Parenting: My truth

Parenting: My truth

** Special note: I write this with the intent and experience of my parenting journey. In no way is it meant to be hurtful to those families who have had severe and devastating struggles. Those of my friends that have endured this, my heart goes out to you all. Each and everyone. I know the names of all of your babies. I say them every day. I know how your heart hurts and that life will never be the same. This essay is genuinely written from only my perspective. It is just a simplified version of what I am going through with no intent to demean or diminish other people’s experiences.**

People mean well when they tell their harrowing labor stories, or crazy parenting moments, or offer their warnings about parenting teenagers, or offer advice and layout the total cost of raising a child. I remember all the breastfeeding, diaper changing, labor giving, toddler disciplining, Happiest Baby on the Block sharing, and all it did was exhaust me. Mostly made me feel pretty inadequate as a parent. So I stopped paying attention to what other people were doing, followed my gut instincts and did the best I could. That is what I am still doing. Now, people keep telling me parenting teens is the hardest. They mean well, I get it. But, just like the advice in the earlier years, I don’t think I am going to buy into it.

Before I had children, everyone would tell me you don’t know what you are getting into; your life is going to be so different. You are never ready for what is going to happen. When I held my son in my arms for the first time, my whole body shifted into mom mode. I had waited my entire life for that moment. Everything before was just practicing for that moment. Was I scared? Of course. I mean, duh. Brian and I got home looked at each other and looked at the helpless little human in my arms and knew we were going to have to wing it. We knew it was going to be harder than anything we had ever done before and we knew there wasn’t a rule book or guide that was tailored to us.

Regardless of whatever outside advice or stories I heard from other novice or experienced mothers, from day one with my babies, somewhere in me, I knew I could do it, and I knew I would know best, no matter what. Of course, it was scary, and I worry through every single step.

I remember being terrified they would stop breathing when I wasn’t looking or that they were going to have some severe food allergy, or illness, or God forbid, based on every book known to man, they would be less than in every way because they were formula fed. I worried about their psyche since I rocked them to sleep every single night and did not believe in letting them cry it out. Come on; there is enough crying in life already. But most of all, I loved being a mom to my babies. They way they smelled after a bath, the rocking to sleep, watching milestones be reached, hearing them laugh for the first time. Not sleeping was rough, but it was also so sacred and special to have those moments in the silence with them.

When they survived infancy, walking became the next terrifying event. There are stairs everywhere people. Everything seemed to have sharp corners, and my goodness floor tile is so freaking hard. Each place became an obstacle course of sharp edges, hard surfaces, and steep falls. But it was also miraculous to watch them take those first steps; to see the wonder on their faces as they were able to start exploring the world at their own pace.

After we survived walking – and running; I won’t even go there – with just a few bumps and bruises it was play-dates at the park. I know, I know those sound fun, but when the kids were little toddlers, my heart was in constant panic mode. Some moron believed it was a good idea that at the tippy, tippy top of the play structure next to the very best tube slide there needed to be an opening with a 20-foot drop. I mean who in HOLY HELL designs these things?! Regardless of the pitfalls and obstacle courses of doom; parenting a toddler was way more than amazing. The talking, the stories, the imaginative play, the silly and hilarious things that would come out of their mouths. Watching each one develop their personality, sense of style and interpret the world around them.

Then it’s preschool and the agony of leaving your child and then watching like a stalker behind two-way glass wondering why the hell they have to go to preschool anyway. I mean really. And it was hard to send them off to preschool because I enjoyed being around them; I hated missing anything about their life.

After that is kindergarten. There are no two-way windows there. You are left to leave and wonder what the heck is going on in there. Thank goodness you can volunteer. But still, you are left wondering: Is the playground safe? How good are the background checks? What kind of kids are in there? So many emotions. How can we possibly survive all the feelings – friendships happening or not, learning and the rate at which it is happening; learning disabilities, differences, and how are we going to survive 6 hours without our baby? Because I loved being with them. Teaching them numbers, the alphabet, counting, reading books and exploring the world with them.

But while you are worrying about all of that they somehow make their entire way through infancy, toddler-hood, pre-school, and elementary school.  Then middle school happens. You have to watch as your child walks off into that new territory all by themselves because “No one else’s mom is walking them on campus!” And at this place, there are kids holding hands, kissing, youtube-ing, social media-ing, conducting unsupervised google searches – and if you are monitoring all of this as best you can as a parent and limiting it you also are now so uncool and the worst parent that ever lived! Or at least your kid thinks so. Plus, when you monitor the damn text messages you always find something you wish you hadn’t. It is not a win-win, ever.

I am sure this continues through high school and adulthood. We will never stop worrying. Believe me; we just went to the first high school rally preparing for next year, and the fears keep growing. Tumbling into my mind before I can stop them. Plus my dear husband thinks it’s reassuring for me to know that we won’t always like how our kids behave. It never makes me feel better hearing that.

From the beginning, I think we are learning to let go. Learning how to navigate a world where we want our children to grow and thrive, but still be shielded just enough to have a happy childhood.

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So far parenting a teen has been just as rewarding and wonderous as parenting an infant or a toddler. Sure, I don’t get cuddles and conversations may veer into topics including sex, drugs, and violence in our world, but watching my children grow into courteous, educated, friendly, intelligent, curious youth with great ideas about how to contribute to their communities is beyond anything I ever imagined. We discuss novels, politics, rules, family dynamics, and I get a front row seat to watch them fly. Giving them room to grow is hard; I may have had some helicopter tendencies with my first one, but I think we all do. Having three more kids easily cured that. Each step they took away from me, to explore the world was preparing me to help give them that room to grow and thrive. It is terrifying at times, but our relationships are healthy and meaningful. I trust them. They have given me every reason to.

I know parenting is really about growing children into amazing adults – at least that is our goal. We are truly learning to let go from day one. But just because we are teaching them to fly doesn’t mean that one stage is harder than the next or that they grow entirely away from us; it is just the way things are. Being a mom is still my most treasured gift regardless of the stage. That is my story, and I am sticking to it.

 

Big mistakes and bravery

Several years ago I started to disarm myself. Piece by piece I set down my armor. I came out of hiding and decided in order to live fully I must be seen fully. That is why I started this blog and even named it “afourytale” – a fairy tale; four kids – a..four..ytale…get it.

I didn’t want the cliché version of a fairytale; I wanted to rewrite the standard fairytale. Fairytales aren’t beautiful stories with happy endings. Fairytales are messy, unkept, broken stories that do not always have perfect endings. When I read how the little mermaid really ended in her becoming foam on the ocean; my heart crumpled. But I think we need to rewrite these stories with more modern versions of truth. Fairytales are our lives – they are hard, broken, beautiful, messy, lonely, noisy, colorful tales of truth and vulnerability.

I wanted to share that even with all of the mess that life can bring our perspective can create that story into a fairytale. And in order to do that; I was going to have to set down my armor and show all the sides of myself and my life. I couldn’t hide behind perfectionism any more. I didn’t want to be seen as perfect anymore. In fact I had come to despise that word and every time someone would describe me that way I would cringe. I had to shed the armor and leave perfectionism behind me.

Now disarming myself and shedding my armor is something I have found that I have to relearn on a regular basis. My default button is to run and hide. It is so much easier to grab my armor, steel myself and let things bounce off of me and not feel.

After three years of constantly setting down my armor a strange thing has happened. Now when I try on my mask and armor it doesn’t fit right. Something feels askew.

Each time I try to put on my armor or retreat to its steely protection I hear loud and clear these words from the Universe: “Fear not. Remember.”

When I hear these words I set down my armor and go out into the world feeling extremely unprepared, totally naked and yet fully alive. I let what comes hit me and instead of retreating I feel each inch of it and decide not to let others dictate how I feel about something, but to define it for myself.

For instance, yesterday I was called selfish. It stung. It hurt fiercely. But I decided instead of retreating, instead of hiding my hurt, to fully listen to how it was said and decide for myself – is that how I define me?

I take things personally. Does that make me selfish? No, it makes me human. I do not have to change that I take things personally. I am a person after all. I just need to make sure the person that I am talking to; knows that I am hearing them as well.

I am not selfish. My truth is that I am kind, super extra feely, and that being personal and feeling everything that comes at me is how I best process the world. If I just allow myself to feel only what other people expect me to and to only react the way other people expect me to, then I am right back in my armor and that is not how I want to live my life.

Being brave is setting down your armor and being your true self. Brene Brown uses the Teddy Roosevelt quote about going out into the arena:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

Life is the arena; where we show up leaving our armor behind and let our blood and sweat show for all to see. When we do that we can become connected to one another. We can also become whole. We become fully alive.

Why am I telling you all this? I tend to make mistakes on a large-scale. I tend to make mistakes that affect other people and not just myself. Not on purpose mind you. I go in with my whole heart and do my very best. Daring greatly if you will. But I have also learned that if something doesn’t feel right then it isn’t something you should keep doing no matter what.

About a month ago I tried to do something I thought I always wanted; only to find that it didn’t fit anymore. It wasn’t who I was any longer; it was only who I thought I was. It was a part of me that fit into my armor. And since I can’t wear my armor anymore without feeling completely ridiculous and askew; this activity didn’t fit me either. I had to say, “No thank you; this isn’t what I want.” It was hard. It was scary. It was also just right for me. Being brave sometimes means saying no thank you, that’s not for me even when everyone else is watching.

And last but not least, being brave also means asking for help. A group of my friends decided to get together. I couldn’t fathom trying to join them. I felt like bad company and thought it would just be a bad idea to go. “No one wants to see me any way. I won’t be missed,” I thought.

The words of the universe stirred in me again…”Fear not. Remember”… and I began to reevaluate my thoughts. Ah-ha! There I go again defining myself using other people’s ideas. What do I want? What is best for me? And my answer changed. I wanted to go. I was still scared and nervous that I would chicken out at the last-minute. I know some of you think this rather silly to be scared of your own tribe, but letting myself be seen by the people I love is terribly difficult, because what if they woke up today and decide they don’t like me anymore. They can see all of me now and if they don’t like me after they have seen everything then what? Fear of pain, fear of rejection still creeps into my soul and takes away my courage to be seen.

So instead of retreating and hiding – my default – I sent them a group text. “Guys, I want to go tonight. But I am scared I will decide to hide here at home instead. Can someone please come pick me up so I can’t back out.” And guess what; someone came and picked me up. Everyone rallied behind me. Everyone understood.

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I can’t live in my armor anymore. I have to live in the arena. My soul is the only thing that feels true any more. Just because my armor doesn’t  fit doesn’t stop me from trying to slink back into it mind you.

Armor has many names…perfectionism, fear, hatred, addiction – the things we use to numb are armor. The things we use to hide ourselves it is all armor. You have to know what your armor is to know how to take it off and set it down.

I have had many people comment on my courage and bravery the last year and I never thought this was me. “I am just a girl,” I say. “I am just trying to take the next best step for me.” But I have taken time to define bravery for myself.

Being brave is….

not letting fear dictate your choices

not defining who you are by other people’s standards

taking your next right step

remembering who you are

remembering to ask for help

setting your armor down and stepping into the arena unprepared, raw and wide open.

I guess by that definition I am brave. But I am also just a girl trying to take the next right step. But I am not doing it in the quiet darkness, steeled against the world. I am doing it here, and in the arena, and out in the open for all to see. Some days that feels really difficult, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. So here is to big mistakes and bravery because I have more to make and more to learn.

Fear not.Remember –

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afourytale

Legit

My heart is heavy tonight as I write my life lessons post for late June/half way through July, but I still felt this need to write so here I am.

I am going to start with the heavy.

We need to pray people…

France, Dallas, Baton Rouge, the whole globe. We need to take a moment and pray.

We ate out tonight and the family at the table next to us bowed their heads and prayed and offered gratitude before their meal. I was struck by how this simple act was so profound and healing.

We need to pray.

We need to lean in together and pray. No color, all religious preferences, all sexual orientations, just gather as humans and pray for one another.

And now on to the lighter side of things just because I feel like if I keep thinking about the heavy and the world my children may inherit if things don’t change I don’t know what…

Where does the title legit come from? Well, I have this awesome friend, Cristal and she is always saying how things are “legit” and well life lessons and life in general are just legit; I mean you can’t get more real than every day life.

We need to laugh people…

Laughter is truly the best medicine for the soul. We need to laugh and play and just enjoy the moments that we do have when we can. (Sometimes you have kids crying and shit is legit and you cannot laugh at that moment, but you will laugh later and that is the thing to remember…laugh when you can laugh). For example, one of the twins locked themselves in the bathroom 4 years ago and then seriously did it again this week. I was quick to laugh because I learned from that first lesson and that nifty little key to unlock the door this time was a life saver.

But a couple of suggestions if I may…

Download Snap Chat and play with it. My son thinks I am whack because I don’t post anything on Snap Chat, I have it just for the filters. And I say so what?! Because seriously I have never laughed so hard. And really do I need another place to post crap?

 

Because that is too legit to quit…am I right?

And play like a kid because sometimes it is just freeing and fun…

Billy Beez, I highly recommend it. It’s legit.

The family that dabs together stays together…

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Enough said, because they did this over and over and over and laughed and laughed.

Even dogs get excited to order Starbucks…

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Seriously, I think that dog ordered a latte and a lemon scone. I hope he paid for the car behind him, because random acts of kindness are legit.

Wear the crazy leggings…

So I know, LuLaRoe is kinda cray, cray the way people hunt and shop and talk about unicorns. You don’t have to get sucked all the way in…but those buttery soft leggings, I mean, I pull those on and I feel 12 all over again. It’s the 90s with Full House and Rave Hairspray. And that is worth $25 and a little embarrassment when you are wearing them at the grocery store right?

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But mostly do what it takes to get through…

Life is not fair. I know I have first world problems, but I empathize and understand that a lot of people do not. I know that things can be so hard. I deal with death on a daily basis and I know first hand what shattered lives look like. I know. I do.

I think we each have to do what we can to get through. To find our way.

For me, it’s knowing that I will teach my children to leave a place better than you found it, use their manners, do their best, chase their dreams and always help the person up behind them. To listen to other people’s stories.

I will work to make sure they take responsibility for their actions and pitch in and help out wherever they can. To teach them understanding and compassion in a world that so desperately needs it. And mostly to love them. But also to love my life and set the example. To be a person who shows not tells. To be a person that is afraid, but lives life any way.

And these sweet faces help keep me legit. Two of these faces turn 6 tomorrow. Two of these faces are closer to being a teen than a kid. All five of these faces are the best parts of my life. All five of these faces can drive me absolutely bat shit crazy and at the same time make my heart explode with adoration and unconditional love. These five faces get me through each day…

IMG_4893Legit.

Until next time,

Michelle

Kintsugi

Kintsugi

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source: http:..kintsuginz.weebly.com/store/p1/Kintsugi_Heart_-Gold.html
Kintsugi is the centuries old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold.

My heart was shattered by autism on July 25, 2011.

“Your son’s delays are consistent with autism spectrum disorder, and we recommend you enroll him immediately in our intensive in-home autism preschool program.”

That word. Autism. Six letters punched me in my gut and knocked the wind out of me. The edges of the room blurred and the evaluator’s voice faded into static as my brain desperately tried to process this information. I nodded and appeared to listen, but I was frozen. It was like a movie where the character leaps and hangs suspended in perfect form while everything else continues at normal speed.

My husband Scott and I brought our son Matthew to be evaluated at our county’s early intervention school campus. Matthew was 22 months old. He had been a happy, outgoing baby; he started talking around his first birthday. I worried when his words vanished six months later. He began melting down in large, echoing rooms full of people and in large crowds. He stopped responding to his name and was happy playing alone as long as we’d let him.

Matthew’s behaviors raised alarming red flags and a cold fear settled into the pit of my stomach. I am a general education teacher, and in 2004 I wrote my master’s degree thesis paper on reading instruction for autistic children. I became fascinated by autism after having several students on the spectrum, and I intensely studied what was known about it at the time. This is why I recognized it so quickly in Matthew.

Even though I knew a lot about autism and taught autistic children, I was not prepared to hear that word used to describe my own child. I was confused about what I did wrong to allow this to happen. Had I missed some prenatal vitamins? Had I inhaled toxic fumes while we remodeled our house during my pregnancy? Did hitting his head as an infant cause damage to the part of the brain responsible for speech? I stupidly thought devoting my career to helping children learn would protect my own children from disabilities. Of course that is illogical reasoning; dentists can get cavities, oncologists can have cancer, and teachers can have children with special needs. Knowledge does not equal protection. However irrational it was, this false and naive belief intensified my grief.

Matthew’s days were immediately filled with behavioral, speech, and occupational therapies. His particular intervention program required intensive parent involvement; we found ourselves in a crash course of parenting a child with developmental delays. We learned to use icons to help Matthew communicate, activities and games to help him learn to follow directions, what his sensory needs were, and how to anticipate and respond to his frustration when he was not understood. Autism is a spectrum disorder with many subcategories of deficits and behaviors ranging from mild to severe; it doesn’t look the same in any two individuals. Therapy interventions felt like the “Whack-a-Mole” game we played as kids; we tried everything we could in this precious window of early intervention and desperately prayed our efforts would help the delays we already knew about and buffer against ones yet to emerge.

Autism was not part of my plan, and my organized and particular personality chafed against this unexpected detour. My older daughter Faith was starting kindergarten and needed me. I wanted to volunteer in her classroom on my days off and I still had my teaching career to tend to. I did not have time to drop everything and have therapists in our home five days a week. When I took Matthew to the park, birthday parties, church, or anywhere with children his age, I saw his peers flourishing in speech, responding to their names, following directions, and doing many other things taken for granted as developmental milestones. I felt sad, frustrated, and angry that wasn’t happening for Matthew and bristled at the unfairness of it all. These feelings quickly segued into depression. I scolded myself to end the pity party, to stop comparing him to others. I’d be paralyzed by anxiety and panic at the oddest times. One night in the shower, I felt crushed by thoughts such as “It’s time to wake up from this bad dream. I just can’t do this.” I reached my breaking point that spring and after talking to one of my pastors, realized I needed to stop suppressing my feelings and find a way to express and process them. I had to take care of myself in order to take care of my family. I started seeing a counselor for talk therapy.

My broken heart began transforming into Kintsugi. So many people poured gold into those cracks, so much that I had gold to share with other cracked hearts.

Our “first responders” were an incredibly gifted and caring team of Early Start professionals. They worked with Matthew and supported our family with a bottomless well of patience, sensitivity, humor, and compassion.

Our local family members mobilized to make sure we had our childcare and transportation needs covered. They were also grieving Matthew’s diagnosis but they all rose (and continue to rise) to his challenges with loving determination.

My church’s preschool bent over backward to include Matthew in a typical class two afternoons a week, completely covering the cost of a 1-1 shadow. The church’s special needs ministry was immediately there to support Matthew in Sunday School. Ironically, my interest in autism led me to help organize this ministry before it became a part of my personal life. I agreed to chair “Donovan’s Door” ministry for two years and connected with many inspirational families in our community. It was heartwarming how many youth and adults volunteered to work with Matthew and other children with special needs on a weekly basis and also at quarterly respite nights.

I’m a better second grade teacher because of Matthew. I considered myself a kind and caring teacher up until 2011, but autism opened my eyes wider to understanding children’s struggles and achievements. I know behavior is communication; this forced my patience to blossom in a way it could not have if Matthew could speak. My teacher experience with special education, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and the “system” helps me navigate them as a parent, and my parent experience helps me understand them as a teacher. I empathize with my students’ parents as we all muddle our way through trying to do our best. I know the fear of admitting something is “off” and the instinctual parent guilt we carry. Most parents appreciate how deeply I care for their children and feel we are a team. Their gratitude and trust humbles and reminds me why I teach, because that is how I feel about Matthew’s team. Many gifted and compassionate teachers, therapists, and aides have been part of Matthew’s village since our days in Early Start.

We benefit from living near two powerhouse autism research universities, Stanford and the University of California, Davis. Matthew received thorough testing and groundbreaking therapies for free that would have cost thousands of dollars otherwise. It feels good to know we are helping these dedicated doctors and scientists slowly piece together a complicated puzzle.

Friends showered us with words of support and offers of help. Anytime I share something about Matthew and/or autism on Facebook, the comments buoy my spirits. Autism brought new friends into our lives that we never would have met had his trajectory continued on the typical path.

I received the book Bloom by Kelle Hampton as a gift. Kelle’s second daughter was unexpectedly born with Down syndrome, and I was moved by her memoir about her grief of losing her imagined child and her path to finding beauty in a new reality. I started following her blog “Enjoying the Small Things.” A year later, I entered Matthew in Infantino/Step 2 Company’s 2013 “Everybody Plays” model search after Kelle blogged about her involvement in the campaign. Matthew won a spot in “Everybody Plays,” and my family flew to San Diego for the photo shoot. The whole thing was surreal and thrilling, from the modeling to seeing his photo in one of their ads. It was an honor to represent the special needs community with this toy company. But for me, the most valuable part was meeting Kelle. We had a strong connection in the short time we met and she injected my soul with resilience.

I also found an amazing blog written by Chrissy Kelly, a Fresno, California mom of two boys with autism. Reading “Life with Greyson and Parker” became a cherished part of my mornings. I felt as if Chrissy reached into my mind, took out the jumbled up thoughts, and transformed them into beautifully eloquent words. Her vulnerable honesty resonated with me so I reached out to her through e-mail. We corresponded and met in person a few months later. Before autism became a part of my life, I could not imagine connecting with unfamiliar moms online and drawing such strength and comfort from their witness.

Unexpected gold also seeped into my cracked heart. My husband and I had always dreamed of having two children. After Faith was born in 2006 and Matthew in 2009, we agreed our family was complete. As they grew, we gradually gave away or donated clothes, toys, and assorted gear families amass when babies come into the picture. I felt a blend of nostalgia and relief giving baby things away. I loved raising babies, but I was glad to be done with the nausea and discomforts of pregnancy. I happily welcomed full nights of sleep back into my life and I looked forward to the day when we were done with diapers. When friends teasingly asked me if we wanted more children, I’d laugh yet firmly say, “NO!”

Two years into our autism journey with Matthew, we saw that for all his progress he was still nonverbal and considered on the “severe” end of the spectrum. My husband and I considered the benefits of another child in our family. We painstakingly discussed the “what ifs” and decided to try. After one miscarriage, I carried a healthy baby boy to term and he arrived after a short labor on June 25, 2014. We chose the name “Tobin” for our third child, meaning “God is good.” Toby completes our family; I cannot imagine us without him. He is full of love, joy, curiosity, energy, and personality.

My dear friend Michelle, the author of this blog, helped me make the biggest breakthrough with Matthew. When she was at my home one day I said something to Matthew and she gave me a surprised look as she exclaimed, “I just heard him answer you!” If you are choosing to read this, I am going to assume you already know about Michelle’s incredible gift of communicating with spirit and know the authenticity of what she does. I had never considered that she might be able to communicate with a nonverbal living person, and I am not sure she had either! She later came back and listened to Matthew respond to questions I asked. I was moved to tears by the deep feelings, wisdom, and tenacity of my precious son. I got a glimpse into what it is like for him to live with autism; I learned how to better meet his physical and emotional needs. I know he is all too aware of what goes on around him and he can pick up on nonverbal cues and feelings better than most “normal” people. People sometimes talk about Matthew in front of him like he isn’t there or doesn’t understand; I think it’s a false assumption that a nonverbal child doesn’t “get it.” That drove me crazy anyway, but Michelle’s reading of Matthew lit a fire under me to be an even better advocate for my son. Matthew is smart, he is caring, and he feels everything so intensely that he has had to devise coping strategies just to get through each day. Those behaviors may seem odd to the untrained eye, but they all serve a purpose.

Above all else, Matthew knows he is loved. Words seem inadequate to express my gratitude to Michelle, for helping me know Matthew better and for her willingness to try something different than what she was used to doing as a medium.

For years, the word “autism” made me scared, angry, overwhelmed, and stressed, but now it makes me thankful for the unexpected blessings it brings. I can’t lie and say that every day is easy and that I still don’t get frustrated or worry for the future. But I imagine if my life had continued on the “neurotypical route” and I shudder to think of everything I’d be missing if had my route not been recalculated.

That’s the beauty of Kinsugi. The pottery is made even more beautiful because those flaws have been visibly healed.

“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated…” — Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

Thank you for letting me share my illuminated heart with you today.

  
-Katrina

May God hold you in the palm of His hand

When our loved ones move on to heaven our human hearts want the world to stop. There is a need for everything to be frozen and covered with ash gray quiet. Forward movement seems so unbefitting when we are mourning loss. We yearn for a blanket of stillness to cover the globe and keep us isolated while we adjust to a life where they are no longer physically present. And yet, somehow everything keeps moving,  changing, evolving, growing. There is an abundant amount of laughter and light that seems so out-of-place. For me it seems this must be God’s way of trying to soothe us to let us know that one day forward movement will not seem so odd. His way of reminding us that life is all forward movement. There is no pause button, no still frame except for in our photos and even then sometimes nothing is standing still.

All four of my grandparents are in heaven. My fingers shake as I write this because a world without their stories, advice, unconditional love seems a bit colder, less comforting. As each of my grandparents passed I tried to merge some of who they were into me; into my soul because if I did that then they continued to live. If I have to move forward because of the will of the world and the will of God, then it is my need to take the essence of who they were with me.

Twenty-one years ago, my grandfather (papa) went in for a routine surgery, and then I got the news he wasn’t going to ever leave the hospital again because his body had decided the surgery was not so routine. The day I heard I ran up and down the stairs in our house and did sit up after sit up. I thought if I could feel some physical pain that matched my emotional pain then that would bring harmony and peace. It did not. Time would come to pass and I would learn that nothing brings back the peace you had before you lose someone. Nothing is ever the same. I wish I could have had more wisdom in my adolescent brain that June, but I did not. For my grandfather, who was Irish to the core, I decided to move on with the importance of heritage being a core value.

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Papa, my friend Shannon and I on Antelope Island the summer before my Sophomore year of high school. 1994ish
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At Coyote Reservoir probably 1992
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New Year’s Eve at our house in 1993 probably

He also loved his family fiercely and that too I incorporated into the fiber of my being. I know that he watches over us; his pennies from heaven are everywhere when I need them. He was also a wonderful story-teller. I think that I chose to write again because of a need to make his story-telling live on. Slowly picking up my once abandoned journals after his passing and beginning to fill them with my own stories. His picture sits at my desk and I talk to him every day. The hole he left will always be empty. I wish I had done more to remember all that he was, record his stories, ask more questions, learn more, but I was too naive and young to gather those extra memories of him when I had the chance.

My mother’s father passed on Valentine’s Day almost 8 years ago. It doesn’t seem like that, but time keeps moving propelling us forward. I had been so fortunate to see him two weeks earlier. He lived in Utah, so it was a treat that I was out there visiting friends and was able to escape away for a day and spend it with him. We visited my grandmother. Then, watched a part of the series “Earth”. We made plans for breakfast the next day and I headed back to the house my husband and I were visiting. A freak snowstorm set in that night and I was not able to get back to see him for breakfast. I called to tell him and of course he put my safety first and understood. I told him I loved him and he told me the same. As I hung up, I cried uncontrollably. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I knew I would never hear his voice again. That was the last time we spoke.

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My Grandpa goofing around at my wedding in 2003
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Grandpa toasting at my wedding in 2003
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Grandpa and Grandma together at my wedding in 2003

When my dad called to tell me two weeks later, I sank to the ground in my kitchen. And a cruel joke that on Valentine’s Day he left the Earth, leaving behind the woman he loved so much. My grandfather took care of my grandmother as she struggled through Alzheimer’s for 12 years. His unconditional love became an example to me; to our family to love those dearest to you through anything. His goofy jokes and singing became part of his essence that I needed to carry on. A sign of his hangs in my kitchen, “A good day is not complete without laughter.” That is what I carry with me and try to incorporate into my soul. Also to always drive the back roads, that is where the good stuff happens. There is no need to take the freeway when you can avoid it.

A few short weeks later, the love of his life, my grandmother passed away. My sweet, kind, generous grandmother who fought early onset Alzheimer’s for 12 years went to heaven to be with him. My grandmother was one of the most selfless, thoughtful people I have ever met. When I would complain about how someone being rude or grumpy she would say, “Michelle, they might be having the worst day of their life. Maybe they need a little kindness.” or “You don’t know their story.” This has become a mantra of mine, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to offer kindness no matter what. She had the best giggle and enjoyed her family and grandchildren so much. She was always finding the neatest toys for us to play with. Little People became a favorite of mine for my own children because it reminded me of her house. She also was a writer; she had written for the paper in college for a brief time. She is another reason that I write. Her grace, kindness, and love of knowledge and life I try to absorb in every way.

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My grandma with the love of her life my grandpa in the late 80s. I wish I had more pictures of her before she started to get sick. She loved to giggle and was such a beautiful person.

I call on her daily because she raised six with ease and sometimes I feel like I am drowning raising four and I long to hear her words of wisdom. My drive to help others comes in part from her.

This past Friday, November 6th at 8:15 PM my grandmother went to join my papa 21 years after he passed. That is a long time to be a part from one another, so I know they are catching up on lost time. I am grateful that she can be with him and her brothers and sister that have passed. I know she missed them dearly. But as I stood on the Boardwalk, listening to my dad tell me she had passed, the dazzling sunlight and joyful volleyball games and happy adventurers that passed and buzzed around me seemed so wrong. Why couldn’t everything stop just for a minute; my last grandparent had left this Earth. Why wasn’t there quiet and calm? Why hadn’t clouds at least dulled the blazing sun?

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My grandma and my dad in 2002
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My grandma and me in church 2000
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The summer before my wedding at Los Gatos Opera House 2002
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My grandma as always the life of the party – my wedding 2003

My grandmother talked to everyone. When I would visit in the summer, it would take us an hour or more to get through the aisles in the grocery store. The first time I thought she knew everyone and then I picked up that she was meeting all these people for this first time. She always talked to anyone like a friend, an important note that I need to gather into my soul and become one with so that she can live on through me. She also loved to laugh and was always about a good time; even though she hated parties that were thrown in her honor. It will be good for my soul to laugh even more and something I will fold into the fiber of my being so that she can continue to exist here on Earth. My grandma won everything all the time, so I know the Bingo Game in heaven will be forever changed; she is pretty unbeatable. There was a lot my grandmother didn’t talk about from her past and I know there was a great deal of pain that she carried with her from that. I hope that escapes her soul as she settles into heaven. My grandmother also loved to give back to the community, she helped with Girl Scouts, the Soup Kitchen and her church. I think a part of me knew this was coming, a need to make this year’s 25 Days of Holiday Cheer bigger and grander than the past two years a need to make a mark, a memory in her honor.

Life keeps going. We can’t stop it. We can only join it as best we can. I try to do that with my grief; warp it into a part of the person I loved and use it to move forward and pass that piece of their memory onto others I meet. If I keep pushing them forward with me in the best way I know how, a piece of them will always exist here on Earth.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Until we meet again,

Michelle

What depression feels like…

What depression feels like…

Depression feels like a long, dark tunnel with too little breathing room, too much discomfort and an impossible journey ahead. Luckily for me there is always a pinhole of light at the end of my tunnel. Still I become wrapped in a blanket of despair; choking on my own illogical self-hatred, all the while struggling to break through. Scrambling for air and light.

Depression is a sneaky bastard. You think you have the upper hand, that you are in control and then you wake up and you can’t remember if you have a purpose or if you matter. You know those thoughts make no logical sense, but depression does not make sense. It takes a powerful grip on your soul and sucks out the hope and logic to feed itself; to grow and take a foothold in every waking thought.

There is little to do to escape when it takes over. Exercise can help, but sometimes that gives you too much time to think and there are not enough distractions. Reading and writing have always helped me; been an escape and a release respectively.

Sunshine doesn’t really seem to exist. Even on the brightest days; all you can feel and see is darkness; depression’s invisible hand casting a gray shadow over everything and trying to keep you down.

You can’t seem to escape the notion that everything you touch is tainted; ruined somehow because you are a part of it.

I know there are people that think this is something we can help; something we can just shake off. It is real; it is not something that is simple to “shake off” and it is a constant battle against our own brains that are creating chemicals in an imbalance that causes us to see the whole world in a completely different way. That causes us to view ourselves in a completely different way. Skews our reality in way that traps us in a dizzying pattern of self-loathing.

Couple this with the sensitivity that tends to accompany depression and we are vulnerable to others perceptions of what brain health looks like; what “normal” should be and how we should feel in order to be accepted. Leaving us feeling more crippled than before.

Now, having depression isn’t all horrible. Sometimes I feel that depression has given me an insight into others so deep that empathy and compassion are second nature. Depression gives me a heightened awareness of others feelings, emotions, and well being.

Depression isn’t all bad. Each one of us has battles; we are all fighting something. Some days, my most difficult days like today; I wish people treated each other with kindness first and kept their judgement and contempt in check. I wish people didn’t throw around the word “crazy” so easily and weren’t so dismissive about depression and brain health. Sometimes it would be nice if the pace of life was a little bit slower and our priorities a bit more centered toward family instead of work and materialism.

Suicide prevention week just passed, but I write this to let you know each week should be suicide prevention week. Suicide rates in the U.S. continue to climb, even though we are not the country with the highest suicide rate suicide is still the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. But what is more shocking is that there are over 375,000 people a year that are admitted to Emergency Rooms with self-inflicted injuries.* Many of these meant to be fatal. We can do something. We can remind people that they matter. We can make an effort to be kind and less judgmental. So the next time you see someone hurting or down; drop what you are doing and reach out. Look up and smile; find something kind to say and let them know they matter. Help them find the light at the end of their tunnel.What Depression Feels Like

*http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide-FactSheet-a.pdf

A decade plus one…

A decade plus one…

July is a quartet of birthdays for our family. All the boys are July. And tomorrow the last July birthday takes place. It is tomorrow that I will have been a mother for a decade plus one. My oldest is aging at what I feel like is warp speed.

I have just started reading the Wayward Pines series and when the main character comes across people who have aged years in what seems like days – I totally get it. While it seems odd to main character; it makes perfect sense to me. My own kids are doing that before my very eyes.

How in the world did I go from cuddling my sweet, bubba to him looking in me in the eye? It is world flipping; I will tell you that much.

This July also brought on my husband’s 40th birthday. We were just in our early twenties and planning our lives together – now we manage schedules, and budgets, while talking about college savings and retirement. UGH! I still feel 28 so I am in some major denial that the man I married is 40 and that I will be too in a couple of years.

These moments in these photos seem like they just happened…

Last but not least, this July brought a strange turn of events to our house – there are no more babies. We have had a baby in the house, or a toddler in the house for the past decade and now there are no more babies – all my kids are BIG kids.

Just look at the changes in these not so little ones…

Just an aside no matter how bitter-sweet it is to watch my babies grow –  WE ARE NOT HAVING ANY MORE CHILDREN (again I am not yelling I am just very adamantly stressing my point).

Look at this family it is full and wonderful and just the right size:

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The best thing about my life is my family. I am one lucky girl; even if you catch me on a day like today when the kids started fighting in the line at Target. Because hey, that’s what it is all about – you take the good; you take the bad and there you have a wonderful, bundle of chaotic goodness. Tomorrow as I celebrate my oldest; I am also going to soak up the beauty of a decade plus one more year of motherhood. It has definitely aged me and changed me, but in so many ways for the better.

Thanks for talking a quick walk down memory lane with me.

Until next time,

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I have had rainbows in my clouds

I have had rainbows in my clouds

“To get to experience another day and have the health to dream of the opportunity for more days is a rich and indulgent luxury.”

Over three decades ago on a sunny September morning I skipped into kindergarten. The carpet was a deep red contrasted by the stark white and gray flecked tile that rimmed most of the room. We all had cubbies and while there were tables and chairs we always started and ended our day on the floor sitting in a giant circle. Luckily I attended kindergarten when there was still a great deal of play. The corner of the classroom that housed the play kitchen and a reading loft was glorious. But best of all was the thin, gray-haired, fiercely blue-eyed woman who was my teacher. Mrs. Johnston had a kind and open heart.

In her class, I learned to tie my shoes, to read and write. I also horribly failed cutting. I never could make that black dotted line disappear no matter how hard I tried. She loved  teaching art and giving us time to play. She was also one of the first adults I ever saw openly weep. Our art teacher that year had a heart attack while he was driving home from work and did not survive. As she told our class that he would not be coming back she couldn’t help but shed some tears. It is important to know there are people that care that much about other people.

My sister went on to be in her class and even after we moved away our family still exchanged Christmas Cards with her each year. The exchanging of cards and occasional letters continued every year, even when I was married and had my own family.

This year, four days after Christmas a letter came in the mail. A letter I was expecting, but at the same time had often feared the past three years. At eighty-two years old, Mrs. Ara Johnston had passed away. This summer she had a brain aneurysm and left our world for better one.

Mrs. Johnston's Obituary Photo
Mrs. Johnston’s Obituary Photo

I dreamt of her this summer. You know one of those dreams that seems so real that after you wake you can’t tell if it was a memory or a dream.

In the beginning of the dream I walked into a supermarket through a great wide opening and was blasted with a force of air as I crossed into the threshold of the store. I knew immediately I was in a King Super’s in Colorado. They have huge doors that slide back and stay open. As I was finishing up my shopping I noticed a woman with silver-gray hair in the check out line paying as a young man helped to bag her purchases. I knew exactly who she was without even having to see her face. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen her in 30 years; her kindness and belief in me left such an impression I knew I would always be able to recognize her effortlessly.

I contemplated walking up to her knowing she may not remember me. She taught for over 20 years. I remember thinking how many little faces she must have seen. But I knew I had to see her. So I walked up to her. She had that same sweet smile I remembered and she greeted me with a hearty hello.

She said she knew I was one of her students, but names always escaped her. She said she never forgot a face though and even remembered some of the outfits I had worn in her class. She talked about how she never really left teaching until she had to. She substitute taught after she retired. Always quick-witted, she made to sure to ask me if I had ever properly learned to use scissors. I assured her I had not; I was incapable of cutting a straight line. She gave me a hug and a hearty smile and said she had to be going.

Funny how I thought I would always see her again, but then of course I never did get the chance. Just in my dreams.

So many of the gifts in our life are the people who are put into it. Mrs. Johnston believed in me, as I am sure she did all her students, but I will always remember that she never gave up hope that I could learn something or master some skill. She always pushed me to excel and try more difficult tasks. My love of learning started in that classroom and has continued the rest of my life.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds…I bring everyone with me who has ever been kind to me…I have most certainly had rainbows in my clouds. The thing to do you see, is to prepare yourself to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud..to be a blessing to somebody.”

Ara Johnston was a rainbow in my cloud, she was a blessing.

Mrs. Johnston as I remember her
Mrs. Johnston as I remember her

Cherish your rainbows and prepare yourself to be a blessing to others; it truly is what matters most.

Love,

Me

 

 

 

11 years…

11 years…

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Recently at a therapy appointment, it came up that my 11th wedding anniversary was coming up. My therapist congratulated me and then asked, “Wow that is a little over a decade, is there anything you would do differently in those 11 years?”

I thought for a moment, because that is what you are supposed to do in therapy is really think about your answers. “No,” I said, “There is nothing that I would do differently. I miss teaching, but the job I have now has taught me so much about myself and provided so well for my family I am really grateful for it being a part of my life. So no I wouldn’t change a thing.”

She was pretty impressed that I wouldn’t do anything differently.

And I really wouldn’t.

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The 5 best things to ever happen to me happened in the past 11 years. My husband and my four babies.

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My husband, while he can infuriate me as all husbands are able to do to their wives, he is the best husband for me on the planet. I am so grateful to have him in my life. He is my best friend, a great husband and super dad.

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This man knows me better than I know myself. He knows when he has to get me food before I am HANGRY (hungry + angry). He knows if he needs to pick up dinner before I even call to see when he will be home. This man is truly awesome.

The other day he walked into our closet to see me sitting on the floor crying. He just looked at me with concern and I said, “I don’t think I can go out there today. I am not sure I can do this today.”

He just got down on the floor with me and wrapped his arms around me. After holding me for a minute he said, “Do you need a break?”, to which I nodded.

Without saying another word I knew he would find time for me to be one my own so that I could have that break.

He supports everything I do; he even follows my CRAZY BLOG. I love that man.

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So today 11 years after we said I do, I would do it all over again, exactly the same way in a heart beat.

I do

I love you sweet husband – thank you for the past 11 years – here’s to many more to come.

Love,

Me

Three years and a few months ago…

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 7.49.12 AMThree years and a few months ago I went in for an ultrasound and it confirmed what I already thought – I was having twins. We were excited but also scared and if anyone gave me two of the same outfit I couldn’t hold them both at once without starting to panic a bit. I knew this was going to be wonderful, but also really hard. I already had two older children, so it wasn’t my first rodeo but two at once was a bit overwhelming.

A few months later I had another ultrasound. This time I had to go to a fancy place where they could not only measure the baby, but also watch blood flow and who knows what else. Very high-tech.

Anyway I knew pretty quickly that something wasn’t right. The technician took forever taking measurements and looking and re-looking at the babies. When she was done they moved me into another room where my husband and I waited for the doctor. I was not ready for what came next. The doctor told us that there was a large percentage/chance that one of the twins had Down Syndrome. She stressed that I should get an amnio test that day and went through stats of how it was more likely that I was carrying a baby with downs than there was risk that an amnio would harm one of the fetuses. I didn’t want an amnio – what difference would it make? I was having the babies no matter what; wasn’t this information enough to prepare me in the event one of the boys did have Down’s? She continued to state that if I was refusing the amnio that I should most definitely speak with a genetic counselor. {6 years ago I had already done that with my first son – there is some genetic history of disorders so I had been down that road – I knew that discussion wouldn’t make a difference either.} I refused genetic counseling and made an emergency appointment with my doctor. My doctor is fabulous! She spoke to us and she knew my history and that I would be delighted to have any baby no matter the circumstances and she agreed that this information was enough to prepare me in the event that one of the babies did in fact have a genetic disorder. She saw no reason to have the amnio and that was that.

Two weeks later I was back in my doctor’s office. This time with labor pains and they did a test to see if I was in pre-term labor. By the time my husband and I arrived home the phone was already ringing – yes I was in pre-term labor and could I please go to the hospital so that they could monitor me over night. I was given medication to stop the contractions, monitored overnight and released with strict orders of bed rest. I was not happy about being bed-ridden, but I knew it was best. I stayed down and it was really hard – like lose your mind hard. I still was working – answering phone calls and emails, which probably saved me from actually going crazy. I moved to the couch in the afternoon because my mom came to stay with us until husband got home from work. It went fairly well until the Thursday of Memorial Day weekend. I was 27 weeks and I was having some pretty big contractions.

This time they admitted me to the hospital, began monitoring me right away and put me on magnesium. That stuff is awful. It feels like they are setting you on fire from the inside out. You pretty much feel like you are dying and everyone just walks around you like no big deal. During the first twenty minutes in the hospital, my doctor made me transfer my care to a different physician since she would be out-of-town and she was pretty sure I would deliver that weekend. The head of the NICU came to speak to us and told us about viability, statistics of prenatal infants and what their lives are like. We toured the NICU and there were 25 week old twins I was not allowed to see because mine would be a bit more developed. I peeked a transparent arm as they quickly wheeled me past and my brain filled in the picture from books that I had read; that started the tears. Every bassinet we passed the crocodile tears just rolled down my cheeks. Those babies and those super moms – women of steel that we passed put me in utter awe. They were so strong, and brave for those tiny babies. I couldn’t even meet their eyes I felt so guilty I was crying at their sweet little ones.

I had to hang on 5 more weeks, there was no more if ands or buts about it. I had to hang on and I had to get out of that hospital. First step – get off the magnesium.

I accomplished that within about 48 hours and when they weened me off the magnesium, the very first night I was mag free, I had crazy contractions. I didn’t even feel them, the nurse’s feet running down the hallway is what woke me up. She was shocked I was sleeping through them. She gave me a shot of something – I got a shot of this about every other day for weeks, so I can’t believe I forgot what it is called, but I forget. Anyhow, it slowed and eventually stopped the contractions. I spent Memorial Day weekend in the hospital and on through to the Wednesday after. They checked me out, no major contractions so they decided to send me home, with VERY SUPER-DUPER STRICT orders of bed rest. I was bedridden for 5 more weeks.

During that time I was sent to the hospital every other day for non-stress tests. At one of these appointments in my 32nd week I started having major contractions again and they felt that the babies were still better off on the inside so they gave me another one of those lovely shots and stopped my labor. It was that day that I lost it. I knew (you know how you know – our mommy-sense goes off and you just know something isn’t right) that something wasn’t right and that those babies had to be born. I cried and cried. I didn’t speak to my husband for the rest of the day because he had said that I had to go to the hospital and would not listen to me that something wasn’t right and that the babies needed to be born . Luckily I had my last ultra-sound appointment the next day. I knew this would prove what my mommy-sense was telling me.

Sure enough they took forever again examining the babies. The doctor came into see me and he asked if I had any major plans for that night and I said,”just delivering these babies, no hot dates for me!” He smiled and said it was time. One of my little ones had stopped growing roughly 2-3 weeks ago and the placenta was just about null and void of helping him survive. So off I went to the hospital. Relieved, but still knowing that we were not completely out of the woods yet.

Another saving grace – we knew I was going into labor soon the day before and the very smart nurse I had seen gave me a shot of a hormone that would help my boys breathe on their own if they were born early. Thank goodness for that nurse. I was prepped for a c-section even though we would only go that route if necessary – my doctor just wanted to be ready in the event that was necessary. Things went very smoothly for the most part – as smooth as they can go in labor, right?! Both boys were delivered. C-Man was born first. They laid him on my chest and right away he sighed. His sweet little body let out the biggest sigh. He had been the very, very squished twin and was a whole pound smaller than his brother it would turn out. He also had no circulation to one of his legs for some time on the inside, the lack of circulation was so great because he was so incredibly squished the doctor was afraid he would lose that leg for the first few days of his life. Z-Man arrived 9 minutes later and he was screaming – he was so irritated that he had been born. No wonder, he had a totally different experience. He had been growing fine, getting enough food and nutrients and not in the least bit squished. He was small, but in all other areas a healthy baby boy.

That was the wonderful beginning to being a twin mommy. Today there are no remnants of that crazy 8 months, maybe traces of their personality differences, but no physical signs of what their prenatal life was like.

Being their mom is a blessing. While currently listening to two-three year old’s temper tantrums makes me think I am losing my mind and would be better off on bed rest, their “bear” hugs at bed time, cuddles throughout the day, silly faces and hilarious antics make all the whining tolerable. So for mama’s of twins – I have mad, crazy respect for you.

Love

Me

The beginning…

I usually start in the middle and then work my way back to the beginning, and that is what I did here, too. I called my blog afourytale and then didn’t really explain why. My friends and family that read know that the four part is due to my four kiddos and then there is the quote that is inscribed on my wall “Once upon a time in an ordinary life, love gives you a fairytale.” I have a fourytale. Cheesy, but true.

Now don’t get me wrong, we had friends over for dinner last night and after they left, I looked at my sweet husband and I said, “Babe, we are seriously boring.” Now, normally I think boring is good – because boring to me means healthy, drama free, crisis free, trauma free life and that is good, that is what I want. But sometimes that also means that when I meet with people I don’t really have anything to talk about. Small talk is difficult for me…I have no idea what to say. I don’t watch the news on a regular basis, I am not a sports fan, I have no idea who Tory Burch is or what she makes, I buy wine at the supermarket and have no idea about what makes one better than the other, if you start talking finances my mind goes into a blurry freeze and I can’t comprehend past the third sentence, I work and raise four kids all day so I can talk about that – but that is pretty boring at a dinner party. Now, I am totally off topic, but I just wanted to keep it real – I have a beautiful, boring fourytale.

Back at the beginning, how this wonderful mess all started was a phone call. A desperate phone call from my college friend begging me to go on a camping trip with her. I had just moved into a new apartment (my very first one, all by my buying groceries on a credit card, big girl self) and was going to start my very first big girl teaching job in two weeks. Now I am the girl who read everything, studied everything and worked in college. So when she called and I was trying to prepare lessons and curriculum I told her I most definitely could not go on a camping trip with her and she said she would call me tomorrow.

Well, she did call the next day and wouldn’t take no for an answer. That Friday we drove up and to my surprise a handsome young man insisted on helping us put up our tent. My heart instantly knew that this was the boy – the one I was going to marry, but my head was screaming, “NO!” this can’t be right, not right now. Reason being I had just gotten out of a seven-year relationship and I just wanted to have a life of my own. Well needless to say that didn’t happen. That was the boy that I was supposed to marry and about a year and a half later, we did just that.

Friends and family came from all over and helped us celebrate our new life together.

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Rehearsal
getting ready, getting set
getting ready, getting set
Hitched
Hitched
Reception time!
Reception time!

I love the bottom picture because my parents are in the background – their love story made it possible for my love story. Pretty cool, I think.

It was at the rehearsal dinner that I truly realized that I was at the start of my very own love story. I looked around the room that night at the dinner and I saw my parents, my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents and I saw that they were all living beautiful love stories. My grandparents had started all this and their grandparents before them. My existence was due to a legacy of love stories. Love isn’t like you see it in the movies – love is getting married and taking in younger siblings because they need a better home, love is two young people moving away from home with two young children and finding their way together, love is going every day to visit a wife in a nursing home even when she can’t remember who you are, and now I was starting my own real life love story.

We have been married 10 years and have four kiddos. We live in suburbia with plain jane regular lives and it is good stuff. Marriage is not easy and parenting is even more difficult, but I still believe I have been given a gift of a fourytale. I guess that is what this blog is all about – the not so adventures of my fourytale…and that folks is the beginning.

My other sister

It was September of 1983, I had already spent two weeks in kindergarten and the only friend that I made (mind you I was only looking for one good friend) had moved to another kindergarten class. I of course thought I was destined to go through school all alone. On this particular day, Mrs. Johnston (the greatest kindergarten teacher on the planet) had us in circle time and from the side door entered a shy, blonde blue-eyed girl. It was love at first sight – that was my best friend; I just knew it. Mrs. Johnston asked for a volunteer to show her around and my hand shot up like those kids you see who are just bursting out of their chair to be picked. 

Thank the lord, she picked me. I got to be this girl’s buddy for the day and then as luck would have it she rode my bus home. Her mom was late picking her up from the bus stop that day and she had forgotten how to get home so she walked with my mom and I awhile until her mom found us and took her home. 

I remember thinking how great it would be that I would be able to walk to her house from mine. That is the day I met my very best friend.

Mrs. Johnston

For the next four years we would have sleep overs, talk about boys (we were beyond boy crazy by the 2nd grade), play Barbies, create clubs, and tell everyone that we were sisters. She was nicer than me, a better sharer, kinder, and gorgeous. She always tan with blonde hair and blue eyes was hard to miss. I had short brownish hair and hazel eyes with Irish white skin, but some people bought that we were related. I think it mostly had to do with the fact that we could finish each other’s sentences. 

We plotted about how I would marry her older brother when we grew up and then we would finally officially be related. She and I were inseparable; and then the summer before the fourth grade my dad took a job that was in California. 

Our family packed up and moved miles and miles away. In true best friend form she was happy for me and told me to send her pictures of all the celebrities that I was going to meet and we vowed to see each other every summer. 

I was angry – I didn’t speak to my parents for an entire year unless it was necessary. If you think I am exaggerating – I am sure my parents will vouch for me on this one.


I had trouble making friends or any good friends after we moved to California, again not their fault – totally mine. I kept looking for another soul mate, another sister and we all know those only come along once in a blue moon. 

She and I saw each other in the 5th grade when my dad had to fly back on business and he took me with him. I stayed with her family for the 5 or so days he was there on business. It was as if we had never been apart. We ate Mexican food until we were so stuffed we had to undo the top button of our pants, we laughed and giggled until we couldn’t keep our eyes open, and we were inseparable. 

Again, saying good-bye was like getting the wind knocked out of me. We saw each other again at my grandma’s house one summer and she came to visit us in California once, too. 

But from about 8th grade until our Senior year in high school we only wrote letters and talked on the phone and some of those years passed with very little contact at all. Money was tight for both of our families and flying to see each other was just out of the question. I thought about her every day; still do.


When she graduated from high school I was able to go visit. I stayed with her over a long weekend and it was as if we had never really been apart. I met her boyfriend and we laughed and planned our futures. 


She came to visit when I graduated high school and when she had to leave I begged her to move to California and go to school out here with me. She of course could not leave her family or boyfriend. Over our college years we didn’t see too much of each other either; until she was engaged. 

I flew out to help prepare for the wedding, get bridesmaid dresses, etc. She was so grown up – she had moved out of her house (I still lived at home) and I remember watching her iron his shirts for work the next day and thinking – she is ironing shirts, seriously ironing. I don’t iron anything and still don’t if I don’t have to. She of course, still irons everything. 

I came back a few months later for the bachelorette party and the wedding. They had just bought a house and I still remember thinking how grown up she was. I was in awe. I remember laying in the guest bedroom trying to fall asleep and hearing them laugh and talk. I was so happy for her; and even though at the time I had just graduated college and was engaged to my high-school sweetheart I wanted what she had. Seeing her life and all that she had accomplished made me want to find true love too, but that is another story for another time. The point is, she has always inspired me to be my best self. She was a gorgeous bride and it was a fun wedding.


A few years later she came to visit to help with my wedding, met me in Vegas for my bachelorette party and was there the day I got married. 

We visited each other after we had our babies. Even sending pictures of ultrasounds along the way.



She most recently came to visit after her divorce. My sweet, amazing husband – my other soul mate (I know, I am blessed – I got two in one lifetime) surprised me for my birthday and there she was at the front door. 

Again, even though it had been a few years – no time had passed – we fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. She looked amazing – she once again inspired me to get off my butt and lose weight. I have lost 20 pounds since her visit.


She is my sister, she is family to me. We are more than friends and I know she feels the same way. We often talk about how we have a hard time making friends outside of each other because we are looking for someone who lives closer to us that is like the other one of us. I won’t find another one of her and that is okay because I have her – she is my other sister. I truly believe that we are all given the relationships in our lives as gifts. Some teach us everything we don’t want to be and then others help us become the best version of ourselves. My very best friend, my other sister does that for me. Just by being herself and allowing me to bare witness to her triumphs and struggles helps me become the best version of myself.

Love you, A – you are my sister – always have been, always will be, no matter what.


**I apologize for the lack of editing – the kiddos are awake and I am going to have to just leave this one as is. 🙂 **

Dear Mom,

hearts

 

Tomorrow is a most special day. Tomorrow marks the day the world received a great gift. Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. So my post today is a letter to my mom.

Dear mom,

I am so glad that on your birthday you will be in one of your favorite places, a place with water, sand, and a drink in hand. I am also glad that you are there with such great people who love you and will celebrate you. Mom you are definitely the coolest mom – when people would ask if you were our older sister, they weren’t just being nice – you really looked like our sister, still do. I know you were a young mom and that was probably really scary; but it was pretty amazing to grow up with you. By watching you I learned to have fun, that hard work can make your dreams come true, how to be kind, and that love is amazing and also hard work.

Being a mom can be an ungrateful job. Raising three girls was not an easy job. I know we used to give you a hard time when we got a bit older you did not baby us when we were sick or hurt. Instead, you made us take care of ourselves. At the time it was difficult to understand, but now as a mom I am so thankful for that gift. Thank you.

This past October you ran two half-marathons in one month. What a treat to witness first hand your strength and crazy fitness. You whooped my butt up a hill and around a corner and then ran back time and again to cheer not only me on, but all those around you. Utter awe is the only way to describe it. You are an inspiration.

The other day I received the best compliment. I was out with friends and one of them took a double take and said, “whoa, I really thought I was looking at your mom for a second.” I want to be just like you. You are beautiful inside and out.

Being your daughter is an honor. You are the legacy of your parents and being a part of that is beyond a blessing. One of my favorite stories is the one you tell about saving your money to buy these fancy denim pants. You were so excited to wear them to school, but when you did you were told you had to go home and change. Your mom was so upset she called the principal and really let him have it. You are so much like your mom. You also have the same goofy sense of humor as your dad.

I hope this year is one of your best yet. May this year bring more memories, more hugs, more happiness than last year.

I love you mom,

me