Old Habits Die Hard…

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an avid reader.  I know, big shock, right? My husband refers to reading as my “habit” – saying it in a way that clearly implies he feels I could benefit from a 5-step program and a sponsor.  I found this amusing as hell, images of me locking myself in the bathroom so I could just get a quick fix… well, okay, he may have a small point.

Anyway, moving on.  I read a lot, and I’m not all that picky about what I will read.  I have my favorites, and I’ve got some preconceived notions about certain genres you’d be hard pressed to change my mind about.  But overall, I’m a pretty open-minded reader.

Usually, I’ll have four or five books going at a time so I can flip back and forth depending on my mood.  Take right now, for example. I’m in the middle of three different books on my Kindle, two hard copies from the library, one I bought from the used bookstore Tuesday, and two audiobooks.  And not one of them is the same genre.  For the sake of honesty, two of them are Stephen King books, but one is nonfiction, so they don’t count.  Which is irrelevant anyway. The pile of books I'm currently reading that dominates my nightstand.

The point of me telling you this is so you don’t roll your eyes when I tell you that I’ve become kind of a self-help book junkie.

Don’t get me wrong.  If the first chapter of a book tells me that my road to inner peace is paved with affirmations, I’m out.

I don’t need to waste my time reading books that are going to tell me all about the power of positive thinking.  We all know, on some basic level, that negative self-talk can be a buzzkill at best, and deadly at worst.  But we also know, or at least, I  know, that people who walk around all day shitting sunshine and happiness without fail are creepy and unsettling.  There has to be some bad in there to balance it all out.  Otherwise, how could you genuinely appreciate all of the good?

Over the last couple of years, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of self-help books.  From the ones that don’t really seem to have any intention of actually helping the reader, to the ones that scream “You are amazing and your imperfections are amazing, and you eat that second brownie because all of that amazingness deserves to be rewarded!” at you.  Actually, I’m convinced some of these books are actually designed to give you new, different problems, so you have to go buy new, different books.

See, it goes something like this:

I am going to love myself for who I am, warts and all.  I do deserve that brownie because I am amazing.  I am my best friend, and I don’t judge myself!

Then, two months later, after your doctor has told you that you’ve gained 17lbs, and you are putting yourself at risk of diabetes if you don’t stop eating brownies every time you feel the need to remind yourself how much you love yourself, you re-evaluate, and pick a different book.

God, I need to stop eating my feelings!  I’m going to start confronting my problems, and being the stronger, more assertive me!  I will no longer suppress my feelings with food, I am going to say it like it is from this moment forward!

Then, two months later, you may have lost a few pounds because you are no longer eating your feelings, but you’ve probably also lost some relationships along the way too.  Because nobody likes it when they’re merrily going about their own lives, and you suddenly show up with the most dominating opinion in the room.  About them.   Without any acknowledgment of your own issues.  Because you are too busy telling them what their issues are.  So, another book gets picked up.

Why am I so determined to self-sabotage?  Why do I drive everyone away?  I need to look at what motivates me!  Forget feelings, I need to focus on my actions!  It’s time to start doing more things for me! 

So.  First, you filled yourself with love in the form of brownies. Then, you swallowed your feelings in order to tell everyone else what their feelings were. Then, you decided the best way to prevent yourself from sabotaging yourself was to only focus on yourself.  Annnd you’re likely back to square one.  It’s baffling!  The cycle just goes around and around. A million variations of the same damn dance.

It’s like one of those walking escalators they have at Disney World and overcrowded airports. You get on it, and you’re going and it’s all good, and then you step off and the whole world feels disorienting for a second because your brain forgot what it’s like to stand still and just be there.

That’s what depression feels like, to me, anyway.  Like I forgot to show up and exist.  I could see all of the people moving around, going about their lives, but they were all too separate from me for me to reach.  And once I finally caught up to them all, nothing would come into focus.  It’s a bizarre and unsettling feeling, especially in the context of my life.  Which brings me back to all the self-help books.

Sometimes, I’ll read one, and think to myself Holy shit!  That’s amazing!  It’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?  And other times, I’ll read something and think to myself Do people really buy into this BS?  Because really, it’s all about what connects to your life, and your experiences.  The things that feel relevant to me could very well seem trite and ridiculous to you.  Which left me to wonder about a lot.  Is there a point to reading these books?  Yes, I think there definitely can be.

Honestly, sometimes it’s just to know that someone else’s head may be a bit more screwed up than my own.  But more than that, they serve as a reminder that there is no solution.  There’s no big answer.  No giant computer is going to tell me that 42 is what I’m looking for so I should just sit down, shut up, and be happy with it.

I want to explore the ideas more.  The main, consistent themes that pop up in these books.  I’d like to play a few games of comparison with them.  What is the difference between self-care and self-preservation, and at what point does it make you selfish?  When is it perfectly reasonable to be angry?  How angry is considered reasonable?  Where is the line between working on myself, and focusing on other people?  Does the hamster really need a second ball to run around in?  Oops.  Not that last one.  Bit of a slip up there.  We’ll talk about Jerry on another day.

The point is, there’s no universal system here.  No one-size-fits-all psychobabble found in a pretty package.  Hell, maybe you’re a perfectly adjusted person with no reason to feel anything but complete contentment and satisfaction with your life.  If that’s true, well… honestly, though, that’s just a bit weird.

For the most part, we all have our hang-ups.  We all have the things about ourselves that we’d like to fix, or change, or maybe just dust off and bring out to show around a bit.  And why isn’t that okay?

My husband and I got into an argument the other night about something inane, and in a moment of genuine frustration, he said “God!  You’re just so self-destructive!”  I sat there for a minute and just blinked at that.  Because, well, he’s not wrong.  I mean, he was wrong right then.  At that point, I was being self-righteous, which is totally a different thing.  But in my life, I have been known to be self-destructive.  And I sat there thinking, why?  I mean, what the hell is the point of it?

If you’re hanging on here for the answer, you’re going to be disappointed.  Because the truth is, I have no freaking idea why I do some of the stupid shit I do.  But I am becoming more aware of it as it’s happening.  And that counts for something in my book, because it’s a hell of a lot more than it used to be.

All these books have gotten my head circling around a lot lately, about the contradictory messages we are all fed by the world about ourselves.  Love yourself, but be skinny!  Don’t compare yourself, but be better than that kid!  Be frugal, but make sure you’ve got the latest phone with all the newest tricks!  It’s a joke.  Well, actually, it’s not.  It’s a terrifying reality.  We are living in a world full of push and pull, and there’s no resting time given.  There’s no time allotted to make up our own minds about our own feelings and that’s not okay.

Every day when I lay down for bed, I run through a list of all the things I didn’t do that day but wanted to, and I discard every excuse I gave myself for why I didn’t do those things.  Because in retrospect, in my mind, no excuse is good enough.   It doesn’t matter that I had severe cramps and wanted to crawl out of my skin and hide somewhere dark and quiet with a bottle of wine and a bowl of chocolate.  I should have taken a few extra minutes to talk to Mason about the story I was 99% certain he had completely made up.  Or, who cares that I only got a solid three hours of sleep and felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head, I should have made a real meal for my family.  Not. Good. Enough.  That’s what it always boils down to.

When does this shit stop?

Probably never.  I don’t know that I’ll ever fully be rid of the running dialogue in my mind, the one that gets so much worse when the world is quiet.  But the only way to find out is to keep trying.  So, that’s what I’ll do.  And in the meantime, I’m going to start tearing these books apart so I can find the candy centers.

Or is that Tootsie Pops?  Damn, I could use a brownie.

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Living In The Moment…

Today marks the beginning of the end of summer in our house.  School starts in exactly four weeks.  Which means we only have four weeks left to do all the things we want to do.  It also means I slowly start to adjust and tighten the schedule a bit, so it feels like less of a shock when the school days roll back around.  This summer has been pretty laid back so far.  I don’t think either of my children has gone to bed before 11pm, and they’re both sleeping in every morning – a massive and unprecedented feat for Kaleb, who typically wakes up with bad hair and a worse attitude around 5am whenever we have nothing to do.

There has, however, been one major upheaval this summer, and it’s making everyone crazy.  I took away the electronics during the weekdays.  Maybe this isn’t a big deal in your house, but in my house, it’s currently the leading cause of madness. Why would I do this?  When my husband and I both work from home?  When the boys only get along if there’s candy or money involved?  It’s like primitive torture.

I like it.

Here’s how this happened…

The first week of summer vacation was declared a universal “do whatever the hell you want just don’t fight about it” week.  They spent hours upon hours plugged in.  Mason simultaneously was watching documentaries about the tree frogs in the rainforest on his television while playing Bad Piggies on his tablet.  Kaleb had Minecraft tutorials running on his tablet while he worked on building and modifying whatever the hell they were doing on the video, on his Xbox.  It was quiet.  It was peaceful.  I sat outside and worked, got a bit of writing done, and occasionally snuck into the pool when no one was paying attention.

And then one day, I came home from yoga, all clear-headed and zen (and super gross because it was a hot Vinyasa class and I had actually spent 75 minutes convinced I was going to die), and I started making dinner while talking to my children.  I listened, as they sat at the kitchen counter and regaled me with stories.  I listened as they talked to each other excitedly, to the point where they started talking over each other, then yelling at each other, then…. Take a deep breath.

In.  Out.  Repeat.

I listened to my children talk for a week.  They talked while I cooked.  They talked while we walked through the grocery store.  They talked while we drove to doctor’s appointments.  They talked in the waiting room of the dentist’s office.  Because really, my kids don’t actually ever stop talking, even when they are alone.  Regardless, a pattern had begun to emerge, and it was starting to disturb me.  My kids had spent all of this time talking.  Every moment that we were together, they were gabbing and yammering on and on.  And not one time, in that whole week, did either one of them say anything about anything that was real.

They spent the entire week talking about videos, games, Minecraft, Skylanders, Youtube, and Portal.  No mention of chemistry (Kaleb’s current science love).  No mention of the bugs in the backyard or the frog on the mailbox.  No mention of going to the beach, or riding bikes. No harassing me about going back to the zoo, or the science center. Just virtual reality. Fake life.  I sat there, and all I could think was “Jesus.  Ready Player One really was a freaking cautionary tale.  What have I done?”  This is not the first time I have looked at my kids and wondered what I had done to them.  Nor, I’m sure, will it be the last.  But that doesn’t make the feeling any less jarring.

I sat there, half listening as Kaleb made Portal Gun noises and Mason talked about Granny (still not 100% clear on that), and I felt very, very sad for my kids.  Why isn’t Mason outside making mud pies?  Why does Kaleb have three chemistry sets that have never even been opened?  Here again, is another glaring example of how I have let things go the easy way, because I didn’t have it in me to fight through to the better way.

So.  I decided to put a stop to it.  I sat them down and calmly explained that we were officially banning electronics Monday through Friday from this point forward.  Even at night.  Even at bedtime.  Kaleb handled this like a champ.  He shrugged, said “Okay” and walked away.  Which was simply stunning in some ways, but also kind of expected.

Kaleb doesn’t tend to lose his shit over things like that, unless he’s actively engaged in something and I take it away right that moment.  If that is going to happen, I need to spend five minutes pumping myself up in the hallway like I’m in the locker room right before the Superbowl.  Bouncing on my toes, going all King Kong on my chest and telling myself “You’ve got this!  You’re going to go in there and kick ass!  Yeah!”  It usually ends with us both in tears.  Kind of like Tom Brady after facing The Eagles.  Only a lot less enjoyable for me.

Anyway.  Kaleb handled this concept well.  Mason, on the other hand, did not.  He was flabbergasted.  Boggled.  Disbelieving.  Shocked and downright angry.  It has been over a month of this, and still, Mason doesn’t believe I’m really doing this to him.  Every day we have a slightly varied version of the same conversation.  That conversation goes like this:

Me: “Good morning Mase-face!”

Mason: “Hi Momma!”

“How’d you sleep?”

“Good.  Can I have my Roku remote?”

“No.  Did you have any dreams?”

“I don’t know.  Why can’t I have my remote?”

“Because it’s (insert day of the week here), and we don’t do electronics on week days, remember?”

“No it isn’t! It’s Sunday!”

“No lovey, it’s not.”

“But why can’t I have it?  Why can’t we have electronics on weekdays?  That’s stupid!  I want my remote!”

“Sorry kid, there are plenty of other things to do.”

“No there isn’t!  I’m not coloring! Coloring is stupid!  And I’m not swimming alone!  I can’t go outside, I’ll get bit by the bugs!  The LEGOS always break and I have nothing to do!”

“Cool it, Mase.  You’re not going to die of boredom.”

“You just hate me!”

“Huh.  That was certainly very dramatic.  I like the little foot stomp you threw in at the end.”

“Please, Mom?  Please?  I have an idea! Why don’t we do this instead?  Why don’t I get my Roku on Mondays, and then I can have my tablet on Tuesdays, and I can have the Xbox on Wednesdays and the PlayStation on Thursdays, and on Friday I’ll have nothing.  Won’t that be good?”

“First of all, we don’t own a PlayStation, so I’m not sure where that even came from.  And no, that will not be good.  That defeats the purpose of no electronics on weekdays.  Having a different electronic on corresponding days of the week is not how this works.  Go find something to do.”

*Sobbing loudly*

“Why don’t you ever want me to have anything I want?  You don’t want me to be happy!”

“Seriously Mason.  You’re riding on my nerves now.  Go find something to do.”  He huffs.  He puffs.  He crosses his arms, slams his little body in the chair next to me, and audibly pouts.

**Fast Forward Five Minutes**

Husband: “Where’s Mase?”

“Outside.  With his bug kit.  Torturing the local wildlife.”

Mason: “Mom!  You have to come see this!  I caught a lizard!  He doesn’t have a tail!  This is SO cool!”

Me: “Looks like he didn’t die from electronic deprivation.”

Husband:  Snorts a laugh and walks away.

Guys.  This happens every day.  My child goes through the stages of grief every single morning when I tell him he cannot turn on the television set.  It’s insane.  And a bit frightening.

Every morning, as Mason goes through his grief stages, that scared, damaged girl in the back of my mind pops her head out of the fog and whispers “Just let him have the damn thing so you can be left alone”.  And every morning, I have to Whack-A-Mole her ass back where she belongs, because I don’t want to be left alone.  That’s not the person I want to be.  It’s the person I was, and I’ll carry her, and her shitty baggage around with me.  But she doesn’t win.  Not as long as I remember to keep knocking her back down when she springs up.

On the upside, the Legos have been dusted off.  The books on snakes and reptiles Mason found in the Reference section of the library are well read.  We’ve done science experiments. Mason has gone from barely swimming to the king of the pool.  Kaleb has made a pretty sizable dent in his summer reading list.  We finished Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.  Now, he’s reading me a book titled Willpower, and we are researching the failure stories of successful people for life-goal inspiration.  We spent more than five hours on the fourth of July playing catch and doing crossword puzzles.  No phones.  No tablets.  And no complaining.

As I said earlier, this has been a lazy summer so far.  It’s also been loud, and messy, and dramatic.  Yet somehow, my kids are happier than they were that first week of summer.  The conversations that float to me while I’m making dinner now are about the similarities between crocodiles and dinosaurs.  About the origin stories of the elements on the periodic table (for real, that’s really a thing that has been happening.  I didn’t know the elements even had origin stories, but they do now).  There’s been more laughter, more silliness, and less irritability.  Also, less Portal Gun noises, and that is always a win in my book.

Fourth Of July

Watching the fireworks

 

*End Note #1*

I thought I should add a list here of ways in which Mason has actively tried to earn his electronics back in the last week.  Just for fun.

  • Mason: “Mom!  Come see my room!”  So I do.  I stand there, having no idea what I’m supposed to be looking for.  It looks pretty much like it always does.  “Look!  You didn’t even have to ask me!  It’s clean!  Look at my bed!  I made it!”  I nod approvingly.  He did make his bed.  Kind of.  In the sense that there is now a small space not occupied with stuffed animals that he may or may not be able to fit in.  I congratulate him on this achievement.  He beams at me.  “So….?”  I look at him questioningly.  “Well?  Can I have a reward?  Like my Roku stick?”  I left the room.
  • “I am NEVER going outside again if you don’t give me my electronics!  I will stay inside forever!”  I shrug.  This has no bearing on me.  I work from the porch.
  • “If you give me my tablet, I promise I’ll never pee on the toilet seat again.”  Even Kaleb rolled his eyes at that one.  Let me just apologize in advance to whoever ends up marrying my kid.  He will likely pee on the toilet seat for the rest of his life.  I am sorry about this.  On the plus side, he’s an excellent toilet scrubber.
  • “Mom!  Kaleb is making Portal Gun noises!  It’s really annoying!  You have to give me my remote so I don’t have to listen to him!”
  • “Mom, want me to read to you about these snakes?”  I say sure.  He proceeds to spend twenty minutes making up insane and utterly impossible facts about the photos of snakes in his current library book. Snaps the book shut with a triumphant grin.  “Aren’t you proud?  You learned so much about snakes!  I deserve a reward.”  I inform him that practicing reading is its own reward.  I am given a death glare that would certainly make Vader proud.
  • “Fine!  I guess I’ll just lay here and be bored until I die!”  This lasted approximately four seconds, because the dog licked him in the face.
  • He asked his father at least a dozen times to intervene on his behalf.  Thankfully, I married a very smart man, who promptly shut Mason down, saying “Oh no, leave me out of this.”

 

*End Note #2*

My intention last week was to have this post be about self-care, something I will be writing about.  However, Mason’s epic grief tantrum this morning was more inspirational than usual.  So, next time.  Probably.

 

Walking Back to Happiness

Earlier this morning, as I was sitting on my porch working, Mason (my 7-year-old wildlife lover), made an exhilarating discovery.   I was startled to the point of nearly falling out of my chair when he started bellowing for me to “Come here!  Right now!  Bring your phone!  Hurry!”  Now, I figured this had something to do with some form of backyard wonder, since already today he had captured and studied a snail, a roly-poly, a few ants and a slug.   I was not, however, expecting his enthusiasm to be over a pair of mating lizards, furiously going at it on the screen enclosure.  He frantically waved me over as I got closer, like some manic supporter at the finish line of a marathon.   “Look!” he practically screamed at me, finger outstretched and pointing to the lizards.  “Look mom!  He’s smiling!  Take a picture!”  As I attempted to open my camera app while holding back my laughter,   he said one more thing that would bounce around in my head for hours.

“He’s just so happy!”

Lizard Love

Well isn’t that just the damn truth.  From the looks of it, the little guy had plenty of reasons for the big smile on his face.  But it got me thinking.  What is happy?  What does that mean?  The answer is likely different for everyone.  Theoretical physics makes Kaleb (my 10-year-old going on 20-year-old going on 5-year-old science nerd) happy.  It does not make me happy.  Instead, it makes my head hurt and my eyes feel like they’ve just gone for a run through the clothes drier.

Seriously though, what defines happiness?  How do you measure it?  Can it even be measured?

A couple years ago, after the reality awakening experience I wrote about the other day, I picked up a couple of self-helpy type books that focused on habits and happiness.  One of them was Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”.  It was a good read.  Insightful, funny, and full of ideas about how to perceive and improve your own happiness.  I enjoyed it immensely and vowed to work on my own happiness.  But I did so with a narrow focus, and no real inner rumination past the point of one goal.

I had decided that my key to happiness was paved with college courses.  That if I could just go back and finish school, I could finally be what I was supposed to be, and that new level of self-sufficiency would make me happy.  I wasn’t entirely wrong.  But I was nowhere near right either.  I looked at one tiny corner of my great big life, and decided it was going to be the thing that saved me.

Nevermind that I wasn’t happy with my health, especially after having quit smoking, thus eating my cravings and steadily putting on weight in all the wrong places.  Nevermind that I felt like I was juggling the kids and the house on my own with little to no support.  Not that I ever said these things to my husband, for a variety of ill-conceived bullshit excuses.  I don’t want to start a fight.  Maybe I’m the problem.  This is how relationships are supposed to be.  I’m not holding up my end of the deal.  So on and on the cycle continued.

I figured I would go back to school, and everyone else would have to step up to help me.  They wouldn’t have a choice, because I’d be too busy to do it all on my own.

Let me just tell you, it did not work out that way.  Shocker!  I know.   Instead, I ended up juggling a full-time school schedule, a 30 hour a week job, and coaching Kaleb’s tennis team so I could adjust the schedule to fit around Mason’s baseball practice.  All while doing the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and the resentment building.  Man, I mastered the art of that last one.  I may never be America’s Next Top Masterchef, but I could win some pretty intense awards for hanging on to anger and resentment.

So, the whole time I’m doing this thing for me, and in the long term, my family, I’m secretly getting more and more angry.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that is probably not the most effective path to happiness.  In the meantime, my husband was sitting on the other side of this grand new endeavor I had taken on, stewing in his own resentment.  Because I had no time.  I don’t have time to talk about your day, I’m sorry.  But I’ve still got two hours of work to do, a ten page research paper due in two days, I have to leave in fifteen minutes to take one kid to one sport or another, and I can’t remember the last time I ate.

In short, I did not find my happiness, or improve my life.

Do not get me wrong. that doesn’t mean I gave up.  Instead, I plowed forward with all of the stubbornness I could muster.  I put my head down and I worked my ass off through three semesters of school, all while dealing with the boys’ school stuff, work, birthday parties, holidays, and the chaos that came with buying our first house.  And then I took a break.  I took the spring semester off, so I could work on taking our new disaster, oh, um, I mean house, and making it our home.

And still, all of this time slipped by.  All of these warning signs, meltdowns, problems, and cries for help slipped right past me.  Because I was doing what I said I would do with a single-minded focus.  And tunnel vision.  See, I still hadn’t broken out of my fog.  I’d just… expanded it a bit.  Until the fateful yoga class (thank you leaking-firehose-breather for keeping my mind present and helping me to find my moment of clarity).

I still don’t know how to define happiness.  Is it writing this right now?  I can’t say that dissecting all of my flaws and past mistakes is an exercise that makes me happy.  But it makes me feel better.  And isn’t that kind of the same thing?  Does working on a manuscript or reading my book make me feel happy?  Yes.  But they’re also distractions, and habits I fall into very easily when I don’t want to focus on what’s going on right in front of me in the present moment.  So I have to be careful there.  Yoga makes me happy.  When it’s done.  Not typically in the moment unless it’s aerial.  Usually, I’m too busy thinking Would you just please shut up and tell us to get out of this pose from hell? to be happy in the actual moment.

All of these things, and many others, make me happy in the temporary, and all of them help to make up parts of the whole of who and what I want to be.  And probably, that’s the key to happiness.  Finding all of the small things that work together to form a big, messy, complex picture.  I’ve decided that like Mrs. Rubin, I’m going to start my own happiness project – as I mentioned before.  But mine’s going to look a lot different than hers.  As it should, considering we are wildly different people.

First, I’m going to focus on the things I feel I fail at the most.  Self-care.  Real, honest and open communication with my kids and my husband.  Being present, even when it’s painful.  Those, I believe, will be the next three post topics.  Because each one is worthy of a deeper look.  And because I spent seven years -missing out on all of the great my life has to offer because I couldn’t see past the bad.  I couldn’t see past my own failures, even when those closest to me looked and saw only success.

Because that’s what depression is.  A constant state of steaming failure.  And that’s what is going to help me walk away from it  Because that’s what success is.  A constant state of accepting your perceived failures and trying again anyway.

Today, we are celebrating our country’s independence.  And today, I will celebrate my own independence from a miserable existence of only doing what is necessary to get by.  I will sit on a picnic blanket in a park with my family, and I will enjoy every moment.  Even the miserable ones.  Because I can.  Because being present, even in the miserable moments, is true freedom.

Starting Over…

I used to write a blog about my life, and the hilarity that ensued when attempting to turn wild little monsters (AKA, my kids) into mostly decent people.  I also talked a bit about the struggles of being an “autism mom”, though the actual struggle was severely downplayed.  People loved this blog.  I’m not saying that because I personally wrote it and think that anything I’ve written naturally comes with a dash of amazing. I’m saying it because I was told repeatedly by people I barely knew, or had never met, how much they enjoyed it.  It was funny, they would tell me, these strangers.  It was so nice and refreshing for someone to look at these difficult things and find the humor in them.  And, I guess, it was.  For them.  But I wasn’t laughing.  Not really.  I was locking myself in my closet and crying for hours.  I was silently wishing that someone, anyone would just make it all stop.

Then one day, I stopped writing.  I don’t just mean on the blog either, I mean I literally stopped doing the only thing I had left that gave me a sense of self, altogether.  Because I couldn’t find the funny anymore.  And when I wrote about the moments that hurt, when I wrote about the things that scared me so badly I couldn’t sleep for days, nobody wanted to read it.  I’d get asked, “When are you going to start writing about all the funny things they do?”  Well… there’s only so long I can pretend that cleaning my kid’s shit off a ceiling fan like some sort of twisted zookeeper is funny, my friend.  People were, from my perspective, disappointed.  So, I stopped.

Because my struggles were not funny anymore.

Now, that’s not entirely true. And I am writing this to be entirely truthful.  With you, whoever you may be, and with me, most of all.  I am determined to live my own truth.  It wasn’t that there was no humor to be found.  It was just that I couldn’t find it.  I was angry, and sad, and confused, and lonely, and hurting so deeply in some places that I was convinced I was going to hemorrhage and die. Postpartum depression split me open from stem to stern, and without any real idea of what was happening to me, all of the things that I loved the most about myself silently started slipping away.

What I didn’t know at the time, and what I have since learned, is that postpartum is a hellacious beast.  And, just like the more than 3 million women it affects every year, it comes in an unending variety of shapes and sizes.  In the seven and a half years since my youngest son was born I have learned a lot about this disorder, and it is very likely that I will share what I have learned on a future post.  But that’s not what I’m here for today.

Today, I am here to admit some hard truths.  Today I am writing this in the hopes that my struggles; past, present, and future, may help someone else.  Today I am writing this as a tool to help me become the best version of myself.  Because I have changed.  Dramatically.  I am not the person that I was all those years ago. Not by a long shot.  And I’m not even close to the person I want to be tomorrow.  Seven and a half years ago I began a downhill slide, one so subtle I didn’t even notice it was happening. Until I was so deeply buried, the idea of digging myself out seemed impossible.

So many things contributed to this drastic and terrifying change.  I am sure that over time I will dissect those miserable memories, even when I don’t want to.  But here is what it boils down to.  Here is the place I was in when I finally woke up. I was suddenly blinking at my strange new surroundings and wondering to myself, “Where is this, and how did I get here?”. 

I was angry.  I mean, really angry.  Not just mad, not a bit irritated.  I was absolutely furious.  With everything.  With everyone.  With my husband, with my kids, with my friends and family.  But above all else, I was so very angry at myself.  I cannot think of a single point throughout my entire life that I could say I was filled with such unyielding self-loathing.  I hated what I had become.  I hated who I had become.  How could I let this happen to myself?  Where did I go?  What have I done to my life?  I was also terrified.  I’ve never been so bone-deep frightened. And that’s saying something, given some of the things my kids have put me through.  Who am I supposed to be now?  How am I supposed to be that person?  Where did I go?!

The unnecessary anger wasn’t new.  My shameful lack of patience wasn’t new.  I had been living in some weird fog for so long, and now I’ve woken up to discover that I have damaged the people that I love the most in this world.  I have allowed hurt and anger to spread through my house like some 14th-century plague.  I’ve got one kid who is half convinced I hate him.  I’ve got another one who is so incapable of handling his emotions he never would have made it through the last school year if he hadn’t won the grand prize in the lottery of teachers.

I did this.  I let this happen.

So, now what do I do?

Answering the question is the easy part.  Actually following through is where the going gets tough.  Now, I have to fix it.  Now, I need to face the demons I have created.  Now, I need to climb my ass out of this hole that I have dug, so I can face the mountain before me.  Now, I need to be the person that not just my family needs, but that I need me to be.

Sounds easy enough, right?

I had experienced a few little snaps back to reality over the years, but every time it happened, I would find myself so overwhelmed by the immensity of it that I’d slide right back into my familiar fog.  Until one day I didn’t.

My first real, hard snap back to reality happened about two years ago.  My husband and I were fighting.  Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what we were fighting about.  The constant push and pull of conflict was such a commonality in our marriage at that point that we could have been arguing about him forgetting to put something on the grocery list. Now, don’t get me wrong.  We weren’t screaming obscenities at each other, or screaming at all for that matter.  We weren’t being abusive or mean, we just weren’t getting along.

I opened my eyes one morning, and he wasn’t there.  He wasn’t there because he’d left for a trip that had been planned for quite some time.  It wasn’t that he was gone that bothered me.  It was that he’d left without saying a single word to me.  My first reaction, petty and small though it may be, was relief.  I thought, at least we won’t be arguing.  And then it hit me.  Hard.  This was my life.  I was laying in my bed, with my children sleeping in their beds, and I was relieved that my husband had left for a week without saying goodbye to me.  How is okay?

It wasn’t.  It isn’t.  And I knew it.  Right then, in that moment, I knew my life was not okay.  I spent that entire week running around like my hair was on fire.  Taking in the state of my life.  My kids, my marriage, my whole self.  When reality finally crashed down around me, it hit hard.  I threw up.  A lot.  I was violently, painfully ill.  I had to keep sticking my head between my knees and silently willing myself to breathe as the full breadth of my life hit me with the force of a mac truck falling out of an airliner.  I didn’t sleep for two days.  Images of my life kept playing on forced repeat in the front of my mind, and I thought I might actually go crazy.

I didn’t go crazy.  And eventually, the panic attacks stopped.  Which is when the thinking started.  My life had to change.  I had to change.

Now, let me stop and be clear on something here.  I was not, by any means, suddenly fine. I did not just wake up and suddenly everything was clear and focused. At this point in time, I barely registered the changes that were happening in my children.  This is a horrible, heartbreaking, sickening thing to admit, and I can’t even type the words without crying.  So many things were going on in my boys’ hearts and minds and lives that I was not connected with.  Oh sure, we went places, or did things, and I was there at school functions and IEP meetings, and all the other necessary things a stay at home mom is expected to be at.  Once, I even tried to be PTA secretary, which by the way, was an unmitigated disaster.  But I was not there.  I was coming back, I was waking up, but I still had such a long road to travel.

I spent that week doing some of the most intense soul searching I had ever done in my life.  Was I happy?  Uh, no.  Clearly.  Was I doing my family any favors by being so unhappy?  No, definitely not.  Why was I so unhappy?  Oh man, don’t get me started.  The list of reasons I gave myself that day for my own self-loathing and misery were embarrassing in many ways, enlightening in many others, and some of them, quite frankly, were freaking ridiculous.  But again, I remind you, I was still encased in a shell of depression that had only just started to fracture.  So, I’m going to give myself some grace.  Because what really matters here, is that it had fractured.

Over the last two years, I’ve taken many steps forward.  And I’ve taken quite a few steps back.  When my husband got home from his trip we had a meeting of the minds the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a long time.  There was, and still is, a lot of damage.  There’s scar tissue, and hurt, and resentment, and anger on both sides.  But there’s also love.  And a determination to fix the problems, and build a future.  Together.  That week I made a decision I had been playing with for years.  I decided to go back to school.  And I did.

Some things changed.  I started taking classes, which I’ve wholly enjoyed.  Except for the moments when my true inner monster rears her ugly head, and I start to convince myself I cannot possibly do it. What right do you have to dedicate so much time to this ridiculous endeavor?  You’ll never finish anyway.  And seriously, your kids have eaten hot dogs like three times this week.  This is how you become a better person?  Really?  Those moments are real, and intense, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be rid of them.  But for now, every day, I win the small internal battles, and I push on.

And while I will take those moments of triumph for what they are, I have come to realize that a lot more things haven’t changed.  I’m still impatient.  I’m still angry and resentful.  I am nowhere near the person or mother I want to be, and I have only just realized how much my words and actions have impacted the hearts and minds of my children.  I started a yoga challenge last month.  60 days of yoga, in the studio, every day.  I signed up because I thought it would be nice to give myself an excuse to get out of my house and away from my family, since we are all piled on top of one another at the moment (yay summer vacation!).  What I didn’t realize, was that I would find such striking clarity while doing so.

I did not change over the last two years.  Not in the ways it matters most.  My internal dialogue is still filled with such vitriol, it’s appalling.  My kids are constantly at each other’s throats, and the anger I see in them is a direct reflection of my own.  I’m impatient, all of the time.  Once again, the lightning struck, and reality crashed in.  Only this time, I wasn’t a sobbing mess on my bathroom floor.  I was laying in savasana, listening to the guy next to me breathe like a leaking firehose.  It took everything I had not to sit up and shout to the room “This is NOT me!  This is not who I am!”  And it isn’t.  I refuse to let it be.  I will not allow this miserable bitch who has invaded my mind exist anymore.

I am done with her.

So, I’m not who I was.  And I’m not who I am.  Where the hell does that leave me?

With a long journey ahead of me.  I need to consciously shift my perspectives.  I need to stop seeing my children with a critical eye, and start seeing them with a loving eye.  I need to stop telling myself how horrible I am, and start giving myself the grace I need to heal and become the woman I am meant to be.

Which leads me to this blog.  And you.  If you managed to get this far, and really, give yourself a pat on the back for that, because this is one really long post.  I’m starting my own happiness project.  If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry.  I’m not one hundred percent certain yet myself, and I read the book.  But I’m going to find out.  Maybe we will find out together. Because I’m revamping this blog.

This place where I used to hide my pain with laughter.  This place that was both weirdly sacred, and a cause of personal torture.  I’m taking this place back.  I am going to give it new life.  I am going to put myself out there, warts and all.

This was the hardest thing I have written in a very long time.  It’s not fun to peel back the curtain and expose all of your shortcomings to the world.  It’s harder still because some of the readers may be people I know personally.  Maybe you?  I had initially planned on this being posted anonymously, because I’m terrified to think of someone I know and respect reading these thoughts and thinking less of me for them. But, I am living my truth.  And that means no more hiding.  So, if you know me, and even if not, I only ask that you reserve judgment.  Because this isn’t an easy thing for me to do.  But I think it may be a necessary one.

Life can be hard.  But it is so much harder when we are horrible to ourselves.  When our perspectives are so skewed in the wrong direction we can’t even see what we are doing to ourselves and our loved ones.  It doesn’t have to be like that.  We don’t have to be like that.

I refuse.

Do They Know It’s Christmas…

I’ve been trying to write this post for over a week, but it has been next to impossible to get anything accomplished over the last 10 days – let alone find 30 minutes of quiet to write.

To start with, for the second year in a row Mason came home from school the week before winter break started with some sort of plague that wiped out everyone in the house but Kaleb.  It all started with a cough.  Then the runny nose, the fever, the aches, that damn cough… Mase was Patient Zero, Daddy went down next, and then I succumbed as well.  I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – Mason is the most miserable human being on the face of the planet when he is sick.  It’s almost unbearable.  And I don’t just mean as a mom who hates to see her babies not feeling well.  He is a whiny, screaming, squealing bag of incoherent misery.  Everything is cause for nuclear meltdown.  Every.  Single.  Thing.

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The wheels on the bus are making noise when he plays with it on the windowsill.  The sheets on his bed aren’t pulled perfectly tight.  The television isn’t loud enough.  His dinosaur won’t stand up.  His shirt is crooked.  His pants are touching his ankles.  Every.  Single.  Little.  Thing.  He screams, and he cries (and he coughs) and he throws everything he’s got into it – like he’s in the final battle at Mordor and everything depends on his war cry distracting Sauron from Frodo tossing the ring.

Of course, as if this isn’t bad enough, dealing with sick Mason after he got you sick too is just cruel and unusual punishment.  Especially when by the time you get really sick he’s starting to feel better and all you want to do is curl up and sleep, but all he wants to do is play airplanes on your face.

So, Mason came home sick, and it all went downhill from there.  Daddy was sick by Monday, I was down for the count by Wednesday.

Tuesday afternoon a neighbor friend from down the street was preparing to move and getting rid of some furniture.  She was selling an absolutely gorgeous entertainment stand, and as fate would have it, we were in desperate need of something better than the junk we were using.  So, with the help of our neighbor, poor Daddy dragged his miserably sick butt out of bed to lug the thing home.  Where it sat in pieces for four days because we were both too sick and tired to take the old ones out and put the new one back together.

Then, for the third time in 8 months a leak sprung up somewhere in the house.  Luckily, Daddy is hyper observant (I probably wouldn’t have heard it for another week) and caught it rather quickly (or so we thought).  So, off went the water while he tried to figure out where it was coming from.  Even after getting all creative with a broken headphone and some random software, he still wasn’t able to find it, so it was time to call in the reinforcements.

On Thursday it took two leak detection guys and over four hours to find this stupid leak – though they did manage to also break the valve in the garage which now has to be rebuilt.  Yet again we are faced with cutting another hole in the garage floor.  Only this time, it’s in the most inconvenient place possible – under Daddy’s tool box, next to the billion pound workbench.  So the garage was rearranged (again), the concrete cut into (again), the leak fixed (again), and another giant mess to be cleaned up (again).  But at least we had running water.  Living in a house with three sick people and only turning the water on a few times a day to fill pitchers and toilets was not my idea of fun.

In the meantime, I had promised the boys that we would make Christmas cookies for their classes, and go shopping for their teachers on Wednesday & Thursday.  Without water.  We did manage to get the cookies baked on Wednesday, and then decorated while they sought out the leak on Thursday.  Followed by a trip to three stores.  With miserable Mason, and miserable Mommy.  Suffice it to say there was a lot of screaming and crying involved.

We did eventually find the energy to put the new entertainment center together on Friday – and it’s freaking amazing.  Well, until Daddy had to spend hours and hours running wires – that wasn’t so awesome – but now that it’s all together, I’m in love with it!

Just to make matters better – or not – Kaleb is back to binge eating whatever he can scavenge while we are all sleeping.  I’m not going into massive detail on this today, I just don’t have it in me to hash out right now.  But it’s a big problem, and one I’m getting really desperate to put an end to before he ends up making himself really sick.  I actually have a lot to say on the subject – so look for it another day.

So, getting back to it.  While all of this is going on, the neighborhood is having their yearly judging of everyone’s Christmas decorations.  I am obsessed with this competition.  I don’t have any idea why it plagues me the way it does – but for years I have been fixated.  I want that damn sign, and I want it badly.  So every year my poor husband goes above and beyond to win it for me.  The lights dance to music playing from the entrance way.  And not just the house lights.  The lights around the flowerbeds dance too.  Then he set up a projector and screen and we played Christmas movies, handed out popcorn (after he fixed my popcorn machine) and hot chocolate (a challenge with no water) and had ourselves a grand old time with a bunch of friends and neighbors.

We didn’t win by the way.  One of our neighbors did (Congrats!) – I swear next year that sign is mine.

Regardless of the stupid award, the movies on the yard was really cool, and when you add in the dancing lights and speakers Daddy added to the golf cart we are totally Christmas obnoxious – and I adore it.

So now here I sit, still coughing but no longer wishing for a faster death, four days until Christmas.  My house is a shining beacon of musical festivity, my living room looks like real grown-ups live here, all the Christmas cookies are gone and we still haven’t put the star on the tree – but things could be worse.  They could be better, sure.  But they could be so, so much worse.

Even with all the chaos of the holidays, the parenting wins and fails, the stress that comes with life in general – I’m grateful this week.  I get to spend Christmas with my family.  I’m blessed enough to see the looks of joy and awe on my kids faces Friday morning when they see that Santa has made his way here after all (there were some close calls this week).  I’ll be able to share a meal with family, laugh and talk and sing and play with those I hold dear.  And that’s one hell of a good Christmas gift.

Merry whatever-you-celebrate folks.  Here’s hoping 2016 brings good fortune, great joy, and peace to us all.

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I Pity The Fool…

Yesterday was a mixed bag for me.  For starters, when Kaleb had his yearly physical on Tuesday, he couldn’t read the eye chart – which was bizarre considering he’d never had a problem reading it in years before.  Honestly, at first the nurse and I both thought he was just screwing around – when we realized he really couldn’t see it I immediately called Sho-Sho to see if she could get him an appointment to have his eyes checked.  So, yesterday morning I picked him up from school for his eye appointment.  Honestly, I was anxious.  Nobody likes having someone messing around with their eyes, and Kaleb had only been to the optometrist one other time, when he was way younger.  I prepped him as best I could, and promised if he was brave and did as the doctor asked I would put Minecraft on his tablet and he could play after he got home from school until dinner time (He’s on the tail end of an electronics ban).

So, off we went.  It helped that the eye doctor is a friend and mentor to my mom, and the same person who gives me my exams – she also knew enough about Kaleb to take a really light approach with him.  After a series of tests, which he handled like a champ, we were informed that he’s near-sighted.  After the issue at his physical, I couldn’t say I was totally surprised, yet I was still a little shocked.  So, the boy needs glasses.

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This should be interesting…

The appointment took way longer than I expected, so I ended up just bringing him home with me, since there was only an hour left of school and there wasn’t a whole lot of sense in sending him back, especially when his eyes were going to be sensitive to the light for a while.  As promised, Minecraft (the newest obsession) was installed on his tablet, and off he went to play.

Kaleb’s first flag football game of the season was at 5:45 last night, so we ate an early dinner, loaded up the car and headed out.  He was really excited to play (even though it’s not “real football”), and I spent the car ride reminding him of what he should (and shouldn’t) be doing on the field.  By the time we got there he was pumped and ready to go.  He helped me carry the stuff out from the car, and then took off to join his team.  It was obvious right from the start that it was going to be a bit of a difficult night.  Not like he wasn’t going to behave, but he was really spooled up, and I could tell immediately that he was going to be all over the place.  His coach is a good guy, and super patient with him, even when Kaleb is jumping all over him and constantly invading his personal space.

The game started, and things didn’t get off to the best start for Kaleb.  He was told where he needed to stand, but he was too busy spinning around and shouting to really pay attention.  His teammates were getting frustrated with him, but eventually he pulled it together and got into position.  As the game progressed things headed downhill.  Kaleb was on offense, standing to the right of the center, supposed to be blocking.  Time after time he would get distracted and his teammates would have to yell to him until he would snap out of it and go where he was supposed to.  After each and every play he would shout and scream – if his team progressed, he would scream “Yeeeeeeesssss!” and basically try to fist-bump everyone – if they didn’t gain any ground or missed a catch he would scream “Nooooooo!” and stomp around in circles for a minute.

Regardless of any of this, I’m proud of him.  When the ball is snapped he’s paying attention, and at least trying to block.  He’s keeping his hands to himself, and he’s having fun.  Three years ago I couldn’t even imagine that he’d be out on a football field, interacting socially, of his own free will.  But he’s out there, and he’s doing it.

The clock continued to count down, and about ten minutes into the first twenty minute half I’m frustrated for him.  The kids on the other team are laughing at him, his own teammates are frustrated with him, and he doesn’t realize any of it is going on.  And then it all went to hell – for me anyway.

The lady sitting to my left had a kid on Kaleb’s team.  She and another woman had been talking for the majority of the game, and I’ve picked up on enough snippets of their conversation to learn that they’re both teachers (though I have no idea where).  At this point, the kid playing center is yelling at Kaleb and telling him (once again) where his position is.  Kaleb at this point finally stands where he’s told with a little huff and a stomp – not the angry kind, but the kind of out of control, wild and crazy Kaleb mode kind.

Then the women next to me start commenting.  Now granted, we got there early enough they obviously don’t realize they’re talking about my kid.  But the fact of the matter is, they’re sitting in a group of people they don’t know – it’s poor form to talk smack about someone else’s kid – especially when that kid’s parents could be sitting right next to you.  The conversation started like this:

“That’s how I feel all day long.  I just told you what to do, why don’t you do it?”

“I know, right?  What is he doing?”

“*giggling*  I don’t know.  How many times do you have to be told where to stand before you do it?”

“What is wrong with that kid?”

You want to know what is wrong with that kid?  NOTHING.  He’s accomplishing a goal, despite so many odds stacked against him.  Hell, he can’t even see the ball and he’s still out there!  Here’s the real question – what is wrong with you?!  He’s a little kid, sure he’s all over the place, but he’s still just a kid.  And come on now, seriously, at this point it’s not hard to see that he’s different from the other kids.  You’re teachers – are you telling me you have had absolutely no interaction with special needs kids?  But what kills me is the absolute gall.  You wanna talk shit about my boy?  Fine.  But do it when you get home.  Not when you’re sitting on the sidelines with a bunch of other parents.  If you’re going to be cruel to a little boy who just wants to be part of the team, do it where other people don’t have to sit and listen to you spew your ignorance.

At this point, I’m in a spot.  I could turn my head and throw a bunch of venom in my voice, informing them that he’s autistic.  I could start a fight.  I could be a complete and utter bitch – we all know I’m more than capable of it.  But I don’t.  I opt instead to do what these women obviously aren’t capable of doing.  I hold my damn tongue.  First of all – my kid’s abilities and limitations are absolutely none of your business.  Second – the last thing I want is to have these horrible jerks looking at me with pity.  They don’t get to pity me – it’s my turn to pity them.  Your world is tiny compared to mine.  My mind is open, my heart is open, and I was at least raised with enough class to keep my thoughts to myself if they weren’t polite (when in the company of strangers at least!).

So I kept my mouth to myself, as I so often tell the boys to do.  I left fingernail indentations in my palms, but I kept my mouth to myself.  When halftime came and the kids all came running over to the sidelines, I gave Kaleb a high-five and handed him his water.  While he drank I reminded him once again not to yell in people’s faces, or hang off the coaches, and try really hard to get into position when the rest of his team does.  I didn’t even glance at the women next to me.  Until he went back to the huddle.  Then I looked – and offered a silent challenge.  Say another word.  Now you know.  That kid you were talking about?  His mother is sitting right here.  Say something else.  I dare you.

The last play of the game, the other team had scored and was going for a two point conversion.  Kaleb actually managed to strip the flag off the kid with the ball – after he’d already crossed the line and got the points – but that doesn’t matter.  He did it – he really, really did it – and he was so proud.  He wasn’t the only one.  I wanted to take that flag home and put it in a frame.

I’m not going to lie, after we got home and the kids got settled into bed, Watson (our elf) moved to a new locale and I had a glass of wine – I cried.  My heart hurt for my Monster Man.  He was doing something he loved – and yes, he was doing it poorly, but he was still going out there and putting in the effort.  He shows up to every practice and every game.  He watches training videos and reads articles to try and improve his game.  And all the while he’s being laughed at.  But the blessing in disguise?  He had no idea it was going on.  I did.  But he didn’t.  He just kept on being himself and enjoying the sport.

Both of the boys have games tonight, so we shall see how it goes.  But no matter what I’m proud.  I’m proud of them both for putting on their cleats and walking out onto that field with their heads held high.  And I will sit there and cheer for them both, for every time they manage a block, or strip a flag.  I’ll cheer, and I’ll know that in this moment, we are the real winners – no matter the outcome of the game.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Okay, over the last two years I’ve struggled… not so much that you’ve seen because I’ve basically written four posts in two years.  I have had a million excuses why I haven’t been writing – some I’ve given to you, all I’ve fed to myself.  But I need to get back into the habit.  I need to get writing again.  I need to get back to a point where I can take some time every day and be honest with myself, without feeling guilty for doing so.

Speaking of guilt – I’m full of it lately.  I’m especially guilty of being ridiculously impatient and short tempered.  As I sit here right now, It’s 6:24am.  The boys and I leave for the bus stop in exactly 21 minutes.  They’re playing together in Kaleb’s room – which means they are three feet away from me, separated only by a glass french door, a poorly made one at that.  And they’re loud.  Which is the name of the game when they actually get together (which is basically only when they think they’re supposed to be doing anything else), and that’s okay, as long as it’s good yelling.  But I’m still in “seeking coffee” mode, and hearing that entire container of LEGOs just spill out onto the floor as they run around with the world’s most obnoxious Christmas stuffed animals ever made… It’s all I can do to sit here and tell myself to shut the hell up.

They’re playing together.  That’s progress.  They’re playing together in Kaleb’s room and he’s not screaming at his brother to get out while Mason cries and sobs dramatically over some stupid toy he wants to look at (with his hands).  So what if there are now 4,562,847 LEGO pieces all over the carpet?  So what if it’s December 2nd and I’m officially over the “Let It Snow” song the ridiculous Polar Bear and Penguin are singing?  They’re playing.  And I’m drinking this cup of coffee so fast I may end up burning my esophagus in the process, in an effort to not care so damn much.

I need to get off my horse and look at my kids for who and what they are – tiny people with big voices, big imaginations, and apparently access to the world’s most annoying sounds locked in their little brains.  But they are just that – kids.  So why is it so damn hard for me to let them be?  Why is it so hard to sit here right now and keep myself from scolding them on their volume; their mess; their “backing up sounds” (which genuinely make you feel like someone is scratching your tombstone after about thirty seconds)?  Where did all of my patience go?  Where did the humor in the situation go?  Because that’s the honest problem here.  I stopped writing, because I stopped being able to find the situations funny.  It wasn’t funny when Kaleb continuously urinated all over his bedroom for six months straight.  It wasn’t funny when he suddenly lost 20lbs over two months, and there wasn’t a damn cause any doctor could find.  It wasn’t funny when Mason started peeing on his carpet, because he loves to emulate Kaleb.  It wasn’t funny when the dog started following suit, because, well, he’s a damn dog – if there’s pee, he’s gonna cover it up with his own.  Sometimes my life isn’t funny.  More so than not lately.

So I’m going to shake things up.  This is my space.  This is my place, my soapbox, and I’m going to use it.  But it won’t always be funny.  Sometimes it’ll be ugly.  Sometimes it’ll be heart-wrenching, and sometimes it’ll be gross, and maybe it’ll be funny on occasion.  But that’s my life – in true form – that’s what my world is.  I can’t sit here and pretend that there aren’t days I wake up and want to just scream.  That there aren’t times I lock myself in the bathroom just to cry for a few minutes – sometimes happy tears, sometimes tears that stem from frustration, anger, or fear.  Life is messy.  Life with autism is even more so.

I’m going to try.  I’m going to try to get back to a point where I can write on here and really let go of some of the impatience and frustration.  And I’m going to do it honestly.  Because I need this, and maybe some of you out there need it too.

Today though, I’d like to share a big moment.

Monday afternoon I was putting my empty Christmas bins back in the attic, while the boys were… just being themselves.  Kaleb was waiting for me to finish picking up because he wanted to do an ornament craft that required supplies I had to fish out of my closet.  Mason was… well I don’t really even know what Mase was doing, biding his time until I couldn’t see him, I suppose.  All of a sudden, as I’m coming down off the ladder the both of them start shrieking and screaming.  Mason is crying, Kaleb is shouting, pandemonium had broken out in the kitchen.

I ran in from the garage to figure out what was going on.  Turns out, Mason took the box of candy canes off the counter (thus, biding his time), which he was not supposed to do.  Kaleb then took the candy canes from Mase, which he is not supposed to do (if your brother does something wrong – come get mom – it’s not your job to police him, it’s mine).  Which started the shouting, which lead to smacking and hitting.  Lately, I’ve been in a “Welcome To Thunder-dome” mood – I’m not stepping in when you two go at it anymore.  Learn how to resolve your problems.  By the time I had reached the kitchen and Kaleb told me what happened, Mason had locked himself in his room and was sobbing dramatically (I’m going to make millions off this kid when Hollywood gets ahold of him).  Kaleb wanted me to get the craft supplies and I said no, sorry kid, but you don’t get rewarded for hitting your brother.  He told me he was sorry, and was promptly informed that I’m not the one who needed the apology, I’m not the one he hurt.

*Side note* I’ve been struggling a lot lately to explain to Kaleb the meaning behind a genuine apology.  He’ll do something wrong, and apologize only because he believes it will get him what he wants.  Suggestions on how to rectify this are greatly appreciated.

So, he goes to Mason’s door, and tries to talk to Mase, who yells at him (through a slew of dramatic sobs) to go away.  Kaleb comes back to me and says “Well, he’s never going to accept my apology.”  To which I reply, “Then I guess you’d better figure out a way to make things right.”  So for five minutes Kaleb just stands in the kitchen, thinking.

I’m out on the porch when Mason finally decides to leave his room, all hiccups and stifled sobs (seriously, when did my kid start manifesting Sarah Bernhardt?).  He walks out to the kitchen and Kaleb looks at him and says “Mason, I’m really sorry.  I shouldn’t have taken the candy canes and it was wrong to hit you”

*Whoa.  Back the truck up.  Did that just leave his mouth?  For real?!

Mase then says (again, he’s still doing the can’t catch my breath from crying so hard thing) “It wasn’t your fault.  It was my fault.  I shouldn’t have taken the candy canes.”

*WHAT?!  What is going on here?  Did I fall into an alternate universe?

Kaleb says “No, it was both of our fault.  You shouldn’t have taken the candy canes, but I shouldn’t have taken them from you, and we shouldn’t have hit each other.”

*That’s it.  Who are you and what have you done with my children?

After basically a repeat of the whole conversation when Mase once again tried to take all the blame and Kaleb once again took responsibility for his part in it, they both apologized and forgave each other.  Meanwhile I’m convinced I’m having a stroke, or maybe the stress has finally gotten to me and I’m hallucinating.

They came to me together and said they accepted each other’s apologies and asked if we could make ornaments.  Um.  Yeah.  Yep.  You can make all the ornaments you want after that little display.  And they did.

IMG_3824I was humbled, and flabbergasted, and astonished, and so very proud.  They might actually turn out to be okay humans one day.

It just reminds me, once more, that kids are full of surprises – and sometimes those surprises don’t even make you want to throw up in your mouth a little.

Happy Wednesday people, thanks for tuning in.