hit, fast and illogical.

But they were in a safe, bright room with a patient professional so the mother didn’t pull out her tired bag of tricks. She didn’t try and fail and try again. She watched and held the weight of her emotions and his too.

Then–his voice still loud and insistent, he picked up the fallen chair, sat down, and put the green pieces on the board.

The mother pressed her fingers to her lips and blinked. Blinked. Blinked. Relief mingled with joy, clinging to slippery hope, and tinged with familiar shame.

But there was no time to cry. There was never time to cry.

Ten minutes of speech therapy had passed. It was a short storm.
The hurricane on Tuesday had been the better part of an hour. She still felt raw from Tuesday and the tears she blinked away today were the uncried tears from that tantrum too.

But the mother picked the yellow pieces, straightened her shoulders under the emotional weight that pressed down, down, and they played the game.

The boy won! He was happy.

“Are you okay?” The wise and observant speech therapist asked the mother as the boy ran down the hall to Occupational Therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was next after that. It was their long therapy day. Tuesday was their short therapy day).

“I am.” She replied, “I knew what you were doing. But it…it didn’t…It is hard to watch.”

Her son was doing all the work. But watching him struggle and grow was the mother’s struggle and growth too: A grueling emotional work out.

The therapist nodded. She knew. She had been watching the mother too.

Posted in Autism, Benji's Story, boys, Expectations, kids, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

You are exactly the right mother for your child (and why you should believe it)

 “You are exactly the mother that your child needs.”

Since I became a mother, this phrase has grated on my nerves because I have struggled to see myself as the “right” mother for my children. If I hadn’t ushered them into the world (I was there, I promise!) I would really wonder if they were mine.

They don’t look like me (God bless those strong Daddy-genes!).
They don’t act like me.
Most days, they don’t want to do the activities I want to do (see FB post from 2011 below, when my twins were 4).
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Even deeper than activities, looks, and actions though is that, in my struggle to connect with my sons, particularly my twins, I constantly came up short.

I felt like we were two magnets, pressed together at opposite poles, something invisible keeping us apart.

When we got Benji’s Autism diagnosis, the felt disconnect made more sense, but it was replaced with a rush of “I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this?” insecurity. Many days, I feel a profound hopelessness, my bag of parenting empty as I keep trying to connect with a little boy whose brain works differently than mine.

Benji and I don’t have a lot of things in common. I’m not an “activity person.”Even physical connection is hard sometimes.

My connection with Benji is especially tenuous because I am a words person.
I thrive on language. But Benji struggles to communicate.
Talking exhausts and frustrates him…and many times, because it is so difficult for him to share daily events, tell me about his feelings, and sometimes even make sense, I get frustrated too.

My strengths don’t translate to his needs.

The other day, Benji had a meltdown at school. His primary teacher wasn’t around when it happened so I had to piece together what happened. Our conversation went a little like this.

“Benji, what happened at school?”
“I was really angry.”
“What made you upset?”
“I was upset because I was angry.”
“I understand. But what made you angry in the first place?”
“I was just really upset.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“Mom, did you know that the fire Pokemon can shoot fireballs?”
“I did not know that. But I don’t want to talk about Pokemon right now. Tell me what happened at school when you got angry.”
Pause. “I didn’t want to play the game.”
“Ok. What were you doing when…wait! Come back in here! We aren’t done talking!”
“Hey check out this Lego rocket I built! Pretty cool, huh?”
“Very cool. So, why didn’t you want to play the game?”
“Because I threw the cards.”
“Ok, so why did you throw the cards?”
“Because I was really so mad!”

And so we went on. For twenty minutes I probed, pushed, use different word combinations, asked different questions, pulled him back to the topic, and finally, finally realized that he got upset because he didn’t understand the directions.

“So, when you didn’t understand the directions, did you ask your teacher to explain them again?”
Pause. “No, I did not.”
Ah! A lightbulb! “Honey, I understand why you got upset. Sometimes I get angry too when–”
“Like Anger! Graaaaaaahhhhh!” he screamed. He loves Inside Out. “I went down the Anger Path!”
“It’s true. But when you feel confused, you don’t have to go down the Anger Path. Instead, you can ask your teacher to repeat the directions. You can ask for help.”
“Can I go play now?”
“Did you hear what I said? You can ask for help. I want you to try that the next time you feel frustrated…”
And he was gone. Like most of our conversations, I wasn’t sure if this one stuck.

But the next day, he came home from school and said:
“Hey Mom! I did what you said. I was confused and I started to go down the Anger Path. But instead, I asked her to say the directions again. And I went down the Joy Path!”
“Benji! I am so proud of you!”
“One Anger orb, three joy orbs.”
“So you were still a little frustrated.”
“Yeah, but I asked for help and I was happy!”
“Good! Good!

It was very Good. I was amazed, actually. It is not often that I see a tangible result of a conversation we have, especially so immediately.

I was relating this conversation to my mom on the phone a few days ago and she said, “See, Brittany? You are exactly the right mother for him!”

All of my old insecurity, doubt and failures rushed upon me when she said that jarring phrase.

But before I could protest, she went on. “Remember when you  were a little girl? Oh, how you made me laugh when you said, “Mom, I like to think!”
And you still do. You are creative and you thought about the way you think and the way Benji thinks. You knew the words to help him communicate and find his words. And see? It worked. He did it.”

I thought my strengths didn’t translate to his needs, but I’ve realized that my strengths are not just in words or communicating. They are in rolling around in another person’s thoughts, in seeing the perspective of another mind and soul, and in really thinking through the heart of the matter.

It’s one reason why I was a stellar English Major. But all those “English skills” are now helping me parent my little boy.

A little bit of faith has crept into my insecure soul, faith that God knew what he was doing when he put me and Benji together.

Right Mother
photo by Sabrena Deal

Being the right mother for your children doesn’t mean that it will be easy. It just means that you–with all your talents, skills, personal history, and strengths–are the right person for the job.

Posted in Adult Homeschoolers Series, Autism, Education, kids, Learning Disabilities, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, public school, Uncategorized

I love my children enough not to homeschool

I was homeschooled and I loved it. My mother was passionate about homeschooling and viewed it as her chosen vocation when my siblings and I were growing up.

All my best friends were homeschooled by women who were as passionate and dedicated as my mother.

Although I don’t remember it being said in so many words, I somehow gleaned this message in my growing up years, a message about motherhood and truly loving your children.
It went something like this: Good mothers homeschool their children. If you really love your children, you will homeschool them.

After all, my mother really loved us and she really loved to homeschool. And I loved being homeschooled. It was just logical.

I loved to learn and I loved everything “school.”
My children would too.

But my twins were not like me.

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Beautiful, boundless energy (photo by Sabrena Carter Deal)

I had to bribe them to sit and listen to me read; they hated coloring, and could not care less about the “Letter O” worksheet. Trying to teach them to write their names usually ended with somebody crying. They struggled to hold scissors and were bored with clay and play dough.
Frustration and impatience ruled my days.
But I was determined. I would be a good mother. I Just needed to be more creative.

I made crafts for them, sewing, pasting, and folding unique and educational toys. But it was almost laughable how quickly they lost interest or ripped apart (usually accidentally) all my carefully planned projects.

I grew a thicker skin but deep down I doubted my abilities to teach them. So, I dug down even deeper and tried harder, harder.
But it didn’t work.
Nothing worked.
They resisted me at every turn.
I finally gave up. I reached an all-time educational low and I was so fed up that I didn’t even care: I resorted to a DVD to teach them phonics (LeapFrog Letter Factory) and what do you know? They loved it–and it worked.

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How I felt most days (photo by Sabrena Carter Deal)

All I could do was shake my head and say, “Whatever. Whatever.
But it hurt because I realized a DVD was doing a better job than I was.

The year they turned 5 I reached a terrifying crossroad: Homeschool or public school?
The pressure was crushing:

Good mothers homeschool their children.
If you want the best education for your children, you will homeschool.
If you really love your children, you would want to homeschool.

But I had tried and tried and tried to do all the right things and at the end of the day, it was just too hard. I did not want to homeschool. I tried to put on a brave, happy face but I felt like a failure.

They loved public school.  It was a good fit and we were blessed with amazing teachers.

Maybe my boys learn better from other people, I conceded.

The summer before first grade I was determined that Kindergarten would not fall out of their brains so I made them practice their new-found reading, math, and hand writing skills each day.

And most days, it was awful. Sure, we had some good moments, but overall, the frustration, head-butting, and fights over those stupid summer lessons, chip, chip, chipped away at my mother-worth.

Pretty soon, the thought that I would ever be “that mom” was  laughable. I can’t even do summer worksheets with my kids without losing my mind–homeschool?! Bahahaha!

I felt like I wasn’t enough. If I was, then I would homeschool, because that is what good, dedicated, passionate, creative mothers did. And I knew–I knew–I was all of those things but the disconnect between myself and my sons infuriated and baffled me.

The first week of first grade, my wounded soul came pouring out at a ladies church group.
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I burst into tears. It was the angst of back to school, of doubting the public school decision again, and the fact that 9/10 of my personal friends homeschooled their kids: why couldn’t I?

“I don’t feel like a good mom…because I don’t even want to homeschool!” I wiped my cheeks and shrugged. “But, I mean, really. If I homeschooled my boys, I would kill them!” A laugh bubbled out and everyone at the table joined me.

A wise, older woman–a mother, grandmother, and teacher–quickly quipped, “Well, then–there you have it. You love your kids enough not to homeschool.”
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I laughed at her cleverness but the truth of her words shocked me. A peace slowly began to sooth that long-forged wound.

The peace grew deeper when we learned that Benji has a language processing learning disability.
Then my hindsight sharpened to 20/20 when Benji was diagnosed with high-functiong Autism and Micah with ADHD, just very recently, as they are both now in 2nd grade.

Slowly and suddenly, all our struggles from all those years just made sense.

My sons’ needs are complex, both as individuals and twins, but their needs are being met in their separate classrooms with their great teachers and support staff at their public school. Someday, our situation may change, and another schooling option may be best. But for now, public school is exactly what they need.

It’s exactly what I need.

I have finally accepted the truth:
I love my children, but I don’t need to homeschool to prove it to them…or myself.

Posted in Autism, Autism and Church, Humor, kids, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

House Church, Cussing, and ASD

Kids say the darnedest things, don’t they?
While most kids can be pretty literal thinkers and lack some social awareness, these qualities are often turned up a notch in ASD kids.

…much to the mortification of their mothers.

Take Sunday morning, for instance.

Church was cancelled on Sunday due to #snowstormjonas but we had a fun alternative.  Friends who live up the street from us invited our family over for House Church.

Before the kids ran off to bury themselves in legos, my friend Jen had a short lesson for them from the book of James. The text was about taming the tongue, and how such a small part of your body can have a big impact.

Prophetic words, right there.

She asked the kids, “Can you think of an example of something you could say that would be bad?”

All the kids thought for a moment. Micah acted out a scenario where he buried his face in the carpet.
“That’s how I feel when someone says something mean,” he illustrated.

“Any more examples?”

Benji piped up. “I have an example of something bad.”

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Oh, you dear, dear, literal boy

He grinned in a way that made the alarm bells in my head jangle.

“What is it, Benji?” Jen asked.

“Holy Shit!”

Whoop! There I went. The “good parenting” rug was pulled out from underneath me and I landed straight on my butt.
I was absolutely mortified.
Everyone exploded in laughter and all the blood in my entire body rushed to my face.
I gave a “what in the world is happening right now” look at my husband.
All he could do was shake his head and wipe tears from his eyes.

Well, Benji was correct. He had the perfect example of something “bad you should not say.”

Context is king, right?

Our 3 year old decided that he wanted to be in on the joke too.

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Don’t be fooled by this sweet face. This little parrot has a potty mouth.

“Holy shit!” Silas said with glee.

I don’t think I stopped blushing for the next 12 hours.

Posted in Autism, boys, kids, life, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Special Needs, Uncategorized, WAHM

A Day in the Life of the Meng Family

I wish there was a numeric formula for a good day. Here’s a peek into my yesterday. It wasn’t such a good day…but it was pretty Normal.

Here’s a Day in the Life of the Meng Family.

7:43. Wake up
How many times the baby woke up last night: 2
Number of children going to school today: 0
Number of showers taken: 0
Number of breakfasts served: 5
Number of Netflix shows allowed for the day: 2

Number of little brothers the twins need to watch while I posts announcements to blackboard in my bedroom: 2

Number of minutes wasted trying to unsuccessfully post a video to my classes: 12
Number of minutes I spend on Pintrest reading articles about High Functioning Autism: 18
Number of minutes it takes to post announcements: 5

Articles of clothing soaked in pee by Silas: 2
Loads of dirty laundry started: 1
Loads of clean laundry to fold: 2

9:40: The time I remember that I am supposed to write a “Day in the Life” post

Number of bounces for this baby boy: 1,000

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Eli: 1
Trashcan: 0

Number of dishes loaded into the dishwasher: 37
Number of good memories from our dinner party with 3 college girls last night: too many to count

Temperature outside: 17
Minutes it takes me to thaw the chickens’ water: 5

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One scale of 1-10, how much this counter top is driving me crazy: 11

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On a scale of 1-10, how happy does this job-well-done make me: 20

Number of texts Aaron sent me this morning: 11

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Number of items Eli pulled out from under the sink while I cleaned: See picture above

11:00
Number of children I try to convince to do a Kid Kickboxing DVD: 3
Number of children excited about said DVD: 1
Number of remotes missing: 1
Number of confessions that missing remote was thrown in the trash because it “had no batteries”: 1
Number of minutes I spend yelling at my child: 1.5
Number of minute I spend repairing the self-esteem of sad child after yelling at him: 10

Number of seconds we all enjoy doing the Kickboxing DVD: 23
Number of children screaming at each other because “he is in my space!”: 3

Number of babies wanting to nurse and nap: 1
Number of THUNKS and STOP IT’s coming from the living room while I nurse the baby: 18
Number of minutes it takes to get Eli to sleep: 7

Number of fits thrown by Benji because the DVD is “not real karate,” the jump rope won’t work” and the daily routine is out of whack: 4

Level of irritation I feel before lunch: 9/10

Number of times I apologize for snapping at Micah: 1
Number of times he “does NOT forgive me”: 1

Temperature set on the oven for chicken nuggets: 400

11: 55.

Number of minutes Eli naps before waking up again: 25
Number of minutes I nurse Eli to get him back to sleep: 9
Number of articles of clothing soaked in pee by Silas: 2 (4 if you count a hand towel and bathmat)

Level of sweetness from Benji when he asks to help me peel carrots for lunch: 10/10

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Number of lunches served: 4

Level of handsome for my husband before he goes to an interview at 1pm: 10/10

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Level of cute for me in this picture (taken by Benji): 2/10

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How much I am looking forward to naptime for both Silas and Eli: 10/10
Number of books I agree to read to Silas: 1
Number of books I really read after feeling guilty for being irritated at him about dragging his feet about going to bed: 2

1:00

Number of pages left in Silas’ book when I hear Eli wake up again: 1
Number of minutes I spend trying to unsuccessfully get Eli back to sleep: 14
Number of minutes spent on facebook, trying to regain my sanity: 10

1:23.

Number of minutes spent on the phone with Aaron after his interview as he drives home: 10
Number of minutes we spend rehashing all the good moments of the interview before he goes back to work: 30

Level of sweetness in catching Micah reading “Harold and the Purple Crayon” to Benji: 10/10

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2:00
Number of minutes spent picking up the living room: 12
Number of minutes spent watching “Worst Cooks in America: 30
Baskets of laundry folded: 3

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Number of minutes spent picking up the living room again: 10
Number of times Micah and Benji ask if their friends, coming over at 3pm, “are here yet”: 37

3:15
Number of boys playing at my house: 6
Number of tea mugs sipped by myself and my friend: 2
Number of Legos on my living room floor: 1,000,000
Number of minutes all the boys play happily together: 60

Number of fits/meltdowns Benji has in the next hour: 7
Number of times he runs out of the house without coat or shoes: 2

Temperature outside: 21

Level of patience I have for Benji: 9/10

5:15: Friends leave and Aaron comes home from work.

My level of exhaustion before dinner: 7/10
Fits thrown by Benji before dinner: 5
Level of patience I have for Benji: 4/10

Minutes I spend making dinner: 25
Number of children who say “YUCK! I DON”T WANT TO EAT THAT DINNER!”: 1
Number of children who refuse to eat dinner and would rather go to bed instead: 1
Number of children at the table who refuse to eat broccoli: 1

Number of teeth we notice Eli has coming in: 1

Number of minutes Aaron spends with Benji lying with him in bed: 15
Number of minutes I spend with Micah, who tearfully tells me that Benji is a “selfish jerk”: 60
Level of sadness at hearing him say this: 10/10
Number of times I disagree with Micah: 0
Number of times I urge Micah to pray for Benji, love Benji, and seek to understand Benji: 15

7:15
Number of baths given: 3
My level of exhaustion: 10/10
Number of stories read: 0
Number of hugs and kisses given: 8

7:48
Number of children in bed: 4
Number of minutes I try to write a blog post: 90
Number of times Eli wakes up while I try to blog: 4
Number of milliliters of Advil we give to Eli: .5
Number of blog posts published last night: 0

Number of chapters read in The Sword of Summer: 2
Level of thankfulness that tomorrow is a new day: 10/10


So, how does a day in our life compare to a day in yours?

Posted in kids, life, mom, Motherhood, My Motherhood, WAHM

When you can’t do it all…ask for help

“I don’t know how you do it.”

I hear this phrase a lot–from my mom, mother-in-law, friends, colleagues–and inwardly cringe every time. I don’t know how to answer this phrase. Is it a compliment? A warning of impending insanity?

Usually say, “Me neither.”

I do a lot of things, but so do lots of women. And like lots of women, I usually keep all the balls I juggle in the air.

I have four children: school aged twins, a toddler, and baby, all of whom are constantly hungry
I have a house that never stays picked up, let alone clean
I work from home as an adjunct English professor and freelance editor
I have a husband whom I love dearly (oops! Can’t forget about him!)
But this summer, stuff got real. Stuff hit the fan.

This summer, I felt like Life was holding a whip to my back, screaming at me: “DO IT, WOMAN! DO ALL THE THINGS! DO ALL THE THINGS AND BE AMAZING TOO!”

And this summer, I’ve to confront my Life, the task-master of my own creation, and whisper, “I can’t.”

So I’ve had to say four words that I have stubbornly, foolishly resisted-with-all-my-being to say in the past.

No
and
I need help 

This is how I WAHM (work at home mom)

In order to say “yes” to my basic Life responsibilities, I’ve had to be honest with myself and say, “My life is not working right now. I am stressed out of my mind. Something needs to change.” So…

I gave up a volunteer position I loved.

I cut short a summer book club I started.

Because I have 55 students in my current 8 week term (a course load I used to handle with ease), I scheduled babysitters to watch the kids a few times a week so I can go to Panera and frantically grade papers for a few hours without distractions.

I enrolled my 2 year old in two-day preschool this fall.

I want to do it all. But I just can’t.

And that’s ok. Because none of us can do it all, all the time. Sometimes we have to ask for help.

Posted in boys, Christianity, kids, My Motherhood

Planting Seeds

I am terrible at growing plants. I have killed every plant I have ever tried to nurture.

I mean, I KILLED A CACTUS, ya’ll. True story.

I am a terrible plant mother. I am a better real mother. I mean, the jury is still out…but to date, all my kids are still alive. 😉

I think a lot about being a good mother, not just in the clothes/food/exercise/school/sleep departments but in raising my boys to be good men, men that love others and love God.

I want them to know God and follow Jesus when they’re ready. So I take them to church, and we fold our hands before meals, and talk about how Jesus lived and loved, died and rose again.

Most of the time, I feel like they aren’t listening, like somehow my “preaching,” and praying, and showing The Way isn’t reaching their hearts.

But I keep trying.

Like for Easter this year, I decided to try Something New. I had high hopes for Something New, like the Something New would result in this special moment in my sons’ spiritual education and relationship with God.

This is how it went:

Our church put together a contemplative walk for Easter Week. A couple from our church invited families to walk the trails in their woods marked with 14 stops, each with a chair for sitting, thinking, praying, and reading selected scripture from the last hours of Christ, ending with his death and burial. The story, of course, would be finished on Easter Sunday. Our pastor put together booklets with the scripture and invited people to come walk the trail.

Since my boys really are not huge fans of sitting still (or traditional church stuff), I though, “Wow! This could be great! It is really active. We can read the Bible! This is gonna be good.”

So on Good Friday, I loaded up all 4 of my little guys in the car: two 7 year olds, a 2 year old and a 3 month old.

The boys were ready to RUN! The pastor greeted us when we got there and tried to explain the walk  as I squished the baby into the front carrier, kept one hand on Silas, and kept telling Micah and Benji to WAIT FOR ME! THANKS FOR THE PAMPHLET! K’ BYE!

And we were off!

We made our first stop. The boys fought over who would sit in the chair while I quickly scanned the scripture passage (wow! This is really long…ok! Paraphrase! Paraphrase!) Whoops! Ok, we’re off to stop #2!

And speaking of #2….before we were even 10 minutes in the woods, I hear this phrase from my 7 year old:

“Mom. I gotta go.”
“Honey! Pee or poop?” Please be pee…!
“Poop.”

Gah! NOOO! This is the child who coined the frantic phrase “IT’S COMING CLOSER!!!”

I thought we were going to have to squat by a tree while other church members passed us by, contemplating their Good Friday in silent prayer. Don’t mind us! Just a little pooping going on here! But…a miracle happened.

“Don’t worry. I can hold it.”

After asking “Are you sure?” six times, we continued our walk.

Or run, I should say. The boys were going FAST. We kept catching and passing people on the trail.  “Ok, boys.” I reminded them. “People are thinking about Jesus and praying. Let’s….ok! Listen! Let’s BE QUIET!!!”

We got to stop 6….and it started to rain. Oh….great.
It was just sprinkling. BUT I was alone in the woods with four children and we had 8 stops left to go.

“Uhh…I think we should go back, boys. It’s rain–“

“No, Mom! No! It’s ok! Let’s go!

So we went. I kept going, the rain-spattered scripture pamphlet in one hand, and a yellow race car and snack cup full of goldfish–compliments of Silas–in the other hand.

Despite the rain, it was a beautiful day and a beautiful walk.
There was a stream.
There were trees.
There were rocks.
There were big splashes.
There was dirt.
And sticks.
And sword fighting….all while I struggled to read them Bible verses about how Jesus prayed in the garden, was kissed and betrayed, then beaten and mocked, taken to the cross.

“Listen.” I urged. “Let’s listen!”

It started to rain a bit harder. The boys found a big rock and threw it in a mud puddle. SPLESCH! It made a great noise.

This is hopeless. They aren’t hearing anything I’m saying.

Silas kept falling down. Eli was slobbering all over the wrap because he wanted to nurse.

The boys kept running. “Woo hoo! This is the best day EVER!”

I was struggling to keep up. Why did I wear skinny jeans and nude flats for a walk in the woods? What is wrong with me?!

It was really raining now. Silas was crying because he fell down…again.

Ok, boys. Ok. Alright…here. Last stop! ‘And they…um..they laid him in a tomb.’ That’s like a cave where they put people when they die. A man named Joseph gave the tomb to Jesus…ok…and we’re off again!”

We made it back to the car. The pastor asked, “How was it?”

I laughed a little bit. “Well, it was a little–DON’T GET MUD ON THE SEATS–it was a little crazy. I am not sure how much they heard. But they seemed to enjoy it.”

He smiled. “Well, you’re planting seeds.”

And I smiled back and nodded. And then I dashed to put all those little boys in the car because it was REALLY raining by this time.

Planting seeds. There must be a reason Jesus used that metaphor in his parables. Planting is dirty work, and pretty boring. There’s a lot of waiting, and hoping, and wondering if anything is going to come up.

There is nothing super-spiritual about the act of planting a seed.  Just poke a hole, push the seed in, cover it up, brush the dirt off on your skinny jeans, and hope for the best.

I turned on the windshield wipers and backed out of the drive way. I glanced at the clock: we walked for almost an hour.

“That was awesome, Mom!”
“Yeah. This is my favorite day.”

I decided to gamble a question: “Do you guys remember anything we talked about while we walked?”

“Uh…about how Jesus died on the cross?”
“Yes! That’s right! Anything else?”
“Yeah, he healed that guy’s ear that got cut off with the sword! Right?”
“Yes! Right!”
“And he wore a crown of sticks on his head.”
“Thorns…!”
“Yeah, thorns. And then he went in the cave. And then he rose from the dead!”
“Anything else?”
“Uh…no. That’s all.”

I smiled. That’s all.

It wasn’t some big spiritual breakthrough or deep conversations or special prayers or warm fuzzies. There was dirt and rocks, sticks and slow-down, crying and falling, yellow cars and goldfish, shushing and slobbering, poop-scares and rain. There was so much…Human.

And that’s what He came for.

That’s all.

Planting seeds…it’s enough.

Posted in kids, marriage, Motherhood, My Motherhood

I’m 100% Mom and 100% Wife–And it has to be that way

This past week, the internet exploded with two more articles in the “Mommy Wars,” this time targeting women’s roles in the modern American family.

This was the first article: “I’m 99% Mother and 1% Wife–And it has to be that way” in which the author, a tired mother, states why she will always put her kids above her husband (to the detriment of her marriage).

This response hit the web a few days later: “I’m 49% Mother and 51% Wife–And it has to be that way.” This article was from a Christian woman who argued that in order for a family to be happy and healthy, a wife must make her husband a priority over her children, if only by 2%.

Here’s my two cents:

If we are going to pursue happy, healthy, and godly relationships in our families, we need to be 100% mom and 100% wife.

Because…they are two different roles.

Being a good wife doesn’t mean that I ignore my children for the sake of my husband.

Nor does being a good mom mean that I forget that I am married to a man I respect and love.

Photo by S. Carter Studios

They are two different roles, each requiring different time commitments and energy focuses.

Aaron and I talked about this issue in the car yesterday as we drove for 2.5 blissful hours–blissful because all 4 boys were strapped in their car seats and no one was crying or screaming for food (thank you, DVD player).

My husband is a math guy (it’s true: he as two math degrees) and he “did the math” on the  mother/wife debate.

Aaron: Let’s say you get 8 hours of sleep at night–
Me: bahahahahaha!
Aaron: I was being hypothetical. But let’s just say…Then you have about 10 hours of “mothering” before I get home from work at 5. We have about 2-3 hours of co-parenting before the kids go to bed and maybe 2 hours before we both conk out for the night. 

Yeah…you’re pretty much 100% mom. 

Me: Do you feel neglected as a husband? 
Aaron: Not at all. 

Of course, adding up the numbers to determine value and worth of my family roles is pretty silly.  Plus, by that criteria, the kids win and I am a sucky wife. But just because I spend more time and energy with the kids doesn’t mean I don’t “put my husband first.”

Photo by S. Carter Studios

My relationship with Aaron is a huge priority to me, which is how I am interpreting “putting my husband first” (Otherwise, I really don’t know what this phase means).

The 99/1 and the 51/49 relationship arguments pit motherhood and wifehood against each other, as if being a “good mother” means I can only toss 1% to my husband, or being a “good wife” means that I must  somehow carve out 51% of….something to my husband.

I believe this creates needless anxiety for many women: Oh no...am I prioritizing the kids before my husband? Am I more “mom” than “wife”?

It doesn’t have to be either/or, 99/1, or even 49/51.

The roles of “wife” and “mother” don’t need to be at war with each other.
We can be 100% mothers and 100% wives.  

Or maybe, instead of focusing on percentages and numbers, we should just focus on being the best moms and wives we can possibly be in our unique family situations.

 A few more thoughts:
~Other than the false 51/49 bifurcation, I agree with pretty much everything Ashleigh said in her article. Cultivating a strong marriage relationship is foundational for a strong family.

~I think the 99/1 mentality often results from a woman feeling like her husband is an overgrown “child” who is a burden to take care of. A healthy marriage is a partnership of equals, with mutual respect between spouses.

~Consider how silly this discussion sounds when the gender roles are reversed:
I’m 99% father and 1% husband–And it has to be that way (???)
or
I’m 51% husband and 49% father–And it has to be that way (???)

100% dad and 100% husband–And it has to be that way