Any Given Sunday

Two years ago, when Charlie made his First Communion I was overjoyed and so proud. But a little voice in the back of my head said, “Will this ever be Finn? Will Finn ever be able to stand up there in a scratchy suit with other kids standing that close to him? Will he ever be able to go to CCD?”

Two years ago, Finn was in a self contained classroom. He was still overturning desks and tearing up school work. There was no way I was ever going to get him to go to CCD. So, on the day of Charlie’s Communion, I beamed with pride for Charlie and I cried a silent tear for Finn. Because I never imagined what the future held.

In the beginning, Finn couldn’t sit still for mass. He would push the chairs and fidget in his seat. One week, he sat on the floor in the aisle. I tried my best to look the other way because he wasn’t bothering anyone and he was, afterall, being quiet, but an elderly parishoner made a comment about “Jesus showing him the way” and I packed them up and left.

Taking the kids to church has been a labor of love for me. I didn’t always want to do it, but I did it anyway. There were many times when I’d look around the room for a friendly face to acknowledge how hard I was trying. A sympathetic smile from an older mom who had once been in the trenches like me. Some weeks that face smiled back. Other weeks it didn’t.

But we kept going anyway.

We’ve used token boards and the promise of donuts after church to get us through. And the first week that Finn attended the children’s liturgy with Charlie, I almost fell out of my seat!

So we kept going.

And soon, church didn’t feel like such an unfamiliar place. The priest knows us and so does the Religious Ed director. It has become part of Finn’s routine and he likes it. (He’ll never admit it, but I know he does! If not, at the very least, for the donuts! Oreo crumble from Shop Rite, please?)

Each week, he followed me up to Communion and said to the priest “I want to taste the potato chip.” The priest always gave him a blessing and me a knowing smile. And finally, baby steps along the way have led us to this:

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My boy made his First Communion! And he didn’t just do it, he rocked it! He even took up the gifts! He didn’t just wear the suit, he didn’t want to take it off! Two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined him wearing a scratchy suit and dress shoes!

I wish I could’ve told the me who mourned the idea of Finn making his sacraments of this day. I wish I could’ve known that nothing was going to keep his light from shining. I wish that someone could have told me that everything was going to be just fine. But I never would have believed it. And it wouldn’t have kept me in the fight. Chipping away. Every day. Helping my boy find his way. I’m grateful for our struggles because they make days like these so much sweeter.

On a cold day in January, Finn made his Reconciliation (we used to call it Penance back in the day.) I was unbelievably proud of him that day, but I didn’t write about it because, well, I’m a slacker. But I wanted to tell you about a song they sang because it was so moving and poignant to how I feel about Finn. It went something like this:

Way beyond the stars;
Far beyond what I can see.
Your love has no end,
and it reaches out to me.

Lord, nothing in this World,
in all the Universe;
Nothing, could keep me from your love, Lord Jesus.
No matter what I’ve done,
Whatever I go through;
Nothing could keep me from your love,
Nothing coould keep me from you.

I had to choke back my weepy mom sobs as he stood in front of the church and sang that song. I was so proud of him. I would move mountains for him– only it seems he doesn’t need me to. He can move them all by himself.

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Crazy faces before Communion!

Surrounded by (almost) everyone who has loved and supported us through it all.

Surrounded by (almost) everyone who has loved and supported us through it all.

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The long road out of postpartum depression: you don’t need to be brave

Finn was born crying and didn’t stop for six weeks. I used to joke that if he was awake, he was crying. I spent six weeks shushing and swaying and swaddling and trying ANYTHING I could find to stop the crying. I remember taking him into a little boutique baby shop and the owner said, “Does he have colic?” I felt insulted. No, he didn’t have colic. He just cries a lot. Ugh.

And then one day, I eliminated soy and dairy from my diet (since I was breastfeeding) and all of a sudden he opened his eyes and said “a goo.”

It was like a dream.

The crying stopped and he was a happy baby. I felt like the sky opened up and the sun shone down on us.

Only I still felt in the dark.

I felt like I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I was depressed, agitated, quick to startle.

My baby’s crying stopped, but mine was only beginning.

I woke up in the morning with my heart racing for no reason. I cried all day long. One day, we were lying on my bed– Finn was about 6 months and Charlie was almost 3 and I couldn’t hide the tears that were rolling down my face. Charlie, who has been an old soul since birth, asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?” I didn’t know. I couldn’t give him a reason. I just couldn’t stop.

I would park Charlie on the couch and Finn in the Bumbo in front of TV just so I could go in the other room and cry.

The boys were doing adorable infant and toddler things, but I couldn’t see them because I was staring off into space and crying.

The rational side of me could see that I was depressed, but the depressed side of me felt like the world was ending. There was nothing good. Only darkness. It was like a heavy suit of armor that kept me from feeling anything but sadness.

My sister called me every day and later told me she knew before she even said the words, “How are you today?” that I wasn’t good. She said it was an unmistakable tone, almost a shake, in my voice. She never wanted to hear my voice like that again. She convinced me to call my OB-GYN and ask for help.

I felt like I should be stronger than this. I felt ungrateful to be depressed. I had two amazing boys who were happy and healthy, a husband who loved and supported me– we had a great life. Why couldn’t I snap out of it? The pressure to force myself out of the depression was only making me feel more hopeless.

Reluctantly, but with every ounce of courage I had, I called my OB and told her that I thought I had postpartum depression. She said, “Honey, your baby is 7 months old. You can’t have postpartum depression.” She suggested I seek psychiatric help, which only confirmed my suspicion that I wasn’t depressed but actually crazy. I didn’t even listen to the rest of what she said. I fell into a puddle on the floor and hung up the phone. My OB wouldn’t help me and didn’t even believe I had postpartum depression.

I felt like that was my one lifeline– my life preserver before I drowned– and she didn’t believe me.

Here’s the tricky thing about PPD. It’s not just the depression. It’s the paranoia. I was scared to admit that I was depressed because I thought someone was going to come take my babies from me. Deep down, I was unraveled. Unnerved. Shaken to my core. And that made me unfit to care for these two souls. I could barely care for my own.   Looking back, it seems ridiculous, but at the time, I was convinced it was true: I was crazy. I felt like the most pathetic person in the world. I thought that everyone hated me– even my closest family and my husband. I didn’t think I was worth saving.

Despite “all I had to be happy about.” I couldn’t find the happiness. Despite breastfeeding and getting an abundance of the (so-called) happy chemical oxytocin. I was drowning in sadness.

I was inconsolable.

I called my sister and told her my OB didn’t believe me– that she made me feel crazy and told me to go to a psychiatrist.  My sister said, “Who is your primary care doctor? I’m calling him. I’ll call you right back.”

She saved my life that day.

I cried on the floor of my bathroom while the kids banged on the door outside.

My sister talked to a nurse at my doctor and told her my story. The nurse said, “I’m so sorry that happened. We are going to get your sister help.”

The doctor called me a few hours later and he said, “I’m going to take care of you now. Can you come in tomorrow?”

The next day, I sat on the chair in the doctor’s office. Charlie climbed on my back and I nursed Finn while I sobbed to the doctor that I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding to take an antidepressant. He explained that my health came first, but he would find me a drug that was ok to breastfeed with.

I agreed and I started taking Paxil the next day.

It was a long road to recovery.

My doctor checked in with me every three months and made me promise to stay on the Paxil for at least a year. I hated that drug, but it saved my life.

Three months after I started taking antidepressants, I started seeing the fog lift. I didn’t feel like myself again, but I was getting glimpses of her. At 6 months, I told the doctor I was feeling better, but I still felt hopeless. He told me that was usually the last symptom to go. I was just happy to not feel crazy anymore.

I kept taking the Paxil and putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually the hopelessness went away. I started enjoying things again. I started seeing myself as loved and worthy of love again.

I stand here today lucky to have people in my life who would fight for me. People in my life who knew that wasn’t who I am. People who knew I was worth fighting for even if I couldn’t see it.

I even had the bravery to get pregnant two more times after that. And we have our beautiful twins as a result.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the depths of that depression and how my mind got away from me. I hope and pray that everyone out there who is suffering can find their way back.

There is no shame in asking for help. And sometimes we need others to ask for us.

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Happiness came once again. It was a hard road, but I am better for it.

If you are a mom who thinks she is experiencing postpartum depression, get help! Don’t give up on yourself! This isn’t your fault. There are resources to help you, but many of them don’t speak of how long PPD symptoms can last. In my case, it was well past the first 6 months. And that is ok. Check out this amazing website run by a mom who has been through it: postpartumprogress.com  That link will take you to the “Symptoms of PPD” post. Read it. It’s in language you will understand. You will not be made to feel broken or ashamed.

There is also a lesser talked about kind of postpartum depression that Dads experience called paternal postpartum depression (PPPD). It’s real and it’s just as scary. Twenty Six percent of new dads experience it and there’s no shame in admitting it. Check out these resources: postpartummen.com,  “Sad Dads” on parents.com, “Depression in Men…” on postpartum progress.com. 

A soft place to land or a hard place to live?

Home is really hard for Finn.

Those are six of the most heartbreaking and truthful words I have had to write.

Finn’s not like other kids. That goes without saying. And it’s not like he doesn’t like home or even find comfort from home, but home, for Finn, is like sitting in front of a high speed fan on a hot day. At first, it feels good and it’s comforting, but eventually it gets really annoying.

The part that’s really hard for me, besides all the chaos that Finn having a hard time at home brings, is the fact that Finn doesn’t have ANY trouble at school. He’s a completely different kid. He’s jovial and affable. He’s compliant and ingratiating. His teacher claims to almost never have to redirect him beyond what is age-appropriate for a 2nd grader. It blows my mind. Because, at home, I have to ask him no less than ten times to stop wrestling his brother and get dressed. And I can’t even tell you how many times (an hour) he gets in trouble for growling at the twins or just plain making them cry for no reason. He won’t share. He’s totally rigid and unrelenting.

Now, I know the me-of-3-years-ago would have given my left arm to have Finn where he is at school. He is a serious rock star. He has friends. He’s on grade level (or above) academically. It is picture perfect. For real. I’m not bragging. I’m, as Momastery would say, wearing my perspectacles. Only someone who has walked in my shoes can have the clarity, perspective and gratitude for these gifts as I see them. And I know they are gifts.

It’s just that I thought that as Finn got better at school, he would also get better at home, but that just isn’t the case. He’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Some mornings he just wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. At 5:30. And screams.

And some days, despite having created a schedule for him and “steam rolling” him with the exercise ball, he still throws himself on the ground when we tell him his (scheduled) Wii time is over.

And I get that transitions (even scheduled ones) are hard, but he would NEVER do that at school. In fact, if a friend from the neighborhood walked in our house while he were throwing a fit on the floor, he would stop– immediately. I’ve seen it happen.

So where does that leave me? Being played? Almost positively, absolutely. But it doesn’t change the fact that my boy hates being home and he’s making it miserable for the rest of us.

I’ve tried everything– positive behavior supports (or as we seasoned parents call them “token reward systems”), schedules, social stories, at-home ABA therapy, pragmatic speech therapy, OT exercises, “if / then” statements, clearly stated rules and expectations, ignoring the negative behaviors, punishment… you name it, I’ve tried it.

I am at a loss for where to go from here.

The perfect Christmas present

When I was 7 years old, I, like every little girl in the world (and probably a lot of boys), wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. It was the one and only thing on every kid’s Christmas list. It was non-negotiable. My sister Suzanne and I hoped and prayed we would be the lucky ones to get one.

In the wee hours of Christmas morning, I snuck into the living room and saw a huge stack of presents. At least 10 boxes! But none were short and fat like the Cabbage Patch box.

I still held out hope.

I waited for the rest of my siblings to awake and by 7:30 we were tearing into our bounty. Present by present was ripped open and thrown aside in search of the elusive Cabbage Patch Kid. I got sweaters and dresses and a glitter-filled baton and Chinese Checkers and Mouse Trap. Finally, I was down to the last box. I reluctantly opened the box, knowing it was not the shape I coveted. Inside the box was a pink haired “Lettuce Patch Doll” (it wasn’t really called that, but just go with me). It looked like a Cabbage Patch, except it wasn’t. It didn’t have the Xavier Roberts signature on the butt. It didn’t have the belly button. But it did have a birth certificate and according to it, I was now the proud Mommy of a pink haired Jeffrey doll.

Anyone who lived in 1983 knew of the Cabbage Patch shortage. Parents were scratching and clawing to get their hands on the dolls. My parents, after several attempts to obtain the coveted doll in the States, bought the next best thing in Germany. Literally. They were on a trip to Germany. And something about the fact that Jeffrey was carefully packed into their luggage and flown all the way across the Atlantic Ocean just to find his place under my Christmas tree made me love him more than anything mass-produced on an assembly line. It didn’t matter to me that other kids in my class had gotten 1, 2 or even 3 genuine Cabbage Patch Dolls that year. And, surprisingly, no one teased me for carrying around this pink haired charlatan.

To me, Jeffrey was real. I loved him because I knew that my Mom and Dad picked him out just for me. It truly was the thought that counted.

The following Christmas I did get a genuine Cabbage Patch, but Jeffrey was always my first.

Now, 30 years later, with kids of my own and I find myself trying to create a Christmas where it’s the thought that counts. I’ve told you before how we only give each child 3 presents and over the years, it’s become such a saving grace. It allows me to be very purposeful with what I buy and the kids to be very purposeful with what they ask for. I don’t have to buy presents just to “have things for them to open.” And they don’t ask for the sun, moon and stars. They don’t have piles of presents to weed through hoping to find that sought-after present. When my kids make their lists, they ask for 3 things. And that’s it.

Christmas isn’t about overindulgence in our house. I don’t want the focus to be all about the presents. I’m hoping that as my kids grow up they attach a feeling to Christmas, not a monetary value.

When I look back on my favorite memories about my childhood Christmases, most have nothing to do with tangible things. It’s the hiss and pop of the fireplace on Christmas morning. It’s the crackle of the needle on the record player after my Dad put on Johnny Mathis’s record (you know the one? With Johnny standing on a mountain with skis in his hand?) It’s my grandparents watching us open our presents. It’s getting a pollyanna gift from my brother (who I thought hated me) that actually showed he knew what I liked (and for the record, it was a rainbow colored cascading heart mobile. I wish I still had it. It was awesome, and so totally 80s!) It’s my Dad singing his silly “neh, neh, neh, neh” song while my Mom opened her gifts. My point is, very little of these memories are tied to specific presents. They are tied to feelings.

That’s what I want to recreate for my kids. So, this year, Joe and I are implementing a “Bucket Filler” Pollyanna. It’s a pollyanna with one rule: you can’t spend any money. They can write a letter or draw a picture or make a craft, but they can’t spend a dime. Their goal is to make their pollyanna’s heart smile.

In the past, the kids’ school used to do a “Kids Kastle Shopping Day” where the kids would “shop” with our money and buy little junky trinkets for each member of our family. And while the sentiment was nice, we all wound up with little junky trinkets (or, as in my case last year, large junky trinkets… I got an oversized pen with the word “Mom” on it. It broke shortly after eating our Christmas cinnamon buns). I liked instilling the idea of “giving,” but I didn’t like the idea of just giving anything. And I certainly don’t like the idea of wasting money on junk.

I’m hoping this new tradition will help the kids see that giving isnt always something you can wrap up with a bow. Giving of yourself and your time is sometimes the most perfect present of all. Making someone feel good doesn’t have to cost money and it certainly doesn’t only have to happen at Christmas. I’m hoping they will learn that, in the words of the Grinch, “Christmas doesn’t come from a store.”

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The truth about our Disney vacation

That is a keeper. Even if I did have to lie down on the pavement to get the shot!

You know those videos (mostly commercials) of the parents surprising their kids with a trip to Disney? You know the ones:

Parents (likely on Christmas morning): “Merry Christmas kids! Guess what Santa brought?”

Kids (all sleepy and cute in their Christmas jammies): “What?”

Parents: “We’re going to Disney World!!!!”

Kids: “OH! MY! GOOOODDDDDDDD!!!!!” And much jumping and hilarity ensue.

I hate those freaking videos. Continue reading

Five Minute Friday: Exhale

I’ve been holding my breath for 3 years. Ever since the word autism came in to my life.

On edge.

Tense.

Fearful.

Afraid of the next meltdown or situation I couldn’t control. Explanations are worth nothing. Rationale meaningless. Words come as little comfort. The meltdown isn’t about words. It’s about action. Change the situation. Leave. Run. The noise hurts. The crowd’s too big. The pants don’t fit right.

It wasn’t until dinner about three weeks ago that I finally exhaled. I sat teetered on the edge of my chair like a cat poised for action. Waiting for the next request or spilled cup of milk. I realized I never allowed myself to fully sit on my chair with my back against the backrest. The next request could be any minute, so why bother settling in?

But on that day, I allowed myself to sit. And enjoy my dinner. With my back against the chair.

Because the next meltdown or spilled cup of milk is going to happen whether I am comfortable in my chair or not.

So why not enjoy it while I can and exhale? 

Stop.

This post was written in response to Lisa-Jo Baker’s “Five Minute Friday” writing prompt: exhale. I had to write everything I could in five minutes. Please excuse typos, grammatical errors and general nonsense. I am a writer. I am never perfect.

It has to stop #NotOneMore

We were running late for the bus this morning. Permission slips were signed and lunches were packed. Then cereal was spilled and knees were scraped. I struggled to find four matching pairs of shoes and wriggle them onto four restless feet (thankfully, the big boys can put on their own shoes!) It was a typical morning, but we were running late nonetheless. We ambled down the street, as we do, and I heard the bus’ distinct rumble. The optimist in me said we’d make it, but as we rounded the corner I caught a glimpse of the orange blur and knew we were too late. I turned all of the kids around and said, “We missed it. Let’s go back and get the car.”

As we walked back, I tried to mentally reschedule my morning and figure out how I was going to get everything done—I hadn’t factored in a drop off to both boys’ schools. I was waiting for an important email that needed an answer right away. I didn’t have time to drive the kids to school.

I shuffled the kids into their car seats, started the engine for air conditioning and ran back inside to check my email one last time. I was sitting at the desk for about 30 seconds when Charlie came inside.

“Mom! Finn doesn’t listen!”

I was stressed and impatient. I barked back, “Charlie! I don’t want to hear it!”

He implored, “He didn’t want to play, so he just turned away… he said I was being mean and now he’s getting the babies to call me a bully…”

“CHARLIE! I SAID I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT!”

He stormed off grumbling something under his breath.

I immediately felt guilty. Not just because I am always on a quest to stop yelling at them, but because it was a school day and who knew if this could be the day…

No matter how stressful our morning, I always make sure I kiss them goodbye and say “I love you.” I try to send them off to school on a positive note. Not because I’m Mary Poppins or because I think “happy kids do better on tests.” But because just before they get on the bus each day I think to myself, “What if this were the last time I see them?”

“What if the last conversation I had with them was one I’d rather take back?”

It may sound morbid, but any parent who has been alive since Columbine can’t help but wonder… Is this the day a crazy person might unload a magazine of bullets into a classroom of innocent children?

Yesterday, there was another school shooting. I watched the story on the Today Show this morning while the kids got ready for school. I did what I often do when there is disturbing news; I create a human shield in front of the TV while hovering near the speaker with the volume on 2. It was heart wrenching, yet oh so commonplace. This time it happened in Portland, Oregon and, according to NBC news,  it was the 74th school shooting in the U.S. since Sandy Hook. The shooting in Portland is the fourth school shooting in 18 days. Three weeks ago, after the shooting at University of California, Richard Martinez, father of slain student Christopher made an impassioned plea:

“Our family has a message for every parent out there: You don’t think it’ll happen to your child until it does. His death has left our family lost and broken. Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop?”

I am both fearful and ashamed to live in this world. I shouldn’t have to worry at the bus stop if this may be my last moments with my child. Yet, it’s a thought that occurs to me every day. I should be worried about classroom bullies and getting picked for the kickball team at recess, not getting shot while they play in the schoolyard.

This isn’t about bigger walls or more security or having an armed policeman at the door. It’s not even about the mental health crisis in this country, although the lack of support for our country’s weakest and most vulnerable is reprehensible. It’s about the guns. High powered guns and mass amounts of ammunition are far too accessible in this country. Get rid of the guns. There is no excuse.

I am enraged by the gun lovers in this country who contend that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Well, I’d take my chances with a crazy person and sling shot and a pile of rocks over a high-powered, semi automatic rifle.

Shouldn’t a child’s right to live supersede the right to bear arms? Obviously, our Congress doesn’t think so. Even in the light of Sandy Hook, we can’t seem to pass effective gun reform legislation and it is simply appalling.

Where have we gone wrong? 90% of Americans support stricter background checks, yet somehow Congress can’t seem to vote the way of its constituents. Even President Obama is throwing up his hands.

When will you take a stand? When it happens to someone you love? In your own backyard?

No matter where you stand on the issue of gun reform, can’t we all agree that NOT ONE MORE child deserves to die?

If you’d like to be a part of the movements to make gun reform a priority in Congress, please visit and support these websites:

Moms Demand Action “Much like Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created to change laws regarding drunk driving, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was created to build support for common-sense gun legislation. The nonpartisan grassroots movement of American mothers is demanding new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws and loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our children and families.”

Sandy Hook Promise “Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, non-profit organization led by community members and several parents and spouses who lost loved ones in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 educators. Our intent is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation.”

Americans for Resposible Solutions (Gabby Giffords’ Political Action Committee) “With Americans for Responsible Solutions and likeminded friends engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and supporting lawmakers willing to take a stand for responsible policies, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby and their dangerously deep pockets.”

Everytown.org #NotOneMore Richard Martinez’s postcard campaign powered by Everytown (a subsidiary of Moms Demand Action). Sign it and empower his voice: “Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: Not One More. People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.”

Don't they deserve to feel safe at school?

Don’t they deserve to feel safe at school?

 

10 things I learned when I gave up Facebook

In all the hustle of this modern parenting world, I did what my kids thought was impossible, and I gave up Facebook for Lent.

Pathetic as it was that my 8 and 6-year-olds thought I wasn’t strong enough to stay off Facebook for 46 days. I promised them I would.  To be honest, I was checking it up to 6 or 7 times a day… so my own addiction was scaring me.

My mind had been feeling really cluttered. At the end of the day, I would lie in bed and my heart would race and I couldn’t figure out why. I found myself thinking about things I saw on Facebook (sometimes about friends, sometimes about people I hardly knew) and I would worry.

I found myself yearning for the 80s– the time when I grew up. A simpler time. A less connected time. My mom didn’t have Facebook to distract her. She didn’t pin cupcake recipes on Pinterest. If she wanted to get away from us, she went into her bedroom or went to the bathroom and shut the door or “rested her eyes” on the couch. She read magazines. Real paper magazines. She picked wild blackberries with us. She didn’t have her face buried in a phone. She made phone calls with a corded phone and talked to real people on the other end.

I wanted my kids to remember me doing things with them, not seeing the top of my head as I post their accomplishments on Facebook.

So, here are the things I did when I spent 46 days off Facebook…

I judged myself less. Ok, it’s sad and embarrassing to admit, but I can’t help it. I, unwittingly, compare myself to other people. It’s human nature. I see friends posting pictures of their perfectly primped kids in their name-brand attire and think my kids are raggamuffins. They never match. Their faces are usually dirty and they are usually wearing hand-me-downs. So be it. Without the chance to see other people’s “perfect” kids, I didn’t feel so bad about my own (adorable) dirtballs.

And while I spent less time criticizing myself, I also spent less time thinking about how others were judging me. I was less aware of my own presence outside of my house. The only people’s judgement I needed to worry about were sitting at my kitchen table, and it felt nice.

I took less pictures of my kids. Without my phone constantly in hand, I didn’t have it at the ready to snap their pictures. Without the instinct to post their cute little mugs on Facebook and Instagram, I found myself just being with them instead of capturing what they do (and sharing it with my friends and family). I still took pictures of them, I just didn’t know what to do with them. They sat on my phone. I texted them to my husband. I made them my screen saver. I don’t think there is a whole in the internet where my kids’ pictures used to be.

I got my news from Brian Williams. Sure, I had to wait until 6:30 pm, but if it were newsworthy enough, Brian told me about it. It made me realize how much “news” is really just social media buzz. Brian Williams didn’t tell me what was #trending, he told me what was happening… in our world, not just in my news feed. It really broadened my perspective on the world. I used to feel like Facebook made me feel more connected to people, but instead it makes me feel more isolated and pigeon-holed. Facebook’s new algorithm chooses what and who it wants to show me and as a result, I feel like I am in a box. Staying off of Facebook forced me to seek out my news instead of hearing it 2nd hand (and from the same people). Besides, if something on Facebook were really important (like Grumpy cat turning 2), the Today Show would tell me about it.

Ugh.

I didn’t read more books. I just didn’t. I thought I would have more down time, but it turns out I never trolled Facebook as a singular activity. It was my distraction– my escape. I was never fully focused on Facebook. I did it as a multi-task (if you can call it that.) I justified doing it to take my mind off the mind-numbing thing I was doing (like watching the same Peppa Pig episode). I realized that Facebook only served to numb my mind more. I was never fully focused on either thing, Peppa or Facebook. Without the chance to check Facebook while watching Peppa Pig, I turned off the tv and made the kids play Candy Land instead.

I was less frustrated. I have been writing a lot  about yelling at my kids less. I found that when I wasn’t trying to do 2 things at once, I was less annoyed with my kids. If you haven’t read Orange Rhino, go check her out. She’s amazing. She’s not perfect (just like the rest of us), but she’s trying to yell at her kids less and she’s inspiring as hell. Thanks to her, I’m trying to pay more attention to what frustrates me, and being on Facebook while trying to parent 4 kids is definitely high on my frustration meter!

I had thoughts and I kept them to myself. Usually, when something funny happens, my first thought is to tell it on Facebook. I have an inner-monologue of self-deprecating Facebook posts in my head at any given time. During the first few weeks of my fast, things popped into my head and I itched to do something with them. I couldn’t believe that I had a thought I couldn’t share it with my 560 Facebook friends. After a few weeks, the itch went away. I didn’t feel the need to encapsulate a funny thought or life experience into a Facebook update. My experiences were mine and mine alone. I kept them to myself or occasionally shared them with my husband– if he could ever hear me over the chaos at the dinner table.

Charlie turned 9 and I didn’t publicly wish him a happy birthday on Facebook (which he isn’t on anyway, so it’s really kind of ridiculous). I didn’t lament over “where the time had gone” or tell everyone what a smart, wonderful, thoughtful little boy he is growing into. I had those thoughts. I just told them directly to him, instead of announcing them to the internet.

I thought about autism less. The day Finn was diagnosed with autism, Facebook stopped being fun for me. I started following a bunch of autism bloggers and advocacy discussion pages. Many of them have really helped me understand autism and how to advocate for Finn’s needs, but now 3 years later, I can’t stop reading the discussion pages and bloggers (even though I have a pretty good understanding of Finn’s autism). I see an article or discussion post and I can’t look away. What if it’s something I need to know? Well I just spent 40 days not knowing what the discussion boards were saying, and I think I’m ok. I think Finn’s ok. Instead of thinking I needed to do something “autism specific” (like more OT or horse riding therapy or melatonin for sleep or more organic foods), I just listened and responded to my kid. I focused less on his behavior being a by-product of his autism and more on it being a part of who he is. Every behavior does not need to be shaped and modified. He is a little boy. I’m sick of thinking about him in terms of IEP goals.

I didn’t take 1 selfie. Well, duh. What the heck would I do with a picture of myself? It seems rather redundant. Without the need to share what I am doing with the rest of the world, why would I need to take a picture of myself doing it?

I didn’t take 1 personality quiz. Perhaps it’s a sign of my age, but so many of the posts in my newsfeed were about people taking personality quizzes (“What Gilligan’s Island character are you?” or “What does your music collection say about you?”) I don’t really care. I don’t care if you are Ginger or the Professor. And I don’t really care if having a Biz Markie CD coupled with the Beatles’ White Album makes you an “eclectic dreamer with the propensity to bob your head.”

I felt less important. There’s nothing like a push notification on your iPhone to make you feel like you need to check it immediately. It’s a very inflated sense of importance. What if someone really needed me? What if it weren’t just a comment on a comment I made?

Lives could be hanging in the balance…

I was willing to take that chance.

If you needed me, you had to email me or actually, gasp, call (or text) me on the phone. Not many people did. And I’m ok with that. In this age of instant everything, I am OK with not being right at people’s fingertips. I took the Facebook app off my phone and iPad. Every few weeks, Facebook would send me an email and say, “wait, wait, you missed these posts from your friends…” But, in all, the “quiet” felt really nice. So nice, in fact, I have decided not to reload the apps on my phone and IPad. I am back on Facebook; although I haven’t posted anything. It feels weird to jump back in. So, I think I’m going to stick to checking it on the old-fashioned desktop computer. It’s less accessible that way. Just the way I like it.

On Easter Sunday, I announced that I had made it through Lent without going on Facebook, and Charlie said, “Oh, I forgot that Facebook existed.” I couldn’t think of a better reward for my fast! I think I’ll have to keep it that way.

I want my kids to learn that real friends are the ones you can see in person (at least every once in a while) and family is the most important of all.

Here’s to living a more real life…

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Our whole raggamuffin crew in our unmatching, uncoordinated Easter outfits. Would you expect anything less? By the way, I didn’t post this on Facebook.

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Writer… choosing real over perfect

I never called myself a writer.

I always just knew that I could write better than I could speak. My feelings were best expressed when I couldn’t see my recipient’s reaction.

A one-sided conversation of sorts.

I used to write in the backseat of our 1979 wood-paneled station wagon. I was the youngest of five kids. I never thought my opinion mattered… so I wrote it down instead.

When I met my husband, he brought the “writer” out in me. He is the best writer I know and he marveled at the hidden layer I rarely revealed to even my closest friends. It is his encouragement that brought about my blog. It is his voice I hear when I sit down and just tell myself, “write dammit!”

Writing is my best friend and my worst enemy. It brings out my worst self doubt, but also helps me release the Mommy guilt which would surely eat me alive.

My story isn’t neat. It doesn’t unfold in a linear pattern. My characters aren’t in my head, they are tugging on my pant leg right now as I type. This is real life. It’s raw and emotional. Things are often left undone. I hit “publish” and my heart is left on my sleeve every time.

I am evolving as a writer and a mother. Most days, I can’t separate the two.

My story will never be completely told.

The neat bow will never be tied.

And so I write…

This post was written in response to Lisa Jo Baker’s writing prompt “writer” for “Five Minute Friday.” I was supposed to write this blog post without worrying about perfection or typos or grammar. Perhaps you can tell. Perhaps my honesty supersedes my typos. You can check out Lisa Jo’s blog and all the other 5 minute Friday submissions here

Practice makes… less regret

I lay in bed last night with the boys just after finishing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It took us 9 months, but we were finally done. Now we can watch the movie! The boys were thrilled. I lay with each of the them, snuggling and talking about their days. I giggled along as Charlie declared he would no longer call Chap-Stick by its given name, rather (in Doofenshmirtz’s voice) “the lip un-chap-inator.”

I felt light.

I felt jovial.

I realized it was because I hadn’t yelled at the boys in a few days.

Instead of lying with them, hoping to undo the day’s regret with a nighttime snuggle, I felt at peace. I didn’t have to apologize for my transgressions and hope that they would be resilient enough to forgive their fallible mom… yet again.

And it wasn’t like the past few days haven’t been wrought with temptations to yell.

Finn had an epic meltdown yesterday morning. It was one of those meltdowns where no matter what I did or said, he continued to spiral out of control. I offered a “Finny wash.” I offered a calm down space. I offered help. I tried rationalizing with him. (He was upset because he woke up an hour later than usual. He thought he would be late for school even though he still had an hour to get ready– um, yes, we normally wake up pretty early in the morning!) No matter what I did, he could not recover. He was “going to be late for school” and it was getting later by the minute. He was spewing offenses at me and throwing anything in his path. When I didn’t respond, he took to insulting Henry and Tallulah. Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly zen throughout the meltdown, but I didn’t completely lose my temper (or yell!) and that felt really good.

I know that the temptation to yell is lurking around every corner, but small successes like the past few days give me confidence and hope. Not to mention that “Orange Rhino” tweeted back at me and actually read last week’s post!

Thanks to everyone who reached out and commented on my post last week (despite my Lenten ban on Facebook!) Knowing I am not alone in my quest for parental peace gives me strength. As Momastery says, “we can do hard things.” Boy, can we ever!