Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, life, Own your Story, Uncategorized, Waiting Sucks

The Waiting Place

My husband and I are waiting for a phone call. If we hear a “yes” on the other end of the line, our entire life is going to change. Wild, scary, exciting, growing types of change.

In January, we were told that we would get this phone call on March 8.
On March 8, we found out the date was pushed to April 15.
On April 15, we were told we would have to wait at least another 3 weeks.

So many times we have looked at each other and  sighed, “I feel like our entire life is on hold.”

We’re in the Waiting Place.

I’ve been in the Waiting Place a lot in the past year.

It’s an infuriating place to be.
You feel stuck.
You want to fly out of your skin but you’re forced to stand still.
You want to scream to the the sky, the doctor, the therapist, the school, yourself, God–HURRY UP!!!!

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From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

There are long sleepless nights of “What if…this? What if…that? What if…nothing?”
There are long conversations discussing every scenario under the sun and every response to “this one” or “that one” but you can’t pick any one because you are in the Waiting Place.

I wish I had some big, wise, amazing thing to write about “How to be patient” or “How to Wait Well.”

I don’t.

Right now, I feel like I’m in that quiet place you get to when you’ve cried your eyes out: Your shoulders stop heaving; your breath comes in shaky waves, but it’s slowing.

And you feel still.

I’m spent with the waiting. I was spent last year when we were waiting for answers from the school about Benji’s Child Study, about whether or not he would pass first grade, about the Autism testing.

I’ve reached the still place at the end of all my anticipation, scenarios, worries, and what-ifs.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

I can’t fight my way out of the Waiting Place, like the boy does in Oh! The Places You’ll Go.

It’s too exhausting.

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From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

But, if I’ve learned anything in the last year, waiting doesn’t last forever. It does come to an end.

And in the meantime, while my soul is still in the Waiting Place, life goes on. We may feel like our life is standing still right now but it isn’t.

Our Real Life is happening right now, not three weeks from now, not next month, not in the fall, not next year.

I have dinners to cook, stories to read, homework to check, friends to visit, boo-boos to kiss, a husband to dream with, a house to care for.
I have my family to love.

Love always moves forward. There is so much Good to be done.

Even in the Waiting Place.

Are you in the Waiting Place right now?
How do you cope?
Teach me how you “Wait Well!”

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, Benji's Story, Christianity, Encouragement, life, Mom Confessions, Special Needs, Uncategorized

Amazing Grace in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru

I was already on shaky emotional ground when I left to take Benji to therapy. It’s never a good sign when you break down and cry on the phone with your Health Insurance agent.

Why is insurance so freakin’ hard to understand?
Can you please explain what you are saying in plain English?
Why are they not covering these therapies for my son?
Why am I having to choose between helping my son and paying our bills?

My thoughts ran ragged but I tried to be polite on the phone, “I’m not annoyed at you…it’s just this situation…” I told the agent.

I found a roll of toilet paper on my night stand, tore off a wad and swiped my cheeks and nose.

Crap. It is 10:37. I have to pick up Benji at 10:40.

I rushed out the door.

When I got to school, I realized that I forgot to pack him lunch and because his appointment is over the lunch hour, he would miss school lunch by the time he got back.

I texted my husband: #failfailfail

He tried to bolster my spirits: Try not to stress. Just pick up food on the way home.

Armed with a stack of papers bills and insurance statements, I sent my 8 year old to therapy while I waited my turn to talk to the billing woman at the Autism Center.

She was kind and encouraging but I didn’t get any answers today. Soon. (the story of my life. This saga needs to end soon).

A misunderstanding when Benji came out of therapy sent him bolting outside. I had to chase him down the sidewalk; I didn’t even get a chance to hear  how his appointment went from his therapist.

“How about we get lunch out? McDonalds?”

And he was all smiles; his bad mood floated away. If only the pressures of motherhood could melt away so easily.

The clock was ticking down. I had 23 minutes to get food for Benji, then drive to the other side of town to pick up my 3 year old from preschool by noon. It was going to be tight.

I quickly ordered a Big Kids chicken nugget meal from the drive through, breathing a sigh of relief that there was only one car in front of us in line.

Then I reached in my purse for my wallet…

…and remembered that it was on my bed at home, my insurance cards strewn about on the bedspread.

No. no no no no. Wait! Checkbook. Please, please take checks!

I pulled up to the window. “Do you take checks?” My voice was shaking, falsely cheerful.

“No, we don’t.”

And everything crumpled: my shoulders, my head, my whole body sagged and I burst into tears.

“Oh, oh! Don’t be upset!” The young woman in the drive-thru window exclaimed.

“I don’t have any money!” I sobbed. “I don’t have lunch for my son! I left my wallet at home…it was the insurance…I was on the phone with them and…and this is just the worst day ever!”

I was blabbering like an idiot, tears streaming down my face.

“Hold on, hold on!” She dashed away from the window.

All I could do was hold my temples between my thumb and forefinger and cry.

She was back. “I got this. We got this. Don’t worry about paying today.”

Oh….

The tears fell harder. “Oh…no…! No! Please, you don’t have to do that…! I–”

“Now, then! You are going to make me cry! I have kids too. It’s ok. You’re going to be ok. Today is going to get better, you’ll see.”

I pulled forward and my wet, streaming eyes were met by another women’s, whose face held compassion and tenderness as she handing me a Happy Meal box and a bottle of chocolate milk for my baby.
FullSizeRenderThank you,” I gulped, my voice cracking. “Thank you.”

I pulled out of the parking lot, my eyes still blurred with tears as I turned my heart-gaze heavenward:

Thank you.

It was a gift of amazing, unmerited, overflowing grace in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru.

Posted in childhood dreams, Christianity, Expectations, goals, life, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Uncategorized, WAHM, Writing

I’m [NOT] writing a book: Saying No When you want to say Yes

I had this post all planned out a few weeks ago, the post where I would announce, “I’M WRITING A BOOK!”

But this is not that post.

The truth is, I want to write a book, but I’m not. At least not right now.

I’ve had an idea for a book for the better part of a year. Six weeks ago opened my file of notes and asked myself, “Why not now?
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I asked for feedback from friends.
 And they gave it: We love this idea!
I wrote a rough draft of a proposal.
I set up a meeting with a former professor who has published a few books.
I emailed another professor-friend who gave me encouragement and a sample of her last book proposal.
I listened to a podcast on how to write a proposal.
I got more great feedback and encouragement from friends and mentors.

I was thrilled, excited, ready to leap, and terrified all at the same time.

But I couldn’t jump.

Through all these weeks of excitement I was praying, asking God for his wisdom about my plans: Show me if this is the right time.

I got so much confirmation that this is a Good Thing, a Good Idea, a Good Plan. If I chose to go forward, it would be Right.

But as I tried to take care of my children, grade papers, spend time with my husband and the girls I mentor, blog, and move forward with the book, I realized I was being stretched so thin that I was starting to snap.
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I wasn’t loving the Little Things faithfully in all my plans for the Big.

I realized that I don’t have the time, energy or enough of me to do all the Good Things I want to do in my life right now.

So, despite all the whirlwind of excitement, the confirmations and support, and all the planning I put in, I know the answer to my prayers is this: Pull back. Not yet. Focus on what is going on around you right now. Be faithful.
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I tend to be very future-focused; I find a lot of passion and excitement in making plans and setting goals. I can see the big picture, way in the future. It’s a lot harder to put my binoculars down, stop gazing on dreams, and focus on steps that I need to take to actually make my goals a reality.

But what I really need right now is everyday faithfulness: taking care of my daily responsibilities, building relationships with my family and friends, learning more about blogging, building my audience, and writing regularly.

Writing the book right now could have been a Good Thing but it is not the Best Thing, both for my family and where I am right now as a writer.

There are so many big things in my life that I want to say “Yes” to, but sometimes, saying “No” is the best way to ultimately reach my goals.
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Sometimes the best “Yes” is “Not Yet.”

Have you had to say “No” to a Good Thing in your life?
How do you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?

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 life, marriage, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

5 Lessons I learned about Marriage from sleeping apart for 3 years

My husband and I slept in separate beds for over 3 years. #trueconfessions

Don’t feel bad for us though (or for him! Our couch is amazing!). Our arrangement was completely mutual. Every night we said goodnight with a kiss and “sweet dreams,” then I went to sleep in the queen sized bed and he slept on the couch.

Over those three years, separate beds helped give us sleep we needed during a unique season in our marriage, while still keeping the spark alive (wink wink!).

Sleeping apart also gave me a unique perspective on our marriage and taught me a few valuable lessons as well.

MarriageBed1. Clarify your needs

When I was around 20 weeks pregnant with Silas (now 3), I could not get comfortable in our shared queen bed. My back and hips ached and I was constantly tossing and turning. One night, I had enough and I went to sleep in our spare room. The mattress on our spare bed is about 20 years old and deliciously saggy and soft–just what my achy body needed.

I also had the “space” that my growing body craved, and I could sleep with as many pillows as I wanted without crowding my husband out of the bed.

Eventually, we moved the guest bed into our bedroom so we could still share a room.

I’m not gonna lie: I loved this arrangement. I’ve always been picky about sleeping with other people (I can’t fall asleep with anyone touching me, even my babies) and I loved the freedom of the separate beds.

2. Ditch “normal” if it doesn’t work for your marriage

After Silas was born, Aaron moved onto the couch in the living room because newborn life and his 5:30 alarm did not mix.

Through Silas’ whole babyhood, he was a touchy sleeper. Aaron didn’t want to wake Silas (or me) up when he went to work early and we were waiting until Silas slept through the night to move him to his own room.

Well, that child didn’t sleep through the night until he was one and half (God love him!). By that time, I was pregnant with Eli (see? separate beds didn’t hurt us at all! wink wink!) and was starting to pile pillows into the bed again.

As the months of sleeping apart marched on, I kept thinking, “Are we normal?”

But “Getting all the sleep” was pretty much #1 on our priority list during those years so the separate sleeping arrangements stayed. Normal or not, it’s what worked for us.

3. Check in

I found myself googling “Couples that sleep apart” because I just couldn’t shake the feeling that our marriage was slipping into “weird” or even “unhealthy.”

I found all sorts of scary articles about how couples who sleep in separate beds have, at best, have fallen into the “Roommates Zone,” or, at worst, have one foot in divorce court.

“Are we ok?” I asked my husband. “Are we still ok with this sleeping separately thing?”
“Do you want me to come back and sleep in the room?”
“Uh, not really.” After all, we had a newborn again. “Do you?”
“Well, honestly, I don’t want to wake up every time Eli cries. And I don’t want to wake either of you up when my alarm goes off. So, no.”

We checked in. We talked about it and decided, “Yeah, we’re good.”
We still snuggled on the couch every night.
We still  had long conversations about our goals and dreams, our kids, and our issues.
We were NOT in the roommate zone (wink, wink)
We weren’t sleeping in the same bed but we were fine…more than fine.
We were strong.
Online articles be damned.

4. No season lasts forever (if you let it)

We kept talking and realized how much we missed the pillow talk, the comfort of sleeping near the one you love, and the normalcy of sharing a bed when you’re married.

So right after Eli’s first birthday we moved him to his own room.

I had shared a room with two other “men” for the last 3 years. Aaron and I were both ready to kick the couch to the curb (metaphorically! It’s a great couch!) and be reunited for good!

5. Getting to the place you want requires sacrifice

We were both used to having our own space by this time so we decided to upgrade to a king sized bed. Ahh! True bliss–especially for me!

The new mattress, bed frame, and sheets cost us nearly $1000 but it was a financial sacrifice that we were more that willing to make.

So we were excited  when our “separation” came to a conclusion at the end of January when we “moved in” again with each other.

Sleeping apart, as strange as it sounds, made our marriage stronger because we kept checking in with each other about what we both wanted and needed. During those months and years of pregnancy and babyhood, what we needed most was space and sleep.

Was sleeping apart “normal”? Eh…probably not. But I’ve learned that “normal” doesn’t really matter.

As long as we are honoring our marriage vows,  constantly communicating, and being willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make our marriage work, “normal” is whatever we need it to be.

What does “normal” look like in your marriage?
What do you do to keep your marriage strong in your unique situation or season of life?

© 2016 thebamblog.com ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Posted in Autism, Christianity, Learning Disabilities, life, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Special Needs, Uncategorized

How do you define patience?

“God, give me patience” is a prayer that I refuse to pray.

Why ? Because I’m not stupid.
I know if I pray for patience that God is going to give me situations that require patience, and I don’t need any more of those. 😉

But God doesn’t buy my reverse psychology. Life is complex and “situations” abound.

I used to think, “Once I get through the ‘terrible threes,’ my life will be easier” or “Someday I’ll have more patience.”

I would look at mothers of special needs kids and think, “Wow. I could never do what she does. She has the patience of a saint.” Then I would sigh wistfully, and think, I will never, ever be able to do that.

I never stopped to consider how a saint acquired such virtue.

But now I have kids with special needs and I’ll tell you the secret, though it isn’t very glamourous.

How do you become more patient? You have to be willing to suffer.

Kind of a gut check, isn’t it?

Most days, I spend a lot of energy avoiding suffering. It’s why I  made my twins use sippy cups until they were 5 and why naptime is non-negotiable for my 3 year old.
It’s why I stern-facedly warn my boys,  “DO NOT SPLASH IN THE TUB” before every bath…

…because i just don’t have the patience to deal with spilled drinks, whiny children, and flooded bathrooms.

But then there are the big things, like communication breakdowns, learning disabilities, sensory meltdowns, and Autism.

A lid, a nap, or a warning won’t “fix” these problems. They are complicated, unpredictable, and difficult. They are constant and pervasive.
And, yet, they catch me off guard, and destroy my attempts at patience at every turn.

It’s the big things that cause real suffering, for both me and my children.

I need patience, but for a long time I operated on the understanding that patience was just holding it together until I eventually snapped.

That’s it!
I’m done.
Mom is done.
Patience is DONE!

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Mary Engelbreit asked me to be the model when she drew the picture of this mother

And yet, I fervently desire the perseverance James talks about:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

I want to be mature and complete, but can I be honest? I don’t want the trial.

I want the fruit of patience (Galatians 5:22-23) but I balk against the idea of “long-suffering.”

I constantly feel my own failure. I wonder how I can even say “I love you” to my sons, when I constantly fall short of the first definition of true love: “Love is patient.” (I. Cor. 13:4).

So I stopped praying for patience (Little good it was doing anyway).
I prayed instead for other things:
I prayed that I could understand how Benji’s mind worked.
I prayed that my heart would be tender, instead of hard, toward my sons.
I prayed that I could love them unconditionally.

And slowly, a new definition of patience formed in my mind.

Patience: def. The willingness to suffer.

Simply redefining patience, (or really, coming to a true understanding Biblical patience) has helped me to step away from my own grit-your-teeth patience, and into an others-focused Love for my children.

Because, let’s face it, motherhood is full of suffering, and in many moments, there is a choice: Either I am going to suffer, or I am going to make my children suffer.

I can say, “It’s ok, honey. Just get a towel. I’ll help you clean up the milk” and absorb the suffering of the moment.

Or I can make my child suffer with my impatience by scolding, huffing, and berating his clumsiness.

With Benji, I’ve learned that when I yell, he falls apart; he can’t listen to me and he just shuts down, sometimes for a long time.

Homework is one of our constant struggles. When he gets stuck on a problem or word, he often takes his frustration out on me. He balks, throws things, breaks pencils, growls, screams, shouts “NO” repeatedly, and refuses to move forward.

It’s really hard.

I have blown up so many, many times when this happens. I lose my cool, my sanity, my patience. And then we are in a worse place, with a broken mother and son, a huge, angry wedge in our relationship, all over a subtraction problem.

But instead of manufacturing my usual “Patience Bomb” (tick, tick tick, BOOM!), I am trying to focus on him, on us, on our relationship. While I don’t let him disrespect or abuse me, I am trying a different way.

I say, “I know it’s hard. Would you like me to help you?”

Sometimes I step away, so I don’t slip into scolding and shouting.

I dig down deep, in the place where prayer resides, breathe to calm my racing heart, and tell myself, I am willing to suffer in this moment, for the sake of my son, for the sake of our relationship, for the sake of love.

There is no perseverance without the trial.
There is no Spirit-fruit without suffering.

It is the willingness to suffer that opens the gateway to that saint-like patience I so desire. And it’s worth it, because relationship is my goal, and Love is the foundation, the means, and the prize.

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 goals, life, Uncategorized

8 Things that Didn’t Work for me in 2015 (continued)

Whew! Yesterday’s post got long so I’m doing Part 2 today.

I’ve already talked about how…
Dinner Dishes
Laundry
Bedtime Routine
…needed a makeover this year.

Next…

4. Sleeping Arrangements
The Problem: Eli has been sleeping in my room since he was born. It makes me sad to say this is a problem but to be honest, it really isn’t working anymore. My baby boy just turned one on Dec 23 and Mama is ready for more sleep at night.

I think he has slept through the night about 4 times in the last 12 months.

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Oh, this precious baby! If only sleep and babies went together…

 

The Solution: Transitions always suck (when is it the right time???) But with moving babies to their own room, I learned that you just have to do it, like ripping off a bandaid.
We moved him into his own room about a week ago. Sleep has been better (waking up 1-2 times a night, as opposed to 4-5) but not perfect (ha! With kids, when is sleep ever perfect?)

But here’s to transitions and more sleep in 2016.

5. Snacking
The Problem: I don’t snack enough. Yeah, I know this may seem like an odd problem to have, but my body starts to crash mid afternoon and I get really cranky, lethargic, and flat-out exhausted riiiiiiight around the time the boys get home from school at 3:30. Convenient right?

The Solution: I need to be more consistent about eating a snack right before they get home. Snack + Coffee is even better. Honestly, I usually forget, but I am a much nicer Mommy when I’ve eaten something and have a little caffeine in my system to help me tackle the afternoon challenges of homework, post-nap babies (mama! mama! hold me hold me!), and dinner prep.

6. Eating Out
The Problem: Oh, how I wish this was not a problem! For the past few years, Friday Night has been a blessed break from cooking for me. But as Aaron and I are making some goals for 2016, we knew that saving money needed to be more of a priority. And, let’s face it, my twins have huge appetites (and are only going to get bigger! AK!). Eating out has progressively gotten more and more expensive.

The Solution: We decided to eat out twice a month, instead of every week. One Friday we will eat out as a family and the other Friday Aaron and I will go out as a couple. I am pretty excited about this idea since our childless meals (aka date nights) were hit and miss last year.

I’ll miss eating out each week (we rarely do fast food or any other meals out) but I am planning simple meals like frozen pizza and salad on the Fridays when we’ll be at home.

7. Reading
The Problem: I keep a reading log of all the books I read each year and last year was an all-time low. I only read 10 books in the whole year. For me, this feels pathetic. I mean, I have my MA in English. I DO reading.

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My tiny reading log for 2015

But I also “do” 4 kids, plus online teaching, plus+plus+plus so…I’m claiming these 10 books!

The Solution: I want to be more intentional about my reading. I think part of the problem is that I often don’t know what to read next.

Since I keep a running list of books I want to read on the desk top of my computer (Thank you Stickies), I recently went our public library’s webpage and looked up the books I want to read.
I put an asterisks beside the title if the library has the book on the shelf. This gives me a plan so the next time I go to the library, I can just choose a book off my list. I can order the others through Inter-library Loan (which is really easy to do via the website too).

The other half of the battle, of course, is finding the time to read.

I’ve been trying to intentionally read before I go to sleep. It helps me relax, turn off my ever-whirring brain, and detox from all the screen time of the day (especially important when I’m in the middle of my online teaching terms).
I love reading in bed but sometimes I stay up too late to justify a few chapters. I need to work on going to bed at a decent hour so I have time time to relax and enjoy reading with guilt.

8. Doing What Makes Me Happy
The Problem: I was in survival mode all last year. I could barely see beyond the tasks of each day, let alone the week. Making time to do things I loved, like reading, sewing, spending time with friends, or writing was the exception, not the rule.

I tried to recapture a part of myself when I did the Write 31 Days challenge in October. The challenge was extremely hard, but incredibly rewarding too. Writing every day that month made me really happy. I felt more fulfilled and accomplished than I had in a long, long time.

It was weird though. For the first week or so, I actually felt selfish for writing every day, for doing something that made me so happy, for actually taking time to do something I loved.

It took the discipline of doing it every day to get over this twisted perception.
Doing what I love is not selfish, but it takes time, effort, planning, and sometimes, sacrifice.

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The Solution: For the first time in my blogging “career” (ha! if there was another word I would use it), I am planning and scheduling  my posts. Write 31 Days really gave me the confidence to do this.

My goal is to write on Mondays and Thursdays in 2016 and to plan my posts on a monthly basis.

All my posts are planned for this month! My theme for January is “New Beginnings.”

So many things in my life were not working in 2015 but I want to do better. I want to be more aware of what I need and want out of my life and to actively make changes when something is not working.

Here’s to new goals, new beginnings, and much joy in 2016!

What is not working for you right now?
What makes you happy?

What are you doing to make a change in 2016?

Posted in life, Uncategorized

8 Things that Didn’t Work for me in 2015 (and what I’m doing about it this year)

As 2015 came to a close, my prevailing thought was this:

“My life is not working. I need to make some changes.”

Last year felt very chaotic, for many for reasons that were outside of my control.
But there are many aspects of my life that I can control. If I exercise thoughtfulness and discipline, I can make my life easier.

I’ve come up with a list of 8 things that didn’t work for me in 2015.
These are pretty boring things.
Every day things.
But life is made up of the every day stuff and I realized that it was the every day stuff that was overwhelming me and needed to change.

So, here’s what I’m doing about it in 2016.

  1. Dinner Dishes.
    The Problem: I hate doing dishes (pretty much housework in general) and after dinner I am exhausted. I just want to veg on the couch and scroll through facebook after I’ve done the 3 hour homework-snacks-dinner prep-eating with 4 children-marathon each night.
    So my habit has been to leave the dinner dishes in the sink over night. I even made this one of my “bad housewife” rules, telling guests who want to help me clean up after a dinner party that “Oh, don’t bother. I never wash dishes after dinner.”The thing is, the full sink in the morning completely overwhelms me. And doing the dishes before I made the boys breakfast made our mornings tight and tense. I needed a change.

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    Crazy-Maker #1

    The Solution: I started having Micah and Benji load the dish washer after dinner. Yep, good ol’ child labor. 😀
    It solves the morning mess issue and it teaches the boys some “life skillz”
    Do they love it? Nope (but really, they have had good attitudes).
    Do I love it? Heck, yes.

  2. Laundry.
    I was chatting with one of my babysitters a few weeks ago and she stated in an awed voice, “I bet you do laundry every day!”
    I laughed and said, “Yes. Yes, I do. Because….family of 6.”
    The thing is, this was a half truth.
    The real truth is that I SHOULD do laundry every day.
    My real habit is to let the laundry pile up, get overwhelmed when the boys tell me they “have no pants” and then do 5-6 loads in one day. I’d get burnt out around load 4 and let it sit in the washer overnight …or for a few days. Then I’d have to do the ol’ sniff test and re-wash the load.
    Then I get bogged down with the folding and piles upon piles of clean clothes loading down the couch. I then transfer the clean piles into laundry baskets where it is picked through until we have so many dirty clothes that we have to empty the clean clothes to do more laundry.
    (Please tell me I am not alone in this).
    The laundry monster has been devouring me.

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    I need a new housewife.

    The Solution: Do one load of laundry a day, start to finish. Wash, dry, fold, put away.
    I’ve been doing this for about a week and a half and it is going ok. I’ve had to do 2 loads a day to keep up (not bad). My goal is to start one load in the morning and never leave it in the washer overnight.
    I do great with the folding. The putting away is my Achilles’ heel, but we’re working on taming the Beast.

  3. Bedtime Routine.
    The Problem: Like I said above, I am completely exhausted after dinner. My children, on the other hand, eat and are apparently revived for a full evening of shenanigans and wrestling. This makes mama a little bit crazy. haha. Who am I kidding…a LOT BIT crazy. I usually get so fed up with them that I count down the minutes till 8 pm and then holler for EVERYONE TO JUST GO TO BED I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE GOODNIGHT.
    I hate this for multiple reasons. I mean, I really want to enjoy my kids after dinner. Plus all those mom blogs talk about spending those sweet moments with your little ones before they go to sleep, blah blah. #momguilt.But my boys, (read: my twins) are literally bouncing off the walls, into each other, and generally wreaking havoc. Sweet moments were few and far between.The Solution: My kids thrive on routine (who am I kidding? I do too.) and we needed to develop a better after dinner/ bedtime routine to redirect some of their energy and provide some hard-core “calm down” time.
    Doing the dishes has provided a productive energy outlet. They don’t love this so they let off a great deal of steam complaining too (ha!).
    But with a well placed incentive of ipad time (cough…bribes #noshame), they are able to focus and get their work done.

    I have also started nightly bath routine. I know a nightly bath is a no-brainer for most families but I have avoided this because it was another crazy-maker in the Meng household.
    For efficiency sake, we used to let them all bathe together; at a minimum, the twins would bathe together. However, the bath or shower would turn into a wave-maker or sauna wrestling match, which usually ended with more yelling and JUST GO TO BED from mom and dad.

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    These kids are adorable. They also make me crazy and make a huge mess when they bathe together.

    So, we started the Progressive Bath-Sleepy Time ritual.

    Around 7pm, when Eli starts to get cranky, I start the bath with a healthy amount of Epsom salts with Lavender essential oil. Silas and Eli take a 10-15 minute soak (enough time to let the bath salts work their magic). I get the little ones out and while I am getting them ready for bed, Micah soaks for 10 minute and gets out. Then Benji rounds out the Progressive Bath with a 10 minute soak. The big boys add more hot water to the bath as it starts to get cold.

    After the bath, the kids are (relatively) calm. We read some stories, or they watch TV with Daddy for a few minutes and then go to bed at 8ish. Our evenings have gotten so much better since we’ve started this routine.
    And the best part? The boys go right to sleep. We have been doing the Epsom salt baths for about 2 weeks and we have not had one night where we’ve had to go in and holler SETTLE DOWN NOW GO TO SLEEP, which was pretty much a nightly thing for us before starting this new routine. It’s a miracle.
    (If you are wondering about Epsom salts, they contain magnesium, which works to relax tense muscles. I took daily Epsom salt baths when I was pregnant to help with aches and pains and to help me relax enough to go to sleep. They really work. The Lavender is like a double sleepy-time whammy. Those kids are OUT).

Wow. Writing down these very basic problems makes me hope that you have your life together more than I do.
Here’s to cleaner dishes, more pants, and conked out kids in 2016.

Read Part 2 Here!

What is not working for you right now?
What are you doing to make a change in 2016?

Posted in life, Menu Planning, Write31Days

Day 4: How I’m doing Write31Days + Meng Menu + My crazy life

The beginning of our story starts here.

It’s a catch-all post today because it’s now 9:28pm and I committed to doing this Write31Days thing and, dang it, I’m going to do it!

Writing this post is really just a convenient excuse to stop grading for today. I’ve lost count of how many papers I’ve graded in the past 48 hours days. 21? 22? And not done yet…#Ishouldhavepickedadifferentcareer

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We are on Day 4 of Write31Days. The first two days were surprisingly easy! Ok, not easy. It is hard to get up at 6am to write but “adding” an hour to my day was the only way that I could do this challenge.
Writing every day has been great! I feel so fulfilled and accomplished. I mean, I graded 12 papers yesterday, ya’ll, but it was only after I published my blog post that I felt like I had really accomplished something.

So yeah. Challenging but great!

Until today. Write31…what?
My to-do list was a mile long. Today was two week menu planning/grocery shopping. I have a whole class of papers to grade before 11:59pm on Monday; my baby is having a reaction to an antibiotic he’s taking for an ear infection and had horrific diarrhea yesterday (10-12 times) and has the mother-of-all-diaper rashes (it is serious. He screamed his head off every time I changed his diaper yesterday. A bit better today but I am calling the doctor tomorrow) and I was up three times last night with him.

So, here I am, writing this diary-eque post (and tacking on our 2 week menu at the end) instead of carefully crafting out Benji’s story.

But that’s real life. And the challenge was to write for 31 days in a row and I am still doing that, right? Right.

This is going to be a challenge.

At least my dinners are planned for the next 2 weeks and my mega grocery trip is now in the past. Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 9.26.40 PMStay posted. Benji’s Story will continue tomorrow! Thanks for reading everyone!