Friday, February 10, 2017

Running Out of Time

One of the benefits of living in an area where you are bombarded with wintry weather is the beloved snow day. Happiness abounds when school is closed for the day because of weather or road conditions. Today was such a day - while the sun was shining bright, the snow drifts were high. And even though we have a snowblower, my boy got up and dressed and donned his winter gear to pick up a shovel and attack the driveway.

As I was sipping my tea on the couch in the warmth of my home, I was watching him do this simple chore. (Or perhaps not so simple, depending on your perspective!) As he was shoveling, I marveled at his strength to be able to lift such a large scoop to dump the snow onto the giant snowbanks surrounding the yard. And that's when it hit me.

I am running out of time.

This year, my oldest son will be 12. The last of the younger years before he morphs into a teen. I have been terrified of the teenage years my whole mothering life - mostly because I wasn't a terrific teen. I pushed buttons. I challenged. I wanted to do my own thing. These are the things that teenagers do, before they blossom into young adults. As a mother, it scares me.

When you are dealing with sweet little babies, or chasing after toddlers you never think that period of life will ever end. People may tell you, but you don't believe them. You're just desperately thankful that you're speaking with someone over the age of three. And then it happens.

Once they hit school age, the years just seem to fly by. I know there are 365 days in a year, and sometimes days and weeks and even months feel long. But time is a funny thing - despite all that, the years keep rolling into each other and before you know it, you're running out of time.

Running out of time is where I am right now.

Just yesterday I received a note from a disgruntled teacher who was unhappy with me because I allowed my child to come to school for his swimming club without his swimsuit and towel. Moreover, there was an accompanying note with it saying why I wouldn't be bringing it to him if he asked. I'm sure that sounds terrible, but before you slap me with the "worst mother ever" label, please consider one little word - responsibility.

Responsibility is a such a small word for such a large thing. Just a handful of letters, but they hold powerful meaning. Responsibility is why I am running out of time.

When my children were very little, it was so exciting when they learned new things. Just like every other parent on the planet, I was eager to record their sweet little voices singing their ABCs for the first time. (Although, if we're being honest, in the case of Aiden it was more like his first time going through a set of flash cards). Every success was celebrated.

When they began school, it was so exciting to witness them learning to read. A lot of time and love and care on the teachers behalf went into that - and we just sat back and helped them with a word here and there along the way. Still, ever success was celebrated.

But here's the thing - we are teaching our children at home too. We teach them how to use a toilet, how to brush their teeth and tie their shoes. We teach them how to zip and button, how to hold a fork. In Canada, we teach them how to pull on snowpants, and to never leave the house without mittens and a hat when it's cold. And when they get the hang of it, we celebrate their success.

But still, we are running out of time. Because no one stops learning at any point in our lives. And there is more to our job as a parent than sending them to school to be educated and teaching them self care. We also need to teach them responsibility.

So when I got that note from the disgruntled teacher, it irked me a bit. But afterwards, I decided she maybe needed a little bit of grace because she has a young son. She likely hasn't reached the stage I am at with my sons right now, which is why she likely already slapped that "worst mom ever" label across my face. So I just reminded her why he didn't have his swimming gear - responsibility.

On Wednesday it's laundry day for my kids. They are responsible for bringing their laundry to the laundry room so I can wash it. The older one can even do his own laundry if I ask him to - because I already taught him how to do it. Teaching and responsibility go hand in hand because it's our job to teach our children to be responsible. But sometimes, when they miss the mark a little bit, they need a reminder. So on Wednesday, when I reminded my son not once, not twice, but three times to take his laundry down to be washed - and he didn't - I told him there would be no swimming. I stood my ground and told him that I wouldn't be sneaking in after his lights were out and grabbing his laundry so I could wash his swim shorts. No, because that's not teaching him to be responsible. Instead, he had to suffer through missing swim club because he didn't act responsibly. Will he ever miss swim club again? Maybe. But hopefully not.

Here's the thing - it's not just about the swimsuit. It's about learning there are consequences to your actions when you lack responsibility, just as there are when you do something you know you shouldn't do. It is such a valuable lesson that children need to learn before they leave the nest.

And that' why I realized today that I am running out of time. Because he's almost 12 which means he could leave the nest in as little as six years. And if those six years are anything like the first twelve, they will fly by in the blink of an eye.

So I need to be a little more aggressive when teaching responsibility, even though I might be labeled as the worst mother ever. I also need to finally hand him a knife even though I am afraid he might slice his little fingers so he can learn to cook. I need to continue to teach him how to be respectful. I need to treat women. There are lots of things I need to teach him before he becomes a young man. And that's terrifying. (It's even more terrifying when you do the math and realize you only have two extra years to add on your younger son's timeline).

I'm running out of time. But as I sit here and type away, I see my tidy kitchen. I see the front hall where the shoes are perfectly lined up and the coats are hanging on the hooks. I see the straightened up living room. And I smile, because I didn't do any of those things.

Time is running out, but I've got a head start. I think it's going to be okay.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Russian Roulette

Christmas vacation is officially over. I have conflicting feelings over this. I am a bit relieved because it is exhausting, and the long breaks during the day will be nice. I don't think people understand how much special needs parents desperately need some room to breathe. I am also sad to see them go, because I truly find joy in spending time with them. And, for another reason too.

On Tuesday afternoon when the boys arrived home from their first day back, they were happy. They shared bits and pieces of their day. Micah chatted about nothing and everything. (To his teachers, I love you. I forget how much that boy talks and this break has reminded me. Thank you for listening to him and making him feel important.)

When they arrived home from school and had had their snack, they started on their chores and homework. When they were done, they got their much anticipated screen time. While they were running minions and giggling with that ridiculous talking cat, I made a cup of tea and sat down. That's when it happened.

The first of the daily e-mails arrived. If you don't know what kind of e-mail I am talking about, I am jealous of you and your inbox. It couldn't have been more ominous if it tried. Nestled in between a note from my Mom and an update on my order from David's tea was an e-mail from a teacher. My fingers hovered over the tempting mini trash can off to the side, but there is this little thing called responsibility. So I opened it.

These e-mails are a bit like Russian roulette. You know what is coming, so you brace for impact. But at the same time, there is a small chance and with it a glimmer of hope that you won't take a hit. Maybe it would be more accurate if the gun was loaded with all but one bullet, because that is how often you get good news.

I sometimes wonder why they can't seem to write some positive with the negative. Because I know my children and I know the terrible things they are capable of. But I also know their hearts and they aren't evil. They are sweet, and loving and kind. It is a bit of a messy package. I think it would be easier on autism parents to be able to handle the stress and grief over what their children were up to at school if they could cling to a little bit of praise as well.

My heart sank as I read not one, but two e-mails. Two e-mails for my two very different children. Two e-mails from frustrated teachers who had to come back from a relaxing break and had to deal with my son all day.

But here's the thing. These are my babies. I have been dealing with my sons for over a decade. Far longer than any teacher. Yes, their days during the week are longer than my days with them. They have more waking hours with my children than I do during the week. But you know what? Teachers, I am giving you my children at their best.

What the teachers don't see is my children when they wake up in the morning. Screeching because they can't shut out the noise and desperately need to drown it out. Dumping things all over the floor because they are overly impulsive. Walking around naked because they're so distracted they can't even remember they were in the process of getting dressed. In the one hour before I send them out the door, I manage to get them fed, guide them as they get dressed, pack their lunches, and instill some peace in them so they are ready for their day. What the teachers don't know is that sometimes my children are late to school because I won't let them leave until they are ready.

I have medicated children. As a parent, that is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. When you first hold your baby in your arms, you fall in love with the sweet. In that magical moment, you don't really think about the future. When I first held my babies, I didn't know the magical moment would be when their medication kicked in. Like a light switch from chaos to contentment. When their switch finally reaches contentment after an hour of chaos, I send them out the door and pray they will have a good day. I never dreamed I would have a pharmacy in my home. I never dreamed I would have to give my children meds every day, probably for the rest of their lives. But it's okay, because it helps them be their best.

Only, I guess their best isn't good enough. Because the e-mails keep coming. And not just e-mails from the teachers, although those cause me the most stress. Also the e-mails scheduling therapies, doctors appointments, and hopefully some respite. Sometimes I wish for just a moment I could be the parents who get e-mails scheduling play dates and birthday parties. But I am not one of those Moms.

I don't resent it. I just wish that for one day, I could have it as easy as the teachers. Because when my kids come home, their medications have run out and it is back to chaos. I don't get the level of contentment the schools do when I send my kids there every day. I wish I could have that. But it's okay that I don't. Because I am the mother. The one who will love them, no matter what the e-mails say. The one who will wrap my arms around them when they have had a bad day and just need some love. The one who will stand beside them and advocate for them every step of the way.

Because I am an autism Mom, and it's my super power. We stretch and give. We deposit here and deposit there and have very little deposits coming back. We get by on little sleep and a lot of caffeine. We show up for meetings. We schedule those appointments. And we answer those e-mails.

Don't even ask me about the phone calls. That's a story for another day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another Year

Another year is coming to a close. It has been quite the year of change. It's hard to put it all in a nicely wrapped package, so this will likely seem like the wrapping paper that hits the floor after the gift has been opened. Which actually describes this year perfectly.

In January, a sweet friend of mine passed away after battling cancer. One of those moments where a young Mom was snatched away too soon. My heart was heavy and to this day, I miss her smile and her soul.

In April, we moved from one church family to another. It was a lot like going home for me, because this was my church before I got married. I loved the people and the teaching and it wasn't easy to leave the first time around. Leaving churches can be messy. People get hurt, no matter how hard you try not to have that happen. But sometimes God makes something beautiful out of the brokenness. Okay, not sometimes. Always. And this was no exception. In the spring, I felt lonely and broken. But healing happens. New friendships have been made and my heart is full. God is good.

In June, I struggled with mixed emotions when my beloved grandmother moved into the mansion prepared for her in heaven. While I was happy to see her go, (at 94 years of age and many health struggles it was time), I didn't want to imagine life without her. Last November when we visited my family, I hugged her extra long when it was time to say goodbye. I am glad I did. I am a better person today because of her love, discipline, guidance and prayers. I miss her every day.

In September, another beautiful friend passed away after her second battle with cancer. She was so involved in the lives of each member of my family it rocked me to my very core. Sitting beside her hospital bed those last few days was such a beautiful gift. Even though my heart was breaking and I wanted to roll back time. I am glad she's now pain free with her Saviour. But I can't tell you how many times I've picked up my phone to text or call her and remembered she's not there.

As always, there is sweetness mixed in with sadness. It's a funny thing, isn't it? How one day we can experience endless joy and the next such sorrow?

In April, my sweet and dear friend (who feels more like a sister than a friend) had her first baby boy. Way, way too early. She texted me the morning of and said she wasn't feeling great. I told her her symptoms sounded a lot like labour...and within a few hours he was born. Thank the Lord he is a fighter and a wee bit stubborn, because he pulled through potential difficulties like a shining star. He's a sweet, smiley bundle of fun. I'm so blessed to be his honourary aunt.

In May, my sister and her girls came to visit. There's no greater joy than being an aunt of two sweet little girls. Honestly they make me smile. They bring lots of joy to my life. Their giggles and squeals and little phone chats make my heart happy. Later this summer we had many more visitors, including a very special week with my Swiss cousins and a week with my parents at the cottage. So many memories made, lots of laughs and many joyful hearts.

In June, my sweet boy graduated from grade 5. I know that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, but if you knew his daily struggles you'd be giving him a standing ovation. As I watched him walk across the stage and wave his diploma over his head like hockey players would the Stanley cup, my eyes filled with tears and my heart burst with pride.

In October, I *finally* received a proper medical diagnosis for the lipedema that has taken over my body. It was a very long time coming. And while it doesn't change my prognosis, it did change my heart. Finally I had proof that I didn't do this to myself, as many specialists had suggested over the years. Hallelujah! I also got to visit with my brother and his sweet wife which was a treat.

Of course, in the run of a year you have smaller joys and trials dispersed throughout your days. Like issues at the school because your autistic children are being difficult. Or celebrating 12 years of marriage with your fantastic husband. Like getting pneumonia. Or reading through your entire Bible in less than a year.

These little joys and trials that make up our days contribute to how we grow and change. They make a difference in how God is working to shape our lives.

I have no idea what 2017 will bring. Sometimes it makes me anxious thinking about it. However, we have a great God who has a great plan. Not just for my life, but for yours as well. Whatever might come this next year, we can rest knowing that He's got it under control. Happy (almost) New Year, friends!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cradle to the Cross

The lights have all been strung. The halls have all been decked. The trees have been resurrected once more from the depths of the basement, or perhaps just from the short snowy drive from the field to the home. Christmas is just one short week away.

As we prepared for the Christmas season, we shopped among other shoppers in stores proclaiming to have just what we needed for this special season. It was hard not to notice the carts loaded with toys and treasures for the young and old as we walked through with a few gifts among our weekly necessities. It was hard not to notice the man in the red suit waving and handing out candies to children, as parents snapped pictures and others waited in line. Amidst the trappings of the season and the mall, we noticed something else. Jesus.

It is hard to find Jesus in the shopping mall at Christmas time. It is hard to find Jesus anywhere in the mall. But He is there at Christmas. Over the loudspeakers, the words rang out clear and true. Songs that everyone knows. Songs that come back to mind every year when the snow falls and the calendar rolls around to December 25th. Songs that proclaim the name of the One who was born in Bethlehem. Jesus. Do they know what it means when they sweetly sing His name every season?

You might know that I grew up in the church and that my father is a pastor. So imagine my surprise when we sang the REAL verse two of O Holy Night in church this year. I am sure I have sung it before, but never did it register to me like it did this year. What a powerful song with a powerful meaning.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So, led by the light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend
Behold your King, your King before Him bend.

No wonder they choose not to play that verse over the loud speakers. Because we know He is King, but many refuse to believe that truth. This Christmas, I don't want to forget in the midst of gifts and gatherings that Christ was born to save. I don't want to forget the purpose for the cross was born in the manger. 

As I was flipping through my Bible this morning in church, I noticed the page before the page we were reading was underlined. I flipped back and the words just jumped right off the page. The very end of Zechariah's prophecy says, "because of God's tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the shadow of peace." (Luke 1:78-79).

From the cradle to the cross, Emmanuel was born to bring peace on earth. That is what Christmas is all about. The gifts and the gatherings are good, but they will only bring you temporary joy. After the pretty wrapping has been tossed in the trash, and the tree has been put away or thrown out for another year, you might feel empty. Because temporary joy is a tricky thing. It makes you feel warm and happy when it's happening, but then it leaves you cold and lonely afterwards. 

Friends, if this is something you are experiencing, the only gift you need this Christmas is the gift of Jesus Christ. The light of heaven that came down for those who sit in the darkness is a gift that you can receive if only you have ears to hear this message. Christ is for YOU. Jesus was born in a manger so that YOU could receive life instead of death. Because the gift He is giving is the gift of His death on a cross. If this message is for you, and you want to talk, feel free to reach out to me or someone else you know who will talk with you and pray for you. This Christmas, unwrap the gift that never gets broken or collects dust on the shelf. Unwrap the reason for Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Gift of Perspective

Today I am thankful for my cane. I never thought I would ever admit that, being 34 years old and reliant on a mobility device. But today, as I walked the pathway to my child’s school and my feet slipped on ice lying quietly under snow – the unthinkable happened. In the same moment I cried out to God to guide my feet so I would not fall, I had gratitude for something I'm not all that pleased to need.

This year I was diagnosed with an untreatable disease called lipedema.  While this disease does come with a significant amount of pain, it also comes with a significant amount of disfigurement. Sometimes I jokingly refer to myself as the Michelin woman – my limbs are heavy laden with excess fat that can't be resolved with diet or exercise. In short, it is pretty ugly.

While this diagnosis is new, I've suffered from this disease for years. Living with chronic pain isn't a peach, but far worse is living in this world as a “super sized” woman. The media has made it very clear what they believe to be beautiful. Society is screaming beauty is skin deep. I've been given looks of disgust as I walk through the mall. I've heard hurtful comments as I watched my children play at the playground. I am not going to lie, it hurts. Sometimes it is hard to see your value when the world says you are worthless.

Want to read more? I hope you do! You can read the rest over on The Barefoot Blog where I have been given the honour of being a guest blogger today!  I promise it is worth the click!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Real Love

It's Christmas season, and with it brings the ever popular Hallmark movies. You know the ones - the sappy Rom Coms where the girl gets the guy and life is good. The ones where conflict is easily resolved and just in time for Christmas. The ones like the one I'm watching right now...

Ladies, we love these movies because they're sweet. Because they make us cry those happy tears. They give us the feels. Because Hollywood knows how to package love in a beautiful way to make it bright and shiny and wonderful. The women are beautiful. The men are handsome and rich. The Christmas decorations have that magnificent WoW factor. But let's not miss this one simple truth - it isn't real.

Of course we know movies aren't real. Sure, some may be based on true stories. But what I really mean here is that even though we grab the popcorn and tune in to every single Christmas Rom Com we've recorded this season, it's not an accurate depiction of love.

Ladies, let's not miss this. It's easy to forget sometimes, in the midst of the twinkling lights and the mistletoe. Real love is staring us in the face every day - it's what we have with our husbands. It is there in the moments when we've lost someone we love - real love lets us cry on their shoulder. It's there on those days when we feel less than stellar and real love tells us we're beautiful. It's there beside us when we deal with difficult situations in life.

Real love is helping with the laundry. Real love is pouring you the last cup of coffee. Real love is listening to you talk about your day. It's caring about your dreams and hopes. And holding your hand as you embrace your fears. Real love isn't always romantic. It's the every day, live with you for a lifetime kind of love.

I hope you experience real love this Christmas season. If you're not married yet, hold on. Real love is better than the movies. It's absolutely worth the wait.

Sunday, November 27, 2016