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.