Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

This...is not my favorite day. My dad is gone, as are both of my grandfathers. We've never spent Father's Day weekend with Austin's dad, but we try to remember to send a card (Allen, they're in the mail, I promise). I try to make sure that Austin has a good day, but he's not all that into making a big deal of things unless I tell him to, so he's content with a quiet weekend. We spent this weekend at the splash pad, eating Chili's (his favorite), and going to see a movie. He got some cards we all forgot to sign (so we can give them to him next year!) and two ties and I remembered to get the kids to write and draw in his notebook. I even gave him the last 1/3 of my molten chocolate lava cake from Chili's, prompting him to say "this is the best day ever!" I questioned that yesterday was a better day than the day he proposed or the day we got married or THE DAYS HIS CHILDREN WERE BORN. Apparently 1.5 chocolate lava cakes in one day is pretty hard to beat.

When my dad died, Mom gave each of us something of his. My brother John got a Father's Devotional book of some kind and when he flipped through it, he found a list of ten things a dad should do. I have a scanned pdf of it, but I don't know how to convert to a jpg, so I'll just transcribe it below. I'm not sure if he came up with it himself or if it’s part of the devotional book, but these were words he lived by and I think it made him an excellent father....but then I might be biased. 

Top 10 Things a Dad Ought to Do: 

10. Hug her & Hug her to the very end. Be crazy in love with your wife. Your children will follow your example. - Eccl 9:9

9. Leave the back door open and the light on. A lifelong commitment to being a dad. Be sure they are welcome home. - Luke 15:20

8. Cry when you leave home. Don't be afraid to show your emotions. - Gen 45:1,2; 46

7. Teach your kids to work hard. Lead by example. II Thess 3:10

6. Marry off your kids many times. Be actively concerned about your kids' future spouses, no matter what age. - Gen 24:3

5. Never be too busy for your kids. Let your children interrupt. (BBC dad anyone?)

4. Be a man of your word. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

3. Treat your family as if the preacher was there. Be a true man of God, and practice holiness at home. - Eph 5:4

2. Build your wife a phone book holder. Fill your life with loving deeds. - 1 John 3:18

1. Wear a cowboy hat. Be yourself within God’s freedom.

I think those are the references. Some are hard to read on the pdf. I feel like Dad managed to exemplify these traits. 

Dad liked chocolate a lot, but I think he would have rated his children higher than two pieces of cake in one day. He loved us and our spouses and our children tremendously. More than that, though, he loved our mom. He made sure we saw that in a lot of little things he did for her, the courtesies he extended to her, the affection he felt for her. It was so much a part of our daily lives, I can't think of many specific examples other than him squeezing oranges for fresh orange juice for her periodically. He wrote her some pretty mushy letters when they were dating and engaged and some sappy (though not too terrible) poetry after they were married. 

That was a good thing for a father to do. It gave all of us an example of what to look for and be in the future. He may not have consciously done it thinking about the example he was setting, but just because hey, he loved this woman he'd married and had all these kids with and why WOULDN'T he want to show her how he felt about her? That is the best example, the one where it's not a pre-planned thing, just a natural, instinctual part of life. 

So to all the dads in my life, raising your own children, raising someone else's, stepping in to help out adults who aren't your kids but are kids to someone you love, doing it with a partner or doing it alone, Happy Father's Day. It’s a pretty thankless job sometimes, so I'll say it today: Thank you for loving us, your wives and the mothers of your children and your children. Have a neck tie and a beverage of your choice. And maybe a piece of chocolate lava cake. Or two. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I'm gonna carry that load

A frequent topic of conversation around our house for the last month or so has been the "burden of thought." It's changed a bit how we do things, though it is a tricky change to make.

The burden of thought, very basically, is the fact that women know/do everything in the home. We know when the doctor's appointments are, we know how much toilet paper we have and where it is, we know what's in the pantry, we know who the teacher is and what kind of drink she likes from Sonic, or if she prefers Starbucks instead, we know what's going on with our kids and what time of day is their best. We know everything and do everything. Men don't for the pure reason of not being there when things are scheduled or purchased or revealed.

This has led to the social view of men being helpless dolts around the house and women being the frazzled "how does she do it all" mature one of the relationship. Men are children and women are the long suffering adults who got suckered into spending their lives raising their children and cleaning their homes.

This is wrong. Men are not HELPING around the house when they pick up their laundry or wash dishes or put children to bed. They are being a part of the household. I don't care if he works all day and she stays home or vice versa. The house has to be cleaned periodically, the children have to be tended, the food cooked, the laundry washed. It all has to be done and just because he works outside the home and provides the finances to keep the family going does not give him a free pass to do nothing.

Austin read an article about the burden of thought and asked me about it. It hadn't occurred to me that he just didn't know these things and that he might want to. We keep our communication lines pretty open but we still have times when we miss something, like all couples. We talked about how I'm the one who's always making lists of what we need to take when we go on a trip, I'm the one making all the plans for the weekends when we do something (like CALF...that weekend was planned out weeks in advance, then altered slightly Thursday night and again Friday night....all by me), I'm the one planning all our meals and shopping for everything. Austin never hesitates to run to the store when I've forgotten something or to pick something up whenever I'm just wiped out and too tired to cook. He's not "helping" exactly, he's being a member of the family. He and his children need to eat and if I wasn't there, he'd have to do it on his own.

For a couple of years now, I've sent Austin a weekly email with our schedule for the upcoming week so he knows what's going on while he's working. Sometimes it's packed full of school and doctor's appointments and outings around town. Sometimes there's nothing but praise team practice. He likes knowing what's going on so if there's a day that's going to be particularly busy for me and the kids, he knows that maybe that's a day he can take over and "help" me. Since things have been changing on short notice recently we got the Cozi app and started using that. Austin can pull up the calendar and see what's up that day at a glance. It has a place for grocery lists, too, if I need him to hit the store so I don't have to go with 1-4 children in tow.

Writing this I've had to stop myself from typing "help" a lot. It's so ingrained in our heads as women that men are helping us it's hard to get away from that. It's even Biblical that we are helpmates to our husbands, though it seems that women have had some pretty difficult tasks historically, what with raising children, keeping vegetable gardens, cooking, cleaning, making clothes, etc. Almost always in long skirts and long sleeves. God bless the women before me. I'd not survive without my leggings and tank tops and a/c in this Texas heat. My generation hasn't seen it much in the previous generations. I remember my dad reading to us and occasionally cooking breakfast (always on Mother's Day, though) but that's about it. He wasn't even a grill kind of dad. He worked a lot of long hours so he just wasn't there for that kind of thing, but he was there for us in other ways. It seems that most dads of my peers were like that.

I'm getting off track.

The main purpose of this is to say: I'm trying to relinquish some of the load, but it's tricky. For 9 years of marriage, my "job" has been to run our household. And Austin was my assistant. When kids came into the picture, he stepped up, almost eagerly, to do more. He has always taken the diaper changes when he's home and most of the feedings in the evenings once they're on bottles. He does bath time and bedtime and playtime and clean up time. He's really the parent in charge in the evenings. I'm the back up then. He's in charge of dinner on weekend nights when we don't have something planned. He gets that I need time away from my kids to be a good mom so he doesn't mind when I run away to play with my friends at 8pm and don't come home until midnight. I don't ask his permission, but I check to make sure he's got the energy to parent solo for the evening or that he didn't have plans  or a thing he wanted us to do as a family. He's taking over more with the boys when it comes to travel plans. We sit down and discuss day by day what we'll be doing and eating and he takes on some of the tasks. I'm apparently too much of a control freak (who knew?) that I can't give up complete control of things, but he's ok with that. Sometimes he needs a reminder or a little push.

We're both learning how to share the load and it's trickier than you might think, but we'll get there.

Disclaimer: this is not to say ALL men are clueless at home. Some are very hands on and stand shoulder to shoulder with their wives or partners in the trenches of young childhood. I'm just speaking in general and personal terms. 😊

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I remember...

This is super long (probably 7 pages printed) and it's something I've posted before. There's a bit added at the bottom, so if you want to scroll down to the bolded part, that's where it begins. 

Written in 2009: 

I remember being very small and curling up on the couch after church with Dad to read the comics every week, even when I was reading them over his shoulder. He’d fuss at me for reading ahead. Maybe that’s why I hate people reading over my shoulder today. I don't remember a Sunday we didn't read the comics.

I remember him making a valiant effort to be at every school event and piano recital that I participated in. When he wasn’t there, I bragged to the other kids that my dad was off saving lives.

I remember his asking “You know what?” and when I said “What?” he’d always respond with “I love you!” I surprised him once by saying “Chicken butt” but he still said “I love you!”

I remember being excited when Dad would let me drop the tithe check into the collection plate every Sunday.

I remember Dad giving me his coat on Sunday mornings when I’d get cold. I’d go through his pockets and play with the treasures he had in them. Sometimes, I’d just curl up and take a nap on the floor, wrapped up in the warmth and smell of my dad. He still gave me his coat even after I was old enough to remember to bring my own.

I remember one Father's Day a long time ago at ACC where we were instructed to let the father pass around the communion. He was to tell us "This is the blood of Christ" and "This is the body of Christ." Dad liked that so much that he did it for the rest of his life. I have a hard time doing communion without him.

I remember him only having to spank me once. I don’t remember what I did but I was more shocked by the fact that he hit me than by anything. I knew he loved me and that I had earned this punishment and that I never wanted it again.

I remember his reading to me all the time. The only stories I remember specifically were Little Monster’s Bedtime Book and the Chronicles of Narnia. Once a friend came over early for my birthday party and we were reading. She curled up on the other side of Dad and he read to both of us until the party started. She told me later she wished her dad would read to her and I realized I had something special. I was 7.

I remember falling asleep in the car on the way home from anywhere and waking up in his arms as he carried me inside. I loved it so much that I would sometimes pretend to be asleep just so he would carry me. I hated when I got too big for him to carry me anymore.

I remember him getting us up for school in the morning, flipping on the light in my room and telling me it was time to wake up. When I got downstairs, he’d usually have breakfast ready to go, either oatmeal or cereal or if we were really lucky, French toast. He’d go outside to warm up the car when it was cold outside so we didn’t have to shiver on the way to school. We’d listen to NPR and classical music on the way and he’d talk to us about the things going on. When we carpooled with the Kings, we listened to the kids’ station with silly goofy songs and I realized my dad wanted me to learn about the world around me and know about classical music.

I remember him driving us to school and listening to the announcement that Bill Clinton had been elected president and asking if Dad voted for him. He told me it wasn’t generally something a lot of people felt comfortable talking about, but no, he didn’t vote for him. He also pointed out that it didn’t matter that he hadn’t voted for him, he was still our president and thus deserving of our respect.

I remember hating playing the piano, but loving how proud it made Dad to see me playing in recitals and the goofy faces he’d make at me through the doors to the music room.

I remember playing two duets with him: one as an awkward adolescent and the other as a frustrated teenager. I never told him how much I valued that I alone of his children got to do that with him.

I remember as an older teen dreaming of weddings and happily ever afters asking what his favorite song was. We were listening to Natalie Cole’s album “Unforgettable, With Love” and he told me he really loved the song on that cd, Unforgettable and explained how Nat King Cole died and that Natalie had taken old recordings of her dad singing and had turned it into a duet. He thought about it for a bit and told me that his all time favorite, though, was The Way You Look Tonight. We danced to that at my wedding.

I remember when I was about 12 we were home alone, just the two of us, for a weekend. It didn’t happen often, so that was kind of special in itself. We went to bed early on Saturday because he was driving me out to Girl Scout camp in Sweetwater the next day. In the middle of the night, there was a loud crash that shook the whole house and woke us both up. I thought there’d been an earthquake or something but the big tree in the back had fallen over into the courtyard. It was like walking in a tree. Dad was relieved no one else was home because Caleb would have gotten scared and Mom would have been blocked in. I was just relieved it didn’t hit the house.

I remember that he didn’t like to watch movies more than once but he would watch classics again and he loved the movie Chariots of Fire. When I went to Great Britain and walked along the beach where that famous running scene was filmed, I knew what the movie was when no one else in my group had even heard of it.

I remember several times being told I was his favorite. I always teased that Cari was the favorite because she was chosen and he got stuck with the rest of us.

I remember once my dad describing feeling real joy as he held one of his children moments after birth and my mom asking if that’s why he named her Joy. I wondered if secretly I’d been the favorite all along.

I remember that I had to stop going shopping with Dad because I could get him to buy me just about anything I wanted.

I remember being shocked when I saw him lying in a hospital bed all hooked up to wires when he had his brain aneurysms. I couldn’t believe this fragile body belonged to my dad. It never seemed very real to me that he could die. He was dad: he was going to be around forever.

I remember being frustrated that he wasn’t the same after and wishing he’d just go back to normal.

I remember being angry that I could only take two classes at Abilene High so that I could take care of Dad after school while Mom worked.

I remember feeling guilty at how relieved I was when other people stepped in and helped and feeling like I let Mom down because I didn’t help enough.

I remember taking racquetball as a PE course for distance learning and Dad doing that with me. I wasn’t very good because I was afraid of getting hit by the ball.

I remember taking physics in high school and absolutely hating it because I didn’t get it. Dad was frustrated with that since he loved physics so much and had advanced degrees in it. He would sit with me for hours and try to explain it and eventually I would get him to do the work for me. He’s the main reason I passed the class.

I remember him taking me on a real date when I was about 15. We went to the Olive Garden, we played putt-putt and we went to a movie. He told me I wasn’t a cheap date and that any guy who didn’t want to spend the money wasn’t worth my time.

I remember getting ready for the few dances I went to in high school and Dad saying ‘Wowwee!” every single time.

I remember how much he loved astronomy and how he tried to teach me about constellations. He would take me star gazing whenever there were meteor showers. We made it a semi-regular date and I’d make grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cocoa and we’d sit on the car and look at the stars and talk. To this day, the only constellation I can find on a consistent basis is Orion.

I remember my senior prom and how excited Dad was that I had an actual date. He told me that if Charles knew anything about anything he’d bring me an orchid. Dad was so proud when Charles showed up with a beautiful purple orchid wrist corsage.

I remember him being proud of me when I graduated from high school, but that pride was tempered by anger at my cousin and my brother disappearing right after, causing us all to be delayed getting home.

I remember him trying to help me with my college math classes and finally accepting that I couldn’t do this advanced stuff, that my brain was better at the social studies than the sciences.

I remember him meeting my first boyfriend and telling Mom he was a fine young man.

I remember his disappointment when I broke up with that boyfriend.

I remember him trying to like the next guy I brought home and not succeeding.

I remember him helping Mom and her siblings pack up their parents’ house and grumbling at the stupid Christmas tree I wanted so much, but bringing it along just because I wanted it.

I remember graduating from college and his pride that I had done it and with some honors.

I remember his frustration when they called me Talitha Jane.

I remember him helping me move to Austin. He grumbled about the tree again. He helped move the furniture out of the house in Lubbock and into the apartment in Austin. I remember dealing with two flat tires and the hurt of my roommates seemingly not caring that I was leaving, but knowing that my dad would always be there for me.

I remember Dad was always there when I moved: into the house in Lubbock, to the apartment in Austin, to the first apartment in Dallas, across the complex to the second Dallas apartment, and to the house in Carrollton. He grumbled about the Christmas tree every time and always offered to throw it away for me.

I remember the kisses that always ended with “Wow! Sweet! Chocolate ice cream! Grandmother’s apple pie!” to which we would sometimes add “With whipped cream and sugar!” and he would go further and add “And nuts!”

I remember the way he would say “Choooclaaate.”

I remember him telling me not to smile or my face would crack into a million pieces and how 99% of the time I smiled.

I remember he called me Tali-poo and Brown Crested Speckled Thumb Sucker.

I remember getting in trouble on our family trip to the four corners and my punishment was having to sit up in the front with Dad overnight and keep him awake. We watched the sunrise over the desert and it was beautiful. He asked me to write him a poem about it and I did. I'm sure there's a copy of it somewhere.

I remember how much he and Tigger hated one another.

I remember him always answering “Better than I deserve” whenever someone asked him how he was.

I remember how excited he was when I told him I was going to marry Austin. So excited, in fact, that he jumped the gun 6 months before Austin even proposed and emailed Pastor Max to ask if he would officiate over the ceremony.

I remember him repeatedly telling me it wasn’t too late to back out, that they loved Austin but they loved me more and I should do what was right for me.

I remember his pride and loving support as we planned the wedding and I struggled with work stuff.

I remember being sick the week before the wedding and him driving to get me milkshakes every day because it was the only thing I wanted and the only thing that tasted good. He frequently got the wrong thing, but I loved it because I knew he did it for me.

I remember his pride as he came to get me to walk down the aisle.

I remember every time I cut my hair for Locks of Love he would frown. He loved my hair long but would always tell me how proud he was of me for donating my hair to others.

I remember one last “Wow!” kiss before getting married.

I remember him asking me if I liked chicken and when I asked why, he stuck out his arm and said “Take a wing.”

I remember writing my Daddy Folio letter and agonizing over it for a couple months, wanting to get the words just right.

I remember him blessing me at my wedding, though I was too emotional to really hear the words.

I remember him holding me tightly as we danced at the reception, like he didn’t want to let me go.

I remember waffling between several songs for our dance and settling on his favorite.

I remember telling him I didn’t have a gift for his birthday, but that I wanted to go bowling with him and him telling me his knees were too far gone for that anymore.

I remember asking what he wanted for Christmas this year and him telling me he just wanted everyone there. I told him this Christmas was with the Mullins but that next year would be with the Walkes and I’d most likely be pregnant. He was indignant that my child’s first Christmas would be with his OTHER grandparents and not him.

I remember my brother asking me if I was sitting down and then telling me our father had died. I didn’t believe him and he had to repeat it before my mom finally came on, sobbing, and telling me he was gone. It’s still not real.

I remember the last time I saw him, cold and still and looking completely surprised. I lay across his chest and wished that he’d hug me back.

I remember Rosetta holding my hand and telling me how he would talk about me all the time and how proud and excited he was about what I was doing with my life and how when I was little, he’d always tell her to make sure I ate when he dropped me off at her house in the mornings.

I remember being incredibly angry when Luke sat in Dad’s chair that night. He wasn’t family and he was intruding.

I remember agreeing with my sister when she said he was a beautiful man and deserved beautiful flowers.

I remember crying as I realized he would never play Fur Elise again and wanting to play it for him one last time.

I remember being amazed at how I didn’t cry during my eulogy and that I could get through my piano pieces and thinking “I don’t want to play any more after this.”

I remember being angry that outsiders to the family were taking his belongings. I wanted to rip the owls and everything out of their hands and scream that they didn’t deserve this and they should get the hell out of my father’s house.

I remember the first time it hit me that my father would never see my children and how much I cried that they’d never have their granddad read them a story.

I remember the last time I held him on this earth. I marveled at how greasy the ashes were and how much, and at the same time how little, there were. I cried as I let the last of his ashes be washed from my hands and wished I was hugging him instead.

I remember seeing my niece being born and thinking “She’s late because he wasn’t ready to let her go yet.” I was angry again that she’d never get to know him.

I remember the regret hitting me that I’d never played the Moonlight Sonata for him and that he never knew how much I loved playing for him.

I remember thinking this would make me feel better instead of making me hurt more.

Added in 2017: 

I remember how exhausted and sore and overwhelmed I was with Asher as a newborn and how much I wished my Daddy was there to give me a helping hand. 

I remember how that happened again when I was overwhelmed with two little boys and one of them needed hospitalization when his little brother was only 3 months old. 

I remember when we got Eden's diagnosis wishing he was there to hold my hand while Mom held the other one. 

I remember each birth feeling all over again that he would have been so excited to be there. 

I remember how much he loved learning whenever Asher asks a "question about life."

I remember how he brushed my hair when I was younger whenever I try to wrestle Eden into letting me brush hers (it's not easy). 

I remember the way he sat and read when I see Asher sitting with his legs crossed reading a magazine. 

I remember how loving he was whenever Elijah spontaneously gives me a hug and says "I just love you."

I remember how much he loved chocolate whenever Eden brings me a box of chocolate cookies, or Elijah asks for chocolate milk. 

I remember how much he enjoyed family dinners whenever Rebekah smiles or even laughs during nursing sessions. 

I remember how much he loved to read to his grandkids every time I see Papa read to them or hear them demanding at least 3 books from Austin every night.

I remember how helpful he was to my brothers with their kids whenever Papa Bob is just as helpful with mine. 

I remember how much I loved him and how much he meant to me when I see how my kids "other" grandfathers have stepped in to fill the void he left behind.  

I've finally gotten to the point where it's more bittersweet than bitter. Yes, there are still tears. Yes, there is still that ache and that dismay and even sometimes that anger, but it's better. It helps that Allen is SUCH a present grandfather. Eden changed his name to PopPop and he's going with it. It may have just been for Memorial Day weekend, but if it's a permanent change, he's fine with it, just like Dad would have been. It also helps that Bob is so eager to be helpful and useful he's almost TOO much at times (and I mean that in a good way). Picking up Asher from school, taking the boys to McDonald's so I can get a break, rewarding them when they've done well and giving them a talking to when they haven't. He's relaxed into his role as their grandfather on my side of the family, and I'm thankful for that. 

Some days are hard. Some days are easy. It's just the way life goes. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Eight

Eight years. It's been eight years since I talked to my dad. Eight years since I heard him tell me he loves me. Eight years since I've hugged him. Eight years since he said something that made me roll my eyes. Eight years since he butt dialed me while driving around and left me a 20 minute voicemail of car noises and NPR. Eight years since he called me to see how far out we were on a trip to Abilene from Carrollton (he always managed to call us when we were along the same stretch of highway, like he just couldn't wait any longer). Eight years since I bought his last birthday card that I never got to send. Eight years since anyone asked him how he was and got the response "Better than I deserve."

In those eight years I've missed him tremendously. I've missed him when I moved. I've missed him when I was sick. I've missed him when I was pregnant and birthing babies. I've missed him when I needed help. I've missed him when I've eaten chocolate ice cream. I've missed him when I drive past McDonald's. I've missed him when I see the constellation Orion. I've missed him every time I've seen an elephant or an owl. I've missed him when I've wrapped up in the last Christmas gift he gave me, a woven blanket usually on the back of my red chair.

I miss him in the big moments and in the small ones, like hearing Rebekah laugh for the first time, or Elijah reading a word seemingly out of nowhere to ask what it means. I really missed him with all of Eden's medical stuff.

Here's two secrets in relation to Dad that I don't tell people often:

1. I know most babies do it, but whenever my babies stare at seemingly nothing and grin, especially when they're little, I pretend it's Dad making faces at them. It makes me feel a little better about him missing out on their lives.

2. Rebekah's middle name, Joy, is in his honor. He named me Joy, and she's named after me AND him.

Eight years down and (hopefully) fifty to go.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hearts

Back in December, you may remember, I had a fetal echo to check the development of Rebekah's heart and our cardiologist, Dr. S, discovered that she has a small intra-muscular VSD (hole in the muscle tissue between her ventricles, the lower chambers of the heart). Dr. S wanted to see her after she was born to check the status of it and get a better look at it. That appointment was this past Thursday, the 20th.

She still has the hole, but it's not anything anyone is concerned about. Mom and the midwives listened for it very carefully the night Rebekah was born and didn't hear anything. When I mentioned that to Dr S, she said its because the pressure in the lungs and the ventricles hadn't evened out (or something along those lines) so that makes this type of VSD very hard to hear at the beginning. It's apparently there, but faint. Not like Eden's.

We're going back in a year to check in on it. I'm not sure how long it should take to close, but Dr. S fully expects it to close on its own without needing any surgery, which we like to hear. It will get louder as it closes (think of a water hose when you put your thumb over the opening) but that'll be a good sign.

So it was a relatively pain free appointment. I say relatively because our part we had to pay was nearly $3500. We get reimbursement from Austin's work but still. Gah. Plus two hours at the hospital for an appointment is never fun. All the staff at the cardiac clinic were asking about Eden and were both bummed and excited that they don't get to see her until December.

It looks like we'll have two girls with annual cardiac appointments for a while. It's not too terrible. Everyone loves Eden, so that makes it a little easier. I'm sure over time they'll come to love Rebekah, too. Because she's just adorable. But I may be biased.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My kid's a smart ass....no really.

A few people have inquired about Asher's status in the evaluation process and we wanted to wait until we'd heard everything before posting anything. We aren't at the end of this journey, far from it, but we've got a more definite picture of where we're going.

Asher is NOT autistic, but he is at risk for depression, anxiety, and emotional disturbance. He's been having behavioral issues in school because he's so far advanced beyond his classmates and he's not being challenged at all. He needs a more structured classroom situation and a stricter teacher (nothing against his current teacher, we love her and she's worked with us to get Asher what he needs).

Also...his IQ is 134. So there's that.

The reason people went into the evaluation process thinking he might be autistic is that he shows several tendencies in the way he interacts with people and situations. The recommendation is to move him to 2nd grade next year and if he's still exhibiting these tendencies, to reevaluate him and see if maybe it IS autism after all.

He's been doing 2nd grade work in pretty much every aspect of class work except reading. There, he's on a 5th grade level. His vocabulary is extremely high for a kindergartener. Not just the fact that he knows the words, but can use the correctly. And even spell some of them.

The areas where he's "normal" are his writing, which is very much a kindergartener (all caps, no spaces) and that's not anything to be too concerned about. He's below average on his social interactions with others. He doesn't do well socially, so the recommendation there was to get him into day camps and activities this summer where he'll be in a structured environment with other kids. They also think that being in a class with his intellectual peers will help a lot with that. No longer being the smartest kid in the room will be a good thing for him.

We've got him signed up for a couple of art camps at the Grace and we're working on getting him enrolled in a G&T program through HSU called Threshold. They do science type stuff with other kids and it's just a half day for two weeks in July. I think he'll enjoy it and there's a two hour seminar for parents of gifted children that Austin's looking forward to (it's during the day on Tuesday and Thursday during Asher's program so I can't go).

This past Monday we had an ARD (which I forget what that stands for, sorry) with the psychologist, the principal, Asher's teacher, and another woman who's position at TLCA I missed and talked for over an hour about what the results were and what our next step should be. Definitely skipping 1st, since he knows 99% of it already and the 1% he doesn't is the stuff they're learning right now. It doesn't make sense to move him to 1st for the last 4 weeks of school, so we're going to work on those things with him over the summer. Those things are learning to read an analog clock and the decimals that go with money. He understands the value of coins and adding them up, but if you ask him to subtract from a dollar, he gets confused. I think we'll have that figured out pretty quickly.

All throughout the meeting, they kept saying "he's like a man in a little boy's body: he's confused as to why he's grouped with all these kids who aren't as smart as he is." He lacks a filter, so he sometimes says things he shouldn't, but that's typical for a kid his age. He hasn't learned that even if you really think the people around you are idiots, it's not nice to point it out to them. We'll be working on that, too.

The TLCA administrators were sure to point out that they don't have a G&T program, and one woman was honest and said she thought he might actually do better in public school where he can take advantage of a G&T program. We told them we have a friend who has a private school she's in charge of and she wants him to come to her and we're going to be exploring that as well.

We know that she would be great for him. She could create a curriculum tailor made for him and she will NOT take his sass. She will love him, and teach him, and guide him extremely well. Plus, she's my second mother and I've known her my literal entire life. I trust her 100%. So that's a huge huge selling point. The only reservation I personally have is the social aspect.

Yes, academics are hugely important....but so are social skills. A class of 6 or 10 is intimate and close knit (I had 9 years of those from K-8), but I worry about him not getting enough exposure to other kids in a school that small. We could sign him up for other activities, but then that's more for us to deal with as far as scheduling and finances goes.

In a perfect world, we'd get the teacher we want with the socialization that we want.

So that's where we are. We're going to do what we feel is best for him. We're kicking off the summer by signing him up for all kinds of camps and VBS's (when they're available) but still letting him have a summer. We're going to keep him enrolled at TLCA until we make a final decision about where he'll go next fall. We may double enroll him to make sure we have a spot at our school of choice.

We have an interesting road ahead of us with this one. Because of course.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rotation

Having so many kids can be expensive, and one way we save money is by storing clothes. I buy things in sizes they haven't grown into when they're on sale, I shop at resale shops and consignment sales whenever possible, I happily accept clothes that friends' children have outgrown, keep what I like and pass on the rest. As a result, I have tubs and boxes FULL of clothes for my kids in the attic an on some shelves in the upstairs room. It's all actually pretty organized, a result of hours of work on my part. I've passed on stuff to friends, sold things online, donated stuff...and I still have a small mountain of children's clothes.

I rotate my own clothes, too. I have a tub of maternity clothes, a tub of out of season clothes (summer and winter). I even have a smaller box of nursing tops, but that box is currently empty since all those items are being utilized. I rotate everything around with the changing of seasons and sizes for the kids. It's a lot of work, hauling tubs around, making sure everything is in the proper place, that sets are together and that everything is clean and the boxes are labeled. I even have boxes of clothes that were mine as a child that my mom saved for me to give my own daughters. They're pretty little dresses with smocking that my aunts made me. Very 80's styles, so I've only pulled a couple out for Eden and Rebekah to wear, but it's still really cool to have those mementos. I've got bags with special items for each kid, though each subsequent child's bag is a little less full that the older ones...lol

Recently, I've put away the maternity clothes and pulled out some summer stuff and made sure I had all the nursing stuff. The kids have been switched from winter to summer. And Rebekah is moving out of newborn and into the 0-3 month size.

When I put away the newborn clothes for Eden, I cried. Her early infancy was so tainted by her diagnosis that we didn't know anything. We thought she was probably our last child, but her future was so ambiguous it was hard to completely accept that fact. I cried each time she outgrew a size for the first few months because who knew what would happen next.

I'm not the only mom to be sentimental like that, but I wasn't that way with either of the boys. Maybe because I knew neither of them was the last?

Unless something unexpected happens, Rebekah is my last baby. She's outgrowing her newborn clothes. She's starting to sleep through the night...sort of (4 hour stretches almost counts). She's not nursing as much and she's able to be awake and pleasant for stretches. She smiles at me every day.

I started packing up her newborn clothes today. And I didn't cry a single tear.

There's some relief in knowing that the newborn phase is almost behind me for good. It's exhausting. My body is sore from holding her in certain positions for long periods of time and from feeding her seemingly constantly at times. I wake up a couple times to feed her, though Austin helps tremendously by giving her a bottle at night when I'm tapped out, both milk wise and energy wise. They spend times together snuggled on the couch so I can get some rest without a fussing hungry baby nearby. He does better on less sleep than I do, but I think he'll be just as happy to leave this phase behind.

There's so many phases ahead of us, not just with Rebekah but with all four of our kids. School, dating, adulthood, teen years, driving, etc. The newborn phase has its sweet spots, like those first unintentional smiles and the midnight snuffling to mama's breast, the deep sleep laughter (this girl laughs in her sleep a few times a week and it's my favorite thing ever...I WILL miss that). So for now, I'll pack away the newborn clothes until such a time as someone else needs them. And with so many people in my life having babies, that time will come sooner rather than later.