The Blog

Muddy Shoes

I had to purchase 4 pairs of shoes for our darling son this month.  FOUR.  You see, he has recently discovered a magic fairy tale land down by our river, just steps from our house.  His commentary on this special place of retreat?

“So Mom.  To get to our secret land you take the eternal path of joy.  It’s so beautiful and you can tame fairies along the way with fairy powder from the plants.  But you have to do par-core to get to Relaxation Island since it’s over the river.  That’s where my feet get super wet.  There’s also Shark Tooth Island and Crawdad Island.  The problem is the hyena fairies are trying to destroy the king of the ferries, SaFalla.  His wife is SaSpring.  It’s so epic Mom.  I want to go EVERY day.”  

This magic land has provided hours of entertainment for him and his little neighborhood posse of equally quirky and wonderful boys.  The problem with the river is it’s wet.  Every time they visit this river, it’s wet.  Foot sopping wet.  And the problem with our little human is his unintentional disregard for the impact water and mud and sticks and fairy dust have on his personal belongings.  Namely his feet.  And so when he rides up our street on his trusty bicycle, dripping from knee to toes, we can not find it in ourselves to bring down the hammer.  After all, he has announced that,

“Thank goodness I have finally discovered that I DO love nature after all.  All these years I thought video games were the best thing ever, but it turns out that I really DO love God’s nature.” 

Well, praise Jesus for that, even if it does mean we’ve trashed 4 pairs of shoes.  And luckily someone was genius enough to invent rain boots (for children mind you).  He’s now a proud owner of shiny blue, path of joy proof footwear.  He might not remember to wear said footwear on his jaunts to the river, but we can hope.

My money conscious husband told me to smile at the mud in this case because the mud brings unbridled joy.  It allows him freedom to create and invent and dream and connect.  If he’s focused on all those things, we can hardly expect him to give thought to what’s on his feet.  Stressing over and reprimanding him for the state of his feet diminishes the beauty of the mud and so we don’t.  We welcome the guck and keep Zappos.com alive in the process.

Where’s your path of joy?  And what’s the cost you need to endure to make darn sure you visit it often?  Because what’s living without some muddy shoes thrown into the mix?

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Someday in Heaven

I was sitting in the 3rd row from the front at church, our regular spot.  Susie was talking about heaven in a context I can’t put my finger on, because I got lost in a whirlwind of color and textures surrounding my view of heaven as it relates to our family.  I allowed all the complexities that tie up my mind and my heart to fade into the rafters as I drew mental pictures of light and laughter and green grass and rolling hills of simplicity and unrestricted joy.

I saw Ry running to and fro with a magic wand and a fairy on each shoulder, granting him powers of mind control and telekenesis.  He and God were discussing which star would be placed over his house while they strolled through paths of joy and imagination island.  They picked weeds turned flowers by Ry’s imaginative powers and delivered them to the animals of the forest for very specific tasks.  I saw him talking to Eve about her very bad choice to eat that darn apple, but embracing her with his ever forgiving heart.  He glowed with freedom from tics and the ability to be who he is without worrying about approval from the humans around him.  And he laughed and danced like no one was watching and sang like music belonged to only him.  He built masterpieces in his mind and with his hands and felt accomplished in his ability to invent and dream.  I saw him greeting the smallest bird with the greatest enthusiasm and give credence to the clovers blanketing the ground.  I saw him treat every heavenly resident with equal respect and love and expect the same in return.  He was joy, colorful, textured and radiant joy.

And then it hit me, sitting the 3rd row.  This heavenly picture I was so artfully constructing is his life NOW.  Here on earth.  He lives with fairies on his shoulders and magic powers in his soul.  He forgives and admires the ground cover and the smallest creatures.  He laughs and dances with his mind and his body each and every day.  His mind is a constant masterpiece and he exudes joy to every living creature.  He and God talk about stars and hard things.  Rylan walks with Jesus and lives the most textured existence of anyone I know.  And yet, as his mother, I continue to strive for more.  For him is what I tell myself.  But maybe it’s all for me.  Because I’m not able to live in the Kingdom in the way he so naturally can.  I strive to live my life FOR the Kingdom and he doesn’t need to strive.  He just lives it.  Without so much as a thought.

 

Perhaps my prayers need to shift from a framework of “help my son’s journey here on earth” to “guide my path to look more like his.”  Perhaps I need to stop looking toward eternity and start celebrating the Heaven we’re living right here and now.

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Who Needs a Uterus Anyway?

I had this little procedure done back in April where they removed my uterus and ovaries.  Ya know, a complete hysterectomy.  I’ve put off talking about it or sharing any of the intimate details because I wanted to allow my body time to process and heal and absorb its new reality.  It’s time.  I’ve healed, I’ve processed and I want all you ladies to hear a few key morsels of advice from the other side.  Note, this is advice from MY experience and it’s not going to be true for the rest of the female race.

Not having my reproductive organs means…..

  1. NO PERIODS friends.  Zero bleeding, zero cramps, zero bloating, zero gas build up (as it relates to the flow), zero rage against your life mood swings, zero cravings.  Did I mention zero bleeding?  It’s all gonzo.  Fo-eva.
  2. NO PERIODS friends.  It needs to be stated again for effect.
  3. My risk of ovarian or uteran cancer?  Zero percent.  Take THAT cancer jerk.
  4. No tampons and light days taking up real estate in my purse.  No 14 year light day wrappers in the depths of the pockets either.
  5. No more influx of ibuprofen (3 every 3 hours) entering my body, causing crazy constipation.  Sorry, these are facts ladies.
  6. No more wondering if I might some day, some how, by the grace of God, perhaps, let’s keep hoping, miracles happen, everyone says as soon as you stop trying it’ll happen, get pregnant.  15 years of all THAT nonsense is no longer a thing in my mind or my heart.  No more reproductive organs equals closure.  It really does, which has been a gift wrapped in the prettiest bow from God above.
  7. Less money spent on all the period products equals more money for wine.  That’s how I like to think of it.  It helps with all the wine purchases.
  8. More available days for sex with the hubs.  Who am I kidding, that’s not on my pro’s list, but it’s a big bold check mark in the male column.

I might need to re-visit #6 right quick.  Because it’s a big thing, the whole “infertility” bullet point.  When I sat across from Dr. Johnny (the raddest OB in town), I was very firm on wanting it all out.  Done.  Over with.  Good riddance.  Tim maybe not so exuberant on the matter, but supportive none-the-less.  In my gut, I feared how I would feel about the decision when it was said and done.  I feared the grief that might flood me over the loss of a lifetime of dreams and expectations coming to a surgical end.  I feared the hormonal roller coaster that might define my moods following surgery.  As did Tim, BY the way.  Dr. Johnny explained that the emotional turmoil my body went through since I started my cycle in the southern suburbs of Chicago in 1992 was far worse than anything I would experience following the hysterectomy.  He told us that all the years of doctors putting me on birth control and menopause inducing drugs WRECKED my body’s ability to regulate and know which way was up.  It was poor medicine and he was the first one to recognize it as such.  I had a body that didn’t know what to do with estrogen.  It fought estrogen with fierce internal kickboxing skills.  Turns out my fighting abilities were spot on, but wreaked havoc in my world.  On so many levels.

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We knew, other than a Mary Mother of Jesus miracle taking place, we couldn’t get pregnant.  It was confirmed over and over and over.  We were spent from it all and I was spent fighting my body’s desire to beat to its own drum.  There’s a place for beating to your own drum, but my uterus no longer deserved that right.  She and I were never friends really.  Maybe frienemies.  I’d consider that title since she did allow me the gift of my children.  So we scheduled the surgery and lined up two weeks of mother-may-I-ask-you-to-cook,-clean-and-take-care-of -my-children-while-I-lie-in-bed-and-sleep-and-not-answer-to-anyone-time.  Dr. Johnny performed his robotic magic, I went home that night (against my better judgement) and spent the next month physically recovering.  Other than a ill-timed UTI, the recovery was seamless and actually quite lovely.  I did nothing, cooked nothing, drove nowhere, read all the things, binged Jane the Virgin, ignored my children because the expectation for being ignored was made very clear from the beginning, drank coffee, gazed at ALL the flowers my people delivered, and ate delicious meals prepared by an amazing community of people who loved on us.  I barely needed pain meds friends.  God blessed the whole removal of my uterus in remarkable ways.  The emotional recovery turned out to be not even a real thing.  I feel better emotionally than I have since, well 1992.  The natural supplements Dr. J has me on fill me with bee pollen and God grown additives that sound very fancy and natural.  They keep the hot flashes to a minimum and my mood stable.  Sleeping was a struggle for the first few months, but even that has evened out.  And did I mention I don’t get my period anymore?  I don’t.  Ever.  Again.  Image result for pictures of no more uterus

All of this to say, ladies and their gents, I’m on Camp Hysterectomy (if it makes sense for your world of course).  I’m willing to pronounce my allegiance publicly and so here I am.  If you live in Colorado and you’re considering the removal of your uterus, call me.  Dr. Johnny is your man.  Happy weekend.  If you would like to stitch (sew, knit, I don’t know what it all means) me the little gem featured, you go RIGHT ahead.  I will hang it in my closet.

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Not Cray Cray, Just Highly Sensitive

If I need to prepare food and my kitchen counter is taken hostage by darling 1st grade drawings, Lego ninja characters, oatmeal buggers, orange juice glasses, and Pokemon cards….watch out.  Mama loses her mojo.  Instantly.  Functioning becomes nearly impossible, at least functioning in a reasonable, pleasant manner.  That counter top becomes my number ONE priority and my heart rate soars to frantic measures.  ALL the things become frustrating as I’m tornadoing through my kitchen.  My husband finds tasks that need immediate attention on the other side of the house and the children, naive to the scenario, continue to be themselves, adding to my tornado.  Note…I couldn’t even stand posting a picture of a messy counter top.  

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Until I finished Anne Bogel’s new book, Reading People, I assumed I was all kinds of crazy in situations like this one.  Unreasonable, too focused on order and not at all able to handle it when things weren’t calm and simple.  It bothered me and yet, there it was.  Me.  My husband is NOT me and flows with the ease of a beautiful stream.  Always calm, bubbling, serene, and predictable.  I love streams.  They are a happy happy place for me.  But I am NOT a stream.  Chapter 3 changed my life a bit and I would love to tell you why.  Because if your kitchen counter top drives to a point of no return (or very slow return), there’s hope.

Anne explains, “High sensitivity is a hardwired physiological trait that affects 15-20% of the population, across species, not just humans…..high sensitivity describes people whose nervous systems are more receptive to stimuli than those of the general population.  This means they are more attuned to subtleties in their surroundings and are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulation environments.  Their internal “radar” for detecting external stimuli is quite good, but it takes energy to keep that radar operational, which can be exhausting.”

BAM. Keep talkin’ Anne.  “The brains of HSP’s process information, such as that brought in through the five senses, more thoroughly than nonsensitive types.  They also process experiences more deeply than those who lack the trait.  They dwell on things more and longer than the rest of the population.  They catch subtle cues that others miss.  Their emotional reaction is stronger – to the positive and negative.”

This is an actual thing.  The need to have a clean counter top is an actual thing.  My dwellyness is an actual thing.  My deep feelings and internal radar for so many things are actual things.  My inability to attend a Fall festival with face painting, carnies hanging from ropes, and a grunge teenage band in training in the 89 degree heat and come home a disaster emotionally? It’s an actual thing.  Turns out, I’m not irrational and crazy, I’m Highly Sensitive.  And I’m not alone.  Other peeps get this and feel it too.  Hallelujah.

We’ve known for quite some time that our 10 year old is a sensitive little human, but we attributed that to his spectrumyness (that’s really the best word I’ve found to describe it).  After Chapter 3 entered my world, I now see that he too is an HSP.  Just like his Mama.  God bless my husband.  My little man is never just a little hungry or tired.  He’s sprawled across the chair, upside down, moaning in tiredness.  On the brink of never  walking again.  And this is at the ripe hour of 8am.  Dramatic?  Yes.  Highly Sensitive?  That too.

Anne says, “HSP’s need white space, both literal and metaphorical.  In a sea of input, HSP’s need some rest from the tidal wave of sensory input.  This is so their brains can sort through the backload to clear those inevitable jam ups.”  Later she explains, “The people, the lights, and the noise combine for a nonstop assault on their senses.”

Our dude is constantly challenged with the backload.  I don’t know that it ever clears for him.  I’m thankful to understand now how he feels in relation to this highly sensitive person reality.  I get so much of it.  He doesn’t get it quite yet, but he feels it.  Now I can get it on his behalf and try to explain to others how it feels.  God made me this way and 38 years later, perhaps I can see why and maybe even be grateful for it.  As often as I want to move to the country side in Tennessee, where there are very few options and choices at my disposal, I can smile internally, knowing just how rational that thought is for an HSP.

Anne ends the chapter highlighting the beauty found in many HSP’s and that left me feeling uplifted and proud of my HSP camp.  “They have laser-like focus and dedicate boatloads of attention to the things they care about.”  Yes I do.  To a fault at times.  “This trait makes you a kind and caring friend, an empathetic and wise counselor, an insightful employee, and a spiritual seeker.”  Thank you very much.  “They’re extremely perceptive, picking up on all sorts of things nonsensitive types miss.  They are really good at deep conversation and are eager to explore meaningful topics.  And they’re creative.”  Sigh.  That’s me in a tightly wrapped paragraph.  Anne explains that she thinks of her HSP child as an orchid, requiring a very specific environment to bloom.  She says that while the idea isn’t new, she never thought it applied to her.  She needs careful mental and physical upkeep in order to stay balanced.   I second all those thoughts.

 

Thank you Modern Mrs. Darcy for taking the time to explain what it means to be ourselves in so many comprehensive and insightful ways through this book.  Friends, this was just one chapter.  There are nine more where that came from and they’re equally intriguing and enlightening.  And, considering the significance of this Monday for our country and our world, here’s a link to an excellent post Anne shared this morning on managing anxiety.

 

 

 

 

Pre-order Anne’s book HERE.  Really, order it.  It’s being released on September 19th.  Giddy up!  Every.single.human needs to read this book.  Well, not the humans who can’t read.  Everyone else.

 

 

 

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Doing Hard Things

We work pretty hard over here on encouraging our kids to do hard things.  Hard things are really hard when life in general feels really hard.  Does that make sense?  For our son, going to the basement without a sidekick is really hard.  Walking past an ant is hard most days.  Thunder is really hard since it might mean a flood or a hurricane.  Yes, we live in Denver.  Doesn’t matter.  The things we take for granted as being non-issues in our day to day can overwhelm our Dude.  New situations and new environments that are unpredictable and uncomfortable raise his sensitivites to levels that feel physically uncomfortable.  We’ve learned when to push him and when to offer grace and understanding.  Doesn’t mean we’re good at practicing these things, but we’re far better at it now than we were in years past.

Starting 5th grade is a big whompin deal.  For all of us.  We start our year before that first bell rings with teacher meetings, discussions about fears and capabilities and expectations, lots of hugging and deep breath prayers.  We expect bumps, peaks and hope for a lot of flat land.  Flat land is really good land.  Dude’s first days went really well, so much so that his morning teacher called to tell me so.  BLESS.  When I picked him up on that first half day, he got in the front seat and said, “Mom, I decided that I am going to run for student council.”  I pulled over.  I looked at his sea like blue eyes and smiled.  He was calm and collected, like he had just announced a fart.  He does that a lot.  He explained that he wanted to be a leader at his school, plan parties, make speeches, and teach kids with special needs that they can do hard things like run for student council.  Because he has special needs and he can do hard things.”  Can we pause here for a quick sec?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………  I might have stared at him for a hot minute without showing any sort of recognition of his words.  And so he repeated them.  I was so floored and so adrenaline filled at this revelation that we drove home, put that van in park, took a snack to our round kitchen table and started writing his speech.  This moment was NOT going to pass us by.  No sir.  He dictated his speech to me and it went a little something (well, it’s exactly as he wrote it) like this.

 

Hi, my name is Rylan Vogelzang.  I’m wondering if I can join Student Council!  I have special needs and I’ll tell you more about that at the end of my speech.  Here’s why I want to join Student Council.  I will be highlighting being SAFE, RESPONSIBLE, and RESPECTFUL using characters you might recognize!

Being Safe

I choose Joy and Fear from Inside Out for being safe.  I added Joy because if you have Fear by itself, you would be afraid of everything.  But if you add Joy you can be happy and safe at the same time.  It’s important to be safe at school to not bump into other people, not to fall down the stairs like I did already, keeping your hands to yourself, to not blow your anger top, to use kind greeting words, and not running on the black top or running into trees.  (showed images of Joy and Fear on overhead projector)

Being Responsible

Blazion is a Yokai character who is a lion with a firey mane.  I’m choosing him because he enspirits or possesses you to be MOTIVATED.  Motivation makes you pumped up and ready for the day!  Blazion will make you want to FINISH Math, Science, Reading and all your subjects and be responsible for your work.  Boom, boom, boom!  Without motivation, you might feel lazy and say, “Whatever, I don’t want to do this.”  Blazion’s tribe’s name is BRAVE.  Bravery can help you make new friends, to talk to people if you’re really quiet, to try new things and other stuff like that.  I have to be brave to make new friends because you never know if they’ll like you.   (again, showed image of Blazion on overhead projector)

Being Respectful

I choose Baymax from Big Hero 6 for being Respectful.  He helps people when they’re sick or hurt.  He’s kind, squishy, and I chose him because I love robots.  The owner who made him said he would help a lot of people and he did.  He made sure they were safe and gave his own life in the end of the movie for Hero’s life.  He has to pay attention to the people around them and be respectful to his friends.  As students we have to listen to our teachers and put others first to be respectful.  (showed doll of Baymax)

I want to be on Student Council because I believe Peabody needs to be SAFE, RESPONSIBLE, and RESPECTFUL.  I also want to join student council to teach people about what it means to have special needs.  Special needs are things you were born with or got during life.  Having special needs means it’s hard to control your brain.  I have Tourette Syndrome and I can’t control my noises and ticks.  Other kids with special needs might not read well like Dyslexia, or have seizures like epilepsy or have blood sugar problems like Diabetes.  I want to be an example for kids with special needs because I have special needs.  I’m not contagious and you can be around me and other kids with special needs.  I want to be a part of this because I want everyone to learn about special needs and to be nice to kids like me.  I want to encourage other kids with special needs to do hard things like join Student Council!

GIVE TURKEYS HIGH FIVES EVERY DAY!  The end.

FRIENDS, he delivered this speech with confidence and ease.  He did his little motions and ticked away with his squeaky noise ticks the entire time.  I watched from the side of the room and wanted to jump up and down like a cheerleader with ants in her panties.  But I didn’t.  Instead I gave him a thumbs up, a proud Mama Bear smile, and snuck out of the room.  And then I started preparing myself for how I would help him cope with not getting elected.  I know, downer Mom.  But it’s a popularity contest.  I could see that in the room.  They don’t look at him and see what I do.  Bravery, endurance, joy, humor…do they?  I prayed they did, but I suspected they didn’t.

 

3 days later, I would like to introduce to you the newest member of the P…School Student Council, Ry Guy V.  He got a whole slew of votes and he never doubted it for a second.  No big thing, other than he’s SUPER proud of himself.  As are his parents.  He can do hard things – just not the hard things we think he should be able to do.

 

 

 

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How Have I Changed You?

The car (ok, it’s a minivan) is the one place I am guaranteed to engage in reflective, heart clenching, and often swallow my pride conversations with my little people.  In the minivan, none of us are distracted by the 1056 things that cause us to float to opposite ends of the house.  This brings out thoughts and questions that otherwise pass and fade.  I love that about our Honda Odyssey.  She’s a real conversation starter that one.  The most recent reflective Honda talk came from our son.  From the 3rd row he asks, “Mom, how exactly have I changed your life?”  I don’t know that the question itself was all that deep.  If my daughter had asked it, I don’t know that I would have had to catch my breath in quite the same way.  Most moms would likely smile and answer that question quickly with love and perhaps a deep breath or two.  My 3rd row passenger, however, brought different life to that innocent question.

How do our kids change our lives?  Maybe how DON’T they would be an easier question to field?  Mom pants aren’t a product you can purchase.  They can’t be pre-fabbed or marketed or given a product description in advance.  They are a custom tailored experience.  A one size fits one.  They’re elastic for sure.  Mom pants need room to stretch and bend and acclimate.  No buttons or leather.  Being a mom, no matter how your little blessings become yours, changes your world.  Being a mom to a kiddo with special needs does more of a 180.  It doesn’t just shift – it’s more like a tilt-a-whirl.  Those carnival death traps make me vomit just thinking about them, so let’s remove the vomit from that analogy.  When my little buddy asked that question, my mind did an internal tilt-a-whirl and I couldn’t find words quick enough to answer him before he asked it again.

Both our kids have “changed my life.”  Their adoptions and the beauty and brokenness we will continue to experience have altered so much of our lives as parents.  Truth is, our little boy has continued to alter my world in ways no one could have verbalized to me prior to his arrival on planet Earth.  Our son has tilta-whirled who I am, how I respond to the world, the career path I plan on following, the friendships I crave and seek, the Google searches I make, the money we spend, the books I read, the organizations I lean toward, the topics I get fired up about, the prayers I utter, the social activities we choose, the doctors we rely on, the patience I strive for, my relationship with Tim, the goals I set….. he has acted as a catalyst for change that a typical child wouldn’t.  This doesn’t dictate a comparison in my love for each of them.  My girl is as scrumptious of a blessing as her big brother, but the tilt-a-whirl vs. ferris wheel analogy isn’t one they can quite understand yet.

How do I explain that to him?  I don’t for now.  For now I tell both of them that being a parent changes so many things in both wonderful, and really hard ways.  I tell them that God’s plans for us are sometimes hidden until we become parents. Because being their parent isn’t a job we can go to school for or read a book about.  It’s not a job we can go to each morning and leave until morning.  It’s not a job we can turn off or take a break from.  Being their mom has changed the way I think – about myself, about God, and about community.  I can tell both of them those truths. And I can tell them that I adore them and thank God for the little change makers they are.

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