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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 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. 

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 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???? 
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?”

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.