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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Feeling Pooped About Poop


2 days until Christmas.

As someone so eloquently put it, I'm in a committed relationship with Amazon Prime and I don't care who knows about it. I'm also very near running away, or barricading myself in the closet with soundproof earphones and noseplugs...and it's been 2 full days of Christmas break, with about 8 more to go. #notcounting

I knew the kids would be home from school this week. I know that every year. But the SHOCK my brain and nerves go through during the first few days of them being home never lessens. I completely forget what it's like to be home with all 5 of them for HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS. And we've been without a 2nd functioning car for about 2 weeks so even going for a quick car ride to break up the day wasn't an option. (never fear, we will get the car back tomorrow! MERRY CHRISTMAS!)
Family update in a nutshell?? Luke is smart and funny and taller than I'd like, and 10. Juliette is smart and sweet and helpful and 8. Jackson and Lincoln are cute and unique and neurologically diverse and 5. Levi is smart and funny and has a tiny attitude at times, and 2. Ryan is smart and funny and strong and exhausted and 33. I am 34.)

Anyway enough about all of that.
Welcome to my blog post where I talk about crap and how it makes me cry.


Before I dive into what's on my heart and under my fingernails, please note this disclaimer: I am fully aware of how good we have it. We have never experienced bankruptcy, or been forced to live out of our car, or experienced the loss of a child. We've never had any life-threatening medical conditions, experienced infertility, or prejudice. We are very blessed. But, as this is my blog and I get to say what I want...be ready for some complaining.

I'll just add that abundantly blessed people are not without heartache, pain, loneliness, frustration, or devastating life-blows. Sometimes it seems the MOST blessed of people are the ones who have to endure the greatest trials.  But you know that.

 OK so here's the deal. YES Christmas is coming and there are presents to wrap and rooms to clean and magic to make. YES right after the new year rolls over I'll be going on an executive retreat to New Orleans with the top 90 leaders of the company...YES I'm excited to start a brand new year and set goals for myself and my family...
But forgive me for being totally distracted because right now, all I can see is crap.
Like very literally, poop.
It's all about the poop.
Poop pooop crap caca feces shite dookie poo poo.
For those parents or just people in general who have a pretty PotteryBarn life, let me elucidate.

We have twins, they are awesome. They are 5. They are boys, and they are on the autism spectrum. 

CLICK HERE FOR A GLIMPSE AT THE DYNAMIC DUO!
Lincoln & Jackson's video 2016
Lincoln in the back, Jackson loving the camera!
They are smart, they are not nonverbal, but they have a VERY difficult time communicating, answering the simplest questions, or asking for anything. We DO NOT KNOW what their lives will look like as they grow. We DO NOT KNOW if they'll be dependent on us for the rest of their lives.

And I've never typed that or shared that publicly but that's been a dark and hideous fearweed growing ever-stronger and larger in my heart. Ryan and I always joked that even though we started having kids at a young age, it was fine, because that just meant we'd be free of kids earlier than our friends; we'd be traveling and living large at 45 instead of 65, and we'd clink our glasses together in congratulations to our successful parenting, because obviously our children would be living independent and prosperous, contributing lives.

After watching the twins' communication skills develop at a snail's pace over the last 2 years, that little dream has been growing dimmer and dimmer.

I want to stop for a sec and say that autism abilities can vary greatly.  What you've seen on tv or with your 2nd cousin who has autism may look completely different than my boys.  Aspergers is something people love to throw around as the "high functioning" form of autism...it generally means that you have some distinct social abnormalities and you process information very differently than others, but in general you can function in society, hold a job, hold a conversation, even get married and have a family. But this is not what the twins have. That is not what we see right now.

Right now we have been having some major regression in the toilet dept.
It's so comical to joke around years later about when your two year old smeared poop all over his crib because he learned to take his diaper off.  Poop crime scenes are not altogether unfamiliar to most parents--especially those with multiple children. But in almost all of those stories, they're isolated incidences. Embarrassing, and gross, and gone.

Not for us.
Lately, both Jackson and Lincoln (but mostly Lincoln) have decided that the toilet is a complete waste of time and it's better to just go in your pants.
Lately we've been having some awful crapisodes--I'm talking 3-4 PER DAY.
It's exacerbated now that they're not in school. They had never done this at school.
And I've tried reasoning, punishing, yelling, speaking sweetly, and positively reinforcing when they DO keep their underwear clean, but nothing is working.

When it happens the first time in the day, it sucks.
When it happens the second time in the day, it's annoying.
When it happens the third time in the day, it's depressing.
When it happens the fourth time in the day, it's angering.
When it happens the fifth time in the day, it's numbing.
When I tell them to go sit on the toilet to "finish", they scream and yell and cry for 15 minutes. When I come to check on them (and I say "them" because both of them have had their share of crapisodes) it can get even worse. In the past two days I've walked into all of these situations:
  • playing in the poopy-pee water
  • fingerpooppainting the entire bathroom, including their own bodies, the shower curtain, and every surface close to him
  • unrolling the entire toilet paper roll and dropping all of it into the toilet at once
  • squeezing an entire shampoo bottle out onto the bathroom floor and all over himself

 And I know it's horrifying as I type it. I'm sorry if this is TMI.  I just feel so sad about it. You never expect to still be toilet training your children at 5 years old.
Sometimes I am so upset about it I laugh. Other times I am weak and I cry.  And then I crawl into bed at 2pm and shut my eyes and try to fall asleep so that when I wake up Ryan will be home and he can somehow help us.

It's got to be the most pathetic scene from an outsider's perspective: while I have my big hunky five year old in the bathroom, poopsmells permanently entrenched in my nostrils, I am spreading this big boy's butt cheeks and desperately trying to get all the peanutbuttery poop off of him for the 3rd time that day, I have been resorting to pumping hand soap on the toilet paper before wiping because even flushable wipes aren't doing the job...and I'm either yelling at him, or crying. It's quite sad to reflect on it actually.


It's one thing to clean up the bathroom once a week, or even twice a week, because something went wrong.  It's a different story when it's happening with your FIVE YEAR OLDS (TWO OF THEM), up to 4-5 times a day.
 These are not little toddlers any more. We're talking completely gross, tar-like discharge sMOOOSHED into their underwear MULTIPLE times a day.  The kind that doesn't just roll out of their underwear if you leave it under some running water for a bit. This isn't the kind that will disintegrate if you hit it with a garden hose. This is more of the scrub brush and bleach variety.
What I think is most upsetting is they didn't HAVE THIS problem 6 months ago.
We had a season of success, with both of them!
But for whatever reason, in their sly little brains, they've communicated with each other telepathically and decided "HEY let's forget that we know how to use the toilet for a bit!"
So in a fit of ambition and determination I turned to google today, to find out if there was some super autism mom who has cracked this code already.

Come to find out, poop smearing and autism are commonly linked. I DONT KNOW WHY.
Some are theorizing it is a texture thing, a sensory processing thing.  Some argue it feels GOOD to them to sit in this goopoo.
I don't really care why unless it helps me to stop it.
Gastrointestinal issues are also commonly associated with autism, and some speculate the delayed potty training comes because they don't understand the sensations they're feeling and don't LIKE sitting on the toilet, because of its association with painful moments.
But I refuse to believe that is the complete reason because up until a few months ago we were having success in general.
So yes, Christmas is coming. And the New Year. And new beginnings.
I for one am hoping to put certain behaviors behind us permanently. Let's leave ALLL THE CRAP behind when we move into 2017.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed your Christmas pick-me-up! This blog is a special place for me, and whether I visit it 2x a year, or weekly, it helps keep me sane.
And I hope it has done at least a few things for you.
  1. made you appreciate your children's successful toilet training season
  2. made you smile at least once
  3. made you recognize your day wasn't nearly as craptastic as mine was today
  4. made you second-guess inviting my family to your house because honestly, it gives me great anxiety to imagine one of their crapisodes happening away from the sanctuary of our house
  5. made you even a little more aware of what autism can look like


And maybe God has a huge surprise in store for me--maybe the twins will in fact be the independent adults we hope they will be. I won't rule it out. I'm just saying during these times I am having a harder and harder time envisioning it. 
I hope you'll throw some high fives and prayers to the parents you know raising children on this spectrum of disjointed thoughts and broken communication.  It's crappier than you think.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Weekend Stream of Grace


My rockstar sunglasses from Walmart make me feel cool, but don't be fooled. This is the face of a tired mom, concealer carefully covering puffy eyes from last night's tears and dark eyeliner and pink lips to distract from the weariness of motherhood. 

It is a very emotional journey, this thing we call mothering. When you lose your cool, when you buckle under the neediness of your children, when at the end of the day and all the kids are in bed, and all you can do is cry because of the many  mistakes you made before the sun set, you just feel like God must've made a mistake for trusting you with those gentle hearts, go ahead and cry for a few minutes. 
But then, remind yourself that God has grace even for foolish moms like us.  I am here to testify, God is good and faithful, even in the middle of your struggle right now, he is already preparing a path through the wilderness and streams through the wasteland for you. πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌ 
Want to know what that stream of Grace looks like for me today? He gave me a job I could do from home, He's blessed my business enough that I can afford attending a conference in Orlando this weekend, all expenses covered by my Jamberry business. In just a few minutes I will pull up to my resort, check my bags and sit in on my first leadership meeting, where I get to represent my team of over 350 amazing men and women from around the world. I get to meet some of my team, network with other leaders, and be pampered by this amazing company I work with! 
Because Ryan is so supportive, and because of the kindness of my  family, I am able to take these next few days to get re-energized, refocus, and refresh. 
Today is actually my smartest sister's birthday, and she's spending it with MY children so I can drive to Orlando for this Jamberry International Conference.  #sograteful
What did I do to deserve a vacation like this, what did I do to earn a break from the exhausting nighttime routines of dinner, baths, bed, this time for me to just be me???? 
Nothing. 
And that's why they call it grace. 
Thank you to everyone who has supported my small business, and thank you to those of you who will continue to do so! I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and humbled to remember I can't do any of this life on my own.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Spectrum of Emotions



Hey team. Life’s been crazy. Surprise surprise.

Everyday there are close to 12 stories I could share that would be entertaining, terrifying, or tragic. But then I get tired and it’s the end of the day and in a few short hours we start all over again. And by the time I think to type something up, 1,405 other stories have already come and gone, and without cataloging them, they’re erased from my mind. It’s probably for the better--if I shared all the yucky, horrible, beautiful, wonderful, terrible things that happen in our world daily, it’d be too much for most. For your sake it’s better that I forget almost instantaneously what happens in my life.

I’ll just start rambling and see what comes out.
(Warning: I’ve just read through it and it’s a bit of a pity-party. So if you’re having a rosy, lollipop-of-a-day, don’t keep reading and ruin it.)

There's a storm brewing. School is out. Luke, my baby, turned 10. And I think I’ve gained about 5 pounds in 5 days.

I don’t know how that happened so quickly but here we are, fully swinging in the summer. It’s been 5 days since school’s been out and I’m SERIOUSLY struggling to find my groove with these munchkins. The twins have made great improvements in their communication with us over the last school year, but they remain the most demanding of my kids. They’re only really amused by a few things in life--their ipads, youtube, netflix, letters, numbers, shapes, goldfish, cheddar rice cakes, ice cream, etc. If those things aren’t in play, then there WILL be a meltdown, sooner than later.  So each day seems like a cacophony of grievances. Moans, groans, whines, screams, yells, shouts, cries--all of the above. And it’s really hard to cater to them all the time, to keep the peace, without doing them the disservice of not teaching them patience and self-control.

But if I let them scream out and freak out, I make Luke and Juliette suffer too as they are confined to a house of horror this summer.  (I don’t include Levi in the victims because he’s been contributing to the horror lately as well, hello awesome-2- year-old who loves to say no to everything.)


They were recently evaluated to enter speech therapy for the summer, and they did the preliminary screening to see where we want to start out.
Both boys scored on the same levels of a 2 year old for oral communication and demonstrating comprehension.
That was REALLY hard to type just now.
Because they’re 5 in September. But they can only express as much as a new 2 year old can.
Levi has already passed them in his ability to express and communicate.
And please don’t bother telling me “oh you just can’t compare siblings.” Because the big fat secret of parenting is that we DO compare.  Sorry to let that out of the bag.
I know better, but it still happens.
The moments where their delays seem unimportant or cute are slipping away. When a stranger asks a 1 year old what his name is and he doesn’t answer, it’s cute and innocent. When a stranger asks my 4 year olds what their names are and they doesn’t answer, it seems rude, or worse, shows them to be dumb, which I KNOW they’re not.

Ryan likes to remind me that comparison is the thief of joy.
I know who comparison is, no need to remind me. He’s the jerk who makes me cry when I’ve convinced myself that 97% of my peers have nowhere near as hard of a day as I’ve had. (Yes, I’ve pulled that number out of my butt.)
He’s the punk that tells me I have THE most rundown house/car/fill in the blank out of anyone I know. He really sucks and I hate him. Nevertheless, he lets himself in, and is the WORST guest, trashes my mind and it takes A LOT of scripture and quiet time to get him out.

 Check us out! A full morning of happiness and 0 meltdowns!
(I'd like to take a moment to digress. These are some amazing individuals in this picture. Every one of them blows my mind daily. Some more than others.)

Just this week, he stomped all over me.
There’s been a little cute series of toddler questions floating around social media, you’re meant to ask your toddler/preschooler this series of questions, and write down their first responses, and post them on your facebook page so everyone can get a good chuckle.
Enter: Comparison.
My boys are almost 5 and after reading through the questions, I KNEW this would be an exercise I would just have to not participate in, because there was NO WAY my boys would get through these questions. Things like, “Who’s your best friend? What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite food? How old is mommy?”

They barely answer when I ask them what their names are, so this little quiz was not meant for my boys on the spectrum. Actually, most of the time they do answer questions, but they answer incorrectly. Even though we’ve been working on it for years.
“What’s your name?”
“Mommy.” :)
“What’s MY name??”
“Mrs. Pinho.” (their teacher).
“No baby, what’s MY NAME?”
“4.”

So clearly, this little cute moment where I write down all their answers then share with everyone, was not going to be something we participated in.
But for some reason, (I dont know if I was feeling particularly miserable or hopeful, I can’t remember) I decided to ask them the questions.
And as predicted, I got sad.
They either didnt answer me at all, stared at me and smiled, or simply responded with whatever the last word was that I used. (“How old is daddy?” response: DADDY!)
This quiz was meant to be a cute little highlight of our children’s innocence.
And it is exactly that, for most… because most parents can laugh at their child’s incorrect answer, KNOWING that in just a short period of time, they’ll be able to answer them all correctly.
But for us, it’s just another mark in my life where I am left comparing. The boys will continue to improve, I know that. But at what rate?? If by 5 they respond as a 2 year old would, then by 10, will I be able to talk to them like they’re actually 4? Is that too hopeful?

But no one has those answers. No one can tell us that.  In the meantime we just move in and out of our day, celebrating the most UNDERVALUED moments in other parents’ lives, like when your 4 year old calls you by your name, or when he says hi and notices you walked into the house.
In the meantime we just avoid taking them to the grocery store, restaurants, the movie theater, the mall, the doctor, the dentist...really anywhere that will make them feel uncomfortable, or make other patrons feel uncomfortable.  In the meantime we eat chicken nuggets and corn dogs, we don’t eat oranges or bananas in front of Jackson because just the sight of us eating those will make him vomit.
In the meantime we make excuses when asked why we didn’t attend a big, family-friendly get together. In the meantime we do not attend Luke’s award ceremonies together, one of us stays home with the twins.  In the meantime we both cannot go see Juliette perform in her ballet, or in her class play.

And that’s just life. Not everything can be kodak. Sometimes there’s wet poop smeared across the legs of the child who decided to stand in the toilet and slosh around for a bit.  Sometimes someone escapes, bottomless, and goes streaking up and down the sidewalk until the neighbor knocks on your door.
I mean, that’s not so bad. Not every day can be lollipops and roses.

Some people can look at their day and say, it was a GOOD day. But for me, I feel much more comfortable saying we had a good moment. A good run. To my recollection, we’ve never had a good, calm, cry/scream/freakout-free day. And that’s just what motherhood is of this size family, of these ages. I know.
I just hope and pray that someday, we can go sit down together at a restaurant, as a family, without ipads, and just look each other in the eyes and appreciate the company we’re with.
Right now that sounds just as realistic as the day we will all clean up after ourselves.

The ugliest confession of all, that I hate about myself, is that I wish they were different.
That is so so so awful.
As I type it, I can’t swallow, my face is beat red and hot tears are rolling down. I know how horrible it sounds. I am broken over those thoughts, I cry more over those thoughts than any other thoughts I’ve ever had.
Because what mom wishes her kids were not who they are? I keep a strong face around people but behind the laughs and carefree facade I’m heartbroken over the unknowns of their future and heartbroken that they may be feeling loneliness, fear, isolation, and confusion all day in their little worlds but they can’t tell me about it.
I wish they were normal. I wish they could talk to me and play games with me and enjoy my company as my other children do.

But they’re not my other children.
They’re Jackson, and Lincoln.
And here are the things that make me stop crying:
I know God has a plan to prosper them, to give them a hope and a future.
I know God chose ME of the entire world of women, in the entire span of human existence, He chose ME to be their mother.


That’s it. Those two things make me dry my tears and finish the dishes, and those two thoughts help me look past the crazy antics and fear of the unknown.

I know if you’ve read all the way to this paragraph you’re probably emotionally exhausted with me, but I want to share that one of the most helpful blogs or articles I’ve ever read about this relates having a child with special needs to receiving an orange for dessert.
Sounds strange until you read the blog. It’s honest, and it’s everything I feel about parenting and working with J & L. Please jump over and read it to understand why raising oranges is difficult.
When Life Gives You Oranges
To wrap up, I’ll remind you all, I’m a dreamer. I’m a pray-er. Anything is possible. Right now we will just go day to day and trust that this is a season, and however stormy,  gray, and sometimes black the skies look, it will pass, and the sun will break through this.
Pray with me that I can keep my eyes focused on the sun and not the black clouds. I feel a dark summer brewing and ain't nobody got time for that.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Day in December

You know how they tell you time goes by faster when your older?
It's totally true. I turned 33 last week. Days melt into weeks, weeks into months, and suddenly I have a 9 year old, I'm in the PTA, and I found a shiny thing on my head the other day that I'm told is called a gray hair.
Days into weeks, weeks into months, and suddenly I'm 30freaking3.

I know you guys read this looking for just a quick glimpse into what's going on with us, but it's so hard to condense everything into a snapshot. I need to write more often.

I need to do a recap of my sister Julie's wedding weekend, but jumping back into my blog after MONTHS of being away, I feel ill-equiped. Tonight I just have so much on my brain-- I think I'll start small. I'll start with just a recap of today.

5am: Levi (19months) wakes up (crib still in our bedroom) and I bring him into bed to nurse and perhaps buy myself some more time in bed. *he only nurses morning and before bed...
I am a zombie and dont really know what time it is except after Levi's done nursing he proceeds to kick me in the throat, apparently not tired any more, at which point I claw at Ryan and ask him to tell me the time.
Somehow Levi and I fall back asleep.

7am: Ryan comes to kiss me goodbye, looking and smelling divine for work, I wake groggily to hear him whisper, " Hey baby, I'm going. all the other kids are awake, everyone has eaten, Levi is still asleep.." and he sneaks out.
I curl back into my pillow, excited to catch another 1-15 minutes before a kid busts in or Levi realizes it's legitimately morning.

7:15: naked twin B(Lincoln) busts in. "HI MOMMY!" with a huge smile and jumps into bed, narrowly avoiding Levi.  (NOTE: my twins have a limited set of verbal skills, both boys being on the autism spectrum, so to hear either greet me at all is a fantastic, beautiful, amazing feeling I don't take for granted)

7:16: Levi and I roll out of bed, and I pass out seconds of cereal to everyone who asks, which is everyone.  (Juliette and Jackson are watching some ABC songs on Youtube, Luke is on the computer playing some throwback Kirby or Dr. Mario games, Lincoln is dashing back and forth between living room and my room, Levi is eating someone's abandoned cereal bowl, dumping milk onto the floor and himself with every spoonful) We officially need to invest in a cow. We need a fresh GALLON of milk every 36 hours. I serve myself a bowl of cereal and groan at the world with my half shut eyes. I am not a morning person and regardless of how many cute babies or preschoolers are smiling at me, I am not thrilled.

7:30am: I feel more human. I kick Luke off of the computer to start getting ready for school. I ask Juliette and Luke to start getting dressed. 1 minute later they come to tell me they dont have any school uniforms washed in their drawers.
I head back to the laundry/storage room where mountains of clean laundry live in purgatory until I decide I will fold them. (NEVER)
I move clothes left and right from basket to basket, looking for 4 pairs of shorts, 4 uniform shirts, 4 pairs of socks, and 2 pairs of underwear (naked twins).
I only come up with 4 pairs of shorts, 2 uniform shirts, and 2 pairs of underwear.  no matching socks. Luke and Juliette have no clean shirts. I tell them they will need to recycle a shirt on the floor of their room that they failed to put in the dirty clothes basket to be washed. They understand of course, because this happens at least 3 times each week to somebody. Recycled shirts are actually a very earth-friendly approach to preserving our water resources, imo.

7:45am, pack twin lunches (ryan has already packed older two), tell Luke and Juliette to brush teeth.

7:55am, look for missing shoes and belts. tell Juliette and Luke to brush their teeth, this time in my angry voice, because they didnt do it the first time.

8am: yell at everyone while on my hands and knees searching under beds, for having misplaced their belts and shoes in less than 24 hours.

8:15am: get twins dressed, check clock.
8:15am: yell at everyone because we're going to be late and no one seems to care.

8:25am: do Juliette's hair, sign Luke's planner, sign twins' daily report, still need to put bra on and brush teeth. check clock.  decide to put bra on and skip teeth. Put shoes and socks back on twins because they took them off. Throw a tshirt on Levi and change diaper.

8:30am: yell at everyone to get in the car. Convince twins to get in car.

8:35am: give lecture on why I do not like to yell, and apologize for yelling, and then finish up with a highlight of all the things we (#byweImeanyou) could do better tomorrow.

8:45am: older two get dropped off, continue on to 2nd school for twins.

9am: park and get Jackson out first, Lincoln 2nd, and Levi last, hoping twins dont run out into parking lot while I get Levi.

9:03am: Just about to pull Levi out of the car when I smell something horrendous.
9:03am: check Lincoln's pants. BINGO. STINK has been located. (Jackson is totally potty trained, Lincoln never has pee pee accidents, and never has accidents at school at all. But he DOES have #2 accidents, which he holds until he's at home, or in the car. You'd think I'd be better prepared)
9:03am: no spare clothes, no wipes. just me and sir stinkytown. I find a few Wendy's napkins, a half-empty bottle of water, and Bath and Body sparkly hand sanitizer, strip Lincoln in the car in the school parking lot and wipe this peanut butter poop that smells like Thanksgiving leftovers 4 months old, wipe it from his cheeks and legs. undress him, toss gloppy underwear into old publix shopping bag, slather sparkly pink hand sanitizer on his bottom, and pull his pants back up commando.

9:05am: proudly march into class, feeling victorious that we made it, tell the teacher Lincoln is commando, wish them success, and kiss them goodbye.

9:06am: realize today is a half day and they're all only in school until 1:20. Drive home not thrilled by this revelation.

10:20am just Levi and I, we read books, play with Christmas ornaments, and watch tv and eat snacks. Too many snacks. Remind myself to stop eating so much and decide tomorrow I will eat better. I drink iced coffee and feel my strength returning.

10:40am put levi down for his nap, start working on my Jamberry business, putting holiday customer appreciation cards together and answering the 42 notifications that have popped up in less than 8 hours while I slept.  It's kinda weird to say I "work" on facebook, but I totally do, and am absolutely in love with it. My team of over 170 people has been killin it and I'm always so excited to jump on facebook and see how they're doing or what they need from me. This is a part of the day I find invigorating and refreshing. It's my me time.
Speaking of selfish, I really need to get back into my bible study routine. I need that daily and not being grounded in God's word is probably why I have been flying off the handle so quickly lately.

11:59am: Ryan comes home for lunch, but today he changes clothes and goes for a run in the park.
I keep jammin. When he comes back he only has time for a drink and some snacks to go, we briefly talk about this week's agenda, I will be gone some nights this week as I volunteered to sing in our church's huge historical fiction production of Christmas 1914 in World War 1, so we discuss logistics of the week, and then he's gone again.

12:15pm: Levi wakes up. G-R-umpy. I offer him foods and drinks, and he settles in. He's just like me in that way. He eventually entertains himself in my sight while I keep working.

12:55pm: start cleaning up all my stamps and envelopes, and grab some to-go snacks. We pick up twins first, then Luke and Juliette. We're home by 1:45 but I need to pick up some Jamstuff from a consultant in the next town so we head 30 min south to grab this stuff. Twins are cranky and tired.  Lincoln falls asleep on the drive. I start singing Christmas carols to practice for my church play which opens tomorrow night and runs for about 2 weeks.....
But Jackson does not want me to sing, he wants an Ipad, and he wants to be home.  I can't give him anything he wants, so while he screams, I apologize to the older kids for having to subject them to Jackson's fit, and I keep singing.
After yelling for about 29 minutes, asking for his Ipad and just throwing himself all about his carseat as best he can, he finally falls asleep. We make it back home.

3:35pm:We get back in the car to take Luke to his Speed Academy and Juliette to gymnastics.

4:00pm: Twins, Levi and myself get home, read a book with each twin, (they have to read to get their ipads from me) and pass out ipads.

4:20pm: We now get back into the car to pick up kids from their classes and head back home. I tell Luke and Juliette to put their belts, shoes, and backpacks in the correct place so we wont have any yelling the next morning. (it doesnt matter, they'll still somehow lose their belts before morning)

4:42pm: home again, and within minutes both twins are naked, and I smell something horrible. I follow the smell and it appears Lincoln made attempts to sit on the potty, but they were pretty poor attempts and it wouldnt be the first time this day I would wish I was born without a nose.   I find Lincoln walking strangely like a cowboy too many days in the saddle, text a picture to Ryan about the horrendous tasks I undertake at my day job, to which he replies, "gnarly" :) , clean Lincoln up, clean potty chair smear disaster, take soiled clothes to utility sink to rinse out, meanwhile Juliette speaks a mile a minute about her day and her gymnastics, and Luke is asking what he can do around the house to go spend some time with the neighborhood kids down the road, and all I want to do is get the caca out from under my fingernails.
5pm EVERYONE WANTS A SNACK. I pass out popcorn in bowls, pour drinks, and start seasoning some porkchops for dinner. I make mac and cheese as a side, and refill popcorn bowls for the small one who keeps clamoring at me while I cook.

5:55pm: Ryan walks in the door with dominoes...apparently I forgot during the frenzy of the evening that I texted him asking if he could pick up dinner.

5:56pm I feel crazy that I can't even remember asking him to get pizza, and yet there in my phone is the proof that I did. Now we have porkchops, mac and cheese, greenbeans, and pizza for dinner.

6:10pm, I throw on a sweater and run out of the door to church choir practice, thankful for the peace in the car ride, and for a husband who lets me escape from time to time, and a music ministry at church  that humbles me in their talents and abilities and provides me with this weekly refuge.

730pm: head home, help with bedtime routines (teeth, get twins dressed, twins get undressed, get twins dressed again, baths, take away ipads, screams, can't find pajamas, pull a prayer off of our December prayer chain (family Christmas tradition, write people's names, or groups of people, or issues we want to pray for on strips of construction paper and create a Christmas garland. Each night one link is pulled off and becomes the focus of our bedtime prayer).
Nurse Levi, put him in his crib (of all 5 kids he's the best at going to bed when he's supposed to). Twins continue jumping and flopping around in their room for another hour,  sing lullabies to older two, and flop on the couch around 9:15, listen to the twins thump around and giggle. Ryan goes to work to grab some stuff to work on for the night, and then to Publix...because we're out of milk.

9:20pm: This is when I do not clean the kitchen, fold clothes, or any other selfless task.

9:20pm-10:45pm: Continuously re-enter the twins' room to demand they lay back down, stop taking their clothes off, and stop jumping. At some point in this time frame, Lincoln falls asleep.

10:45pm: Jackson is still not asleep, tossing, jumping, or standing at the door yelling" I want mommy please!"

11:00pm Jackson falls asleep.

11:01pm Ryan has been home for awhile, but now falls asleep on the couch. I work some more with my Jamberry team who's across the world and just now entering their afternoon, briefly look at the PTA newsletter I need to edit next week, and continue some research concerning the truth about sex trafficking for a fundraiser I'm running, to benefit an amazing nonprofit in Jacksonville Fl called Rethreaded. They exist to help women who've escaped the sex trade through healing therapies and job trainings. If you'd like to learn more or donate directly check out their site rethreaded.com, and to shop my Jamberry site so that you can grab your fave nail products and I can donate my commission back to them, shop here: mclean.jamberry.com . (Christmas shipping deadline is Dec 18 FYI) You can also follow along and just learn more in our fundraiser on facebook: Rethreaded Fundraiser with Jamberry
1:30am: I'm still here, relishing this silence and not wanting it to end, to wake up and start again.
But it will, so I must sleep. I live to fight another day.

As we part I'm going to give you and myself some very good advice, that I can never seem to remember in the midst of the chaos.
To all you mamas and papas struggling in this season of parenthood, where little humans want all of your attention, and they make disgusting poopy messes at 4 years old and  it seems there's no end in sight...when you're in this season, please be reminded, you're not alone, and though the days seem long and you want to pull the hairs from your head and theirs, remember you are not alone. I know there are behind the scenes moments that lead up to you losing your temper and your mind, and I know it's hard. You're not alone. I also love to remind myself and you,  that God chose me to fill this role, out of the whole world, He picked me--just as He has chosen you in the role you're in.

At the end of the day, I am grateful he chose me, regardless of the challenges that arise. The bags under my eyes may tell a different story, but that's the truth.
 The blessing  is actually that he chose me at all.

That's all folks. I'm off to bed. I'll be back SOON to recap my sweet sister's wedding weekend! So many great stories, it'll be hard to focus on just one, and it'll be even harder not to poke fun at all the people who said or did dumb things that weekend.  :) I'll do my best.

www.mclean.jamberry.com
www.rethreaded,com
fundraiser:
https://www.facebook.com/events/357738581080546/

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summing up the Summer '15


Summer is here! Five children home and accounted for!
Did I mention having twins is challenging?

Did I mention having twins on the autism spectrum is even more challenging?

Did I tell you we finally got brave and removed their crib rails? So they can roam about the room freely? Dumping drawers of toys and jumping on each other and removing mattresses and slamming doors? :)

Did I mention potty training ASD twins is really super fun? AND REALLY GROSS??

Well just in case I didnt....it is. IT IS!
I will try to sum up our summer so far but I will tell you right now, this post will not read smoothly. My mind is as jumbled up as our calendar.



We finished up a great school year, Luke is changing from adorable to handsome before my eyes. He's smart and funny, albeit easily distracted and many times unfocused.   We really wanted to get the kids involved in some activities this summer, and because my Jamberry biz has been such a blessing, it's given us enough money each month to commit to some specialties for the kids. So Luke is taking this awesome sports class called Weston Speed Academy. The Speed Academy teaches general sports readiness and physical endurance, character building and innovative physical training. Sounds fancy right?! He loves it. We're thinking with this class all summer he'll be more than ready to try flag football in the fall. And swimming is going well too, and Juliette is happy to attend her swimming lessons with Luke, and also take gymnastics classes. I am also looking into piano lessons for both of them because Jamberry is giving us that cushion in our budget to do things we couldnt do before!
The twins had an awesome year with their early intervention teacher, Miss G, who really was sent from God. They were with her and her awesome aids M-F, from 9-3pm. They learned so much, as did I. I suppose I'll never stop learning with these two.
But all good things must come to an end. Miss G was pleased and proud to tell me she was recommending them to move out of her classroom in the fall, and into a different PReK teacher's class (one who still has a special education degree but her students are a little less dependent than those in their original class). Remember, they were born Sept 13, so they aren't VPK eligible until Fall 2016. So I was kinda hoping they'd stay with Miss G for another year because she was so great with them!
When she told me, on the last day of school, that next year they'd be moving onward and upward, I smiled...but inside I wasn't jumping up and down. This teacher REALLY took care of the boys, and clearly loved them. She paid special attention to their personalities and made their school year very fun and simple, and encouraged Ryan and I IMMENSELY for doing a great job with them at home. She moved me to tears with a thank you card she delivered on that last day.
I just want her to teach them forever, is that so much to ask?
But apparently they dont need her intense intervention techniques anymore, and it's time for them to be challenged in new ways. We'll be meeting a new teacher in the fall, hoping she will fall just as hard for the boys and love them with the same devotion.


We took a couple weeks break after school let out,  and then started a cool Extended School Year option that allows them and their classmates to continue attending school for 4 weeks over the summer to keep them from regressing over these months at home.  (at a new school though-- with new teachers)
There are some transitional tears but they like it for the most part. But that first day drop off was hard.
On the first day I was running 10 minutes late(surprised?), so I had to bring them into the cafeteria instead of into the classroom.
*NOTE: they have never had to eat in a cafeteria. In the school environment we just left, the 3year olds with ASD got to eat IN their classroom, in the safety of the known and predictable.
So this was entirely new to them.It was loud, LOTS of people, and I should have known better. Jackson immediately stuck his fingers in his ears and started crying, and did NOT want to come in. I brought them over to their table and tried to console jackson, who just melted into the floor, fingers in ears, crying as loud as could be.
Lincoln looked at his brother, his bottom lip quivered and stuck out, and he started to wail with the same decibel commitment. I watched the heads in the cafeteria swivel in our direction, and several older children drop their breakfast and put their hands over the ears.
Some of them even dropped their head to their knees in anguish. I felt awful, for the twins, for the teachers, for the other students...everyone was a victim.
I tried to console Jackson but he couldnt collect himself. The aids (thankfully some of them having already worked with the twins from their class all year long) came over and helped J get to the table and sit, but I left quickly knowing my presence wasn't helping. I walked out as fast as I could without running, my head drooped a little so those passing me couldnt see my tears collecting, and jumped back in the car.
The teacher and I decided for now it's best for the boys if I just bring them AFTER breakfast, and have them come straight to the class.

Some of the days Jackson cries when I leave. Some he doesn't. Overall I know the boys like going, they are happy when I pick them up and they aren't always sad when I drop them off.
We've also added 3 hours of speech therapy into their week, so 3 days a week we go pick up the twins, bring 1 to speech therapy, go home with 4, then 45 minutes later we get back in the car and switch out the twins, go home for 45, then go back to pick up the twin at therapy.
FUN! :) But the therapist is very nice and great with them and they seem to enjoy being with her.

Since the boys had such success in Miss G's class, I tried to replicate at home a visual schedule that they used in class. I printed and laminated over 75 little visual cue pics to help schedule our day. But it was a lot to keep up with. Just from wakeup to lunch time there were over 12 cards on their schedules. All day I spent moving things up and adding more schedule until it was bath and bed. There's one for potty time, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, trampoline, tv, ipad, brush teeth, get dressed, bath time, playdough, pool, puzzles, etc. I included Luke and Juliette, so their pics had chores, learning, playstation, computer, make bed, etc. After 2 days of it I was beat.
I couldnt keep up with it. It was Levi walking over and tearing down the pics, the twins grabbing the parts of the schedule they liked and trying to do them out of order, Juliette reminding me that I forgot to put swimming on the schedule since it was a swimming day...
Just too much.
The speech therapist suggests I only keep 4 activities on the schedule at a time--anything else and it's overwhelming. I may try to downgrade.  But currently the long pieces of velcro sit vacant on the wall--a reminder of the system that I implemented, that failed.
Miss G's Schedule





We just finished Vacation Bible School at our church, I taught the PreK music classes. It was fun! Tiring, but fun. I'm grateful for the chance to serve and be part of my kids' church activities, but I'm also grateful VBS only ran until noon each day though. :) PreK energy is no joke.

I'm teaching a Mommy and Me class on Saturday mornings for the summer, ages 0-1 and 1ish to 5. Ryan watches our 5 kids so I can go and facilitate this learning group with moms in the community. The awesome Buggy Bunch, (nonprofit in Treasure Coast focused on faith, family, fitness, and fellowship) pays me to teach the class and provides us with great educational instruments and learning toys. We talk a little about educational and developmental milestones during the formative years of 0-5, but mostly we just have a good time playing with bubbles and parachutes, and singing songs together. :)
I'm NOT made to teach PREK children but I can fake it til I make it.

In Danielle's personal bubble, I'm working Jamberry with serious aspirations to provide a steady part time and someday a full time income for us. Sounds like crazy-talk but I know it can happen if I work on it. If you know me, you know I say this with all modesty, but I am made to lead and teach. I find great joy in it, and since I joined Jamberry in September 2014, my team has grown from just me, to currently 87 women.
87!!! The company has an incredible compensation plan and it's simple, which attracts women who want to add to their income, but it's also a network of beautiful people, and it provides a social outlet for many of us who thirst for that. Others join my team just because they love the product and want a discount for themselves.
But to put it simply, the reason my team has grown is because the cute little nail designs are just easy to share, fun to wear, and girls just want to have fun.
Ryan supports my Jamberry goals because I showed him where I am, where I started, and where I hope to go, and he believes I am capable of the highest levels of leadership. He supports me so much so that he'll fold an extra load of laundry or do an extra load of dishes, so I can get online and work my jambiz when he comes home from work.
Yep. He's awesome. I also told him I'd buy him a boat someday if he keeps it up.
He continues to hold me up when I'm down and he keeps all of us in check. He gets to work early and most nights he stays late, because his work ethic is like no other. He takes on tons of jobs at work, and kills himself to make deadlines, to keep clients happy and to respect his employers. He comes home smiling, so I dont get too upset that he also leaves us smiling, because I realize he isn't happy to distance himself from us, he's just happy in general. He greets the kids with hugs like he just got back from deployment, he throws a tshirt on and takes them all out back to jump on the trampoline. In his spare time he is at home depot picking up materials to fix windows, buying shelving to create an office space for my jamberry biz, or presently getting wood to build twin beds for Jack and Linc.  Sometimes you can find him mowing the yard or working on his dad's car. He also tries desperately to squeeze a new experience in every weekend for Luke and Jbelle, (twins can sometimes be included depending on the activity) whether it be exploring a new park or beach, or taking a new route on bikes. I'm just left to sit here and wonder how I got so lucky.

Levi is Levi. He is walking and super smiley and loves loves loves when he's read to. He holds up his finger to show his age, he points to his head and hair when prompted in certain songs, and he sticks out his tongue on cue. He waves bye bye, and he calls Ryan "dada". His head is still enormous but it's pretty symmetrical. :) He continues to have follow ups to monitor skull growth until he's 4 or 5.


Last thing before I go...
Next weekend we start a new Parker tradition. This is the brainchild of my dear sister Brandi who realized about 4 years ago that our siblings will soon be too spread out geographically to see each other regularly, and she surmised that the only time we'd ever be together in one place would be for weddings or funerals.
So the plan was set years ago. Starting in 2015 and every 5 years after:


ALL PARKER CHILDREN AND THE TWO PARKERS THEY CAME FROM MUST SET ASIDE A MODEST BUDGET FOR A PRESCHEDULED WEEK-LONG REUNION (SPOUSES AND THEIR CHILDREN INCLUDED) TO OCCUR EVERY FIVE YEARS IN THE MONTH OF JULY.

So this will be our first go at it. We've rented a big beautiful house in Winter Haven Florida, and Mom, Dad, Brandi Danielle Julie Samantha Kimmie and DJ (and spouses, and children) will be arriving on July 4th to spend a week together.
I dont remember the last time I had a week long vacation, if ever. I'm not sure if it will actually feel like a vacation (if you've ever traveled with and displaced young children you know what I'm talking about) but I'm excited to see my people!!! 
Best believe, there will be an epic blog post in the near future to highlight our time together. 
Thanks for keeping up with the McLeans through this mediocre blog, I DO love to write and keep everyone in the loop, so thanks for caring to read all about what's happening in our cuckooforcocoapuffs family. Ryan is a pretty private person but he supports my blog and letting you guys in (I THINK! I honestly dont think he can read to the end of my blog posts...he falls asleep).

Jackson finally smiles when he knows I want to take a pic of him!
Jackson
Lukas and Lincoln



 I dream of the kids getting older, of when things will be easier, of when life will slow down and Ryan and I can enjoy an easy day without crying, without potty chairs, and when sleep is less erratic. But in reality...when things slow down and the kids are grown I will cry and mourn these exact days being gone, when chubby babies have grown into adults  and there are no more diaperbags needed, my heart will break with the heavy truth that our precious season together as a young family is over.
So I can't dream of the future and wait for bluer skies.
I just have to remember how quickly life is moving and how amazing and beautiful this part of our story is becoming.
I pray even as you read this you consider the beautiful parts of your life and focus on those. Look past your figurative dirty diapers and focus on something amazing that is happening right before your eyes. Changing your perspective changes everything.

 Don't wait.




Wednesday, March 11, 2015

So Many Things: March


So many things.  Where to begin? 

First me. :)
I’m keeping my schedule busy, because that’s what Parkers do. I joined 3 different bible studies and after I drop the kiddos off at school, Levi and I head off to a different study on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. I am loving singing in church choir and on the praise team, which rehearses Wednesday nights and now Saturday mornings getting ready for Easter.  I’m signed up to teach the preschool music for VBS this summer, I serve on my sorority alumnae chapter’s exec board (although admittedly do next to nothing in my ‘office’), and I’ve recently told the PTA at the kids’ school that I can serve on the board if needed.  I’ll attend next Monday’s meeting to check it out.  J FUN!
I don’t know why. I just see a vacancy in my calendar and I want to fill it! I just enjoy being busy, I don’t like empty calendars. Ryan is the exact opposite, he does not want to see a busy schedule. So we compromise. I don’t show him. :)



My real life Jamsisters!
Jennifer Harmon, Business Development Director
Keri Evans, Founding Sister of Jamberry
Adam Hepworth, Jamberry CEO,
husband to Jamsister Christy



JK JK. I show him. He is a trooper.
So that brings me to my newest time sucker, JAAAAMBERRRY! YES, I say it with enthusiasm, even while typing it. You already know, since you are my friends, that I am head over heals in love and involved with this awesome company.  All these pics you see here are from our regional conference a couple months ago.  I will try to explain Jamlife to you without sounding like I’m selling to you, but it’s hard. I will try to just tell you why it’s been sucking my time.
I bought the starter kit because I wanted to fill some of my empties. I thought “EH. What the heck. They’re only nail stickers.  I don’t really have to LEARN about nail stickers. If I don’t enjoy being a consultant, I’ll just work to pay my kit off and call it a day.” I remember clearly the night I asked Ryan if it was cool if I bought a kit. He said sure, because he loves me and says sure to almost all of my crazy notions. You should find yourself a Ryan if there are any left, I highly recommend them.
So then I actually put some on (I know, most people try then buy. Not me. Rebel status.)  and I was just in love! I like pretty nails but painting them was stupid b/c they smudge or chip in .5 seconds, and I didn’t have the money or babysitters to go out and get my nails done all the time.  So I just had naked nails. But now I have pretty nails all the time! I can have soft neutral tones, funky graphic prints, feminine floral patterns, or festive shamrock nails, and I can do them myself, at home,  and each mani costs me less than $3! UM SO YEAH I’m SOLD.

But that’s just the product part, and that’s like, only a fraction of the pie. One of the other reasons I am sucked into Jamland is because I’m able to bring home dollars, just for sharing how much I love the jams I wear! SORRY I SHARE so much, I really do try to moderate it.  It’s just tough because it’s fun. I love getting to communicate, encourage, and be encouraged by other fun and excited women. Our team is just full of life and love and giggles, and we're all working Jamberry because we have a little dream that it can give us some sort of financial or personal freedom.
And the more I share what I love, the more others want to be part of it, the more others want to check it out for themselves, and that all means I am building a team, and making more money than I expected. I saw Jamberry as a possible budget helper, but now I'm seeing myself down the road, and it looks brighter and bigger than just a budget helper!  I am working with a team of 37 right now and it’s not getting any smaller…

Seriously, Ryan jokes about the day he’ll be able to stop working because of my jamfunds, but if I keep working at it I could make a full time income, staying home, doing this Jamberry thing!  It’s not even a far off, 10 year plan thing… it’s like a five year thing at most… It’s like a very real possibility thing. So I can be a stay at home mom and help financially?! I contemplated becoming a proofreader or writing a children’s book or something to help make money while staying at home. But instead I found Jamberry. Or God let me find Jamberry. 
Connie Lasita and Alison Dudney
Super Jamberry ladies!
Which brings me to a lesson learned in my obsession: Don’t let your hobby or job become so big that you can’t see anything else. I am keenly aware that God brought Jamberry to me as a blessing, but if it becomes a stumbling block in my relationship with Him I KNOW like any good dad, He’ll remove it QUICKSTAT.  So I’m trying to balance home life, wife life, mom life, and my spiritual life (which all totally overlap btw) with my Jamlife. I’m trying to not only balance them, but weave them expertly together like a tapestry, so that they’re actually more beautiful because of the threads around them, and they’re not in conflict at all. 
It’s a challenge, but I accept!

So. On to my other threads:


Luke is getting tall and has an F in math. J He’s also been sick for a couple days. His awesome teacher called last week to say he’s doodling way too much, he isn’t focused, and he doesn’t follow through. In the beginning she said she excused some of that b/c he had A’s and B’s (which he still does, except for that pesky math F) but now she says she’s concerned it isn’t getting any better.
All I can think of is Sebastian from Never Ending Story.
J He’s a dreamer. What can I say? So we’re working on keeping him focused and bringing the F up before report cards come out. He’s funny but he treads on thin ice when he brings his sarcasm into a convo with adults, and we’re trying to get him to reign it in, he can’t always be looking for the punchline when he’s dealing with adults.  He took some afterschool gold lessons this month and really liked it. We’re still trying to find his niche. He would argue that his niche is gaming. So the battle is on.  

Juliette is a magic light fairy who happens to live with a human family. She is funny and light on her toes and helpful, she’s high and low in a split second when she’s tired, she’s the boss and then the servant, and we aren’t really sure which it will be until she wakes up for the day. She wears her junior jams proudly for her mama and shows them off at school and gymnastics.  She’s in kindergarten and cries when she can’t find her homework.  She wears handmedown pink fringe boots (thanks Tanya!) and wants to put a show on for anyone who will watch. She’s been a little sick, and she cried when she learned Lincoln was assassinated this week.  It’s been a tough week for all. 


Jackson and Lincoln are still enjoying school with their early intervention class for 3 yr olds on the spectrum for autism. At their parent teacher conference (which is just weird for all you parents out there, going to a conference for 2 kids with one teacher, it’s hard not to compare them!) their teachers had wonderful things to say about their improvements, especially Lincoln, who’s made the most gains. Jackson is a bit more social in general since day one, and he’s also more volatile. When something doesn’t go according to his expectation he has a harder time adjusting. It’s interesting to see these 2 seemingly identical twins show so many similarities, and then show so many differences simultaneously.
Potty training is going well too! Jackson is a little more advanced shall we say? But we’re SOOO close to only buying diapers for one baby, and I can see the joy spread across Ryan’s face at the thought!
He likes to say the 8 years of buying diapers is finally coming to a close. That sounds a bit dramatic to me, but he’s a dramaqueen. :)

Ryan, as usual, is the rock of the family. He keeps his cool when people spill their milk or when I haven’t done the dishes or laundry in 3 days. He jumps on the trampoline with his kids the minute he walks in the door, only after giving me a smile and a kiss. He grabs Levi from my hip when he gets off the trampoline and helps plate dinners with the other hand.  He baths kids while I’m doing jamberry stuff, he sneaks out before I can even look up again from the computer and he’s brought me a starbucks coffee and a redbox.  He wakes up before me and makes lunches for the older two, runs out to get a full gallon of milk, loads the dishwasher, and then quietly kisses me goodbye without waking the baby in my arms. He jumps on his bike and heads to work, leaving me with the car and a full gallon of milk, two essential components to a successful morning.   
Levi is the happiest and cutest little redheaded baby I ever had. He crawls like a champ and is pulling himself up to standing. He weighs around 24 lbs at 10 months.  We have a follow up for his head this Friday in Orlando, I feel a large softspot that I never noticed before in an odd place and we are going to check it out then. He’s otherwise a great companion to me in the strange quiet of my days. I didn’t expect the twins to be in school this long until they entered kindergarten in 2017, and here I find myself with just baby levi from 9am-3pm everyday. That’s another reason why I like to busy myself with bible studies and business. I am supposed to be busy. 

 
Does that cover everyone?! I’m sorry it’s been so long since Ive given my update. I’m going a mile a minute these days and just trying to enjoy all the sweet parts of this life.  I miss all of you who I don’t get to see anymore but I’m grateful for being able to use this blog as a way to let you in, to peak into my window and see a small scope of what is happening in the McLean world. It’s fast paced, and it’s dirty. But it sure is beautiful.