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.