Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Unsung Hero

     Today seems an appropriate day to make mention of my parenting partner. It's a known fact that I could not raise five kids by myself. Especially five kids with so many needs. The Lord did not bless us with easy children. He blessed us with amazing and unique children, but easy? No way. I hope they won't mind as I share a little of their challenges and gifts.
     Tawni. My oldest. I lovingly refer to her as the experimental child, because as new parents, every decision, for good or bad, was made in almost total ignorance. The fact that she survived our parenting and arrived at adulthood is a miracle. I am very proud of Tawni. She has not had an easy life. She's always been a stubborn and independent soul, struggling to find her place and claim a unique identity. She craves independence but at the same time, wants to be taken care of and will complain loudly if you try to tell her what to do. At the beginning of her sophomore year in high school, Tawni suffered a major emotional breakdown and it took almost a whole year and several hospitalizations before a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder was reached. Being a teenager and having to rely on heavy medications in order to maintain a functioning lifestyle has not been easy for Tawni, or her parents. But she is an amazing young woman and I know there aren't many people that could deal with her challenges and rise above them like she has.
     Rebeka. My second daughter is an absolute joy. She is sunshine personified and when she walks into a room you can feel it brighten. She, like her older sister, is stubborn and independent. Beka has always exuded a strong sense of independence. From the time she was teeny wee. At nine months old she refused to let me feed her and had to do it all herself. Beka had some challenges early on in life. She developed a massive kidney infection when she was only seven weeks old and spent a week in the hospital. At ten months, she developed a strange serum sickness that left burn-like welts all over her body. She was on steroids because all her internal organs were swollen. To this day, we don't know what caused this illness. You wouldn't know it today, but when Beka was three years old, she still wasn't speaking. We enrolled her in an early intervention pre-school program where she received lots of special help and was diagnosed with a communication delay. She received lots of help during school from special education classes and now, as an upcoming sophomore, the only help she needs is with math. She is a very hard worker and her early experiences have given her a love of those with special needs. She is an amazing peer tutor and wants to teach special ed when she grows up.
     Zack. My first boy. For the first four years of his life, he could do no wrong. Everything was cute and sweet and I relished every moment with him. I thought he was my last baby and so I spoiled him with love and affection. Zack was not independent like his sisters. He wanted very much to be taken care of and still does. When I think of him, total sweetness is what pops into my brain. He is kind, loving, compassionate, and has an incredible memory for dates and details--just not with homework. When Zack was six years old, he started exhibiting vocal and muscular tics. My heart sank because I knew what it was. Tourette Syndrome runs rampant in my family gene pool and my precious boy was diagnosed. In addition to the challenges of Tourette's, Zack also suffers from panic attacks due to high anxiety and he also suffers from ADD. That's a lot for one twelve-year-old. He's had to endure teasing and ridicule from kids at school because of his tics and like Tawni, he takes lots of strong medications to keep the symptoms of his problems at bay. But one of Zack's greatest strengths is his love of the gospel. He seems to have been born with it and this love and knowledge help him on daily basis.
     Ian. If you don't know what his issues are, you need to go back to the beginning of my blog and read every entry. Fetal Alcohol Effects, asthma, allergies... there's a lot. But here, I'd like to focus on his strengths. He is a happy kid. Just is. It's infectious and you can't help but be taken in by his laugh and the twinkle in his eyes. He loves people and friends. He loves his family and lately, he comes into my bed in the mornings and wants to snuggle. He is independent and can do many things for himself. He knows how to make chicken nuggets and hot dogs and will often fix his own peanut butter sandwiches. He loves to wash dishes and will hurry to get his chores done for the right incentive. His is compassionate and possesses such a love for life and it's experiences that I'm often amazed he's not in trouble more than he normally is. He loves to talk and asks constant questions about how an engine works and will he be alive when Jesus comes again. He always wants to know about Heaven and where it is and the other day he asked his Dad, "Why did you choose me?"
     Christeal. She is another happy soul and our home is so much richer with her in it. I cannot imagine life without her but I still don't know what the future holds for us in regards to her. She's been with us for almost eight months. There's a hearing on the 29th of this month and we should know something then. She, like Ian, loves to come into my room in the mornings and snuggle. She'll push Ian aside and say, "My Mommy." And then the two of them will fight over me and Scott and it usually ends in tears but that's okay. I still love it. Christeal's vocabulary is huge for a two-year-old and she will often speak in six word sentences. She is very smart and has an incredible memory. She also has some attitude. I told her to do something the other day that she didn't want to do. She put her hands on her hips, stuck her chin out and said, "Fine!" But like all my other kids, she too possesses some unique challenges. She was born with a club foot and has undergone surgeries and wears a brace at night. She also is extremely OCD. It's hard for her to eat because if she gets food on her hands or person, she comes unglued. Everything has a place and must be in its place. Blankets need to be just right, things need to be done in a certain order, and I have no doubt that someday, she will need to be medicated for her disorder.
     Five amazing children. Many challenges and strengths. Like I said at the beginning, I could not raise them without my husband. God gave me a great gift when He gave me Scott. He is a good provider and has never balked at hard work or holding down three jobs at a time. He is a handyman and always keeps our home in good shape. He is the best dad on the planet and takes an active role in raising his kids. Just an example. The church always has suggestions for fathers. They suggest a father take the time to meet with his children regularly, see how they are doing, offer a blessing. Scott's philosophy is this; If you have to schedule a time to meet with your child, then you aren't doing your job. Scott is available to his children all the time. Even at work. Zack was having a panic attack one night at eleven. We called Scott and he talked to Zack until he'd calmed down and could rest. Scott always takes the time to listen when his children want to talk, which is a lot. He helps with scouts, school projects that Mom can't do, he teaches young people how to mow the lawn, drive cars, drive a boat... He does so much and remains upbeat and positive most of the time. Over the years, we've had 40+ foster/shelter children come through our door. Scott has been involved in all of it, treating each child as if he were their actual dad.
     Scott and I have been married for almost twenty years and I could not have chosen a better partner. He is my hero and I know our kids feel the same.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Special Bubbles

     I was reading Julie's blog this morning, laughing over the "brain damaged" children, and it made me recall an experience that took place about five years ago. And believe it or not, Ian was not involved. This one, was all about Zackary.
     Scott and I kept a fridge in the garage. This was where we hid the soda pop; diet Pepsi, cream soda, root beer, Dr. Pepper... Yum. The sodas didn't stay hidden for long. They were discovered by small, brain-damaged people who don't know how to ask permission or say please. Some of these people even belonged to Julie. Scott grew frustrated when his beloved Pepsi cans were found all over the house and yard, half-full and sticky. I grew frustrated at the cost of replacing the fouled cans with fresh ones. We tried lecturing and punishing the thieves, and they would nod their heads in agreement, apologizing for their thoughtlessness... and promptly repeat the offense. I finally got the brilliant idea to put a sign on the door of the fridge. It was a standard eight inches by twelve inches, colored brightly with markers, bearing theses words. Ask first please.
     Zack came to me one afternoon, a perplexed look on his young face. "Mom?"
     "Yes, Zack?"
     "I asked the fridge if I could have a soda but it didn't say anything."
     What is a mother supposed to say to that? I laughed of course. But was I surprised? Not in the least. This was coming from the absent-minded kid who would take off his underwear and put it in the toilet instead of the dirty clothes hamper. When I would tell him to put on clean underwear in the mornings, he was quite obedient about doing it. He'd just forget to take off the dirty ones first.
     Zack is, by far, my most innocent and young-at-heart child. He lives on sugar simply because it tastes good. And how can something that tastes good be bad for you? It takes him seven hours to clean his bedroom because he gets distracted. He declares that "Dad is for fun and Mom is for lovin'." He cries when his hampsters die and when he thinks his sisters hate him.
     The winter of his eleventh year, I decided it was time for Zack to know the truth about Santa Clause. I took him into my bedroom and shut the door. I told him it was time for us to have a serious talk.
     "What about?"
     I think he knew what I was going to say, but he sure didn't want to hear it.
     "You know how all the kids at school are saying that Santa isn't real?"
     My heart broke a little when I saw his eyes grow misty. "Well, honey, they are right. Dad and I are Santa."
     "You mean there's no sleigh and he doesn't slide down the chimney?"
     "No, sweetie."
     He dropped his head and then lifted his eyes to look at me. He had the saddest smile on his face. I said, "I'm so sorry. I think I just burst a big bubble."
     He thumped his fist against his heart and said, "It was a very special bubble."
     I sure love that boy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Just the Way You Are

     It happened. Words I thought I would not hear in this lifetime, graced my ears a few nights ago. Scott was tucking Ian in bed and Ian said, "I want Mom to snuggle me."
     Can you believe it? He wanted me over his father. Scott and I were both stunned. Naturally, I jumped at this rare opportunity and ran to my son.
     Ian has an unusual sleeping arrangement in his room. He has a nice bunkbed, courtesy of IKEA, that he won't sleep in. So he sleeps on a camping mattress on the floor. Right next to him is an air purifier. He claims that it helps him breathe better so he won't die in his sleep. And he listens to primary songs, at an unholy volume, to help lull him into lullaby land.
     I walked into Ian's room, carefully picking my way around the minefield of toys, and lay on the bottom bunk with my hand dangling over the side so that I could caress his precious face and run my fingers through his hair. He looked up and smiled at me. No words were needed. It was a content moment existing just between a mother and son.
     Ever since school ended Ian's been a different boy. The tantrums are down by half, he talks to us more, he listens better, and is, in general, a much more pleasant person to be around. Every evening he asks the same thing. He says, "Let's sit outside and watch the sunset." So we do. It's becoming a regular thing, when it's not raining. I love sitting outside with him, watching him play, answering his questions, listening to his exclamations of awe as the sky changes from orange to pink to red. When he's outside he's in his element. Maybe that's why he's in a better mood. With no school, his opportunities for enjoying nature are practically limitless.
     As I lay on the bottom bunk, gentling touching his face, I knew that no matter what trials and troubles come his way, no matter what the future holds, I will always stand by him, defending and protecting. Because I love and accept him. Just the way he is. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reverence is the Atmosphere of Heaven

     A few weeks ago, on Sunday--lots of my experiences occur on the sabbath--I was sitting in sacrament meeting with my family. We were seated towards the back of the chapel, on cloth covered chairs, surrounded by neighbors and friends. I was a bit on the frazzled side; trying to control Ian and keep him from teasing Christeal so that she doesn't screech will do that to you. Ian was lap hopping. He started with me, went several chairs down to Beka, and back up to Tawni, where he seemed to finally be comfortable. Tawni was lightly bouncing her legs, like a horse, and Ian was happy in the saddle. Around us, the deacons were passing the sacrament and aside from an occasional shriek from Christeal, all was well. I looked at my beautiful daughters, and at my son passing the bread, and my heart swelled with motherly affection and pride. What a wonderful family. I felt so blessed and at peace to be their mother. I sighed with contentment and smiled at my children.
     And that's when it happened.
     Tawni bounced Ian just a little too hard and he bent forward in half and almost fell off her lap. Luckily he stayed in the saddle. Unfortunately, the bounce caused an explosion from his nether regions, and it went off like TNT, C-4, and nitroglycerin mixed into one wicked cocktail.
     Oh the horror.
     Oh the odor.
     Oh the humor.
     Predictably, Ian crumpled into a lump of out-of-control giggles. Tawni and Beka dissolved next. Poor Tawni. This grave offense occurred on her body. She was torn between fits of mirth and fits of "I feel so violated!" I tried to keep it together, but the harder you try not to laugh, the more you snort. Facial contortions, rivers of mascara filled tears, wheezes... I knew if I wasn't careful, my laughter might cause an explosion of my own. My only recourse was to take my boy by the hand and lead him from the chapel. Because God knew we couldn't stay there.
     As I stood from my seat, I saw the faces of my peers, my reverent neighbors with properly behaved children who don't suffer from bodily noises.
     They were all smiling.

Team Jesus

     I recently became aware that people other than my family read this blog. Apparently I have fans. And my fans are disappointed because I haven't written anything in over a month. I can use the excuse that I've been busy, but who isn't? I can try to make people believe that I ran out of writing material. But with five kids and one of them being Ian, that's about as likely as no road construction in Sandy. It boils down to this. I don't have an excuse. Just wasn't in the mood, I guess. But summer is now here, and with it's arrival, I find myself feeling much more relaxed, it's easier to focus, I'm happier, and motivated.  I think I can write now.
     Sunday night was an amazing display of natures ability to get down with static electricity. If you didn't see the show, you missed out. We had family over because it was Beka's fifteenth birthday. Mindi and Bryon and their kids hung around after the others left. We went outside to enjoy the storm and lied on our backs on the grass to get a premium view of the sparks overhead. To the south, the clouds were dark and threatening. To the north, they were illuminated by the sun. And that's when the conversations started.

     Ian: Those dark clouds are Satan's. And those light clouds are from Jesus.
     Tanner: Go team Jesus!
     Ian: Yeah! Team Jesus!
     Ian: Satan makes the lightning into skeletons.
     Me: Satan doesn't control the lightning.
     Ian: Yes, he does. He makes it skeletons and then tornadoes and it kills people.
     Bryon: Satan can't control the lightning. Only God can.
     Ian: Satan can too 'cause he is bad and tornadoes are bad. We are having a tornado?
     Me: No, Ian. This is just a storm with lots of lightning and thunder.
     Ian: Oh! It's raining! That means the angels are sad. Why are they crying?
     Me: The angels aren't sad. The clouds are full of water and they sprung a leak. You know when you
     have to pee? You feel full of pee and you have to let it out.
     Ian: The clouds are peeing! The clouds are pooping! Peeing and pooping!

     My little boys' brain was running on Energizer batteries that night. He went from one subject to another, one person to another... He was obsessed with tornadoes and fascinated by the lightning. He stuttered over words and his little face would screw up tight with concentration as he tried to get his mouth to catch up with his mind. He couldn't hold still, shut up, or sit down. And I loved him for it. He was pure Ian and as I looked at him, I marvelled at the power it took to create such a perfect life, such a beautiful boy... and the storm, awesome in might, paled by comparison.