Let People into Your Messed Up World

My corn dog post was difficult for me to write.  I didn’t want everyone to read about my horrible day. My husband already felt like he had failed and wasn’t there for me when I needed him.  But I never felt like he failed me.  I was thrilled for him to get a break from being daddy for a few hours.  It actually made me happy to see him serving someone besides his family.  I didn’t want anyone in our church to feel bad that this wonderful event had turned into a horrible experience for me.  Our church is extremely supportive and loves our family. But on this day, they were busy.  Really busy.  They were busy loving the community by cooking, serving, dumping trash, and driving golf carts.  But there was another reason I didn’t want to write the corn dog post. I’ve always had this problem with wanting people to think that I have it all together.  Smile and act happy even if you’re dying inside. Don’t ever let anyone know that your life is hard.  Yes, you sometimes have to lock yourself in your bedroom for a time out because your children are driving you crazy.  And you eat too much chocolate because it helps you feel better.  But you shouldn’t let anyone know your little secrets because it makes you look bad.  But I overcame all of those fears and I wrote the corn dog post because I know that special needs parents are lonely.  They need to know that they aren’t the only ones who struggle.  They needed to hear about my horrible day.

Do you know what happens when you let people into your messed up life?  I’ve found out that they want to help.

I told my mom about my day.  She responded very quickly and said that Mikayla & Hope just need to come to their house next year.  Air conditioning, cartoons, and a day with grandma and grandpa would have been great.  Grandmas are the best.  They’re always there when you need them.

I messaged a friend at the end of my horrible day.  She said she wished she had known I was having a bad day.  She only lives a few minutes from the church.  She had went home for a couple of hours and she said she would have swiped up the girls and taken them with her if she had known I needed help. She told me that her house is always available to us when we need it.  She’s amazing.  The girls would have been happy at her house because she has peacocks, ducks, cats, and dogs.

A lady from our church read my blog post.  She messaged me her phone number.  She said to call her anytime we need help getting our family home from church. She lives 30 minutes from our house. Our church is an hour from our house.  She could have taken Taylor to her house and Brett could have picked her up there.  It would have saved Brett an hour of driving if we had asked her for help.  So her phone number is now in my phone.  And there is no doubt that I will text her in the future if I’m ever foolish enough to say that we don’t need to take two vehicles.

Another lady told me that she had heard on her radio at the event that someone had upset children and their vehicle was blocked in.  But she didn’t realize it was me.  She was working in the air conditioned first aid building.  And her daughter, who works with special needs individuals, was there too.  She said she would have stayed with me as long as I needed her.  Then she said that she loves our family.  I’ve seen this lady at church, but I didn’t even know her name.  But I won’t forget her name now.

And then her daughter told me that she would have been there in a heartbeat if she had known what I was going through.  She said that she would be glad to do whatever she could to help us if we decided to attend the event next year.  Then she said she would love to meet me and the girls soon.  I don’t even know her and she said that she would have been there in a heartbeat.  Isn’t that amazing?

Another lady gave me her phone number.  She told me to text her next year before I leave the parking lot.  She said she will get me and our two turtles all the food that we want before we head home.   If we aren’t able to stay for the event, she wants to make sure that we have something to eat on our way home.  Isn’t that thoughtful?

I was blown away by the fact that all of these people want to help our family.  And they came up with so many creative ways to help us.   But before they could offer to help they had to know that there was a need.  I think there are a lot of good people out there who are more than willing to help special needs families.  Yes, there will be people in the corn dog line staring at you and your little sweethearts.  They may jump out of the line because they don’t have the patience to listen to your sweethearts for even 3 minutes.  But I choose to believe that the majority of people are loving and willing to help if they just know what our needs are.  I’m so glad that I’ve stopped hiding our struggles.  My life is so much better now that I’ve allowed people into our messed up world.

 

 

 

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I Want a Corn Dog!

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Our church had a huge celebration last Sunday.  Before we left for church Brett asked me if we should take both vehicles in case Mikayla and Hope went into sensory overload.  I told him I thought we should just take the van.  Brett was working in the hamburger stand from noon until 1:00.  I was only going to have the girls by myself for an hour.  Surely I could handle that.  Right?

Wrong.  The atmosphere was filled with live music, bounce inflatables, all the free food you could eat and a huge crowd of people.  I thought the hour that Brett was working would pass quickly if the girls played on the inflatables.  We went to the first inflatable and the girls took off their shoes.   The sun was shining on the entrance and the girls were saying that it was too hot.  They’ve always been overly sensitive to things being hot.  They were done with the inflatables within the first 5 minutes.

I decided we should get something to eat.  It was extremely crowded in the area where the food lines were.  I get claustrophobic in large crowds and I feel like I can’t breathe.  And I knew that the girls wouldn’t be able to stand in line for very long.  I had no idea how we were going to get something to eat.  Then the girls spotted the popcorn.  There wasn’t a line so we walked right up and got 2 bags of popcorn.  That should keep them happy until Daddy gets done passing out hamburgers.  Then he can stand in line and get us some food.

I learned last year when we were at this event that if you mix fried food, bouncing in the inflatables, and humidity together it will make a little sweetheart vomit.  I was the mom holding her girl’s hair back while she vomited in the trash can that was smack in the middle of all of the action. That was a really good time.  I was hoping to not have a repeat performance this year.

We found a tent to stand under while the girls ate their popcorn.  A lady named Amanda was passing out candy to the kids.  I told her that the girls couldn’t stand in those long lines, so they were eating popcorn.  She said that she would be glad to stand in line for us and get our food.  Years ago I would have never let anyone do that for me.  But I’ve learned that it’s ok to accept help.  I told her to get us 3 hamburgers and 3 bottles of water.

Apparently all the excitement in the air makes our girls have to visit the porta-potty frequently.  Oh joy! There’s nothing I love better than a porta-potty.  We made our first visit to the porta-potty and Amanda beat us back to the tent.  The girls were happy to have a bottle of water after eating a whole bag of popcorn.  But they didn’t want the hamburgers.  They started yelling “I want a corn dog!”  Ok.  Let’s go stand in the corn dog line.  That ought to be fun.  I found a friend who took the 2 hamburgers.

We were standing in the corn dog line and the girls continued yelling “I want a corn dog!”  I explained to them that we were going to get a corn dog but we had to wait in line.  “I want a corn dog”  We’ll get one in a minute.  We have to wait in line.  “I want a corn dog”.  I know you want a corn dog.  We’ll get one in just a minute.  The couple in front of us got tired of hearing my girls yelling for corn dogs and they decided to get out of line. Wasn’t that nice of them?  Now we’ll get our corn dogs sooner.  As we got closer to the front of the line they quit yelling that they wanted a corn dog. and they started yelling “I’ve got to pee!”  You’ve got to be kidding me!  What do I do?  I didn’t want to get out of line.  But I also didn’t want either of my little sweethearts to wet her pants.  So we got out of line and made a beeline to the porta-potty.  They were both inside of their porta-potty and they were yelling “I want a corn dog.”  Really?  Do you really want Mommy to cry right here in front of hundreds of people. Because she’s just about to lose it.

We started our trek back to the corn dog stand and both my sweethearts are yelling “I want a corn dog!” the whole way there.  And people were staring at us.  I love it when people stare at us.  It’s my very favorite part of being a special needs mom.  The heavens opened for us and there was no line when we got back to the corn dog stand.  Thank you, Lord!

It was after 1:30 and Brett was still passing out hamburgers.  They were swamped and he couldn’t leave because they still needed his help.  I told him that I didn’t know where I was going but I had to get away from the crowd.  And then I heard my husband’s voice inside of my head saying “Do you think we should take both vehicles?”  If only we had two vehicles I could go home.  I made a mental note that next time he asks if we should take both vehicles my answer will be “Yes….yes we should”.

I always try to find something positive even in the middle of a horrible situation.  As we walked to the van all I could come up with was “at least no one puked this year”.  I was extremely close to having an anxiety attack.  We got to the van and I couldn’t believe what I saw.  Someone had parked behind us and blocked me in.  I just wanted to stand there and cry.  But then I noticed a golf cart coming towards me. The golf carts were transporting people back and forth so they didn’t have to walk.  I stopped them and with tears in my eyes I told the lady “My girls are having a fit.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve got to get out of here and someone has me blocked in”.  She took the license number and said she would have them announce that the vehicle needed to move.  I sent Brett a text that said someone had me blocked in and I was never coming to this event ever again.  A few minutes later the golf cart reappeared.  I told the lady that I was sorry if I had been rude.   I told her that our girls have sensory processing disorder and big events are just too much.  She said she helps in Mikayla & Hope’s class. she’s an OT, and she knew from the look on my face exactly what was going on.  She was so understanding.  The person showed up and moved his car in record time.

As I was driving through the parking lot Brett called to check on me.  He said that they announced that a vehicle needed to move and that it was an emergency. He was worried I was the one blocked in. Then he saw my text and he knew that it was me.  I told him I was fine even though I knew that I might burst into tears at any moment.   I started to drive to the next town and the girls immediately calmed down.  All they needed was to get away from the crowd.  And then Mikayla asked “Where’s my hamburger?”  Sigh.

I bought a sweet tea at McDonald’s for my pounding headache. We went to Walmart to buy some chocolate and then we headed back to church.  I ate too much chocolate.  Then I called Brett and I told him that I needed to go home.  And then it happened.  The tears came like a flood.   He said he would find our older girls.  If they weren’t ready to leave then he would take me home and come back and get them later.  I didn’t care what we had to do.  I just wanted to go home.  Brett drove an hour to take me home.  He gave the girls a bath to get the sunscreen washed off. And then he drove an hour back to pick Taylor up.  He sure does love me.

I think it’s good to push through your fears and do something that’s not comfortable.  That’s why I’ve attended this annual church event for the last 3 years.  It’s been a nightmare every single time.  I was frustrated when I texted Brett and told him that I would never come to this event again. I’ve been thinking about it for 2 days and I’ve come to the same conclusion.  I will not be attending this event in the future.  Part of being a special needs parent is deciding what events you can attend and which ones you shouldn’t attend.  This is definitely an event that we need to pass on.  So next year Brett and our older girls will stay and enjoy the day serving others.  But you will see me exiting the parking lot and heading home with a smile on my face. And I will spend a lovely, quiet day at home with our two upside down turtles.

When You Feel Like You’re in a Pig Pen

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I was paid to shovel manure when I was in high school.  My sisters and I got off the school bus, changed our clothes, and went out to feed the pigs. Occasionally we shoveled manure.  It was not fun. Actually, it was disgusting.  But we worked for this man named Dad who paid really well.  We needed what every teenage girl needs.  We needed clothes.  Smelling like a pig was a small price to pay to be able to go to the mall.

My Dad has always said “I get to go to work”.  He never says “I have to go to work”.   There’s a lot of difference between get to and have to.  When I get to do something I look forward to it.  When I have to do something  I’m dreading the thought of doing it.  My dad looks at work as something to enjoy not something to dread.  Being able to work is a privilege.  We’ll be sitting in my mom and dad’s living room on a Sunday afternoon and my dad will look over at Brett and say “Did you get to work yesterday?” Working on Saturday is a have to situation for most people. But my dad thinks working on a Saturday is something that you get to do.

I’ll have to admit that my dad’s perspective on work didn’t make sense to me when I was a teenager. Shoveling manure was a have to situation.  I never once got off the school bus and said “Oh, boy!  I get to shovel manure and smell like a pig!  Can’t wait!”  I probably had a cloud over my head and looked a lot like Eeyore while I was walking across the farm to spend the afternoon with the pigs.  There was only one reason that I spent my time with pigs. Payday. Once that check was in my hand, I was almost glad that I smelled like a pig.

Some days I feel like everything I do is a “have to” and nothing is a “get to”.  I have to get up.  I have to wash the dishes.  The pig pen that we live in is a real mess and I have to get it cleaned up.  I have to referee another wrestling match. We have to take the girls to their therapies.  Some days are about as much fun as shoveling manure.  I collapse in bed at the end of the day and then I get up and I do it all over again. I need to change my have to’s into get to’s.

I need to open my eyes in the morning and thank the Lord that I can get out of bed.  Last week  I was having spasms in my back and I spent 2 days in the recliner.  I realized that getting up and walking is a privilege.  It’s something that I get to do.  I’m thankful for dirty dishes.  Dirty dishes are a simple reminder that we have food to eat.  I’m thankful that we aren’t homeless and that we have this beautiful pig pen that we call home. Sometimes driving 2 1/2 hours back and forth to Easter Seals feels like a have to.  But then I begin to think about all of the progress that the girls have made in the last year and I realize that Easter Seals is one of the best gifts that our family has ever been given.  And we get to go there every week.  I need to stop thinking “Why do I have to do this?” when I’m breaking up the wrestling match between our girls. The truth is that in those moments of frustration and irritation, my mind should flashback to the moment when the doctor didn’t give us much hope that our girls would be born.  I don’t have to be their mom.  I get to be their mom. It’s a privilege.

We all have days when we feel like we’ve been shoveling manure all day long.  We get up and we do it another day because we know that payday is coming.  It’s payday when our girls remember to put the “s” on the beginning of a word.  It’s payday every time they put their towel in the hamper without being reminded.  It’s payday every time they get their shoes on the right feet.  It’s payday every time we go out in public and they don’t have a a meltdown.  It’s payday every time they realize that they did something wrong and they say “I’m sorry”.   And it’s payday every single time our girls say “I love you, Mommy!”.

Thank You For Turning On The Light

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I was standing in line at the Hobby Lobby when a candle caught my eye.  It was the size and color that I needed for my lantern.  It was half price so I grabbed it and put it in my cart.  My lantern has been without a light since I bought it 6 months ago.  Now it finally lights up.  Isn’t that how life is a lot of times?  Don’t we all have situations that seem dark?  And then 6 months later suddenly a light will appear and the darkness begins to fade away. Light brings hope.

We have finished our school year and we are basking in the joy of summer vacation.  At the end of every school year I reflect on the progress that our girls have made.  As we started the school year last fall I had a hope and a dream in my heart.  Will this be the year that the girls will learn how to read? Surely this new phonics program is going to be the answer to my prayers, right?  Third time’s the charm.  Those first two programs didn’t work but this new program is the one.  I just know it.

I was wrong.  This phonics program didn’t work either.  Great.  What do I do now?  I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on programs that didn’t work.  I’m really tired of throwing money away and I just don’t know what to do.  So I decided to give up.  Let me rephrase that.  I decided to give up on phonics. But I never gave up on our girls learning how to read.  I don’t give up easily.  I’m the gal who spent 3 years trying to teach our girls phonics even though it wasn’t working.  I’m either stubborn or stupid.  Maybe both.

Anyway, the light bulb in my brain finally went off one day and it told me “Phonics isn’t working. ”  You think?  So I did the same thing I always do when I don’t know what to do.  I googled it.  I typed in “how to teach a visual learner how to read”.  One of the first links I clicked on introduced me to Snapwords. As I was reading all about Snapwords my gut said “this is it”.  I ordered the first set of cards.

These little cards came straight from heaven.  The very first day that we used Snapwords a light went on for our girls.  On the second day, they remembered some of the words.  By the end of the week they knew 6 words.  On the last day of school they knew 36 words. I can’t believe it.  We’ve finally found something that works.

Our girls are no longer sitting in the dark wondering how to read.  A light has been turned on for them. And it makes me smile. Yes, they are learning to read later than most kids.  But they are learning and that’s what is important.  God gave me the inspiration to name this blog Two Upside Down Turtles. Turtles are slow.  They take a lot of time getting from one place to another place.  But I can’t help but wonder what turtles see on their journey that the faster animals don’t see.  Our girls are slower than kids their age.  It’s taking them longer to learn to read and do math.  But I can’t help but wonder what they are seeing on their journey that the rest of us overlook.

Our two turtles teach me so much about perseverance and patience.  I don’t think life is about how fast we can get to where we need to go.  It’s really about the journey.  It’s about not giving up when something takes longer than we want it to take.  It’s about pressing forward when life hurts and we don’t understand why it has to be so hard.  It’s about loving others who are different.  Sometimes it’s about stopping our face-paced life and helping someone whose life moves slower than ours.  And it’s about taking a moment to thank the God of the universe for creating light and bringing hope to our darkest situations.

 

There Are Rodents In The House……Again

6 weeks ago Hope’s gerbil Monkey joined Mikayla’s gerbil Ping-Pong in “hamster heaven”.  The girls have been constantly telling us that they need new pets.  So we ventured off to PetSmart to find some cute and cuddly rodents.  I didn’t even get queasy this time. I’ve come a long way since our first trip to PetSmart

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Our girls thrive on routine so they did what I was expecting them to do.  Monkey was a black gerbil so Hope picked another black one.  The girl who can’t sit still picked the feisty gerbil running in the exercise wheel.  She just knew in her heart that he was the one.  The lady boxed him up and placed him on a stool.  The box never stopped moving while Mikayla was picking out her gerbil.  You certainly picked the right one, Hopey.  She named him Monkey #2.  Ping-Pong was a tan gerbil so Mikayla picked another tan one.  She named him Ping-Pong #2.  Now aren’t those cute names? Remember that they thrive on routine.  Why name a gerbil something different if you can name him the same thing?

This trip took an interesting turn when Daddy decided to pick out a gerbil too.  He picked a gray one with red eyes.  His name is Perry.  After Ping-Pong died Monkey seemed a little bored so Daddy thought we should get 3 gerbils this time.  Now we have a pair and a spare.  Why get 2 rodents when you can have 3, right?

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Mikayla

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Hope

 

Monkey

Monkey #2

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Ping-Pong #2

 

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Perry

I’m still not a fan of rodents but I’m a fan of our girls being happy.  God has put a special love for animals in their hearts.  So we must have animals. The love He has put in my heart for our girls is an amazing thing.  This love made me smile while the girls picked out their new rodent  friends.

 

A Day of Dancing

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Our daughter, Brynna, recently performed in her annual dance recital.  I always look forward to the moments when our girls get to shine while doing what they love.  But these joy-filled events are often preceded by me feeling a little stressed.  Grandparents are our main caregivers when we need someone to watch Mikayla & Hope.  But the grandparents want to see Brynna dance too.  They’re funny that way.  So we have to find back-up babysitters which isn’t always an easy task to accomplish.

Why don’t we just take them with us to the recital?  There are many reasons why we don’t take Mikayla & Hope to these major events.

They can’t sit still for 2-3 hours.

It’s impossible for them to go 2-3 hours without talking. In fact, it’s difficult for them to go 2-3 minutes without talking.

The proud parents in front of us want to video.  I really don’t think they want to record our sweetheart burping and saying “Wow….that was a really big one!” or yelling “I’m going to wet myself” at the top of her lungs.  Yes, we need to work on our manners.

The odds are pretty high that I would be in the bathroom with one or both of our sweethearts and I would miss seeing Brynna dance.  I’m just not willing to take that chance.

Mikayla & Hope went to their aunt’s house and I got to sit with my handsome man and enjoy the recital with no worries.  I didn’t have to worry about a little sweetheart talking too loudly, or having a meltdown, or needing to use the bathroom. It was like being on a mini-vacation.

I smiled from ear to ear as Brynna’s class danced their tap and jazz routines. As she was dancing the final lyrical routine, I got tears in my eyes,  I was totally mesmerized as I watched her leap onto the stage and dance beautifully.   A man came up to Brynna after the recital and told her that she was captivating.  He told her to keep dancing because she had a gift.  I wish I could have seen the goofy grin on my face when he was complimenting her. His compliment made me beam with pride.  It was the perfect ending to our day of dancing.

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