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Boys And Loss And Compassion

I originally wrote this piece over two and a half years ago on July 29, 2012.  At the time, I believed Big struggled with empathy…It turns out, not only does he NOT struggle with empathy, he may feel more than most.

A week ago today, my cousin’s wife lost her battle with breast cancer. Although, she is in heaven now, I don’t actually feel she lost at all. She fought bravely, with grace, courage and beauty. She maintained her faith throughout, and was strong for everyone else. Kathy showed us all what it means to have family and friends in our lives. She lived her life up until the very end. When I got “the phone call” the wind was knocked out of my sails to say the least. I was devastated for Chandon, auntie Mary Jo, Taylor, Taylor’s babe and Kathy’s family and friends. I cried. And cried.

The eldest has trouble with empathy. He loves his family so much that I often forget. He struggled to understand why I would be so upset. After all, we didn’t see them often. I explained my grief the best I could and went about the business of packing our bags to make the drive to say our final good byes.

On the day of the visitation, I talked again to the boys about what was not appropriate. When we arrived, Chandon was greeting people. Accepting hugs, “I love you(s),” and condolences. The eldest, of his own accord, walked up to this cowboy in his starched white shirt and “pink for gray” bracelet, who is more a brother to me than a cousin, and hugged him tight. Joe looked him in the eye and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”. One single tear trailed down this brave cowboy’s face. He bent down to reply, but couldn’t. Later after the funeral, as we all gathered at Kathy’s sisters, Chandon said he wanted to say something to Joe, but the words were stuck in his throat.

As we were driving home yesterday from my dad’s Joe asked why there had to be cancer in the world. I said, “Baby, I just don’t know.”. My youngest babe says, “Taylor’s baby still has her grandma.”. I say, “No, baby, her grandma is in heaven.”. Chet says, “No, mama. I mean just like we all have Jesus with us always, the baby will have her grandma with her always.”. What you have to know is that we are not a particularly religious family. We (sometimes) make it to Christmas eve and maybe (ok rarely) Easter services. We tend to find God when we are with our family, or fishing, or at the beach, or in the company of our friends…Chet’s had three school years of once weekly chapel that must have really sunken in.

I’m so very proud of my boys for really grasping the important things in life. Sometimes, it takes five and a half and seven and a half year old boys to show grownups how to travel through this inevitable part of life…loss.

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More Than…

I vaguely remember a time when I had hopes and dreams and desires that belonged solely to me. Sure some of those were childish hopes and dreams that I left behind long before having children, but they were mine and mine alone. When I had kids, my whole identity became those two beautiful boys. My whole life was doctors appointments, therapy, to and fro here and there.  It was my identity. It IS my identity, but I am more than that, right?

I think all moms (I ass/u/me dad’s too) feel a certain amount of this wondering who am I now?  But I think for stay at home parents it is especially hard. Who am I aside from this amazing little creature I made my family (either by birth or adoption)? What do I want? The answer for so long was, “I want ___________ for my kids.” But that’s not the question.  The question is what do I want FOR ME? Honest to God, I don’t have a clue anymore. I want to rediscover myself outside of being a parent, outside of being an “autism mommy blogger”, outside of being a wife. I love those aspects of my life so very much and find comfort and joy in them, but I’m more than that, right? I am more than my son’s autism diagnosis.  I am more than “WeeOne’s mom.” I am more than worrying about what activiites would simultaneously fill the need to practice social skills and increase self esteem for Big while still being fun for the WeeOne.

I am more than sleepless nights worrying about IEPs and school placements and high stakes testing and the effects it is having on both of my boys. I am more than scheduling a rare play date with a friend. I am more than the woman who fixes breakfast, cleans the dishes, fixes lunch, cleans the dishes, washes and folds the laundry, cleans the toilet, sweeps and mops, fixes dinner, cleans the dishes, makes sure everyone in the household has meds and maintaining my sweet and never wavering even demeanor. (That last part is a joke, just in case you couldn’t read my sarcasm.)

Saying I am more than these things does not in anyway shape or form diminish their importance or the fact that I get some satisfaction from a job okayly done.  But what about ME.  What other than my family brings me joy? My friends. Okay…so I need to make some time for friends.  What else? Writing. Okay…I need to write more and work on developing my craft. What else? Reading.  I can totally make time for that.  But what ELSE? I’m really trying to dig in and look at my desires and find a way to find myself again. Find who I am not independent of my family because that’s neither attainable nor desirable, rather who I am next to them.  It won’t be long, judging how fast the ten and a half years have gone since we had Big and my boys will be living on their own.  I don’t want to be left without something for myself. I want to be a person now so that when they do flee the coup, I don’t have an identity crisis. Really, I’m in crisis prevention mode and that’s pretty smart of me.  I usually react rather than prevent. So yay me.

How do you make yourself feel more than?

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Pottery Barn Dreams

Someone had a meltdown today.  It was this persons quarterly freak out. I will give you three guesses as to who lost their stuff today; the first two guesses don’t count.  Big? you ask.  Nope. He’s been the picture of composure lately.  WeeOne. Nuh-unh. He’s doing just fine unless he thinks you’ve turned the PlayStation off without saving. Daddy? Nah. He’s calm, cool and collected.  That leaves one person who lives in this house.  Me. That’s right me. I freaked out. Big time. At lunch. Sitting at the table with my husband, I wept and cried and melted down about a sofa.

On the surface that seems like such a shallow thing to melt down about. But our sofa is old. And Dingy. And sagging. And the springs are all poky.  And every time I sit on our old, dingy, sagging, poky sofa I think about how now’s not the time for a new one.  It pisses me off. There I said it. It makes me mad.

We are a hardworking, middle class family. My husband works at a demanding job so that I can stay home, work part time at a preschool two days a week, and be available to take our kids to appointments or be home when they are sick or off during the summer. Most days, i wouldn’t trade this scenario for any amount of money in the world.  But, about once a quarter, I freak out. I don’t want lots of ostentatious things. I don’t need diamond earrings or an elegant watch.  We have two cars with no car payments, a mortgage for our land, but not our house; we have a tractor payment, but carry over no credit card debt. But a sofa. I have my eye on a new sofa. I’ve had my eye on that couch for several years.  I could easily talk myself down from a new sofa when the boys were babies and toddlers and generally gross human beings, but it’s getting harder and harder.  I mean, the four of us barely fit on our sofa.

This year we managed to do something really smart.  We were able to put money in to our health savings account.  Can I just say, that simple little act may have saved our marriage.  The beginning of the year is always so stressful with the pharmacy and prescriptions not giving a damn if you have a new deductible or not. FYI nearly $900 in January for medications is anxiety producing. I’m proud of us for avoiding that discussion at the end of this month when it comes time to pay the bills. Score one for us. But, still, where’s the couch fund?

We don’t have cable; I don’t get my hair and nails done at a lavish salon. We don’t eat out often, and we don’t buy expensive clothes. Target is our fancy store. We don’t take elaborate vacations, even though one day I’d like to be able to comfortably take our kids across state lines. We don’t send our kids to expensive private schools, buy them name brand clothes (they don’t care about that yet…although, I’m sure it’s coming).  We DO buy good food, have lots of medical bills and travel many miles back and forth to work and school; these aren’t negotiable. The frustrating thing is, there isn’t a lot of area to cut back on. Do we sometimes sneak in dinner out? Sure, but not often.  Do I sometimes buy an unnecessary item or three at Target, yes. But there just is not a lot of scaling back to be done. Then, I think, “I need to get a better paying job/go back to school/become an extreme couponer/be better about watching what I spend.”  In the next thought I’m thrown into the spiral of how do people with very little income do this? How do they provide food, shelter, clothes, phones, electricity for their families?God forbid, what happens when an unexpected medical bill pops up? Then I feel guilty:  when we inevitably have a surgery to pay for in any give year, we are able to make it work and still manage to have most of the things we want. And you, you selfish girl are having a full blown meltdown about a couch. What part of having a new couch and your pottery barn dreams come true will make your life better?

You see, it’s not abut the couch, really. Do I really want a new couch? You bet your sweet bottom I do,  but it’s about the juggling, the struggling just to keep up.  It’s the what happens ifs that add up. It’s the feeling guilty for wanting things that you can’t have right now. It’s the feeling that the grass is greener (sort of) for some and not at all for others. You know what else it is:  It’s that for once, I kinda want something to come easy.  (Gasp) Yes. I want to be able to go get something because I want it.  I want to do it now. I want it to be EASY. (in theory I could do this if I wanted debt, but I don’t so I won’t).  But I want buying a couch to be EASY. I want things to be EASY. Sometimes, they are.  More often than not they are easy-ish anyway.

Pottery Barn, I’ve started a stash.  By the time I’ve saved for my PB Comfort SlipCovered 3 piece sectional, you will probably have discontinued it so my couch buying experience won’t be easy, but whatever.

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