Thursday, December 15, 2011

Praying for Grace...and More Bad Dreams

Chaucer has attention deficit disorder.  It is fairly severe.  After I learned more about it, he perfectly fits the standard definition, a classic case.  His body simply can’t be still.  
Since he was able to get out of his crib, he moves through the night.  I would say he doesn’t wake up, but, now that he is almost 9, he can tell you what time he moved from his bed.  He has found different spots over the years - in the hallway, on the couch, in our doorway.  But his most visited spot is on the floor next to me.  He curls up in a little pile of blankets, and sleeps.  My husband used to fight this, but it was a battle I made him give up, because he was fighting not only Chaucer, but me. 
My son has never been a snuggler, which has led to hours of me wondering where I went wrong.  Now, cerebrally, I understand that he can’t be still, his body feels trapped.  He gets anxious. His building of his little nest and need to be close to me fed me as much as it fed him.  He wanted to just be close. To know that I was close, and I needed to know he needed me as his mother.  Often he is gone before morning, without my ever being aware he was there.  When I wake, I know.  I can smell him, feel him, but he is gone, like a phantom.  In the winter, he moves around 5:30 or 6 into the living room where he turns on the gas fireplace and curls on the floor and dozes.  In the summer, he often goes outside.  This summer, his choice spot was in front of the tomatoes he was growing.   
Steve travels many nights, and I often find my room littered with kids or their trails.  There may be one or two on the floor, or one or two in my bed.  Or a blanket or bear or doll left behind that sells out my kids.  This is a terrible habit they have, and I know I should do more to stop it.  The girls don’t do it when my husband is in town, because he gets grumpy about it.  Chaucer, however faithfully, usually visits for a few hours even when Steve is in town. 
Somewhere in the deep of the night last night, there was a body snuggling, maybe.  It felt like an an assertive, if not aggressive snuggle. It was as if Chaucer were trying to literally crawl back into my womb.  His head was in my neck, and his knees burrowed into my stomach, and he grabbed my arm to wrap around his body. He wasn’t crying or talking, he never does.  Truth be told, I am not a cuddler when I am sleeping either.  In my half dream, barely alert state, I fell back into a full sleep.  
Around six, my older daughter comes in our room to take a shower.  (Yes, our kids have their own shower, and there is a third shower in our house.  And another half bath with a sink.  But they all shower and bathe and brush teeth in our bathroom.)  I stir and something feels weird.  Was I dreaming I was pregnant?  I feel pregnant.  Then I realize my son is still not only in bed with me, but still locked into his position next to me, like a baby kangaroo in a pouch.  
I am awake enough to enjoy it, relish it really.  I have to go to the bathroom so bad, but I don’t want to lose this.  I want to rub his head, rub my hands all over his little body, kiss him, and eat him really.   But I don’t move.  He rolls over onto his back and stretches out.  Only his left arm and left leg are touching me now.  I really have to go to the bathroom, but I know this is borrowed time.  I let myself rub his head, and maybe a leg, and an arm.  Just like that, he is tossing and moving, a prisoner to the lack of hormone connections in his brain.  He somehow flips into a position where his head is on the other side of the bed, but both of his feet are on my stomach, and he stills again.  
His little feet move with a twitch or two, just as they did when I was pregnant.  But they are big feet, warm feet.  It’s like a fire in bed, warming my heart.  I know he needs me, loves me.  He has never been expressive.  He was never the little mama’s boy, never the three year old that wrote notes saying I love you.  He did however used to say that he was going to marry Mommy, so I hold on to that.  
I asked why he was there, even though I know the answer.  It has happened before.  “I had a bad dream.”  
“What was it?”  
“I don’t remember now.”  
Sometimes he remembers, sometimes he doesn’t.  Because of his over activity, people always assume he is tough and not needy.  Even I do this sometimes.  He has always had the worst dreams, or needed the most comfort.  Movies have always scared him.  Even now, one of those Christmas movies - is it Rudolph? has a scary snow monster that prevents him from watching it. 
I love the kids in my bed and in our room.  I know more than ever now that it will not last.  Soon enough, the little nest by my bed will stay empty forever.  Already, there are nights when it is.  But I think thats more getting ready for Santa.  
Last night, a friend posted a picture of her daughter who is fifteen.  She looked.... well, grown.  My daughter is 11 1/2.  Less than 4 years from that.  My son will be nine in January.  How much longer do I have him coming to me in the night?  Each time, I wonder if it was the last.  I am glad I think like this, but I am also glad I don’t know the answer.  The answers to hard questions.. like when was the last time I held them on my hip? or the last time I nursed? or when will be the last time I see their little naked bodies? Or the last time they say “lellow” for  yellow or “becktast” for breakfast?  
I don’t think I could bear to know these answers. 
Thank God I am learning that they will always need me.  Of course, it will look different as they grow older.  May God give me the grace to embrace their changes and grow in my motherhood.  
And, naughtily, I pray for a few more bad dreams.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Man's Reach Should Exceed His Grasp

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for? 
                         - Robert Browning
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter’s teacher was reviewing her reading for the month.  They are required to read a certain number of pages each month.  This started to annoy me, but if you put more than one second of thought into it, you realize there are no perfect ways to quantify something as elusive, personal and individual as a love of reading. 
Of course, she had read the required amount.  This is a battle we have never had to fight with her.  I am not talking about reading, but getting her work done.  She is a hard worker, very conscientious.  
I could picture her teacher, sitting on her stool, at the front of the room, with her roll away table pulled up to her, maybe with a computer, maybe not.  Her teacher has taught 5th grade at this school for 28 years, but doesn’t look like she has been teaching that long.  Her wisdom helps me believe, though.  I wouldn’t call her soft spoken; she is decidedly strong and confident in anything she says.  However, she never raises her voice.  
Chloe had most recently read the first in a series of books.  She told me that her teacher had told her to stay away from those books - they were too hard for her.  Although Chloe received 100% in the overall category, her teacher had marked that she had not chosen appropriately leveled books to read.  
I’m absolutely positive that the teacher did this discreetly, not only because I know her, but because that would have been the first thing Chloe told me if it weren’t the case.  

She picked the book because many of her friends were reading it - one of the biggest reasons I choose to read a book. It is fun to talk about with your friends, a way to bond.  
Dyslexia has hampered her ability to bond, to be a part of the group in so many ways.  Last year, her teacher told us she was passing notes in class to the point of disruption.  I have no doubt that she didn’t appreciate our inability to hide our joy in her joining the ranks of the girly note writers.  For years, her ability and then her confidence was a barrier to this  important social step.  

Every mother knows how heartbreaking it is to watch your child hurt and not be able to do anything to assuage the pain.  The knowledge of how hard she has tried, and struggled with reading over the years, reminds me now that this wound is, after all these years, still open and raw. 

As Chloe shared this with me, I listened.  A sensitive subject, always, but there was more.  A new thread.  A new discovery about herself.  And the world.  “I understood most of the book.  Maybe not all of it.  But I finished it, and I enjoyed it.”
A pause.  Thoughts swirling in her head.  I don’t push.  I don’t try to fix it or comfort her.  
“You know, I don’t think I would have read the next one anyway.  But,  it doesn’t feel good being told that I can’t read more.” 
Oh so thats how you feel.  Wow.  I might have expressed those feelings more like this:  “Expletive you.  It’s a free country and I will read it if I want to.” 

I am not going to let this one sentence take over, but it deserves a nod.  There is so much in that nugget.  She took the information, and processed it.  Chloe trusts her teacher immensely, so values what she says. Instead of letting her defenses take over in a vulnerable time, she chewed on it.  She may have realized that her teacher was right.  She moved on, acknowledging the teacher’s authority.  She acknowledged her feelings, but was able to stay objective.  She would not read the series just because her friends were reading it. She tried their suggestion, and realized it didn’t work for her, for whatever reason.  Their is so much valuable information in her observation: trust, insight, strength, processing, expression, courage.  

Man, am I glad I don’t allow electronic devices in our car these days.  I may not have had this conversation with her. 
Within a week, my son, who is also dyslexic, had a similar experience with his teacher.  He was walking up to check out a book in the library and his teacher asked to look at it.  According to him, she shook her head and said, “I don’t think so, Chaucer.”  
He is not as much of a reporter as my girls, so the mere mention of this lets me know how it has affected him.  He had started the conversation with, “Have you ever heard of a book called The Fourth Stall?” 
He doesn’t like to talk too much about these things, so I casually acknowledged, “That doesn’t sound like it felt very good to you,” and I googled it on the computer and pulled up a You Tube video of the author answering questions about the book.  We watched the interview, his attention never wavering.  At the end he said in an apparently sassy tone, but I know the voice was protecting him, “Yeah, that sounds good but too bad I can’t read it.”  
He was still hurt.  I couldn’t kiss this one away, so I continued.  I pulled up sample pages on Amazon, pulled him in my lap, and asked him to read.  It took less than a paragraph for him to realize that his teacher was right in her assessment, if not soft in her delivery.  
“O.K. This is too hard.  Could we get the book and you read it to me, Mom?” 
Of course, my son.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Art Therapy

I remember reading a blog for a while and enjoying her posts and insights immensely.  Until one day, in trying to depict everyday life, she wrote something to do with boogers.  I  have never seen her in the same light.  Today, I run the same risk.  I am not actually saying anything about them.  I just want to make sure you can read the quote from the cartoon my son drew when he was upset with my husband.  It says, "I love to pick my boogers."

My youngest daughter created the following piece of art last night:

She amended it this morning.  She explained she would just use the same paper, but change it to whoever is being mean that day according to her current feelings.

I am grateful that they are able to express their feelings, rather than keeping it stuffed inside.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I Have Been Writing Only Emails and Making Love to My Calendar

A few weeks ago, Lindsey posted about Life’s polarities.  I’ve often thought of this before, but haven’t written or talked much about it.  This could be one of my biggest roadblocks to becoming a good, authentic author.  Many times, I don’t understand that I think or feel certain ways until I hear other people expressing it.  But sometimes, like this time, I am scared to admit it.  Scared to put it out there.  Scared of being grouped with the "flip floppers". Scared of being called out on my ambiguities.  Scared that people will think I am nuts and throw me in a psych unit.  Because that’s how I would phrase it too. 
I started this post with the admission that I am schizophrenic.  And I didn’t like it.  Using real frightening words in the wrong context or with humor scares me too much now. Much as Attention Deficit Disorder or Plantar Fasciitis or Dyslexia used to do. I didn’t want to use that word because I don’t want the universe to teach me a lesson about what that word really means.  
My grandmother, the feisty one, loved music.  She appreciated music, and appreciated those who appreciate music, more than anyone I have ever known. She said there would be far less good music in the world if there weren’t those around to appreciate it. I use this as a preface to say that I am often so frustrated that I can’t express what I am feeling as well as others can.  Why can Lindsey come up with  this:
 and I come up with this:
For the last couple of months I have only been writing emails and making love with my calendar, but whenever I can shift into my other personality, I will be back to writing some great stuff. 
Honestly, I meant what she said.  I just can’t get my exporter to work like that.  Instead of throwing in the towel when looking my mediocrity in the face, I will appreciate her words and insights.  I will be thankful that she can express it where it makes so much sense to me, even if it  doesn’t look all that neat and packaged in my life.  
Anyway, my polarity of the moment.  The past couple of months, not only has this blog for the five of you seen little writing, my books have seen less. And  my photography. I am beginning to miss them, the beauty, the ambiguity, the no right answers.  
I have been busy, not too busy, but the perfect amount of busy keeping my life in order.  I have been working on a school project and I am ON TOP OF ALL OF THOSE EMAILS. I respond to 80 percent of emails that need it, and even to some of those that require no response.  I have missed some appointments, but not because I was spacey or over scheduled.  Apples little conundrum introducing icloud erased my calendars and I simply didn’t have everything in my head.  Our calendar has been perfectly balanced for the most part.  I put much thought into every single item I type into our calendars.  It takes more time, up front, to think through the implications.  I have not been overwhelmed.  I still don’t think you would mistake me for a Type A person, but maybe.  Just maybe. (Who am I kidding?)
I like this person.  I like being the one who knows where things are, gets to places early, responds right away, knows that the projects are all running along smoothly, all papers filed, all documents written and edited, budget all set, checkbook balanced to the penny.     She doesn’t play a lot, and is always “doing” something.  She is on top of all the paperwork for the kids at school, but may not know if they had a good day or what they learned or if their feelings were hurt by a friend.  This me makes sure all the kids homework is done and ready to be turned in the following day.
My other self has ideas swirling all the time, sort of like the Pigpen character in Peanuts, except the dirt is ideas.  Seriously, one day my husband asked me what I wanted to do that day.  I explained that I always have so many ideas that I don’t know where to start.  He told me to write them down.  In less than five minutes, I had 96 ideas on the paper.  He just looked at the paper, then looked at me, then back at the paper.  He wasn’t reading it.  Then he looked back at me and said, “Is this stuff in  your head like this all the time?”  “Yep.”  He shook his head, put the paper down, and walked away saying, “Wow.”  
This person has 15,000 emails, and millions of pictures on three hard drives and one novel and one memoir started and hundreds of stories.  But not much finished.  This person walks in the woods with her kids and plays games with them and sings and laughs with them, but may forget to make dinner until we are all starving.  She laughs and giggles and keeps the kids up late on nights their dad is gone and sometimes has sleepovers in her room on school nights -- but hates the mornings after and is short tempered when the kids are crabby from too little sleep. This Mom tells the kids it doesn’t matter if they do their homework if they are playing outside in the fresh air, because these days are numbered and in November in Minnesota we are living on borrowed time before the snow comes anyway.  
My husband really likes the me I have been the last couple of months.  As I said, I like it like that too.  But I am missing the other me.  The one who writes and takes pictures and has a little more fun.  You know, the one with the really messy house and is unorganized and sometimes tells the kids to grab a dirty pair of jeans to wear to school because I didn’t wash any yet. She is begging to make an appearance.  
Yes, this is my current, as well as steadfast, polarity.  I have never been good at honoring both sides of me simultaneously.  I swing from one to the other, simply unable to be both at one time.