Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Perfect Storm

(Written Jan 23, 2011)

Winter storms (especially here in the Pacific Northwest) are notoriously difficult to predict. Sure, the meteorologist has a general idea of what will happen and when, but it’s all a guessing game. After being sent home twice from the hospital with “false labor” (how contractions that hurt and show up on the monitor can be called false is beyond me!) and having my induction rescheduled (no room at the inn, apparently), I decided that obstetricians were meteorologists with medical degrees! I had begun to think that my dear little boy would attend college in utero! When a woman is just over five feet tall and 42 weeks pregnant, the two words that best describe her are enormous and desperate! I longed for this little guy with more sincerity than a child praying for snow at Christmas.

I’d wanted to be a mother from the time I was old enough to stick a dolly on my hip while I cooked “Lincoln Log casserole” in my little play kitchen. I don’t remember a single present I received for Christmas in 2001, because nothing in a box could hold a candle to the gift waiting inside of me. Christmas and New Years’ had come and gone, as had my husband’s birthday, my due date, and 2 Costco packs of antacids. I would dream of holding my baby (and wake up still pregnant) night after night. With each day that passed, my bulging belly was like a heavy snow cloud, hovering over my future. I knew he was coming, but when?

High blood pressure, while surely not something one usually hopes for, was AWESOME in my eyes. The hospital had to let me in to have this baby! As I reached for the very last antacid at the bottom of the bottle, the phone rang. The hospital wanted me to come! I threw on my only fitting shirt and pants, gripped my husband’s hand excitedly and we headed out into the freezing morning. We were going to the hospital (again), and this time, we were coming back with the baby on the outside!

Like early flurries that fall and stop, so was my labor progression for several hours. Getting ready to push seemed to take a lifetime, but once it was time, he came out quicker than even the doctor expected! My baby came to me like the snow falling outside, quietly and quickly! I expected a big, long wail to fill the halls that night, but he squawked one loud cry, then furrowed his brow and looked around, as if to say, “Alright, who’s in charge here? I hear there is a nice lady who makes milk. I’d like to see her, please.” I spent most of the night just watching him; afraid to close my eyes. I didn’t want this to be a dream. Oblivious to the white blanket covering the world beyond my recovery room, I ran my fingers gently across the flannel that enveloped my son.

After a few little bumps in an otherwise worry-free recovery, my Alans and I were ready to go home. His father drove down the icy streets as if he were transporting the president. He was extremely careful and understandably proud. While it was all sunshine and rainbows in the driver’s seat, reality was hitting me on the head like Kansas hail. This baby was coming home to live with US. Like, ALL THE TIME! I wasn’t waiting for this child’s mother to sign him out, I was his mother! For weeks I fumbled through, adoring my baby, yet secretly hoping that his real mother (who clearly had more of a clue than I did) would come and get him. I didn’t deserve this privilege. He needed somebody who knew what all his cries meant. Someone who didn’t keep the lactation consultant’s phone ringing off the hook. Someone who knew how to avoid getting peed on. Someone who wouldn’t screw this poor kid up! I wondered if the rain of inadequacy would cease-- so I could be more like June Cleaver and less like Lucy. There are days when I still wait …

Nine years later, Alan is still a snow baby. He puts on his snow shoes at the sight of 3 snow flakes and waits expectantly on the porch. He is still a gentle little guy with a plan. All those little thoughts and expressions I once struggled to interpret now come out in run-on sentences. (Hmmm, wonder where he got that?) I know I had a life before children, but I honestly cannot remember it. I’ve grown along side him; gaining experience, confidence and understanding with each passing year, but I still have so much to learn about how to be Alan’s mom. He still sometimes makes me feel like a clueless amateur who has no business raising chickens, much less children. There are days when I feel as though my heart will burst, I love him so much. There are days when I lock myself in the bathroom and scream into my bath towel; afraid I will burst from exasperation. There are days when he has hurts that I can’t fix and cry; wishing with all my might that I could take them for him. But no matter what the day has brought us, as I check on my boy one last time before bed, I am overwhelmed with the reality of how much I love my little boy. I kiss his forehead and remember the night when the perfect storm blew into my life-- changing it forever.

Happy Birthday, Alan Walter!

Open Your Hand

(Written February 9, 2011)

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

Matthew 12:12-14


My first-born prepared me for parenting in practical ways, such as how to nurse a baby, when to worry about fevers, diaper bag essentials and which pharmacies are open 24 hours. Aside from that, my two little boys could not have been more different. Alan wanted to be swaddled, snuggled, cuddled and rocked at all times. Wyatt wanted to hang out in his diaper and be left alone until it was time to eat. Alan lived in the swing. Wyatt hated it. Alan always wanted to have mommy nearby. Wyatt was happy to entertain himself between meals and naps with very little maternal intervention. After having a child who wanted to be in my arms, craving constant attention at all times, Wyatt seemed like such an easy baby! I was certain he was going to be the child who gave me no drama whatsoever. That theory could not have been more incorrect!

I learned in his second year of life that my “serious” baby wasn’t just serious. He experienced emotional and sensory deficits (and overloads), due to PDD-NOS, a form of Autism. His high pain tolerance, which had made those rounds of shots during the first year a breeze, was not always an asset. I’m not sure a mother can be prepared for the sound of a single whimper alluding to not just a bump on the head, but a trip to urgent care. There is no “gearing up” for a toddler who runs towards moving cars. Silence can mean your child is playing quietly, or your child is in danger.

On the flip side to the silent dangers he craved were boisterous outbursts which seemed to come with very little reasoning. Car seats, high chairs, changing tables, people wanting to hold him, several foods, changes in scheduling, face washing … all of these would send my child into a screaming, flailing tirade. He began talking at six months old, but from age one to two he scarcely progressed at all, usually only repeating the last words we spoke to him. Unable to express his desires and needs, he grew more and more frustrated. Thank God for the patient, loving and knowledgeable therapists, who walked with us through that difficult time. They taught us how to reach him, how to help him, and how to begin to understand him. Though he still spoke to us in memorized phrases, we were breaking through many barriers. He was learning to be safer. He was transitioning easier. We were planning a move to a beautiful home in the country, where the boys would have plenty of room to safely run and the schools were known for their special education staff. Ironically, this move brought us to the scariest point in Wyatt’s life thus far …

Wyatt’s room had been put in the same arrangement, in an attempt to make him feel more at ease with the move. I was expecting sleepless nights, speech regression and tantrums. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. A week after we moved, Auntie Laura moved as well. Not only was our beloved “Auntie L” my sister, she was also Wyatt’s first preschool teacher. The two safest places Wyatt knew had changed. Again, I was expecting meltdowns, but they didn’t seem to happen. What happened instead was the clenching of his left hand. At first, he opened and closed it frequently. As the days passed, it was closed more and more. Before we knew it, he was using his left hand like a “club” appendage. His hand remained clenched in a fist when he ate, when he took a bath, when he played, even when he slept. Deeply concerned, we called his neurologist.

As we waited for his MRI appointment, the clenching continued. He wouldn’t even open his hand to push away the nurse as she checked his blood pressure and put an I.V. in his right arm. As my baby slipped into his medicated slumber, his hand slowly began to open. Our hearts sank as the fist returned before he fully regained consciousness.

The doctor told us there was no medical reason why this was happening, but his body didn’t know that. Though stress was causing his clenched hand, his body got used to it. We were informed that if he didn’t start using his hand again, he could remain this way for life. We had to get him to start opening his hand again, and when he was ready, the fist would be gone for good.

We were given strict instructions to exercise his hand once every hour when he was awake. We would tell Wyatt to open his hand, and then tell him what a good boy he was and give him ten high-fives. At first, we had to pry his little hand open. After a few days, he would open it voluntarily, give us “fives” and then the fist returned. Every day, I begged my son, “Please, baby-- open your hand!” Every night, I pleaded with God to show me how I could ease his mind, thereby healing his body.

Auntie Laura called me one morning, asking if we would like to come over. She had set up the new classroom in her new house, and hoped it might help Wyatt to see that his favorite toys and learning tools were still there. When I asked Wyatt if he wanted to go, he thought for a moment, said, “Yeah …” and began opening and closing his hand! Little Alan pointed, noticing at the same time I did. We knew what to do. We drove straight to Auntie Laura’s house!

He opened and closed his hand intermittently during the twenty-five minute drive. I called his daddy on the way, telling him I would keep him posted. He told me he would be waiting by his phone. As we parked in an unfamiliar driveway, Wyatt’s fist clenched tightly. This wasn’t Auntie Laura’s house. His entire body stiffened as we walked up the stairs. When the front door opened, my sister’s gentle smile and compassionate eyes met Wyatt’s. His rigid frame seemed to melt into the arms of his beloved Auntie, as she carried him into the classroom. As she gingerly placed his feet on the floor, she asked him if he could see his beloved wooden numbers. He beamed, pointing at the bountiful basket of numerals. As he slowly walked around the shelves, he found his favorite toys; the wooden cylinders, the sand paper letters, the love-worn copy of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” they were all there! His left hand continuously opened and closed, while his right hand touched each item. It was going to be okay. School was still school. Just like at home, it was different, but the important pieces were still there. I called my husband to share the good news. He said he couldn’t wait to get home and hug his brave boy!

When we returned home, Wyatt’s demeanor was more tranquil than it had been in nearly a month. It took him a few days to remember that he could use his left hand again, but it slowly returned to its original capabilities. When he would feel a bit uneasy, the fist would return from time to time. When those moments came, all it took was a gentle rubbing of his arm and the words, “Wyatt, open your hand,” to relax his little fingers once more. When I think about how fear almost paralyzed my son’s hand, I am so thankful for the intervention of doctors, earnestly praying family and friends and the compassion of my sister, Laura. Fear could have stolen a precious gift from Wyatt.

I am amazed every day how much I learn from my children. Thinking back on this season of Wyatt’s life, I can’t help but see parallels in my own. There are times when God brings wonderful changes into my life, such as new opportunities, friendships or medical advancements. I know they come from a loving God who has proven time and time again that he can be depended upon. Regardless of how good He has always been to me, the proof of His amazing love through Christ’s sacrifice and the plethora of scriptures affirming that God always keeps His promises, I allow fear to paralyze me. I close myself off from all that God wants me to become, because it’s new. It’s different. It’s scary. I stumble through life, struggling in ways God would never want me to; all because I will not listen to His pleading, “Open your hand.”

For What it's Worth

I wrote this back in March on facebook, but I wanted to make sure I was "saving" it somewhere else. :)

“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

I really do lead an atypical life. For starters, I love my boss. No, I'm not being sarcastic. I don't just love love her little boy, I genuinely love Katie! And no, it's not just for the lattes she brings on tough days, the "staff meetings" she schedules at Cutters Point or the fact that she's growing another little boy for me to love. She's a blast to hang out with! She's crazy smart, has a quirky little sense of humor and she genuinely sees my heart and not the pile of dishes I didn't get to while playing tickle tag with her son. Every payday, Katie usually gets home late. I put Kaelin in his car seat with a snack, Katie writes my check and we spend the next thirty-plus minutes just chatting. I always learn something new from our time together; today I was blessed by the story of a special ring.

Her grandmother had given her the ring; I've never seen one quite like it. The setting was what made it so unique; as prongs were arranged differently during the WWII era. As Katie told me the story of of the gift's origin (the center stone was from her grandmother's engagement ring), she spoke with a genuine fondness-- which had nothing to do with its contents. The ring was a visible sign of love, tying generations together.

While in high school, a fellow classmate (and aspiring jeweler) looked at Katie's precious heirloom with much different eyes. He informed her that the prongs were set all wrong, the coloring of the stones meant they were probably fake and her ring was worthless. While his haughty, unsolicited commentary did not change the value in Katie's heart, it certainly piqued her curiosity. Because of this encounter, she took her ring to an actual jeweler. He marveled at the rarity of the setting, the quality of the stones and the unique choice of rose-gold. He urged Katie to protect her ring with insurance.

Naturally, I was struck by the contrast in the two appraisals. The ring had certainly not changed; the differing opinions were the result of two very different people. While the student obviously took a great interest in jewelry, his expertise and experience was limited. The jeweler had training, much more experience and a greater understanding of what he held in his hands. Again, it did not change the ring's value in Katie's heart, but it always feels good to be validated!

Later that day, while talking with a friend, she mentioned feeling "superfluous." Saddened by her self-appraisal, I vehemently disagreed. While I would be upset by anyone who saw themselves as lacking in value, I am known for sharing some "unsolicited commentary" of my own when a loved one does. I knew my friend had recently been "poorly appraised" by someone close to her, and a long, trial-ridden day had caused her to question her worth. I told her about Katie's ring, and told her that just because someone couldn't see her value; it didn't change how precious she was.

I know we all do this from time to time. We don't even need someone close to us to tell us where we fall short; perfect strangers do it! We have billboards, commercials, music videos and reality TV telling us we're "junk." We're not rich enough, we don't look good enough, we're not smart enough, we're not getting enough done ... I think our "lack of value" is one of Satan's favorite lies. After all, the less we value ourselves, the less we care about the choices we make. When we have no value, we can abuse, mutilate and destroy the bodies God gave us. We can harden our hearts towards the needs of others, since; after all, we couldn't do anything about it. We can callous the protective conscience He placed inside of us, Bringing hardship, abuse and pain into our lives. This truly must grieve our Heavenly Father, who sees us so differently.

Almighty God, the Creator and giver of all life, places upon each of us a certificate of priceless value. He has deemed that we are worth the life of His Son. He sees every quirk of your personality, every mole on your back, every time you kick your shin against the open dishwasher door ... and He adores you. He knows the innermost corners of your heart, the secrets you plan to take to your grave and the number of hairs (or lack thereof) on your head. You can't ask for a more thorough appraisal than that! He loves us unconditionally, so much so that he provided redemption for our sin, lest it separate us from Him. He covered all of our filth with the pure, perfect and priceless blood of Jesus. In that single act, The Righteous Judge has appraised you as priceless.

As your week comes to a close, hold tight to your appraisal! My prayer is that you all might know that you are precious, irreplaceable, priceless and loved beyond measure! <3

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About Me

I'm not your average housewife; but then, neither is any other housewife I've met! My life is a constant blur of kids, animals, hunting down and testing allergy-friendly recipes, shopping, LOTS of coffee, yarn crafting, nannying, singing and writing. I married my highschool sweetheart (the introvert who is a type-A, shy, organized, loves hunting, hiking and mountain climbing. He lives for pizza, burgers and cookies and doesn't like coffee). We are polar opposites, but Love, grace and a whole lotta Jesus can overcome anything! :) We have two boys who fill this house with lots of excitement, love, laughter and lunacy! Alan (9) is a happy-go-lucky, inventive, dramatic, eager-to-please kid who loves being dad's shadow and mom's shopping companion. He's the snuggliest kid I've ever met! Wyatt is extremely bright, inquisitive, entertaining and endearing. He lives for routine, Wii games, pixar films and writing stories. Alan is typically-developing, Wyatt has high-functioning autism. We live on an acre in the Pacific Northwest with our two aussies and 5 chickens. It's not the Waltons, but it works! :)