Friday, August 19, 2016

Essential Asher

I have believed for a long time, since Asher was just a wee babe, that he is one of the most emotionally intelligent people I know. From an age when he couldn't really be expected to talk, even were he a typically developing kid, he would seem to sense when someone in the family was feeling upset and try to connect with them in some way: touching, holding hands, putting his face next to the upset person's face. 

Since he has begun to verbally communicate one of his first phrases was, 'You okay?' And it's not just a flippant, one time, perfunctory 'You okay?' when he senses someone is hurt or upset. He says it over and over, with the person's name if he needs to get their attention, until the person gives him a satisfactory answer. If the answer is, 'No', he is immediately there, hugging, consoling, possibly tackling (if it's a brother). If the answer is, 'Yes', he moves on with whatever task he was in the middle of.

This evening was a tough-on-patience kind of time. Every one of my boys, in their own unique way, was losing it, and I, in turn, was losing it. With Asher it came to a head surrounding his pottying or lack thereof. He has recently decided he needs privacy in the bathroom but we can't give it to him completely because he may throw something in the toilet or wander around the room or pee in a corner. So, we play this game of 'Mom/Dad will stand over here, you go potty.' Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Tonight it didn't. Even after throwing him in the tub and turning on the water, which works about 50% of the time, there was no pee. But he did decide to dribble on the hall carpet, and on his uncovered mattress (waiting to be made after an accident the night before). 

I felt so frustrated! And so defeated!

He smiled up at me and I did not have a ready smile back.

'You okay, Mom?'

'You okay?!'

'No, Asher. I'm not okay. I'm frustrated. Remember, potty is for the toilet.'

'Yeah! . . . You okay?'

This time closing in with a hug, 'You okay, Mama?'

'Asher, potty does not go in the hall or on your bed. It goes in the toilet.'


Now putting his forehead against mine, 'You okay?'

I didn't have the energy to keep the grumpy face and broke into a big smile.

Big, slobbery kiss on my lips.

'You okay?'

'Yeah, Buddy, I'm okay.'

Huge bear hug. Any leftover tension just drained completely away.

What a gift this boy is.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


We were blessed with a gorgeous evening! Asher and I went for a walk down some pathways through our neighborhood. The air was warm and clear and all the humidity of the last few days was blown away with the thunderstorms. There were huge patches of blue sky, covered by an occasional large fluffy cloud. We walked down a path I hadn't been on since fall and was awed at the number of wildflowers nodding at us in the clean evening light. I was contemplating how every single flower is a visible reminder of God's love for us, something I had spoken about at an event just a few weeks ago, and now here was a whole meadow that felt like it had been placed there just for me, just for tonight.

And then they passed.

A mom. Three boys.

Three boys roughly the same age as my three. All riding bikes, the mom bringing up the rear. They seemed so free, so at ease. The mom was completely relaxed. She knew her boys knew what to do and where to go. She had no fear that one of them might careen off in the wrong direction, most likely toward the busy street ahead.

And it hit me hard, as it does occasionally:

What is that like?

What is it like to be just a regular mom?

With regular kids?

With nothing that makes you stand out in a crowd?

What is it like to spontaneously go for a bike ride with all three of your children?

What is it like not to have to plan so much ahead that it never feels like a spontaneous decision?

What is it like not to have to hook up adaptive equipment?

To just let the kids hop on and ride?

What is it like to allow freedom to all of your children without concern for anyone's safety?

What is it like for all of your children to be able to use the restroom with little to no assistance from you?

What is it like not to have to do hand-over-hand cleaning of the bathroom floor for the bazillionth time that day because your child thinks it's fun to spray his pee everywhere? (Of course, she's the mom of boys so she may actually be doing that but not in my dream speculation.)

What is it like not to have your day rigidly scheduled with medical procedures, therapy exercises, and personal care activities?

What's it like not to deal with behaviors? Panic attacks? Spitting? Hitting? Kicking?

What is it like to be 'normal'?

I walked under my own personal storm cloud as I pondered that for most of the way home. Wouldn't it be nice, just once, to have that? But of course, I would still want my kids. I wouldn't want three other kids. I want MY boys, but without the struggles. But would they still be my boys? Would I even recognize them? How can you have the same of something if the things that make that something what it is disappear?

I can't. I can't have my boys, my family, without the things that make my boys what they are. All the difficulty, the trials, the slog are making a beautiful something that wouldn't exist without the tough. I don't even really know completely what that beautiful something is but I see it happening. I see it transforming us into better, more caring, more loving, more giving, more open people.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Snapping Turtles And Predators

This morning as I went for a run something about the humidity in the air or the water along my route or the way the birds were singing reminded me of childhood times spending summer breaks at my grandparent's house which sat at the end of a canal off the Missouri River. I would spend whole days rowing my grandma's rowboat back and forth, jumping out of the boat when I got too hot, seeing how far down I could swim, never quite touching the bottom. My hair would bleach bright blond and my skin would turn golden brown in the sun. I would come into the house only to eat and then I would be back out again in the water. Whenever my grandpa caught sight of me he would warn me of all the dangers in the water.

'Watch out for snapping turtles! They're so big they can bite your big toe off!'

'Don't get too close to the river! The current will sweep you right out and we'll never see you again!'

'There are some big fish in there. Some of 'em have teeth and they'll think your fingers are worms!'

I would look appropriately serious at his warnings and then go jump back in the water.

One day my mom called me in. She and my grandma were headed to town for some grocery shopping and she wanted me to come with them. I dutifully put on some clothes over my swimsuit and followed them to the car. We collected the things they thought we'd need for a good dinner and, while they waited in the checkout line, I wandered around the front of the store, looking at the gumball machines, coin operated horse ride, bulletin board right next to the large front doors.

All of a sudden I was aware that a man was whispering in my ear. I whipped my head around, eyes huge, body tense. I knew I was in danger. It took a minute for my brain to realize what was happening. The man was dirty, greasy, disheveled. He reminded me of the homeless men our church would sometimes serve in downtown Denver. He was gone before it registered what he had said to me and what had happened.

'If you ever need a friend, call me,' the man said. I looked in my hand where a tiny scrap of paper sat with something scrawled on it. He had shoved it in my hand before he took off.

I was terrified. I made a bee-line to my mom. I let the paper fall to the floor as I ran. I spent the drive back to the house lying on the backseat, fearful that the man was following us and would find out where I was. I stayed awake late into the night, hearing every sound, positive that it was the man coming in through one of the open windows. But, and this is the saddest thing to me now as a mom myself, it never once crossed my mind that I should tell my mom what just happened. I don't even know why. Why wouldn't I have let her know? Why wouldn't I have asked to call the police? Why wouldn't I have shown someone that piece of paper?!

Because I was a little girl who had never had any conversations about what to do in that situation. My parents, my grandparents weren't bad. They just hoped that we lived in a world where I would need to know about snapping turtles but not about predators. They wanted to believe that their children and grandchildren would not be the ones targeted, would not cross paths with dangerous people who wanted to harm them.

There is something innate in children that causes them to clamp up when they should talk and the key to unlock that is adults who communicate in a way that doesn't cause more anxiety but informs. But we have to believe that our children will most likely meet people who are out to cause them harm, people they know, people they don't know. My story happened 30 years ago. I need to see that the world is not a safer place than it was then. It is horrible that these conversations are needed but they are.

I thought of the video of the mom in Florida whose daughter was grabbed and dragged toward the door by a would-be abductor. Thank God that woman was aware enough to jump into the fray immediately and save her daughter! If the man in my story had decided to be so bold, I would have been long gone before anyone realized what had happened. I was right next to the door. My mom was far away.

Give your children love today. And talk to them. Talk to them about what to do when they feel afraid. And be a safe place for them to run to when they are afraid. Teach them that when they feel nervous or scared of an adult it is okay and to respect those feelings. Most of all, don't be afraid to talk about every little thing they want to talk about.

We're going to get through this parenting thing and our kids are going to grow up to be amazing adults.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Right Motivation

Asher is capable of doing a lot of things . . . if he feels like it. He loves to show his new skills as he develops, he feel so proud of himself. The smile is priceless.

The adventure begins after he has shown himself to be proficient at something and decides he's bored with it and doesn't want to do it anymore.

It happened with eating with utensils. 'Yeah, I know this Mom. I'm not interested anymore. You do it for me.'

It happened with picking up . . . anything. 'Yeah, your songs aren't doing it for me anymore. I'll sit over here and read a book while you pick up the gazillion cars I just dumped out everywhere.'

And now, it's happening with toilet training.

Two months, TWO, he had been completely dry. Night and day. He would go nearly every time we sat him on the toilet. It had been amazing and beautiful and so cost effective. Then, all of a sudden, we would set him on the potty and he would sign 'all done' about 2.9 seconds later. We would sit and we would wait. We would sing the potty song, we would cheer for the pee pee to come out, all things that used to work to get him to actually do the business we are there for. But, nothing.

We needed new motivation.

So, we started standing up to go, something new! That worked for about two weeks.

We started getting him excited about what he would do after he went to the bathroom, 'Do you want to watch a video?', 'Would you like a cookie?', 'How about going to the park?', 'Do you want to swing?' . . . 'Let's go potty first and then we will!' That worked for about three weeks.

There are days where we have to make-do with the bath treatment. It's impossible to continue holding it in when you are sitting in warm water, right? Yet, somehow he still does!

What is truly impressive is his determination and strength of will!

Does it frustrate me sometimes, that he is so set to do what he wants to do?

Oh yes!

But it is also a lesson to me. Kids' opinions in general often get overlooked. But I have noticed that children with mental disabilities are stereotyped into a category of 'easy' meaning they just go along with what you want them to do and don't express their own wishes. They are happy to do what others tell them to. They don't have the mental capacity to have thoughts of their own.

This is such a simplistic view! I am happy to say it is false. And I am happy to recognize the individuality of my own son. He is not a robot or a drone, he is himself. He has thoughts, opinions and preferences. He is a beautifully made human with all the uniqueness that comes with that territory. Please remember that the next time you see someone you think is just being difficult. Perhaps they are communicating and learning to control their own little corner of the world in the best way they know how.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Parenting Ups and Downs

Sometimes parenting is fun and easy:

  • Hey kids, let's go swimming!
  • Who wants some ice cream?
  • Anybody in for a trip to Pizza Ranch?!
  • Let's go camping!
Sometimes parenting is tough:
  • You must eat your vegetables.
  • No, you may not hit your brother when you are frustrated.
  • Bathing is a necessity.
  • Pee pee is for the potty, not your pants.
Sometimes parenting is nearly impossible:
  • We love you just as much as your brothers. It's tough being the oldest. Yes, everyone thinks your little brothers are adorable but it doesn't make you any less wonderful.
  • No, you can't play on the playground in casts. Yes, you still need to bathe.
  • You are safe. You are okay. We will not let anything bad happen to you. I see you are very, very frightened. We will be done in just a moment.
  • No, just because 2 AM is in the morning doesn't mean it's time to get up.
I feel that I have come so far in being a better parent than I was 10 years ago. I am so much more relaxed. So okay with allowing my kids to have their big feelings and not feeling I've failed or need to join them in the ascent. Not perfect, but better and that's pretty good, going in the right direction. But I also feel that the difficulties are just beginning. The hard questions are around the bend. I am hoping I am learning enough to be able to answer well when they come. 

Sometimes I feel hit across the chest with the unexpected. Like a few weeks ago when Damek, for the first time, started sharing how left-out he feels sometimes. How cute Asher is and how much Caedmon needs and people pay so much attention to them and not to him. Oh, man! I knew that would probably come at some point, no matter how much Adam and I have tried to fill him up with special mom-time or dad-time, lots of hugs and love. How can he not feel that way some times? And when Caedmon sometimes feels so frustrated at having no control right now, being stuck in casts with a metal bar bolted into both legs and being completely dependent on other people to do even the littlest things that he just screams, ear-piercing, heart-wrenching screams. And when Asher will do awesome with potty training one week, not one accident, telling us when he needs to get to a bathroom and then the next week he fights us, doesn't want to go at all and prefers wetting his pants, and our bed, and the couch, and the carpet.

I live for the times when my eyes lock with one of my boys and we laugh uncontrollably over something absolutely silly, a made up potty song, a Shel Silverstein poem, a new joke. We can just let go of the heavy stuff and be together right at that moment. What a relief that is. I used to think the best parents in the world were the ones who could afford to give their children big experiences: world travel, cool events, incredible family vacations, weekend trips to world renown places. Now I think the best parents are the ones who intentionally create moments of togetherness, regardless of financial status, house size, zip code or recorded intelligence. I hope when my boys are grown and moved on to homes and families of their own they will look back at these days with a feeling of joy and love and togetherness. That regardless of the lows we actually go through they will feel their childhood was a series of high points that led them to where they are.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

His Own Time

Caedmon is 7.

Caedmon has sucked his thumb since birth.

At 3, we were a little concerned about it. The doctor shrugged and said we could try to do something about it but it wasn't that big of a deal.

At 4, we commented to him that maybe we should start working on not sucking his thumb anymore.

At 5, we talked to his dentist about it and she told us he would quit when he was ready.

We had already learned from potty training with Damek that kids are pretty awesome at picking their own time line so we decided to sit back and wait.

At 6, he endured comments from multiple loved ones and basically told them where to get off, he loved his thumb and he would continue doing his thing, thank you very much.

At 7, well, it began as any other year has. But three nights ago I noticed he was quite restless and hyper-tired, not typical for him but occasionally we all have nights. The next night was very similar. That was strange. The third night I wondered if he was coming down with some sickness that is taking forever to manifest? What in the world is going on?!

Then I realized, it has been a REALLY long time since I have heard the sucking sounds of a thumb in a mouth! Could he be quietly weening himself without saying a word to any of us?

I decided not to say anything. Maybe he didn't tell us because it wasn't a discussion he wanted to have.

It made me tear up a bit. Watching my independent 7 year old go this struggle alone. I am so proud of him. So proud of his perseverance. He's shown it in many things in his young life. It makes my heart happy for the man he is growing to be.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sometimes It's Just Too Much

Caedmon has a pretty major surgery coming up in a few weeks. His legs will be broken, by a doctor not in some rambunctious little boy play, reset to try to straighten them a bit from the way they twist now, his left foot will be reconstructed, a tendon will be completely severed to loosen his foot and stop it from turning in. His dad and I have felt this heavy weight on our chest get heavier by the day as the surgery gets closer. This kid! He has been through so much, though he doesn't really know that, it's all part of life for him.

Adam and I are looking at the minimum 12 week recovery time and feeling like this huge tidal wave is just hovering above our house. Caedmon is looking forward to Grandma coming to visit. He just doesn't have the adult mind that can latch on to anything in the future and attach fear and negativity to it.

And then . . .

A few days ago, on a Friday, Asher and Caedmon were wrestling, as they love to do. Asher saw the CHAIT tube button on Caedmon's side, grabbed it in his little pudgy fingers and completely yanked the entire button and tube out of Caedmon's body. We heard a scream, came running, and saw the tube lying on our living room rug and a hole in Caedmon's side. Adam quickly put together a bag while I taped gauze over the opening and Adam and Caedmon rushed off to the ER. After 4 hours, they came home with a huge, long temporary tube taped in various places around his side and chest with the instructions to call his urologist on Monday. We called as early as possible on Monday and, after some calling back and forth, were told, 'Oh, we just went to grab another tube and realized we don't have anymore. We'll have to order them.' How long will that take? 'Well, we hope just a few days . . .' It is Wednesday now. We're still waiting to hear something.

And then . . .

Last night we wanted Caedmon to be able to bathe and we needed to change the dressing over the hole. He was so anxious that we were going to somehow pull the tube completely out of his side that he could not calm down enough to let us do it. It took Adam holding him down on the floor and me pulling tape off and putting more tape on to finally get him in the shower. He was so upset he was shaking and shivering. There is nothing worse than having your child be scared and having to walk them through the thing they are most scared of. To have him crying in my face with a look of utter terror while I calmly (on the outside) continued on with the job at hand was nearly more than I could take. We cuddled for a long time and talked through what had happened, what he had been scared of (pain), what had actually happened (no pain). I am tearing up just writing this because even the memory is so stressful.

And then . . .

Today Asher had his PT appointment. On Friday he had finally been fitted with new orthotics, he had outgrown his old ones. I was so happy to take him in finally and have him get a good session in with the appropriate footwear. A few minutes after him going back his PT came out and said, 'Could you come back with us?' I followed her to a bench where she picked up Asher's shoeless feet and said, 'These orthotics don't look right.' She then pointed out several problems with them that were causing Asher to twist his feet in order to walk.

Quite often I am able to be a 'go with the flow' kinda person. These things are what they are and I can't change how it's happening, I can only change what happens today. But with so many things at once it feels like too much sometimes. I would like to cuddle in my bed, read a good book, get on a plane to somewhere sunny and warm, forget about mommy duties for a while, have a good cry and sit by the ocean. Instead, I will get off the computer right now so I can get to Caedmon's school in order to cath him.

Meh, get-aways aren't that great anyway. All the stuff is still sitting here for you when you get back. Perhaps slogging through is the best plan. After all, it's just a stage. Also, my mom sent us some money for ice cream. I think we shall have an after-school get-away to the ice cream shop.