Thursday, November 29, 2012

The answer is yes.

A while ago, my friend’s husband asked her, “Does Chelsea have problems with her kids or something, that she needs to go away so much?”

I think I’m still reeling from the comment, because for weeks I’ve been seeking rationalization, and self-justification, building a defense against what was probably just an off hand comment he hasn’t even thought of since. He's a nice guy, she's seen me through the last 10 years of my life...nothing was meant to offend, but it struck a chord that's vibrated slightly ever since.

So after all the turmoil of trying to honestly acknowledge my motherly motivations, relentlessly examining my deepest desires, and cross examine my weaknesses, analyzing whether I have indeed let my priorities get messed up,  the way his comment implied—the question remained:
Do I have problems with my kids?

The answer…at 4:02 this morning, as I wandered through the house turning off all the lights Aaron had switched on before I locked him in his room because it’s the third night this week and tonight I just can’t do it…. is yes. 
I do. I have problems.

And maybe those problems seemed a bit large this morning because it’s that lovely time of year when Family Support for Children with Disabilities (AKA the keepers of the government funds) requires parents to submit all these lovely reports detailing just how crappy their lives are---even though that’s exactly what we spend every day trying not to do, because we know if we spent even a moment dwelling on the negative it will sink us. 

But we have to justify the funds and so yesterday I got to sit for an hour and a half and delve into the darkness that I keep tucked away somewhere near my gut, 
a safe distance from my heart.

Two of my champions sat with me. Adele and Deanna. My go to's. The one's I text when Aaron says a good guttural "G" , or uses "No" unprompted. I try and share every little triumph with them because they deserve to know them all because they love and work so very hard for my child, right along with me.  My “in the trenches people”, who write the reports back to those perhaps once knew war, but have long since forgotten amidst their mere paperwork battles.

So with my Adele, my heaven sent speech path dutifully translating my "mommy suffering babblings" into professional lingo all neat and tidy and typed,  I let the ugliness ooze out, 
a mix of pain and relief, like finally popping a ripe zit.

“I don’t sleep.”

Parent requires support in logging and interpreting sleep data of child, and developing strategies to increase duration of nighttime slumber, possibly through medication.

The reality? He’s not gonna sleep. Probably ever.  Acceptance is sometimes a better path than programming.

“Oh, speaking of crap.I regularly scrub poo out of my carpet. “
Should be doing it right now in fact.

Parent requires assistance in helping child learn toileting routines, including wiping so that he will cease using socially unacceptable forms of relieving rectal debris. 

Show parental need. It’s the latest trend in the hoops we’re required to leap.

Now I feel guilty. I’m grateful I have help, I’m grateful there’s so much  assistance.
I met a mom once who raised her autistic blind son in Jamaica, where a doctor diagnosed him and that was it.

“I cried every day” she told me in her thick accent, “and when I move here and get help…I remembered what it was to have happiness.”

I get it.  I’m blessed.

But at 4 am, sometimes in my exhaustion,  the blessings I cling to in the daylight, seem to elude my sleepy grasp.

And I find myself angry, thinking about that silly comment, the one I’ve tried so hard to ignore, because I know it wasn't intended to hurt me.

But do I have problems with my kids? (the question hangs at the back of my mind under the Christmas shopping list)
The answer is yes.
You bet ya!
As this blog proclaims, this is the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm not a mother who's maternal instincts throbbed in her since girlhood, that settled into your domestic role content and utterly fulfilled ..I wish I was. Because I do know this challenge is exactly what I'm meant to do. 
Do I have problems, hard days and nights where I feel like an utter failure? Yuppers!
Do I not love them? No.
Do I not want everything in the world for them? Of course.
Could I use a break? Pretty sure most moms could.

My one friend talks a lot about exit strategies, that if we know how long something will last it’s easy to give ourselves to it, ie dad’ll be home at 6, we can do it. We just have to survive until 6!

She’s the one, that when I was lamenting (long before the comment) that I felt guilty that Ben and I did go away pretty regularly, said, “Of course you do! Other parents can look forward to that once the kids are gone, and you’re just doing it along the way, because that magical day of having no dependents might never come.”

Oh how I’ve clung to that.

So why then, has this other comment stuck with me? So much so, that tonight when Aaron came to tug at my hair for an hour, I felt this rebuttal well up inside my mind, until I had to start typing because sleep (however needed) was out of the picture.

Anger is a secondary emotion. I’m not angry I’m….hurt.
Hurt because my number one fear (probably one that subconsciously drives this very blog) is that people will think I’m a bad parent.

And when he said that, it felt like my fear was confirmed.

My naked child jumping on the trampoline when there’s snow on the ground
Bad mother.

The fact that I want to have my friend over but her sons peanut allergy terrifies me, because regularly in the middle of the night Aaron makes our house look like their was a massacre of peanut butter people, and though I wipe away the smeared peanutu hand prints, I’m scared the very air is contaminated.
Bad mother.

Child lunch consists of raw hotdogs and rice cakes.
Bad mother.

Child doesn’t sleep at night.


And somedays I am a bad mother.
Maybe even tomorrow, cuz maybe I should have tried to go back to sleep instead of writing this.

So ya, we go on vacation.

But I think we all do. Whether it’s a bubble bath, or a half an hour stowed away with a book during naptime, or a girls night, or 30 seconds sitting on a toilet lid, with your foot against the door to keep the 3 foot bundles of whiny needs at bay for even just a moment. Some women craft, or bake, or exercise and it’s enough to detach them enough to go back in full force. And sometimes apparently I need a whole plane ride to achieve that.

I completely believe Sister Beck's counsel that
“A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence.”
I also love the interviews she does on the topics of "Finding Balance"  and "Leisure Time".

The irony is I spend so much of our actual vacation time talking Bens ear off, asking his input on this situation with the kids, or this goal direction with Aaron. I write about the kids, and think about the kids and I step back and remember how much I truly love being a mom.

I know all the sandy beaches in the world could not give me the kind of satisfaction this impossible demanding job of mothering does. 
But sometimes they offer just the right opportunity to remember that!

And I know if we couldn’t go “away”, I would find another way to re-focus and re-group. 
But we can and we do. (I'm sure the fact that  Ben has a hard time containing his demanding job factors into that as well.)

So away we go. And I take my guilt with me, packed beside my flip flops and my  copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's “Gift From the Sea” 

I take it every time--that beautiful, short little book of wisdom, written by a women who went on  “vacation”.

She just puts it so well.
“Even purposeful giving must have some source that refills it. The milk in the breast must be replenished by food taken into the body. If it is women’s function to give, she must be replenished too. But how? 
Solitude, says the moon shell. Every person, especially woman should be alone some time during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and how impossible of attainment. To many women such a program seems quite out of reach they have no extra income to spend on a vacation for themselves; no time left over from the weekly drudgery of housework for a day off; no energy after the daily cooking, cleaning and washing for even an hour of creative solitude. Is this then only an economic problem? I do not think so. Every paid worker, no matter where in the economic scale, expects a day off a week  and a vacation a year. By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class. They rarely even complain of their lack, apparently not considering occasional time to themselves as a justifiable need. Herein lies one key to the problem. If women were convinced that a day off work or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. Ass it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they rarely make the attempt…. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets aside time for business appointments, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it—like a secret vice!” 
I wonder is Mrs Lindbergh had people questioned her “getting away.”

She is so right though! How many dentist appointments have I looked forward to, just because I could sit in quiet? Even our vacations, serve double duty---they’re for Ben's work, or with friends, or even with each other. How sometimes I long to not just hang up my “mother” hat but my “wife” one as well. Ben's traveling log ago converted me to the old adage that absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

Like unnoticed negative space that makes a painting, or the unheard silence in a symphony, it is the principle of opposition in all things--
that my being without my family (even at 4 am) makes me appreciate being with them again.

Ironically, Aaron is so good at it.
He knows he needs time alone.
So he takes it, usually around 4 am.

And indirectly, I get it too. He gives me an excuse.
“Up with Aaron”, really means justifiable solitude.

And Aaron comes back from his solitude, ready to snuggle. 
For, despite all his supposed social lack, sometimes I think he has some things figured out and simplified better than the rest of us.  
Love fiercely those who matter—including yourself.

Speaking of trips and Aaron.... 

We booked a trip to Disneyland!!!
Me, Ben and Aaron.

And every time I think about it, I cry.
Because as hard as all these quarterly goal meetings, yearly assessment of needs reports, IPP's and special needs financial  planning information sessions are on me…it’s his life.
All these goals I think its so much work to manage …he actually has to do!

So when I think about him seeing a life-size Buzz Lightyear or walking into Cars land for the first time,  squealing with delight (because I know he will) tears of joy inevitably well.

And even though it’s a very public place and Aaron might do lots of thing that might get us a few  “look at those bad parent” looks,

his smiles will be enough to combat it all.

We use to do this exercise in yoga, where we would visualize a place of peace and happiness. It was suppose to relax us.

And guess what? I never once conjured up a sandy beach or a single palm trees.

All I ever saw was Aaron smiling. 
Not the pure, innocent smile of bliss, I anticipate seeing in Disneyland.

But a knowing, thankful smile.

As I sat their in sukhasana, with tears streaming down my face (I did a lot of crying in yoga) having visions of my son, I didn’t necessarily picture the Savior but I always felt like He was there, watching me watch Aaron.

And I feel like He had a knowing, thankful smile too.

So ya, I have problems, we all do. 
We never really “get away” from them.  
There’s no airline that flies that far.

But whatever we can do to connect to our Savoir, that is what will really makes the difference. He is the real provider of peace and reassurance. It is only He who truly justifies any of us, because He is the only one that truly understands our whole story, who knows us well enough to judge us, with complete understanding and thereby perfect compassion. He who will purify us, and eventually take away all the pains and hurts that tend to apparently resurface at 4 in the morning.

Will it all be okay?
Because of Him, 
the answer is yes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Levi Turns 2!

 Mostly I think I'm just gonna post pics of his fun party...for a nice sentimental post about my "little" Levi you can read here.

 Cute little vintage circus cup cake toppers, inspired the whole "Big Top Birthday".  Cupcakes as usual.

Levi helping out with party prep.

 He really is just so much fun.

As I was helping him get ready to blow out candles, I had a very special moment where I looked out between all the circus decor and cupcakes and saw what Levi saw:
The faces of so many people who love him.
Kids adults, family, friends, all excited and smiling and levi the center of it all.
In that quick moment, with waxy candles burning birthday smells,
I was overwhelmed by all the love my Levi is the recipient of. Lucky Levi.

It made me think of our sealing. How when I came into the sealing room in my wedding dress, holding Ben's hand, thinking I couldn't be happier, that the moment the door opened and i took in all the faces  totally overwhelmed by seeing so many people who know and love me, who I know and love back.
I thought, Oh Levi, you have so may more of these love filled moments awaiting you.

I don't think it's just Levi's lushus thighs and mischievous grin, that make people want to coo and cuddle him (though right now he really, truly gives thee best hugs in the world!!! his pudgy toddler arms just the right length to squeeze around your neck and make the cares of the world melt away)

No, I think Levi will always draw people to him. 

He has a fearlessness about life, and the ability to quickly grab at fun. Even amid being pestered by his older brother, he can suddenly see the chance to turn it into a game, like pixie dust, his exuberance can transform whimpers into giggles.
He is so secure in himself and his relation to others. Even as confident as McKye is in his abilities, he still regularly tests our devotion to him by begging us to assist him with this or watch him do that, begging us to prove just one more time that we love him(oh we're sooo similar!).
Levi on the other hand, seems to have this assumption that he will be adored.
And so far he's been right.
 Levi is so fiercely independent, even things I know he really can't do he refuses to let me help, and demands "I do!" His self-initiated potty-training has convinced me he'll never be one to sit around and wait for things to happen...why? when he can just make them happen!
He's so resilient, whether he's rolling up unscathed from an encounter with the pavement, or forgiving yet another brotherly offence.. he is thick skinned physically and emotionally, but still tender enough to notice and empathize just as quickly as he is to make a daring, trust-filled leap off the counter into my arms. Ah, trust. That's it.

He trusts. He trusts himself to be capable and others to be kind. He trusts kisses to sooth sores and sorries. He trusts that there is always something worth getting excited about and people to meet his needs (even though, ironically he's had to be much more patient as the poor third child!) He trusts his capacity to learn and to notice and to figure things out, on his own if needs be. He trust his strength, to climb(anything!), to get the milk jug himself, to win a skirmish over a toy.
He trusts things to work out and life to be good, and "bah bahs" to be warm and books to be read.
Such trust may just come with the territory of toddlerhood. But I think it's a bit more than that.
And I hope, dear Levi, you can always keep that trust
that life is good
that others are good
that you are good.

My good, happy boy. Happy birthday Levi!
love Mom.

Huh, I was just gonna post pictures, wasn't I? Opps.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dear McKye

McKye just turned 4 a few weeks ago. 

It's been a magical age. 

First of all, I'm glad he consented to go through with it-- seeing that in the months leading up to his birthday he informed us that he didn't want to turn 4 at all and would just rather stay 3. 

"No, I stay fee," he'd state, with his little end of story voice.

Now he regularly does things we've been trying to get him to do forever, and announces, "I four." like its' the most obvious, self-explanatory explanation in the world.

"I swim by myself now... I four."
"I pee standing up...I four."
"I do up my coat myself...I four."

Seems to be no end to his newly acquired four-year-old-skills!

"I good at rock band...I four."
"I like pizza now...I four." (a great relief  because who wants to go through life not liking piza.?!?!)

Right around his birthday, I thought about a letter I wrote him when he was little. Then I panicked when I couldn't find a copy of it. After booting up an old laptop that wouldn't connect to the internet, and has a broken SD slot, I ended up transferring it directly onto a hard drive--all a little bit too much effort (does the constant changing technology give anyone else intense stress concerning the preservation of our family memories??? How many VHS tapes do we keep saying we're gonna get put on DVDs, but them we realize, we hardly even use DVDs anymore!) Anyways, I told myself, you need to get that on your blog as a nice back up.

So here it is:

Dear  McKye,
I’ve felt impressed to write this letter for sometime. Now with another baby on the way, I felt even more that I needed to take the time to explain to you how much you have blessed our family. As a write this you are barely 18 months, an active happy toddler, who we have just loved getting to know. But I want you to understand this is more than a description of you as a child, because a lot of what I’d like to share has come not just from observing you in our home, but from deep and sacred spiritual impressions about who you truly are, and who you have always been—a spirit child of our Heavenly Father’s specifically chosen to come to our family at a very specific time, to serve a very specific purpose.
Many of these feelings came to me, before you were even born. The summer I was pregnant with you, we were coming to terms with your brother’s lack of development. He had been “my little buddy” for two years, and I could not imagine loving anyone more, until I heard your heart beat, and felt your little body fluttering inside me.  And then I knew that with each child, the Lord endows us with more and more love—His  love. You may have already heard me say this, but a parent’s love is different. Romantic love is powerful and has the potential to be eternal but within it there is an element of choice. I choose to continue loving your father each and everyday. But with you, with all my children, this is different. There is NO choice. I can not help but love you, with a love so intense and strong, that sometimes it is overwhelming.
My overwhelming love and hopes for Aaron were threatened as we began assessing his abilities and coming to terms with the fact that he was not developing in a typical way. Although we were already quite sure, the official diagnosis that he had autism was not made until the day I was in labour with you.

The Lord has interesting timing.

But as I said, many feelings had already come to me before that time.
Now Aaron had been an extremely difficult baby, and I admit I was scarred to undergo the type of sleep deprivation and just hard times that your brothers’ infancy had brought, but deep down I felt the Lord reassuring me that this baby—you—would be different. I thought maybe I was just hoping, until one day when I asked your father to give Aaron a blessing before one of his first formal assessments.
In that blessing your father spoke of Aaron’s brother, you-- and we were told that you were indeed being sent here for a special reason to help take care of and provide for Aaron’s needs. Even as a baby you have already started to fulfill that mission. 

Aaron needs acceptance, and in your innocent, loving way you have never looked at him as strange or different, just as Aaron your brother. You smile at him, and try and give him hugs and kisses, regardless of his reactions. You look up to him and copy him, even if his behaviors are strange.  You love him, with an unconditional love that is beautiful to watch, and that teaches us all.

It was immediately after that blessing that I went to my scriptures with a distinct impression that I was to find you a name that had to do something with being a brother (we’d picked out McKye already but were still undecided about a middle name).  I search the bible dictionary, thought of Moses and Aaron,  but a picture of Joseph Smith with his brother Hyrum kept coming into my mind.  So I googled the meaning of Hyrum.

“My brother is exalted”. 

I knew instantly that your name was to be Hyrum McKye.

In a book I read about siblings of autistic kids, there was one  study done to determine siblings understanding of their brother or sisters diagnosis.  The researchers describes:
“I asked her what autism was. Suzett sadly explained that it meant her brother “doesn’t even know what angles are.” Although I was a bit taken back by this answer. I proceeded with the interview. “Is there anything else you can tell me about autism?”Suzzett thought about it for a moment and then responded, “Yes, the angels help him anyway.”

I want you to know YOU are one of the angels sent not just to help Aaron, but to help our entire family. You can not imagine the joy we felt as we watched you learn to talk and imitate and even when you learned to mirror my “you know you shouldn’t do that” face. Every little milestone you took so easily and naturally was not lost on us. You were AMAZING! We would work with Aaron on something for months and you would just “pick it up” right away.  We were in awe.

You of course came with your own set of challenges. You had your own little will…a strong one. You could  know you weren’t suppose to do something and do it anyway, the whole time looking for our reaction! Unlike Aaron, you wanted to interact with us, and sought our attention constantly. You also wanted to interacted with other children, and I watched as you were shy or embarrassed, and feared the days of jr. high and high school, with their inevitable struggles to try and belong and feel accepted.  But with all the heartache, you will have more joy as well. You will get to serve a mission and marry. To set goals and achieve them, to make friends, and create a family.

There is something sacred I need you to remember. At times when it doesn’t feel fair, or you feel that maybe it would be easier to just have a “normal” brother so that not as much would be expected of you, remember this: Aaron chose to sacrifice for our family. There are things we, his parents and you, his siblings needed to and could ONLY learn from our association with him. Lessons and attributes that will help us return to our Heavenly Fathers presence. “You brother is exalted” but he also gave up a regular mortality so members of this family could learn what we needed, to be exalted too.

There was a book I read right after Aaron was diagnosed, called “George and Sam” about two autistic brothers, written by their mom. The last paragraph described a conversation she had with her third and only neuro-typical son. He had somehow been exposed to the concept of reincarnation and was working it through talking to his mom about it. In the end, he concluded, “that’d be alright I guess, as long as I could still have the exact same brothers.”

As I finish this, I am weeks away from having our third son.  With you we felt so certain that you would not have the same problems as your brother, this child we haven't had (or maybe just  haven't needed) the same reassurances. Regardless, there is one thing I KNOW. You are all meant to be brothers. And you McKye, my little middle child I worry about so much, you are the glue. Your fun, loving personality will always be one that keeps us together. From the moment you were born you brought a renewed sense of hope and joy, that we all needed.  I am so grateful to you for agreeing to be a part of our family, and I can’t wait to see the man you will become.

The  last thing I’d like to share with you is a song. One that I heard when you were only a few months old. To me it has always been a song about you. A voice of hope, sent at a sinking time, a voice sent to remind us, and point us home.  

Chelsea means “safe harbor”, and even though I try really hard to provide that for my children, you McKye have been my anchor all along, the hopeful voice, reminding me to point our family to our eternal home and that everything will be just fine.

I don't know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can't react
And games that never amount
To more than they're meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You'll make it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can't go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I'm painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now
Falling slowly sing your melody
I'll sing along.

Happy birthday McKye. I'm so glad you came.