Sunday, December 27, 2015

Have You Emptied Your Bucket Today??

I'm an ISFJ.  For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality typing, you know that means I'm an introvert (I recharge alone) who tends to make decisions based on what I sense and feel about a situation and ..... I'm a judger.  I am.  It's one of things I hate the most about myself.  I know it allows me to make decisions and stick to them.  It helps me to help others process through choices.  But it also means that I judge situations even when I don't even realize it.  Sometimes Dave will see "the expression" on my face and do a sign language "J" to me.  Yep.  Can't even hide it in my face.  And one of the downfalls of being a judger is that (1) we tend to have very definite views about who is right and who is wrong in a situation and (2) we have a hard time letting go of past injustices and wounds.  Basically, when I feel I have been wronged, it is FOR SURE a supernatural act that helps me to forgive and walk my emotional health back from crisis mode to normal operational mode.

What's more, these hurts tend to attach themselves to experiences, people, and places.  Sometimes, I can feel a past hurt wash over me just by hearing a song, being in the grocery store at a particular time of year, or smelling a certain scent.  Hurts like embarrassment, betrayal, and rejection run deep, and even when I think that time has healed all wounds, they surge when I expect them the least and have the power to ruin whatever moment of my life that I'm living at the time.  In fact, masking the hurt often makes it worse.

There are mornings when I wake with a wound on my heart that has come up in a dream.  There are afternoons where I have to pull myself out of victim mode because of something that I've read or seen on social media.  There are evenings where David becomes my therapist as I just talk out why I feel hurt and why that is (most of the time) totally unreasonable.  In the end, I have a choice.  I can hold onto a feeling of hurt and nurse it like a grudge, dismiss it and bury it under logical reasoning and the busyness of the moment, or lay it at the foot of the Cross, asking my Savior to lead me to action if any action is left to be done towards healing.

Many times, I truly believe that I have left most of these hurtful situations having asked forgiveness for my sin and leaving the door open for the relationship or the situation to go forward in a healthy manner.  But it is unbelievable how often I forget that.  The majority of the time David has to remind me that the past has been forgiven, and everyone else has moved on.  I'm the only one stuck hauling around the muck from the past.  Sheesh.  I hope this is true.  I deeply desire to, as much as it is in my power, live at peace with all men (and women, of course).

A couple of years ago, a friend recommended a book called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? SPOILER ALERT: The gist of this children's book is that we each go through the day with a bucket, and it is our job throughout the course of the day to help fill others' buckets by doing and saying kind things, by looking for a minimum of one person whose bucket we can fill with goodness.  The book reminds us that by filling others' buckets, the miraculous happens, and our own buckets then are even more filled by the act of helping others.

It's so true, right?  When we are kind to others, we are blessed with the knowledge that we've made someone else's day easier/better/brighter.  I love the concept and have read this book with my kiddos several times, hoping and praying that they will remember this lesson long into their lives, but I think the book may need another chapter.

I'm entitling this chapter "Have You Emptied Your Other Bucket Today?"  While I do believe that we each carry around a bucket that is filled by doing and receiving kindness from others, I believe this bucket has very little impact on our daily lives unless we learn to dump our Other Bucket.  You see, the Other Bucket is what some of us (especially judgers) use to carry around all the hurts, wounds, and disappointments of our ENTIRE LIVES.  We sweat the accidents we've had, cry over the words that have hurt us, and live in agony over the relationships that have crumbled.  We feel ALL THE FEELINGS over and over again.  And guess what? We totally haul all that trash around with us every. single. day.

And as I'm sure you can imagine, the Other Bucket gets heavier and heavier as we walk around wounded and more than a little bit edgy over the past that just doesn't look as cozy and comfortable as we'd like it to.  No matter how many people say kind things or perform random acts of awesomeness, we are just unable to move forward.  Situations that should be completely joyful are marred by all the trash in the Other Bucket that we just can't seem to lose, but there is hope!

I've tried many times to dump my Other Bucket in my own strength.  To make things right with that friend who was hurt or was hurtful.  To move past an embarrassing situation to redemption.  But I've discovered that healing isn't human.  Healing is divine, and until we invite a Holy God to help us dump our Other Bucket, we will continue to haul this rotting, crippling stench around.  It will continue to sour our new relationships and will cast a gloomy shadow over all the new rich days that our God wants to give us.

So in addition to trying to fill one person's bucket today, I want God to help me dump something (or many somethings) out of my Other Bucket.  I want to choose forgiveness for the hurt that comes to mind rather than bitterness.  I want to choose to embrace grace rather than trek around with the guilt that I can easily heap on myself for every screwed-up situation that I take responsibility for.  Because here's the kicker: taking responsibility doesn't mean hauling around the hurt.  I will make restitution as much as I am able and humble myself, and then I will leave my sin at the foot of the Cross, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ more than paid the penalty for my sin.  And I will not allow the enemy of my soul to continue to effectively debilitate me by flashing my sins in front of my heart day after day.  We are more than hurt-haulers.  We are conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Perhaps someone who is reading this is one of many who have been hurt as a consequence of my sin.  Ugh.  I hate even thinking that, but I know how human I truly am.  If you think I don't care about you and your pain, you couldn't be more wrong.  And if we need to talk, I'm all in.  There is nothing I'd love more than to bring more unity and healing to the Body of Christ.  Let's grab a coffee.  I'm buying.  But I'm done walking around wondering if the silent treatment I'm receiving is justified or not, real or imagined.  My Other Bucket is too heavy, and I can haul it no more.

Maybe the next blog post will have more to do with the crazy goings-on in our home, but this season of my life more than any other has caused me to have little tolerance for the crazy in my own heart.  I have no time to nurse old wounds when there are real, live souls that need nurturing.  And I have no energy to carry the guilt from past sins when I have four little (and one big) hands to hold who deserve undivided focus and unhampered affection.

May your buckets be full, my sweet friends.  And may you and I have the courage to let Jesus empty our Other Buckets at the foot of His Cross today.  Here's to our Savior and to a very Hope-filled New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


For the first time in a very, very long time, I did something that I love.  I got lost with my children.  Lost inside the pages of a book.  So lost were we and desperate to find out what would become of the brave little mouse who was trying to rescue the beautiful princess, that when I looked over at the clock, it was noon, and we had to break for lunch before finding out our hero's fate.

Oh, sure.  We took a break to do Ben's morning exercises.  And every once in a while, we stopped for a minute to switch loads of laundry or change a diaper, but otherwise?  Otherwise, we had no idea what time it was, how much time had passed, or what was going on anywhere but the island of our couch.  It's been a magical day.

So magical, in fact, that when the brave mouse succeeded in freeing his princess, we immediately lost ourselves in the adventures of Polly and Diggory, and I cannot wait for the next chapter when my children will wander for the first time into the land of Narnia.

These are the moments that I have waited for as a mother.  When I only had one little listener, Caleb and I would sit on the couch and read for hours (not an exaggeration).  He was less than two years old, but he LOVED to just sit and listen to a story, to a book on cassette, to music.  When I had two little ones, Caleb would sit and look at books for hours while he waited for Momma to be done with little brother, but somehow, that really never happened.  The open hours we used to spend snuggled up on the couch lost in an adventure have been filled to bursting with laundry, food preparation, doctors' appointments, grocery shopping, school, therapy, and diaper changing.  More often than not, I finish with one task seconds before I have to launch everyone out the door for somewhere we HAVE to be.

But not today.  Today was one of those glorious days where I had nothing on the calendar.  No visitors headed our way (although, we sure do enjoy those!!).  No tasks that had to be done.  I suppose I could've spent the day making gifts for people in our life.  Normally the helpers in our life each receive something as a reminder of how loved they are (and, boy oh boy, they are!), but I'll just admit right now, I got selfish and exhausted this year.  Sorry, mailman and UPS guy.  I'll have to make it up to you on Valentine's Day.  Today I'm getting lost with my children.

Today is one of those rare days that I have all four at home.  Caleb is on break.  Ben doesn't have class.  Laura isn't off on an adventure, and Emily has fully found her personhood as she babbles and crawls around the house.  We needed today.  So we snuggled up on the couch, picked a book we probably wouldn't finish, and read it through to the end.  No regrets.  And my heart is full.  Full of a love for these book lovers I'm raising and for the stories that I'm filing away in their hearts because the reality of life is that we are all a part of a grand story.  Each of these tales of rescue and valor echo the Greatest Story of a Heaven-sent Hero who came down to rescue His lost bride.  Can it only be three days from now that we get to celebrate His coming?

The kids are ecstatic that this may be the first year that our family is able to finish the Jesse Tree book.  We always start with the best of intentions and then get too far behind to ever catch up, but this year looks like the year that our family of six will finally read to the end of the book... to the birth of our Hero.  And hopefully, it will be the first of many years where we finish the Advent book only to be reminded that the Story our Hero is writing still has pages to be written in our lives and our world.  That His rescue continues every day and everywhere that the Gospel is shared.  That we are never lost in His Story... but found.  Held.  Forever loved.

I have no clue what is for dinner, and Emily has successfully hidden toys throughout the family room.  I have had zero alone time today, and the sink is full of dishes, but I'm not going to worry about it.  Today was a day for doing what I don't have time to do.  For turning one more page and finishing one more chapter.  For getting lost and remembering that I am found.

Only three more days.  Our Hero is on the move.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Evaluation approaching

We walked into the Brain Balance Center, and the gal at the desk said something that should be totally innocuous.  "It's time for you to meet with the director for a progress report."  Just typing those words makes my adrenaline flow.  Bum bum BUMMMMM!!!

You see I've taken enough personality profiles to know that I'm an achiever.  I care about the numbers.  I love measurable progress.  But that's because most often in my life, I've come out on top.  While there are literally hundreds of areas where I am devoid of talent, I'm good at school, formal testing, and measurable goals.  It is only at this point in my life when I realize how much worth I have been drawing from achievement.  I mean...  I knew I got a charge out of completing things with excellence, but I had NO idea how much of my worth I had tied up into that very fragile structure called personal success.  Because I FEEL only as good as my last successful venture, and that feeling of solid achievement worth has a pretty short shelf life before another success story needs to be written. Having four children whom I have ZERO actual control over, whose needs dictate most of the moments of my day, also insures that I have very little time to be successful at those things that the world deems valuable.

Now before you think I'm down in the dumps about my days, I'm totally not.  I've devised my own scales and records to help myself feel good about my fuller-than-full-time job.  Number of laundry loads washed, dried, and put away.  Complete nutritious dinners made.  Dishes put away and cabinets cleared for long periods of time.  Books read to children.  Number of beds made and rooms picked up.  Number of tasks checked off the to-do list.  Exercises with Ben completed.  Even (as painfully real as this is) Bible reading done.

As I think about the tasks above, for the most part, none of these have anything to do with my real job: nurturing souls to love Jesus Christ.  Do these things need to be done?  Absolutely.  If I didn't do the laundry, you'd smell it.  If I didn't make dinner, my kids would be gnawing on the furniture... literally... this has happened.  But all of the things I consider achievements in my day reveal something crucially wrong with my goals.  These tasks lead to a cleaner house, an orderly routine, and all physical needs met.  It's very visible.  Measurable.  Satisfying.  But at the end of the day, all these things will need to be done again and will most assuredly pass away.

What if I measured achievement by God's goals? "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.  But rather store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."  It's the eternal and the unseen that will last forever.  It's the things that are impossible to measure that will define my success in the Kingdom of Heaven.  It's the WAY in which I do the exercises with Ben, not the completion of all his sets.  It's the attitude with which I do my physical labor throughout the day that will determine whether my children see our home as wholehearted or hollow.  It's the application and meditation of the Word that I read in the morning that will determine the course of my entire life and testimony, yet it's impossible to put a number grade on any of this.  It's qualitative value, not quantitative results.  For an achiever, this is a lesson I have to remember every. day.  And sometimes I have remind myself of moment by moment.  It's about the journey, not making it to bedtime.

Oh, Ben.  If you only knew how you were changing us.   If you only knew how learning to love you well is teaching us about our flaws... the deep down needs that we haven't handled with integrity.  You're forcing us to re-evaluate everything, from how we start our days to how we spend our evenings.  You require me to know every ingredient in your daily bread, and you drive me to feast on His Daily Bread with ravenous hunger as I search for the strength and grace to be your momma.

Next Wednesday, when we sit down with the Center's director to talk about progress and things that aren't marching along (by the numbers), I promise to remember that this is a journey.  To savor the victories we have had.  To remind you how proud I am of all your hard work.  To celebrate all the good changes we have made in our family.  To tell you how valuable, important, and lovable you are in a world that assigns worth in numbers but misses treasures of immeasurable worth.  We will not be afraid of evaluations because they do not define us but refine us as we seek to live this life to the fullest.  You are more than numbers, my son.  And so am I.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Last week was frustrating.  It felt like we were going to heroic lengths to make regression happen.  Some of Ben's issues were worse than ever.  He was tearful and crabby, emotional and out of control.  It was like living with a loaded gun all the time, never quite sure what's going to set him off.  Ben's physical regression was probably the hardest part for me.  After weeks of steps forward, Ben took a huge step backwards (probably because of that gluten he got a hold of), but in the moment it just felt like maybe this was all for naught.

We should have known this was coming.  In fact, in our initial meeting, the director of the center told us that there would be an incredibly frustrating plateau around 3 weeks in.  Ding.  We hit three weeks, and that's exactly what happened.  But the word plateau sounds so deceitfully peaceful and calm.  Like a breath of fresh air, and without giving any extra details, the air around here last week was anything but fresh.

I shared this with an amazing group of friends that asked how things were going (and cared about the answer), and they resonated with what the director said.  This is just a lull.  Stick with it.  This happens with all kinds of therapies and programs.  This is the hard part.  And on top of being a lull, there was also the food contamination issue.

As the week went on, Ben slowly started regaining his self- control and pleasant attitude.  And Monday, I decided to remind Ben of a promise that we had talked about months ago.  We were in Caleb's room, making Caleb's bed, and I reminded Ben that once he's achieved certain goals for sleeping and staying in bed at night, he would be allowed to move down to Caleb's room.  Ben climbed up to the top bunk and checked out the situation up there, and his eyes lit up.
photo credit: Nathan Holloway Photography

Tuesday night, he achieved the goal.  A goal that we have been praying about for years (this is NOT an exaggeration) when we had no idea what was going on with Ben.  Friday night, Ben will give the big boys' room a whirl, and we will continue to pray that this progress that has been made would continue.

Christmas will be very different this year.  We made gingerbread houses that we have ZERO intention of letting anyone eat.  We're attending family celebrations armed with our own foods for Ben.  We're still squeezing in the two sessions of exercise each day (most days!) despite the crazy schedule.  And to top it all off, it's 50 degrees outside, making it feel more like spring than Christmas.  But this year, I'm being reminded constantly of the helplessness and limiting humanity that my Savior took on to bear my judgment and my shame. When you strip away all the sugar and the rush of the holidays, you are left with God made flesh, sinlessly living through all the struggles and hurts of this fallen world.  Good news. Great joy. Emmanuel has come!  As we read this each night I'm reminded that God used broken people to bring the perfect Savior, and I'm reassured that He lives and works in me as well.

A quick note for those who lift us up in prayer: Ben could really use your prayers as he is trying to engage muscles that he would rather not use when we do exercises.  Even on good days, it requires a lot of patience and creativity to do 60 minutes of workout with a 5 year old.  We'd appreciate your prayers that Ben's muscles would develop quickly and that we would be gracious with him in the process. Also, would you pray health over us?  I'm starting to get a head cold, Emily has an ongoing ear infection, and the older 3 all have runny noses.  I know these seem like little things (and they are), but I know that we serve a God who has our hairs numbered.  I have full confidence that he cares about every muscle in Ben's body and every germ in my sinuses.

May you have a blessed Christmas week, anticipating the miracle of the Christ child!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Getting Grace

I've had this post in my heart, but the words keep falling short.  You see... I have four children, and there's a gift that I've desired obsessively to give each of them.  After every birth, I've pursued this gift relentlessly and with every child I fall short in and of myself.

Before I gave birth to my oldest I read all the books and made the decision that I was going to do all the best things ever for him.  Yep.  I was going to rock this motherhood thing from the get-go.  I got my own "mommy soap box" and stood atop it proudly wearing signs that I thought made me a better mom.  These signs read "sleep scheduling," "discipline starts at 9 months," "exclusively breastfeeding," "babywearing," and the list went on and on.  My child would never be one of those kids.  And then Caleb arrived...

Suddenly we were faced with terrifying choices and debilitating helplessness.  Long story short, my body wasn't producing enough milk... like any.  And with each child I've been blessed with, I've dug my heels further into the ground and committed to breastfeeding with a level of stubbornness that honestly terrifies me.  Before you give me your action plan for how my body can make more milk, let me let you in on a few of the crazy things this momma has already done.  I've worked daily with one of the best lactation consultants in the state (Her personal cell number is programmed into my phone.), I've taken herbs and supplements, drunk beer, eaten oatmeal for breakfast for MONTHS, rested, drunk carefully measured amounts of water, pumped a ridiculous number of times a day (yes, with compressions), co-slept, worn my baby, and the list goes on and on and on.  I don't even want to think about the crazy that I've tried and put my family through.  Literally months of my life spent just trying to make milk.  And then even more months shamefully explaining why I am feeding my babies formula because there truly was no other realistic option for keeping them alive.  To the women out there who have struggled with low-milk supply and deal with the judgment of the mom squad, I see you.  I hear you and empathize with your disappointment.  It's real and dark and so incredibly frustrating.  In a world of "breast is best" (and it is), I know you tried and just. could. not.  If I could hug you and give you a cup of tea that didn't have the word "lactation" in its name, I would.

Before Emily arrived, I tried to convince myself that I wasn't going to be crazy about it this time.  I was going to let go when Emily stopped gaining the weight that is necessary (3.5 oz/week).  I wasn't going to pull out that horrid breast pump just to produce 2 more ounces a day because that was LITERALLY how much more I would get from all my multiple pumpings.  And to some extent, I did swear off some of the crazy, and Emily and I were able to exclusively breastfeed for 2 months before her weight gain plummeted and we both gave up sleeping for weeks.  When the crying and crazy got to be too much, I called a friend who had offered a few bags of frozen breastmilk just to get us through the lowest parts of the day.  And after that, another friend offered me a freezer full of breastmilk (say WHAT??) that she couldn't use for her baby, and I took it.  I was and am incredibly grateful to these women whose generosity I will never be able to repay.

But on one of my darkest days, I remembered an offer that I'd gotten from a woman in my MOPS group that I didn't know very well.  She is a nurse and an incredible mom to four children, and at the time she was due with her baby boy a month after I had Emily.  She had graciously come up to me after a MOPS meeting as my other two friends were offering me frozen milk and said that her body always made enough milk for two babies and she would be happy to pump milk for my baby so that Emily could have breastmilk rather than formula.  At the time, I wanted to believe that with Emily my body would figure this whole milk-making thing out.  That I would finally find the just right supplement that would make me the perfect breastfeeding mom.  Pride much?  I cried out to God on my pregnant and post-partum knees, begging him to allow me to feed this child myself.  But His answer was "no."  His answer was "not your way, Krista."  His answer was "let me show you My grace."

On that dark day a couple months into my daughter's life, I sent this MOPS mom a FB message.  Was that offer of milk still open?  Quickly, the answer came back "yes!"  She's a busy mom who works part-time, and I tried to think of something that I could do to return the favor.  Could I pay you for the milk?  Could I make your family dinner one night of the week?  Could I....?  What could be equal to your giving my baby a gift that I physically could not give her myself?  And her answer, "No payment.  This is what moms do to support other moms."  Straight up, This mom was giving my daughter and me grace.  Pure, unadulterated grace.

I have heard many sermons on grace and never understood it as I do every time I fill up my youngest baby's bottle with fresh breastmilk, milk my body could not make no matter how much effort I put in.  I see grace in Emily's face as that double chin grows.  I squeeze grace as I pinch those chubby thighs because who could resist?  I breathe grace as I watch her eyes close in satisfied sleep as she drinks down the ounces her body needs to grow and be content.  I understand daily grace when I open my door and find that my friend has dropped off huge containers of fresh and frozen milk just when the fridge and freezer are almost empty.  It's grace.  Freely given.  Gratefully received.  Life sustaining.

Do I still breastfeed?  Up until this week, yes.  I've tried to nurse as often as Emily is willing, but just yesterday she decided that she was done.  She would not be consoled, tricked, or latched when sleepy.  I'll pump for a couple days just to make certain this isn't just a fluke thing, but this is probably more for my pride and comfort than for the 2 ounces a day my body is making right now.  My breastfeeding days are definitely numbered, and that's okay.  God had a different plan for Emily and me.  A plan to put a new and amazing friend in my life.  To show me that sometimes the Body of Christ meets your literal physical needs with their literal physical selves.  To help me come one step closer to getting this grace thing.

Today Emily is 8 months old, and as of today she is also my baby who has exclusively taken breastmilk the longest.  When you factor in that she was also born into one of the craziest periods of our family's history, that becomes even more amazing.  It happened not because we tried harder or knew better, but because He heard our prayers and answered them in a way that was and is stunningly right.  He is enough.  He is always enough.  And whether He chooses to provide for us in the way that we think He should or chooses to completely derail our plans, He will always be Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, Life Sustainer, Great Giver.  And all we get to do is receive and return thanks for the grace one day (and sometimes one ounce) at a time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


We're gross, ya'll.  Green, snotty noses.  Low grade fevers.  Red eyes.  Yesterday morning, I would've told you we were all A-OK, but apparently 24 hours is all it takes for us to disintegrate.  We discovered yesterday afternoon that Emily has another double ear infection.  Between that and the new tooth that just popped up yesterday, my littlest girl has been in a sad state.  

This morning Ben slept in.  That may seem like a simple statement for those of you who don't live with Ben.  For those of us in this house, that's a "WHOA! NO WAY!" thing.  Ben gets up every morning around 6:45 a.m.  Even if he's tired and grumpy, he hauls his crabby self out of bed.  We have no clue why this is.  Help.  But today I had to wake him up at 8:30 to go get new orthodic braces for his shoes.  He could barely open his eyes and begged to go back to bed.  Further research revealed a low-grade fever and a really gross runny nose.  Fabulous.  

Also, we know something is up with Laura because she is LETHARGIC!  I mean it.  She hasn't bodyslammed anyone today so I am pretty confidant that her body is battling something as well.  All in all, I'm calling it.  We're not going to the Brain Balance Center today.

Can I just say... I've never been happier to have sick kids IN MY LIFE!  We added another trip to Fort Wayne yesterday when Ben's allergist called and reminded us that we had an annual recheck appointment (which I had made a year ago).  Yay.  Another trip to Fort Wayne.  However now, due to illness and a school program for my biggest boy, I won't have to drive to Fort Wayne for almost a week!  Hurray!!!!  And as sad as I am to be administering acetaminophen, antibiotics, and juice; it is a well-timed breather for me and for the kids.

Ben has really had a hard few days.  He ate some gluten (by accident) over the weekend which has caused his digestive system to go haywire.  It's been awful and has felt like we're back to where we started, but I know he'll just need a few days to detox. Obviously gluten is a bigger issue than we'd ever realized.  Got it.  

Our appointment with the allergist yesterday also revealed that Ben is probably borderline asthmatic so we've got a new action plan for the congestion he's dealing with today.  They also did a HUGE panel of bloodwork, including testing for celiac's, environmental allergies, and food allergies.  We've never had these particular tests done before, and I'm interested to see what shows up.  Ben was a boss when they took his blood.  Sadly, bloodwork is becoming more and more routine for this crazy puzzle of a kid. 

While he's sick, we're sticking especially close to the diet recommendation from the Center, and we're going to try to get in one exercise session every day.  However, I'm pretty sure the screen time is going to break the boundaries since he looks (and probably feels) like the undead.  I'm also going to do a bit more research on the supplements that the Center has recommended.  I'm sure some extra nutrients as well as the probiotic wouldn't hurt right now, and they might just help us avoid more illness in the future.

But for today, I am home.  I've changed into my comfy pants (WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?????), and I'm working on a stack of projects and planning that I need to do.  No huge breakthrough moments.  Nothing earth-shattering.  Just our family being human and needing rest and healing.

So until further notice, please know that if you don't see us, it's because we're at home keeping our grossness to ourselves... and probably watching A Very Monkey Christmas for the 214th time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Day

I'm a planner.  I love need to see what things will look like before I make a choice to go forward.  This characteristic can be debilitating, for sure.  When we started our journey with the Brain Balance Center, I had frighteningly no idea what my days would look like.  My hours were already filled to bursting and adding one more thing was either insanity or a leap of faith.  I was hoping for the later, but there was no guarantee I wasn't going to check myself into a facility before the end of this six months.  There still isn't.  For the benefit of anyone considering this program or for friends who say they have no idea how we do it, here's a glimpse into my day.  (Hint: we don't do it all.)

6:45 a.m.: David wakes me up, and I drag myself into the shower.  This used to be optional before we had Emily.  And there were definitely mornings when I could sleep in if baby and I had had a hard night.  At this point, this really isn't an option for two reasons.  One: I'm always going somewhere and would rather not smell like spit up.  You're welcome.  Two: I need the shower to fully wake myself up more than I need those 15 extra minutes of sleep.

7:15 a.m. I come downstairs to assess the situation.  Who's awake?  Who had breakfast with Daddy?  Who needs a lunch for the day?  Who stinks?  Once I have done triage, I attack the grossest problems first and keep moving until all needs are met and Caleb is ready to be picked up for school.  We have unbelievably amazing friends who are picking up our oldest for school every morning, which is one of many things that keep me from having a nervous breakdown.

7:45 a.m. Caleb is gone, everyone has at least started breakfast, and 50% of us are wearing clothes (I'm in the clothed category in case you were wondering.).  At this point, I start up the electronic slaves.  Dishwasher gets emptied or started.  Washing machine gets loaded.  Dryer gets emptied and clothes get folded.  Dry dishes from the drainer get put away.  Crockpot gets filled AND turned on.  This is apparently an important step.  Who knew?  Once all my machines are up and running, I walk around the house, picking up clothes and stray objects.  I try to wipe down the bathroom sinks and make sure that I would not be embarrassed for someone to use my toilet.  For the bonus round, I pick up all the diapers that haven't made it into the trash.  These things happen on a good day. If it's a rough morning, I end up cleaning up bodily fluids, breaking up fights, discovering broken items, and fighting fires.  I have little or no notice as to which kind of morning I will have on any given day.

9 a.m. Emily is an incredibly easy-going baby.  Thank you, Lord.  At this point, she normally wants to nurse/take a bottle and then she crawls off to chase her sister.  The moments I get to feed her are sweet and precious.  I'm trying to soak them up and to appreciate the opportunity to SIT.

9:20 a.m. Exercises with Ben.  This has gotten SO MUCH BETTER!  During this 30 minutes, Ben listens to a music CD specifically designed to activate the right side of his brain. He does a series of eye exercises that require him to focus on an object as it moves around the perimeter of his vision as well as near and far. (Think Grover from Sesame Street.)  Then we do core exercises (sit-ups and push-ups) and lastly his primitive reflex activities.  These reflexes should disappear as a child grows, but for some children they remain and have not been satisfied for a variety of reasons.  Ben does these last 10 exercises and then runs off to play like a caged animal released into the wild.

9:50 a.m. I start packing the car and the children for the day's activities.  Diapers get changed again.  Clothing becomes mandatory.  Finding two shoes for everyone becomes a task equal in difficulty to the launching of the space shuttle.

10:20 a.m. I start making lunches for the days that we have to go to the Brain Balance Center.  Ben's lunch right now consists of a natural PB sandwich on gluten-free bread, grape tomatoes, apple slices, a fruit squeeze pouch, a fruit rope, and a gluten-free granola bar for a treat on the way home.  I throw all manner of food on a plate for myself which I eat as we drive to the Center.  Mornings that we do not have to be at the Center, we are either at MOPS (yay!), a playdate with friends, running errands, or, on rare occasions, at home.

11:00 a.m. Head 'em up and move 'em out.  Today the little girls are over at my parents' house for a playdate with their cousins (who just happen to be their ages).  Laura especially loves the mornings that she gets to go to their house and play with her cousin whom she has named "Kenny-boy."  I swear, Kathy, that I did not put her up to this.  Ben and I load up for the drive to Fort Wayne.  Right now we are in the middle of The Tale of Despereaux, but I talked him into five episodes of Adventures in Odyssey, one of the best memories of my childhood.

12:00 p.m. Ben starts his session at the Brain Balance Center.  He LOVES his time there.  One-on-one attention for an hour?  Brain bucks to spend at the "store" at the end of the week?  Tons of different activities to complete?  He's in.  Sometimes I've observed the session from the program director's office (one-way window).  Sometimes I blog.  Today I tried to go shopping, but you have to remember your wallet for that.  Again... who knew???  Whoops.

1:00 p.m.  Back in the car for the ride home.  Normally Ben is very quiet and tired, and we both zone out to whatever story we're in the middle of.  Hurray for Whit's End and Connie Kendall!

2:00 p.m. Home again!  My dad has already put the girls to bed, and I assign Ben to read quietly for a while until Caleb gets home from school. This part of the day is tricky for me.  What I want to do is sleep.  Sleep for hours.  What I end up doing most afternoons is dinner prep (which now takes significantly longer since Ben is now egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, processed sugar-free, low soy, low corn), cleaning, feeding Emily, or running errands if our family helper is here to pick up the reins.  This may also be time that I spend one-on-one listening to Caleb, taking Laura with me on a trip to the grocery store, feeding Emily, or playing a game with Ben.  Every moments feels like an opportunity for love to be extended or time to be invested or at least that's what my kids keep telling me in their own individualized ways.

5:00 p.m. David returns home and does exercises with Ben.  Let me take a moment here.  Remember that music that Ben listens to during his exercieses?  It needs to be said that it's pretty unnerving.  It's supposed to activate the right side of your brain so these songs are not orderly, methodical, or measured.  It's multiple beats going without syncopation with a few wolf howls and whale calls thrown in for good measure.  Not really my cup of tea... or Ben's... but we press on.  I'm super grateful that David takes responsibility at this point.  My ability to be a cheerleader coach or even a semi-positive sidekick is pretty tapped by this time.  Plus, all the kiddos normally join in the exercises in the evening.  Who doesn't want to get into a sit-up competition with their daddy?

5:30 p.m. Family dinner.  This meal feels like 60% hostage negotiation, 20% table manners instruction, 10% hearing stories from everyone's day, and 10% eating.  Ben actually likes the food that he needs to be eating so that is a HUGE positive.  He loves meat, potatoes, veggies, fruits, and rice.  The other kids think it's torture, but I prefer to refer to our menu changes as "expanding their horizons by limiting their choices."

6:15 p.m. Some nights we are at church.  Other nights we can enjoy an evening at home, playing games or watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie (another of the best parts of my childhood).  Since Ben only gets 60 minutes of screentime a day, family movie nights only happen on days when he hasn't had any Netflix or computer time during the morning and afternoon.  Many evenings the last couple of weeks, Caleb and Ben run off to play Legos in Caleb's room, and we don't even see them until bedtime.  Brother withdrawal syndrome.  If everyone is peaceful, I use this hour to put away laundry, answer emails, help Dave clean the kitchen, or collapse.

7:15 p.m. Bedtime.  PJs, toothbrushes, medicine, water cups, stories, songs, prayer time.  This is definitely a 40-minute process, but since Ben started at the Brain Balance Center he has had a much easier time falling asleep and staying asleep.  He also wakes up more rested and alert.  Another of the benefits of this program that remind us that there are good things happening in Ben's body and mind.

8:00 p.m. Bedtime continued.  Some nights there are still diapers to change or a baby who needs to be rocked.  Almost every night one of the littles needs something extra after the lights go out.  David and I are basically on-call until we start to hear deep breathing on the monitors.

9:30 p.m. I turn into a pumpkin at this time.  Even if I'm out with friends, my eyes may be open but my brain is DONE.  I cease to be able to make conversation, and my vocabulary becomes repetitive.  It's time for me to hit the hay.

Today at the Brain Balance Center, I had the opportunity to talk with a mom whose son was being tested to see if their program would be of benefit to him.  As I shared the rigors of the program with her, I was grateful to be able to state firmly that this program really is changing Ben's life.  We are seeing glimpses of self-control and self-awareness that remind us that this is 100% worth our time and resources and maybe even a good chunk of our sanity.  Thank you for your words of encouragement and prayers!  I have been amazed to see God's goodness in the form of a text, card, or message at just the time when I've needed to hear truth the most.

My brain is shutting down, and the baby needs to be fed. If you are considering this program, I hope a glimpse into our days helps you to know that this CAN be done.  If not, please just be entertained by our humanity.  We are hopelessly flawed and making our way one step at a time through this season, but we firmly believe we are in the right place, loving Ben and trying to keep Emily from eating the leaves and stickers off the floor.  Pretty worth goals if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

and I thought we were doing so well...

I have to laugh. I just have to.  Ben and I just drove up to Fort Wayne to the Center today only to find that they were CLOSED for Thanksgiving.  The program director met us at the door and graciously agreed to coach Ben for a session since we had made the trip up, but OH MY STARS!!!  I just drove to Fort Wayne for NO REASON.  Great.  Good job, Krista.

The update I wanted to type was about settling into our new, crazy normal so maybe this is appropriate.  Our new crazy normal is us totally losing it when we least expect it.  For reals.  On the days that I think things are well in hand, Ben eats food he shouldn't, Emily leaves a trail of yellow goo all over the house, Laura puts her foot down about something ridiculous, and Caleb despairs when he realizes that this will forever be his circus and these siblings really are his monkeys.  The wheels fall off the wagon, and we reevaluate whether or not we really ever cared about taking that wagon anywhere.  I mean... how important is it to squeeze in that dentist appointment??  (For the record, Yes, I did finally get to the dentist yesterday for the first time this year.  Thanks a lot, Emily, for being born two days before my last appointment.  I like you more than I like going to the dentist anyways.)

Life with Ben is definitely two steps forward, one step back.  I was just talking to our helper Kaitlyn last night, asking how she thinks Ben is doing.  Just by coming to our house a few times a week (and not living here :-)), she sees behavior slumps and victories even more clearly than David and I do.  She said that at dinner he wanted seconds and had to wait until she was done feeding Emily, and he did so patiently.  In the past, Ben would have whined or just asked repeatedly until you took care of him.  And I'm talking REPEATING THE SAME REQUEST over and over and over, getting louder and louder and louder, until you gave him what he wanted.  Looking back, I realized that we have seen a lot of improvement in Ben's ability to delay gratification.  He can wait for dessert after dinner, and he's also been amazingly good at waiting to spend his one hour of screen time for a family movie a few evenings.  No tantrums about no computer games.  Amazing.

Ben also maintains a calmer spirit in the evenings.  Normally by 6 p.m., he's very unstable.  He might be happy through all of our evening's activities, but he is much more likely to pitch a fit when things don't go exactly how he wants them to.  For the past week, Ben has either played Legos quietly with his brother, watched a t.v. show with the family, had a friendly wrestling match with his brother, or read books.  No tantrums.  No screaming.  Praise the Lord.  Seriously.  To God be the glory.

Also, during quiet time in the afternoon, Ben often struggles to power down, to stay in his room, and to read quietly.  He makes a ridiculous number of trips to the bathroom, and I can often hear him scratching the wall or playing with things.  Yesterday, he stayed in his room for TWO HOURS, reading quietly and resting.  Never got up.  Never came to ask me, "How much longer?"  Amazing.

Things aren't perfect, and we still have a long way to go.  Ben has some basic self-help skills that are better but still far below age-appropriate.  He has gotten better about chewing his hands and some of his ticks, but we still see those when he is tired or distracted.  Also, Ben hates doing some of the exercises.  I don't blame him.  Some of them are challenging for me too, and those are definitely the hardest parts of the day for David and I as parents.  Trying to keep it fun.  Trying to stay patient.  Trying not to lose it when Ben tries to whine his way out of doing his eye exercises or sit ups.  Our workouts always end with smiles but almost also begin with dragging feet and tears.

So for those of you who are still praying... Would you lift up our daily exercises?  We're praying that Ben would cooperate more as he feels himself getting stronger.  Also, thank you for continuing in prayer for our whole family.  We rise with a strength that we know comes from the Lord, and we rest with peace, knowing that our family is doing exactly what we should be doing no matter how challenging it is in this season.

Just so you don't think we are only paying attention to Ben (and for those who are connected to our whole family), I thought you'd want to know that Emily learned to crawl this week!  Look out world!  We are so grateful for this precious, smiley girl.  She truly makes everything so much better in our home.  How did we live without her?  I am unbelievably grateful for the children God has placed in our home.  Each and every one of them was created specially by God to be a part of our family and watching them grow is a richer journey than I would ever have imagined.

May God bless each of your homes tomorrow with thankful hearts as we celebrate the rich gifts He has given us.  Salvation.  Sonship.  Friendship with Him.  How could it be???

And, despite all the crazy, we ARE doing well because we have Christ, and He is always, always enough.

Friday, November 20, 2015


When David woke me up this morning, I almost went right back to sleep.  It felt like the weekend, like a vacation.  Ben has "school" at the center today, but my amazing dad is driving him.  Oh. my. lands.  I took a deep breath, put my comfy pants on after my shower, and jumped into a busy day with a slower speed.

There's still life that needs to be done around here.  Laundry for six people (with two potty training... keepin' that bodily fluids load as a daily necessity), GF-DF-EF meals that need to be made at home, homework, dishes, and ..... da da-da daaaaaa.... bathrooms.  Yep.  I've never been more thankful for the time to clean my bathrooms.  I was smiling.  You know you're going crazy when...

A few updates: your prayers are being answered.  Keep 'em coming.  It's hard to know how much private information to share about our children.  I want them to be able to share their own stories one day without having been exposed by their outspoken mother, but I do feel comfortable sharing this.  Two of my children had huge victories yesterday.  One child had a spiritual breakthrough so huge that David and I were crying in the kitchen after the children had all gone to bed.  And Ben... well, all I can say is that he had a physical victory that has been THREE YEARS in the waiting.  If there had been a football nearby I would've spiked it.  This momma was dancing.... and I'm a Baptist so it was pretty unfamiliar territory, but it was definitely dancing.

Today Ben has been tired, cranky, and more than a little unmanageable.  I've caught him several times with a blanket in his hand, lying on the floor half-asleep.  Understandably, he's exhausted.  This is really our first week of coaching sessions, exercises, and new diet; but yesterday both David and I felt like we were seeing a new child, a happier, gentler child who can be reasoned with.  Between yesterday's behavior and huge victory, I'm encouraged.  And we'll keep fighting another day.

Someone said something to me yesterday that has reminded me to be thankful ever since.  At least this is not leukemia.  It's not cancer.  To families who are in that awful boat, you have my heartfelt prayers that you will not be there long.  I can only imagine what your days and nights are like.  We're not fighting an enemy that is fighting for Ben's life. We're just fighting to help Ben find his best life.  We're choosing to adopt this new lifestyle and schedule, but we even have the privilege of knowing when we'll be done (6 sessions down, 66 to go).

Your texts, calls, emails, and surprise groceries remind me that God doesn't call us to do hard things on our own.  He surrounds us with prayer warriors and the hands and feet of the Body of Christ.  I told someone yesterday, I should be wiped out, and I'm just not.  I feel a strength running through me that is just not my own, and once again I wonder how anyone does it without Jesus because this girl sure can't.

For today though, my job is to play Candyland and to listen to my little girl's heart.  It's to snuggle that baby and encourage her to coordinate that crawl (she is so close!!!).  It's to be here to greet my big boys as each of them come back from their schools.  And I'm grateful that for today the bar was lowered and the speed was turned down on the treadmill that I've called my life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Your prayers are carrying us.  They are.  I have zero doubt.

Today has been full.  Full of people.  Full of hard work.  Full of messes.  But I would be remiss if I failed to mention that today has also be full of grace.  Full of victory.  Full of truth.  

For starters, I have been concerned about my girls.  So much of my time is spent away from them right now, but today they went out to my parents' home to play with my nephews, who just happen to be exactly their ages.  It was a morning full of fun and adventure and memories for everyone.  Even if I could have chosen something different for their day, I wouldn't have.  Grace.

Ben and I powered through his exercises today.  I was anticipating them being a fight (and he wasn't thrilled to do them), but they were MUCH easier today.  He has also discovered that he actually enjoys some of the exercises.  What I thought would be 30 minutes of battle ended up being 30 minutes of positive struggle and victory.  And this evening, all three of the big kids did the exercises with their daddy.  Grace.  I'm not going to tell you who could do the most sit-ups.  Hint: it's not me.

One of Ben's tasks for the day is to listen to a special music CD.  I'd like to tell you that this is pleasant classical music, but it is NOT.  It is random beats.  Wolves howling.  Eerie music in a minor key.  Laura said what the rest of us were thinking, "This is too scary.  Turn it off!"  When I mentioned that at the center today, I was given another CD to try.  Apparently we're not the only ones who weren't fans of the wolves. Grace.

I hid in the program director's office again today so I could watch Ben's session without his knowledge, and I learned a lot about what exercises they are doing with Ben as well as how he is responding or resisting.  I'm very pleased with the variety of things they are challenging him to do, and Ben seems genuinely happy to be there.  Grace.

One of the ways we are trying to thrive rather than survive is by calling in the reserves.  We have been blessed to have one of my former students (who is now in college... yep. I'm old.) as our family helper.  Miss Kaitlyn graces our home with her presence 8-10 hours each week.  Sometimes she plays with the kids so I can get work done or grocery shop.  Sometimes she helps out with work around the house.  Sometimes she plays a very intense game of chess with Caleb.  Her presence in our home is always a blessing, and today was no exception.  My family room floor is now clean.  My counters are wiped down.  And my children got priceless attention as she and I divided and conquered.  It took years for me to admit that I couldn't do it all, but I fully admit it.  David and I can't get it all done on our own.  Period.  Ending today knowing all the laundry is put away and crumbs are a little more under control... Grace.

Caleb is a picky eater who loves carbs.  Ben is a food lover who can't eat half the food he loves.  With all the new restrictions, I've felt like I'm perfectly positioned to fail at getting everyone to eat; but tonight's dinner of gluten-free pasta made everyone happy.  Seriously.  This NEVER happens.  At the end of the meal, Caleb commented that he really liked the new pasta.  Say what??  Grace.

Our family attends Wednesday evening church, and I have the privilege of spending the evening with our church's jr. high and sr. high youth.  Even with a baby fussing, it did my heart good to hear our youth pastor speaking on the power of God's Word to change our lives.  Amen and amen!  Grace.

And Ben.  Sweet Ben.  This is one of the first Wednesday nights that he has been able to attend church because his tantrums had gotten so bad at home that he kept losing the privilege of going to his beloved preschool program.  Not today.  Despite having done an hour of exercising with us, an hour of coaching at the center, two hours in the car, and no nap; Benjamin's behavior ROCKED today.  No screaming.  No fights.  No stomping.  Just a happy kid who kept thanking me for things.  Not sure if this is the result of diet, exercises, treatments, or prayer; but I'm callin' it Grace.

And you.  Your prayers.  Your notes.  Your messages.  Your hugs.  We are unbelievably grateful for the Body of Christ.  Love and grace has lifted us so many times today that even with a cranky, teething baby, stacks of papers, and another huge day ahead of us; I have hope and joy.  Unwavering confidence that God is up to something good in our family, even if it is only draining us so there will be more room for Him in the limelight.  Your prayers have carried us, and we know that we are safe in the hands that formed the universe.  Amazing. grace.

And all I can think to say are the words to the old hymn:
Love lifted me.  Love lifted me.
When nothing else could help, love lifted me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


It's taken me over 24 hours to sit down to write this post.  Scratch that.  It's taken me over 24 hours to sit down.  Goodness.

Yesterday was our meeting with the director of the Brain Balance Center as well as the program director.  My mom, being the totally supportive mom and grandma that she is, went with me to give me a second set of ears to hear all the information.  Plus, she was getting kind of curious about the center.  Ben was PUMPED.  His grandma was going to see his school with him.

After he went back with his coach, my mom and I stepped into the program director's office which has a window for us to watch the session without Ben knowing that we're spying on him.  The coach put a vibrator on Ben's left ankle since he's right brain weak, and Ben also wore special sunglasses that only allowed him to see with his weaker eye.  Just watching him do his activities blew my mind.  That would've driven me NUTS, but Ben seemed totally content to do his activities and work with his coach while wearing the special equipment.

Then we made our way to the director's office to discuss the parent binder as well as the nutrition packet.  Here's where things started to go downhill.  It was in this meeting that the full extent of the parent participation was explained.  I kept trying to not look shocked as the director explained that we would be responsible for doing special exercises with Ben at home for 30 minutes twice a day, even on the days that he is at the center.  And we're not talking a few sit-ups and jogging in place.  Specific eye focal activities.  Core strength training.  Reflex retraining.  None of it easy or coming naturally to Ben.  And we are supposed to do these things for an hour every. day.  I almost cried.

Ben is incredibly difficult to motivate.  He would rather miss out on good things in the future than do what you ask him to do in the moment.  My brain immediately skipped ahead to what a nightmare the next six months would be, doing these activities for an hour of every day of my ever-loving life.  Six months.  Approximately 180 days.  What have we done?????

Just when my brain thought it might explode, the director explained the last exercise and began to talk about nutrition.  It was just as I expected.  No gluten.  No dairy.  No processed sugar.  And limited eggs, soy, and corn.  For six months.  He'll need supplements.  We'll need to keep track of his exercises every day on a chart that must be turned in on Monday each week.  The intensity of the room was overwhelming, and the gist of the conversation was that it was on us to make all this happen for Ben.

Even worse, they had recently decided to just email the parent binder rather than provide paper copies for the parents so I had no where to write all the details I was being told.  I thought my brain was going to explode.  The Brain Balance Center was going to be cleaning up my gray matter from off the ceiling because here's my thing: I have four children.  Ben is only one of the sweet souls that have been entrusted to David and me.  And I have very little short-term memory right now for details.  Trying to remember all the facts and figures that were given to me in the meeting since I had no where to make notes was the straw that broke my sanity.  I processed out loud (read: rant) with my mom the whole way home.  And then I cried as I told my dad about all the information, all the work, all the details to keep track of that I just don't have it in me to chart.  It was just too much.

God has given me David.  Of this I am sure.  I called him at work and was sobbing uncontrollably.  I couldn't imagine how we could do all of this with Ben over the next six months.  I couldn't imagine what he would eat.  I felt like the meeting had been rushed.  Like all my questions hadn't been answered.  Like I was just not up to this gargantuan task, but I could not imagine retreating from this opportunity for Ben.  David listened, didn't try to fix me or explain it away, and then he cleared his schedule for the evening.  He came home, ate dinner with us, built a fire in the fireplace, washed all the dishes, and made sure I had all the time I needed to read the nutrition guide and to make sense of how this might actually work over the next half of a year.

By the time the last log was on the fire and Emily was ready for bed, I had read enough to understand the program and to feel like it was more manageable.  I had emailed the director with a couple questions and made a plan with David to split the responsibility for Ben's exercises.  (I'll do the morning, and Dave will do the evening.)

By the morning, the director had responded to my questions, and things looked a bit brighter.  As I sat in my bed snuggling Emily to sleep, I prayed and begged God for guidance.  By the providence of God, Emily's developmental therapist came today for the first time and we talked through the demands and strengths of the Brain Balance Program.  Despite talking about how hard it is going to be, she encouraged me in the positive aspects of the program and was supportive as well as realistic.  When I called David after lunch, he and I both still felt like this six months is a gift that we needed to give Ben, and we need to give it to him now. Not a year from now.  Now.

So this evening we did Ben's exercises.  Our date night tonight was a hot trip to Aldi and Meijer to stock up on gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free items that we can have on-hand for Ben.  And I'm gearing up for the trip to Fort Wayne in the morning (read: going to bed as soon as I publish this).

We are begging God for the strength to see this program through to the end.  For wisdom as we seek to balance our time and show our other three beautiful children that they are loved.  For Ben's growth and cooperation.  For our marriage to remain strong.  For our lives to reflect grace even when we are beyond ourselves exhausted.

Several of you have asked how you can help.  Would you commit to pray?  To daily pray?  When we are weak, I know Christ is strongest in us.  I'm fervently praying that this journey will strengthen my sons' faith and even encourage Laura to trust Jesus with her life.  We are pressed but not crushed, and we will press on toward allowing Ben to live the fullest life possible for him.

And thanks.  Your notes and emails are a blessing beyond what I could ever express.

Friday, November 13, 2015

One down, Twenty three to Go

 Friday.  We made it to the end of week 1 at the Brain Balance Center.  The honeymoon is definitely over.  Ben is just as ornery at the center as he was for his occupational therapist back home.  He pushes to see how little he can get away with doing (he really is my child), but those Brain Bucks are still pretty motivating.  Today is also his first Friday so it is his first time to shop in the Brain Buck Store.  Hopefully that reward will keep him cooperating.

Update on Ben: He has a head-to-toe rash that we canNOT figure out.  No one else has it.  Everyone has eaten the same things, been to the same places, and interacted with the same playmates.  Poor little guy.  It looks so painful.  Even after going to his pediatrician, we are at a loss as to what to do for him.  According to her, it is not contagious so business as normal, but I'm hoping it resolves quickly.  Ben continues to fall asleep much more quickly than he used to.  Whether he is just being stretched or his brain is shutting down more efficiently, I have no clue.  On a positive note, Ben has had a lot to share lately, and I've noticed much more non-verbal communication in his stories.  More hand gestures and facial expressions as he describes things or asks questions.  David and I have had several moments where we just look at one another in surprise because Ben will GET something that he has never grasped before.

I have a love/hate relationship with our trips to Fort Wayne.  On one hand, I really hate driving and don't like being away from the girls for the day.  However, these are the days that Ben is at his happiest.  He LOVES his "school."  At 7:15 a.m., he is begging me to pack his lunchbox even though we don't leave home until 11 and then he is ready to jump into the car and go the instant that my dad walks in the door to watch the girls.  So as annoying as it is to have someone asking me seven times an hour if it's time to go to school yet, I'll take this any day over screaming and crying.

We are slowly and steadily removing gluten from Ben's diet.  Right now, he is gluten-free for breakfast, lunch, and most of dinner. I'm still working on the fine balance between having enough on the table that Ben can eat and that the others want to eat.  I'm so incredibly thankful that we are in soup/stew season.  Pretty sure that will save me.  Also, thank you to the incredible friends who have sent me yummy GF, DF, EF recipes.  Thank you for holding my hand as we brave this new, hopefully-not-breadless journey.

Though we are easing into all these changes, I have a feeling that Monday will be a turning point.  I have a parent meeting with the director of the center where we will talk further about Ben's progress and needs as well as dietary supplements and sensitivities.  They also haven't given us any "at home" assignments to do, but I just learned that this is part of this upcoming meeting.  I've also been told that I'll be receiving a parent binder with a lot more details.  I'll give you the inside scoop on these after Monday.  I'm interested to hear what the coaches' reports will say as to how they see Ben responding in his sessions. 

To those who are praying, this is the greatest gift you could give us.  Your prayers are holding us together as we try to give this experience to Ben.  Please continue to uphold us as we are on the road (with foggy mommy brain) and as we adjust our lifestyle to give Ben the best odds at success in this program.  Your texts, FB messages, and words of grace mean more than you'll ever know. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

And we're off...

When I got up this morning, I was nervous, brain buzzing with all the details to keep track of and ears already filled with the shrieking of children awake long before they should be.  Ben was pumped.  We've been talking up this therapy as "school" for him so there he was with his backpack ready, lunchbox waiting, and a big smile on his face.  His excitement was contagious, but I was a little concerned he might be spreading something else.  He came into my bathroom this morning covered in a rash from head to toe.  Yep.

So in order to make sure he wouldn't be infecting people across county lines, I played "Can You Be the First One to Call the Doctor to Get the Early Appointment?"  By the grace of God, I won.  And I decided to take Ben's baby sister with us.  Poor baby Emily has been tugging at her ears, and I suspected that we were once again visited by the ear infection fairy.  This particular pixie loves our house and really likes hanging out with any of my children under the age of three who do not already have tubes in their ears.

God bless our practitioner.  She saw our crazy, prescribed antibiotics, skin cream, anti-itch meds,'s the big payoff... our Brain Balance therapy!  I'm pumped.  Insurance will not cover Brain Balance because they do not provide a medical diagnosis, but the doctor's scrip allows us to use our health savings account to pay for this six-month opportunity.  This is HUGE!  As exhausting as it was to squeeze in one more thing today, it was a blessing to talk face-to face with our doctor about the center and to have her okay.

And we made it through in time to get to our first day of therapy!  Thanks to Papa (my dad) rushing over to my house, we were able to get to the doctor, pop over at a specialist's office to make an appointment, run back home to drop off Emily, and grab lunches (Ben's in a cool Cardinals lunchbox, mine on a less-than-cool plate), and hit the road so we would not be late for Ben's first session today.

I sing the praises of audiobooks.  If it weren't for the Boxcar Children, I'm pretty sure my brain would have exploded the first drive to Fort Wayne.  As it is, Ben is totally happy to listen to the Boxcar Children solve countless mysteries with their unlimited resources and incredibly good manners.  Maybe someday I'll convince him to let me listen to one of my podcasts, but for today we hung out with Henry, Jesse, Violet, and Benny.

Ben was exploding to get into the Center when we parked.  I'm talking HE ALMOST SHUT THE DOOR ON MY ARM AS I WAS REACHING FOR MY COFFEE CUP excited.  The kid was pumped!  And rightly so.  His coach for today took him through a series of sensory activities for the first half hour and then worked through several cognitive exercises with him with a positive attitude and clear instructions for the second half.  I was seriously impressed as a teacher.  The hour seemed to fly by, and as I listened to him working with her, they both seemed to be having a good time.  Ben earned six Brain Bucks (money to spend in the "store" at the end of the week) which is the maximum a kid can earn during a session, and he walked out the door reminding the coaches that he would be back to earn the rest of his bucks so he could go to the store on Friday.  Pretty sure Ben thinks he owns the place.

Yes, I know this is the honeymoon period, but I also know that lots of experiences in Ben's life haven't had a honeymoon period.  He just outright can't handle them.  For now, Brain Bucks are incredibly motivating to him, and he feels very successful.

Please don't think I'm crazy, but I want to document changes we are seeing in Ben for our benefit so if it seems too early for results, humor me.  Tonight Ben put toothpaste on each of the kids' toothbrushes all by himself.  This requires a lot of fine motor skill and initiative that we often don't see in Ben.  Dave and I were honestly wowed.  Ben also fell right to sleep.  We often have him popping out of bed or being super silly at bedtime with Laura.  He just has a hard time settling his brain and body.  Not tonight.  He got up ZERO times.  Glory. be.  This could also be due to the antihistamines he is taking for his skin, but he HAS been falling asleep more quickly since the evaluation last Wednesday.  Oh, and Ben stayed seated for all of dinner.  If you think this is a small thing, clearly you haven't eaten at our house recently.  All of these things could be by chance... or not.

Next Monday is my parent meeting where they go through the parent binder with me and talk about nutrition, but I already have some warning as to what changes they would like us to make.  A key element to Brain Balance is removing dairy (done!), most eggs (done!), processed sugar (workable), and gluten (oh my stars.) as well as avoiding large amounts of soy and corn.  So tonight I made a roast with home fries, spinach salad, and apple slices.  I have a few more new meals up my sleeve, but Caleb the Carbohydrate Kid pretty much thinks we are trying to kill him via starvation.  Time-outs were involved in our supper tonight.

Biggest drawbacks of today: we have killed Mommy.  Seriously.  I'm sitting in my bed numb.  Today was brought to you by a whole lot of Jesus and a grande coffee at 10:45 a.m., but I'm pretty sure the coffee gave out at 8:30 p.m. when I started going postal about messes, dirty laundry, dishes, and lists. Also, my girls.  My precious girlies felt today too.  Emily wouldn't let me out of her sight all evening without screaming.  And Laura started to cry when I was separated from her for TEN MINUTES this afternoon to feed the baby.  As amazing as it is to have places and special people for them to play with here, I'm going to need to find ways to incorporate them into our trips so that they get some special mommy time too.  We are up for recommendations of fun things to do with toddlers near the Jefferson Blvd. exit.

Biggest bonuses of today: Ben is off to a great start.  He is so pumped about his school, and I just feel like the next six months are going to be hard but totally worth it.  One of his former therapist called today, and when I mentioned that Ben had started at Brain Balance, she shared that she'd heard great things about it.  Phew.  Maybe we're not as crazy as we thought.  Nevermind.  We probably are.

Also, to those of you who have shared the great things you have heard about Brain Balance, THANK YOU!  It is amazing to know how many of you already have grandchildren, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances that have had their lives changed for the better through this treatment.  Also, to the many people who have written to me on FB, encouraged me at church, texted to remind me that you're praying, or just come up to give me a hug; thanks.  I need you.  A lot.  When the Lord promises that we will have everything we need for life and godliness, I am convinced that the Body of Christ is a huge part of that.  So thank you for sharing the grace you've been given.

Well, that's all the brain power I can muster for tonight.  Please keep praying with us as the Lord brings us to mind.  We love you and are grateful for you.

By His strength and grace, Krista

Friday, November 6, 2015


It all started a month ago with some brochures.  I was at a conference talking to a vendor about their "amazing, groundbreaking treatment" for kids with neurological disabilities (think ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, learning disabilities, OCD).  I stopped to chat with them because our sweet second son has sensory processing disorder, but I already knew what I would hear.  It would be the same thing I always heard.  "There is no cure."  "Here is another therapy that you can do for the next 13 years of your child's life to help with some of the symptoms."  But that's not what these ladies told me.  They said that this was a new treatment designed to target weaknesses in the brain.  It wasn't a cure-all, but there had been amazing results not behavioral band-aids.  Kids on the autism spectrum that no longer exhibited autism before. Say what??

It sounded too good to be true.  And I'm a skeptic.  And a judger.  I put the pamphlets in my bag and kept walking, but I couldn't get their comments out of my head.  I kept thinking about our son, Ben, and how much he struggles with everyday interactions and tasks.  The pamphlet came out at dinner as I talked to a friend whose son struggles with ADHD.  Was this a hoax or for real? Was this just one more way for parents with special needs kids to bleed money and time?
It feels like we've been through everything.  Allergy testing, elimination diets, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, surgeries for Ben's overactive immune system, developmental pediatricians.  Everything.  And yet there were so many quirks with Ben that were still going unaddressed, but I saw them.  My husband saw them.  And we were clueless to know what to do about them.  Those well-wishing people who continued to tell me that everyone learns to potty train by kindergarten just made me want to scream.  And then there was the pickle when the school system told us that Ben was too academically advanced for special needs preschool, but no private preschool in the area would accept him unless he was toilet trained.  And then there's the relational strain.  People we were close to have backed away because some of Ben's behaviors were not in-line with his age and are... well, socially inappropriate.  We know.  It's hard to tolerate.  Some days, it seems like he's almost the same as his peers.  Other days, the gap is so glaring that I don't know how we'll ever catch up.  And then kindergarten looms in the distance...

Fast forward two weeks as I was sitting at home listening to an online conference, where, lo and behold, one of the speakers was none other than the doctor who designed this new treatment for kids with behavioral diagnoses.  He had also brought a mom to present with him who had two sons complete his program with radical results.  So life-changing was this program in their own family that this family started up THREE of these treatment centers to serve other families in their community.  

As I listened to the seminar on my bed, I started crying.  The symptoms and struggles they were describing were ours.  If the research was correct and the results were for real, this could change my child's life forever.  These Brain Balance Centers were based on the principle that the two hemispheres of the brain don't always develop in sync.  When one side of the brain develops much more quickly, it interferes with overall neurological function and leads to the issues that our generation's children struggle with in epic numbers.  If we can stimulate the areas of the weaker side of the brain so they can catch up to the stronger hemisphere, the brain is able to function in sync.  Problems resolved by this treatment include autism (I know... it sounds crazy.), sensory issues, food sensitivities, impulsive behaviors, immune deficiencies, and so much more.  

I ran down the stairs and told my husband that he had. to. listen to this.  I needed to know if I was being crazy to even consider this.  It felt crazy.  It felt like a desperate mom just grasping for help in illogical ways.  Immediately, I bought Dr. Robert Melillo's book Disconnected Kids, and read it to see if the research and program really did seem as logical and promising as they seemed.  After reading through the initial pages on the method and research, I was at least convinced enough to call the center closest to me and find out about their initial evaluation.  

Bless that man's heart.  I asked a thousand questions, and he answered them all.  By the end of the conversation, we had set up a day for Ben to be evaluated for three hours the following week.  My husband and I would return to the center two days later to discuss the findings.  The cost for this evaluation: $150. 
Worst case scenario: we would waste money and time driving to Fort Wayne for a couple days.  
Best case scenario: we would start a journey toward helping our child take in and adapt to his world.

Ben's evaluation was this Wednesday.  As I drove to the evaluation, I talked to a friend on the phone and begged her to pray for discernment.  Something.  Even if it was just a vibe.  I was shaking as we finished our conversation.  I didn't even know what I was looking for.

Upon arrival, I was impressed by the center and the staff that we met.  They definitely had worked with challenging kids before and were committing to staying positive and proactive.  Ben was eased into his activities for the morning, and I was given a tablet with literally hundreds of behaviors to score on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not an issue for Ben, 10 being a severe issue).  My paperwork and behavior scoring took a little less than an hour.  Very thorough. Ben cooperated for a while in the evaluation and then decided to be ornery, but the staff didn't lose their cool.  He completed the testing in about two hours, and we were on our way home.  I had a very tired boy and no clear direction on what Friday would hold, but I just kept feeling like it was worth taking things one step further.

Today.  Oh today.  I've been a wreck.  Waiting for the test results.  Trying to think of all my questions.  Processing whether or not this whole crazy program could possibly be legitimate.  But after sitting down with the director of the center, my husband and I decided that our family would take another step forward and jump into the Brain Balance Center's 6-month program.  We start on Monday so I have no mind-blowing results to give you.  The only thing I possess is hope.  I have this strange, unwavering confidence that this new therapy will be worth driving an hour away three days a week so that my son can participate in this program.  

My heart is full of concerns.  How will this huge time commitment affect my other children?  What if we get to the end of the program and nothing has changed?  What if Ben fights us every stinking time that we go?  What if...???  But then a stronger voice in my head says, "What if this is the key to understanding your puzzling child?  What if this six months is the beginning of a healthier life for my child?  What if we never jumped and never knew how much better Ben could take in and participate in his world?"  

What if this day is the beginning of a whole new way of living for our son?

If you are thinking that we've been duped and are fools, I understand.  I'd probably think the same thing if I hadn't read the research and lived with Ben.  In so many ways, I am confidant that God knew what He was doing when He gave us Ben.  Benjamin has enabled us to look at other children and their parents and to know that we just don't know.  We don't know what it's like to live and teach that child.  We don't know what their personality is.  What their struggles are.  What their strengths are.  What their quirks are.  And we for sure don't know the answers to everyone's daily problems (aside from a relationship with Jesus Christ).  Ben has allowed us to have grace for others that we would never have possessed without him in our lives.  And for that, I am forever grateful.  But if we can make the everyday interactions of Ben's life easier, even lessen the affects of SPD (sensory processing disorder) in his days, it will be worth it.  Every minute spent, every mile traveled, every dollar paid.  

I know this is controversial, but regardless of agreeing with our choice, would you pray for us?  Would you pray for our family as we juggle this new schedule and the changes that this program requires?  Would you pray for Ben to become all that God created him to be?  And would you pray for our family as we share our experience with a world that is watching?  We want to be salt and light  whether that's around our table or sitting in a waiting room in Ft. Wayne.  And know that we appreciate you.  We would never even attempt to do all that we do without a loving community cheering, praying, carpooling, helping with childcare, and reminding us that if we're crazy then we are their kind of crazy.  We are jumping, holding onto Jesus with one hand and Ben with the other.  And only time will tell what's at the bottom.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Houseplants and a head cold

I am terrible with houseplants.  Rewind to when I was responsible for watering my folks' houseplants.  My only goal: getting done as quickly as possible so I could get back to the book/movie/friend that I actually cared about.  They had this gallon container that I was supposed to fill and add plant food to.  Some days I would literally water each plant with a teaspoon of liquid, just so I wouldn't have to refill the jug.  I'm not proud of this.  Just bein' real.  And giving you some insight into my innate priorities.  Keeping plants alive= not one of them.

Fast-forward to today... Are you in 2015?  Good.  I currently have two houseplants.  One I received several years ago at my grandfather's funeral.  The other I rescued from a friend who was going to pitch it in her backyard when she moved.  It's named Fonzie.  That alone made me save it from sudden death by dumping, even though I am TERRIBLE with houseplants.  I know I'm supposed to water these plants, but I feed and water a lot of things throughout the day.  There's a lot going on here, and there are days (okay, weeks) when I don't even remember that I have houseplants.  I mean it.  I don't even seen the 4 1/2 foot tree in my entryway.  Sorry, Fonz.

Today is a rare day.  We are home all day because I have a cold.  And Baby Emily has a cold.  And we are not. going. anywhere.  It is incredibly weird.  No playdates.  No errands. No appointments.  Praise the Lord.  I miss my people, but my nerdy heart cannot wait to read the next Inspector Gamache book while my kids nap today.  It's a self-care day of rest.

Back to the point... since I had all morning at home today, I actually saw the plants (small trees to be exact) that desperately needed water and a little pruning.  Here's the miracle: I really did water them.  AND.... I did the monumental task of going out to the garage to get my pruners so I could trim the wilting branches caused by my lack of watering.

Yep.  You heard it, Katie.  I'm killing your tree.  But I expect no judgment since you were going to pitch him in your backyard. Okay?  And the other tree?  Well, here's what I've realized.  It is exactly the same height it was when I got it three years ago.  Oops.  I've had to trim off dead branches frequently because they just didn't get enough water.  It's not the tree's fault.  They are just not flourishing for lack of basic necessities.  I'm guilty of tree neglect.  Please don't call the authorities.  I swear I feed and water my kids.

After I had pruned Fonzie and was throwing out the dead branches, I realized something.  I took off what was dead and draining the life out of the plant, but I had also removed some perfectly healthy branches. Why?  Because I knew that the tree would not grow well in the space that it is in my house if those branches continued to grow.  They would push into the wall and cause the tree to be lopsided.  They would eventually die, but since the tree didn't realize what was coming down the road like I did, it would continue to pour energy into these branches.  Stop.  Right there.  Did you see it?

God totally hit me over the head this morning with those pruned branches.  As a mom with four young children, I often feel like I should be doing all the things I've always done as well as adding on a few new pursuits.  Sometimes I literally feel like God stands over me and says, "Well, I'd like to use her right now, but she's got little kids so I guess she's pretty useless to Me."  I KNOW that sounds stupid.  Totally unbiblical.  And a perfect recipe for despair and bitterness against my children.

Sometimes God has to give me a head cold so I slow down enough to listen and hear the truth, which sounds a little more like "Bloom where you're planted.  Love well the people in your reach.  Serve your children with gladness.  Know that I have given them to you and your home is important to Me.  Allow Me to trim off things in your life that may be perfectly healthy but aren't for where you are right now and are draining the energy I'd like you to put somewhere else.  Remember I'm the Master Gardener?  Trust Me.  I can see the future.  For real."

Oh, and in case you are wondering about all those dead branches, I'm about as good at self-care as I am at plant care.  Truth: the last two and a half years of my life have knocked me out of most of the good practices I had in my life.  It's that third kid, people.  It's brutal.  Anyone who tells you otherwise just wants more grandkids.  My quiet times with the Lord, my regular evenings for exercise, and my carved out spaces for rest had completely fallen by the wayside.  And it's only been recently that I have found a way to have my quiet time with the Lord in the midst of the chaos of my life.  I've always known I needed it, but I'd remember and then just keep on with the busyness of my life. Please tell me I'm not the only one...

That tree from my grandpa's funeral has not grown at. all. because I haven't consistently given it the water it needed.  I've pretty much just given it what it needed to survive and not die completely.  And the same could be said for myself.  Just enough rest.  Just enough prayer.  Just. barely. enough.  It's just not working.  So I'm carving out time in my mornings that is for me and the Lord.  I'm making time to run with my family and stay strong.  And I'm scheduling blocks of time to pursue rest and relationships because otherwise, life is just going to keep on and I'll be at the same place in three more years that I am now.  Please. No.

I don't say any of this to sound spiritual or to seem like I have it all together.  I'm sitting in a mountain of Kleenex right now, listening to my children destroy the house in the background.  Even with new life-giving habits begun, the stuff of this world (please hear perfectionism, selfishness, bitterness, etc.) still gets in my road and slows me down.  But I've taken the time to remember what I need to grow, to be healthy, and to flourish where I'm planted; and even if my new plans only work out half the time, I will be so much better off than if I'd done nothing and continued to only take care of myself when I felt like I was falling apart.

Yep.  All this good stuff from taking care of my houseplants.  Can you believe it?  Lucky you.  But, for real... I hope you take time today to remember that you are called to flourish exactly where you are planted.  To love the people within your reach and to give yourself daily doses of God's life-giving Word.  I hope you can give yourself the grace to cut the things out of your life that He leads you to so you can pour your energies into where He has you planted.  I hope you feel valuable and loved.  Because you are.  God is up to something good in and through your life.  And, for bonus points, I hope you water your houseplants.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Change (and why it's good)

I have a love/hate relationship with my "On This Day" feed on Facebook.  I love seeing the pictures and reading the statuses about my kids.  I am so blessed to read the encouraging posts that were written on my wall.  But it's hard.

I read some of those posts and think, "Man... that girl that they were writing to had a ton of freedom.  Free time.  Unlimited sleep.  Choices.  Amazing."  But sometimes I also read things I posted and think, "WHY?????  Oh, WHY would I post that for everyone to read?  No one needed to know about that.  Period."

So sometimes change is good.  As we grow and change, we mature (hopefully).  We make better choices, more informed choices.  We do things we swore we wouldn't do because it was what our mom did, but at this point it seems pretty smart.  Way to go, Mom.  You were right all along.  It only took 31 years for me to get it.  I'm a little dense.

And in the case of this blog, change was necessary.  Entirely, ridiculously necessary.  For starters, there are no longer just boys in our family.  We have two.... yes, TWO little girls in our home.  Yep.  If that seems crazy impossible to you, join the club.  We could not be more thrilled to yell, "Okay, boys and girls.." into the back seat of our van. This is the family I always wanted but never dreamed would actually come together like this.  I mean... I'm a control freak, but the gender of our kiddos is still definitely beyond me.

Secondly, when I started the blog, I was...well... different.  Younger.  Ignorantly confidant.  Growing gracious young men seemed so very possible since my boys were still under the age of 3.  The world of possibility was wide open.  And even though we still desperately want our children to reflect the grace of God to a broken world, we are discovering that God has so much more to teach us as parents than we have to teach our children.  So the blog's name and domain have changed.

The old address will still direct you here, but I wanted the name and the domain to reflect what this blog actually is.  It's just the writing of a mom.  One mom.  One voice.  One Christ-follower who is still screwing up, remembering forgiveness, and rising again.  So welcome to The Writes of a Mom because I laid down way too many of those other rights when motherhood found me.

photo credit Jaime Virginia Photography

Yep, that's the new crew!  My house is always loud.  Incessantly cluttered.  Unbelievably blessed.   And unavoidably changing.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.