Confessions Of An Early Grieving Mom

I cannot believe my oldest child used to be too small to fit into newborn size clothing. Today he’s taking anatomy quizzes and talking engineering with his dad.

The posts and photos of moms dropping off their kids at college are killing me.

It’s too much.

How is time going so fast?

I’m over here mourning the passing of time and, if I am honest, I know it’s a tiny bit dramatic.

It’s perfectly acceptable to mourn dropping off your child for college, but mine still has 7 years with me before that happens.

 

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(photo credit)

I have an affliction I like to call “Early Grieving Disorder”(EGD). If you wonder if you have it, here are some of the symptoms:

  • Kindergarten graduations make you cry because those kids are going to be in college and married before you know it (only 12 years!)
  • You have a hard time enjoying the current parenting stage you are in because you’re wrapped up in sorrow over the fact that it’s going to be over soon.
  • Social media on the first and last days of school push you over the edge.
  • Country songs & Butterfly Kisses render you completely incapacitated. (even though you know they are completely cheesy and ridiculous)
  • Your friends/spouse are likely to mock you for the tears you shed over random children’s milestones:

Nathan: Why are you sobbing? What terrible tragedy happened?

 

Me: Lydia just graduated from kindgergarten and she was wearing a sweet little cap and gown and there was a picture of her when she was a baby and another picture that said she wanted to be a princess when she grows up.

 

Nathan: Who is Lydia?

 

Me: The daughter of a person I follow online.

 

Nathan: You do know that being a princess isn’t realistic, right? Don’t you think it’s a bit much to have a “graduation” for every single grade? That child is going to “graduate” 12 times before her actual graduation.

 

Me: You are dead inside, aren’t you?

 

(This is purely hypothetical)

  • EGD is more often found in women. Onset happens after the birth of her first child.

I have no idea how this happened to me. I want to blame all the sweet grandmothers who insisted on convincing me to “carpe diem” and told me “the days are long, but the years are short”.

Who is with me? Do you have EGD? What are your symptoms?

4 Things I Learned Last Week

4 Things I Learned Last Week.

 

  • Meal Planning Saves Money.

You probably already knew that little fact, but I had gotten really lazy at meal planning. We were going to the grocery store every day because I wasn’t thinking about more than one meal at a time. It was killing our budget! So, I sat down and made a real menu for the week and a comprehensive grocery list. I ended up spending 50% less than the previous week.

  • This Cookie Recipe Is Delicious.

Do you love chocolate chip oatmeal cookies? Do you also love the taste of coconut? We had some friends over a couple of weeks ago and they brought these cookies. I loved them so much that I decided we needed to make them. I’m going to be a horrible blogger and just give away the secret without making you click 5 million times. Replace the butter with coconut oil. That’s the secret. If you like the taste of coconut, you’ll like these cookies. It also makes the just the right texture. Not too soft not too hard. A little chewy (which I love). The secret is the oil.

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  • I don’t have a baby anymore.

My “baby” is looking more and more like a giant to me and I’m all mixed up emotionally over the entire thing.

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How did his legs get so darn long? This week, for our homeschool tutorial, Isaac brought his stuffed dogs, Henry & Peanut, with him to show the kids in his class. He announced to the class that he had something to tell them about Henry. “Henry can talk!” The kids were a little skeptical until they saw Isaac tilt his head to the side, as if he were listening to Henry tell him something. Isaac’s eyes grew wide with surprise and Isaac exclaimed, “You did WHAT?!”

The class and teachers were in stitches. We have NO idea what shocking thing Henry confessed in Isaac’s ear, but we’re all having fun imagining what it might have been.

  • The 5th Wave Is A Bad Movie

Nathan rented a movie he thought we might like. I have no other way to describe other than, “bad”. I love a good YA story, but this one felt contrived. Someone might need to analyze it and tell me why I didn’t like it. I think it was that I didn’t care for the characters. I was not invested in them.

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Those are my 4 things from this last week. Leave me a comment and tell me something you learned/loved/enjoyed last week!

Why Risk-Takers Are Sometimes Silent

Do you know that one of the hurdles I had to get over when we chose to homeschool our kids was that I knew that people I loved would think it was a bad idea? Stay with me because this isn’t really about homeschooling. It’s about any counter-cultural decision that you make.

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When we choose something that is “different” than someone else’s choice, for some reason, we get push-back. We also get sent a message that we aren’t allowed to talk about it being hard. As if being “hard” is a sign that it’s a bad choice.

We hear it all the time. People have strong opinions about how you educate your kids, how many children you should have, what kind of risks are acceptable, . . .

The risk takers hear a message that is sometimes implied and sometimes spoken out loud: 

“You chose this path and you don’t have the right to complain.”

In fact, on the days that are hard, we all know that certain people aren’t safe. They will hear your struggle and do the opposite of encouraging you. They regale you with stories of other people who made similar choices and how poorly it turned out.

Why do we respond this way to people who choose something “other”? It’s crap.

So, we choose to be quiet when the days are hard. We don’t dare say how hard it is to chase a dream to someone who thought to chase it was a bad idea to start with.

People are going to make choices that you don’t understand:

  • They might homeschool their kids. Please don’t tell them anecdotes about kids who didn’t do well in that system.
  • They might send their kids to public school. Please don’t tell them anecdotes about kids who didn’t do well in that system.
  • They might choose to have a big family. Please don’t tell them how they will never be able to support all their kids emotionally or financially.
  • They might choose to be foster parents. Please don’t tell them you think it’s too risky.
  • They might choose to get out of debt.
  • They might choose to adopt.

Have the risk-takers in your life become more silent? It might be due to the fact that they don’t believe you’re on their team.

One of the best gifts you can give the risk-takers in your life is to give them the benefit of the doubt that they have thought through their decisions and weighed the pros and cons and made the decision they thought was best. Treat them like you believe they are wise enough to make good choices- even if you don’t understand them.

Have you ever found yourself holding back from being honest about seasons that are difficult because of how others interpret struggle as an indication that you made the wrong choice?

 

 

 

Why Our Imperfect Back To School Photo Is My Favorite

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I love all the back to school photos people post. I wish we had done them from the beginning because it would be fun to see the progression through the years.

But, I didn’t. It wasn’t as much of a thing 6 years ago.

And, let’s be honest, if it was a “thing”, I still might not have done it because I love the idea of things like this more than the actual implementation.

That sentence tells you pretty much all you need to know about me. Idea=Hooray! Implementation=What? Actual effort?

 

I’ve taken a photo the last several years and done it so imperfectly and I think I’m okay with that. No frame for the little signs. The kids clothes are sort of a mess. Hair a disaster.

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I love it.

This is who we are.

Barefoot because we  are hanging out at home.

Mismatched with stripes and plaid on the same kid because I think it’s kind of cute and don’t care most days.

Hair that needs a trim, but I had not given much thought to.

Goofy smiles.

Kids holding the wrong grade signs or holding them upside down.

A perfect showcase of the fact that Audrey cares about how her hair and clothes look and the boys don’t 🙂

Tan legs and arms from Tennessee summer days at the pool.

This is who we are and I love these ragamuffins like crazy.

 

Dear Mom Who Thinks Pre-Teen Drama Might Be The End Of Her

I’ve said this numerous times already, but it’s my struggle right now.

Parenting is a delicate balance of figuring out when your child needs snuggles and empathy and when they need a kick in the butt.

I don’t have this figured out.

This summer did not go exactly as I planned. (As if that ever happens, but that’s another story) We kicked off summer with preteen hormones kicking into gear. It manifested in a way that completely caught me off guard. The not-typical things that we deal with make it harder to decipher “typical growing up issues” from “OCD anxiety overdrive”.

A trip to the therapist a couple of weeks ago dismissed my worst fears, thankfully.

We were given some coping skills to deal with anxiety.

But there was one particular coping skill that became the go-to solution every time.

Me.

Going to Mom with every not-perfectly-happy-thought or random fear or confession. That was the coping skill.

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I probably don’t need to tell you how well that went, but I’m going to anyway because I write (now that I’m coming out of the fog of PTSD that summer has given me). How it went was me crying a lot. How it went was me starting to dread each time my daughter came to me to talk. A mama can only hold so much in her brain. It’s really not that big. This mama didn’t have enough bandwidth to deal.

Last Friday, after spending some extra time snuggling and reassuring my child and helping her deal with the fact that she was “sad”, she came home from a perfect evening out with her daddy and had a complete meltdown.

I sent Daddy to deal with it. Usually, that’s the magic trick that works every time. This time, we decided that he would simply tell her that she was okay and needed to just go to sleep. She wasn’t impressed. This message was received, shall we say, poorly?

Yes. very poorly.

Howling and wailing could be heard for miles.

At this point, I knew. I just knew this wasn’t anything other than preteen hormones and not wanting to deal with it herself. And I was DONE. The empathy train had left the station. I walked over to her room and told her, “That’s enough. I understand that you are sad, but what you are doing right now is just to try to upset the rest of us because you don’t like that we asked you to deal with this yourself. You have the ability to calm yourself and you will do it. I am here for you if you have something important that is bothering you, but I’ve already done all of that with you today and you just had a perfect evening. It’s time to stop having a fit right now.”

I texted a friend this weekend: “Death by preteen drama. I am literally typing this from beyond the grave. I’m past the sympathy stage and onto to the “suck it up” and “get a grip” stage.”

She was stunned. The howling stopped. I went to my room and went to bed and woke up early to an apology note from her that she had slipped under my door.

I have no idea how that worked. I’m sticking with that as my go-to right now. At this point, the only thing my extra attention is doing is rewarding her for having a meltdown. No,thank you!

The fact of the matter is that, regardless of whether this is a typical preteen hormonal melt-down or something to do with her OCD, she still needs to learn how to deal with the emotions in a way that doesn’t involve me. It’s like teaching your child to sleep in their bed without being rocked to sleep. Only this time it’s a 9-year-old who can cry a lot louder.

And, you guys! I decided to actually share with my friends that we were dealing with drama. Do you know what happened? So many of them are going through the same thing with their preteens. Apparently, we’re all sitting in our houses in a shell-shocked stupor having a hard time putting two syllables together. But we are not alone!Thank you for telling me that similar scenes are playing out in your house. I was literally in tears reading all the “me too’s” from my friends.

Which brings me to my next point. I think I may be getting over the idea that I need to keep my struggles to myself because some people might think I am not a good mom or struggle too much. Someone else needs to know they aren’t the only one in the preteen hormonal twilight zone. You are so not alone. I’ll probably be camped here for several years and by telling you I’m actually right here, you don’t have to sit over on the other side of the campground thinking you’re alone. Pull up your tent and let’s tell our stories to each other and laugh and cry and buy t-shirts.

If there aren’t t-shirts, we should design some, right? I need a t-shirt.

 

What Your Friend Wants You To Know About Her Child’s Struggles

Being the mom of two kids who struggle with OCD and one who also has ADHD, I’ve been on the receiving end of some well-intentioned comments that missed the mark. I am going to give the benefit of the doubt that most people do want to be helpful. They simply come at it with some incomplete or inaccurate information. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about what it is that moms like me wish their friends knew about her situation. I came up with a few things.

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  • When your friend is in the middle of a crisis, this is not the right time to heap shame on her. This sounds obvious, doesn’t it? I thought so too. But, I’ve been on the receiving end of some advice wrapped in a shame grenade that cut deeply. If your friend is struggling with her kids, this is the time to ask how you can help. It’s also not the time to mention that you suggested they read a book about parenting a year ago and you are really disgusted with them for not reading it. A few days ago, I had a medical professional (not a mental health professional, thankfully) suggest that perhaps my children were simply copying behaviors they might have seen from me. While that is something that can happen, in my case, with children who struggle with hoarding and intrusive thoughts, I can promise you they didn’t learn that from their mom. He gave that “advice” from a place of incomplete information about the situation. That’s what happens a lot when outside observers offer their opinions. It doesn’t matter if you sincerely believe that mom did something wrong, it’s not helpful. Do you want to be an encourager or do you want to make a point?

 

  • Understand that your friend is tired. When you have a child who has some big struggles, it can be all-encompassing. A lot of moms don’t get a break from them. It’s not an 8-hour job they can leave at the office at the end of the day. I asked for some input from friends regarding what they wish their friends knew about dealing with kids that have different challenges and one noted how hard it is to always have to wear your game face. In the middle of dealing with a child whose emotions are all over the place, the mom is supposed to keep calm and cool even when, on the inside, she is scared, anxious, unsure and frustrated.

 

  • They are a little gun-shy with what and how much to share. She’s afraid people will interpret the fact that she shares about the hard days as an indication that she doesn’t enjoy being a parent or love her kids. She doesn’t want to share too much, but she isn’t sure how to find the supportive community she needs if she stays quiet. It’s a tricky balance to walk.

I know there are things I’ve missed. If you parent children with special needs, what would you put on this list?

In Which I Talk About Things I Probably Shouldn’t (Like Hormones and Hot Flashes)

I thought turning 40 would usher in a new era of zen. I would have life figured out and I would finally be comfortable with who I am.

As luck would have it, my body greeted turning 40 by gathering my hormones and sloshing them up and down like a kid with a snow globe. Only, it’s not a pretty serene scene. It’s more of a disaster movie. And not the fun kind of disaster that includes punching sharks that happen to fly through the air randomly.

I can look back at the last several years and guess that this started happening right around the time we moved to TN 4 years ago. I was only 36 at the time. I promise you the thought that I was going through perimenopause didn’t occur to me. In fact, I  wondered, several times, if I could possibly be pregnant. That seemed just as unlikely. I wrote it off to the stress of the move. About two years after our move, I decided maybe I should figure out if something was wrong with me. Maybe I was starting menopause? I asked my new doctor and she assured me it was unlikely. I don’t remember that she had any answer for me, at the time. Nothing looked unusual in regard to the blood work.

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(This is pretty much how I feel right now. Ha-ha-ha)

But now, I think I’m at the point where there is no denying this. According to Web MD, the average length of this process is 4 years. For some women, it’s a 10-year ordeal. Have mercy. In the last 1 – 2 years, the drop of estrogen speeds up and causes noticeable symptoms. Here is a non-exhaustive list for you:

Hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings and trouble sleeping.

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Maybe this means I’m in the last  1-2 years of this. Right? I’m not sure if that should reassure me or make me curl up and cry. I mostly feel old. And bloated. And grumpy. And teary. And sweaty.

You know how emotional and irrational preteen girls are? I am right there with them. You should be praying for my husband. Bless his sweet heart (for you northerners, that means “good luck”). 🙂 🙂

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Health.

Simplify

I started going through the book Simplify by Bill Hybels with my Wednesday morning Bible Study class.

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It’s timely.

It seems like everyone I know feels like their schedules are too much for them to sustain. They feel pulled in all directions.

Our challenge for this week was to consider, not just what we need to get done, but who we want to become and to evaluate our calendars through that lens. We do this in light of Matthew 6:33. We seek God’s kingdom and His will first. The rest gets filtered through that.

I love that question: “Who do I want to become?” Growth doesn’t happen accidentally. I needed that reminder and maybe you do too.

 

Necessity, Motherhood & Invention

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

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I’ve heard that saying for years. The idea is that when there is a need for something, it can spark creativity to formulate a solution. So true.

But as I sat thinking about it this morning, I honed in on the “mother” part of the saying. Do you know who is the most likely to move the world to figure out a solution? A mom. More specifically, a mom whose child is struggling.

We can’t sustain it over the long-run, but, sometimes, in the middle of the adrenaline-filled crisis, we come up with something brilliant. When it comes together, it’s a thing of beauty.

This week, after months of my child being unable to enjoy playing with her Barbies because of a bully that’s called OCD, she had some homework from our therapist that gave me an idea of my own.

I sat down and wrote a letter to Audrey from Barbie. It was brilliant. I laid it on her pillow with several of her Barbies sitting next to it.

For some reason, it worked.

We’re playing with our Barbies again and I’m feeling like a bit of a superhero.

 

(Related OCD posts here)

 

Sometimes You Can’t Pray It Away: Mental Illness & The Church

Yesterday, I spent an hour at a therapist appointment with one of my children. We were both looking forward to it because life has been hard lately.

She had done some work leading up to the appointment. We had not seen the therapist for about a year because she was doing pretty well. She didn’t want to forget anything important and wanted to make a list of things to talk about. She listed 4 big things. When I say “big”, I don’t want you to gloss over that word. Imagine one thing that really distresses you to think about. The sort of thing you would do anything to avoid. She wrote down 4 things of that magnitude.

It should have occurred to me that it might be too much for her for one hour of therapy, but it didn’t. I was just so proud of her for thinking through it on her own and wanting to be prepared. She’s 9!  Sometimes she blows me away in the best way! She had even drawn a comic about defeating the bully OCD. It was amazing and her therapist was seriously impressed.

**It’s possible that my perfectionist daughter is doing work to impress her therapist, but maybe we can address that another time. **

Anyway, our therapist worked through the list with her. I sat next to my daughter and watched her do what she could to talk about intrusive thoughts that were really upsetting to her. She did her best to downplay how upset these things made her. She tried to distance herself from them. Used words like “sometimes” and “kind of”to make it easier. But, after an hour and some comments about how hormones that increase at this time of her life can make OCD bigger and trickier, she couldn’t hold it together any longer. She wilted like my unwatered flowers in the back yard. Tears came and she couldn’t stop them.

She has some hard work to do. We have a list of things to work on to fight this bully. And we could use your help. Specifically, we could use help from our local church.

 

  • If you know someone who struggles with depression, OCD, or other mental illnesses, understand that a simplistic approach that assumes a spiritual issue is not helpful. It’s shaming and isolating.

I found this quote from an article:

“When we treat mental illness as a spiritual problem, prescribing more faith or prayer, we suggest suffering people aren’t eligible for God’s grace. We behave like the Pharisees, whom Jesus said “don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23:3-4).

Our bodies, minds, and spirits are interconnected in ways too mysterious for us to unravel. And technically, all sicknesses are ultimately spiritual in origin—they entered our world as a result of humanity’s rebellion against God. But to assume that disorders and diseases which attack the brain have direct spiritual causes and solutions is to misunderstand the way we are made. Mental illnesses are real, treatable, and manageable conditions caused by genetic, biological, or environmental factors, or some combination of the three. To withhold or discourage medical and psychological intervention is as cruel as to deny treatment for a broken arm or a case of diabetes. I find it baffling that people who believe other physical ailments should be treated only with faith and prayer are considered cultists or heretics—but such a perspective on mental illness is accepted within mainstream Christianity.” (from Amy Simpson at this link)

Yes, please pray. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer. There is always the possibility of spiritual forces at play. However, an initial response of wondering if it has to do with something spiritual sometimes insinuates to the person who most needs your help and encouragement that this is their fault. That needs to stop.

 

Ed Stetzer had these powerful words to say:

“It is common practice in churches, however, to treat mental illness differently. We immediately assume there is something else, some deeper spiritual struggle causing mental and emotional strain.

The fact is that mental illness and spiritual struggle can be (and are) related. We are not separate things, we are complex people—remarkable connected in spirit, soul, body, mind, etc.

But, let me be direct here: if we immediately dismiss the possibility of mental illness and automatically assume spiritual deficiency, our actions amount to spiritual abuse. I know those are powerful and pointed words, but I believe them to be true. Please, don’t miss them.” (emphasis mine) (source)

  • Understand this is a big deal. 18% of the adult population in the US suffers from some mental illness.

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(graph from this source)

18% is not an insignificant number. To put it in real numbers, of 100 adults, that’s 18. Of 600 adults, that would be 108 impacted. I don’t know that the numbers look like when it comes to children.

We are so thankful for the people that God has placed in our lives that truly have taken the time to listen and understand this struggle. Thanks for walking with us through this.