Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Glimpse of Well Child Visits...done Skiff style

This week is well child visit week here at the Skiff’s.    Our doctor does not see more than two patients in a family on the same day so today and the next two days are Doctor Days.  Doctor Days are approached with the planning and precision of a war campaign in the Kingdom of Skiff.  From what time of year, to order the children’s appointments are stacked in, to what time of the day.  It is all very thoroughly thought out.  I always try to get them in around 10ish; this is prime time in the Skiff universe (after breakfast but before lunch…with five BOYS everything revolves around food ;-).  The appointments must be scheduled in the summer, therefore avoiding schooling conflicts.  Benny and Paul are always scheduled together, then the twins and Sam gets his very own special day (he isn’t on the spectrum but he has auto immune issues making his appointments take longer)
The morning of the appointments it’s a mad dash to get everyone together and out of the door on time.  “Does everyone have clothes on?” “Yes that does include pants!”  “What do you mean you can’t find your shoes? You were wearing them last night!”  “No somebody did not break in and steal your shoes!  Go find them.”  “Is everyone dressed? _________, why don’t you have pants on yet?!?”   “Everyone in the van now, we only have ten minutes to get there (The doctor’s office is exactly 7 minutes from our house…..yes I’ve timed it. Don’t judge me :)”  “You can put your shoes on in the van.”  “_______, how did you manage to get ketchup on your clean shirt, we had pancakes for breakfast…..never mind I don’t want to know!  Just change your shirt in the van”
After a harrowing 7 minute drive to the doctors, I’ll spare you the scary details, we arrive.  As we’re running into the office, I will notice one child still is not wearing shoes but instead has them dangling in his hands, this happens EVERY time without fail and is never the same child twice in a row.  I sit the offending child in a chair to finish shoeing his feet as I book it to the sign in desk with .05 seconds to spare.  You may be thinking, why don’t you get there earlier?  Believe me this is the BEST possible plan.  Any earlier would mean an extended waiting room time and that just isn’t fair to the general population.  Almost immediately the two with an appointment are called back.  The nurses double team the schedulee’s on their vitals as I herd the other three back to the examination room.   The view in the examination room becomes comical as my five boys, the doctor, two nurses and I squeeze into the tight space.  From the outside I’m sure we look like sardines, all be it very attractive sardines, crammed in a can. Every time one person turns the other have to shift to make room.  Yes I’m sure Abbott and Costello would have had all kinds of fun with this situation.  The doctor then attempts to ask me the relevant questions to child being examined which I attempt to answer while trying to handle the other four children.  By this time at least one is always in a meltdown.  It seems this much close physical contact is not preferable for kids on the spectrum.  Yes it all kinds of fun.  I do believe my doctor deserves combat pay on the days we are scheduled.  Finally it is over; everyone gets a sticker and a lollipop and we head home.  Wash and repeat the next two days and follow up in a year. 
There it is friends, your glimpse into my always glamorous day.   I hope each of you is enjoying your summer.  Remember to leave a comment on my wall to be entered into our fabulous give away.  I’ll post a picture of the fabulous basket on my next posting.  Lots of love-Kristine

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Glimpse of a night long ago

I had planned to make this a collection of funny anecdotal stories from the summer thus far.   I will still write that blog, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week.    Tonight I don’t feel like laughing anymore.  Tonight I am so very sad.  I read the news of Amy Winehouse’s death on Facebook.  I am not a particular fan of Amy Winehouse’s music.  I probably could only name one of her songs.  I like much of the world’s population, caught glimpses of her on the covers of the tabloids in the grocery store checkout line.   I can claim no personal or professional relationship.  In fact my life is not directly affected by this in any real way.  Yet I feel a deep, sad connection to her story.  This blog comes from one of the darkest nights of my life.  This blog is about the night I tried to take my own life.
It was a bad day.  If I was to rate bad days on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being mildly annoying and 10 being horrendously, world endingly terrible) I would rate this one an average 5 or 6.  I had had worse days in my 15 years. I had had better but somehow this night I just could not stomach another average 5 bad day.  Somehow this night when I looked at my life I saw a never ending line of fives, sixes, sevens, and eights marching in front of me.   I looked at the hopeless, never-ending marching parade and I went to the medicine cabinet.  I took anything I could find in it, my parents didn’t do the whole “drugs” thing so there wasn’t a lot to choose from.  What was there I took it all, including the entire unopened 100 count extra strength Tylenol, a bottle of peroxide and whatever else shoved in there.  I was so done. I was so over all the pain.  I didn’t want help, I didn’t want advice, and I didn’t write a suicide note.  I just wanted out. I just wanted oblivion.  I just wanted not to hurt anymore.  I spent a miserable 14 hours on the bathroom floor retching.  My mother came to the door once and asked if I had taken anything to make myself sick.  I told her “No. I only have a stomach bug.  I’ll be fine. Go on to bed.”   She did.  I don’t blame her for this.  My mother and I did not have the traditional mother daughter relationship…but I’m getting ahead of myself.   I lay on the bathroom floor, in my own vomit (I didn’t even have the strength to make it to the toilet anymore) and I felt the presence of God in a way I can’t describe.  I had a relationship with God.  I had felt his presence many times but that night it was different.  “Do you want to die?”  The question screamed in my head.  “YES!!!” I screamed back.  Fifteen minutes and much retching later the question came again “Do you want to die?” “Yes.”  Another ten or fifteen minutes went by.  Time is relative when you’re lying in a pool of your own vomit.  “Do you want to die?” “What to do you want from me?!?  LEAVE ME ALONE!”  “But do you want to die?” the question came again.  “Yes…no….I don’t know” That was it.  I had survived the night.  I got my mess and I cleaned up and spent the day burying myself in books.  We didn’t have a TV so this was as close as I came to vegging out.  Every time I stopped reading the same question pounded in my head…..Did I want to die?  I continued to ignore this in every way I could; putting off the inevitable confrontation with my choices.  I am a master procrastinator so I was able to escape myself most of the day.  Finally there was no putting it off any longer.  “Do you want to die?” I stopped and thought a long time.  “No I don’t want to die.  I just want the pain to go away.  I don’t want to feel this anymore.”   Never again after that day did I even think about killing myself.  I realized something very basic in that moment.  I truly did not want to die.  I needed to heal.  This is not the end of my story.  My parents did not know about my suicide attempt but they did know something was very wrong.  They sent me to live with my Grandparents for a while.  It was the best thing they could have done.  I needed the solitude, the quiet and honestly the pampering that they gave me during that time.   My grandparents didn’t know what had happened, to this day they probably don’t.  But they gave me a deeply needed respite.  For a few months I was able to just be.
I don’t know what happened to Amy Winehouse.  I don’t know if she took her own life or not.  I am very sorry for the loss of the people who loved her most.  No one can fill the whole that someone leaves when they go.  I don’t share my story lightly.   Some of the wounds and pains that needed healing in me took years and much counseling.  I share this only because maybe, just maybe my story will make someone reconsider an irreversible mistake.  If I had died that night I never would have experienced the greatest moments of my life.  The moments I could not see while I was in that dark, dark place: a wonderful summer when I was 17 and I made lifelong friends while living at the beach and working in a mission, going away to college, falling in love with my husband, getting married, having my five beautiful baby boys, learning and loving all the differences God has given each of them, moving to TX and meeting many more beautiful friends, so many, many good things that I cannot even begin to list them all.  My life has been so very full of wonderful, awesome things.  My life has had some hard roads and painful loss but in walking these hard places I never once thought about ending my life.  Instead I cling to life in the good, the bad and all the in between.  Life is so very precious.  Thank you God for your grace.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Glimpse of a Give Away

Anyone who knows me knows I love to host a party.   I love cooking a massive amount of food, cleaning (ok maybe I don’t love the cleaning so much) and decorating my house in preparation.  I love to watch people as they come in with whatever stress has been in their day and then watch as they look around, take a deep breath of the party scented air and then slowly relax.  I love to hear the laughter as people swap stories and I love to laugh right along with them.  I love to look around the house after everyone leaves, see the empty glasses, dirty plates and drooping decorations and have that feeling of deep satisfaction that comes over me knowing that a good time was had by all.  Yup I LOVE a good party. 
Next month will be the six month birthday of this blog.  When I first started I had no idea just how much I was going to learn, how many new friends I would make, or how many old friends I would reconnect with.  Indeed I had no idea just how much I would fall in love with this new form of communication.  Maybe it’s my closet narcissism peeking out but I have decided this joyous occasion deserves a celebration!!!    I thought long and hard about how I could best turn a virtual party into a real world party short of flying everyone to my house (which though I would to do it. It’s just not feasible, or so my husband says ;).  Then it came to me.  I’ll have a fantastic giveaway to show how much I appreciate every one of you. 
So here are all the fun details.  The prize is a fantastic gift basket.  Some of the cool goodies included are the book Look Me in the Eye by John Robisson (a fantastic, fun read), a GloDowg candle (my very favorite.  Their scents last and they burn forever. Not to mention they are made by one of my favorite people in the world),  full size  Bath and Body Works Lavender Vanilla bubble bath, lotion and body spray (this will relax  you on the most stressful of days and a box of Godiva chocolates.  Yes guys I know this basket seems a bit on the feminine side but if you win you can give it to your wife, girlfriend, sister or momma and I PROMISE you that you will be golden for at least a week ;-)
How do I win this amazing gift basket you may ask?  It’s simple.  Just leave a comment every time you visit my blog over the next month.  Every comment you leave I will enter your name into the drawing basket.  On August 28th, exactly six months to the day that I started my blog, I will draw a random name and announce it.  The more times you comment the more times you will be entered, the more chances you have to win.  Easy as pie!!!  Just to be clear the comments have to be left on my blog.  Although I love all the comments on Facebook and Twitter only the ones on the blog itself will be counted.  To comment on the blog is easy.  Just type your comment in the post a comment box and then click which profile you wish to post under in the “Comment as” box.
I am so excited about our upcoming celebration.   I’m already picking out my party dress ;-)  Have a great day friends.-Kristine

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Glimpse of the harsher truths

I was so excited.  We were going out to eat, at an actual restaurant….the sit down kind, for the first time in at least a year.  I had all seven us looking our shiny best as we walked into the restaurant.  This was going to be fantastic!!!!  About 15 minutes into the meal one of the boys began to wail.  I tried giving him a cracker but he was not to be distracted.  I leaned over to my hubby and told him I would take this one outside to the van and he could stay in and eat with the other boys.  I promptly picked up the screaming child and exited the eatery.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  I was so looking forward to a nice meal that someone else cooked and cleaned up after.  With all of our kids being so young (they were 5, 4, 3, 3 and not quite 1) this was a rare occasion.  My husband was disgruntled when he returned to the van.  “Why’d you just leave like that?”  “Because all the other people in there did not pay good money to hear our baby’s cry throughout their entire meal.  It’s called being a responsible parent.”
It’s time to grab your life jackets friends and batten down the hatches.  I’m about to steer this blog into troubled waters.  Ok is everyone buckled up and holding tightly to the railing?  Here we go------o…….
My last blog was about one of the biggest lessons I have learned as a parent, learning to let go of my need of others acceptance and approval and just doing the right thing for my child.  Today I am going to tackle the opposite side of that coin. I call it considerate, responsible parenting.    I did not want people to get the wrong idea when they read my last blog.   Whenever possible I try to be considerate to the other people who surround me.  There are the rare occasions, such as the Wal-Mart story of my last blog, where a public meltdown is unavoidable.  I was dealing with a deeper heart issue, my NEED to have others approval and acceptance above and beyond what was right for my child.  That in no way negates the need for considerate, responsible parenting. 
I have had to say no more often than I have said yes as a parent, even when it has broken my heart.  This past school year my kids got strep on the week three of them had their ONLY field trip of the year.  All year the teachers had been pumping them up for this day.  They were on antibiotics for 24 hrs but I knew they would still be contagious to the other children so I kept them home.  It broke my heart because they were looking forward to this day ALL year. There were tears, lots of tears, that made me feel like the lowest of the low creatures alive….somewhere below pond scum on the charts.  However, I knew it was the right decision to make as a considerate parent.
I have spoken of some of the lowest points for me personally and some of the heights.  I am by no means a perfect standard to judge by.  I have messed up frequently and will make many more mistakes in the future.  Not because I desire to but because I am not perfect in any way.   That being said, many women come to me with questions and looking for advice.  I guess they figure that if you have enough kids you’re bound to learn something along the way or maybe they figure with this many kids I have probably made every mistake there is and they can learn by avoiding my example.  Either way I field a lot of questions.  “What do I do?!? Johnny pushed a popcorn kernel up his nose.”    “Why won’t Katie potty train?”  “What Dr do you use?” etc, etc...You get the point.  Many of these questions have simple answers. “Have Johnny blow his nose as hard as he can.  If that doesn’t work go to the pediatrician.”    “I’m not an expert but I would say it’s probably because she’s not even a year old yet.  I hate to tell you but you have a lot more diapers in your future.”  “Pediatrician or Developmental Pediatrician?”    Unfortunately some of the advice I have to give is not so popular.   These lessons are the ones that were hardest won for me.  My last blog I addressed one of those issues.  Today I’m addressing another.  Being a responsible, considerate parent often means being selfless.  Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do.  It will take everything you have and then it will demand more.  At that point you will change, you will grow.  You will give up who you are to become who you are meant to be.  I know this goes against all that pop culture will teach you. Today you are taught that you DESERVE to have things your way and that you NEED to hold onto yourself above all else.  Unfortunately the ones who pay the price for our self-indulgence are our children.  Then we wonder why our children grow up to be self-absorbed and selfish.   The answer is simple: They learned by our example.    This sounds very harsh and I am sure will not make me many friends.  But that does not change the truth.  Sometimes you won’t get to have the dinner you have been looking forward to, sometimes your kids will cry because life isn’t fair and they missed their field trip, sometimes you will have to be judged by others because you choose to do what is right.  Sometimes you will have to be unpopular (I could give a class on this one;)
Now for the good news: Being a parent is the most AMAZING ride you will have in life.  It’s way better than the biggest roller coaster or the tastiest chocolate.  Every sacrifice you make will be small in comparison to privilege of bringing a little life into the world and guiding that life into adulthood.  There is NOTHING better.  Friends before I sign off I have to say I am blessed to be a part of your lives.  Lots of hugs-Kristine

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Glimpse of not giving a damn

Standing in line at Wal-Mart it was impossible not to notice the flustered young mother a few patrons ahead of me. Her hair had been thrown up in a sloppy ponytail, dark purple circles under her eyes attested to too many sleepless nights. She had a baby on each hip and more in the cart she rocked back and forth in a vain attempt to calm the crying child inside. Crying is not an accurate description. No what this child was doing was more like a cross between the cry of a feral cat and the wail of a siren. She frantically tried everything to quiet the child: singing, counting, shushing, babbling nonsense. None of it worked. The mother looked on the verge of tears herself. Directly behind her stood your average professional yuppie dressed in the yuppie weekend uniform: khaki shorts, polo shirt, and deck shoes. He made disgusted noises at the mother’s vain attempts to quiet her wailing child. Finally he looks over at his companion, dressed in the identical outfit only her polo was pink instead of blue, and loudly states “If that was my child I’d beat his butt and then he wouldn’t act like this in public.” The flustered, young mother turned three shades of red. She turns and quietly whispers “I’m sorry. He’s autistic and he doesn’t handle Wal-Mart well. Usually I leave him home but my husband had to work and we needed formula and diapers.” The man’s ire was temporarily assuaged and the mother finally checked out.
If you haven’t already guessed I was that mother. For several years it was almost impossible to leave the house without having a similar situation happen. Everywhere I went I was judged as a mother. Some people would just roll their eyes, others would actually try to be helpful and offer advice, and some were like the man in the above story. For the most part we stayed home. Even going to relatives was difficult. Family members did not always understand or accept that we were dealing with something more than discipline issues. All in all, I was judged by so many people. I felt compelled to explain my child’s behavior because then it wasn’t my fault. Then people looked at me with pity instead of judgment. “You poor dear, this must be so hard. You are doing a good thing” It made me feel better about myself. Then one day I finally came to understand something very important: It didn’t matter what anyone thought!! Not the guy at Wal-Mart, not the waitress at the restaurant, not the guy at the gas station. It wasn’t their business why my child acted the way he did and I certainly did not owe them an explanation of his behavior. It didn’t matter whether or not my family agreed with the diagnosis or if they thought my child’s “issues” were because I did not spend enough time with them (yes a family member actually did tell me this….me the stay at home mom with no car). What truly mattered was that I was doing what was right for my child. That I was doing everything in my power to be the mom to my child that he needed. I call this my lesson in not giving a damn.
I know that can sound arrogant but that isn’t the way I intend it. For me it was freeing. It was so freeing to stand in Wal-Mart and hear the snide comments and really not care. It was freeing when I got the emails with the newest “causes for autism” and all the things I should be doing differently to just delete them without feeling guilty. I no longer had to explain, I no longer had to apologize, and I no longer had to feel guilty or sorry. I no longer wanted people’s approval or pity. So very often, as parents of special needs children, we make it about us. I know I did. I felt embarrassed by my child’s behavior, I felt judged, and I felt pitied. But this isn’t about me. It’s about my child. It is about finding the best treatment available for my child (whether others agree with it or not). It’s about being the parent God has called me to be to my child.
One of the first pieces of advice I give to parents when given a new diagnosis for their child is this: This is not about you. It will affect you. It will change your life but this diagnosis is not about you. It is about your child. Your extended family may never understand, friends may be uncomfortable around your family and not know what to say. But it is not your job to make them understand. It is not your place to make them comfortable. All that energy you expend trying to get others understanding is wasted. This advice was hard won. It came from oceans of wasted tears. This journey, this amazing life changing journey takes all your effort and energy. Your child feels it when you are ashamed of them or embarrassed by them. One of the most important things you can do for your child is to accept them, really truly accept them as they are. Once they feel this from you they will be open to the other steps and therapies you will try. I have four children on the spectrum and one husband. This journey has been different for each of them. It has been a learning experience for me. God has used this journey to change me in so many ways and I will be eternally grateful for it. The first step for me was this one, this very hard one. Sometimes it is great to just not give a damn.

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