Our lying brains

June 14, 2017

I sat at the kitchen table at 9:30 this morning and thought with a sigh, I’ve done nothing today.

Um…wait.

Dealing with my son’s depression has led us to a lot of “that’s your brain lying to you” discussions.  I suddenly realized I could apply that lesson to me.

Okay….I must have done something this morning.  What have I done?  (Not counting coffee and quiet time first thing, because that’s not really “work….”)

I got a shower, and got dressed and got my hair done.  (I’m a mom.  That totally counts.)

I fed both dogs, got them outside, and started a load of laundry.

I ate breakfast, and hung out with my son while he ate breakfast.

I took care of my breakfast dishes and the few other dishes/recycling in the sink.

I wrestled the patio umbrella/patio table back into proper position after the thunderstorm that blew through this morning.

I made an appointment to get my recall-issues car in to be repaired.  (That, in itself, involved an unfortunate amount of time online, plus a trip to the car to get the registration with the VIN number/replace the registration with the VIN number.  Go me for putting things back.)

I made a fresh pot of coffee and prepped some half-caf in my coffee canister.

I flipped the laundry and started a new load.

I did a quick sweep of the kitchen floor (since the new load was dog towels and I stirred up fur everywhere).

I dealt with a dirty pull-up.  (Yes, she’s four.  Prayers appreciated.)

I got my littlest breakfast and sat with both my girls while they ate breakfast.

And that, that moment of sitting, of (gasp!) sitting and drinking coffee and enjoying being with my girls, that is when my lying brain snuck in to feed me garbage.  She’s having fun!  NOW!

For once, I’m not buying it.

PS And now I’ve written a blog post.  So there, you lying brain.

Welcome to weird….

March 17, 2017

It’s been a long, slow path towards the “weird, unsocialized homeschooler” finish line, but I think we might have crossed it.  Granted, it was the three-year-old, and she hasn’t actually been in school yet; she has no schoolish habits to unlearn or certain ways of thinking to redo.  I suspect it counts, however.

I got ambitious with a side salad recently and introduced the kids to avocado.  (For the record, it was not a hit.)  Once the salad was made, I was left with the pit.  Washed and dried, an avocado seed is a beautiful thing:  smooth, round, just the right size to hold in your hand.  I called the little one over to show her–out of all the kids, I knew she’d be the one to appreciate it the most.

I wasn’t wrong.  “Ohhhhh…..” She was in awe.  Then she looked at me.  “Can I have it?”

“Sure!”  This is my child who is forever bringing home rocks, sticks, pine cones, you name it–we refer to them as her “pretties.”  It didn’t surprise me at all that she asked to keep it.

Then it got a little….quirky:  she carried it around talking to it until dinner.  Still, again, not that out-of-the ordinary for her.  Everything is a living creature in her world; I’ve seen her play with my measuring cups and turn them into a family.  All the stuff in the nail file kit is also fair game.  So “Baby Avocado” didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

And then after dinner she asked me to draw a face on it.  At that point I had to admit we’d crossed a line:  my kid is carrying around an avocado seed with a face drawn on it, snuggled into a cotton-filled box with a fabric scrap blanket.

Welcome to weird.  I have to admit it’s kind of fun here.

When my first daughter was born eleven years ago, she was very slightly jaundiced. The doctors asked us to bring her back in to the hospital just a few days after birth, to do blood tests and make sure all her levels were acceptable.  I still remember laying my little bundle down on the table for the sweet nurse to prick her tiny heel and gather the blood necessary for the lab work.  She held my little one’s struggling foot in her hand…then asked me to help hold the baby….and once she finally managed to get the sample, she looked at me with wide eyes.  “She is strong,” the nurse informed me.

Little did we know….

At four months, I was so exhausted from simply surviving her presence that I chose to take her to the Mom’s Day Out where I was taking my two-year-old son once a week. Looking back, I’m slightly horrified–she was four months old!  But I remember my desperation for any kind of break from the crying.  There was the colic; you could set your watch by her: at 5PM, everything fell apart and it didn’t stop until around 9:30. But there was also, simply, the crying.  The “I’m never happy….what will you do to keep me happy….that worked for ten minutes but now I want something new” crying. Her first day at Mom’s Day Out, she came home with a note from her caregiver:  “She certainly knows her mind!”  That’s an understatement.

The tantrums of her toddlerhood.  The violent frustration that might show up unexpectedly, at any moment.  Scrolling through “Your memories on Facebook” recently, it revealed that at age four we had a conversation:  “Are you going to go upstairs now, get dressed, and get out the door at a reasonable time?  Or are you going to have a screaming fit, spend all your time crying hysterically, and finally give up and get dressed?”  Her response?  “Yeah, let’s do that.”  Sigh.

I don’t need to go on, do I?  Because if you have a strong-willed child, you know.  You have your own stories, probably even bigger and larger-than-life, that you’re dealing with daily.  The draining, depleting kinds of stories.

Can I tell you something?  A strong-willed child looks quite different at eleven.

It looks like a kid who sings in six choir performances during the Christmas season….with undiagnosed bronchitis.

It looks like a kid who is teaching herself to play the piano.  Each time she turns the page to a new song, she struggles a bit, and growls a bit, and each time she sets her jaw and works until she’s got it.

It looks like a kid who plugs along, doing the things that need to be done, until she finally admits that her ear hurts a bit….and is informed by the doctor that she has a double ear-infection and a blister on one eardrum.

It looks like a kid who, in fifth grade, is wrestling with questions I only took on in high school and college.  What do people mean when they say God spoke to them?  What does it mean to follow Jesus with all my heart?  What does “giving all my life to God” look like?  (A small sampling of our conversation over my coffee this morning….)

It looks like a kid who will find a way to make things happen, instead of rolling over and playing dead when she’s told they can’t.

I remember joking, when she was tiny, that someday this stubbornness might be a good thing. I think, maybe, we may have reached that point.

So to all the parents of strong-willed little ones who are pulling their hair out with frustration and exhaustion:  it gets better.

These kids of ours may very well end up doing something magnificent.

Why I left Facebook

February 19, 2017

Last Thanksgiving I decided I was pulling the plug on Facebook for awhile.  The holidays were underway and I thought, for my own sanity’s sake, that I didn’t really want to see all the picture-perfect photos of everyone’s picture-perfect celebrations when there were still occasional days in our house where my child’s depression won, and everyone would fall apart, like a domino run, one after the other.  Obviously, the election played a part in my decision, too, but at the time my choice was less politically motivated and more out of self-care.  I had enough on my plate without having my nose rubbed in everyone else’s apparent happiness.  Our days were improving, and I wanted to enjoy that to the fullest, instead of getting pulled into the comparison trap.

I still logged in once each morning to clean up notifications and to check the “Your Memories on Facebook” page.  As a homeschooling mama, I belong to a ridiculous number of groups, who are always hosting a ridiculous number of events; I did feel the need to check in occasionally there.  And as someone who tends to use FB to chronicle the fairly mundane day-to-day life taking place under our roof, the memories were wonderful to look through and laugh at and sometimes share with the kids (and to remind myself that happiness wasn’t always this tenuous).

No news feed.  No sorting by most recent.  No so-and-so liked this or so-and-so shared this or random ads for….why would you think I’d want an ad for this?

Can I tell you something?  It’s been really pleasant.

Fast-forward to now, about three months later.  As I’m reading in Psalms, I come across verse 14 in Psalm 34:  “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”  I stopped to really consider those words, and it occurred to me that they summed up what had been happening over this past accumulation of weeks.

Depart from evil.  No, I’m not saying Facebook is evil.  But the feelings that get stirred up in me, from the political posts or the comments or the “shares” that haven’t been fact-checked; or the envy that crops up when I see someone else doing or getting something wonderful…..those feelings can be pretty ugly.  And I’ve been gradually leaving those behind.

Do good.  Guess what?  When you aren’t sitting and scrolling through your news feed constantly, you can get more done.  Add that to how much better I feel since I’ve left, and more of what is “getting done” is full of good.  (Please also note:  “getting done,” with a three-year-old in the house, sometimes looks like “playing kitty dollhouse.” That’s allowed.  I’m not talking about business productivity here.)

Seek peace and pursue it.  That’s exactly why I left in the first place.  Facebook did nothing to help my peace.  All it did, in various ways, was stir up stress and anxiousness in me.  It’s not in the business of creating peace; that’s not its job.  (Now, that’s an interesting question: what exactly is its job?)  Turning away from it has helped increase my peace dramatically, and allowed me to pursue things that contribute to peace even more.

Let’s be honest….now more than ever we are a people in need of peace.

 

 

I love our house.  God blessed us with a home that has met needs we didn’t even know we were going to have when we moved in.  It has been flexible enough to allow my husband to work from home, and still had space enough to welcome our third child.  Somehow its four walls managed to expand and allow two foster children to move in, and now it’s relaxed back down to contain a more comfortable three-kids-and-two-dogs family. But I admit to stalking houses not even a mile south of us.

Mere blocks away there are houses that back up onto a forested creek.  I’ve said, repeatedly, “I love our house….if I could only pick it up and set it down in the middle of the woods!”  (Which is, frankly, ridiculous.  Part of the appeal of this house when we bought it was the yard full of mature trees.)

But if you drive home “the back way” there are rows of homes surrounded by trees, with no real backyard neighbors but the creek.  A range of homes, too:  yes, there are a few cul-de-sacs of high-end pricey ones we could never afford, but there are also some really reasonable ones that we could.  If, by chance, we ever decided to move again.  And yes, I was frequently stalking those houses, thinking about moving.  (Because now that things have settled down, let’s stir things up, right?)

It turned out that our Sunday School class’s annual Super Bowl party was in one of those houses.  This couple was newer to our class, and when the address was sent out I almost burst out laughing:  we’re practically neighbors!  (Truly:  my husband and son walked home that night.)  I was going to get a little taste of what it might be like to live in one of Those Houses.  I wondered if I’d end up envious.  Or maybe if I’d end up with a lead on a potential home for sale?

Instead, I ended up with a near panic-attack.  A truly beautiful home, with a small, scenic backyard…that dropped off sharply into the creek.  My evening was mostly spent keeping tabs on the three-year-old:  Where’s the baby?*  Is she back outside?  I need to go check.  Wait. No.  She’s here.  Where is she now?  I think she’s downstairs.  Maybe I need to check?  There she is. Etc.

For three hours.

I joked with my husband later how glad I was that we had that experience.  I could just see us, led on by my glorious rustic imaginings of barefoot big kids playing in the woods and wading in the creek, moving into one of those homes, and then immediately being hit by the reality of a three-year-old who doesn’t swim.  Oh, my word….what have we done?

I hereby choose to shift my focus onto gratefulness:  for a home that I love, for a (relatively) large yard the kids and dogs enjoy, and for the fact that when my youngest wanders out back unattended I don’t think twice.

 

*Yes, we still refer to her as “the baby.”  I think it has to do with the age difference in the kids:  we have “the bigs” and we have “the baby.”  Please bear with me…surely at some point we’ll decide on a new nickname.

February springtime

February 11, 2017

This happens every year, where we live.  Truly, I promise it does, and one day I’m going to look up past data to confirm it.  There are always a few days in February–sometimes January–where it’s sixty-five degrees and sunny, and it feels like spring has sprung; even though all the weather forecasts promise a change in two days.

My son had a youth group outing at a big new arcade place, so I dropped him off and took my daughters (plus a friend) to our neighborhood park.  They played all morning together, with the sun occasionally disappearing behind thin clouds only to reappear again, warming the playground even through the still-cool breeze.  We watched geese wander across the park to the pond.  They discovered a hollowed-out tree perfect for animals to hide in.  My youngest was surprised by the arrival of her neighbor friend, and they played house and tag and hide-and-seek and all the dozens of things that short-attention-span three-year-old’s can play in an hour.  It was so warm all the girls shed shoes and ran barefoot.  Then we wandered to the school playground next door to spend the rest of the morning, until we had to load up and collect brother.

Is disconcerting the word I want? Maybe disjointed?  There was something about taking three grubby girls, all windblown and pink-cheeked and dusty, into the sleek new bowling/arcade/zip-line/food court…..a collision of two different worlds. (Disturbing, maybe?  That seems a little extreme….)  My son’s event was scheduled months before, so I wasn’t bothered too much by him spending the morning there: nobody expects pleasant weather in mid-February.  But the idea that families were arriving that day to shell out their dollars in a cavern that overwhelmed with flash and spin when it was sixty-five degrees out in February.

Don’t you see?  You grab those days. You take those when they come and you revel in them, outside, in the fresh air.  There’s plenty of time to hole up and breathe manufactured HVAC.  We get quite a few opportunities for that where we live, on either extreme.  But when you get springtime in February, you tell the kids let’s go outside.  And guess what? It’s free!  No, there’s no video monitors or strobe lights or generic pop music at full volume, but I bet you can live without that for a day.

Go enjoy a spring day!  It’s winter.  And tomorrow’s forecast is cloudy with a high of 45.

Bedtime

February 10, 2017

It started very innocently….a few comments here and there.  Eleven-year-old daughter wasn’t really a fan of her loft bed.

The immediate backpedaling always went: “But I love the desk space!”  She really did love the huge expanse of tabletop underneath.  It’s the bump-your-head-on-the-ceiling bed she didn’t care for.

We’d changed from her regular bed to the loft bed when she was sharing a room with her foster sister.  (There was a while, back in 2014, when I truly felt like there was no problem IKEA couldn’t solve.)  Her double bed–part of the furniture set that I inherited from my grandmother when I was a little girl–was much too large to fit in a room with yet another twin bed besides.  She has an exceptionally large bedroom, but not that large.  Eventually our fosters moved out and moved on, but the loft bed stayed.  Great storage. Great desk.  And, yeah, there was a bed up there, too.

A few weeks ago my daughter was sick.  She was up in the middle of the night vomiting, and once she hobbled back to her room I asked if she’d like me to just make her up a bed on the floor….because who wants to climb a ladder when you want to puke?  She’s always been the Queen of the Blankets, so we had enough to make her up a comfy “mattress,” with some left over to tuck her up.  She slept there the entire next day (poor kid) and then the next few nights.

And then the next few weeks.

And then today the fateful words:  “Mama, could we move my mattress to the floor?”

Deep breath.  “Would you consider selling your loft bed?”

“YES!”

I’m conflicted.  There’s a piece of me wanting to beat myself up for wasting money on the thing; because it feels like wasted money.  Why did we buy it if we’re just going to turn around and sell it, 2 1/2 years later?  But that bed was used–I would almost say necessary–for the time we had it.  When we had two girls in that room, it even gave them each their own desk….and a heck of a lot more floor space.  We couldn’t predict the future; we didn’t know that she wouldn’t be sharing a room indefinitely.  And now, it is no longer serving its purpose here:  it’s more of a problem than a solution.  It’s time to let go.

Wow, does she have her work cut out for her.  We won’t sell it until she’s figured out what to do with all her Stuff:  Books, stuffed animals, and Legos all made their home in that thing.  She’s upstairs right now, though, with a big box (which she requested, “for all the stuff I’m going to get rid of….”) and with her mattress moved to the floor (“Look!  Now I kind of have a window seat!”).  I wish her luck.  Now I have to go shop for mattresses.

(Quick update:  “You know, when I really go through my stuffed animals, I only have ten left!”  Now THAT’S progress.)

 

2016….

December 29, 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how glad I’ll be to say goodbye to this year.  It’s funny how you start each year optimistic and full of enthusiasm over what it might bring….this year started innocently enough with my youngest being sick.  We’ve said repeatedly that she’s the easiest child we’ve ever had, but she is, by FAR, the absolute worst when it comes to being sick.  So we endured a few weeks of two-year-old induced misery, followed by me going to the doctor for “this weird spot on my back….also, I think I might have pulled a muscle.”  It turned out both those things were related and I actually had shingles.

That didn’t even get us through February.

This year was marked–strongly–by one of my children dealing with severe depression. The weight of that anchor pulled the entire house down most days.

There were petty nuisances:  the “two-week” bathroom redo that took a full month.  There were truly awful shocks:  the horrific accidental death of a friend’s child.  And we are sending the year out with three cases of bronchitis and one sinus infection….and my poor husband with something that has yet to be officially diagnosed.

Good riddance.

But that can’t be what I focus on this year.  It overwhelms me when I look at it that way.  There have been beautiful things about this year, too.

  • The twenty-year wedding anniversary trip to Colorado.  (Brief, but kid-free.)
  • The adoption of our former foster kiddos into a wonderful home.
  • My older daughter discovering musical theater (and a strong talent for it).
  • The arrival (finally!) of antidepressants for my child, who is returning from the edge.
  • My sister being in town from overseas twice!–one visit for Christmas.
  • Month-long chaos or not, we have a lovely “new” bathroom.  (I’m sure I’ll be posting quite a bit about that particular adventure.)
  • We’ve celebrated scary birthdays this year (we have a teenager!) and are now parenting a 13, 11, and 3-year-old.  Typing that looks weird, but I’ve pretty much gotten used to our goofy arrangement of kids.
  • Homeschooling keeps getting better and better.
  • I cleaned out the unfinished part of the basement so well that my son asked if he and his sister could turn it into a Lego room.  (!!!)
  • Laughter is returning to our home….though it never really left completely.

And how can you despise a year where a game called “Rancor Pillow Beat” was created by my 3-year-old?  (It involves lots of running, screaming, and pounding Daddy with pillows.  Oh, and laughing.  Also lots of laughing.)

Taking a deep breath in preparation for 2017….

Don’t just stand there….

February 19, 2016

We celebrate three years of homeschooling today.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the chaos, stress, and upset leading to our “we don’t really have any other choice” decision.  It was the hardest choice I ever had to make.  It has also been by far the best.

Originally published March 2013

*****

I wrote this post months ago; it’s been sitting as a draft because really, it didn’t fit with any of my usual topics.  But when it happened I wanted to make sure to write it down; to remember the moment.

Now, months later, it’s hitting me in a completely different way:

Recently I sat at our kitchen table, eating dinner with my family, when a flash of feathers caught my eye.  That in itself isn’t all that strange; I’ve very strategically positioned a bird feeder outside one of our windows so when I sit in “my spot,” I can see the birds.  It was the motion of the wings I found odd:  a frantic flutter, then stillness, to the point where I would think the bird must have flown away.  But then the frantic would begin again.

I continued to sit and eat dinner, but thoughts began to nag at me.  Maybe something’s wrong, they started.  Maybe it’s hurt.  Maybe it’s stuck.  Stuck?  The bird feeder hangs from a “feeder holder” that clips to our deck; an arched piece (that ends in the hook that holds the feeder), is attached to a straight rod, which fastens to the deck rail.  It was possible, I began to think, that maybe the bird got his foot caught between where the two pieces of metal meet and overlap.

That’s ridiculous.

Well, maybe.  But still possible.

The movement would be so still for so long that I would think it was gone, then it would rouse up again; and finally, once I finished my dinner, I joked that “I’m going out to see what on earth is going on out here.”

The bird–it was a nuthatch–was stuck, but it wasn’t his foot.  It was his head.  I wasn’t ready for the panicked feeling that welled up in me when I saw this tiny, tiny creature freeze in fear and stare at me, his neck wedged between the two pieces of metal.  (Never in a million years would I have guessed the gap was big enough to fit a bird’s neck, even one as small as this one.)  My head was spinning as I slowly approached to try to lift the little one.

Nothing prepares you for the sheer nothingness that is the weight of a bird.  I’m amazed each winter as I watch them walk on the snow; I know in my head that they are weightless and fragile, but until you pick one up, you truly can’t imagine.  He was perfectly still as I cupped my hands around his little body and slid him slowly, carefully, up and out from in between the cold of the metal.  The moment he was free, he flew away.

I went back inside ready to cry.  What if I hadn’t gone out?  What if I hadn’t seen him at all?  What if he’d been stuck there….how much longer could he have been stuck there, without permanent damage?  And then….how many times do we not act on a “hunch?”  On a thought, on a feeling, on a suspicion?  How many opportunities have been lost because we failed to do something, however small?  What permanent damage has been done because I’ve chosen to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my mind?

Just some things I’m thinking about today…

 

That last paragraph…acting on a hunch, what permanent damage has been done, failing to act, ignoring the nagging voice in my head…..It occurred to me today that all those things perfectly sum up our decision to start homeschooling.  I’m tired of just standing there.  I’m doing something.

Back to “Enough”

December 1, 2015

A year and a month ago life got so crazy, so chaotic, that the idea of keeping up with blogging never even entered the picture.  Six months ago we went through another extreme shift and suddenly, writing seemed possible again.  So I’m jumping in today, babystepping pathetically back, figuring out how to use the “brand new WordPress site” (which most likely isn’t actually brand new at all), resetting my long-forgotten password, stealing a few minutes to reacquaint myself with this.

We’ve gone from two kids, to our beautiful surprise baby girl, to two foster children for nine months.  (Hmmm…nine months.  How appropriate for a rebirth.)  Now we’ve shifted back to our original three and have had a few months to get used to the idea of “just us” again.  “Enough” has been a moving target over the past three years.  Each time I get used to the idea of where we’re at, it changes.  Again.  Frequently.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it, though:  what is enough?  Getting ready for a new baby…moving in two kids and all their things…moving baby out of her room to use it for our foster son….moving older daughter’s things to make space in her room for our foster daughter…completely emptying a room downstairs to use as a bedroom for the baby…

What is enough?  I definitely wish we’d had less “stuff” to move around last year, and I’d been purging for ages.  (My husband did point out,  Aren’t you glad you did all that simplifying before this started?)  Now, after the kiddos have moved out and we’ve gotten a little back to normal, I’m starting to feel breathing room again, both physically and mentally.  We’ll see where things go from here.