Dreams To Do

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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.

When He Pats My Back

Building a close relationship with my 4-year-old son has been a journey. Don’t get me wrong, from the moment I felt those first kicks in my belly I loved him fiercely and when I held him in my arms for the very first time, I knew he would have my heart forever. However, as a parent you quickly learn that while you technically do hold all the control in the parent-child relationship, you really have no control. If your 2-year-old decides that it is his life mission to refuse to wear socks and shoes, chances are he will be going shoeless that day.

I’m going to be real honest and admit that a year ago I thought something may be wrong with my son. Either that or something was seriously wrong with me as a parent. The terrible twos were beyond terrible and three was in a completely different realm… like who came up with ‘terrible twos’? Two was NOTHING compared to how terrible age three was. There were many nights where by the time I got all three kids to bed, all I could do was drown myself in tears. And the thought of dealing with what we went through that day again tomorrow was almost enough to turn me into an alcoholic. Instead, I spent a lot of those days commiserating with my mom friends who also had difficult toddlers. And I got really familiar with the stares as I carried my barefoot 3-year-old kicking and screaming over my shoulder with no coat on in the middle of winter to pick his big sis up from school.

I hit some of my parenting lows during those rough days with Landon. I said things I never could have ever imagined myself saying when he was just a sweet new babe in my arms. I raised my voice more times than I’d ever like to admit. I thought things that no parent wants to admit thinking. And I’m telling you all of this because I think it is 100% completely normal and now that we are on the other side of the terrible/horrible/horrendous twos/threes, I can say that it will get better. If you are in the throes of it now, stay strong. Pull out all the love you can find in your heart and pour it out on your sweet, monstrous child. Under all the tantrums and the stubbornness and the seemingly utter dislike towards you is still a perfect little God-given creation.

Today Landon and I have a very special bond. We’ve worked through more things than my first born and I ever had to. I now better understand his personality and what he needs and he better understands how he should behave and how to communicate in a way that benefits all of us. Growth is a miraculous thing. The age of four has been a game changer. Whereas a year ago it was at times like a war zone during the bedtime routine, he now sweetly asks me to carry him up the stairs on his way to bed. Every night as his little legs and arms are wrapped around me with his head on my shoulder, he gently pats my back as I carry him up. Some nights I can’t hold back the tears of happiness thinking just how far we’ve come in his four short years. He loves me. He really, really, really loves me. And the love I feel in return is so heartbreaking… in the best way possible.

Rally The Troop

We sat at a round table that was directly in the sun at the good ole Target Cafe. Greasy personal pan pizza fingers left marks all over the table. The baby sat on my lap gnawing on a piece of crust. I sipped my iced white mocha Americano (with cream) and took it all in.

This is my life. These are my people. MY people. My tribe. My troop.

I’ve written about loneliness before. Even with people around us all the time, it isn’t too hard to feel lonely every now and then. As I sat in Target that day with my three children around me, it hit me that my spells of loneliness are few and far between these days. I’ve created my own little clan of best buddies and it’s pretty darn spectacular.

When you think of parenthood you don’t usually think about how awesome it is that you have little people who are hardwired to love you and want to follow you around and just be with you. And they are so easy to please! “Hey kids, guess what we’re going to do after school today? We’re heading to Target to grab some things and if you’re good, we’ll get some pizza.” The cheers of joy from that seemingly unexciting journey is enough to put me right in my place in terms of what really matters in life.

This motherhood journey is perfectly imperfect. I feel like I’m failing at least twice a week, but I have a feeling if you asked my kids, they’d say I was doing just fine.

Threenager

It’s a beautiful morning. The sun is streaming through the windows, the birds are chirping, and the kids are laughing over something as they eat their breakfast. As I run around getting stuff ready to take Leila to school, I glance at the clock. Oh good, we are running early today! So, I slow down, relax a bit, and around our normal time to head out the door, I round the troops to get jackets and shoes on. Leila happily obliges, tying her own shoes and everything. When I approach Landon with his socks and sneakers I get, “NO! I DON’T WANT TO!” 

In an instant, I know that my seemingly happy, easy-going day is about to go downhill. I regret taking some time to slow down and relax as I know we will now be frantically running late. Every persuasive technique, bribe, and threat fails to convince Landon to put on his shoes and socks to take his sister to school. So, I load his sister and baby bro into the car and proceed to chase Landon around the house, eventually throwing him, with bare feet and coatless (it was 30 degrees out), up over my shoulder kicking and screaming. Getting him buckled in his carseat is like tying down an angry bull. There are scratches and tears and sweat and lots of frustration. The car is filled with high-pitched screams as we make the 2 minute drive to school and the whole time I’m wondering, “Why me?”

Nothing makes me long for the days of dealing with the newborn sleepless nights and diaper blowouts and unexplainable fussiness more than dealing with a 3-year-old. All this talk of the terrible twos, but I tell ya…. three is no walk in the park. Landon is seriously like a sassy teenager trapped in a 3-year-old’s body. After he was born, I thought I’d have years and years before experiencing any rage or hatred against me. Unfortunately, at least once a day he pushes me away and yells, “Go away Mom!” Are you for real kid?

I finally got around to putting together his baby photo book the other day (yes, I’m lame). While sorting through photos of Landon as a baby, I had tears streaming down my face. What happened to my sweet, little, innocent, chubby baby? Where’s my little guy who couldn’t get enough of his momma? Parenting is tough in ways I never anticipated. Watching your children grow and develop their own personalities is amazing, and fascinating, and utterly terrifying.

But, ya know what? While there are days when I want to put up a Craigslist ad to find a new home for my threenager (no joke, the other day Leila asked, “Mom can we have Landon adopted?”), there are still far more days where I can’t get enough of him. And mixed in with all of the no-I-don’t-want-tos and mom-go-aways are still a whole lot of precious moments where he’s still my baby – moments where he curls up in my lap and looks up at me with those big blue eyes and smiles… and I know I’m his world. Even if he doesn’t always show it.

Choosing Love

They say the 7th year of marriage is the toughest. Something about a “7 year itch.” Early in my marriage I remember thinking, “Well, since Andy and I have been together since high school, 7 years of marriage is no big deal.” However, as we are half way through our 7th year, I see the reality of the situation. These past 7 years have brought us a lot of life change. New jobs, three kids, a mortgage, car payments, budgeting, meal planning, house keeping….We are constantly go, go, going – pushing off from each other to get everything done. Some days we don’t even kiss each other, let alone speak. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at all until I sit back and really reflect on where our relationship is.

Last Friday we had the rare pleasure of a date night out. We sat at a little romantic table across from each other for 2.5 hours without moving. No kids and lots of delicious food and good conversation. It seriously feels like it has been ages since we conversed. Sure, we chit chat at the end of each day and sometimes watch TV together and we enjoy tons of awesome time with our kids, but we hardly ever really talk. Midway through our 5-course meal, it struck me that I don’t even know if my husband is truly happy in our life. And so I asked him, “Are you happy? Like really happy with where you are in life, with where we are?”

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I’m going to make an effort to check in with him on that more often. We should never assume that our spouse is happy and all is well in their world. Marriage isn’t easy. Love isn’t easy. Sure, it’s easy to fall in love quickly, but sustaining it is work. Some days we really have to make a conscious decision to love our spouse. We have to choose love.

I’m not threatened by the 7 year itch. I’m not worried that my marriage is ever going to fall apart. But, I do see how it can happen. Luckily, when I strip away the stress, the daily responsibilities, the children, the distractions… I still see the guy I fell in love with. And I’d still choose him all over again. We are slightly different people in an entirely different situation than when we first met. However, underneath it all there is still that deep, unconditional love that drew us together.

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Craving a mushy-gushy love story?
Here’s ours that I shared a couple of years ago, in honor of Valentine’s Day:

Our Love Story: How We Met
Our Love Story: Falling In Love

Our Love Story: Perfect Proposal & Dream Wedding

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I hope you took advantage of Valentine’s Day as a chance to reconnect with your significant other. It may be a cheesy, commercial holiday, but it can be a powerful one if we let it. XOXO

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