Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Rebekah!


Today my beautiful Rebeka turns five years old.  She is the blondie with the lovely brunettes in the picture.  She is our answer to prayer and our miracle child.  All of our children are miracles, but getting Beka is a true answer to prayer. 

When Elizabeth turned one year old, Chris and I decided it was time to start trying for another baby.  Sarah lived at home with her mom then and we worried she wouldn't allow Sarah to be involved in Lizzie's life if something happened to us.  So we began trying.  It hadn't been tough to get pregant with Lizzie, we hadn't been trying.  We never guessed that choice would lead us down a four year road prayer, heartbreak and tears as we struggled with secondary infertility. 

Part of our issue was my weight.  I knew why I overate, but I didn't know how to stop bad habits that had been with me for almost 15 years.  I still fight that fight and will for the rest of my life.  But at the time it was heartbreaking.  The one thing we wanted more than Sarah coming to live with us, was another child and it just never seemed to happen.  Finally April 15, 2006 I went into a surgical room and went through open gastric bypass.  I chose Liv-Lite Weightloss Program in Junction City, Kansas.  They had been around for almost 20 years at the time and the doctors there had been performing gastric bypass for that long or longer.  

Going into the program I had the option to choose.  To tie my tubes or not to tie my tubes, that was the question.  At first, I was going to have them take care of tying my tubes, but as I got closer to surgery I realized, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the hope for another child.  Even though at the time I was going into surgery I wasn't sure if we would have anymore.  It hadn't happened for us, so maybe it just wasn't God's will for us to have more than two children.  But I decided to trust God and let him tell us if He was finished expanding our family at the time.     When I woke up from surgery, I was not prepared for the pain I felt.  You know logically it is going to be painful after having open surgery where they reroute your small intestine to a new stomach, but nothing emotionally of physically can prepare you for the pain you feel or for the fact that they get up and walking an hour after you wake up!  I remember at one point thinking, What was I thinking?  I could be eating a Big Mac right now and instead I am sick and never want to think about food again.  But I did think about food, and eventually and slowly I got to eat food again.   I will never be able to eat the same amounts I ate before, and honestly I don't miss that.  And after four months I began feeling pretty good again. 

Yes, four months to feel like a human being again.  Four months of becoming the incredibly shrinking woman, but it was awesome.  Then in July 2006 I found myself standing in front of pregancy tests.  I hadn't looked at a pregnancy test in two years, suddenly I felt that I needed to be looking at them?  It didn't happen in July, but on August 28, 2006 I stood in my girlfriends kitchen and we agreed, if you have to hold it to the light it's not a real positive.  So she stood at one side of the kitchen and I stood near the table where I had put the test down.  We chatted for a few moments when I looked down and suddenly saw TWO BOLD LINES!!!  I exclaimed, "Do you see that?  Two bold lines?"  She looked at them and looked at me and said, "And their getting darker."  I was over the moon! 

I had heard stories of people who are so overcome with joy they begin to weep.  Until that moment I had never experienced that, but I began to weep.  Of course, first I had to call Chris.  I had told him the night before to not get excited, but I was late and I felt like I had felt when I was pregnant with Lizzie.  He smiled at me, but I told him, don't count your chickens before they hatch, we've thought I was pregnant before and it was devastating.  So this time I gladly woke him up and shared the news, then I called our parents and told them.  Then it occurred to me, I needed to call my surgeon and change the appointment I had with the OB/Gyn to a different type of appointment, I wasn't struggling with infertility, I was four months post op and pregnant?!  I worried. 

The worrying didn't stop until I heard the heartbeat and saw Beka on the sonogram when I was six weeks pregnant.  I'd had some bleeding and I was scared I was miscarrying.  Scratch that I was terrified.  My friend had suffered a miscarriage from an ectopic pregnancy a few months prior and I was terrified it would happen to us.  I made Beka a deal, "I won't give up if you don't give up." 

April 30, 2007 I was sent quickly to the hospital from the doctor's office "for observation".  I was full term, I'd been contracting regularly since week 30 of my pregnancy due to the scar tissue irritating my uterus.  This time my blood pressure was 150/120 stroke level.  I called my best friend, Jaymi who had given birth earlier that month to her handsome guy Nate and she told me, they would probably induce me. I hated the idea of pitosin, but I was ready to meet Beka.  I would put up with anything if it meant I got to have Beka safe and sound.  They started inducing me at five p.m. and Rebekah Beryl Koeppel came into our family at 8:40 p.m. My labor was quick and hadn't taken much to deliver her, she was gorgeous and while I had to work to bond with Elizabeth I knew immediately with Beka I would fight for her with every fiber of my being as I did for the other two girls.  That was five years ago today and she's been such a bright happy baby from the get-go. 

Happy Birthday Rebekah Beryl.  We love you more than words can express!


Love Always,
Mommy

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Firstborns and Life Lessons Learned


I have a confession to make.  I am making this confession because I think it is very important for women to know they are not alone and they are not freaks.  What could I possibly confess?
I did not immediately fall in love with Elizabeth from the moment she was born.  It took time.
I remember sitting in the back yard at a girl friends house while our children played when I made my confession.  I thought for certain she would be mortified, but instead she admitted she struggled at first too. 
I was 27 years old, I had gotten pregnant in December, married in January and moved from my friends and immediate family to Wichita, KS from Oklahoma City, OK and I was terribly sick throughout my pregnancy.  Plus it meant no more spur of the moment trips (at least not for a while), no more just going whereever, whenever I wanted and it was closing a chapter in my life that I'd had begun to enjoy in my mid twenties.  Suddenly my life was changing, everything I'd done, known and been was changing.  I was no longer just me, I was a part of a small fledgling family, I was sick, I was exhausted (I was in labor for 15 hours, who wouldn't be exhausted), and I was in pain.  Suddenly, there was this tiny little being who expected me to take care of her.  Everyone was happy.  I was just tired and needed a few moments to rest.  I got it - my mom and sister fought my husband over who got to hold Lizzie first while I rested.   Then after an hour of resting I was ready to hold my daughter.
I had enjoyed her growing inside me, aside from the morning sickness and gall bladder attacks taht sent me to the hospital every other week.  Chris and I had enjoyed watching her grow inside of me, talking to her and suddenly there she was.  As I looked at her, I wondered, shouldn't I feel this great maternal bond?  It wasn't there.  At least not instantly. 
The bonding came as I nursed her, cared for her, changed her, bathed her and snuggled with her at night.  It helped that Chris worked third shift so when he came home, he would take her for several hours until she absolutely needed her Mommy and then he would bring her to me.  Did I struggle with some depression, yup, but I also learned some  things.   So here is a short list of things I learned.

1.  It's okay to tell the people who love you, to please back off.  They mean well, but sometimes well meaning people only stress you out more.  When I was figuring out breastfeeding, Mom was a staunch anti-bottle NAZI!  No kidding, she had good intentions but she stressed me out so badly that it robbed me of the joy of nursing Elizabeth.  So when I was expecting Beka and she started again, I sat down with her and told her I knew she loved me, the girls and the baby growing inside me, but I needed her to back off because I wanted to enjoy Beka more than I had Elizabeth. 
2.  You do not have to let people in the delivery room.  If you are a cranky person when you are sick or hurting - allowing anyone other than your spouse might not be a good idea.  I love my family, but they annoyed the crap out of me when I was in labor with Elizabeth.  When Beka was born it was the doctors, nurses, and just Chris and I.  It was a much more pleasant experience (of course, not being sicker than a dog helped as well and it was only a four hour labor instead of the 15 hour labor that I experienced with Lizzie). 

3. Every pregnancy really is different.  I was extremely ill with Elizabeth, compounded by a bad gall bladder and stress I was more than a little hesitant to have another child for a year.  Then I realized I didn't want Lizzie to be an only child (Sarah didn't live with us at the time).  By the time I got pregnant with Beka, I had a lovely, uneventful pregnancy.  I had some morning sickness, but once it left (and this time I did leave), it was great and I felt pretty great.

4.  Hormones - no one is more of a hostage than the pregnant woman.  No matter how much your loved ones joke.  I am a pretty level headed, objective person but when I was pregnant with Elizabeth my hormones were all over the place.  I cried at the drop of a hat:  "Oh look at the dead cat at the side of the road" (accompanied by sobbing), "Oh the guy in the movie said he loves her!"  (accompanied by sobbing)  "I don't know why I'm crying."  (accompanied by more sobbing and frustration which meant even more sobbing).   I was a hot mess - minus the hot!  Chris was good about it all.  With Beka I knew I wasn't in control, I had accepted it and learned to deal with it.  I even had the topper of our pick up truck fall on my head and yes, I cried, but it wasn't the "WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME WHY AM I SOBBING LIKE A MORON?!!! sobbing, it was ouch that hurts and I frustrated because my husband should be here helping me and I can't make the stupid truck work (By the way I made him come with me after that every time).

5. Babies are cute and cuddly but they grow up into toddlers who will tick you off, amuse you and make you so nuts you could pull all of your heart out in one swift swing of a pendulum.  Toddlers grow up into preschoolers who also do all of the following - and the trend continues I think until you die, or they die - it depends if you let them live long enough to hit adulthood and even that is a coin toss at times.

6.  Even those of us who are pretty level headed find that after we have children we find it is easier for us to cry.  I still cry when watching Ice Age with the girls when the mom hugs her baby and jumps over the edge of the falls to save her and her baby.  And don't get me started on Meet the Robinsons.   But worst is I found myself crying over Strawberry Shortcake one day - as soon as it registered, I started laughing hysterically at the irony. 

7.  Listen to your instincts.  If you think something is wrong with your child - trust your gut.  It is better to spend the co-pay and go to the pediatrician and discover nothing is wrong than to not go and your child become sicker. 

8.  Your mom may be right, but she will still annoy you when she tries to tell you something is wrong with your baby.  Listen to her, at the very least investigate it to make her be quiet and go away.  But when she is right, eat your humble pie and tell her she was right, then if she holds it over your head, ask her how she liked it when Grandma did it to her.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

I am excited to meet all of our new cousins and babies.  They are a lot of fun, but best of all, I get to give these babies back! :D

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Friday, April 27, 2012

GGGRRRRRR!!!!!

I went through this with Sarah too.  I struggled as she struggled to learn how to clean the kitchen.  Sarah was a good kid, and so is Elizabeth.  Please, know my girls really are good girls, they are just terrible listeners.  

When Sarah started dish duty I ran into the same issue - half done, shoddy work and dishes not really cleaned, grime left on the dishes, residue left on pots and pans.  All of which meant I had to make her do them all over again.  Then Chris finally hooked up the dishwasher he purchased for me Christmas 2002 (it wasn't until 2008 but hey, better late than never).  Life got easier for Sarah - sadly that didn't mean she focused more of her energy on doing her chores, it meant she slacked off more.   I promised her once she proved to me she could do a good job on a regular basis, I would take her off kitchen duty, she never achieved this until we moved to Washington and finally, yes she came off dish duty.

So now I am teaching Elizabeth how to clean, do dishes.  In some ways it's a good thing having the girls ages so widely spread, but this is not one of those times.  Having the six to seven year age gap means once I have one girl trained I have to go through the whole process all over again.  GGGGRRRR!!!  Back to children who can't see what is right in front of them, back to teaching children how to properly do kitchen work, back to teaching how to do the laundry.  Worst, is that unlike Elizabeth Beka doesn't want to do the job the right way EVER!  So I have a little girl who doesn't attempt to put her clothes away, she just crams them all higgledy-piggledy (sp?).  It's annoying to say the least.  Beka would much rather have everyone else do it for her, but alas that is not to be her lot in life.  I have firm plans for Miss Beka - she will learn how to separate her clothing, she will learn how to help in the kitchen, cleaning and cooking (just like Sarah and Lizzie), she will learn to keep her room clean or she will not get privileges.

So yes, I've been through this before, but I'm a little more savvy this time and able to remember that I've done this once and hopefully speed up the time table.  OH!  And this time I'm creating the check list earlier.  As in I'm creating it tonight.  As soon as I'm done blogging tonight.   And hopefully by the time it's Beka's turn I'll have more patience, because I was already my brother and sister's maid, not anymore.  My kids are in for a rude awakening.

Have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cycles and Autism

For hundreds of thousands of years - as long as there were parents and child relationship there has been a cycle.  Parents who hope, pray, wish and dream their children will choose differently or better than they did growing up.  For some of us, the regrets from our youth are very many.  For others it's not that you regret your choices, you just would rather your child not struggle like you did growing up.

Never is that cycle more apparent than when the child becomes a parent and they begin to realize, "Oh CRAP!!!  I hope my child's life is better than my life was" or "I hope they make different choices."  Or even, "I made good choices and have lived a good life, I hope my child's life is as fulfilling as mine was."  It's inevitable.  We all go through it.  Especially women.

From the moment most of us get pregnant (some people aren't dreamers, they are very practical) we dream of what we hope will our children's life.  We have great hopes and great dreams for them.  For some of us, we hold onto those dreams until our children assert their own need for independence.  At that time we either hold onto those dreams and force our children into a mold we have designed for them (which may not be the mold God designed for them) or we struggle to let go of our dreams and allow our children to dream for themselves.  The latter is preferable for our children, but I will be honest, even Chris and I still struggle to let our oldest daughter, Sarah make her own dreams happen. 

When we began to really start testing Elizabeth and I put two and two together, I drove home with a heart that weighed a ton of lead.  It wasn't just that something wasn't right it was that I remember to this day very vividly how people made fun of the special needs children in school when I was growing up.  I remember their cruelty to me and I wasn't even as different as Lizzie is now.  I walked in the door and Chris knew as soon as he saw the tears running down my face something wasn't right.  All I could say was "Something is wrong with our baby.  And her life will never be easy or the same."  I realized that other people would most likely not see all of the amazing things I saw in Elizabeth.  Her vivid imagination, her kind and beautiful heart filled with compassion for others, or her sense of adventure (even if that sense of adventure is the cause for most of my gray hair).    Okay so she still is learning to speak like others, okay so she doesn't see the world as other people see it.  Guess what a lot of our great innovators and imagineers in our world didn't see the world through the same eyes as other people. 

As time went on and we received her diagnosis we began the process of grieving.  It was a loss.  Not to death, but to the loss of our dreams for her.  Learning to let go of what we had hoped for her future and accepting new goals, hopes and dreams. 

Autism isn't a death sentence, nor does it have to be the end of the world.  Yes, it comes with it's own challenges and there are obstacles to work on overcoming (some you achieve, some you learn to accept and some you keep trying).  But there are people with Autism who aren't High Functioning who learn to cook, clean, and have productive lives.  They have new programs coming out all of the time for adults with Autism.  Programs that aid them in living in the world, or in a community of other adults who struggle with the world too.   But they are there. 

Letting go and accepting your child's diagnosis is a small part of the journey we take with our children.  For some of us, our children can feasibly live without us, for some that is not an option, for others a group home becomes a reality or an institution.  All are tough, letting our children grow up and leave the nest means trusting we've done our best to prepare them for life away from us.  For those whose adult children need us to keep them at home, it often presents other problems - like what happens to my child after I am gone, and for those who must put their children in a home or institution there is the guilt of feeling like we failed our children.  Regardless though, I think we all struggle with feeling like we failed our children when they are diagnosed with a special needs.  Even I struggled, knowing that logically there was nothing I did that caused Lizzie's Autism didn't mean my heart understood.  Getting your heart to catch up with your head can sometimes take a long time to connect the two.  

There are cycles in life.  We all are born, grow up, and face challenges, we become parents (sometimes before marriage and sometimes afterwards) and we all struggle to let go of our children and allow them to become their own person.  But never, never is that struggle more difficult if you have a child who has medical problems early in life or if you have a child with special needs or if you have to fight for them to be safe and loved. 

Have a good rest of your week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tough Days

Everyone has tough days.  Most of us have days that turn into weeks, weeks that turn into months, and sometimes those months turn into years.  Why?  No one really knows, we all have theories, ideas, and our own opinions about why, but in truth we won't have the answers until we are gone and with God.

One of the moms on MyAutismTeam.com was expressing her need to spend a little time living in denial.  And not one of us parents on there blames her.  Living life is tough period, but living life when your child has Autism or an Autism Spectrum Disorder - can be brutal at times.   Sometimes those moments for me catch me off guard.  It can be something as simple as Elizabeth being at Children's Musical practice, when we lived in Wichita or she is dancing with the kids at VBS before it began and the children looked at her like she was weird.  Those moments are when suddenly it hits me - even with all of her gains and how far she has come MY DAUGHTER IS DIFFERENT!  And it breaks my heart all over again.  I've slipped into denial and I didn't realize it, then suddenly it all washes over me again.  Like children in need of organ transplants, most kids with Autism look like normal happy children.  A child with cancer is often noticeable because they have lost their hair, or a child with Down's Syndrome looks beautiful but they have certain things about them that shows they are different.  Autism has no one set look.  Our children look normal, happy, and healthy - they look like little Johnny or Janey down the street or in church or school, until they begin to flap their arms, rock back and forth, or speak to others.  

When Elizabeth was almost six years old and Beka was a little over a year we went to a restaurant to eat dinner.  It had been a long weekend and Chris spent the weekend at drill for the Army Reserves, I was tired, I was cranky and I was very hot (it was in the middle of the summer).  In the restaurant was a little girl who was so pretty and Elizabeth in typical Elizabeth fashion wanted to be her friend. 
Under normal circumstances I introduce Elizabeth and kind of smooth the way for her, but this time Mommy was tired, hot and I didn't do this.  I called Elizabeth back over when I saw how uncomfortable the little girls and I talked with her and kept her occupied a little bit until we were ready to be seated and didn't think anything of this encounter.   After the food arrived, I had to use the ladies room and in typical Lizzie fashion, she wanted to come with me.  Sitting in the pathway from our table to the bathroom was a table where the same little girl sat with her parents and grandparents.  I smiled and nodded,. then suddenly the smile left my face as we walked past and I heard her say, "Look Mommy there's the little crazy girl."  I kept walking, but I felt as if my heart had stopped beating for a few moments.  We kept going and finished and I seated Lizzie back at the table and sat down.  Suddenly, I knew I needed to say something, so I got up and I walked over to the table and looked at the family in the eye before sharing, "Excuse me, my daughter isn't crazy she's Autistic."  I had to stop, I turned quickly around and walked back to the table because I was ready to cry and I would have preferred to not cry.  After a short time, the little girl came over and apologized and we thanked her, but those are the moments when you can't live in denial because reality comes barging in through the door. 

For those of us with children who are Autistic, Down's Syndrome, or disabled in some way, those moments are some of life's cruelest moments.  Those are the moments we the world comes intruding into our worlds, the worlds we work so hard to make as typical or normal as possible. 

Someone told me once I loved Elizabeth despite her disabilities.  I looked them in the eye and explained, "No I love Elizabeth because of her disabilities and differences."  Is it heartbreaking at times?  Yes.  Do I sometimes yearn for her to be like the other children?  I don't know, maybe.  I know I worry about what will happen to her when Chris and I are gone and can no longer watch over her.  For that reason alone, I pray that God will return sooner rather than later - for those of us who have angels we worry over.    So do I sometimes live in denial and believe that Lizzie's improving and may be like others?  Yes, I admit it, I do at times. 

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remembering April 19, 1995

April 19, 1994 - Where were you?  Those of us who grew up in Oklahoma during that time will never forget the bombing of the Murrow Federal Building - the pictures that followed afterwards, or the horror when we realized it was an American who created such havoc and destruction. 

I lived in Yukon, OK at the time and was attending college at El Reno Community College  at the time.  This was before cell phones (unless you were wealthy), so people with loved ones out of state had to wait until they could get through the phone system to let them know they were alive and okay. The nursing home where I worked went into help mode, I worked some long hours along side fellow co-workers making sure we were prepared if they needed to bring anyone here.  It turned out to be unnecessary. 

The pictures, video, and interviews that followed haunted us all.  In truth, even today I have yet to visit the Memorial Site.  I only see the Survivor's Tree in pictures.  I don't need to visit a memorial to remember, I remember vividly the fireman who brought Bailey to her momma, dead and broken by the work of Timothy McVeigh's and Terry Nichol's hands. 

I'm not sure which shocked us all more - that it happened in Oklahoma City or the fact that it was not the work of rogue terrorists from another country, it was done by own fellow Americans?  Where were you?  Did it bother you?  Did you too watch in horror as images played repeatedly over the news stations.  Did you have to turn off the TV and walk away?  Did it haunt you?   Or did you push it aside and try not to remember?

I hope you all have a good week and God Bless.
In Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Little Things

     I've always been thrilled by the small things in life.  The smell of a clean baby after a bath, my girls giggling in their room (even if they are supposed to be sleeping), the changing of the leaves when Fall come to your neck of the woods.  Today I am grateful and thankful to God that Chris and I can finally fall asleep again while in bed together at the same time. 

It seems odd, I know, but after his deployment in 2009 we struggled with this.  It took a year to get back to normal when he returned home in 2005.  It comes from spending a year in bed alone, even if you don't want to be alone.  Because the truth is no one's arms are as awesome as my husbands, except for God's.  And God is awesome, but sometimes a girl needs a nice strong physical set of arms to stand in the gap for her.  Chris is the one who stands in that gap for me.  I hoped that when he came home in 2010 that it wouldn't take as long.  It didn't.  It took longer.  Two years. . . personally two years seems too long to me. 

How did this happen?  Well add 1 deployment, 1 year of unemployment and 1 year of adjusting to a whole new part of the country because you've moved and it's a perfect storm for two things.  The first is insomnia.  It's been three years since I had a good nights sleep.  Recently, I've started finding a good routine and sleeping well again. HALLELUJAH!!  Remember it's the small things that thrill me. 
The second thing it usually means is trouble falling asleep with my husband in bed next to me.  We have a full sized bed (we keep swearing we are going to get a queen, it just hasn't happened yet), so room isn't in abundance, plus Chris works second shift.  And it's take 11 years but he doesn't try to tell me about his night at work anymore when he comes to bed.   He realized I wasn't joking when I told him that waking me up to talk to me means I don't fall back to sleep.  Once he got it, he made sure he didn't do it anymore.  So here is my prayer of thanks today.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being with our family for the past three years.  I ask that you remain with us for many more years to come.  Thank you for watching over me, and for watching over Chris while he was in Iraq and Kuwait.  Thank you for making sure I had a loving husband who listens to me when I try to talk to him about what I need.  Thank you for teaching me how precious sleep really is and finally getting Chris and I back to where we were before.
Amen

Parallels

I am reading Jeremiah these days for my devotion time.  I also make sure I share it on Twitter - so having my Bible on my smart phone, is amazing.  It keeps me accountable, but it also means I make sure I spend my time in the Word each and every day because there is always the possibility that someone will stumble across God's word and it will take seed in their hearts.  But I digress.

Jeremiah was a prophet during an incredibly troubling time in Israel's history.  The children of Israel - God's Chosen were not living their lives as they should.  Not by a long shot - they were worshipping idols, living their lives outside of God's will and His Commandments.  Worse, the Rabbi's were just as guilty and there were many prophets among the children who were not speaking God's truth. 

As I read this, I find that I see a lot of parallels between what God's children were choosing to do and what we as Americans choose to do these days.  We have idols that we have placed above God.  We listen to false prophets who speak out saying, "It's okay, God is with you."  This is definitely true in our lives today.  We live in a society of if it feels good do it.  I have heard numerous times "My God is a loving God."  And to some extent that isn't wrong - God is a loving God.   He loves us so much he sent Jesus to die for us, but it doesn't mean that we don't have to face consequences. 

As I get older, I worry.  I worry about my daughters growing up and believing the lies the world is selling.  I worry that what life is bringing to them will only be heartache and sorrow.  So much of what we see today is against what God's will is for us.  So much of it is sin.  Does that mean God doesn't love us?  NO!  God loves us regardless of if we are sinners or not.  Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, but that doesn't mean He doesn't see when we willfully disobey him.  It doesn't mean we won't suffer the wages of our sin.   Does that mean we are all condemned to Hell?  No, we are promised in 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 

If you have never asked Christ to come and live in your heart, you don't know what you are missing.  No matter what you have done, nothing will separate you from Christ or his love and he only wants you to ask him to come in.  It is as simple as praying a simple prayer:
Lord, I admit I am a sinner.  I am so sorry Jesus for my sins and I want you to be the Lord of my life.
Amen. 

You don't have to an eloquent speaker, you don't have to be super talented, you don't even have to be a good person, nothing can separate you from Christ, but you and not asking him to come into your heart. 

I hope you all have a good week.
Love In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gift of Life!

Somehow it doesn't seem possible I am writing blog post 300 today.  I could write about Autism, it's a subject I know a lot about since I live with it daily.  But today I think it is important to write about a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  Organ donation.  It is so important.  And we have four very good reasons why our family is huge about encouraging organ donation!
Meet reason #1 - Denim (Denny) Weaver!
Three years ago a little boy in our church was born.  I didn't know the family very well at first, but thanks to Facebook and them sitting in front of us pretty much every Sunday, we got to know the Weaver family well.  Denim Wayne Weaver, was born with a disease known as Biliary Atresia.  While I am still trying to figure out a good way to explain it to people, it basically kills the liver because of too much bile from the gall bladder.  Thankfully, they caught it so quickly with Denny that he only needed a Kasai procedure, so far.  This may not always be the case, but for now Denny is doing well.  However, at some point Denny will most likely need a liver transplant.

Reason #2 Sarah Kraft!!!
We met the awesome Kraft family through our friends the Weavers. Denny's mom Beth, helped Patty and I connect when she learned we were moving to Everett, Washington.  Getting to know Kirk, Patty and their fun brood has been fun.  But last week, Sarah shared with me her gift of life.  She has a scar that goes across her little tummy to the middle, because that is where they gave her, her new liver.  Sadly, Sarah got her gift of life because someone else's child died.   There are a lot of people who think that organ donation means you have to be dead, but for liver or kidneys, that is not true.  You can be a living donor.  In truth, if I didn't have high blood pressure, I would have been a living donor several times because of families we've met.   Organ donation is so important for so many people.  Which brings me to reasons number 3 and 4!
Reasons  #3 & 4
 These adorable girls are amazing.  And so adorable!  Like Denny we met Leila and Laila Soureshjani at church.  Twin girls in need of life saving liver transplants.  Leila received her several months ago and is doing well, but tonight or early tomorrow morning Laila will receive her gift of life!!!  This is so exciting. 

I realize organ donation is scary to talk about.  It is, if you want to help someone with organs you usually die.  But you can help a child or adult in need of help by donating a kidney, liver, or marrow to someone in need.  Even if you aren't up for that, then please talk to your loved ones about your wishes.  You never know whose life you could be saving.  You might be helping save one of God's little angels or someone he has great plans for.  So please talk the talk, even write it down and keep it in your wallet so medical personnel will know if you want to be an organ donor.  You never know whose life you may be saving.

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Small Rant

To the girl in our complex who keeps trying to talk Elizabeth into playing when she's clearly said she is done:

I realize that you too have special needs, but it's time to have a little sit down.  First, Elizabeth loves playing with you but when she is done, she is done.  The fact that she came inside does not mean she doesn't like you, it means she realizes she's overwhelmed and is tired and needs a break. It usually also means she is cold, or hot, or just needs a little peace and quiet. 
Second, if she comes inside it does not mean you should proceed to bully her into coming outside.  No means no, so learn to be respectful of people's choices.  You don't have to like it, you just need to deal. 
Third, Just because you left doesn't mean her world has stopped turning.  The world does keep spinning even if you are not in it.  It's time to realize that and let it go already. 
Finally, Bashing my daughter is not cool.  But doing so when you are just outside my home AND my bedroom window is open is stupidity itself.  It will get you a talking too.  We don't bash you, even though you have issues.  I don't allow the girls to talk badly about you and I have even made Rebekah apologize for saying something that isn't nice to you.  Learn the lesson yourself or you will most likely be on the receiving end of a "Come to Jesus" talk from me.  Really, it's not cool.

You are not a bad kid, but like all children sometimes you make poor choices, it is all a part of the growing up process.  But being bossy and always having to be in charge is not going to win you friends in the long run.  It will however, alienate you from the other children.  And insisting you get your own way doesn't make you awesome, it makes you annoying and a bully.  None of us get what we want all of the time.  If we did, everyone would win the lottery at some point in their life or transplant patients would all receive their gift of life. 

We still like you, but I really, really, really need you to learn boundaries and learn to back off.

Signed,
An Annoyed, but Loving Mom.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Autism and Deployment


Being a parent is a tough job, period.  It usually means that you have to firm when you'd like to bend, or you have to do things you don't want to (like clean up vomit, but I'm a sympathetic puker).  It also means sometime you have to let your children face challenges that you'd like for them to not face at all.
Deployment is no exception.  Now add deployment AND Autism into the mix and it makes for an interesting six months to a year.

The first time Chris deployed was nothing short of a nightmare.  He was not supposed to be put in a unit where he could deploy, he was going into the Reserves to be an 88 Mike Instructor.  But the day he went to the MEPS station the unit was closed and no one answered the phone.  So they placed him with the unit that he would call home until we moved to Washington.  It was a good unit, just not what we had signed up for and it wasn't what he had told me.  So imagine our shock when the unit wouldn't let him move to the unit he'd signed up to join.  He didn't get to deploy originally when they were going to because he had a few medical issues to take care, but the second time around the got him and kept him on the roster.  The one thing I had been hoping wouldn't happen suddenly was real.  He came home from Christmas in Iowa and had to report for duty shortly after.   I instantly became a single parent of a two year old little girl who was used to Daddy being her primary care giver Monday through Thursdays and he was gone. 

What we didn't know was that Elizabeth had Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  All I knew was she was small and cute and I was thrilled to have a daughter, even if she didn't speak very often.
Lizzie's 3rd birthday party August 2004.  Chris was deployed to Iraq at the time.

It never occurred to me that maybe something was wrong, no matter how much my mom nagged at me.  I couldn't see it at the time, to me she was perfect and beautiful and I loved her no matter what.  But as her third year grew closer and I was struggling to keep child care even more, I had to begin facing some tough things.  Something was wrong with my daughter.  She would play in the nursery and play alone while the other children would play with each other.  She didn't speak as clearly as the other children, and she didn't speak hardly at all, but when she did I understand about 1/2 of what she was trying to say.  She began banging her head when Chris left, to the point I was afraid to take her in public.  By the time she was three she had busted the top and lower lip, given me a black eye, almost broken my nose, and hurt me more times than I thought imaginable. She would run off and pretend she didn't hear anyone, especially if she was focused on something she wanted.    I had consequences and even swatted her bottom when needed, but people assumed I didn't have rules or structure and discipline.  People thought she would be a jabber box, since Chris and I are both fairly talkative, but she wasn't talking nearly as much.  Finally a friend of mine suggested I take her to Screen for Success to get my mom to leave me alone.  Watching her do so poorly was devastating.  I knew she was smart, that was never my concern.  I could see the wheels turning in her head, but I had to begin to face the truth.  Something was wrong.  I met with a social worker and a speech therapist at Irving Elementary School, who were very nice.  But I insisted we wait for Chris to get home.

Here is the thing about deployment, you are mom and dad, the only driver (if you only have small children or children too young to drive), you are the one who takes care of it all.  It can be extremely overwhelming.  I learned a lot during that deployment.  I learned even those who think they are supportive, and have good intentions can give you more grief than they mean too.  I learned that you have to take on what you can handle, no more or you get too overwhelmed.  I learned that it's best (at least for me) to avoid people, because most of them don't understand and even if they do, they aren't always what you need.  I learned when I am depressed I have no filter so I say anything and I have a tough time sitting still.  So when they began talking about testing and getting Elizabeth into an early intervention program, I was too overwhelmed.  I needed Chris to be home, I need support, correction I needed the support of my husband.  My mom tried to help, but she's my mom and God love her, she still sees me as a small girl, not a fully grown woman sometimes and it made it worse.  She would never have done it on purpose, she did it out of love, but it just made things worse. 

Finally, Chris came home February 28, 2005 - my birthday the best day ever.  It seemed like it was all over, but in truth it was only just beginning.   I had told Dr. Spade that she didn't pass Screen for Success and so between Irving and getting into see Dr. Kerschon I had unknowingly gotten the ball rolling towards a diagnosis that would change our lives forever. . . Autism. 

In the beginning it felt like the end of the world.  And in a way it was, it was an end to the world I had envisioned for Elizabeth, but this new world we live in while tough at times is not as horrid as I was afraid it would be.  We even faced another deployment, and because she had such an amazing special needs team, we were able to face it with little damage done to Elizabeth. And it meant that while I still worried about Elizabeth, she had the structure, routine and extra support that she needed to have to make it through the deployment and do better.  At least one of the two of us handled it better.  That is a small blessing in some part.   If you are friends with someone who is facing deployment and they have a special needs child, remember, nothing about their spouse being away is normal.  Yes, some single parents do okay, but there is something extremely  stressful about having your spouse away in a war zone and you aren't just a single parent, you are a single parent worried about if your spouse comes home alive or in a box or not at all.   Add a special needs child into the mix and it can be somewhat disasterous at times.   

I hope you all have a good week. 
In Christ,
Maureen

Rebellion

For years we've heard women talk about the fact that Hollywood has very unrealistic expectations.  This is true, but often what people forget is that if we didn't buy into the things Hollywood and the media try to sell us, then they wouldn't be so good at it.  This is especially true for women when it comes to aging.

For years I was a relatively young looking woman.  At 22 years old people thought I was 16 years old.  And for a long time I hated it.  Then I had gastric bypass and the weight began to come off.  After Beka was born and I finally hit my lowest weight in a very long time, I was 140 pounds and suddenly I was faced with a much thinner looking face.  Without the extra pounds to fill it out I felt like it aged me a lot.  I'm pretty sure the sleep deprivation wasn't helping that look at all.  But I wanted to be healthy, so I started coloring my hair more often.  I cut off my hair and went much shorter than I had had my hair since 1999.  But all of this didn't help me feel better.

Then February 2008 came.  I was facing my 34th birthday when it hit me.  I AM 34!!!!!  I am one year away from being 35 years old.  Where had the time gone?  It seemed like only yesterday I was 15 years old and that 20 years that stretched before me were such a long time before I hit my mid 30's I had what seemed like forever before I had to worry about turning 35 years old.  Then suddenly it was upon me.  I will be honest, I freaked out a bit.  I wasn't ready to be in my mid-30's.  All those years to achieve what I had thought I would have achieved had flown by and at that moment I wondered what I had to show for it. 

It was during this year of dealing with my mid-life crisis that I played around with hair color, I continued to paint my toenails strange colors (something I've been doing since my 20's), I exercised like crazy and tried to figure out how to embrace my age.  It came to me one day when one of my children asked me why I hadn't gone into singing professionally.  I had had that question a lot, but it was when my own child asked me that I really remembered the reasons behind it.  And suddenly being in my mid-30's wasn't as bad as I thought.  I didn't mind that what I had to show for the first 35 years of my life were a happy marriage and children who I loved and adored and who felt the same for me.  Suddenly none of what other people had expected from me seemed to matter.  I thought I was past that hurtle.  I was wrong!

Enter August 2011, I discovered vermin crawling in Rebekah's hair one Sunday morning.  LICE!!!!  UGH!!  By the end of the day I was so frustrated and beyond annoyed I made a choice - buzz cuts for the girls!!!  Chris did a good job cutting off Elizabeth's and Rebekah's hair.  They looked adorable and thank goodness they both have very pretty ears and pretty shaped heads, otherwise, Elizabeth wouldn't have been the only one to cry.  Then later in the week we had Jalen the young woman who had infected our house back in the house.  As I worked and worked on her hair I made a choice - off with the hair.  And then, well then Sarah and Jalen found a few on me and that was it.  Out came the clippers and suddenly all of my hair was gone.  Granted I probably didn't have to shave Jalen, Lizzie and Beka's hair - it just would have been a lot of work, but who was going to keep up with my head having lice?  NO ONE!!  In part I shaved it off so Jalen wouldn't feel so badly, but also I had been toying with the idea of a new haircut anyway.  But I wasn't prepared for what I found once all of the hair color was gone.

Underneath my colored hair was hiding a good deal of white hair.  I discovered it on the sides, in the front mainly, but like my Aunt Nina, the back of my hair hadn't gone white that much.  Once again I was faced with the idea of embracing my white hair or coloring over it as my hair grew out.  But I couldn't color it for a long while.  I had to wait for it to grow out. 

It is April now, my hair is growing out nicely and with it the white hair.  As my hair continues to grow I found I needed to decide.  To Color or Not to Color?!  This really was the question.  So I decided.  I never rebelled in high school or college.  The closest to rebelling is I like to paint my toenails funky colors.  Even if no one else can see my toes, I have to satisfaction that beneath the well put together facade that some people believe I have (believe me I am so not well put together, I love and sometimes live in my yoga pants, and sometimes I forget to put on socks with my shoes), I would have the satisfaction of knowing I was rebelling a little bit in my own way.  But now I choose to rebel openly.  I am rebelling against a society that says it isn't beautiful to have gray or white hair, a society and an industry that still fights to embrace the fact that women age even now.  I choose to embrace my white hair - it doesn't mean I will always feel like this.  In fact, I pretty much guarantee that there will be many days when I contemplate dying my hair again, but today and for a while I choose to rebel!   

I will never be a drinker or a partier, but I can choose to be different in this way - I choose to grow old gracefully and embrace that I am aging and hopefully getting better with age.

Have a good week.
In Christ,
I know it doesn't seem like a lot in the picture but that's because it's finally growing out and hiding some of the white.
Maureen

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jesus is a Zombie


I figure I have either seriously ticked God off or I have highly amused him.  Especially since this incident happened on Easter Sunday.   And no I don't really believe Jesus is a Zombie, I know God raised him from the dead and he ascended into heaven, but explaining that to four year Beka is a bit of a challenge.

Sunday morning Beka woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and quite chipper.  She knew today was Easter Sunday and she was excited.  She was excited for the Easter Bunny.  We do not promote the Easter Bunny in our house. We may color eggs and hunt for them, but we do not encourage the girls to believe in a large white rabbit that is supposed to bring sweets to little children and poops out eggs - gross.  So I explained that Jesus died on the cross but on Sunday God raised him from the dead.

She looked at me very confused and asking how.  This went on for several minutes while I was trying to get ready for a busy Easter Sunday.  I had a ham to get in the oven, fix my hair, I was singing on Praise team that morning, singing in a trio and singing a solo  and little did I know I'd be doing it all with banged up knees.  So after a few moments of frustration I finally picked her up and looked at her and told her in a serious tone, "Beka, Jesus is a Zombie." 

I knew as soon as I said it I was going to regret it.  She climbed down and ran delighted into Sarah's room exclaiming, "Sarah, Sarah, Jesus is a Zombie!!!"   While I might not a huge fan on zombie movies, I do have a teenage daughter whose birth mother let her watch horror movies a child and she still loves a good horror movie.  And all teenagers seem to be discussing The Zombie Apocalypse these days.  Beka lives in the same house as Sarah, it's only natural that she is going to hear about zombies.  But Heaven help me I never in a million years thought that would be how I would be able to get it across to her that Jesus is not dead.  Apparently he's the undead. 

I know the day is going to come when I am going to regret this split second decision in more ways than one.  I also know it's going to come soon.  It's only a matter of time before she tells Grandma Mary, a Sunday School teacher or one of the older people in church - or WORSE, OUR PASTOR!!!!   It's coming, and I hope to explain it better between now and then.    But for now it seems that Beka is quite happy that Jesus is a Zombie.  I can only hope she isn't right when we get to Heaven.