Who will YOU see?

I cannot be happy enough to see 2017 close it’s doors.

I had thoughts that this year would look so much different. And while this year and its events have kicked my butt…..there were good things about it, I’m pretty sure.

I can’t think of too many at the moment, because of the severe brain fog due to mental exhaustion and stress.

Between the spring and the issues surrounding Jeremy and the High School; between the summer and all the fighting between my boys; between this fall and finding out that my baby has perceived trauma due to being a sibling of autistic brothers, to school refusal, complete out-of-your-senses panic, and therapy……lots of therapy; between helping one child feel safe within his school and with his teachers to advocating that they see the person and his strengths and not get sidelined by the “side effects” of his disability; from moving my babies into their own home; and doing so much more with my own creative endeavours, than I ever thought possible……..it’s been too much.

Many things and many people have been set aside as I try to survive. There is no thought of thriving and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to escape into art and creativity……because that small part of my life means that I’m not lost.

I’m not lost to chaos.

I’m not lost to meltdowns.

I’m not lost to advocating.

I’m not lost to lack of knowledge or understanding.

I’m not lost to special needs or trauma.

I’m still me.

But me…….
She…….
I…..
I am exhausted.
I am barely treading water.
I am in a tough space.

I like to say that seasons change and I know they do. I believe that I have more strength than I realize. I believe that I am capable of handling a whole lot……I know this, because I’ve had to.

And yet, I’ve never been more closer to giving up.

I’ve NEVER been this weary.
I’ve never wanted this badly to run away from everything and everyone and never be found again.
My sense of responsibility has been taken to the end of itself.

To. The. End.

Physically, I’m tense, like muscles in knots, headaches and migraine, tense. I can’t sleep. I’m exhausted. I can’t focus. I have to write lists to accomplish anything. And even then, I stare at my list with a blank sense of uncomprehension. I see people doing human things. Regular things, like going for coffee or a walk or popping out to the store to pick something up…..and I can’t even fathom how that’s a possibility for them. It’s Herculean effort to exist.

Do you understand?

Can you even comprehend?

I share because I know I’m not alone. I know there are others out there who feel like this and blindly and stumbling keep putting one foot in front of the other, not knowing how but knowing they have to. Doing everything in their power to reserve the strength that they don’t have while pretending, as best the can, to deceive themselves into carrying on because there is no other choice.

——-

I am walking away.
I’m taking my crazy with me and we are all running away. We will put our toes in the sand. Pray for sleep and regulation. And hope that we can recharge in the sunshine and the water.

——–

But there are many, like me, done. Tired. Exhausted. Worn out.

Look for them.
Find them.
Love on them.
Let them know you see them.
Let them know you love them regardless of their ability to give back.
Let them know in a tangible way, that you see them – that you care.

———–

Some ideas: (in no particular order)

– Take a meal
– Give a Gift Certificate
– Drop off a coffee and donut
– or a bottle of wine
– take a kid out for a treat
– clean a bathroom
– clean out their vehicle
– give flowers
– offer to watch kids
– do a 10 minute tidy
– ask how they are doing, really listen and be okay with a hard reply
– connect and say hi (by text or email) and don’t expect a reply
– send a card to say you’re thinking of them
– learn about what they are dealing with (autism,ABI, ADHD, TBI,
DS, FASD, trauma, divorce, addiction, mental health, cancer, grief, etc)

There are so many ways to connect without putting more pressure on ones who are already tapped so far beyond what’s emotionally possible.

This holiday season, I’d love to challenge you to “see” someone, to hold their challenges with respect and reverence, and to be a support in ways that are meaningful to them.

It may mean being okay with the messiness (emotional, mental, physical and/or spiritual) that often accompanies our lives.

But it will be worth it! I promise!

Just a glimpse….

I’m sitting in my living room, looking wistfully out the window, knowing that I’ve already spent my fair share of time outdoors, today.

I don’t want a sunburn and while I slather up when necessary…..I’ve never really liked the feeling of lotion on my body.  So I opt for some indoor time….at least until I need to pick up the boys from school and then I’ll greet the sun with smiles and a spritz of sunscreen.  Until then, I close my eyes and reminisce of the golden warmth soaking into my soul, revitalizing me.

When I open my eyes, I see evidence that Judah’s been here. 


The dregs of his Honey Nut Cheerios and Almond Milk make me smile.  This boy of mine is such a gift.  He is an incredible living paradox.  Verging on the edge of violence in his stance against injustice…….and yet indiscriminate in his compassion.  Have I told you about the time we took the boys to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and he cried when Ego was destroyed.  He clasped my hands to his heart and whispered through his tears,  “But WHY? Everyone deserves another chance?”

I don’t ever want him to lose that heart for others.  I will fiercely protect and nurture that empathy, tenderness, and humanity with all my being. He is such a gift to me, to us…..to the world.


I look over to my right and see glorious creativity within the chaos of these walls.  That stack of mail will become “creations” before it hits the recycling bin. I savour the moments when I can sit, drink my coffee and knit a few rows on a dishcloth.  I like small projects because I can finish them in between all the glorious distraction.  More often than not, that coffee grows cold and my knitting is interrupted but it’s ok because these moments don’t last.  

The screams to break up a fight or get a snack for someone……they are becoming fewer.  The yelling because there is no toilet paper on the roll and no one thought to look in the cupboard…….or because someone ate someone else’s ice cream.  It’s still there but I’m less needed than I used to be.  Which is good cause there’s still a whole lot of needy people in the family and I’ll take whatever reprieve I can get.  

Moose – aptly renamed – as he’s not the smartest cat in the world……but he’s exactly what we needed.  He gives his love freely and unabashedly.   He allows for over excitable autistic hugs and purrs louder than I’ve ever heard from a cat.  It’s like audible Valium to soothe our souls from whatever anguish and trauma we may be experiencing.


I need to pick the kids up.  To leave this cocoon of quiet chaos.  I don’t want to.  

A Letter to my Children

photo from 2015 (we definitely need an update)

To my Children,

I love you with all my heart and I only want the very best for you.  This world we live in, now,  is a funny place.  There was positive Peer pressure when I was growing up that I don’t see happening, now. Not that there aren’t good people out there, but it seems like some of the “common sense” life lessons don’t hold the same weight now as they did then.  Those “life lessons” are just as important now, in fact, they may be even more important but they aren’t as prevalent.  I realize that talking like this only widens and exaggerates the age gap between us but I feel that there is a limited time for me to influence and instill  these values within you.  I know that I tell you these things, ALL THE TIME (insert massive eye roll here) but I think these are too important for me to remain quiet.
1.    Work Hard

I don’t care what anyone around you is doing or how hard they are working. Your employer is paying YOU for your time. Give them your best.  Lead by example.  Set the bar high.  You will get noticed and your efforts will never be in vain.  Your best may look differently than that of others around you.  I’m not holding you to someone else’s standards……YOU do YOUR best.  And always be aware of what around you is needing to be done.  Pick up the slack. And if you don’t know…..ASK!  Communication will be your best tool, in ALL ASPECTS of life.

2.    Be Respectful

Let the virtue of Respect emanate from  every cell of your being.  Be respectful in your actions, with your words, to your employers and fellow employees, to customers…..to humanity, in general.  But also be respectful of yourself.  If you respect yourself, others will respect you.

3.    Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is critical.  Work hard and then let it go, when you are done for the day.  It’s not your job to carry the weight of the world.  You are not responsible to do more than you can.  If you work hard, and work smart; be proud of what you’ve accomplished and don’t carry the weight of what you couldn’t do. Take care of yourself, because YOU are responsible for your well being. Setting boundaries is something that needs to be learned and exercised in ALL areas of life.

Get good at setting and enforcing YOUR boundaries.

It’s critical to know what things that you are responsible for and what things you are not responsible for. Take care of the things you are responsible for and learn to be okay with letting the things you are not responsible for, go.  As your Nana says, “Not my pig. Not my Farm.”

4.    Be okay with saying  NO.

It’s okay to say no.  If you work hard, and are respectful…..then setting and honouring your boundaries is ok.  You do not have to accept every shift or help out everytime you are asked.  Do what you can/want/need to do, but also know that too much is not a good thing. Being available is one thing but being “used” is completely different.  Practise saying “No.”  I know that sounds silly, but it’s an important skill to learn.  Unfortunately, too many people haven’t learned to say it, and then end  up burned out and resentful towards others, when it’s their own lack of ability to set and enforce personal boundaries.

5.    Know your Value, Your Worth and Your Principals

Yes, I know you are still figuring your self  out BUT……You do have value.  You do have worth.  and You do have principals.  Knowing who you are and what you stand for will make a huge difference between allowing yourself to get pushed around and being a leader.

  • Know what you want or don’t want
  • Know what you are okay with or not okay with
  • Know whats important  to you and what’s not important to you

These things require actual thought.  If you do not make a decision, you have still made a choice.  Every choice has a consequence.  Its that whole Newton’s Third Law thing……

6.    Weigh Your Choices and Be able to Live with the Consequences

When faced with a decision, look at all sides and determine the likely consequences.  Think through what you are willing to deal with and move forward confidently.  Choices have consequences, some positive and some negative.  You may need to make a decision and have to choose which negative consequence you are willing to live with.  But allowing things to happen and saying its “out of your control” isn’t respectful to yourself or others.  Own your choices and the resulting consequences.  Be Purposeful in your actions and words.

7.    Choose Your Feelings and Emotions Wisely.

You are responsible for YOUR feelings and emotions.  Choose wisely.  To say that someone else “makes you so mad or angry” is giving them the control over your emotions.  Take responsibility for your own feelings and emotions. Don’t allow the “emotional weather” of a place, person or situation dictate your emotional response.   Only you have the power and ability to dictate what you feel and how you choose to respond in any given situation.  Choose to make the best out of every situation and allow others their right to their own feelings and emotions.  Other peoples negativity should not define your life.

8.      Balance

Finding balance is so important.  Family, Friends, School, Self and Work  (Listed in Alphabetical order not in Position of Importance)  are all important.  You must work to find the balance.  It requires effort to do so.  Again, not making the effort to “find balance” is still making a choice……and probably one with negative consequences for yourself and those around you.

9.    Community

Finding your Tribe, Village, Community, or whatever you want to call it, is also important.  These days, we seem to be so caught up in the busy-ness of life.  But it is critical to have people that you can give into and draw from.  We all go through ups and downs, but having the opportunity to give and receive love, support, advice and even challenges, helps us as we navigate this crazy journey.

10.    Rest

I’m mentioning Rest, because it’s something I believe that we need to be intentional about.  Whether its a long bath, a walk along a river, journaling, art, etc……..I believe that it’s critical to disconnect from the busy-ness of the world, to do something that “feeds” your soul; and recharges us, wholly (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually).  Your cell phone wont work without being charged and you won’t either.  It may be possible to limp along for a bit but in the long run (and life is a long run) you have to recharge, you might as well be intentional about it.

My Darlings,

You have been given an incredible gift.  Life is a gift. You have the opportunity to make it incredible or to squander it.  Be Purposeful! Be Present! Don’t stand by, passively, and allow life to carry you along.   Be intentional!  You have an incredible opportunity to create a life that you love and can be proud of, regardless of the ups and downs that life brings your way.  

I promise that I will continue to remind you of these things but know that I see you. I see  the incredible people that you are, and that you are becoming; and I am so very VERY proud of you. You are amazing.  You are incredible .  I am confident that you will grow and impact our world positively, just because of who you are.  Keep on Keeping on, My Loves! 

Momma

Authority & Respect

Things have been a little messy inside my head and in an effort to clear it all out and put it in some semblance of order, I’m gonna start writing to try and make sense of all the thoughts I have.  Most of this will be in regards to how I parent and raise my kids.  Some will deal with Special Needs Kids, some with Anxiety but I find that having to write it out concisely helps me to package up the million thoughts running around in my brain.  Please feel free to ask questions or to share your own thoughts on the matters.  I’d love to dialogue about these issues.

 

It’s often difficult for us, as adults, to make a call and then go back on it. We often view those scenarios as allowing the child to get their way or to dictate the situation.

I’d love to offer a different viewpoint.

Your authority is as strong and irrefutable as you believe it is;
and as you stand in it.
I believe that too often we parent, teach or lead from a viewpoint of fear. Fear that those under us will no longer accept our authority and then we will have to fight twice as hard to get it back, if it’s even possible. That understanding assumes that my authority is fallible.

Now, I don’t have authority everywhere in the world…… But I do have authority over my domain…..and the only way I can lose it, is if I abdicate that authority.

I used to think that if I told my kids something and then changed my mind, that it would undermine my authority and that I would lose all sense of control because they would feel they could do whatever they wanted by whining more and wearing me down.

For example…

They‘ve been whining at me all day and by late afternoon, my instinct is to just say no to everything. Finally one of them asks, can we have popsicle and go outside to play.

I say NO, because it feels like rewarding them for their bad attitudes and actions; and it’s so much effort to get them all ready and to drag all their crap out of the garage. I say no because its my first instinct after a tough morning and I am exhausted from their constant efforts. Even more whining and squabbling ensues…..

I pause and think about it for a moment and decide, The popsicle is liquid that they need (well, maybe not the sugar). The mess will be outside (YAY) and they really need to get outside and burn off some energy. In the end, we will all be happier.

So, I say, go get your shoes and coats on…..they say YAY! and that’s the end of it! They play and come in refreshed and I’ve had a moment to regroup and its all good.

Is my authority undermined because I changed my mind, NOT A CHANCE!
Are my kids going to continue to try to whine at me to get their way? ABSOLUTELY
Are the two connected? MAYBE BUT…….
Have I lost or damaged my position of AUTHORITY? NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST

Most likely, they are going to continue to whine in the future because that’s their immature attempt to gain control over a situation and get a favorable (for them) outcome. Their immaturity has a huge selfish, self-centered component to it. It’s my job to show them other methods and ways, to ask for what they want.

I’m not a fan of whining and will often stop the whining and ask my kids to try asking in a different voice and see how that changes things for them. I don’t get upset that they are whining, but I continue to train and reinforce the acceptable behavior. I tie so many of my parenting ideologies back into real world situations, because that’s what I’m raising these ones to do.

I’m raising my children to be respectable and respectful, contributing members of society.
 

They shouldn’t whine at their boss or teacher. They shouldn’t squabble with their fellow employees or students. I have the privilege of working them through these situations in a safe space and giving them lots of opportunity to practise, so they grow up and it becomes first nature to be respectful.

My entire parenting style is based on respect. I want to be treated respectfully. I will treat you with respect. My desire is to train young children into adults who are respectful of others and who’s very being, draws respect back to them.

I want to model how to react when you are not treated with respect; and to teach that a lack of respect shown towards you does not give you to right to match the level of  disrespect and dish it back.

Knowing who I am and the position of authority I hold,
within my family, is a game changer.
 

Yes it’s possible that someone might challenge my authority or be disrespectful but their words, thought, or actions don’t change the reality of my authority.

….their words, thoughts or actions don’t change the reality….
 

I’ve shared this “nugget” with my kids for years. Just because someone says something to you or about you doesn’t make it true or real; and you get to decide the power that those words have over you.

For Example, if Judah calls Josiah stupid, does that make Josiah stupid????

Nope! Let’s change the word stupid for something ridiculous like a cupcake head……..

If Judah says that Josiah has a cupcake head, does that make it true?? Does he all of the sudden have a cupcake shaped head???

Nope! Here’s another example, if Judah says that Josiah has green eyes, does that change the fact that Josiah’s eyes are brown?

NOPE! So a child yelling at me that I’m not in charge, doesn’t diminish my authority.  It’s most likely an indicator that he or she is feeling out of control, desperately wanting to regain some form of personal control and often needing some help to process some overwhelming feelings and emotions.

Words and/or actions don’t necessarily change the reality, especially when it comes to your authority.

I’m the mom (and therefore I have authority within my family), regardless of whether my kids want to live within the boundaries that I’ve set for them, or not.

If I decide to change my mind about something that I had previously decided, that does not make me weak. In fact, I believe it’s exactly the opposite. There is an incredible strength in openly admitting that you’ve made a decision that needs to change. By doing so, you are modelling to those under your authority that it’s okay to rethink something and come up with a better plan. It shows them what transparency and openness,(especially in a position of authority) looks like. It models that its okay to not be perfect. It shows them that mistakes will happen; and how to own your choices and change them if necessary. It shows them that not everything is black and white; and that sometimes you need to reevaluate for the grey situations.

It’s ever so challenging to bypass the thoughts that whisper……

“They’re gonna think they can run all over you. They are going to think you are
weak and that they can change your mind by whining and wearing you down.”

It takes courage and strength to say to your kids, your students or your employees…….

“Okay, just a moment, I’ve thought this through and I think we are going to do it this other way. Which I know is the opposite of what I just said but this is why it will work better to do it this way……..”

Kids and Teens, especially, can see through people. If you make a call and are sticking to a previous decision even though it doesn’t make sense; and you’re doing it because you fear losing the appearance of control. They can see it. They can sense it. And THAT undermines you more than anything.

Model Humility. Model Imperfection. Model Flexibility.
Model Communication. Model Respect.

The Key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are,
what you are about and what you value. – Stephen R. Covey

Vacation 2014 – Part 4 (The End)

As the end of the first week drew to a close, I was really unsure if I wanted to stay up at the lake for the second week. We’ve always gone up for a good chunk of time and this year I even had my own RV which made things so much better, but for some reason, I just wasn’t “feeling” the love for camping.

Normally, I go up with the kids for the first week and then Jon joins us for the second week, but because this was our inaugural trip with Ethyl I didn’t want to be by myself if something went wonky…..and we weren’t entirely certain that everything would go smoothly. She is an OLD lady after all and has lots of quirks.

Fortunately everything went amazingly and after a HUGE amount of hmmmmm’ing and haaaaaw’ing I decided to stay up for a bit longer.

My brother and sister in law had come up for the weekend and it was SO good to spend some time with them. It doesn’t happen enough. We are busy and they are busy and sometimes its just tough to make it all work….

As they were packing up to leave, friends of ours pulled in which was so nice. As it meant that I wouldn’t be alone.

This couple has two boys and they are just the sweetest boys ever. Their oldest son has some special needs and it was refreshing to be able to spend time with other parents who have children with special needs and to know that you are not alone in this journey of raising these unique and amazing kids. It doesn’t matter that the needs that make our kids special, are not the same…..its just nice to know that someone else gets it….that they “get” that even though you love your children desperately….that sometimes it’s tough or difficult and you may not feel that you have the energy to give to them, but that energy is required whether you have it or not, and you end up continuously running on a deficit……

I realize that most parents may feel like that from time to time and I – in no way – am discounting how tough (and yet rewarding) parenting is. But, parenting a special needs child is unique and comes with a different set of challenges……and rewards.

I sat and talked with the father a bit one day. We ended up talking about the grieving that you experience over and over again as you watch younger siblings surpass milestones and activities that your your older child hasn’t yet, if they ever will, accomplish. It’s not easy…..physically, mentally or emotionally.

There were so many fun moments, and Judah mentioned to me that his two favorite things from this summer were the walks and adventures he went on with his dad; and the walks and adventures he went on with Zac’s dad.

One night after my boys had gone to sleep, Zac and his momma caught this HUGE frog. The kids always catch little 1-2 inch sized frogs. They are all over the place, but one night….this big ol’ guy was just hopping around waiting for Zac to catch him…..the boys were THRILLED the next morning when they woke up and saw what a mighty hunter Zac was.

We were also able to capture an animal a few times, but it was completely unintentional….there are a million of these little deer mice running around, especially after dark and we woke up a few mornings to a mouse or two that had climbed into a bucket – I’m assuming they were scrounging for food – and then the bucket was too deep and they couldn’t get back out.

Jon came up on the Wednesday, after work, and picked us up. For the first time that I can remember – I was actually happy to be leaving the lake and heading home. I really enjoyed our time this year. I do, every year that we go, but this year was different…..not bad different…..just different.

I’ll leave you with another series of shots of my sweet Siah…..

I told him to smile.

Then I laughed at him and told him to give me a REAL smile…..

I almost peed myself laughing after the second shot…..but asked him to try one last time…..

And DING! DING! DING! we have a winner….what a cutie.

Vacation 2014 – Part 3

Ok, so life got busy and I didn’t end up finishing posting about our vacation.

I’m sure that some of you feel like you’ve just been left hanging……..HA!!!!

Ok, maybe not so much, but……continuing on….

It’s amazing how quickly the busy-ness and chaos seems to seep back into every facet of your life, once you leave the “vacation” and head back into reality. I guess that’s the beauty of vacation or holiday time….it’s a moment to relax, settle, absorb……just breathe.


There were lots of those moments, in between the bustle of life with 6/7 people. No family vacation is really a vacation for the parents…..it’s more of a break. Once I realized and accepted that, I’ve been a lot more content on our “holiday’s”.

Jon took the kids on a number of walks and this sweet boy here…..

He brought me back something from almost every walk. He is such a thoughtful little soul.

This time he brought me back some lovely flower puff things…..I have no idea what they were and they were almost dried, but I put them in a beer bottle vase and he was so thrilled to see his gift treasured.

After the first 3 days of sheer panic, this lovely fellow settled down (as long as there were no other dogs walking past) into the camping lifestyle and was almost a gentleman….almost!!!!


He has such sad eyes.

There was SO. MUCH. SWIMMING…. and Judah even sucked up his courage enough to jump off the dock TWICE!!!!

Jeremy was determined to get this rubbermaid bin to work as a boat and although it took a fair amount of figuring to work out the ballast and balance…he finally managed to tool around a little, until it dipped a little too much at one corner and then filled up and sank….

Sometime, this little one just slays me with his nerdliness…..he is such a sweet quirky treasure.

I have no idea what he was trying to show me in this picture.

Here is where you get the best peek of my little darling….ear folded over and all…and he wasn’t swimming….just wearing the goggles because he wanted to.

Oh I love him, so!

The Skagit Valley is a beautiful place with so many interesting things to look at and experience. It feels like our own little corner of heaven on earth. These puff ball mushrooms were just growing in the campsite, but it wasn’t till we got home and I could google them that I found out they were edible and not poisonous. They were just so cute, all nestled into the ground.

Read about Part 1 of our vacation here.

Read about Part 2 of our vacation here.

Part 4 coming….

Vacation 2014 – Part 2

There is something absolutely INCREDIBLE about this place. It’s like….you are so far away from EVERYTHING that everything that is pressing on you or weighing heavy on you starts to fade into the background and you can just “be present” in the beauty of it all.

I love it here

It doesn’t even seem like much from this picture (it was SO HAZY from the forest fires further in Washington)……how about this one…..

The Sky Before the Storm

We had either just had a storm or were just about to have a storm blow through when I took this picture.

We’ve been coming to this particular lake since the year we got married….and have only missed 2 maybe 3 years. I really, REALLY didn’t want to come this year. I’ve just been so worn down with my life and the lives of those that I’m responsible for. Each day feels like it requires super human effort (that I don’t have to give), and I know that I have people who wonder why I’m not visiting or doing coffee – and to be completely honest……I’m just surviving each day…..barely!

I was SO exhausted and packing up for the lake just about did me in. It took about 3-4 days of early nights and (I’m so incredibly thankful to my boys) not-too-early mornings for me to feel like I was actually unwinding and relaxing.

Seeing as we weren’t quite set up, (we arrived a lot later than intended) we had a lovely breakfast of cereal and crazy….pretty much a normal breakfast for us. Note Jon and Jeremy’s sweaters…..in true ADHD form, both of them managed to forget to pack a sweatshirt or coat, but ever so fortunately….Xani was able to help both of them out. Nice Ugly Christmas Sweater, Jon!!!!!

First Morning

(Siah pipes up completely randomly, as he is known to do: “Milk comes from plants, Judah……right Mom?” I had to laugh because that’s all they know – soy and almond milk)

Somethings are more important that others….and coffee and clean teeth rank pretty high in my books.

Camp Mornings

This was the first time we have brought Zeus up to a community camp ground and he tends to be a bit of a nut job when other dogs are around….he just wants to play and play and play and play….so he was a bit unhappy that he was tied down and that we kept shushing him everytime a “friend” walked by.

Sad to be tied down

In Jeremy’s perfect world, he would be either Survivor Man or Cody Lundin. I asked him to put on shoes at one point and he informed me that he planned to be shoeless for the entire time we were up there as he needed to work on his calluses so he would have tough feet. At one point, he was practicing making feathersticks.

Working on Fiddlesticks

This was my attempt at a featherstick….not too shabby for a first time, eh?

My attempt at a Fiddlestick

We settled in to “camp life” fairly quickly. Jon and Jer took the chainsaw and headed out to find some deadfall so we could have AMAZING fires. At least we had this guy to look over our campsite and keep watch over us.

Chainsaw Carving

this was Jon’s first attempt at chainsaw art

Judah’s mantra for the entire 11 days was, “CAN HE BE MINE?” It didn’t matter if it was a frog, a fish, a mouse, a beetle or this particular grub/maggot thingy….He was found hiding in a piece of wood after Jon split it up…I found it to be equally fascinating and disgusting.

Gross and Fascinating

This was a very different vacation for us. Geli was at Camp Goodtimes Teen Camp for the first week, and Xandra and Jeremy slept during the day…..they never sleep during the day. It was so amazing to see them get some extra rest. I’ll admit that I was a bit worried that Jer might be getting sick, but nope…..just tired and needing a nap. The fresh air and outdoor activities seem to really agree with every one of us.

Resting....away from it all

It’s so fun to see my babies growing up. There is such an age difference between the three older kids and the two younger ones. And the two little boys are becoming such great friends as they grow a bit bigger and older. Jeremy actually remarked that he was a bit jealous of the fact that the two boys had each other, and that Geli and Xani had each other and that he was stuck in the middle alone.

I Love Him So....

The two littlest boys are becoming bigger, little boys and while they are not babies….they will always be my babies. Although I will admit that they are a lot easier to care for now that they are a bit older. I am definitely thankful to be beyond the baby stage. I love that I can snuggle all the babies in my life and give them back and get a good night sleep. HA!

Siah worked ALL DAY and a part of the next day and finally managed to chop through a tough waterlogged piece of wood……with a hatchet. Not an easy task, but he was so determined. He was so proud when it actually chopped through….he asked me to take a picture of him and his log. Note the bare feet…..we are ALL about safety!!!

Woodsman

Judah…..well…..he is just my sweet boy and I love him so. I really don’t need any reason to post pictures of him.

Love him so....

Part 1 here

Part 3 and a bazillion more photos coming soon.

Vacation 2014 – Part 1

So, we bought an RV………an OLD RV…..like a 1978 Vanguard RV.

We’ve named her Ethyl…..cause she’s an old lady and she runs on gas…..ha ha ha, we are so puny!

I’m not a tent person. I will camp in the wilderness without electricity or internet or plumbing for a month……..as long as I have walls and a fridge. I “HATE” using coolers. My sister, Chelle, is the most amazing camper….in a tent, with multiple coolers….she’s incredible. Me, I need walls and a fridge….

We tried a tent trailer two years ago, but….it just wasn’t the same as a trailer or RV. Last year, we moved from a townhouse to a HOUSE…..and that was our big purchase for the year. We also went to Puerto Vallarta for our anniversary….so Jon had used up all his vacation time and I really wasn’t wanting to head away from our new home, so no camping last year.

This year, we didn’t manage to “get away” as a couple and I have to tell you……it just about did me in to not have a break from the crazy and chaos that we call our everyday lives. That once a year “get-a-way” is a life saver….in so many ways and I was feeling so tapped out that I couldn’t even contemplate packing up to go away.

Typically, I take about 3 weeks and PLAN THE HECK out of our camping vacation. It involves an insane amount of lists, and an equally insane amount of time and effort, but then everything runs smoothly and we know exactly what to buy and what to pack and what we are having for meals and snacks, and on what days, those meals and snacks will be consumed.

It’s extremely anal!!!!! and I’m not even ashamed to admit it.

It makes everything stress free (as much as is possible with a 7 person family who will be camping for 2+ weeks in a remote location, off the grid).

This year, I didn’t want to go. My garden is GLORIOUS!!!!! and ready to harvest DAILY!!!!!

The RV that we got for a smoking deal, had/has a few “issues” that need to be dealt with and I wasn’t even certain that we’d actually be able to go.

SO I DID NOTHING…….

NO Lists
NO Planning
NO Packing
NO NOTHING!!!!!!!

And then Jon got the RV working enough that we could go and we were supposed to leave in two days.

CRAP!!!!!

So without any lists or planning or anything….we bought way too much, threw everything we could into the RV and the Van and about 4 hours later than planned, we were off….

It was so stressful…..like panic attack stressful. Like….I never want to “throw it all together” ever again…..planning, no matter how anal it seems, makes things WAY LESS STRESSFUL for ALL OF US!!!!!

The road up to the lake was amazing. (it’s 60KM of dirt road and typically a brutal washboard) We got the “PERFECT” spot. (right on the water and right across from the outhouse) and best of all……WE WERE THERE.

We parked. Set up the tent for the girls, threw a few things out onto our camping space, and WENT TO SLEEP!!!!

(Prepare yourself for a bazillion photos in the next few posts.)

What does THAT even mean?

I mentioned that I felt depressed about my life yesterday.

I thought I might take a moment to clarify what exactly that looks like, feels like and means to me.

I ran into someone yesterday who had read yesterday’s post and gently asked me how I was doing. I threw something back at them saying that I was ok and that I was just keeping on, keeping on.

Anxiety speaking here: I’m not sure if they were expecting me to be a huge mess of tears, or if they were thinking that I’d be fragile, or really off, or shaken, or…..maybe they were thinking none of the above and that’s just the anxiety saying that they were “thinking” or “expecting” something.

Regardless, it got me thinking….because I’ve written posts before and had people very cautiously approach me wanting to cancel a get-together that was planned because it might be too much for me, or talking to me as if I couldn’t handle things and they were not wanting to upset my delicate balance.

I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate people’s care and concern……NO! Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. I feel so cared for and supported and loved, when people care enough to step outside of the emotional distance that we, as humans, like to hold ourselves to and try to bridge over into my problems and stresses. It’s HUGE and I’m so grateful.

On one hand, I don’t like to appear weak, on the other hand, I don’t like to be needy, but so often I am both weak and needy……..and I’m recognizing that having a “community” or a “family” that can help to lift you up and carry you when you feel exhausted or worn down, is an incredible, INCREDIBLE thing.

When I share about feeling depressed about my life…….I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m in a tough place and I don’t have a clear vision as to how to move from this difficult place into a better place. I don’t like NOT KNOWING……..I like to have a plan, to be in control, to be working towards a goal, to be able to make things better……

There are somethings in my life that I cannot change. I cannot remove the emotional or physical marks that cancer has left on every person in my family. I cannot remove the anxiety that all 5 of my children seem to deal with in varying degrees, from severe and debilitating to mild. I cannot change the fact that autism is a very real, exhausting and difficult neurological disorder that we deal with, as an entire family, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I cannot change the fact that ADHD has impacted 4 of my family members intimately and the trickle down effect of that disorder effects the rest of us.

I can’t “just fix” those things. They are here. They are real. They require HUGE amounts of effort mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They affect each interpersonal relationship within my immediate family and many outside of my family.

There are moments when “the reality” of my life seems WAY. TOO. REAL…….and my options are to keep on keeping on….or give up.

I cannot give up.

I mean, I could. That was something that my counselor said to me at one point. I could give up. I could check out. I could run away or end up in a hospital somewhere…..unable to “handle” things and that it was my choice to carry on.

I think she was trying to tell me that I “held power” in my situation and that many people did/do check out and that I was doing well, in the fact that I still had the ability to CHOOSE to carry on.

I think I get what she was saying and yet……oh there is always a yet or a but, isn’t there……..I don’t feel that giving up is an option. Yes, somedays, it’s all I can do to just get up and get dressed and put my make up on……

That’s my thing…..my gimmick…..the one thing that signals to me that the show must go on….if I get up and get dressed in real clothes (not pyjama wanna-be’s) and do my hair and make up……..then I accomplish so much more. Very rarely, do I ever, stay in pyjamas and not do my hair and make up. I get “ZILCH” done on those days and I simply cannot afford to not accomplish things……

The 2.5 years of cancer treatment was brutal. It taxed me to my extreme limits as a person, and definitely as a parent. I am still not recovered from the toll that it took on me.

I find that I feel a bit like I am a hollow egg (Humpty Dumpty, if you will). I have a very thin and fragile shell and as long as things don’t shake me or bump me, I exert every bit of energy that I have to hold my broken and cracked self together. One little bump and the precariously balanced pieces start to fall. I fall apart……

Jeremy has a bad Autistic day……….BUMP!
Geli has an emotional day relating back to cancer crap………BUMP!
Josiah has an ADHD frustration flip out…….BUMP!
Judah is 3 (enough said)………BUMP!
Xani experiences extreme anxiety for unexplained reasons…….BUMP!

So many bumps……so much energy expended trying to keep all the pieces in place…..so many pieces falling…..so little left at the end of the day.

I can’t make these things go away, and so I must learn how to live and carry on and continue with pieces of myself broken and fallen apart.

Some of it will get better….or at the very least different, with time. Some of it will never go away, but the kids will grow up and learn coping skills. And my hope, my prayer, is that I do a good enough job of training these amazing blessings of mine how to deal with life’s challenges with grace and dignity; and how to keep on keeping on even when you are unsure of how to proceed and what the best course of action is…..

But………

………sometimes, the enormity of my job weighs heavy on me. Sometimes, I’m unsure how to best help these ones I love so dearly. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have the emotional or physical strength to deal with “even one more issue”(…and there is always “one more issue”). And then I feel discouraged…….

We have had a few BIG BUMPS recently. Ones that I’d love to share, but it’s just not the right time…….and the added pressure and stress weighs very heavy and makes “coping” that much more difficult. And so here is where I am at today……..

I’m dressed. I have my make-up on and my hair done(sorts of, if a messy pony tail counts…). The kids are off to school, except for Geli – who is still feeling sick (Thanks to Xani for bringing home a stinking bug from New York) and Judah. I’m needing to make a list and see what I can actually get done today. I know I have a mountain (probably 8 large loads) of laundry to fold, sort and put away. I know the main floor is a disaster and the kitchen needs to get put right. If I can accomplish any (not all, but ANY……) of that before the kids come home; as well as planning dinner for Angelica’s 17th Birthday (which is today) I will consider today a success. I have LOW standards…..

So, my “feelings of depression” are an exhaustion, a feeling of uncertainty and brief moments of hopelessness, a sense of constant pressure and chaos, an insecurity of my abilities to adequately parent these amazing children who have been presented with striking challenges to overcome……it’s a little bit of acknowledging a desire for some easy days, yet not wanting to stay in a place of discontent with my life, because that helps no one. It’s a tough place. At times it’s a wonderful place…..but right now, it’s mostly a tough place.

It won’t stay that way forever. I know that I’ll feel stronger and stronger again….I always do, but it is tough.

I would encourage you to look around you and encourage each other…..it doesn’t matter whether you are a single parent by choice or by circumstance, or whether you have special needs children or a child with a long term or chronic illness, whether you have a difficult or challenging child(ren) or need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, whether you or your loved ones struggle with any kind of mental illness or disability, or whether you seem to have a fairly smooth go of things at the moment……

Be Kind.
Be Compassionate.
Be Loving.
Be Encouraging.
Be Understanding.
Be Gracious.
Be Merciful.
Be Caring.

Understand that everyone is doing their best, and while “our bests” may differ depending on our circumstances and experiences and abilities……..be gentle with each other. Your care and support may make the difference in someones life today.