Dreams To Do

My worst nightmare I never knew existed

I’ve debated writing this for months and months, maybe even years. When it comes to sharing my life openly on the internet, I’ve always tried to be vulnerable and honest while still protecting my family as much as possible. When it comes to writing about my kids, I started to be more careful once I realized people were actually reading what I wrote here. Maybe this is the real reason why I don’t identify myself as a “blogger” any more. The truth is that I’ve been through the hardest part of my entire life the last couple years and instead of opening up and writing it out on here, I alluded to it from time to time, but existed in my own little nightmare and chose to keep it to myself and close friends and family as much as possible. After all, what sort of mother am I if I air my child’s dirty laundry for the world to see? Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that I want to share our story with you. I’m sick and tired of pretending things are good when they aren’t. And I want to gift hope to any parents out there whose previous dreams of what parenthood would look like for them have been shattered into a million pieces.

My son Landon is five and a half years old. He was the fattest, cutest baby with his blondish curls and bright blue eyes – he really didn’t look like he belonged to my husband and I. He was so easy going and honestly hardly cried. I remember as a toddler he would run and fall and not cry. If he did cry, he wouldn’t let us comfort him. That was my first indication that something was “off” with him. By the time he was two, he was throwing epic “terrible-twos” tantrums. I remember being pregnant with his baby brother and having to climb up into the car and knee him down into his car seat just to get him buckled in. Leila (his big sis) never did this – she was and still is the easiest kid ever. I just assumed Landon was “normal” and friends and family reassured me that his tantrums and difficult behavior were “boy things” and because he was two. Well, around the time that Landon’s behavior really started escalating and I started being concerned about his late speech and some other odd repetitive behaviors he was exhibiting, I gave birth to Roman and became a stay-at-home-mom. As many of you know, Roman was born with medical issues and it was a hard time for Andy and I – running him to appointments, surgeries, and adjusting to life with 3 kids. During this time Leila also started kindergarten which was a huge adjustment and my emotions were a mess postpartum. Through it all, my mom instinct was telling me something was off with Landon, but I kept pushing it aside and attributing it all to his personality while focusing on all the other craziness simultaneously going on in my life. Looking back, I was selfish and in denial.

By the time he was three, he still was hardly talking and had extreme social anxiety. We would go to the park and he’d refuse to play if there were too many kids there. Again, I told myself and was told by others that he’s just shy. I googled things we were experiencing with him and kept coming across autism websites and going through the checklists, but he wasn’t that extreme. At well-child checks, he always met the standards of “normal.” Before he started preschool as an almost 4-year-old I voiced my concerns to our pediatrician and she said to see how he does in preschool and we would go from there. By that time he was starting to make sentences and his language really took off. He started preschool and was so nervous that he didn’t speak to his teacher or classmates for the first few months, BUT he loved it and thrived on the routine of school and it even improved his behavior at home. That’s when I wrote this post and thought our struggles with him were over. We had a 6 month break and then everything I knew about being a parent was challenged.

A year ago the extreme violence began. When you give birth to a sweet, snugly baby the last thing you ever imagine is that your baby is going to want to hurt you. You look at that innocent babe and you have all the hopes and dreams in the world for them – you swear to yourself to be the best momma you can be and you love and protect them with your whole heart. I always thought I was a really good mom. And deep down I do still believe I am. But when your child screams how much he hates you and wants you to die constantly, it’s hard to not believe it. And when he is throwing things at your head and ripping your hair out and biting and clawing you until you bleed, it is beyond the physical pain that you feel – it is your heart literally being ripped out of your chest. It’s honestly hard to look at your child as your child any more when they seem to be possessed and a million miles away from the soft, squishy baby you brought into the world.

Over the past year we’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy. We’ve been told he has Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), anxiety, OCD tendencies, selective mutism, an attachment disorder, sensory processing issues, slow language processing, and we’re still figuring it all out. I’m finally starting to understand my son and how he views the world and I’m now able to separate my sweet boy (who he truly is) from this “monster” that occasionally comes out. That’s not my son, that’s just his fight-or-flight response overreacting to his anxious feelings about life. For Landon, life isn’t just fun and happy, like many children innately view their world. And it is so hard for me because all I want is for him to be happy and have fun.

I remember one night on my knees in tears in my bedroom when Andy got home from work. It had been a regular rough night in our house with books torn apart, new holes in the walls, scratches down my arm, just because of bed time. I told Andy, “I almost think it would be easier to have a child with cancer. We would understand the cause of his pain and would know there would eventually be an end to it either through a cure or death.” With Landon, I have often wanted to take his internal pain and stress away, but I can’t. I’ve felt like it’s a battle he’s going to face his whole life and if he can’t be happy as a little kid with no real stress in his life, how is he going to handle grown up stress down the road? I’ve never felt more helpless, lost, sad, frustrated, angry at God, sorry for myself in my whole life.

You can plan the perfect life. You can read all the books. You can prepare and pray and hope and dream, but when you become a parent, through biology or adoption, you never know who you will be called to raise. Parenthood is no joke people. It is not something to take lightly. It will make or break you, that’s for sure. To be brutally honest, I’ve had very real moments over the past year where I’ve regretted my decision to even be a mom – moments where I felt like I was the worst mother in the world. But those were in moments of selfishness and feeling sorry for myself. We all have our crosses to bear and this just happens to be mine.

I love my children fiercely and I’m determined to be the best mom I can be for them. I’m going to work hard to help Landon grow up strong and happy and secure in himself. I know this post is about sadness and struggle, but most people who know Landon in real life and have never seen our day-to-day struggles only know him as the goofy, kind, energetic little boy that he truly is (in fact, many of you who are friends of ours may be completely shocked to even read this!). He is so much more than what he struggles with. We are each so much more than our internal battles!

Two months ago we started with a new therapist who is literally a Godsend (that’s a story in and of itself for another day). She is working with our whole family and for this first time in a long time I feel full of hope! I feel happy. I have so much more to say, but will stop here for now. Thank you to all of you who have been a support to me through this all and those of you who I don’t know, but have taken the time to read my words.

Up to speed.

Well, it’s been at least a year and a half since my heart was here. Blogging was a huge part of my life for a long time and for most of that time I honestly LOVED it. I loved that it saved me money on therapy, introduced me to new friends from all over the world, and gave me a creative outlet outside of my boring job and the tediousness of motherhood. Today it is obvious that blogging really isn’t my “thing” any more, but I’m not closing the door on it. I have so much time and heart invested in this space that I very much plan on continuing with it – just maybe not as passionately as I once did. Right now I want to bring you up to speed on my life over the past year+ so that I can move forward with posting here more often. I guess this post is a way of playing catch up (for those who may care) so I can once again start fresh

Near the end of 2015 I felt myself sinking into a familiar rut. The monotony of my day-to-day life running kids to and from school and activities, keeping the house together, fixing food…. it just all felt so “blah” to me. The short, cold winter days definitely weren’t helping. Having just survived two very emotionally taxing surgeries on my little guy while also struggling with a child whose behavior was challenging me as a mother, I found myself in a place where I didn’t even know myself. I felt tired, lonely, depressed and completely uninspired.

One day in the middle of the week when both boys went down for a nap and Leila was at school, I realized just how miserable I was feeling and that I needed to do something about it. With 400 ideas in my head as to blog posts to write and hobbies and ideas I wanted to pursue for my own personal fulfillment, I froze up yet again. I’m pretty sure I suffer from analysis paralysis – I tend to just shut down instead of taking steps to actually accomplish anything. As I lounged on the couch stuffing my face with potato chips in an attempt to eat away my negative emotions and browsing Netflix for a way to escape my current reality, I came across the documentary version of The Secret. Being a long time fan of the book, I knew it was what I needed to watch in that moment to feel inspired again.

An hour later I was off the couch, the chips were put away, and I had a renewed sense of excitement for life. I felt determined to change my attitude and make things happen in my life. I turned on some upbeat tunes and spent the rest of nap time going about my usual chores while thinking “happy thoughts” about all the good in my life and the opportunities that I just knew were coming my way.

No joke, that very same night my husband got home from work and was beaming with excitement as he informed me of a business opportunity that he had been presented with that day. It was the very same day that I came out of my self doubt and into the light of “big things are happening in my life.” Without knowing anything about this business or the products or what it would take to run it, I knew it was meant to be. Less than three months later, the business was ours.

We’ve been business owners for exactly one year now and the past year has in no way been easy, but I always return to that day when I was handed something good at a time I needed it most. A month after we took over the biz, we put our house on the market and it led us on the most emotional and financially taxing roller coaster ride we’ve ever been on. Who knew buying and selling a home could nearly kill you! We put a lot of faith into a person we thought loved our home and had every intention of following through with the purchase only to have our hearts broken at closing. We found ourselves with TWO mortgages and 1 million pounds of stress on our backs for a few months. Lots of lessons learned in that process! Through it all our hyper-sensitive middle child felt every ounce of stress and acted out in ways we could never imagine being a part of our parenting story. Not to mention, nurturing a happy marriage becomes nearly impossible when the load on your back feels that heavy.

Fast forward to last fall. The clouds finally parted and the sun broke through. Our first home FINALLY sold (to the most AMAZING family ever I must add), school started back up for the kids (routines are EVERYTHING), and we were settling into our new home and business.

As 2017 came, I felt like I breathed the hugest sigh of relief. I feel the fog lifting on the darkness in my heart and I feel super excited for all of the opportunities I’m being presented with this year. Through all the crap and the doubt and the heartache of the last two years, and through losing myself at times, one thing always remained constant in me. Deep down I always knew bigger and better things were on the horizon. I never gave in completely to my own doubt. I truly believe that if you ask and you believe in the things you want to happen in your life, they WILL.

Forget your perfect offering.

Happy New Year! I want to write about goals and dreams and hopes for the new year because isn’t that what everyone does? Instead I’m just going to ramble and write what my heart tells me.

Yesterday was my first MOPS meeting of the New Year. If you aren’t familiar, MOPS is an amazing organization for mothers of preschoolers (kids 0-5). Being a mom to young kids isn’t easy and if I didn’t have this amazing support system, I don’t know where I would be some days when I hit my parenting lows. Anyway, on Christmas Eve just a few weeks ago one of the moms in our group lost her sweet 19 month old daughter very suddenly. An email circulated on Christmas, letting us all know what had happened. Since then I’ve been consumed with grief for this sweet mama I don’t even know. Yesterday at MOPS, nearly 100 of us hugged and cried and grieved for her. At one point, a friend of mine said something along the lines of, “it’s so great that we get a break from our children to spend time in this amazing community, but what’s even greater is that we get to leave here and go pick up our kids afterwards.” I lost it.

You see, I’m not always the greatest mom. Sometimes I downright hate being a mother. It is SO HARD. I complain about the things my kids do. I feel sorry for myself more often than I should. I crave time away from them. But at the exact same time I could NEVER imagine my world without them.

Over a year ago someone I follow on Instagram shared these lyrics from a Leonard Cohen song and they filled me with so much hope:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
~ Leonard Cohen (from his song “Anthem”)

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with trying to understand my purpose on this earth. I am so hard on myself – expecting that everything I do has to be perfect. The truth is, there is no perfection in life. There are wars and division of politics. There is hate. There are sweet, innocent children that die every single day. But without all of this darkness, would we notice the light? Would we truly be able to appreciate all the good that there is?

Instead of focusing on the things in life that don’t work out, we need to ring those bells that still can ring. Stop focusing on perfection and give what ever amount you have to give. Feel pain so that the good is all the more glorious. That is my hope for 2017. I’m going to find the light through the cracks. I’m going to love my family as deeply as I can, knowing their fate is completely out of my control. I’m going to trust in something far greater than myself.

 

Merry Christmas 2016

It’s the eve of Christmas Eve and I’m sitting in the waiting room at my son’s therapy with extra time on my hands so I thought I’d write. The snow is dumping down outside and Christmas music is playing lightly in the background and I can’t help but feel happy. My favorite thing about Christmas is the feeling- it’s the pause on all the horrible annoyances of life that normally bring you down, but for some reason are so much easier to handle when Christmas is in the air. I don’t want it to be over! At the same time, I’m so hopeful and excited for the new year on the horizon. I’m excited for new opportunities and goal setting, and the hope that a new year often brings along with it.

This year I kept with my tradition of making a creative family Christmas card in photoshop, but unlike years past where I’ve mailed out 50+ cards to family and friends, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it this year. Something about the perfectly staged happy family photo just didn’t feel right to me. Sometimes I get sick of putting on a happy face all the time and playing into the expectation that my life and my family should be perfect. It’s far from it. I’ve been through a lot this past year and there have been moments where I truly felt like all the good in my life was falling apart.  It was hard to keep up with the “perfect” persona we all feel compelled to slap on our faces out in public or on social media, but I still did. I think a lot of us do just that. I’ve been a lot more conscientious as I pass people on the street, or meet up with friends, or see a perfectly posed photo on Instagram that what I am seeing is not the whole picture. Life is messy. Life is tough. We are all suffering in one way or another and I hope each of us can be more aware of that.

I hope this Christmas finds you surrounded by love and the people who lift you up. I hope that even in the stress of the holidays you can see and feel the true gift of the season.

Merry Christmas from my less-than-perfect perfectly posed family to yours! 😉

 

Five & so much more

At the end of October my son, Landon, turned five. Since I dedicated my last post (one of only 7 blog posts I’ve written this year!) to his siblings’ birthdays, it’s only appropriate that he gets a post, too.

But, it’s tough.

You see, this year has been really rough on my little family. A big part of why I’ve stepped away from blogging is due to the stress I’ve experienced from several areas of my life. I guess I’ve been so overwhelmed that my love of writing and photography has just sort of died… or at least moved to the very back burner. Sad, huh?

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Look at my beautiful, bright, blue-eyed, magnificent child, Landon Drew. Just looking at that photo fills me with so much love it hurts. It also fills me with worry and a bit of sadness. You may remember near the start of this year I wrote about overcoming struggles with him and how we had finally found our way and that four was a miracle age. Well, I spoke too soon. I really don’t want to go into details, but we have been on quite the behavioral roller coaster ride with this guy. We finally got in with a therapist near the end of summer and got some answers and we are slowly making progress. Bit by bit I am starting to better understand who my child is and what he struggles with each day.

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Landon at five years old is stubborn, oh so stubborn. But he also has a big heart and the goofiest, most entertaining personality, too. He loves doing puzzles, playing dress up, irritating his baby brother, potty humor, cooking (he seriously makes the best scrambled eggs!), sweets, and going to school. This year Landon is in a preschool class for “barely 5’s” and goes for 2 half days and 2 full days each week. This has been a great way to get him ready for next year when he will start kindergarten (!!!). Landon has no desire to participate in any organized group sports or activities yet, but loves playing baseball and football with Dad in the backyard. He’s got a pretty mean throw! Landon stands out in our family with his blue eyes, thick lashes, and shaggy golden locks (which he took scissors to the other day, resulting in a buzz cut and tears from his momma). This kid is my wildcard, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.

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