Thursday, November 20, 2014

3 Month Letter

Dear Sweet Merit,

Happy 3 months to you. I suppose I should start with thank you! Thank you for being such a good, happy boy. You've made the transition from two small kids to three much more manageable than I ever expected. I'm delighted to celebrate three months with you on the outside and in my life officially. From the moment you were born, I've been smitten. You've been a wonderful blessing to me and I'm so thankful that thus far you've been an easy going child. You've been smiling a lot more this month. It's not so hard to make happen. I simply get close to your face and start talking and you are quickly "talking" back and grinning. I love it. You've been grabbing on to toys that dangle above you when we lay you on your play mat or in your bouncy chair. You will also explore by rolling on your side, but that's as far as you care to get. You hate tummy time (so do I!) and you come by that honestly because you're brothers weren't too fond of it either. They are pretty good to you. They are jealous at times, but both quick to help you with your paci or pat your sweet little head. We all love you so much! Daddy keeps telling me how you two have bonded this month and every time it's time for you to go to bed, he says, "He is a cute one, isn't he?" You are. The cutest.

Love you to the moon and back,

P.S. You were adorable last month, too. I just never wrote you a letter to tell ya!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tender, Tough, and Strong

It seems like there's hardly time to stop and write here. When I think about what keeps me grounded most, it's time in God's word, exercise, and creating. Usually that creating is writing. I need it in my life. There has been a lot of stress this past year and the busier I get, the more out of my control everything feels. The kids are at trying ages. Abel is in that wild stage of the terrible twos and Kinley is a strong willed, whiny three year old. I love them and they're fun, but they also have a way of making me want to pull all my hair out. Merit is still at the sweet baby stage that makes me think I could have a few more kids if they were all like him. I know I'll be singing a different tune in about a year! Anyway, these days are long and I often feel I'm bad at my role as Mom.

But I know I'm not. 

I know I'm not because I think about it all the time. Is this what God wants me to do with my children? Is this how I'm supposed to treat them? Reprimand them? Should I teach them this? Or that? Or both? 

How, how, how do I do this? No, really- HOW?

I look back to life with one and it makes me smile. I thought Kinley was a difficult baby (he was!) but I had no idea what was headed my way. Handling three babes three and under is a whole new adventure that I felt ill prepared for. Now that I'm in the trenches, there is some clarity that one day the pitter patter of little toddler feet on the hardwood or the newborn cries of my youngest won't wake me up in the morning. I know I'll miss hearing Abel jumping in his crib in the early morning and then giggling in his room all by himself. These boys are my life.

They are. I don't care if I've lost a little of myself because I'm pouring as much of me as I can into them. I'm trying to use a strainer, though. A little of this patience and none of that anger. It's such a hard, thankless job raising kids and I know as a sinner I'm bound to screw up daily. But just as God picks me up, forgives me, and loves me when I veer off in the wrong direction, I'm the same with the boys. I put them down at night and feel totally and completely emotionally tapped out. I can still easily recall all the  mischievous happenings of the day yet as I watch them sleep there's so much love in my body for them. I can't explain it. They make me want to be better for them. 

I was reminded of this song when I saw it on Good Morning America last week. The guy who wrote it performed it in my hometown and dedicated it to me when I was pregnant with Kinley. I think it means even more to me now that I know how incredible it is to be mama to three wonderful little boys.

Cue more tears. 

Thanks for listening, y'all. I know there's more of you out there who feel like I do. I make it a point not to sugarcoat how tough this job is because so many of us pretend to have it all together. I promise not to do that. Is being a parent difficult? Yes-in so many ways. It's difficult if you care...and I do. But these three boys have changed me, God is changing me, and in that regard, I couldn't be happier. I never knew I could love like this.

 "Hush now baby. Don't you cry. Because there's someone down there waiting whose only goal in life is making sure you're always gonna be alright- a loving angel, tender, tough and strong. It's almost time to go and meet your mom."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween 2014

Typically, I'm a bonafide Halloween nutcase. Elaborate costumes are planned months in advance and I spend time carefully selecting and making all garments and props. This year? Well, I had another kid to think about--making the number of costumes to create climb to FIVE. I started feeling as if I shouldn't go all out because we didn't have the money to spend on such things. I was getting a bit down because I love Halloween so much. I always have. But I started thinking maybe it's time for me to grow up.

I quickly came to my senses and reminded myself that, of course, I was going trick or treating with my kiddos. It's quite possibly my favorite day of the year and I didn't want to miss it just because I was having a hard time managing to get my act together. I decided I wasn't SuperMom, but I could totally be her for Halloween. I thought, "How perfect would it be to all be superheroes in honor of Abel's first hearing Halloween?" I set to work making SuperK and Bionic Boy costumes.

I made them masks, capes, and shirts but of course it didn't all get worn. There's always someone mad on October 31st and it's almost always a toddler. This year I have two toddler/preschool aged crazy people so they took turns refusing garments, pictures, and/or having to {gasp} walk to retrieve their candy. It's a hard life, you know?
Anyway, we had a great evening. Perhaps my favorite costume this year that I threw together at the last minute was baby Merit's. He made the cutest Superman.

Jordan pulled off a spectacular superhero last minute costume, too. I thought my SuperMom threads looked pretty dang good, too. Total cost for this entire family of five costumes? Less than $20. I hope I never buy store bought costumes.

The boys' babysitter joined us in our trick-or-treating. I just love her. She's wonderful with the kids and I feel like I can just sit and talk to her like a friend. I know God blessed us when He sent us her. I was glad to have her helping hands, too when Abel decided that all he wanted to do was plop down on the road and dig into the chocolate. It proved to be quite a task to carry Abel on my hip while wearing Merit on my front. Jordan was busy chasing after Kinley who was excitedly running house to house and thanking all our neighbors for their generous candy donations. Then it started raining. That cold rain, you know? We hurried home after hitting a few houses and built a fire and ordered takeout.
It was a great day.
What costumes did you come up with this year?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Learning to Listen

Most of you know, my middle child is deaf. I will use this blog partially as a journal for his progress because I know so many of my extended family members, friends, and even strangers are praying for him and invested in this as we are. I have felt your prayers over the last few months. As you may or may not recall, the first time he heard our voices, he was terrified.
But after the initial shock of finally hearing what was coming out of all these moving mouths, he began to react much differently to his new "ears". For about a week after activation, every time we put the processors on his head he became very still and would sit and listen to everything for the first few minutes. Now, he even asks for his "ears" to be put on by handing them to my husband or me OR he will point to the magnet if it falls off his head and he needs it re-attached. It makes me so happy to see him wanting to hear. That was one of my biggest fears during this whole process. I was afraid he would  not want this sense and for the first few years I'd have to force it on him. Thankfully, this is not the case at the moment and I'm counting that as a major blessing to us.

People often think that cochlear implants are a miracle. I agree partly. It's completely amazing that my deaf son now reacts to his name occasionally. He dances to music. He will turn when I clap! I used to bang on the walls or clap when I would try to get his attention before we knew the degree of hearing loss he had (bilateral profound) and it's a hard habit to break. Now, Abel will clap at us when he's trying to tell us something. Ha! I love this technology, but the truth is it's not just a simple flip of the switch and his deafness is "cured". Not at all actually.  With this miracle technology comes years and years of therapy. At this point, my two month old is more familiar with sound and language patterns than Abel is. He has been hearing since 20 weeks in the womb! Abel has only been hearing for a month.

The area of Tennessee that we're in is not great for hearing impaired folks who want to be aided. We LOVE his speech therapist. She's great, but she's one of the only ones in the area. It's why she chose to come here. I'm so thankful she is here, but I've spent much of the last few months worried that I wouldn't be able to provide for him the help he needs to make this new access to sound work for him. I fretted over not having an auditory verbal preschool to take advantage of. Of course as his mother, I want to do all that I can. I just find myself torn between focusing on him/playing with him to facilitate listening skills and teach language development and attending to my other small children and making them feel equally loved. It's a lot to juggle. As of now, Abel goes to speech therapy twice a week for an hour at a time. He enjoys his time there. There are so many toys that he gets to play with without other little hands grabbing at them, too. He also gets praised and lots of attention when he acknowledges hearing or attempts to speak. That hour is HIS time and he likes being the center of attention there.

Sometimes doubt creeps in and I feel as if his hearing is inconsistent, but the past week has given me renewed hope. Some days he responds to environmental noise all day and seems to ignore all spoken sounds. Then other days, he'll flip flop it and do the opposite. We are beginning to think he just is bored  with our games some days! This week he started imitating noises in a sing songy fashion so when he repeats what I just said in the same rhythm, I go crazy with pride for him. He's hearing, he's listening, and he's trying to talk! That's more than I can ask for at one month post activation.

In addition, he has said or attempted to say some words. You know I'm going to list them now. I've been waiting for so long to say that Abel's first words were x, y, and z. As parents of his peers began proclaiming their child's newest word, I always grieved a bit for the words Abe wasn't saying. He has come a long way and I know this because this week alone he has said (or attempted to say): Mama, hi, bye, up, off, and on. Incredible progress.

I'm going to call his updates "hearing stories" because we have so many throughout the day that I always want to share. Just yesterday, he began to choose the item that goes with the corresponding sound. I'll show you if you promise to ignore the powerade all over his face and my messy kitchen counter-
We're so proud of him and we're hoping to have more stories to share with you all soon!

In the mean time, we are going to keep plugging away- working with him. Two hours at therapy over the course of a week is not enough for language development. A huge part of auditory verbal therapy is parental involvement. As I mentioned before, I try to have focused play with him throughout the day but it's hard when there's another toddler vying for attention and a new baby asking to be fed. This is why I decided to create an area in his room that is just for him. I scoured the house for appropriate toys and took a trip to the dollar store for cheap play things. We've already had our first therapy session there! Kinley likes to help when he isn't feeling jealous or telling us he's "so deaf". He will make the LING sounds and prompt Abel to do the same.

As a family, we are invested in this sweet little guy. I know he will overcome his obstacles.

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why do I even try?

Jordan said I should have a whole section of my blog entitled "Why do I even try?" Then, he went even further to suggest I start a monthly magazine on this topic of motherhood and the many, many tasks that are so quickly undone throughout the day/week. What sparked this suggestion?

Potty training.

Yesterday, we sent our oldest (newly three years old) to Mother's Day Out in underwear. Dun, dun, duuuunn. He's great with #1. He'll even tell me he has to go and successfully makes it to the potty most days. #2 is a different story. I've never seen a kid so terrified of the task. When I know he has to go, I'll sit him down and he just shakes in fear and strains to hold it until I put a diaper on him (sometimes days later!) and then he finally goes. It's frustrating, but I don't want to push the issue too much. Still, he's gotta learn and I'm tired of buying diapers for three kids. I've all but jumped and rolled off the cloth diapering train. I'm thinking of selling our stash because between a newborn who spits up all the time and a toddler who thinks his clothes are the toilet, I can't keep up with the laundry. Which sparks the question--Why do I even try?

Last night, I bathed the boys and put them in fresh jams (all three of them) and joined my husband at the dinner table for a delicious, completely bad-for-me meal. Rookie mistake to do bath time before dinner. By the end, there was gravy all over Abel, clumps of oatmeal in Kinley's hair and face (he's a picky eater), and spit-up on the baby. Why do I even try?

I hope I'm not saying this phrase later on today. It's going to be a rough one. I'm taking all three of my lot to the doctor for well baby visits. It started at 5am with a loud Merit and continued with cleaning the kitchen, a load of laundry, and a bible study all before I could properly guzzle my first cup of coffee. Someone hold me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elkmont Camping Trip

There's a magical quality when you get to watch your children see the leaves fall in great quantity off the trees around you as the brisk, fresh air fills their lungs. I got to see that this past weekend. Kinley excitedly shouted "Look! Oh, no. We've gotta catch them. We've gotta put them back." I love experiencing common occurrences through the eyes and words of a child, especially mine because I happen to think they're brilliant. It was also pretty incredible to think of all the sounds that Abel was trying to sort through with his new cochlear implants. He happily kept his processors on for the entire camping trip and he got to hear the river rushing close by, the leaves crunching under his feet, the zipping of the tent, bird songs, the crackling of the fire, and so many other sounds that we all take for granted.

I was so nervous to camp with three small children, but I'm glad we did it.

When we first got there, it was dark and we still had to get the tent set up. I sat by the fire and watched the kids as Jordan set to work setting up camp. As we waited, Kinley told me, "I have a pwoblem." I asked him what it was and he said, "Mine daddy is over there and I'm over here." This boy loves his dad. We're lucky to have him.

Merit did great, too! Honestly, he was probably the easiest, laid back babe during the trip. He was perfectly content to stare up at the trees for hours and bundled up at night, he slept for long stretches. Two months old and already camping! He's a little trooper and we love him so.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Guilt and Grace

The first post on a blog is always awkward. This first post will be no different. It's customary to introduce oneself, but I don't feel the need to do that. You either know me or you don't. You like me or you don't. I can't really sway those feelings either way by words on a computer screen so I won't try. I felt drawn to write today because I'm feeling so stretched in every direction. There are so many people who keep calling me "SuperMom" and there couldn't be a person more unworthy of that title. I'm not her (although I'm going to be for Halloween!). I try to be her, but I fall short all the time. I want to let go of the guilt-

-the my child did this today and that's a reflection of ME guilt

-the my child needs a therapy program that isn't available around me guilt

-the I don't remember the last time I actually cooked dinner guilt

-the I'm not fit enough guilt

-the I still have so much sin in my life guilt

-the I pin activities to do with my kids, but don't actually ever do them guilt

-the my house is messy so my life must be messy guilt

If I look, I can find guilt and regret in so many things. But guess what?

-Sometimes kids just do or say crappy things. It doesn't mean I'm a bad mom. It doesn't mean that I'm not trying. It simply means my work isn't yet done. It's just beginning.

-The therapy can be done at home if I discipline myself to learn how to do it and follow through. I can help him.

-My husband enjoys cooking. Why would I add to my already full plate so to speak?

-I have three kids. One who has doctors and therapy appointments multiple times a week. One who keeps me up all night. I don't have much help because I can't afford it. It's exercise or sleep and the former rarely wins.

-Sin? Who doesn't have it? Only one. And he set me free from mine.

-As far as Pinterest goes, isn't it the thought that counts? ;)

-Again, I have three kids. Four if you count my other half. Their median age is 2.25. All boys. I could clean eight hours a day and not be finished.

I'm making a decision right now (at least for today) to be done with the guilt. Sure, it'll creep back up and try to get me, but I'll just have to remind myself that that girl is gone. I'm working. I'm trying. I'm doing a good job. And I'd venture to bet that you are, too.

Give yourself some grace.

"She watches over the affairs of the household and does not eat the bread of idleness."
Proverbs 31:27

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