Friday, July 29, 2016

This Is Me Now

I have realized something about this point in the summer - sometime in July, maybe half(ish)way through. This is when summer gets old, I think. Maybe that's not you - maybe it's the toll of a sensory kid plus two big kids who don't always get along, maybe it's just this season of life, but I've felt it for the last two years.

Whether we're homeschooling that year or doing public school, around the middle or end of July, the unstructured structure gets old. Our loose routine has to be tightened up or we just won't make it. Most of the scheduled summer events are over and we can settle into more routine until school starts again.

I think this guy is ready to know what he can expect from life again.

This was Josiah last night while I was cooking. This is why I hate cooking right now. Once a big interest of mine, now I dread it and love pizza nights. Notice the splat of spaghetti sauce on the worn linoleum - I don't even know when that happened during the frenzy.

During the evening, this guy is winding down and needy and cranky.

Sensory differences can be so hard to explain to other people. I mean, they're easy enough to explain from a technical standpoint, but the complex factors and effects on a family's life are oddly difficult and unique to every home.

Sometimes I'm not sure how to explain what it's like to have weeks where I have to leave the house for a while in the evening one or more days simply because he has been so needy. I have to let Daddy take over because I can't handle being grabbed, rubbed, climbed on for another second. My ears and brain can't listen to any more too-loud conversations, overreactions, or tears. In the photos above, Josiah just wanted me to hold him. Easy enough if everything could always stop and no one had to eat.

For Joe, it's like having an itch that someone else has to scratch for you. He doesn't know how to fill his own sensory tank just yet. Shortly after these photos, Daddy took him to play in the living room. Often a rough wrestling session with Daddy is exactly what he needs, and he loves it. Being (gently) thrown around, (gently) shaken, rolled, getting to throw punches at Daddy's open hands and yell loudly - it scratches those itches that he still can't always identify.

Also, this is me right now.

Mama, can I honk you nose?

When he isn't honking my nose, he's rocking back and forth on the couch, sliding down the side of my body, grunting, scratching the underside of his nose, tapping my feet with his hands or feet, bouncing, etc. While this is normal three year old behavior, it just never stops. Ever.

Add in the meltdowns that come from being too tired, too hungry, or hearing something that is too loud, and a day can be taxing.

But gosh is he sweet, too. There is little that upsets him more than someone else crying - it borders on panic.

Also, this is me right now.

All of these gymnastics are not for lack of training. Oh guys. Only God knows the effort. Now he's clacking his teeth together and listening to the sound it makes. Also, he wants to look at wolf costumes. And he wants ice cream. He is sweetly and creatively expressing his wants while tapping me on the chin. 

Jesse and I were discussing Josiah's stress level yesterday. I was listening to a child development expert talk about children who come from difficult places - and sensory kids fall into this category. She talked about how she gently places her hand on the chest of a child while speaking to them - to create connection, but also to feel their heart, which is often racing. 

It's interesting to place your hand on a toddler's chest and feel their heart race frantically when it shouldn't be. Seeing and feeling their agony creates a brand new set of lenses through which you see their life, and suddenly, everything shifts. Protective instincts override exhaustion (most of the time) and you stretch and adapt. Sometimes that means saying no to things, and sometimes that means needing grace and assistance from others in order to show up.

There's nothing quite as powerful as parents who get this at the same time. I don't know how sensory parents cope when one parent isn't informed or on board. Watching my husband recite the favorite Good Night Moon to a little boy wrapped in his favorite blanket who can't stop crying, even though he wants to? It's a powerful picture for a wife and mom.  

So now it's time to move toward the school year and plan some ways to fill Joe's sensory tank while his siblings are at school. He will miss them, and then he will enjoy the routine again. I sit here watching him bang on the wall with an inflatable bat and try to think of good activities for this fragile tornado. Maybe a hamster wheel. :)


This is me now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Humble and Kind

I deactivated my Facebook today.

I didn't make any announcements about it beforehand, which led to a couple of confused conversations with friends, but yes. It's down for now.

I wasn't mad at anyone. It wasn't one thread that pushed me over the edge. To be honest, it was just a difficult day, and I realized that Facebook is one more thing that I just don't need right now.

tea party with special guests

Pinky Pie with a bracelet-turned necklace, surrounded by dominoes

Do you ever wonder what they will write about us in twenty years? I foresee more books and studies all about The Social Media Effect. I don't know, y'all. I sometimes wonder if we'd be better off if all of our internet friends and real-life friends didn't overlap. If maybe we talked to our online friends online because there was no other way to connect with them face-to-face. If we talked to our real-life friends in person where we could more attentively notice how we talk to them. I wonder if we know way too much about our real-life friends anymore, and it's becoming harder and harder to like the people in front of our faces because of all of the overshare.

All of these thoughts were rumbling around in my brain when I came across something that reminded me of this country song

A few people had asked why I was slipping away from my primary social media site. I wasn't sure - I just knew I needed it. But I think I knew why when I pulled up the song and listened to it again. 

I'm weary of the things that chip away at my kindness. I'm weary of things that compete with true humility. I'm through listening to people try to scare me out of my humanity and ability to be humble and kind. 

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind

I wonder if fear is like fire. We know that fire needs oxygen and fire needs something to consume. I wonder if it is consuming our humility and kindness. I wonder if the constant bombard of all of the worst things happening in the world is feeding it. I think there is immediate, fight-or-flight fear and I think there is fear that slowly changes you over time, and this is the latter.

This season is ugly, isn't it? Are there any of us who aren't worried about really big things - from the future of our country to the safety of our children? I am. I'm worried. But I feel like all of us worried people maybe need to stop getting together so often just to worry about things - and I think that's where social media is hurting us. 

Mommy & AJ

I need it to stop for a minute. I need to not see fear-mongering posts with hundreds of "likes" and political posts with dozens or hundreds of comments between only two or three people. 

We are all scared and we're acting like it. But you know what? I'm saying no. I'm not letting fear change me if I can help it. I can't fix the entire world, but I can shut off every voice that tries to intimidate or scare me and choose to focus on being humble and kind.

brothers enjoying a milder summer evening - decorating the car with sidewalk chalk

I know the photos from our humble life my seem oddly scattered through this disjointed post, but they're not. These moments were happening while my brain formulated this post. 

This isn't my appeal to you to abandon Facebook - I'm sure I'll be back. But whatever is weighing you down, scaring you, slowly changing you and not in a good way - maybe you can somehow turn that off and embrace the simpler aspects of the community around you. We can't fix the world by painting it in broad strokes, but we can make a mighty change if we're willing to embrace kindness and humility. 

Feel free to say hello here in the comments! I'd love to know that you stopped by. <3

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Oddly Specific Moms - AKA All of Us

I am up too late.

I'm often up too late. I don't fall asleep easily, but I love to sleep. Sleep. Coffee. Chocolate. Is that basic? Well, I do like Starbucks.


I'm up late because 1. I'm not sleepy enough to sleep, and 2. I just finished prepping for Sunday a little while ago. And I decided, I want to talk about this. I'm a mom, and there are basically forty bazillion articles floating about the wide web targeted at me. Probably a good chunk of them would remind me to go to bed early and wake up early so that I'm ahead of the game, and ready before my kids open their eyes. That is such a good idea. It is. I'm not mean-girling here, that is really just solid stuff.

Here's the thing. That's one piece of advice that doesn't actually work so well for me. I don't fall asleep easily, no matter how tired I am - it's something I have struggled with for my entire life. I've tried a variety of over the counter solutions to help, and I do have one that's fairly reliable, but I don't want to take it every night in order to do what the mom blogs say. So, I reserve it for when I feel I need it.

Is there a point to this oddly detailed dissertation on your sleeping habits, Candi? Why, yes there is. I am so glad you asked.

I guess I wish moms who are just a little newer at this whole thing than I could have someone tell them that sometimes really good advice is going to fail. It can be solid guidance that is absolutely essential for your BFF, and it might fail miserably for you.

It's acutely cliche to repeat this - but there is no one like you. You are also oddly specific. You have weirdities (it's a word because I say it is, stand down spellcheck) that I cannot know or "get" or account for. And while life cannot accommodate all of our odd specificity and personal nuance, you will be a better person if you take the time to know yourself well.

I'm up late because I soaked in a long bath - a favorite indulgence of mine. I put off the dishes to do it. But I knew that if I left the dishes in the sink, I would feel stress as soon as I saw them tomorrow. Tomorrow (now today) is Sunday, and church starts at 9am. I don't like 9am. I don't like dressed and present at 9am, I should say. But I love going to church, and I love Sunday, and I need to not wake up at ugly-o-clock and feel stress when I'm already probably angryish at my husband for waking me up to begin with. Yes, you can feel sorry for him. Yes, I can set my own alarm. No, I'm not going to do it.

I know that staying up to have a clean kitchen tomorrow is, for me, much more valuable than going to bed early. I know that I can probably take a nap tomorrow (thank God we've reached that phase of life). I tried the "embracing the mess" route, and it was a short route and I hated it. That's not for me, although I would gladly hire someone else to do the chores if life allowed for that at this juncture.

I know myself, now, well enough to know that I can palpably feel my stress level drop when certain areas of the house are tidy. I've also learned that sometimes I need to just close the kids' bedroom doors and not worry about that at the moment.

Having been a mom for almost nine years, I've learned some of my own stress triggers, and I'm still learning. It took me way too long to realize that life doesn't need to look like a commercial, but I do need to be healthy.

If I could give you an assignment right now - from a still-young mom who is easing up on 9 years at this, it would be to listen to your involuntary stress responses right now, and think about what you can do to address them. When you feel that little ping of stress or you feel that weight creep up in your chest, what caused it? These triggers are some of our personal, specific nuances, and knowing them is absolutely invaluable. Here are a few of mine:

I don't watch crime shows anymore if they are too detailed or involve children - they get in my head. It affects me. It's a trigger.

I don't leave my bed un-made. I make it quickly and imperfectly because I know that looking at a messy bed makes me feel messy. It's a trigger. I avoid it.

I have learned that if my home smells good, I am significantly more relaxed - so I own an essential oil diffuser and several wax warmers. They are worth it. 

I don't bathe my kids every single night, unless they really need it. I have a life.

I don't sort my laundry into colors anymore. So far, I haven't ruined anything. But...

I don't leave unfolded laundry lying anywhere except a small basket reserved for unfolded things or folded towels. Piles of laundry are, you guessed it, a trigger.

These are some of my specific nuances. These are, by no means, an attempt to tell anyone the right way to do things. These are a few ways that I get by as a mom and as a human being and manage life and stay sane. Some of them mean more work for me, and some mean letting things go.

And as I said before, you too are oddly specific. It is worth your time to learn what affects you the very most, and creatively address those things. It may mean giving up an area in which you feel you have to conform to an ideal Mom Persona you've manufactured in your mind.

There are competing voices all over the internet - some telling you how to accomplish life more effectively, and some pushing you to loosen up and let go. There is so much value in both of those things, but it's an impossible mission unless you start by knowing yourself and your family and what you actually, truly need.

Well, y'all, I am finally going to bed - signing off to the hum of the dishwasher, and I hope to wake up to the smell of roast slow-cooking to perfection in the crock pot. Happy, Happy Sunday.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Radical Listening

My heart is heavy. Talking feels hopeless. Looking around at the dialogue flying back and forth, I want to hunker down and wrap my arms over my head. I want to tuck my family into the foxhole with me and create a safe haven, insulated from the noise and flying debris. That’s what my brain is telling me. It’s time to hide. Run. Don’t say anything, just flee.

But in my heart, I think I know what actually needs to happen. I think part of that instinct is correct. I don’t think there’s all that much to say (ironic that I’m writing a blog, then, right? Well, aren’t you a smarty-pants and I probably like you for it).

I think it’s time for some radical listening. I know everyone is screaming for you and I to take a stand, but I think we’re failing on a much simpler level.

See, the people we think we’re standing up to? They aren’t hearing us. Picture the entity you are most frustrated with. Go ahead. Is it a politician? A movement? An organization?

Let me ask you – when is the last time they responded to your Facebook rants? When is the last time that they nodded and listened, looking thoughtful while you shared your frustrations? Maybe you’re 100% correct. Maybe you have all of your facts straight. Maybe you are angsty and itching to do something.

I hear you.

May I make a timid observation?

Are we actually shouting at the wrong people?

Who is hearing us every time we speak?

It’s the people in our own circle, friends. Sometimes we feel free to post whatever makes us grunt in agreement because we operate as if only the people who agree with us can hear our words. It’s much like the way we interact with our siblings in the comfort of our parents’ home. We make jokes we absolutely would not when in other company. We may even openly laugh at someone, because everyone in the room knows we don’t “mean” it – we’re just pointing out humor that is obvious to a group of people with such similar backgrounds. Those inside jokes are funny, and mostly harmless because they are based on the fact that everyone in the room a) understands no malice is intended and b) will never repeat those conversations outside of the safety of those home-walls.

Home is the place where you get to be, frankly, kind of insensitive. Or even a lot insensitive at times? I won’t ask and you don’t have to tell.

But that’s not the whole of us. We actually do care what other people think and how they perceive us, and we care if we hurt them.
I am suggesting that maybe we allow ourselves to slip into a place of too much comfort when we blast our views on social media. We may believe we have all of the facts, but we absolutely do not have all of the perspectives.

I guess I’m wondering what would happen if we called a moratorium on taking to social media when we are upset. What if, when upsetting things happened, we refused to be used? We refused to allow anyone to harness our fear as energy for his or her own political or social agenda.

What if we got willing to be vulnerable with others and ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable? Instead of mega-phoning our opinions because we can, we intentionally sought out another perspective to check ourselves.

I remember a time when my ego was so large that I felt victory when I managed to shut someone up. These days when a conversation moves from deep and serious to placating and polite, I feel my heart sink. When someone stops speaking honestly to me, it likely indicates that I don’t seem safe and open to them anymore.  That feels like failure to me.

I don’t want to summarize the problems of society with silly memes that oversimplify complex issues. The whole of society is not within my purview. So I’m not going to rail as if the whole world can hear.

I’m going to spend my time on the people who actually hear me talk, see what I share, and take part in my life. And I’m going to start by listening. It’s your turn to talk, friend.