Putting My Trash Out For Everyone To See

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I was cleaning the basement and I found a few boxes that needed to be thrown away.  I tossed them onto the ever-growing pile of boxes that’s been in our basement for longer than I care to admit.  As I tossed the last box on the pile I decided it was time to carry them upstairs and get rid of them.  If they are hiding in the basement I’ll never get rid of them.  It was too windy to burn them.  There was no way they would all fit in the trash can for the next trash pickup.  So I decided to put them on the front porch.  If I’m forced to look at them every time I drive up the driveway then I’ll actually get rid of them.  I’ll just add a few of them to the trash each week until they’re gone.

I like things to be neat and tidy so I cringed as I put the boxes out on the front porch.  I was putting my trash out for everyone to see.  And I’m feeling the same way right now as I type these words.  It makes me uncomfortable when I think about everyone knowing what I’m going through.  I’m putting my trash out for everyone to see. Sometimes we have to drag our problems out of the basement so that we’ll actually deal with them.  When we’re forced to look at them we have a greater chance of getting rid of them.  I risk being judged.  But I choose to tell my story anyway because my story matters.  My story may look a lot like your story.  I hope it helps you to know that you’re not alone.  Your story may look nothing like mine but I pray that the words I’m getting ready to share will touch your heart in some way.  I’m glad you’re here to join me in my story.

Anxiety.  I really hate that word.  I hate the way that it makes me feel.  It slowly started creeping into my life 2 years ago.   I tried to ignore it.  Then I prayed for God to take it away.  I looked up scriptures about anxiety and I told myself to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6-7).  I went forward at church and had people pray for me. And yet it continued to torment me every single day.   I was having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.   I was experiencing fatigue that was so severe that walking across the house was difficult.   My mind would frequently go blank.  I couldn’t concentrate and I was extremely irritable. Every day I had moments when I felt  like I couldn’t breathe.  I lived like this for a year.  I finally decided it was time to call the doctor.  Tomorrow.  I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.

That evening a picture came across my facebook newsfeed. The top half of the picture was a pill bottle and it said “What they say you need”.  The bottom half was a picture of a Bible and it said “What you really need”.  The picture sent a message that was loud and clear.  If you’re a Christian then all you have to do is read the Bible and your anxiety will go away.  As I sat on my bed and continued to look at that picture I was reminded of the voices from the past.  The voices that said if you’re depressed or have anxiety then you need to pray more and read more.  Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety.  If you go to the doctor for medication then you aren’t trusting God to heal you.  I allowed that picture to condemn me.  As I fell asleep that night condemnation covered me like a blanket.   The next morning I didn’t call the doctor.  I chose to continue suffering.

As 2016 unfolded I believed that this year was going to be a better year.  But then a series of events took place that added a great deal of stress to our life.  Our insurance company quit paying for the girls therapies.   We had to begin the process of finding a way for the girls to receive their therapies.  We decided to stop homeschooling and enroll the girls in public school.  I attended several meetings to set up their IEP for this school year.  The girls behavior problems escalated and we decided to attend PCIT (Parent-child interaction therapy).   I spent 10 hours filling out paperwork for our family to start the PCIT.  I jumped through all of the hoops to get us on their schedule only to find out we would have to wait 8 months for our first appointment.  I secretly wondered if our family would survive the long wait. I was relieved when everything was in place for the PCIT and for the girls to start school in the fall. I finally felt like I could rest and that my life was going to get better. But it didn’t.

I started having panic attacks. They would come in the middle of the night, at a graduation ceremony, or even at church. I found myself fleeing from social situations because my heart was pounding and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would drop the girls off at their class at church, go sit in the sanctuary, and then flee from the room as soon as the worship music started. The sounds of the instruments and the crowd were just too much for me to handle. I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks. Then one morning I woke up, took a shower, and went back to bed because the fatigue was so severe. I did this 3 days in a row. On the third day Brett came into the bedroom and he sat down beside me.  He told me that he loved me and he couldn’t stand to see me like this. He asked me to go to the doctor.  I agreed to go because it was clear that the anxiety was no longer just affecting me. It was affecting my entire family.  The next morning I called the doctor and made an appointment.

As I told the nurse my symptoms she smiled and she told me that I’m not alone.   The physician’s assistant also told me that I’m not alone.   As I walked out of the doctor’s office I felt foolish.   I waited 2 years to see a doctor.   I’d let the anxiety get so bad that I couldn’t even get out of bed.  I’d allowed the fear of what people would think of me become more important than my health and my family.  And I regret it.

I’ve been taking anxiety medication for 4 months.   I’m finally able to sleep and fatigue no longer torments me.  I still have moments each day when I feel like I can’t breathe.  And I’m still irritable.  Ask my sweet husband.    So even though I’m on medication I still have some anxiety symptoms.  The boxes on our front porch didn’t disappear overnight and neither has my anxiety.  But each week a few boxes disappear and the pile gets smaller.  I trust that as time passes my anxiety symptoms will decrease and hopefully one day they will disappear.  But right now I recognize and celebrate each victory along the way.  Last Sunday was a victory.  Brett patted my thigh during the sermon.  He could tell I was having a hard time and he was telling me he was proud of me for coming to church and not fleeing from the sanctuary.  I’m learning that victory isn’t just at the end of the race.  But it’s in each step that you take from the beginning to the end.

God heals.  I know that with all of my heart.  But He doesn’t always choose to heal in the way that we want Him to.  I wanted my healing to come in an instant.  I pray and then God makes all of my problems go away.  Isn’t that what we all want?  But it’s not always what God thinks is best for us.  Sometimes God chooses to walk us through our problems instead of around them.  God is choosing to walk me through this one step at a time instead of instantly delivering me from it.   I will learn lessons through the journey that I wouldn’t have learned if I’d been delivered from it.

I don’t understand anxiety.  It knocked me down like a freight train during a time when I felt like things were finally falling into place for our family.  I wasn’t sitting around worrying.  I was hopeful for the future.  But anxiety knocked me down anyway.  11 years ago I became mom to 2 little sweethearts who have disabilities.  And I now understand something that I never understood before.  People who experience anxiety need to be shown grace instead of judgment.  We have no idea how many meltdowns a mom and dad have watched their child have that day.  Or what the test results said.  Or how many times a mom has heard her child say the same phrase over and over again.  Or what kind of battle took place when a child had to put his clothes on.  Or if the mom and dad we see at the store have been sitting beside their daughter’s hospital bed wondering if she’s going to live or die.  There are so many people in this world going through some really hard stuff.  So let’s pause and think before we hit the share button on facebook.  Let’s make sure that we’re showing people grace instead of judgment.

School Days: The Transition from Homeschool to Public School

Last week Mikayla and Hope’s school had open house.  The girls got to meet their teacher and put their school supplies in their desks.  They were all smiles and were excited about starting school.

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The next morning I woke them up for the first day of school.  The morning went very smoothly except for one major obstacle.   They wouldn’t eat their breakfast. They don’t like to eat when they first wake up.  I asked them repeatedly to eat some cereal but neither one of them would eat.  So I threw a breakfast bar in each of their backpacks for when their stomachs started growling.  Before we left I snapped a first day of 5th grade picture.

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On the way to school I gave them a first day of school pep talk.  Don’t fight with each other.  Do what the teacher says.  And I had one final instruction for Hopey. Please try really, really hard to not burp at school.  But if you do burp remember to say “excuse me”.   As we neared the school my heart started pounding and my mind started racing.   I hope they like school.  I hope they behave.  What if the change is too much for them?  What am I gonna do if this doesn’t work out?

I walked the girls up to the school and we met their aide.  The girls made me hug and kiss them more than once.  They seemed a little unsure about what was happening.  But they were smiling as they entered the building and they were still smiling when I picked them up 3 hours later.  I asked them how their day was. Hope proudly announced “I didn’t burp at school!”  I was one proud momma.  She remembered what I said.  She exhibited self-control.  And she was proud of her accomplishment.  I didn’t get any other information out of them about the first day of school.  But I was relieved when they asked if they could go back to school the next day.

They both received a “good job” and a smiley face on their first math paper.  They’ve learned that stars are good and X’s are bad.  If you get too many X’s you have to stay inside while your sister gets to play on the playground.  The little sweetheart learned from her mistake and didn’t get as many X’s the next day.  They’ve been in school for a week.  They’ve had some good days and a few not so good days.  I still can’t get them to eat breakfast.  But overall the transition from home school to public school has went better than I expected it to.  I believe that 5th grade is going to be a good year.

Preparing for the First Day of School

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I can’t believe summer vacation is almost over.  Mikayla and Hope start school next week.  The last few months have been filled with preparations.  I took the girls for their school physicals and their shots.  All of their school supplies are in their backpacks ready for the first day of school.  We’ve done everything that the school requires but a few extra preparations were necessary for our girls to start school.

The speech therapists asked if the girls could have a few therapy sessions over the summer.  This would help familiarize the girls with their therapists and their classroom.  It was a brilliant idea.  We started therapy a couple of weeks ago.  I met the therapists at the same door the girls will enter on each school day.  They had 45 minutes of therapy and then I pulled up to the door to pick them up.  Hope hopped in the van and Mikayla started to get in the van.  But she turned around and walked up to her therapist and timidly leaned in for a hug.  And then she said “I love you.”  Hope jumped out of the van and told her therapist “I love you”.

The second week of therapy the girls met their aide who will be helping them in their classroom.  She wanted to get to know the girls before the first day of school.  I pulled up to the door and their aide was standing and waiting for them.  This was like a dress rehearsal for what will happen on the first day of school.  The girls practiced jumping out of the van quickly so we won’t hold up the line of parents dropping their kids off.  After spending two days with their aide the girls told her they love her.

The girls will be going to school a half day.  We will add more time to their day when we feel they are ready.   Since they’ve never been to school we thought it was best to start slowly.  They will go to P.E. one day a week and they will also participate in music class.  Our local school has been outstanding.  They want to do everything that they can do to help our girls succeed.  I’m sad to see the summer end but yet I look forward to this school year with anticipation.  Because this year has the potential to bring many changes to our life.  At the end of this school year I’ll smile as I think about how they’ve grown.  I’ll celebrate their academic successes.  I’ll be thankful for new friends and new experiences.  And my heart will be at peace as I see how they’ve learned to function in the world without me by their side.

Mikayla and Hope Go To Camp

It’s been an exciting summer.  Mikayla and Hope went to church camp for the first time.  My friend Joni asked if she could take them to camp.  The girls spent 3 days at camp and I spent 3 glorious days resting at home.  Thanks to several friends I have pictures of my girls at camp.  I don’t have any idea what to write about camp since I wasn’t there.  So Mikayla and Hope had to help me out.  So here’s what happened at camp through the eyes of Mikayla and Hope.

Mikayla:

Played games

Ate snacks

I got wet

The zip line was fast

The water slide splashed me in the eye

Ate grapes, watermelon, and strawberries

Hopey pushed me

I painted

Hopey:

I went on the water slide and the zip line.

I got points

I ate candy, crackers, oranges, grapes, and carrots

I eat the sandwich

I made a craft

I slept at their house (a.k.a  Joni’s house)

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When a Man Shares His Kite

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Hope was excited the minute that her feet hit the sand.  She’d spotted a kite flying in the sky.  Look Mommy a kite!  Daddy, Daddy I see a kite!  Taylor look!!! Brynna, Brynna I see a kite!  She didn’t care about the water or the waves.  All that mattered in that moment was the wind and that kite.  The man flying the kite approached Brett and said he’d noticed Hope’s excitement.   He asked if she would like to fly his kite for him.

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And then Mikayla took a turn.  DSC01408

I prefer to fade into the woodwork when we’re out in public.  But Mikayla & Hope almost always thrust us into the spotlight.  My introverted personality often feels quite uncomfortable while the spotlight is shining on us.  But something happened while we were at the beach.  When the spotlight followed us around we weren’t given judgmental looks.  We received compassion and understanding.  Our girls made people smile and laugh.

I was relaxing under the shade of my umbrella while the girls were playing in the water.  Mikayla ran up to me and said “I love you!”  I smiled and said “I love you too!”  She went back and put her feet back in the water.  A few minutes later she came back to me and said “I love you!”  I smiled again and said “I love you too!”  This routine went on for at least 10 minutes.  The woman sunbathing next to us abruptly sat up and said “I don’t know…..I don’t think she loves you enough!”  We laughed and talked about how the other twin didn’t seem to love me.

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One evening as we were walking back to the condo a man started a conversation with Brett.   He had been watching Brett holding both inner tubes while Mikayla & Hope floated in the waves.  He asked about their diagnosis.  He said his friend has a child with a similar diagnosis.  He told Brett he looked tired and he knew that he has his hands full caring for our girls.  As we neared our condo he told Brett that he would say a prayer for him.  Brett told him he appreciated the prayers.  We never saw the man again.

All of these people entered our life for only a moment.  The lady helped me find my way to a much-needed laugh.  The man who offered to pray brought new hope into our lives.  And when a man shares his kite it just makes the world a better place.

Learning To Laugh My Way Through The Crazy

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Our family just got back from Florida.  We had such a great time last year we decided to go back again this year.  We stayed in the same condo, went to the same beach, and did some of the same activities.  We had fun but this trip didn’t go as smoothly as last year.

On our first evening at the beach we watched dead fish float up on the shore.  We had heard the algae was bad and people were seeing dead fish the week before.  But we were hoping it would be better for our week of vacation.  This was definitely not what I had pictured happening on our first day at the beach.   None of us got in because it was just too gross.  The next day we went to a public beach.  The girls got in the water and had a great time.  But I was hoping we wouldn’t have to travel to public beaches all week.  On the third day the beach by our condo was clear and the girls were able to swim.  And I rejoiced.

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Last year the highlight of our trip was the dolphin cruise.  We saw 20 dolphins last year and we were excited about taking another cruise.  This year we saw 2 dolphins.  Only 2 dolphins?  I couldn’t believe it.  Apparently we were spoiled last year.  A crew member told us it’s really unusual to see 20 dolphins.  The girls still had fun because they got to feed fritos to the seagulls.

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As we set sail this year the captain announced that we would be traveling out into the Gulf.  We weren’t able to go into the Gulf the last time because the waves were too choppy.  The captain announced that if you started to feel queasy you needed to go to the back of the boat.  I don’t remember the nicely phrased words that he used. But basically he said to puke off the back of the boat where it won’t fly in someone’s face.  Because we don’t want your puke to ruin someone else’s good time.  Ok.  Now I’m feeling a bit uneasy.

Mikayla got really quiet just moments after we started this voyage into the Gulf.  Then she said “Don’t feel so good.”  Oh great!  So we rushed to the back of the boat and stood by the rail.  She told me she wanted to sit down.  We sat down on the nearest bench and I quickly noticed there was a trash can to our right.  Oh good.  If she starts to get sick I’m going to get her to that trash can.  Another one of my girls wasn’t feeling well either so she joined us at the back of the boat.  Then I started feeling queasy.   We were only 1 hour into this 2 hour cruise.  Suddenly a woman came running from the side of the boat.  She was holding a paper towel up to her face.  She ran over to the trash can and deposited her breakfast. She did it without getting any on her fellow passengers.  Good for her.   I spent the last hour of the cruise wishing I could abandon the ship.  Please don’t let any of us puke.  Please don’t let any of us puke. Please, please, oh please don’t let any of us puke.  And none of us did.   Half of our family didn’t want lunch when we docked.  Was that really the same ship that we had so much fun on last year?

The next day we went to the Gulfarium because Mikayla and Hope insisted that we go see the dolphins.  We went to the dolphin show as soon as we got there.  The doors opened at 9:30 and we came in at 9:36.  The only seats left were at the top.  We sat down and one of our little sweethearts started yelling “I can’t see! I can’t see!  I CAN’T SEE!!!!!”  They sat on the front row last year so they were expecting to sit on the front row again this year.  Brett remembered that last year people stood around the rails that surrounded the dolphin pool.  He thought the girls would be able to see better if we  moved down there.  The little sweetheart who couldn’t see was still not happy and continued to let us know.  It was extremely hot.  Sweat was running down our foreheads and our backs.  Our other little sweetheart started yelling “Fix my bra! Fix my bra! FIX MY BRA!!!!” Our girls are new to this whole wearing a bra thing.   I guess the sweat, the bra, and the sensory processing disorder all mixed together was driving her crazy.  And the other little sweetheart was still yelling that she couldn’t see.  People were staring. I felt totally overwhelmed.  My bottom lip started trembling.  The tears were starting to come but I was determined I wasn’t going to cry.  We’re here on vacation and I’m not going to cry.  The dolphin show started and the girls settled down.

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As soon as the show was over our sweetheart once again started yelling “Fix my bra! Fix my bra! FIX MY BRA!!!!” So I did what any overwhelmed, slightly embarrassed mom would do in the same situation.  I took my little sweetheart in the bathroom, peeled her bra off, and put it in my purse.  There.  Now we can enjoy the rest of our day.

I sent a message to my friend Evana.  I told her I was having moments when I wished we had never come to Florida.  She reminded me that even though it’s hard to go out and do things and battle the meltdowns we are giving our girls life experiences.  And that’s what’s really important.  She told me to try to laugh off the times that make me crazy.  That’s really easy to do when you go in a gift shop and your girls turn into a horse and a crow.

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Taylor decided she needed to experience parasailing.  Brett booked an early morning time for them to parasail while the rest us slept in.  It was  a really good plan because I didn’t want to see my husband and my daughter 500 feet in the air.   I’m funny that way.

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We had some fun and we had some trying moments.  I laughed some and I never cried.  Maybe I’m finally learning to laugh my way through the crazy.  I’m thankful for every memory made with these 4 girls who call me mom.

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Sensory Processing Disorder: A Day At The Dentist

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Mikayla and Hope were irritated with each other from the moment we stepped into the dentist’s office.  I was hoping they would call one of them in quickly so they could get away from each other.  They called Mikayla back for her cleaning and Hope started playing a game on her iPad.  Wow.  This is going smoothly. But after only a few minutes Hope became restless.  And she started talking.

It’s my turn!

No it’s not your turn.  They will come out and say your name when it’s your turn.

She went back to playing with her iPad.

It’s my turn!

Have you heard anyone say your name?

No.

Then it’s not your turn.

She played her iPad some more.

It’s my turn!

No.  It’s not your turn.  They will come get you when it’s your turn.

After 30 minutes of listening to Hope say “It’s my turn” the hygienist came out.  She had finished Mikayla’s cleaning.  She explained that Mikayla’s molars have deep pits.  She said that she could put sealants on them to prevent her from getting cavities.  She had some extra time and could do it while we were there.  I told her to go ahead.  She went back in with Mikayla and Hope went back to her same routine.

It’s my turn

No.  It’s not your turn.  They’re still working on Mikayla.  When they get done with Mikayla then it will be your turn.

It’s my turn.

Have you heard anyone say your name?

No.

Then it’s not your turn.

30 minutes later the hygienist brought Mikayla out and a strange odor filled the room.  She said Mikayla did fine with the sealants until they tried to do the ones on the top.  She gagged and then she vomited.  It was all over the front of her dress.  And it was in her hair.  They had cleaned her up but she gave me a moist towel so I could work on her some more.  She said she would be back to get Hope as soon as she cleaned the room.  I left Hope in the waiting room while I took Mikayla in the restroom. I cleaned her up the best I could but she still smelled.

When I got back to the waiting room I was very happy to find that Hope was the only person in the room.  Maybe we’ll get out of here without anyone having to smell the vomit.  Mikayla started eating the sucker they gave her.  Hope got upset and started yelling because she didn’t have a sucker.  Then she went back to the routine she’d been doing for the last hour.

It’s my turn

They’re cleaning the room.  They will come and say Hope when they’re ready for you.

It’s my turn.

Did you hear anyone say Hope?

No.

Then it’s not your turn yet.

20 minutes later the hygienist came out.  It’s finally Hope’s turn.  Hallelujah.  Mikayla and I start playing a game on her iPad.  I’m feeling very thankful that we’re still the only ones in the waiting room.  Then the door opens and a lady comes in.   A couple more people come in.  Then another.   I wondered if their noses were picking up the scent of my smelly little sweetheart.

After 2 hours had passed I was really needing to go home.  Hope finally came out.  I walked up to the window to make their next appointment.  Mikayla took her Despicable Me umbrella and hit Hope with it.  Then Hope took her My Little Pony umbrella and hit her back.  I told them to stop it.  They didn’t.  You stand here.  And you stand over there.  Don’t touch each other.  But they did.

The receptionist asked if I would like to make their appointments on 2 different days next time.  Yes.  After the way today went I would like to bring them on different days.  The receptionist apologized for it taking so long.   The computer was being slow.  Hope started eating the sucker they gave her and it made Mikayla mad.  They started hitting and kicking each other.  I suddenly felt as if I couldn’t breathe.  A panic attack began to take over my body.  I told the receptionist that I had to leave.  The printer finally spit out the appointment paper.   As my trembling hand reached for the paper the tears started to come like a flood.   As I turned to leave I didn’t look at any of the people in the waiting room.  I felt ashamed. What kind of mom can’t control her own children?  As soon as we got outside Hope started yelling because she dropped her sucker.  It’s stuck to the front of your shirt.  Peel it off and let’s go.

I cried the entire 25 minutes that it took to get home.  Why does going out in public have to be this hard? As soon as I got home I told Brett I was going to bed.  I didn’t care that it was only 3:30 in the afternoon.   I went in the bedroom, put on my nightgown and crawled in bed.  All I wanted was to forget that this day had ever happened.   And there’s no way I will ever write a blog post about it.  That’s for sure.  But here I am writing about it.  Crawling into bed and trying to forget the day wasn’t the end of the story.  A few days later I found a card in our mailbox from the ladies at the dentist’s office.  They each wrote me a personal note of encouragement.

Just a note to let you know we think you are great!  I hope your day got a little better.  

I enjoyed seeing your girls.  I can tell you go above and beyond taking excellent care of them just by looking in their mouths.  What a wonderful mother you are.

I was stunned.  They didn’t look at me and see a bad mom.  They looked at me and they saw a good mom having a bad day.   As I closed the card God whispered in my ear.  He said That’s how I see you.  I look at you and I see a good mom having a bad day.  And He loves me.  Even when my attitude stinks and I’m impatient He still loves me.  He gently reminds me I need to work on some things.  And I nod my head and agree.

The next day I took the girls to appointments at the eye doctor.  Guess what?  They were complete angels.  They didn’t yell at each other.  They didn’t touch each other.   I told them I was proud of them and I wanted to buy them a prize for being so good.  They wanted ice cream sandwiches.  I don’t understand why life can be so different from one day to the next day.  Or from one moment to the next moment.  But perhaps next time I feel tempted to carry shame out of the doctor’s office I’ll remember the ladies who looked at me and just saw a good mom having a bad day.  I’ll shake the shame off and walk out the door with my head held high.  And I’ll trust that tomorrow will be a better day.