Lessons from THE summer list

Ah…the ol’e blog.  It’s been so long since I’ve sat down and put words to my thoughts.  At least its been a long time since I’ve done it publicly.  There have been pages and pages of emotions spilled in blue and black ink, oozing all over my journals as I’ve processed this summer. Scattered throughout this post are photos of our summer.  Everyone looks happy and content, all appears to be so well!

I started out the summer with such hope.  I had energy and excitement – even made a “Summer List” and posted in on the wall.  It fell down during the night – an unfortunate omen I did not heed.

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We had a plan for everyone – Desta was at camp and then summer school, Tobin was in sports and Caroline was traveling the world.  I had learned my lessons from last summer – I was committed to being “the best flexible” mom this summer. I was going to work in the yard, transform the dirt into beauty.  My garden would feed us all winter long and the deck would FINALLY be pressure washed.  We were going to hike and camp, exploring Colorado as one big happy family.  Every night we’d fish in the nearby reservoir and I’d finally be 100% vigilant with gluten-free living.

Goals are good.  Heck, they are necessary.  However, I overestimated what could be done this summer.

There were so many moments of raging and screaming.  I am actually surprised our neighbors did not call child protective services as it sounded like war happening in our home on a daily basis.  As soon as the screaming commenced, I’d yell “Get the windows” as we frantically sprinted around the house slamming windows shut (thank God for air conditioning!) Camping trips happened and for the most part, were successful.  However, we learned the hard way that while the idea of taking a pogo stick to a campground SEEMS like a good idea, it’s really not – at least not at 5 am in the morning.

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We checked off that dang list.  Yep, we sure did!  But I have to admit that as the summer wore on, I hid the list.  Root beer floats meant hyperactive manic behavior until late at night.  Movie nights resulted in fights about “Not another Disney movie again…” Music nights in the park – was I high when I made this list?  There was no way our family could sit quietly for 5 minutes, let alone a concert with people around!

By July, I was DONE.  DONE with summer, DONE with being fun mom and most definitely DONE with being go with the flow mommy.

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Then one day I got a single text from Caroline.  A friend from camp last year had committed suicide.  I knew this beautiful soul.  I had met her and her family, saw them interact just like our family interacts. This lovely girl had an 8-year-old brother adopted from Ethiopia too.  All of a sudden, my “DONE” turned into deep grief.

How could she end her life?  Why did she end her life?  Her parents – dear God, her parents and brothers – how can you possibly recover from that? For almost 3 weeks I walked around so deeply wounded.  I found myself crying in the car, overwhelmed with such deep sadness for this family

Over the past two weeks, I’ve made some realizations.

  • While the summer list is good and can be fun, I made it so important that I forgot why I wrote it in the first place.  I had wanted to create fun memories with my kids.  That was the goal – not crossing off activities for the sake of completing them.

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  • We never know what life will bring.  Rather than retreating when the raging and anxiety reaches maximum levels, I need to lean in.  Each of us has a unique way of dealing with life.  I can’t flee when I need to be present.

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  • It’s okay to grieve and be sad. I had to sit in that sadness for Gillian and her family. I allowed myself to feel it and it was horrible.  Yet, each time I sat and cried for her family, I prayed for them, putting their deep grief before the throne of God, asking for a miracle…the miracle to continue on.

 

  • Feelings are okay.  While I can’t walk around and declare my wounds to the entire world, I need to be okay with being more vulnerable. We are designed to live in community with others. How can we experience any real emotions if we try to manage them alone?

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I did not make a list for fall fun.  I did not have goals for school.  In fact, I was sick in bed for the first 3 days of school – some weird stomach ailment that made me just STOP in my tracks and rest.  I didn’t write the cute notes, have signs for my kids to hold or even make “back to school” treats.  Instead, I have just shown up.  I sit in the car line and when my kids get in, I’m present. I’m working hard to leave my phone on silent when we are home.  I’m trying my darndest to be present.  While my present isn’t always happy and up beat, it’s authentic and real.

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If we want to bring hope to the world, we need to start at home – the hardest place, in my opinion.

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A backpack of healing

This blog is a running commentary of my life, thoughts and revelations that I don’t want to forget.  I’ve found that as our kids get older and busier, if I don’t write down my thoughts, I forget them.

It’s also my hope that perhaps one thing I say is an encouragement to someone – perhaps to simply feel that there is another person in this world who wrestle with the same things they do.

I love my Desta girl.  She has grown so much in the past year.  It’s been a joy to see her develop habits that help her.  It’s not been an easy road.  They have been a lot of potholes and bumps to navigate around and over.  Simple tasks are still a struggle more mornings than not.  Go to responses filled with anger and loud frustration happen often.  I cannot recall a time in my life that I’ve been emotionally and physically exhausted as I’ve been this year.  Brain trauma healing is not for the faint of heart!

However, I’ve been working hard to see her – not the behavior but the real her, the little girl who delights in building houses with Legos for hours.  This little girl who can go through 50 sheets of paper with drawings and writing – she’s the one I am looking at daily.

For the past few months, I’ve noticed Desta get her backpack in order and take it with her.  I honestly didn’t think too much of it – I was happy she had a task to do while we were all preparing to leave.  Then it dawned me while we were in Texas!  Desta had figured out how to manage herself.

20170402_194013093_iOSThis little girl, who for so many years has struggled with self regulation and hangry actions has figured out how to care for herself.  She fills her backpack with toys to play with, drawing materials, and snacks.  She knows EXACTLY what she needs, always including some sort of small stuffed animal.

You guys, this is HUGE. Desta has learned what she needs and she does it.  For those who have regulated brain trauma free kids, this behavior is a given right?  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But for my Desta, this is a monumental step toward healing and independence. She has realized how to cope in this world.

I am hanging onto this one today, celebrating and so very thankful that the hours and hours of therapy, of focused attention at home, of good doctors and medication – all this combined is helping heal my sweet daughter’s heart and brain.

Healing happens.  It takes a lot of time!  We brought our Desta girl home almost 8 years ago!  I am so thankful that for the living example I see every day of my daughter working hard to overcome obstacles.  She has taught me so much about determination, healing and hope.

the underlying lie of social media

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I have a love/hate relationship with social media.  There are so many awesome apps that allow me to post photos and then with a few clicks, produce a hands on photo album. Remember the days of scrap booking ladies?  Oh my — the weekends of cutting, taping, stickering.  I love catching up with other people, hearing how their lives are, seeing their kids.  It’s fun to travel vicariously through friend’s trips.  Social media, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.

However, there is this world that is easy to slide into – the world of “I’m not quite there yet.”  We typically don’t post photos of the massive tantrums (unless they are of our cute toddlers) or depression.  We shy away from airing our dirty laundry and instead, filter, crop and post our lives to reflect the world we prefer to believe we live.

As my children grow older, I’m more and more hesitant to blog and post about the realities of life. Right now, the lines are blurred between my world and theirs.  However, their stories are theirs and it’s often not my place to speak them to the entire world.

You’ve all seen my photos on Facebook.  We are smiling, traveling (Florida in March without kids – we’re lucky right?) We are celebrating and living big full wonderful lives. Yet there is an under layer to all those pictures.

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What you don’t see are the erratic emotions of each morning challenge and the wild manic ups and downs of unregulated behavior.  You don’t see the deep fears I fight every single day as my kids head into this jungle of a world.  The worry etched deep in my heart that this will be the day something tragic will happen, this will be the season of great despair.

You don’t witness the petty spats between me and my spouse, often brought on by not enough time together where we aren’t just utterly exhausted or discussing our kids.  Add in the season we are in, sandwiched between kids starting to grow wings to fly and parents who are in the late seasons of their lives.  Sandwiched between wanting to dream our dreams while knowing the effect the decisions we make now will have on so many people.

Social media is incapable of showing true life. Sure, I can take a photo and explain and hashtag it’s depth. However, that simply does not share the true burdens of life.

I have removed Facebook from my phone.  I have made a conscious decision to not get on the computer and  phone so regularly.  Instead, I have my journals and Bible in my car, books by my bed and a meditation app on my phone.

I want to see people the way I want to be seen.  I want to be kind because that’s who I am, not because I should.  I want to be authentic and real about life as a mom to a child who is broken and in pain.  I want to walk this second half of my life with eyes wide open to others. Want to join me?

Craving milk

I’m not going to paint a pretty picture and pretend the last several mornings have been great. Each morning I hold my breath, wondering what I will wake up to – will I be yelled at or just simply ignored? How long will it take to get my child to brush her teeth or put her shoes on?  How much hand holding should I do to get her dressed and take her medicine? It’s been downright draining.

I’m weary and worn.  I’m a taxi cab driver and a meal maker.  So many days I feel like my life has been reduced to the tasks I’m called to do, my roles vs. who I am.

This week at my Moms and Beyond group at church, Patricia, our speaker, shared from 1 peter 2.  I came into the morning so worn down.  It was another hard morning filled with yelling, frustration and not a very good hand off.  I walked into church and wondered how I could possibly be a leader, a mentor when my heart was so very tired.

God is gracious. When we are weary, He steps in if we are willing to listen.  Patricia read this verse and a picture came so clearly into my head.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.      (I Peter 2:2 NIV)

Newborn babies think, dream and long for milk  all the time.  They are constantly wailing for and desiring milk. Their cries are not filled until they are fed.

My mind went to Desta.  In those first few months of her life, I wonder how many times she cried for milk and it didn’t come?  How long did she cry for? How long did she yearn and suffer, wanting to be fed?

When those longings were not fulfilled, they created wounds in her heart and mind, in her brain.  Those scars and wounds are manifested today, with bouts of anger and frustration, with deep heart longings for belonging and love.

See, when the longings are not met, growth is stunted and there is not TRUE life.  Rather, there has to be unlearning and healing.  If only Desta could have had that milk right away, if only someone came right when she called, if only…there are so many if onlys!

It’s the same for me and my soul tending.  If I am unwilling to tend to my soul, read the Bible, hear the words of truth, my growth is stunted.  When I’m regularly reading, I find myself more patient.  I read words of encouragement and hear “I’m worth it.” I’m able to remember that I’m not the sum of my tasks.  I breath longer, sit still and walk slow.

I wish I could undo many of the things done in Desta’s early months of life.  I wish I could have been there from the beginning.  However, the lessons we are both learning together about healing have made us both stronger and better.  I cannot wish away the past but I can learn from it.

As I begin this Lenten season, I’ve taken a moment to pause and be still.  I want to keep growing, to be ever seeking goodness and joy rather than busy and task mastering.

 

 

 

Ethnic Hair Conditioning 101

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I remember when Desta was a year old, I was convinced she’d never have hair!It was so short, balding in spots and super dry.   We moved to Florida and the humidity was the hair friend!

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Since coming back to Colorado Springs, I’ve been on an eternal quest to help Desta’s hair keep growing and stay hydrated.  That is not an easy feat in this super dry climate!

I have watched videos, purchased hundreds of dollars of hair products, done braids, corn rows, turbans, you name it!  Finally, three months ago I was so frustrated with the price of hair product and how her hair seemed to have stopped growing.  I was online and found a recipe for hair treatment.  I figured, why not!  It was the best gamble I took so far in the hair department.

Now that we’ve been doing it three months and I KNOW it works, I thought I’d share it with you all!

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Each week, usually a Saturday or Sunday morning, I make a paste and slather it on her hair.  Actually, it’s a bit more of a science than that.  I section her hair, starting at the ends of her hair and then moving down to her scalp, I apply about a quarter size portion of the conditioning treatment.

The paste is comprised of avocado oil, olive oil, rosemary oil and Carol’s Daughter conditioner.  I usually do 1/4 cup of each oil, 1/2 cup of the conditioner and about 6 drops of the rosemary.  I ran out of my Young Living oil but that is my preference for adding to her hair solution.

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After all the sections are covered in the hair product, I twist out the hair.  Final step before Saran wrap is applying all extra hair product to the ends of the hair.

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We wind saran wrap around Desta’s head – about four large sheets – and she goes about her business for about 2 hours.  (All recipes have said use moist heat or warm towels. Have you tried to keep a warm towel on an active 7 year old’s head?  Also, all the moist heat options come with a $60+ price tag.  I wasn’t ready to commit to that until I KNEW this would work.)

We rinse and then I make a small cup of apple cider vinegar (about 1/2 cup) with water (around 1/2 cup).  After her conditioning treatment is rinsed out, I pout the vinegar solution on her head, rubbing her scalp. This helps remove the layer of build up on her scalp that makes her itch non stop.

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Once it’s all rinsed out, style as normal.

img_5383Desta’s hair is super soft since we’ve started doing this.  She rarely complains about her head itching.  Also, it’s become a fun tradition most weeks – one where I can pamper her and we get a lot of hand to hair touch – an important part of building those connecting neurotransmitters.

Revolved Half Moon Epiphany

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The weatherman has been wrong, multiple times in the past few days.  I’m trying hard to not be angry when I see 50 degrees for a week in the forecast only to wake up to snow and teen temperatures.  How much school do tv weather people attend to predict the temps for us common people?

The weather really influences my attitude.  Does that happen to you?  I wake up to dark cold skies, head to the gym and resolve during yoga to be calm.  Only thing is, when I leave the gym I’m surrounded by incompetent drivers.  Again, who teaches kids to drive these days?  Maybe it’s just me but when I drive on Powers, I’m surrounded by drivers who believe a RED light means GO.

So I start to spiral down the negativity ladder.  Nothing quite seems to work out how I planned it to. My clean neat plans are constantly torn up and shot to hell.  I drive MILES each day, working hard to remember the snacks, the homework, the soccer bags, water bottles and please, can you just keep the car clean for one day?  Please?

By the time I get home, I often find myself in a full on mood meltdown.  I want to reach for chocolate and wine but those two items can no longer be found in our home thanks to a new year’s resolution for clean eating.  I attempt to find comfort in tv but there is honestly nothing really worth to watch.  I head to my phone, finger flicking through screens of Facebook which just angers me as I read post after post about this crazy world we are living in now.  And I take it out on my kids, on my family, on my dog.  I’m short-tempered, short fused and frustrated.

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At my 3:15 pm Sunday yoga class this past week, I had an epiphany.  I was attempting a revolved half moon posture – not well mind you.  My balance was ALL OFF and I was getting so frustrated with myself.  In that minute, I simple stopped trying. I just focused my eyes on one spot of the wood floor and breathed.  The pose happened because I wasn’t trying any more.  I let go of all the expectations of how I looked, instead I just breathed.

My epiphany? I need to let go of all the expectations and thoughts of what I SHOULD be doing.  I have to simply live in the moment and thought, working hard to face and do the thing that is right before me.  No longer can I keep living in this world of shoulds and have to’s and expectation and noise.

Instead of letting all the busy around me distract me, I have been working on living the moment at hand.  It’s a whole heck of a lot of hard work.  It’s much easier to pull up the phone, scroll through other people’s lives and let bad drivers make you go nutso.

Practically what does this look like for me?

It’s choosing to celebrate a child’s hard work by buying a $4 gluten-free cupcake from his favorite bakery.  It’s putting away my 7-year-old’s laundry EVERY SINGLE DAY because that’s a task she is not able to do right now.  There are more important tasks we are working on right now.

It’s calling up my 15-year-old and offering to drive her to Young Life’s grilled cheese Thursdays AS well as bringing her the soccer bag she forgot.  It’s intentionally sitting down and sending my husband, whose love language is WORDS of AFFIRMATION, a long email about the things I’ve noticed about him.  It’s making fish tacos when I just want to serve popcorn.  It’s buying a few special “just because gifts” for a little 7 year old whose love language is GIFT GIVING.

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I’ve been reading more, journalling more, meditating more, allowing thoughts to sit and swirl in my mind.  I believe we are not to live distracted lives.  Blocking out noise can be done by simple releasing it and living in the moment.

 

Disguised in plain sight

I had an interesting experience this morning.  I walked into the dry cleaners around 7 in my usual morning uniform — Buff on head, no make up, work out clothes and my big puffy winter coat.  Caroline had a dress issue and I needed to get it resolved before her dance on Saturday.

For the next 20 minutes I had a great conversation with all the dry cleaners.  They worked hard to help me and at the end of the day, didn’t charge me a cent (Go Summit Cleaners!) It was taking longer than they thought so I left the store, headed to the gym and worked out.  I took a shower and dressed and went back to Summit to get the dress.

I walked in and was welcomed with a “Hi, how can I help you?”  I though it was strange as I’d been there just 2 hours before.  I gave the kind man my slip and he looked down at my name, up at my face and back down at my name.

Then with WIDE eyes, he exclaimed, “Oh, you were the one with the dress.”

I know I don’t look like a super model (ever) but I thought I looked rather cute in my workout no make up attire.  Perhaps my assumption was a bit off base because this poor guy didn’t even recognize me.  Good to know I can disguise myself with a simple hair drying and make up application.  Go me!

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Melody Headed TO the gym

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Melody AFTER the gym