Single Moms

Last week Glenn was out-of-town for three days. I was a very long three days for me. All four kids were sick and it was all I could do to keep up. When he came home it looked like a bomb had hit our house. I just couldn’t get it all done. It gave me a new appreciation for single moms. My own mom was a single mom most of my growing up years. I don’t know how she did it. What I found the hardest about last week was not having anyone over 4 feet tall to talk to. It gets lonely. I can’t imagine facing that everyday. Just trying to make decisions by yourself, has to be very difficult.

Being a single mom is not, of course, how God designed it to be. However, there are many women who find themselves in this situation for one reason or another. I have a great respect for them. Not just because I had to spend three days parenting my kids alone, but just in general. I often think to myself how I don’t know if I could ever be a single mom, but I know God gives you the grace to handle things like that as they come. I know so many great moms who successfully raised kids alone. My mom and my grandmother are two great examples. I just wanted to give a pat on the back to single mom’s today and tell them that they are doing a great job. If you know a single mom, let her know what a great job she is doing and see what you can do today to support her. We should be mindful of those moms around us who need help. I know they could use a night off at times or maybe something done around their house. Just to let them know you are praying for them and that you care, would be wonderful.

There were many people who came along side my mom and I when I was younger. They were there in good times and in the hardest times. They gave of time and resources to help out when they saw a need. As the child of a single mom, I can say that those people made a big difference in our lives. You can be that person who makes the difference in the life of a single mom and her children. Pray about who God might have you support today.

Below is Glenn, me, and some of our kids and my mom in the scooter at Disney. She is going to love me for posting this picture! Love you mom!

8 Months

My baby, Elijah, turns 8 months today. I can’t believe it! Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday he was born. And really with two kids under two years old, it really could have been yesterday and I wouldn’t remember. lol. The sleep deprivation still isn’t over yet. 🙂 But hopefully soon.

I was reflecting on Elijah today and how he came to be in our family. Each of our children has a unique story and his is no different. It was July 2010, and we had just brought Joshua home, in May, from 7 weeks in NICU. He was doing well, but we were still very busy with round the clock feedings and doctor’s visits. The last thing we were thinking about was another baby. But one pregnancy test later and we were shocked to learn we were expecting. I will admit I cried when I found out. It was a lot of different things that made me cry. One was the idea of raising two kids so close together in age, along with the two big boys. Then there was the sleep deprivation and exhaustion of dealing with a three-month old preemie who was more like a one month old at that point. But mostly it was all the losses we had been through before that point. We had two miscarriages the two previous years before we adopted Joshua. Those were still very fresh in my mind and I was scared it would happen again. I just didn’t know if I could handle that. I remember praying and asking God to make me miscarry, if I was going to right away, because I just didn’t want to get attached to this baby and lose it. We told our families right away, but honestly we were cautious about attaching to this baby. We went to the first ultrasound at 8 weeks and I was really expecting bad news, but everything looked great.

We went along still expecting things not to work out. Our first miscarriage had happened at 14 weeks, so I thought I would feel better after that point, but I really didn’t. I was still worried. I really didn’t allow myself to begin to attach to Elijah until our 20 weeks ultrasound when we found out we were having another boy. I was overjoyed that he was doing well. But I have to say I was still a little concerned.

At 36 weeks we found out his cord was around his neck and no matter how many times the doctor reassured me that this was common, I was still very scared. But all that time God had Elijah in his hand. Elijah arrived safely on March 9th, his due date. He did have the cord around his neck three times, which is very unusual.

We knew early on that God had his hand on Elijah. My last miscarriage due date was March 9th. When they did the first ultrasound for Elijah and told me his due date was March 9th, I was not happy. I didn’t want to have that date staring me in the face for the next 8 months. But I took solace in the fact that babies never come on their due dates. Of course, Elijah would be the exception, no matter how hard I tried to get him to come before the 9th, he wouldn’t. I learned something about God through that experience. I feel like God redeemed that date and now it is a happy day for me. He took my sadness and gave me joy. March 9th will no longer be a sad day for me, it is a day of rejoicing. I thank God everyday for Elijah. The doctor’s weren’t sure why we had our other miscarriages and said we didn’t have much chance of carrying another baby, but Elijah is our miracle. He is the cutest and best baby in the world, of course, I am bias. He has been a healing balm to my wounded heart. I am so thankful for how the Lord has chosen to bring me comfort with this precious little boy. Every life is a gift. Take heart, if you are hurting, God can turn your mourning into joy.

Blessings or Burdens

“Carrying our blessings as burdens”. It’s a line from a song that I have been thinking a lot about lately. There are so many things we are blessed with that we should be grateful for, but often times we act as though these things are burdens to us. The most obvious examples are material things like our house, car, and stuff. Most of us are blessed to have a house of some kind in this country and compared to the rest of the world we are very blessed to have that. But too often this blessing we see as a burden. Houses need maintenance, things break and they cost us money and time. I find myself complaining about what needs fixing at my house. In reality, I should be grateful to have a house to fix. Our cars are another thing. We have two older cars with high mileage and as a result, they need some fixing at times. They cost us money. But we forget that we are so blessed to have two cars! And even better than that they are paid off. But still I complain about having to get my oil changed.

The not so obvious examples are our families. Children are blessings from the Lord, the Bible clearly states this. But so often we see them as burdens. We have to feed and clothe them, and they need so much attention when they are younger and cause us stress when they are older. It’s so easy to get trapped into thinking these precious little ones are burdens and not blessings. Our culture today really thinks that children are burdens. They say, “you shouldn’t have too many kids because they are just money and time leaches that take you away from the really important things in your life, like your career”. A lot of adults do whatever they can to not spend time with their children, working more than necessary or farming them out to anyone who will babysit. One celebrity was quoted as saying that he felt he was a good parent because he saw his child twice a month! Don’t misunderstand me, I am in no way suggesting that you need to spend ever single second with your kids – that is not healthy. I am also not suggesting that you have to be a stay-at-home mom or dad. What I am saying is to shift your thinking and view your children as the blessings that they are. They are your greatest legacy in life and the only things that you can take to heaven with you. All this money we work so hard for will mean nothing in heaven; our children are what is important. Likewise, if you don’t have children, any relationships you have in your family are important and should be viewed as blessings. Your spouse, your parents and your siblings are blessings, not burdens. Even your in-laws!

I know these ideas are a bit counterculture, but they are true. God places blessings in our lives and expects us to be good stewards of those blessings, whether they are the “stuff” we have or the people in our lives. Don’t carry your blessings around as burdens.

Torn

Yesterday I went to Samuel’s school for his Living Museum presentation. He was Jesse Owens. They all had to choose a famous person from a list and do an oral report and poster on that person. So, all the kids are in one room with their posters and you were supposed to go around and ask each on of them to share with you who they were and what thing they did. Samuel is normally a very shy little guy so I wondered if this would be a challenge for him. He also doesn’t normally like a lot of attention and doesn’t really want me to come to things at school. He actually asked me to come today, so I did.

I knew this would be problematic since I would have to take his three younger brothers with me, but off we went. We got into the classroom and it was pretty crazy in there. Joshua freaked out! I tried to calm him but that wasn’t going to happen. I was torn with what to do. Do I stay for Samuel’s sake and deal with Joshua or do I leave, as I am sure everyone else was hoping I would? I stayed long enough to hear Samuel’s presentation and high-tailed out of there. But it was REALLY hard. I could tell that Samuel was disappointed that I had to leave. But Joshua was not going to calm down. It’s apart of his SPD, he just can’t handle noise like that. It’s the first time two of my children have had needs that opposed each other directly. I almost cried walking out. Fortunately my dear husband showed up just as we were leaving and went to see Samuel, benefits of having your DH work at the school your son goes to.

I came home and called my mom and told her all about it. She quickly told me to stop putting mommy guilt on myself. She was right, but it’s still hard. I prayed about it, more sort of whining/yelling about it to God, about how unfair this is and why me sort of stuff. And in my heart this phrase came up, it was “you cannot feel guilty for something you cannot change”. It made me feel much better. However, this is not the last time this is going to come up. I know. I will still want to know why we have to deal with this and why Joshua has to have SPD. It seems so unfair to him and my other kids! But I also know that this is God’s will for our lives and He has a plan and a reason for all this, but that is not always easy to see at the moment.

What is SPD?

I was asked to provide some more information about SPD and what those of you who love Joshua can do to be more understanding of his needs. I am all too happy to help.

What is SPD? That is a hard question to answer. I do have a favorite website that is a great resource for me to answer this question. http://www.spdbloggernetwork.com/join-us/  Feel free to check it out if you would like to. It gives alot of good information.

Another great resource is http://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/5-things-to-know-about-the-mother-of-a-child-with-autism-part-1/. I really like her posts.

Personally, SPD means that we have a hard time dealing with crowds of people. Things get too loud and it is difficult to deal with. The typical reactions are usually either to cry or start trying to yell louder than the noise. Sounds like this can literally cause pain to the ears of a child with SPD. So, if you see us avoid crowds or have to make a quick exit you will know why.

Some children with SPD also have unusual behaviors such as rocking or spinning. They don’t get enough “sensation” from thier environment, so these things are done to get more sensations. In our family, we do occupational therapy  to help with this. Some of the things we do are brushing therapy, to help desensitize Joshua’s skin, as he is hypersensitive to touching. As with loud sounds, touching can actually hurt. He prefers to be touched with a strong hold verses light touches.

Another challenge for some is walking and talking as a result. You might notice that Joshual is catching up in these areas, and we are working diligently in both areas. He has made some great progress recently with motor skills, and we will start speech therapy soon.

One mom of a child with SPD said that her son has “super powers”. I totally agree. Kids with SPD have super senses, and that can be a good thing and a bad thing, as you can imagine. All children are made unique by God and are given certain gifts and abilities. Each person’s weakness can also be thier strength.

Sensitivity

Yesterday we had a psychologist come and evaluate Joshua. She said she does not think that he has Autism, which is good news. She does, however, think that he has Sensory Processing Disorder, which is similar to Autism in some ways, but is not as severe. So, we are thankful to at least have some answers as to what is going on with Joshua.

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading everything I can on Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, knowing those were the two most likely things he might have. I have learned a ton about both disorders. I have also been reading a lot written by other mothers with children who have these disorders. All this research has opened my eyes to families of children who have all kinds of special needs. Until we had Joshua I never really thought about special needs much. I guess I didn’t have the occasion to. I do confess that I wasn’t very sensitive to families with children who might have needs. I thought I was, but not really. To some extent you cannot understand unless you go through it, but you can strive to educate yourself on common special needs so that you can become more sensitive to children around you. There are so many kids with special needs around you every day. And not just severe special needs, but things like ADD or Learning Disabilities. I know all of you know someone around you who has one of these. Everything I have learned has made me see these children and families in a different light. When I see a mom struggling at the store with a child who is throwing a tantrum and looks too old to be throwing one, I don’t think now, “wow, she should do a better job as a parent”. I realize now that this child may have special needs and this mother is most likely doing her best to control the situation, but is having a hard day. I now feel empathy for her. When I am teaching a children’s class and there is a child who is acting up, I now think, “maybe this child has ADD or LD and what can I do to engage them better”, not “this kid is a pain.”

I am not making excuses for children who have special needs, but I am saying that you don’t understand what it’s like until you have walked in that person’s shoes and you should be sensitive to that. People lately, who have learned of Joshua’s issues, have asked me how they can support us and be sensitive to him. I would say that what we as mom’s of special needs kids need most is a listening ear and someone who we know will not judge us as parents. Having a child with special needs is hard! And mine is mild compared to some, but I can say it is difficult, and there are days when I wish it weren’t so. But having a child with special needs is teaching me to be more sensitive to others around me and that is a good thing.

Dumbo

Lately I have been reading a book on children with special needs. For those of you who don’t know my third son, Joshua has some special needs. We are currently in the process of doing some testing to find out exactly what is going on with him. So, I have been reading all I can on special needs and how to handle them. I came across this one book with an illustration in it that really helped me with my perspective on special needs.

The book talks about the movie Dumbo. In the movie the baby elephant Dumbo is born with really big ears that make it hard for him to walk like other elephants. He is teased and is upset because he isn’t like the others. His mother is sad because other elephants are making fun of her baby. Later on in the movie it becomes clear that Dumbo has big ears because he was not meant to walk like other elephants he was meant to fly. Special needs kids are not like other kids, they have “big ears” and are often made fun of. But those same things that make special needs kids different also can be the things that God has a special task for them to do. The author of this book has a son who is Autistic. He has very sensitive hearing and is bothered by normal sounds. It is a characteristic of Autism. But that same thing that makes him different has also been something special that God has called him to. Because of his specialized hearing ability he has a gift for languages. His mother recognized this and has helped him to see his calling in life as a linguist.

This is really an eye-opening illustration for me right now. We are just beginning our journey of special needs with Joshua. And it is very hard to realize that your child is not like other children. I worry about him being made fun of and being different. But as this mother did, if I can realize that those same traits that make him different are there because God has made him special. God has a very unique calling for Joshua that only he can do. I don’t need to “fix” Joshua, I just need to allow God to work in him to use his differences for His purpose. I have to realize that Joshua may not walk as other elephants do, but that is because he is meant to fly.

Follow me

I joined Pinterest recently. I kept seeing it on Facebook. Everyone else was all excited about it, so I decided I needed to see what all the buzz was about. So, I joined. I have yet to actually set up a page. For those of you who don’t know what this is, I will try to explain, although I am not sure I understand myself. So, it’s like a virtual bulletin board that you “pin-up” those things you like, such as crafts you might want to do or pictures you like. I am sure there is more to it than that, but that is the basic gist of it, I think.

Anyway, so I signed up about a week ago. I keep getting emails now telling me that so and so is following me on Pinterest. It makes me laugh to myself because I am not sure if I will ever actually get around to doing anything with Pinterest. I hope to, but sometimes I just don’t have the time for everything I want to do, imagine that! So, I hope that my friends who are following me on Pinterest don’t get to disappointed with me if I don’t do anything amazing with it.

This has made me think about life. Do you realize the people in your life who are “following” you? My kids are the easiest example of people that are following me. They see everything I do, even the stuff I wish they wouldn’t. The copy what I say, somethings that I say sound okay to me until I hear them come out of a four-year old’s mouth and then they sound awful. (BTW, I am not talking about anything major here, just stuff like “stupid”. So don’t think I go around cussing all the time)

My kids aren’t the only ones following me. You would be amazed at the people around you who are watching what you do and following you. I have had people tell me recently that they wanted to be like me. I was shocked! Really, me? I think you have the wrong person here, I am not some great Christian or mom, who would want to follow me? Often times you don’t get to choose who wants to follow you, they just do. So, you have to be mindful of those around you and how you act. Jesus chose 12 men to follow him, but there were countless others who followed Jesus around all the time. Jesus had to watch what he did and said all the time, He was rarely not being watched. I am not nearly like Jesus, but the point is that people are watching me and following me and I have to be mindful of my words and actions. I pray that I am doing something worth following. I pray that people will see that it’s not me they are following but, that I am just in a person following Jesus.

Grown up toddlers

It’s been a rough day with my 18 month old. He has been cranky and irritable and frankly, so have I. He is an exceptional toddler with some special needs that make the toddlerness a little worse than other kids. That being said, some days are good and some aren’t, with all toddlers. There are some days I am just enduring the toddlerhood and waiting until the day when he gets older and isn’t doing these toddler things, like meltdowns. But it makes me think about some adults I know who seem to have not gotten past toddlerhood, me included, at times.

Toddlers are famous for being demanding, irritable, and unreasonable. They throw fits over the smallest things and refuse to give in when they don’t get their way. They think the world revolves around them and that no one else has any needs at all. Now doesn’t that sound like us all some days? But we have to put away these childish things and become adults, at some point. And there are times when that toddler inside us all sneaks back up and rears it’s ugly, tantrum throwing head. We don’t throw tantrums like toddlers do, by kicking and screaming, at least most of us don’t. But we do other adult things to get our way sometimes. We have road rage or yell and scream at people around us, just like a 18 month old would. We whine when other people have better “toys” then we do. And some people do worse things than that.

Why do we do this?

I would say it’s because we have not gotten rid of our inner toddler. You are born being the most selfish creature on earth. Babies think that everyone else is put on earth to serve their every need and in the way and time in which they want it. And if you don’t, you will hear about how you have angered his royal majesty. You don’t have to teach babies to think only about themselves. No baby has ever thought “Well, I should not get up so many times tonight, because my poor mother is exhausted and needs to sleep.” No, they are only thinking, “I am hungry, FEED ME NOW!” So, as we grow older we have to work this selfishness out of ourselves.

How do we do this?

Hopefully our parents have done a good job of “helping” to rid us of that selfishness by early childhood. But we too have to finish the job in adulthood. Everyday I have to submit myself to God so that I can rid myself of “ME”. That part of me that wants it all my way and in my time. Usually this “ME” is in direct conflict with what God wants in my life. I have to die to self, not just daily, but every minute. Especially when I am pressed or in an uncomfortable situation, that “ME” comes out really quickly. I find it most these days when dealing with my toddler. He really makes me want to be selfish right back at him and kick and scream and so forth. However, I have to remind myself to be a good example to him and “help” him get rid of his selfishness by appropriate means and with a good attitude. (All you mom’s of toddlers know what a challenge that is). I hope that today I can die to my toddler self and put on my big girl pants and act like an adult, especially when dealing with the toddlers around me, short and tall.

Childhood Memories

Today we went to the zoo. It was a lot of fun. We have been going to the zoo since our oldest, Samuel, was 18 months old, and he is now 7. He has always loved animals so we decided he might like it. He loved it and we got annual passes. We have had passes almost every year since then. It’s good, cheap, Byrum family fun. Even though we have now been to the zoo many times, the kids still get excited about going. Their new favorite pastime is to take pictures of all the animals on “their” camera. ( it’s our old camera that we let them have). Watching them today, I thought about how I know they will remember these zoo trips as they become adults. I hope they will look back on them fondly. I have so many happy childhood memories and I hope they will also.

One neat thing about still living in the area in which I grew up, is that many of my childhood memories I have, I can also have with my children, such as going to the zoo. I walked around the zoo today and remembered being their with my parents as a child. I remember riding the little tram and watching the Elephants. I remember eating at this little restaurant that overlooked some African animals and watching a gazelle be born. Sadly, that restaurant is no longer open, but the building is still there. I remember taking pictures of animals with my own camera as a child, just as my boys did today. Wow, how time flies. I remember those moments so distinctly and now I am doing those same things with my own boys almost 30 years later.

I think a lot now about making memories with my kids. I hope they will look back on their childhoods and remember these fun times that their dad and I are working so hard to give them. I sure do enjoy watching their little faces as they have fun. I know I will remember these moments in their lives when they are adults. Sometimes when you are younger you think to yourself that you are just waiting for a certain time in your life. Like when you are 8 you can’t wait to be 10 or when you are 15 you can’t wait to get to college, or whatever. I have realized, recently, that this is that time in our lives. We have to make the most of right now, because time goes by so quickly. Our kids are getting older by the minute and now is the time to make those memories with them. We can’t wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow they will be graduating high school. A wise person once said to me, “the days are long and the weeks are short, when raising kids”. That is so true. I am trying to slow down and realize that those moments that my kids will always remember are being made, now.