Join Me at The Huffington Post Today!

I am so thrilled to be able to share some of our stories at The Huffington Post. Today, I’m sharing How We Told Our Son About His Autism. I would absolutely love for you to click through and join me. You can leave a comment or share with someone who might be encouraged by our story. Thanks, all!

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The Hindsight of Motherhood: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Looking Back


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We realized we were done having babies. Our youngest was almost five when I watched some men load up our crib and changing table into the back of a pickup truck. They drove away, carrying all my original plans with them. We’d always said we wanted three or four kids.

That night, I had a good cry and some good wine, and let go of my expectations. We counted our blessings. We had two amazing kids who daily taught us life lessons of love and faith and perseverance.

It was almost exactly one year later that I found out Abby was on her way.

We never expected a six-year age difference between our youngest kids. We would have never planned it that way. They say hindsight is 20/20 and I have definitely discovered some major benefits of having our last baby so much later.

1. Everything is more relaxed.
With our first two babies, schedule was king and every hour of our day was dictated. I found that I was homebound most of the time due to naptimes, playtimes, and mealtimes. Now that I’m older and wiser, I know I have the power to create flexibility. Also, I’ve seen the other side of the mountain. I’ve lived to see that truly, one day they really will sleep. Or be out of diapers. Or be able to face forward in the car. Or whatever my current frustration is. I know it’s just the briefest of moments in the grand scheme of things.

2. Going along with #1, I’m not as rigid in my thinking or expectations.
There is freedom in knowing that I don’t know it all. And it’s okay that I don’t know it all. I don’t think I even want to know it all. Each kid is so unique and one method will work beautifully for one and not at all for another. I’ve actually saved myself quite a few headaches in approaching baby #3 as a blank slate. We’re learning what works best for us together.

3. Kids are stinkin’ resilient.
In my early days of motherhood, I was completely convinced I was screwing up so badly that my kids would never recover. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, you name it. Now that I’ve been mothering for almost a decade, I’ve learned that my kids are just awesome in spite of me. God is on His throne and my stupid mistakes in parenting are not going to thwart His plans for my babies. I just have to show up every day and do the best I can and He’s got it covered.

4. It really does take a village.
I once worried almost daily about each kid getting his or her “share” of me. I just knew for sure that I was failing at fully meeting any one of my children’s needs. Guess what? I was. One human being cannot be the ultimate meeter of needs for any other human being. We are not created that way. We have to delegate. I always thought the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” was all about the kid, but it’s just as much about the village. It’s a beautiful, mutually beneficial balance.

5. If parenting is hard then you’re doing it right.
I’m planning a whole separate post just on this point. Parenting is hard. Sometimes it hurts. There are countless, priceless, golden moments scattered like diamonds throughout this parenting journey. There are also moments when you feel like banging your head against the wall because you’ve doled out the same consequences for the same offenses over and over. It takes a lot of work to be consistent. It’s frustrating and exhausting. If it were easy, you’d be doing it wrong.

What hindsight would you add? Share in the comments!

Dear New Autism Mama

Dear New Autism Mama,

You’ve never met me, but I think we might know each other a little. If you come sit next to me for a bit, you’ll find we have something in common.

You see, I’ve been there.

It probably started with a funny feeling. I know that feeling. It almost feels like a little flip of your tummy. That odd feeling leads to questions that you’re not quite ready to ask out loud just yet. And you worry if you give a voice to your fears, they might become real.

When you finally found the courage to release those fears you once guarded and protected, you might have found they were disregarded, belittled even. You might have been told you’re overreacting. You might have heard you’re paranoid. Attention-seeking. He’ll outgrow it. He just needs discipline. We’ve heard it all, haven’t we?

Then you probably entered No Man’s Land. That frustratingly long time between the first tug on your mommy’s instinct until you have an answer. For me, this was the worst part. You now know you’re a part of something different, but you’re not completely sure just what it might be. You do a lot of soul-searching. You do a lot of research. You consume every book and article you can get your hands on. You begin to see your sweet baby in a new light. No, he hasn’t changed. But his whole life will flash before your eyes. You’ll begin to get acquainted with the idea. You’ll want to reach out to people who get it. You’ll want to hear their stories and tell yours. But you won’t have an exact answer yet. You might feel like you need a membership card that you haven’t been given yet…

To read more of this open letter or to share it with a friend who might need to hear she’s not alone, please click through to visit Chronically Whole! I am honored to be sharing some words over there today. http://chronicallywhole.com/606-2/

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Feeling like a hot mess? Come sit by me!

Now that I’ve been a mom for almost ten years, I’ve finally figured out how to spot fellow mamas in the wild. You will know us by the circles under our eyes. Just kidding. Sorta.

Seriously though, on so many days, I feel like I have been sent to earth on a mission from God to help moms feel better about themselves.  

Not so much in a precious and encouraging way (although I would love that) but more of an at-least-I’ve-got-it-together-better-than-that-woman kinda way. Each one of us is a hot mess in our own right. I just tend to be more messy and not at all hot.  

So if you’re a stressed out mom and you’re looking to feel a bit better about yourself, here are a few ways I can help you out with that.    

You are not alone if…

You’ve ever had to do the walk of shame from the very back of Target, carrying a 35-pound three-year-old having a total meltdown because he can’t have the $75 Thomas track set. Now your picture is up as a BOLO in the security office.

Your kids have ever come running up to you from the sandbox to show you the buried treasure they found. Unfortunately, it’s not really, really old Play-Doh. (*cough*cat poop*cough*)

playground surprise blog
They aren’t kidding with that whole cover-the-sandbox suggestion.

Your two-year-old daughter has screamed her head off for 20 miles because it is totally unjust that she is not able to pee out of the open door of the minivan.

You’ve missed an appointment because your kids have played hide-and-seek with your car keys. And they are very, very good at hide-and-seek.

Your date nights have gone from candlelit dinners and romantic moonlit strolls to a turkey potpie with a beer and a Redbox. And you’re so grateful for them!

Sometimes jail seems like it might actually be a vacation. Well. The Martha Stewart kinda jail. Not that Scared Straight jail. Yikes.

You’ve worn yoga pants and running shoes to school drop-off at least three mornings this week but you haven’t stepped foot in a gym in eight months.

For your last birthday, all you really and truly wanted was to sleep past 8 am.

whiskers timeout blog
They were laughing right after this pic so don’t feel too sorry for them. I just love Grace’s face. It’s like she’s trying to send him a message with her eyes. “Just play it cool, man. Play it cool!”

When your kids draw whiskers and stripes all over each other’s faces in semi-permanent marker, you’ve learned how to simultaneously put them in time out and take pictures.

You know that, even after enduring the pain of childbirth, stepping on a Lego can make you want to cuss like a sailor and cry like a baby.

You could happily survive on coffee and wine alone.

You know that no matter how tired, cranky, or stressed out you may be, you wouldn’t trade being their mom for anything in the whole world!

(But you sure wouldn’t turn down a little vacation. Just sayin’.)
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More Than I Can Handle


more than i can handleSo I know this isn’t any kind of newsflash for you, but life is hard.

When we’re growing up, we imagine how our lives might be.  I was one of those realistic kids.  I’d seen my mom, in particular, overcome some tremendous hardships in her life.  I knew that life would have its ups and downs.

I knew that chances were high that we might struggle with jobs or finances or kids or our health.

I guess even with all my realism, I didn’t really expect to struggle with all of them.  At the same time. We are very blessed in many ways.  I know that and I’m very grateful for each and every one. But so many times, even with all our blessings, it can all seem completely overwhelming.

“Oh honey. Bless your heart. Remember God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

We’ve all heard that, right?

Well guess what?

It’s crap.

God gives us more than we can handle all the time.

One day a few years ago, when both of our cars were falling apart and the bank account was in the red and my RA was flaring and we seemed to run out of everything at once and autism had me out behind the woodshed again and Jake was gone 24/7 for school, I found myself sobbing on the floor in the kitchen.

Overwhelmed.

Broken.

It was more than I could handle.

And I sat on the kitchen floor and I cried out to God for help. For mercy. For comfort. For peace.

And that’s when I (eventually) realized that, of course, this is more than I can handle. I was never meant to handle it alone. It was time for me to humble myself and admit that I couldn’t do this on my own.

I hope you’re not thinking that this story ends here with my admission suddenly causing things to magically fall into place and bring about a sudden reward for having learned my lesson. Maybe it happens that way in the movies. Not in real life.

I begged God for some kind of encouragement or special word that would show me that He heard my desperate appeal.

It didn’t happen that way. Instead? Different Bible verses popped into my head. Scripture that talked about God’s promises of peace, hope and His plan for our lives. But still…Instead of me suddenly feeling all better with the warm fuzzies, it was more like if I repeated them enough, they would eventually take root.

I realized this was one of those times when my faith is shown by choosing to believe it. Even when I don’t necessarily feel it. And I was reminded that one of the reasons I need to study the Word is so those promises and reassurances are somewhere in my stressed-out brain when I find myself overwhelmed and broken.

I love this song by BarlowGirl that says, “I cry out with no reply and I can’t feel you by my side so I’ll hold tight to what I know…You’re here and I’m never alone.”

Faith isn’t always about feelings. It’s about choosing to believe even when (especially when?) those feelings aren’t there.

I don’t have it all figured out. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that we’re never done learning.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

That’s another one that I’ve heard quite a bit. And the truth is that I don’t do it. I couldn’t possibly. Not by myself.

I hope this post hasn’t come across as preachy because that’s not how it’s meant and I’m definitely in no position to preach. I just hope it might possibly be a small encouragement to someone else who might find herself sobbing on the kitchen floor.

If that’s you today, take a few minutes to listen to this song and breathe. Because no matter how strong we are, we’ll never be strong enough to do this whole life thing on our own.  And we don’t have to be.

 

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Roller Coaster

Step right up, folks, and I’ll tell you the tale of the biggest (emotional) roller coaster I’ve ever experienced. There are extreme highs and sudden drops, with lots of loops and twists thrown in for fun. You must be this high to ride.

It all started about a month ago with two (highly unexpected) itty bitty pink lines. How unexpected? Well, the last of our baby stuff was hauled away over a year ago. Once we picked our jaws up off the floor, we were thrilled, of course.

I’m somewhat of an oversharer (not exactly a shock, I know) so keeping a secret this big was going to be super hard for me. So I began to journal little blurbs to have an outlet. Here’s a little bit of what I wrote after a week of expecting:
“So many nerves this time around! We’ve had some time to get used to this new idea. I’m excited. Attached. And that makes me so nervous. I’ve had two healthy pregnancies. Statistically speaking, am I due for my share of heartache? It seems that for every happy ending you hear about, there are nine horror stories. It’s not fair for me to be exempt. Praise God for grace. Just have to walk one day at a time, trusting in Him no matter what.”

Then this was written a few days later:
“Dear Baby, Your life is so precious. We thought we were done but God had a different plan. He meant for you to be. Your tiny heart is starting to beat. It beats for the glory of the Lord. Your very existence is such a gift.”

Four days later, as we were getting ready for a dinner party, I began to miscarry. Once my mind registered what was happening, my heart sank to my toes and I began to sob. I knew there couldn’t be any hope. We were advised to go to the ER to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. This is what I wrote that long, horrible night:
“The ceiling tiles needed cleaning. There was a cobweb dangling over me like a crib mobile. The tech apologized for the warmth of the room but I felt like I was frozen through. A tear slipped silently down my cheek and into my ear as they discussed KFC’s latest chicken creation. The ultrasound wand was heavy on my abdomen as if it carried the weight of my fear. It pressed hard against the still, quiet place where you were. Instead of the relief that comes with the sudden rhythmic whirring, there was only the silence. The sound of our hearts breaking.”

Once the official report came from the radiologist, a big tough doctor brought us into this little room where he told us that I had miscarried. They could see the beginnings of a pregnancy but there was no heartbeat. He looked terrified that I would burst into tears on him. I felt like I was already cried out. For now. I was to follow up with my OB in a couple of days to make sure everything was progressing as it should.

This was from my follow-up:
“Sitting in the OB’s waiting room in the furthest corner I can find. The isolation doesn’t protect me from happy, rounded bellies and cheerful ultrasound photos. I wait. Try not to let the tears fall. Try to sink into the floor and disappear. Please call my name. Let me get this over with. Put it behind me. Move on. Can I? I’m still so queasy. Unfair… Dry mouth. Hands shaking. Trying to chug water from bathroom sink. Hands still shaking. Feeling sick… Waiting in the room for the doctor to talk to me. There’s a large painting of a raccoon staring at me… Still waiting. Raccoon is still watching to see if I’ll cry. The ultrasound is next… Nothing has changed. There’s still no heartbeat but I’m leaving with more questions than answers. The OB isn’t ready to call it a lost cause. I have to wait for the phone call tomorrow to tell me what my HCG numbers are doing. I’m afraid to hope. My chalkboard at home is a huge drawing of the word HOPE. I don’t believe in coincidence.”

That night, I had a long drive from my parents house back to my home. It was a rare solo drive and I had the song, Oceans, on repeat. After I sobbed it out, I cried out to the Lord to breathe life into our baby and to help our teeny tiny one grow. I spent the entire drive in prayer. I kept remembering what I had written the week before. “Your heart beats for the glory of the Lord.” I had to come to a hard place of realization that God would be glorified even if baby’s heart never beat. My heart would be broken, but I would still praise my God. A peace came over me that I cannot explain. This child was God’s idea. His gift to us. As hard as it was to let go, I had to mentally release this baby back to God. This little life was in His hands all along.

The next day, the only words I could get onto paper were these:
“Waiting for The Call. For this child I have prayed. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

A nurse called at the very end of that Friday. My numbers had not doubled as they had hoped. But they had increased. If they had decreased, then we would have known it was a loss and we’d be waiting for the next step. But they had gone up. The nurse warned me not to get my hopes up but to come in for another ultrasound on Tuesday.

From Tuesday:
“It’s time for the ultrasound. What will we see? Lori’s kind voice is extra sweet today. She remembers the limbo we were left with the last time I was here. The bed raises until I can almost touch the ceiling. I grip Jake’s hand tighter and try to control my breathing. The screen turns on. Lori gasps and almost giggles, “We have a heartbeat!!!” We turn to the screen. There is a beautiful, glorious flickering. The tears once again stream down my face and into my ear. She allows me the moment I need to totally lose it. We have a heartbeat. Baby’s heart is beating steady and strong. We are speechless. Basking in the grace and mercy of our mighty God who is writing one heck of a story for this little one. Glory be to our God.”

We’re having a baby.

Mommy Groups & Cinderella

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the story of Cinderella.

Here was this girl who had a rough go of it but she worked hard and followed all the rules and her life turned out happily ever after. She made it seem so easy.

As a teenager, I assumed if I worked hard and followed all the rules, my life should turn out happily ever after, too.  Makes total sense, right?

(I know, I know. Quit laughing.)

These days, when the dishes and the laundry are piled up and there’s some unidentifiable stain on my clothes and I have to think really hard to remember if I brushed my teeth this morning, I wanna throw something at Cinderella. Seriously. Even during her floor-scrubbing days, she looked perfectly lovely and was always ready to try on new shoes.

I think Mommy Groups can be a lot like Cinderella.

When I first walked into my MOPS group, I was such a mess.  I felt like I was failing at just about every aspect of my life. Just that morning, I had yelled at my kids, snapped at my husband, and the dishes from last night’s fairly unhealthy convenience meal were still in the sink.

The ladies I met that Wednesday morning were very welcoming and sweet, but I honestly considered not going back.  They were all so put together.  They all had real clothes on.  And smelled nice.  It sounded like their families were perfect.  Being there, in the presence of these moms, confronted the idea I’d been clinging to that no mom was perfect and no one had it all together.  Because these women obviously did.

They were just like Cinderella.

I am so glad that I eventually decided to go back.  Within a few meetings, I began to get to know their stories.  These women who seemed so perfect?  They had the same fears I did.  They felt the same sense of failure.  They had overcome hardships, too.  Once our walls came down, the relationships were built up and bonds were formed.

I took another look at Miss Cinderella.

Now, I like to imagine her with mashed carrots stuck in her tiara and the royal diaper genie overflowing. I wonder if her daily mom uniform would be a pair of yoga pants with “Princess” bedazzled across the seat. I’ll even admit to giggling at the idea of that beautiful glass carriage with cheerios smashed into the upholstery.

I bet she might have even felt kind of alone while Prince Charming was off running the kingdom.  She probably only had her two step-sisters around to give her the amazing parenting advice that comes so easily to people without children.

Real life is not a fairy tale. Not even close. Real life is messy. It’s hard. And it can be lonely.

This is what I love about MOPS and why I feel it is so incredibly important in the life of a mom. When we can connect with other women who are experiencing the same unique season of life and are fighting the same battles and asking the same questions, we begin to see we’re not alone in this.  We are given the opportunity to look around the room and see that we have sisters with us in the trenches of motherhood.  Despite my mess, I know we all have our messes, and together, we can support and encourage each other.

A good mommy group will provide a safe place to tear down walls and reveal the vulnerability hidden there, allowing us a chance to say, “Me, too!” and then relationships are built from the ground up. But we have to be willing to go to that sometimes scary place of honest reality.

Mommy groups have the potential to be absolutely life-changing. But whether for the better or for the worse, I learned, is up to me.

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