A Voice In The Night

I’ve felt completely frazzled lately.  Our girls have been talking incessantly.   They talk from the time their feet hit the floor in the morning until they put their heads on their pillows at night.  They ask the same questions over and over again and I answer them over and over again.  They give me the current Zoe report.  Zoe’s our cat.  Zoe’s asleep on the car.  Zoe’s eating her food.  Zoe’s walking down the driveway.  Zoe’s coming up the driveway and she’s got a mouse in her mouth.  Zoe’s sitting on the front porch.  They talk about how Daddy has to go to work later and that they want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  They talk about what kind of cupcakes and presents they want for their birthday. They ask where Taylor’s going and then after she leaves they ask “Where’s Taylor?” until she gets back home.  They ask what that noise is that I can’t seem to hear.  They ask “What’cha doin?” all day long.  Especially if I’m in the bathroom.  They talk about their beloved animals and their favorite cartoon characters. Garfield likes lasagna and Chance ate a button.  They tell me it’s raining and that there’s a squirrel in the yard or a bird in the tree.  They tell me they have to go to the bathroom.  Every single time.

I’m a gal who enjoys quiet.  I’m not sure I even remember what quiet sounds like.  I’ve found myself hiding in my bedroom eating Hershey’s Kisses more times than I care to admit.  Chocolate is my friend. It helps me find my happy place.  I’m almost always in my pajamas by 6 p.m. just waiting for bedtime.  It’s amazing how many questions a couple of little girls can ask between the hours of 6 and 8:30 p.m.  And unfortunately my brain turns into goo during those hours and I can’t even process what they’re saying.  I say “uh-huh” to whatever they say even though I have absolutely no idea what they’re saying.

Once their pajamas are on and their teeth are brushed I say the two words that don’t seem to mean much to our girls.  Stop talking.  Some nights they stop talking and fall asleep quickly.  Some nights they don’t.  But once they fall asleep something totally amazing happens.  The house is quiet. I like quiet.

After an extremely difficult day I heard a voice in the night.  She whispered in my right ear the words “I love you, Mommy!”  I don’t normally enjoy being awakened at 3:30 in the morning.  But I smiled and said “I love you too, Hopey”.   And then my heart melted a little and I began to cry.  I cried because our girls voices are a gift that I had been seeing as a burden.  I began to think about parents of nonverbal children.  They would love to hear their child ask a million questions.  They go to bed at night wishing they could hear the words “I love you, Mommy” or “I love you, Daddy”.   My heart broke as I prayed for parents who can’t hear their child’s voice. And I thanked God for changing my perspective and showing me that our girls voices are a gift.

I still have days when the constant chatter can be difficult to endure.  I got 4 hours of sleep last night and I’m not handling the chatter very well today.   I will probably be hiding in the bedroom this afternoon devouring a handful of Hershey’s kisses and desperately trying to find my happy place.  God will remind me that tonight the house will be dark and quiet.  And I will receive the greatest gift that a mommy can ever receive.  I’ll hear those four words “I love you Mommy”.  Not once but twice.

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When Thanksgiving Doesn’t Look Right

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When I was little I loved watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving every year.   I would get excited when they started showing the commercials announcing the day and time that it would be on TV.   And I hoped that we didn’t have to be anywhere that night because we didn’t have a VCR to tape it.  If we missed it….we missed it. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without Snoopy and Woodstock.

I still watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving  with our girls every year.  We giggle when Snoopy fights the chair.  We giggle again when Woodstock sticks Snoopy’s ear in the toaster and then butters it.  And we giggle some more when Snoopy begins to toss plates filled with toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jellybeans to each guest around the ping-pong table.  But there’s one person who isn’t giggling.  After all the plates have landed on the table Peppermint Patty completely loses it.  She yells “What’s this?  A piece of toast? a pretzel stick? popcorn?  What blockhead cooked all this?  What kind of a Thanksgiving dinner is this?  Where’ the turkey, Chuck?  Don’t you know anything about Thanksgiving dinners?  Where’s the mashed potatoes?  Where’s the cranberry sauce?  Where’s the pumpkin pie?  Peppermint Patty angrily tosses her popcorn on her plate and then Charlie Brown quietly gets up and leaves the table.

Peppermint Patty didn’t care that they were eating at a ping-pong table surrounded by mismatched chairs.  She didn’t care that they were eating outside instead of inside.  She didn’t seem to have a problem with any of the guests.  She was having a good time until Snoopy started putting the food on the plates.  The sight of toast, pretzel sticks, jellybeans, and popcorn sent her over the edge.  Peppermint Patty didn’t think Thanksgiving looked right.  She made the mistake of thinking that Thanksgiving was about the food.  In that moment she failed to realize that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the people who are sitting around your ping-pong table.

Sometimes Thanksgiving just doesn’t look right.  My mom had a broken leg one Thanksgiving and my mother in-law had a broken hip last year.  Thanksgiving dinner looks different when moms can’t cook.  And it tastes different. too  But all that really mattered was that our family was sitting around the table together.

There was another Thanksgiving that really didn’t look right.  My younger sister didn’t come to Thanksgiving dinner because her baby boy had just been born. I wanted to act like Peppermint Patty and scream “What kind of Thanksgiving is this?  Where’s Cathy?  We can’t eat Thanksgiving dinner if she’s not here!”  I’m thankful that was the only year that she wasn’t sitting at the table.

We want Thanksgiving to look like it did last year.  But sometimes it looks different.   And sometimes it will always look different.  It may look different to a special needs family who is spending Thanksgiving at the hospital instead of at home.  It may look different because of a divorce.  And it may look different because your heart aches for the one who is no longer here with you.  I pray that God’s presence will surround you as He carries you through this holiday.

This Thanksgiving let’s be thankful for the food we have.   If the gravy is runny and the mashed potatoes are lumpy just smile as you eat them and be thankful it’s not cold toast and jellybeans.  Forgive the blockhead sitting across the table from you.  And remember that he probably thinks you’re a blockhead sometimes too.   Be thankful for everyone sitting around your table.  And pray for those who are hurting because someone they love can’t be at their table this year.

The Gift In A Plain Red Cup

I felt weary and frazzled as I sat in the parent’s lounge.  I was enjoying a quiet moment with no drama when a man entered the room.  He walked up to the vending machine and put his dollar in.  The vending machine didn’t like his dollar.  He put the dollar in again.  It spit it back out.  He put it in again.  It spit it back out.  Then he started yelling at the machine.  I jumped because it’s usually very quiet in the parent’s lounge.  I’ve never heard anyone yell at the vending machine before.  I wondered if he realized I was in the room.  Surely he wouldn’t be acting like that if he knew someone was watching him.  After numerous attempts the machine finally decided to accept his dollar and he left with his snack.  And I sat on the couch thinking about how I would’ve handled that cantankerous vending machine.  I would’ve tried twice and then given up.  I would’ve walked away thinking that it was God’s way of telling me that I didn’t need a Snickers.  I certainly wouldn’t have yelled at the machine.

Then I suddenly realized that I had just judged a man who I didn’t even know.  I had no idea what was going on in his life.  Maybe he hadn’t had anything to eat all day and he was famished.  And then when the machine kept spitting his dollar back it sent him over the edge.  Maybe his child had just been diagnosed with a condition and his nerves were on edge.  Maybe his wife left him that morning.  I don’t know his story and I never will.  But if he wanted to yell at the vending machine it was really none of my business.  The man left the room not knowing that I had judged him.  But I was still wrong for doing it.

We live in a world where people are constantly judging others.  We think we have the right to judge Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Josh Dugger for their choices.  We judge stay-at-home moms, working moms, moms who bottle-feed, moms who breastfeed, parents who homeschool, and parents who send their kids to public school.  People read facebook posts and blogs and they hide behind their computer screen and pass judgment on people they’ve never met.  They judge people for saying things that they never said.  There’s no end to the things that we judge others for.  And, of course, it’s important to judge a business for the cup that it chooses to serve its beverage in.

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Oh, the plain red Starbucks cup.  It’s a huge deal, isn’t it?  The Starbucks Christmas cup controversy makes me want to sit in a corner and cry.  I want to cry because we live in a country where people make a big deal out of things that simply do not matter.  And as all of this coffee cup drama is unfolding here in America a child in a far off land wishes he had a cup of cold water to drink.  He’s drinking water that’s eventually going to kill him because it’s full of parasites.   All he needs is for someone to send $48 to help build a water well.  And then he and 9 other children would have clean water for the rest of their lives.  He would be thankful to have a cup.  Any cup.  And meanwhile here in America we’re so busy giving our opinion about the cup and judging Starbucks that we don’t even think about the needs of others.  God help us.

Matthew 22:37-39 says Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”   And that’s all we need to do.  We need to love God and love others.  We need to see people through God’s eyes and not judge them because of the choices they’ve made.  We need to take time to get to know people and their story.  And then we’ll understand why their choices are different from our choices.  If we’re busy loving people we simply won’t have time to judge them.

Perhaps we need to read Matthew 10:42.  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.   And then we should go and give a cup of cold water in His name.  It would change a little boy’s life even if the water is in a plain red cup.

photo credit: http://www.theodysseyonline.com                      

Happy 1st Blogiversary

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It was November 4, 2014.  I had just hit the publish button for the very first time.  You Want Me to Start a Blog? Are you Kidding Me! was suddenly floating around in cyberspace.  My heart was pounding and my knees were shaking.   I was way outside of my comfort zone and I honestly had no idea what I was doing.  And now a year later?  I’m still outside of my comfort zone and I still don’t really know what I’m doing.

It’s not been an easy year.  I’ve typed in the middle of the night when little voices weren’t talking to me.  I’ve had to lay down my pride and publish things that I really didn’t want anyone to know.   I’ve pushed through when writer’s block ran over me like a freight train.  My husband grabbed my hand when I almost drowned in a sea of criticism.  He pulled me out and he told me to keep going.  I kept going when everything in me wanted to give up.

The main reason I didn’t give up is simply because I’m stubborn.  I made a commitment to blog for one year.  I was going to blog for a year no matter what happened.  At the end of September I counted the weeks until November 4th.  And I whispered to myself that I would be done.

The very next day I received a comment from Ileana.  She had read my Taking the Long Way Around post.  She said that she’s familiar with taking the long way around and that she’s very blessed by my blog.  I was suddenly reminded of why I started this blog in the first place.  I felt isolated and alone.  And I knew that there were other families out there who felt the same way.  I hoped that my words would touch hearts and that my story would help others live their story.  If my blog touches even one life then it’s worth my time.  I sent Ileana an email and thanked her for her comment and she encouraged me to keep writing.

So this isn’t the end of Two Upside Down Turtles.  It’s a new beginning.  It’s a new year for us to share together.  Thank you all for your support over the last year.  I’ll keep writing and I hope that you will keep reading.

I would like to end this post with a walk down memory lane.  Here are my Top 10 posts from the last year.

10.  When Your Faith Shatters you learn that God hears your prayers even when His answers seem to tarry.

9.  Brett made the reservation for our family to see the ocean and we began Waiting For Something Awesome To Happen

8.  Something Awesome Happened  when Mikayla and Hope stick their feet in the ocean for the first time.

7.   She just does it different than you do.  Hope Through Daddy’s Eyes

6.  Our family sees the ocean for the first time but Mikayla & Hope want to go to the swimming pool. Hoping Something Awesome Happens

5.   Life is short.  We should Just Let Them Have the Cotton Candy and enjoy their smiles.

4.   I Can’t Do This Anymore so I asked God if He could do something to make life better for our family.

3.   The girls yelled I Want a Corn Dog! and then I had a meltdown in the church parking lot.

2.   I chose to enjoy what I have instead of wishing for what I don’t have in Why am I in Holland when I Really Wanted to go to Italy?

1.     I learned that she probably walks in a pair of shoes that I don’t have to walk in.   To The Lady Who Shook Her Head

The Kindness of a Stranger

She hadn’t felt well for a few days.  The coughing and sore throat turned into cold chills, fever, and more coughing.  She researched and found that she had the symptoms of pneumonia.  I called the doctor’s office first thing the next morning and we were off to get an official diagnosis.

She was asked to wear a mask while we were sitting in the waiting room.  She looked so tired and pale. She couldn’t talk without coughing so I had to go back with her to answer all of the questions.  The first thing they did was take a strep test.  Negative.  Then we were asked to go to the hospital for a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia.

The receptionist handed me the x-ray orders and I turned to open the door to leave.  I felt her hand on my shoulder and I knew that something was wrong.  As I turned around I noticed that her eyes looked strange.  Everything had went fuzzy and then black.  I caught her before she went down.  The receptionist quickly grabbed a chair so that she could sit down and then she ran and got us a wheelchair so that I could get her to x-ray.

There I was walking through the hospital pushing my girl in a wheelchair. It was a strange feeling to know that she totally depended on me to get her to where she needed to go.  I had no idea when I woke up that morning that I would be thankful for a wheelchair. But I was.  We wouldn’t have made it all the way to x-ray without the wheelchair.

After the x-rays she climbed back in the wheelchair and we started on our way back to the van.  We took a different route leaving x-ray than the one we had taken going in.  I found myself faced with the obstacle of a closed door.  I opened the door and then I began to struggle with how to hold the door open and push the wheelchair.  Suddenly a man appeared and asked if he could help us.  I thanked him as he held the door open for us. He held a second door open that led to the outside.  I pushed my girl through the parking lot, she climbed in the van, and I took the wheelchair back to the doctor’s office.

The call came a few hours later.  The diagnosis was pneumonia.  I ran to the pharmacy. picked up the prescription. and knew that she would soon be healthy again.  But my heart still felt heavy.  It felt heavy for the mom who doesn’t get to take the wheelchair back into the doctor’s office and leave it. My heart felt heavy for the mom who has a child with a medical condition that isn’t going to go away with a quick trip to the pharmacy.

Today we pulled into the hospital parking lot.  She walked in and registered for her follow-up x-ray.  I was thankful that her temperature was normal and that she wasn’t coughing.  I was thankful that she didn’t have to depend on me to get her where she needed to go.  And I was thankful for the lessons that I learned.  Walking is a gift.  A wheelchair is a gift to those who aren’t able to walk.  Simply holding the door open for someone can be one of the kindest things you can ever do.  But most of all I learned to be thankful that this trial was temporary.  Because somewhere tonight there is a weary mom loading a wheelchair into the back of her van.  She’s hoping that someone will offer to open a door for her.  And she wishes her situation were only temporary.  But it isn’t.  As we lay our heads on our pillows tonight may we each say a prayer for her to have strength to face tomorrow.  And may we brighten her day tomorrow by smiling and holding the door open for her.

Taking The Long Way Around

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I was feeling totally exhausted as we pulled into the church parking lot that Wednesday evening.  The long drive to church seemed longer than usual. I wasn’t up for the challenge of keeping the girls corralled while I punched their names into the computer at the check-in station.  So I asked Brynna to stay in the van with them while I went in and got their name tags.  I came back to the van, slapped their name tags on the front of their shirts, and thought it would be a breeze to take them to class.  But it wasn’t.  She touched her.  And then she touched her back.  And then she called her a name. And then she called her a name back.  I told the teacher it hadn’t been a good day, wished her good luck, and made my way toward the sanctuary.

When I picked the girls up after class the teacher marched over to me, smiled, and she said “They were as good as gold!”  Really?  After the day of turmoil we’ve had they were as good as gold?  I didn’t see that coming.  But I was thankful.  We loaded in the van for another joyful hour-long ride home.

We were halfway home and it started to rain.  The closer we got to home the harder the rain began to fall.  I was completely stressed out because I was having trouble seeing the road.  All I wanted was to get home, crawl in bed, and call it a day.  We were finally getting close to home.  All I had to do was turn right, drive a few miles, and we would be home.  But my gut was telling me to drive around the long way.

The road that leads straight to home sometimes gets under water when it rains really hard.  We had been away from home for nearly 5 hours.  I had no idea how much rain had fallen during that time.  I knew my nerves weren’t up for the challenge of backing up in the dark to find a place to turn around if there was water in the road.  The last thing in the world I wanted to do was take the long way around. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to drive around.  So I heaved a deep sigh and took the long way around.

I was tired and totally irritated.  So I did what I always do when I’m tired and irritated.  I started to cry. When it’s raining cats and dogs and you can barely see the road it’s not the best time to start crying. But I did.  It had been a day that felt like it was never going to get over.  And taking the long way around was making a really long day even longer.   I couldn’t see the yellow line or the white line.  I was just hoping that I was on my side of the road.  Every now and then other vehicles were coming towards me.  Their headlights helped me know that I was on my side of the road.  I was thankful that I wasn’t the only one traveling this road.

As the rain pounded our van I began to think about how this moment reminded me of how I often feel about our life.  Raising Mikayla & Hope feels like we have to take the long way around while a lot of other families get to take the road that leads straight to home.  A lot of our days appear to be dark, rainy, and lonely.  Sometimes I feel as if I’m fumbling around in the dark and I can’t really see exactly where I’m going.  But the truth is that there are others that are taking the long way around.   And their lights help me see where I’m going and my lights help them see where they’re going.

Sometimes in life we get to take the road that leads straight to home.  Maybe you found your spouse when you were 18 years old.  Maybe you had a pregnancy that was smooth sailing with no complications.  You have a compliant child who is a breeze to raise.   Your kids get good grades in school.  Maybe your family is in good health and rarely spends time at the doctor’s office. You’re able to pay your bills every month without any problem.  Be thankful because not everyone gets to have these things.

We all have times when we have to take the long way around.  Maybe you’ve been waiting for many years to find your spouse and you wonder when he/she is going to appear.  Or your spouse left this earth and you’re raising young children alone.  Maybe you’re in the middle of a high risk pregnancy that seems long and scary.  Or you’re waiting and hoping that you will one day be pregnant. Maybe you went to the doctor’s office and heard the word cancer and you have to start a long road of treatment.  Maybe you have a chronically ill child and you spend more days in the hospital than at home.

The long way around can seem really long.  We often don’t understand why we have to travel a road that we have no desire to be on.  I enjoyed only a few moments of my high risk pregnancy.  It was a nightmare that ended with our preemies lying in NICU isolettes.  We were so thankful the day that we got to bring our babies home.  The long way around wasn’t without purpose.  A couple of years later a friend found himself in the NICU with his triplets.  Brett was able to encourage him and have empathy for him because he had once sat in the exact same NICU holding our babies.  Our long way around helped someone else through his long way around.

Our long way around with Mikayla & Hope isn’t without purpose either.  It’s taught us that different is ok.  It’s taught us that each of us develops at our own pace.  Some kids develop slower than other kids.  Slower isn’t wrong.  It’s just slower.  It’s taught us to not judge parents who have a child in the middle of a public meltdown.  It’s taught us that every accomplishment needs to be celebrated.  Because little victories are actually big victories in our world.  This blog was born while we’ve been taking the long way around.  I hope and pray that it helps families who are on the same road that we’re on as well as families who are on a different road.

When I pulled into our driveway that night it was still raining cats and dogs.  As I was sitting and waiting for the garage door to open a strange thing happened. The rain instantly stopped.  I could finally see again and it made me smile.  I smiled because I would’ve much rather taken the road that leads straight to home.  But the truth is that I learned more when I had to take the long way around.  I learned that I’m not the only one taking the long way around.  I learned that we need to bring light to our path and help others see where they’re going.  And I learned that sometimes it rains so hard that we can’t see where we’re going.  But the rain will eventually stop and we’ll be able to see again.  Our journey home was longer than I wanted it to be but we still got home.  All that mattered was that we were home.

When Your Faith Shatters

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She giggled and smiled as she bounced the ball around the dining room.  Then we suddenly heard the sound of glass crashing to the floor. It was just too overwhelming and ironic that my plate with the word Faith on it was now shattered.  The past few weeks have been extremely difficult.  My faith in God has felt as if it were shattered into pieces much like my plate.  Brett began gathering up the broken pieces.  I asked him not to throw the pieces away.  I just couldn’t handle the thought of seeing my plate thrown into the trash.

It all started a few weeks ago when faceless people out in cyberworld began to personally attack me.  I had no idea that writing about my life could upset so many people.  Or that those people would take time out of their life to tell me what they think of me.  People who love me told me that it doesn’t matter what strangers think about me.  And it doesn’t.  My worth and value do not come from what anyone thinks of me.  But their words still hurt.  When I crawled into bed that night and my husband wrapped his arms around me I began to sob.  And I told him that I wasn’t ever going to write another blog post.  He told me that he didn’t think that was the answer.  He reminded me that a well-known pastor is constantly attacked on social media.  But he gets up every day and he keeps doing what God has called him to do.  And my dear husband encouraged me to do the same.  But I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.

As I was still trying to process the attacks from cyberworld, a stranger at a theme park yelled at one of our girls and told her that she was stupid.  It’s one thing to attack me through a computer screen.  It’s even worse to yell at my girl and tell her that she’s stupid.  What is wrong with people?  Why do they think they have a right to say whatever they want?  Why are they so cruel?  My world was becoming a dark place.

Everything felt like it was spiraling out of control.  Our family was disappointed when the door was suddenly closed on a new journey we had chosen to take.  My heart was broken.  We had a couple of extremely difficult weeks with our two turtles.  Bad behaviors that the girls had conquered suddenly began creeping back into their lives.  I was discouraged and I felt like a complete failure.  And then, of course, there were the normal demands of life mixed in with all of the extra struggles.  I ended up with an extreme case of anxiety.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I didn’t want to get out of bed. The pages in my Bible just seemed to be full of words that had no life.  I struggled to pray.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  The only reason I was going to keep going was because I had no choice.  It was like I was in the bottom of a pit and I didn’t know how to get out.

Then I had an emotional breakdown in public.  That was the last thing in the world that I wanted to happen.  I didn’t want everyone to know that I was a complete mess.  Wonderful, loving people tried to comfort me but nothing they said made me feel any better.  I desperately wanted to talk to someone who understands the struggles of raising special needs kids.  That night I didn’t find anyone. I felt a loneliness like I’ve never felt in my life.

A friend came the next day and took Mikayla & Hope to her house.  She had no idea what I was going through.  She just wanted to spend the day with our girls.  Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  And she brought chocolate which was also perfect.  She took the girls to her house two days in a row and they had a lot of fun.  I was so thankful to have a little time to myself.

Then I got a facebook message from the only special needs mom that I’ve found in our very large church.  She shared encouraging words with me that were exactly what I needed to hear.  Her special needs journey looks a lot different from mine.  But the feelings and emotions are very similar.  I needed to know that I’m not alone.

But the truth is that I was never alone.  There’s one person in this world who understands completely. When I was lying on my bed crying uncontrollably the door opened and he stepped into the room.  He sat down beside me, he rubbed my back, and he kissed my forehead.   Yes, this man understands. Eleven years ago he had no idea that our twin girls who were growing inside of me would have special needs.  He didn’t know that our life was going to suddenly take a turn that we weren’t expecting.  He didn’t realize that he was going to have to trade in his dreams for our girls and start dreaming new dreams.  He had no idea that the journey was at times going to try to steal our joy, our hope, and even our faith.  He feels the same things that I feel.  As I looked up at those same beautiful eyes that I first fell in love with 25 years ago, I realized that I’m never alone.  And I’m thankful that I get to spend every day of my life with this man who loves me even when I can’t get out of bed.

My faith was never really shattered because faith isn’t about what I can see.  Faith is believing that God hears my prayers even when His answers seem to tarry.  It’s believing that God is listening and He loves me even when my eyes see the opposite of what I’m praying for.  Faith is believing  that our girls will accomplish great things in their lives.  It’s believing it even in those moments when they seem to be going backwards instead of forwards.   Faith is choosing to believe that there’s good in the world even when I feel overwhelmed with the bad.  Faith is choosing to keep going even when I feel like I can’t.   The every day struggles are very real.  I’m exhausted and my emotions are still out of whack.   But my faith hasn’t shattered into pieces and fallen on the floor.  It’s still intact.

 

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see ~ Hebrews 11:1