Thursday, April 30, 2015

Disciplining Addison

Confession: It took me a long time before I was willing to discipline Addison. For the longest time I wondered if she understood the Action/Consequence equation. For the longest time, she used that area of question to get away with murder. (Not literally...unless you count my white couch as a person.)

Also-- it is hard to say the word "discipline" in public these days. Living in the liberal state of Vermont, I half expect camouflaged social workers to jump out of a nearby bush if I even THINK the word. Just to be clear, when I say "the word" I mean a wide variety of discipline techniques to fit a wide variety of personalities in my 3 children. My favorite for out-of-the-house outings is Real Life Consequence discipline. I am a big fan of this.

What is an example of Real Life Consequences? I am about to share one with you....concerning Addison...and my waffling on this matter of holding her to the same standard that I hold the boys to.

Let's call this The Cookie Incident of 2015.
Location? Grocery Store
Individuals present? Mommy, Addison, Carter, Eli
Method of transportation? A Grocery Cart
Level of Energy? Very Wiggly, High Energy
Crime Committed? Unkind hands (don't laugh...this is a VERY real thing at my house)

For a grocery outing with all 3, I really couldn't complain UNTIL Addison started smacking her brothers upside the head. At first she only hit Carter (sitting next to her). He did not hit back. He would just tell me (quite loudly) every time a fault occurred.

"Sweet, please don't hit your brother."

For the first few times. Then it became,

"Addison, if you don't stop hitting your brother, you are not going to get a cookie.

A cookie. The most prized award given to the wiggling child that somehow managed to sit in the same spot the ENTIRE grocery shopping expedition.  It is a highly coveted, much talked about thing at our house. "THE COOKIE AT THE GROCERY STORE."

She settled down for about 30 seconds and then started hitting and pushing even harder.

"Addison. Stop. If you keep hitting and pushing, you are NOT going to get a cookie."

Well, she didn't stop. Furthermore, she started hitting Eli too...until he started to cry. Lovely. Dozens and dozens of times she hit and pushed them...and each time I told her NO COOKIE if she didn't stop.

I knew what I had to do. It felt mean, cruel, "THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD"...because I knew how she would respond.

I felt that waffling. Should I give her a cookie? Does she understand? If she understood she would have stopped hitting, right? She LOVES cookies. She wouldn't risk it...right? She's acting like she doesn't understand. Should I give it to her anyway because she doesn't understand? Am I expecting too much?

It came time.

I handed Carter a cookie and thanked him for obeying. I handed Eli a cookie and thanked him for obeying. I did not hand Addison a cookie.

(Side note: the free bakery cookies were looking especially delicious today. Large, soft, yet crunchy around the edges...)

Addison held out her hand and said, "Cookie!"

I knelt until I was eye to eye with her.

"Sweetie, I'm very sorry, but you don't get a cookie today. I asked you to stop hitting and pushing, but you didn't stop. I told you that you wouldn't get a cookie if you chose to keep hitting. You kept hitting. So you don't get a cookie. I'm very sorry, and I love you very much but no cookie today."

Was the kiss that I gave her then enough to stench the bitter tide of cookieless pain that she felt in that moment? Not even a little bit.

Her screams were intense enough to shake loose the entire display of cookies next to us. Gasping wails. More screams. Pitiful "COOKIE COOKIE COOKIE!"

My heart was breaking. Did she understand? Was I just being mean? Or was my Real Life Consequence a fair one? I wouldn't have thought twice about doing this for Carter.

(See what I mean...even now she plays me on this.)

Her brothers happily munched their cookies. Tears streaming down her face, she stared at them and then kicked her screams up a notch at the UNFAIRNESS of it all.

I stopped to talk to her several more times, very clearly laying out why she did not get a cookie and her brothers did. Her only response was to glare at me before pitifully sobbing once again for her cookie. And then screaming.

When the lady in line ahead of us turned around to see who was screaming so loudly, I held my breath. Was she going to make a comment about Addison having Down syndrome? About me being unfair?

But this wonderful person stared at Addison for a long moment, heard my quick explanation, and said "They have to learn. It's hard, but it is the right thing to do."

A couple hours later, Addison went to school. I have been thinking about this all day. About how she plays me. About how I tend to be softer on her because I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.

After her long afternoon at school, her bus ride home, a couple of hours playing on the deck...she was in the kitchen helping me make dinner.

I wanted to check in.

"Addison, do you remember what happened at the grocery store this morning?"

She answered, "No hitting. No pushing. Be kind."

"And what happens if you hit and push?"

Her bottom lip quivered and she said, "No cookie. Hit, push, no cookie for Addisie."

The little stinker. No lack of understanding here at all. (Although I do have to say that I let my breath out that I felt like I had been holding all day when she repeated this back to me hours later from the incident. She DID GET IT.)

I don't know why I underestimate her on this. Some days I do better than others. No doubt it is a combination of her being my first and me learning that ALL children do this to a certain extent...and me understanding how to parent a child with special needs. Down syndrome is not an excuse for disobedience or misbehavior, but the method of correcting and disciplining often trips me up as I always want to give her the benefit of the doubt. Walking the straight and narrow is HARD WORK. Of course there are things for us learn along the way. (I would say there is as much for me to learn as there is for her.)

This hitting/pushing thing has been a big battle. And the thing is, at times no matter how consistent I am with consequences, she does it again. And again and again and again. Which makes me think again-- does she just not understand?

But she does. Sweet cookie does she ever understand.
This is the view from my deck while the kids tired themselves out with one last play session before bed. I can think of worse things to stare at while pondering the mysteries of parenting...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Open Mouth....Run Into Burrito

I love it when my kids make me laugh. I love it even more when I finish laughing and then can't stop thinking about how the thing they just did applies in a broader way to life in general.
The other day I tried a new recipe for dinner. It was a sell with Aaron, a half-hearted sell with Addison and Carter, and a no go with Eli. He kept shaking his little blonde head, chubby cheeks flapping with the intensity of his "NO" every time I tried to get him to take a bite. Like the good, non-bribing mother that I am, I told him, "If you don't eat your dinner, you aren't going to get a cookie." (A Costco Oreo sale means that my mothering really steps it up a notch for the duration of that box of cookies). He still vehemently was a NO.
Addison finished her dinner and got a cookie. Carter finished his dinner and got a cookie. Eli got down from the table and was staring forlornly at his siblings. He then pointed to the cookies and started yelling. My response was to hold his dinner (wrapped in a soft burrito shell) in front of his mouth and said "If you eat some of this, THEN you can have a cookie."

He was not a fan of my response. He went over to the corner of the Dining Room and pitched a full blown fit. It was super dramatic. First, he fell to his knees, hands waving in the air while screaming of the INJUSTICE of this moment. Then he stood back up and stomped on the floor, GLARING at me, and then SCREAMED some more. He pointed at the cookies. I held out the burrito. More screaming before he threw himself down onto the floor once more.

I had just given up hope that he would actually TRY the burrito in exchange for a cookie, when he did it.

Standing on the far side of the Dining Room, suddenly he stopped screaming. He took a deep breath, clenched his fists at his sides, tightly squeezed his eyes shut, and opened his mouth wide. Once this position was assumed, he ran as fast as his fat little legs would let him all the way across the room, running his open mouth right around the burrito. He then clamped his mouth around the burrito, did a dog growling/head shake thing, and bit off half of it into his mouth and decisively chewed and gulped it down, only then opening his eyes to display a wounded "the things a boy has to do around here for a cookie" look.

I laughed and laughed and laughed. His response just caught me so off guard. Running into the burrito with an open mouth? Kind of genius, if you ask me. (-; It was so "I WILL do this!" 

But then I stopped laughing. It reminded me of earlier in the day when I passed by the pile of ten loads of laundry waiting to be folded, mentally pitching that same fit in my mind. (Now that I think of it, maybe if I had actually thrown myself on the floor screaming in front of the unfolded laundry...maybe that would have been more fun?) And then I clenched my hands, squeezed my eyes shut, opened my mouth, and "ran right into the burrito" and BAM the couch was cleared of clothes and all drawers were full of clean things to wear. Got it done!

"Ripping off the bandaid"...if you will (and if you can deal with a terribly mixed metaphor). This has been my new housekeeping philosophy of late. Why pitch a fit, when if I JUST DO IT, it really doesn't take as long as I had imagined, and it really won't be that bad.

There are things in life that all of us don't want to do, but we have to do them anyway. (If I have said this one time to Carter Henry in response to his "But I don't WANT to"...I have said it ten thousand...million times.)
Monday morning. It is ridiculous how hard it is to go from a 2 parent team back down to a 1 parent team every cruel first light of a Monday morning. Eyes squeezed shut...mouth open...RUN INTO THE BURRITO and get the transition pains over with FAST.

A sink full of dishes that looks like a MOUNTAIN but in reality will disappear quickly with concentrated effort. (Can we do it? YES WE CAN!)

Returning phone calls. I hate to talk on the phone. HATE IT. Returning phone calls fells a bit like the dreaded burrito "bite for a cookie" to me.

Getting all the kids dressed AT ONCE to go out. It seems like SO MUCH. But if I just take that bite with a really isn't that bad.

Laundry. Yes, I know I already said this once. It needed to be repeated.

House pick up. Just one thing at a can go from disaster to quite neat rather quickly if I pick up that first item and just START. But the starting of it...SO HARD.

So yeah...a determined baby running into the burrito with a wide open mouth= housekeeping inspiration that should last me at least one week. Thanks, Eli. (-;

Now if you will excuse me, I need to deal with Monday AND laundry at the same time. The real question is...where's my cookie?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Can God Still Be Good If...

As winter shakes off its final touches and spring uncurls in full force, I realized the other day that Mother's Day is rapidly approaching.

For many people, Mother's Day is a joyous occasion. A chance to say "thank you!" for either a mother or the beautiful children in your care and celebrate perhaps with tiny handprints on colorful canvases painted to say I LOVE YOU.

But for many others, Mother's Day holds a lot of pain. Mothers who have lost babies. Children who have lost mothers. Women who long to become mothers but it just hasn't happened yet. And on a different note-- Mothers whose motherhood has turned out very differently than they expected.

My first Mother's Day was spent driving a 4-month-old Addison to Boston for her first heart surgery. I spent the day wondering if my first Mother's Day was going to be my last Mother's Day. It was certainly not what I expected of motherhood, and it was certainly not easy.

As I think about this year's quick approaching Mother's Day, there are so many things I want to say about motherhood. About dealing with unexpected things. About questioning, "Can God still be good? No really. Can He? Maybe this is His first mistake? Why me?"

Hard things in motherhood hit us so close to home. It is our dreams and hopes and ambitions shaken and jostled until we don't recognize ourselves anymore.

But then again...what if what we think are "hard things"...are just "thing things". What if the difficulty pressing down on us is what will give us much needed growth? A new way to see God's love? A new way to experience His grace? What if our expectations were the things that were off? What if our reality is the perfect plan that we didn't know that we needed? Furthermore, does the character of God in His ultimate goodness waiver even when we feel as though our life is unraveling? And when the "hard things" actually are "horribly hard things that take away our ability to breathe" is there still goodness that we can lean on?

In honor of upcoming Mother's Day, in honor of all people everywhere who are struggling through unexpected things, my book Motherhood Unexpected is at ridiculously low prices for the ONE week.

$0.99 for the Kindle Version (down from $5.99)
$7.99 for the Paperback version (down from $14.99)

I realize that Mother's Day is still a couple of weeks off, but if you are anything like me? It doesn't hurt to prep a few weeks ahead of time (especially if you need to account for shipping time).

Send a copy to your mom and say "THANK YOU...even if I am not what you expected". (-;

Send a copy to your friend who just got that new diagnosis.

Send a copy to your sister who has walked alongside you, crying identical tears to yours each step of life's way.

Post a link so that friend who you didn't even KNOW was struggling through broken expectations can read a novel written from first hand experience on WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT'S NOT WHAT YOU EXPECT?

I understand that all of you aren't novel readers...or perhaps don't even like the specific genre of Christian fiction...or don't feel a burning desire to read about unfairness in motherhood. I completely get that. But please still SHARE because you don't know who in your life will be encouraged and helped through the book that the Lord graciously allowed me to put together based on my experiences of welcoming Addison into our lives. (Full disclosure: looking back now, I have NO idea how I actually finished this. NONE. It was so clearly the Lord's working to give me the strength and the time to put these words together into THIS story to share. Honestly I am amazed at the very clear way that He worked through me from scribbling down initial concepts to completion. I truly can't take credit for this at all.)

This is a newly uploaded edition (with some slight editing updates), and it is newly priced at only a few cents above printing costs. (I wanted to make the Kindle free for the week, but for boring reasons that I won't go into here... Kindle wouldn't let me. So I put it as low as the system would allow.) I want to encourage more than I want to make money on this project. I want to get the word out there that "YES. GOD IS STILL GOOD even when it's unexpected." I want to share my heartache and lessons learned to perhaps help others get there faster. I want to praise the Lord for the work that he has done in my own heart and life through having a baby with Down syndrome. This is more than a work of fiction. This is a testimony. My testimony of God's goodness.

Please take advantage of this Mother's Day sale. Spread the word. Buy a copy to tuck away to surprise your mom with. (It's a lot of gift for a great price!) Forward a gift copy to that friend you haven't seen in years but you know they love a good read. Reassemble your book club and suggest a girls night out to discuss after you all get a chance to read it. It's .99 cents. You can't even buy a cup of coffee for that price...well, almost. At least a cup of coffee with fun add ons like whipped cream...caramel sauce...and okay so maybe not just a plain coffee. (-; And this book will last you a lot longer than a cup of coffee!

Take the adventure with Claire, Felicity, and Julie. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Question life with them all the while opening your heart and learning alongside of them. I have gotten many, many different responses to the book as a whole, but one common thread runs through all my feedback...this book potential will give you a SERIOUS case of the "feels". Prepare to feel happy, sad, angry thoughtful, surprised, anticipation, fear, joy...and the list could go on...

God wanted me to write this book for a reason. (There were times that I deliberately tried SO HARD not to finish writing it....this proved to be impossible.) And He wouldn't stop working on me until I continued to be faithful with the work He called me to do, just one word at a time. I am so thankful for His strength as I mothered my 3 very small children along with the writing process. It was not easy to write through my experiences in such a way, but I can say with confidence--VERY worth it.

Please help me share Motherhood Unexpected to reach those who perhaps are asking these same questions:

"Can God still be good? This isn't what I deserve! Why would God do this to me?"

as they grapple with the unexpected nature of motherhood and life in general.

Whether a birth plan gone wrong, a diagnosis, a loss, or even just a personality that you don't know how to teach....God's goodness never waivers.

I can't do this without your help.

I hate to ask for help, and I am very shy about doing so. But if anything, this whole process of publishing a novel as taught me that this isn't about ME and my own insecurities. The things the Lord has taught me....the words He gave me to write...this is all so much not about me. And so I can ask with confidence: PLEASE help me share Motherhood Unexpected. Let's get the word out there. Let's SHOUT about God's goodness. (Feel free to share any part of this blog post in your sharing of the book sale.)

I think my favorite line of the whole book (and I tear up every time I read it) is the last line of the Acknowledgement section: "And finally, I'd like to thank God, who in His goodness gave me a child with Down syndrome."

What an incredible journey this has been.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Appreciating My Current Reality

This week found me twirling in spring's barely green grass surrounded by 3 giggling children. This week found me staring in horror at a spot in the backyard that had become the dumping grounds for a super surprise clog in the septic system. This week found me sitting on the couch with hugs on either side and a smiling baby on my lap. This week found me wiping up extra virgin olive oil mixed with baking soda off of the kitchen floor and walls because the children decided to experiment on their own...and they broke my pantry lock. This week found me reading books to 3 pairs of eager ears. This week found me trying to fix a meal while 3 children cried for ATTENTION NOW at my feet. This week found me taking long walks in gorgeous weather pulling my triple wagon full of happiness. This week found me wondering "what the heck am I doing wrong with this motherhood thing and am I-- am I going insane?"
The normal ups and downs of motherhood seemed exaggerated this week for some reason. As if the gentle roller coaster became jagged ups and downs stretched to twice their normal size.
I sit now typing in the quiet of a clean Living Room. It is picked up and swept. I ran out of energy before vacuuming the center rug. I can see the sunset out of the large picture window. It is kissing a range of mountains that I can only see on a clear day. I hear Addison talking quietly to herself in her room and Eli's snores. Carter is still out with Daddy. I think about the week, about today, and I try to sum it up in my own mind in a way that doesn't include screaming into a pillow.
I wish I had a magic formula for rough days when there are too many preschoolers around me and too little patience. I wish I hadn't yelled at Carter when I found him stuffing yet another (entire) roll of toilet paper down the potty even after our very patient and loving talk that he should never EVER do that again. I wish when we were out on that greenish grass kicking the ball together that I had soaked up the laughter around me just a little bit longer before I rushed us all inside to finish dinner prep.
Something about spring feels so fresh. So new. And it's true, this morning's horror of EVOO everywhere...was super new. But also, it feels so hopeful. As if it won't always be like this. As if someday my little people will someday be big people. That their reality will shift and change over time until I look at them and say, "I remember when my hand could span the width of your tiny back" and I wish I could go back to being surrounded by a hug on either side and a baby on my lap.
I see them growing so fast, and yet so slowly. I hear them asking me questions that make me blush (Carter is quite fixated on the body's anatomy these days) and other questions that make me laugh with joy. I watch them interact with each other, with me, and I wonder if perhaps I'm not completely screwing them up. (Carter immediately said "I'm so sorry, Mommy!" as he stood there with his guilty, toilet-paper-stuffing face there's that. Oh, and they chose the Extra Virgin Olive Oil for their experiment instead of the Vegetable Oil, so clearly...healthy eating is top on their priority list!)
I am big on laughing at myself, at the ridiculousness of some of these moments. Today I baby gated myself INTO the kitchen. I washed counters, I scrubbed cabinets, I swept the floor, I scrubbed the floor all shiny and clean. I did not let ANY CHILDREN IN. It was a time out of sorts. I needed to calm down to the point where I could laugh about the disasters. An "Can you BELIEVE this happened?" sort of way. When I rejoined the children back in the living room, we all went back outside together (NOT to the "muddy" ahem part of the yard)...and giggled some more.
I looked with joy at sweet Addison who is growing and developing like the big girl that she is. Her speech is amazing me! She can now say anything she puts her mind to. ANYTHING. And it turns out, she has a LOT of her own opinions. Who knew? I stared into Carter's beautiful blue eyes and wondered how God is going to use this unique personality (that honestly is responsible for most of my "screaming into a pillow" moments) to be a strong leader. To be a man that views life creatively in a way to problem solve in new directions. I grinned into Eli's mischievous face and wondered how long it's going to be before he gets into practical jokes. I wonder if he will be his class clown and hope that I can teach him the value of laughter, but the equal value of digging deeper to other emotions too.
This motherhood gig can be all rosy and amazing. It can be spring green and sunsets kissing mountains. But there are definitely "sewage seepage" moments in motherhood as well.

Because the same little boys who give sweet kisses and ask adorable questions like "Can I go work with Daddy now?" also stuff rolls of toilet paper down toilets and create plumber-worthy clogs. Two sides of the coin. I'm learning to accept both sides of the coin. I teach and guide and PRAY they grow out of some of these things. But I also accept that they are their own person. They are going to make decisions that are different than mine. I have expectations...they live the reality.
All I am responsible for is the constant of love as I continue my teaching. This love looks different at times, but it is always there. They are growing so fast. I have so much to teach them before sending them out into this big world (starting with...It's really not proper to pour ginormous bottles of oil on the floor just to play in. Your wife might frown on this someday...)
I don't have to appreciate every moment. Some moments I will limp through, a wounded warrior. But I am learning to appreciate the fleeting nature of this phase. The baby kisses, the innocence of a preschooler's questions, the limitless time to just BE with them. Today I will be thankful. And tomorrow...we start new...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Just One Bite At A Time

Tonight for dinner we had hotdogs. Beef hotdogs encased in a toasted bun with a side of baked beans and roasted potatoes (yes, I realize this meal was sadly lacking in veggies. This was our cheat meal. The relish was green. Does that count?)
Eli quickly finished his food and instead of waiting for me to get him more, crawled with lightening speed onto the table to go steal food from one of his siblings. Addison nibbled at her toasted bun as if afraid to trust the bun AND hotdog in the same bite. Carter sat and stared at his hotdog with great consternation and then he started crying.
"I can't." he said, pointing to the middle of the hotdog.

"You can't, what?" I asked patiently.

"I can't eat the middle! How do I eat the middle? I can't get to it! I can't eat the middle!" He sobbed into that beautiful green relish.

I am quickly falling in love with this age. Exploring the world one hot dog middle at a time is exciting and terrifying and awesome.

"Sweetie, you don't have to eat the middle yet. You eat the ends of it first. All you have to eat is one bite at a time and pretty soon you will be eating the middle."

He blinked those blue eyes, wiped his tears away, and got to work on his hotdog, one bite at a time. And wouldn't you know it? Pretty soon he was eating the middle with no problems at all.
I sat there next to him at the table with my mind reeling. All day I had been stressing about several BIG things that were so OVERWHELMING and I couldn't EAT THE MIDDLE OF THE HOT DOG therefore I worried and worried about each of these things when I was only supposed to be taking one bite at a time.

Addison's kindergarten. This is approaching in the fall. We had originally talked about full day kindergarten but Addison is so small they are worried about her physically being able to handle the full day of school. Now we are talking some combo of morning K5 and afternoon K4 with her doing  two years of kindergarten. I have been fretting about this all week. What is the right decision? How will she do? How much can I protect her from and how much should I push her into? Will she like it? Will she like her new aide? How much will she need an aide? Will her classmates treat her kindly? Will she treat THEM kindly? Is this fall too soon for kindergarten? Am I holding her back because I'm just not ready? How will she do? And yet, Carter's hot dog question reminded me, today all I have to do is make the call to schedule her registration appointment. Today I only had to take the first bite. The rest will fall in line.
My next book. Yes, as much as I have tried NOT to, this book keeps writing itself in my head (moving on from the diagnosis stage and onto life with a 5 year old with Down syndrome.) For a month now I have been torturing myself. I can't write another book! It was soooo much work and took FOREVER to craft a novel on that level! I had crippling anxiety about putting myself out there like that (btw...I received so much positive support from all of you who read and enjoyed Motherhood Unexpected for my heart behind it. I can't tell you how much I am grateful to you. Seriously I think you saved my sanity.) What if the next book isn't as insightful/entertaining? What if I am just wasting my time? I can't write a WHOLE OTHER BOOK! I can't lose all of that sleep and torture myself that way again. I got so many emails thanking me for helping them through various things because of Motherhood Unexpected. I CAN'T DO THAT AGAIN! It was probably just a fluke the first time! SO MUCH PRESSURE! But today I was reminded...all I have to do is bite off one chunk at a time. (Like on Friends when Ross told Joey "All you have to do today is name the main character." "OK!" " And it can't be Joey." "It's not." "Or Joseph." "Oh.") Today I don't have to write a book. I just have to write a few words of the book. Just one bite at a time and pretty soon the middle of the hot dog is RIGHT THERE.
Making it through landscape season. My husband works so hard to provide for our family with his landscaping business, and I am so grateful to him. But once landscaping season hits, I am on my own for the kids most of the week. Solo dinners and bedtimes and errands out and evenings. This is so overwhelming to me every April. I CAN'T DO IT! It's so much! It's so long! And yet...all I have to do is take it one day at a time. One solo bedtime at a time.

This blog.  I can't keep up with the WHOLE BLOG. I can't put my thoughts out there! I can't find the time to blog EVERY SINGLE WEEK! I can't write ALL THE POSTS! And yet here I am, writing just one post today. Just one thing on my mind. Just one bite of that hotdog.
It's a freeing concept. And I'm not sure why I constantly am forgetting it. But I do know, it's nice to be reminded once again. Who knew that hotdogs could be so inspirational?