Feeling Less, but I know I am so much More

**** this is not my normal laugh at what my kids did post. No this time, this one is about me****

Blah blah blah,

That’s how I’ve felt the last few days (okay weeks) This whole hysterectomy thing has really hit me hard in ways I did not expect.

Back in 2006 I had a procedure done where I was told it would be nearly impossible for me to get pregnant again. At the time I was trapped in an unhealthy, abusive marriage so I was fine with not being able to have anymore children. Bringing more children into that situation would not have been good for anyone. So I accepted my fate and moved on with life.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself divorced and personally struggling with not being enough for anyone. I had been told for years I was not smart enough, or pretty enough, and not worth being loved by anyone. In my mind I wondered who would want someone so unworthy like me? Would anyone ever be able to love me and all my brokenness?

Things slowly changed when I was reintroduced to Todd. In 2009 I was still struggling with my self worth but he made me see myself in ways I had never seen myself before. I was lovable and beautiful in my own ways. He loved me for who he saw me to be not the person I had been told for years I was.

After we were married I often wished I could give him a child of his own, I knew it was close to impossible but I held onto that ever so slim chance that one day it could happen. As we became foster parents and eventually adopted our five little loves the personal need disappeared. That was until I heard the words “complete hysterectomy” come out of my doctors mouth.

Those words played over and over in my mind on my four hour drive home a month ago. This phrase meant I would never have another child. That slim chance I had clinched to over our marriage was now gone. I felt the struggles of my old inner self, doubting myself worth. I would be less of a women, less of a person, I would not be whole. I would not be enough. It’s strange how things you have no control over mess with you on a deeper level.

I didn’t want to but I had surgery a few weeks ago. Those first few days after I don’t remember much, other than my mom coming into the room and asking my if I needed anything or asking me what cartoons the kids could watch (eight year old viruses a two year old. Got to find a middle ground) As I started to physically heal my emotions were all over the place. I caught myself thinking What will my husband think of this me? What if I can’t be the same me I was before surgery?

I could not do much of anything so it was the perfect time to dive into the Bible and spend some one on one time with my Lord. Page after page lead me to a story of someone who thought they to were not enough but God used them anyway. In His eyes we are enough. In fact we are more than enough when we seek His guidance and look to Him for our strength. My “inside parts” do not define who God wants me to be. They are not the only things that make me a woman and I am certainly not less of a woman now that they are gone.

Our society has, for lack of a better word, has brainwashed by setting a strong definition as to what a “woman” is. But that’s not ALL a woman is. We are strong, beautiful, independent, confident, caring, nurturing, and loving. Some of us have no children some of us have ten kids. So of us work outside the home some are stay at home wife’s/mom’s. Some of us run marathons while others prefer to dance. We are all different, yet we are all beautiful in the eyes of our Lord. He does not make mistakes He only makes masterpieces.

Do I feel different? Maybe a little. But I know I am still the same person I was. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. My grandmother use to always work on them. Sometimes we would run across a puzzle she had picked up at a yard sale or at Goodwill and she would have “extra” pieces. After she fixed the puzzle she would just throw the other pieces out because they were no longer needed. The puzzle was already beautiful. I no longer needed my “extra pieces”. God knew I would still be me.

A Little Time for Me

Hello everyone, it’s been a little while. I took a few days (weeks) off from my blog to prepare for all that this summer will hold.

My little loves are now on summer break. We don’t have any major vacation plans so that means for the next few months the majority of my time will be spent at home with our kiddos. So far the first week of their summer break we have spent most of our time inside due to the massive amount of rain we are receiving. Needless to say they are ready for some prettier days so we can be outside. I’m ready. Bring. It. On.

We have all heard the saying In order to care for others we must first take care of ourselves. I for one am not the type of mom that normally goes off to do “fun things” without her husband and children in tow. But this year I took some time for me before our summer actually began. Before the judgement starts let me explain.

My mother has always wanted to go on a cruise. So with her recent retirement and her birthday in mind, my oldest daughter and I planned a Girls Trip for just the three of us. We gave her a photo of the ship for Christmas and giggled as she thanked us awkwardly for the piece of paper. When we explained to her what the paper represented she was in tears. For the next few months my oldest and I planned out the details of the trip to ensure my mom’s first cruise was a success. And it was. From the moment we left the house, to seeing mom see the ship for the first time, to her birthday drink, to her clogging to the country karaoke, to celebrating a young couples engagement and everything in between it was a wonderful trip. I’m so thankful we took it together. I needed some time to just be Crystal and not “that mom of seven” or “the foster mom”

We returned home and my little loves were on their first day of summer break. My wonderful husband, amazing dad, and fantastic son took care of the little ones while I was cruising the Bahamas. I could not ask for a better support system.

When I returned home I was hit with news from not one but two of my doctors offices. News I knew was coming but had kept to myself and tried not to think about it. First I was given my date for my hysterectomy. Mid June. I can do that. And then the insurance company finally approved my next round of injections for my spine, also in June. As I made preparations for both I could not help but think how perfectly timed our girls trip was. I needed that trip to just be me and relax and not worry about all the chaos in our lives. I needed that time so I can be the best me I can be for my kids, my husband, and my family.

As a wife and mom my job is to take care my husband and our children. I can’t do that if I don’t take care of me first. I know things will be fine, I have the best doctors around. And I know that there are far worse things going on in the world, even in our family, that God needs to focus on. I don’t worry about me I worry about how things will affect our family. I guess that’s normal. The next few weeks are going to be crazy around here. Definitely not the summer I had planned but it’s what we have been dealt and we will make the best of it. Together.

It’s important for moms (and dads) to take a little me time every now and then. Most of us can’t take vacations all the time, and even if you can I’m sure your children go with you. I’m just saying it important to spend some time by yourself, come think about it I still had my twenty three years old with me so I was technically not childless but you get my point. I do take a few minutes each day for me. Read a book, watch the sunrise, sip a Dr Pepper and eat a donut in the bathroom, read a devotional, go to the bedroom and just sit in the quiet, or whatever you need to do just make sure you take a few minutes to focus on you. Your husband and kids will thank you. Be the mom you want to be and the your kids deserve. I hope everyone enjoys their summer. Time to go watch a movie with my little loves. Until next time,

TAKE CARE OF YOU! You are smart, you are loved, you are beautiful inside and out, you deserve to be the best you you can be❤️

Missing A Call

Tomorrow is my birthday. Over the last 41 years I have heard the story of my birth from different points of view, but by far one of my favorites is the way my grandmother tells it or should I say never lets me forget.

It was Easter Sunday. And like most God fearing Baptist women, my grandmother had went out and purchased a new dress to wear for the Easter services at church. In today’s society we buy new clothes at the drop of a hat and think nothing of it but back then money was tight. Buying new clothes from the department store was not done often. In fact my grandmother made most of the clothes the family wore, but once a year, on Easter, well now that was a special day and my grandmother had sought out and found the perfect Easter outfit. That Easter however God had bigger plans for her than showing of her new dress at church. Grandma, me and all my kiddos

The story goes she was getting ready when they called to let her know my mom was in labor. Not wanting to get the smell of the hospital on her new dress she quickly changed before coming down to the hospital to wait the arrival of little ol me. She never made it to church that Easter, instead she welcomed a new granddaughter into the world.

She had a sense of humor about her and as I went though my twenties and thirties she would call me on my birthday, to wish me happy birthday and to remind me that she didn’t get to wear that pretty new dress. The conversation was always short and sweet, she didn’t see the need to stay on the phone to long. But her calling made my day. Grandmas are special.

As I was getting ready for bed this evening I realized I won’t be getting my call tomorrow. And that makes my heart sad. I miss her so much. But as I think back over the many things we shared the story of the day I was born makes me smile. We shared so many wonderful memories together. I was blessed to have her for 41 years my children had her in their lives. She taught me to love the Lord, to love my family, to enjoy game shows and candy. She taught me to quilt and she tried to teach me to cook (some things just can’t be done) She may not have got to wear that pretty new dress 42 years ago, but I bet you anything she is rocking an amazing dress just for me this year. And I’m sure she’s looking down laughing saying something like, Looky here baby girl isn’t it beautiful? I finally got to wear it.

Yes, yes you did grandma.

Grandma I’m sure your dress is gorgeous and I know you’re rocking those new angel wings. I know you can’t call me tomorrow but I know you’ll be with me. Let me fell your presence as only you can. Going though life without you these last few months has been hard, I miss you everyday. I will be looking for your sign to me tomorrow, I know if anyone can get a message from heaven to earth it will be you. Continue to guide me until I see you again. Love you ❤️

Fitting Room Fuss

Spring has finally arrived.  The birds are singing, the frogs ugh the frogs that noise, and the kiddos have discovered the creek that flows beside my parents house.  I love spring time.  Spring also means out with the old and in with the new….clothes that is.  Does anyone else dread trying on new shorts and bathing suits as much as I do?

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My oldest daughter, mother, and I are taking a cruise next month.  My mother has never been on a cruise so, my daughter and I thought it would be fun to take her on one for her birthday now that’s she retired and can actually take a few days for herself to relax. All three of us are looking forward to it.  My daughter was just excepted into grad school so it will be nice for her to get away before she’s bogged down with work and college and for me well, I jumped at the chance to spend five days with only adults.  I love my little loves but every mom needs some “me time” every now and then.

Our passports are in order, our luggage bags are prepacked with the essential goodies, all we need now are a few new pairs of shoes, some new shorts and of course the bathing suit. With only a month to go, I can’t wait any longer to go pick one out.  It is time.

We made a quick trip back to our hometown this weekend to get on our parents and to take part in a birthday celebration. While there I found a few hours to go shopping.  The fitting room can be such an interesting place, especially during the the changing of the seasons.  Today was no exception.

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I hate trying on clothes, but I hate buying clothes only to get them home and them not fit more. So like half of the shoppers in the store today, I gathered up my wish list items and made my way back to the tiny off white cubical’s that make up the fitting room. What is it about those little rooms that make people act so crazy?  In one stall, was a little boy maybe around the age of nine, he felt he was to old to be in the fitting room with his mom and  definitely to old to have her pick out his clothes while his mother seemed to think he was still two by the was she talked to him.  Sweetie, are you doing okay in there? Do you need mommy to come help you?  Sweetie, make sure the shorts aren’t to tight in your crouch area.  In another stall an exhausted mom was trying on dresses with her two very active toddlers.  The little girl was full of complements as her mommy tried on dress after dress, Mommy you look beautifulest in the flower one.  I love that one too mommy.  Let’s get them all.  While the little boy was not as impressed and entertained himself by crawling under the wall to the stalls next to him until little sis ratted him out and then he started crying, correction screaming.  Screaming that he was bored, screaming that he was starving.  Screaming that he should have stayed with daddy instead of coming with the girls.  I heard the mom let out a sigh.  I’ve been in her shoes more times than I care to count.  Shopping for yourself with the kids in tow is hard.  (Side note thank you mom and dad for watching my kiddos so I could get out of the house by myself for a few minutes today)  Still in another stall was a young lady, I’m guessing 15 or 16, with her cell phone in one hand and ten pairs or short shorts in the other she made her way to the fitting room.  She looked aggravated, and by the speed she was texting I’m sure she was telling someone about it, but that’s when I noticed her dad.  He clearly had no idea what he was doing but he was trying.  As the swarm of mother’s came in and out of the waiting area handing in new clothes and taking back clothes that didn’t fit here was this dad holding short shorts for his daughter.  She would bring a few pairs out and tell him to go get her some more and he would.  Clearly he did not feel comfortable doing what he was doing, but he was doing it for her.  He loved her enough to take on the chaos of the fitting room.  I had to smile.  I don’t know their story, maybe he told her the shorts were to short or maybe her mom got called out to work, or who know’s what was going on, but I do know that in that moment that dad was willing to take on one of the most hated places on the planet for most women for his daughter. And that was my reminder that there is still good in this world for the day.

I finished trying on my items and liked the way a few of them fit.  As I left the fitting room the one mom was still handing her son clothes over the top of the stall just as fast as he was shoving them under the door.  He was done trying stuff on, she just hadn’t figured that out yet.  The mom with the two toddlers was trying to load the little boy in the buggy while the little girl now cried because she was not getting a new dress like her mommy.  As I passed the brave dad, he smiled, Nice day out there isn’t it? , he said as his daughter handed him a few shirts.  It sure is, I said as I smiled back.

I made it back to my parents house and my little loves were ready to go outside. If the fitting room taught me anything its that we all of things going on.  We need to take time and enjoy what’s in front of us.  Our fussy little ones will be annoyed teens before we know it.  Take a few minutes to enjoy the present, be in the now.  I may be taking a cruise next month but until then the creek life is fine with me.

 

Today was a Good Day

What a great day, just what we needed. Today was well overdue so I am thankful.  The last few months have been brutal.  This was the first weekend in over six weeks that everyone in the house was feeling well.  The month of February alone our little loves had four double ear infections, three cases of the stomach bug, two upper respiratory infections, four fevers, one cutting teeth, and then my husband had the “man cold”.  We all know that last one was the hardest on all of us, right ladies?  I don’t know how we didn’t catch the flu, but praise God it spared us.

On top of all of that we received test results back from the geneticist for Alex.  It has been confirmed he has Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND).  Eli with his chronic stomach issues was given the diagnosis of Underdeveloped Bowel Syndrome. And I was told I would have to have back surgery again.  When it rains it pours.

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Today it was time to get out of the house and forget about all the bad stuff and just have fun.

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I stumbled across a local autism group called Autism Site Knoxville (ASK).  They were hosting their fourth annual Day at the aquarium today.  When I saw the invite last week I thought it would be the perfect way for us to spend a Saturday morning. And how could we pass up the low cost of only 10 dollars per person?  As the day came closer however all the normal mom worries started coming to the surface.  We had not even made it to church in two months how in the world would the kids do at the aquarium? Would it be to crowed for JR?  How would he do with the noise? What is he had a meltdown? How would my husband and I handle it with all the other little loves in tow?  This would be the first big outing that we had done in months and we would be doing it without the help of our older children or grandparents.  Not going to lie I was a little overwhelmed.  But when your four hours away from family you got to go out on your own at some point. With our family its just a much larger challenge than most.

So this morning we loaded four very excited and two very sleepy children into our 12 passenger van at the wee hour of 6am so we could drive a little over two hours to be there when the aquarium at 8:00.  The event ran from 730 to 1030 but of course we were free to stay longer.  I am so glad we went.  The staff was super sweet and handed out goldfish, gummies, and water to the kids as we came in.  Being that early in the morning the kids were able to walk around and enjoy all the different tanks without being ran over by other people.

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The event organizers had different sensory stations set up throughout the aquarium so if JR or even our other kids wanted to take a break they could.  The lights were softened and the background music was turned off. Everyone there got it.  Everyone there was living in the world of autism.  There were no nasty remarks about behaviors, or looks when he made his unique noises, and no one stared at us.  Okay some people did look at us but it was not because of JR it was because of the size of our crew lol.  He rode in his stroller for a while then walked with me for a while. He pointed out the scary sharks and the huge sea turtles.  And he made it known he did not like the seahorses, after all real horses don’t look like that.

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He made friends with other people waiting outside and made sure to tell all the moms we passed just how cute their babies were.  And no one cared that he was talking to them or touching them.  Most told him thank you or even told him he was a cutie as well, to which he would just laugh and smile.  He really enjoyed himself. Our other kids had a great time as well.  We don’t get to do things like this often unless we have our backup team to help us in case he has a major meltdown or takes off running. He has no safety concerns at all.  So thank you ASK for making today possible.  Thank you for hosting events like this so that children and adults with autism can go and do everyday things.  Thank you for opening it up to all of our children so that we could attend as a family. Thank you for a day we will not soon forget. Thank you for giving us a day were all of our kids could just be kids. Thank you for helping this mom see her son really enjoy himself today.  Today was a good day and we so needed a good day.

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Looking at His future

We had our mid-year parent teacher conference for Wild Man last week. I knew by the marks on his papers things were not going great in the traditional classroom. As a mother of a child who has autism, these meetings are dreaded. I know he is not on the same level as the other children his age, I know that he is falling behind, and that bothers me.

As I chatted with his speech therapist and his autism teacher before going into the meeting I addressed my concerns. They both shared stories about my little guy that brought smiles to their faces and told me it was natural to be concerned but he was really doing great. When his teacher was ready we walked in together and sat down. His teacher went over his test scores which were extremely low. She explained that he does not do well with timed test which was part of the problem but the test are mandatory so she had to give them to him. She then explained that even though it does not show up on the written test my Wild Man has grown leaps and bounds in class. He is starting to use full sentences, he is holding a pencil, he is engaging with other students, he is setting in his seat for at least 10 minutes at a time, he is making friends, and he is making eye contact here and there. All wonderful new skills for my son but all things that standard testing do not look at. I was excited to hear he was doing so well, relieved in many ways.

But I still questioned things like his spelling words, he has spelled one correct out of the last sixty. Only one. Math is a struggle. And homework when he does have it is a nightmare. I don’t want him passed just to be passed. I also don’t want him overlooked. He falls in the middle. He is doing to well to be in the autism room full time but he is not up to level with the regular class. He is somewhere in between. I am thankful he has an aide to help him through the day.

As we discussed plans for the remainder of the year one of his therapists said they wanted to help give him his best possible life. His best possible life. That phrase hit me hard.

As a mom I have thought about all of my kids futures. I see them all doing things like going off to college, getting jobs, moving out, getting married and starting a family. With Wild Man I want these things as well but I also know they may not be a reality. He may never go off to college or hold a traditional 40 hour a week job. He may be with us for our life time. If something happens to myself and my husband who will care for him? There are so many questions and concerns I have about his future, I worry but I can’t let it consume me.

He is in good hands right now at his school. They understand my concerns and they are working on goals they feel he can reach. They genuinely care about him and his education. I could not ask for a better staff of teachers and therapists to be working with him. he has been blessed with wonderful teachers since his preschool days. We will take this one day at a time. I have a life time to worry about his future, for now I will enjoy my silly, loving, crazy little boy. We will get through this together just as I promised him the first time I held him. After all autism is not who he is, autism is just a small part of what makes him my son. My wonderfully, sweet, amazing, brilliant son. I am so lucky to be his momma.

Education and Autism

Let me start off by saying fair/equal education should be available for ALL children. It’s that simple. No child (or their parent) should have to fight for an education that many take for granted. However, if you have a child with special needs I will warn you it’s a fight. Every. Single. Day.

I will say that where we live now seems to have a better system in place then where we once lived. But it’s still a struggle. All I want, all any decent parent wants, is for their son or daughter to succeed. That starts at home and at school.

My wild man is almost seven. He attends a public school. In order for his needs to be met we have an IEP in place (some states call it a 504) Basically it is a plan that lays out my sons strengths and weaknesses. His plan gives him scheduled speech times and OT times durning school. His plan also calls for an aid to help get him on task throughout the day. Sounds perfect right? I thought so at first.

Last year he was in an autism/special needs classroom. The class size was eight children and eight aids plus the teacher. There was a calming room, sensory toys and tools, and even an OT room. He’s teacher taught him to hold a pencil and he finally was able to write his name. He was excited to go to school. He loved his class and peers. It was perfect and he was doing amazing. To amazing according to the school. At the end of the year it was agreed (I went along with it thinking they knew what they were talking about) that he would be placed in a normal classroom for his first grade year.

Normal, an odd word in the land of autism. Nothing about our lives or wild man is normal. Why oh why did I think this would work. The first few weeks went okay. I think he was excited to be back at school. But as the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months he slowly started hating going to school. One of the things that aggregate him (okay me) is that he is now expected to do spelling test. I know, I know all kids have to take spelling test. I get that. But he is still working on forming letters, how is he suppose to spell a word if he does not know all the letters to the word? In the last six weeks he has managed to get one word correct. One. One out of sixty. The word was frog. When he showed me his paper he beamed with pride. Look momma I did good. Frog ribbit ribbit. The nine red X’s did not phase him. But they crushed me. Another his personal aid has four other students. How is she suppose to care for my son’s needs when she has four other kids? Thank you budget cuts. He has sensory issues so he eats only a few foods. Two of those being peanut butter and Stage two peas, yes the baby food peas. Well he can’t take peanut butter because someone in the other class has a peanut allergy. As far as the peas, a boy in his class called him a baby for eating baby food so those are now out as well.

He is lost and I don’t know what to do. Part of me was so excited to hear he was doing so well at the end of last year, but part of me worried that he would get over looked and left behind in a regular classroom. My fear as become his reality. He hates going to school now. And even though he can’t articulate why he hates it I have a feeling I know why.

So, I started looking for a new school. And I thought I had found one. It was a private school so the classroom sizes were small and they worked on an individual plan based program virus the whole class learning the same thing. It seemed to be the perfect school, until I was told how much it would cost. One year over 12,000 dollars. Wow. We are a one income family currently with six little ones in the house. There is no way we can afford that kind of tuition or justify it. That’s when it hit me, we need public schools that specialize in special needs. Why should it cost so much more for them to receive a descent education?

It’s time for better education for my son and all the other children who have autism, or Down syndrome, or any special need. Why should they get left behind or overlooked? Why should their disability be a magnet for educators or providers to charge more for their services? Have you looked at the cost for some of the sensory products or equipment for those with special needs? It’s insane. What’s a mom to do?

We fight. Day in day out. We become the face the principal and staff at the school dread to see. We make sure our concerns are being heard and that they are being met. We become moms like Maya DiMeo off of Speechless. We go in demanding and we don’t back down. Ooooh good you’re here...again

The fact is I would love for my son to be what society defines as normal. I think all special needs parents feel that from time to time. It’s natural for us to want our children to fit in. But the reality is he is not. He was made to stand out. No matter how hard he tries or how much I pray he will never be “normal” and that’s ok. God made him in His image so my son is exactly how he is suppose to be. He may learn different,act different, and talk different but different does not make his less. As his mom it is my job to make sure everyone sees that.

I will fight for you, for your education, for your independence, and for you to be excepted. Mostly I will fight so others can see you the way I see you. My brilliant, creative, funny and loving son. Don’t worry wild man, momma’s got this!