Bloggy Moms

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Horrific Thing That Changed My Life

In August of 1979 I was a sad and lonely 14 year old girl just about to start my  freshman year of high school. A friend of the family had called my mom to ask if I could be the stand by babysitter for their daughter since they'd be going on a family vacation. My mom agreed to let me babysit in place of my friend. As it turned out this young family also attended a local church whose beloved pastor was leaving. The teens at the church wanted to attend the special service in his honor so I was asked to help out in the church's nursery that Sunday. At the time my family and I were not attending church anywhere and were not planning on anytime soon. That Saturday my mom drove me the route I'd be riding my bike to the next day.
The morning of this job went well except that I'd gotten a flat tire on the way. I stayed to babysit the babies and had lunch before calling my mom to come pick me up.
Once my mom and little brother arrived, my mom parked on the busy street because she didn't feel comfortable parking in a strange church's parking lot. My 13 year old brother tied the hood of the trunk of our sedan closed with rope that my mom had. My mom realized that it was dangerous for her son to be near oncoming traffic. She told him to step on the curb while she made sure my bike was secure. Just as she was tugging on the rope, a car came around the corner. Almost instinctively I knew this car was going to hit my mother. I remember watching it in slow motion. I felt helpless as it careened into the person I loved most in the world. After the impact, my little brother and I bounded over a small hill that led to the church's parking lot. We screamed for help at the top of our lungs. Luckily for us there were still a few people milling about the church grounds. One of those individuals was named Steve and another was named Phil. I may have this wrong but I believe Steve applied pressure to my mom's leg to stop the bleeding until the ambulance arrived while Phil held her hand and assured her it would be alright. I don't recall if I rode in the back of the ambulance or my brother did. I do remember that somehow my older brother was contacted to come and get our car. He drove it to the hospital where we all waited for news of our mother. It seemed like hours later before the surgeon emerged to give us an update on my mom.
That was the first of 14 surgeries that my mom endured while they saved her leg. There were many times during my freshman year that I had to go to school while my mom was on the operating table. Plastic surgery and skin grafts became a common occurrence during my mom's lengthy hospital stay.  One surgery was to install the Hoffman Device, a series of pins and screws that goes through the bone and is visible on the outside as well. She was the first patient at our local hospital to have it.
The man who hit my mom felt remorse. He called my mom at the hospital to tell her that he was sorry. He said he couldn't sleep at night. My mom told him that she could not sleep either. It was later determined that he was driving his ex-wife's car while on Valium. My mom's lawyer settled for a good amount that allowed our family to get off of welfare. This was a huge blessing in disguise.
Another wonderful thing that happened is that most of my family started attending church again. Many people from that church came to see my mom in the hospital. It surprised all of us because we didn't even know these people. They also sent many many cards. Shortly after the accident, someone invited my brothers and I to attend their church. There is one family in particular that faithfully drove my younger brother and I to church every single Sunday.
When my brother and I wanted to attend their youth group events, someone made sure we got rides there and back. This church family embraced my family. Eventually I decided to become a Christian and follow after Christ because these strangers had become like family to me. They showed me what true love is really all about.
While I was attending this church I became a Sunday School helper, nursery worker and babysat for many of its young families. It was there that I found my passion for children and teaching. Many of the church members had attended Biola University so I too decided that's where I'd like to go to college. It was no small miracle that I was able to attend this very expensive university for four and a half years to complete my bachelor's degree.
What really strikes me as funny in all of this is that I only attended that church for four years but because its members made such an impact on my life, it seems like it was so much longer. God used a tragedy in my life to give me hope, purpose and meaning.
My mom and I a few years after her terrible accident.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Baking Cupcakes is not for the Faint of Heart

Last Friday my daughter had the day off from school. I wanted to do something fun with her so I suggested that we bake some Valentine's Day cupcakes. I figured we could give them our to friends and relatives. That never happened. What follows is my recollection of how a simple project turned into a disaster.
The night before we were to bake the cupcakes, I asked Princess if she'd like to help me make them. We'd been inspired by Master Chef Junior. We figured that if an eight-year-old boy could pull off amazing culinary feats, certainly my daughter could make cupcakes from a box mix. Sounds simple, right? Well, the part that is important to note is that Princess has OCD and ADHD. This translates into a child with a low attention span who's a  perfectionist as well. Not a good combination.
This was the first time that Princess was going to see the process through from beginning to end. Typically she'll help stir and frost but not much else. On this particular day, I thought I'd set her up for success by frontloading her with the steps and praying for extra patience. When it came time to crack the eggs, she would crack and egg then wash her hands. Since the recipe called for three eggs, she washed her hands three times. She helped just fine with mixing up the batter. Before we knew it, it was time to put the batter into the cupcake liners.That's when the bottom fell out.  Princess did not want me to do the first few for her. She felt that she'd watched me enough times that she knew what to do. You know what happens when you have a bowl full of batter and an inexperienced baker, an overflowing mess. I calmly and patiently helped my daughter clean up the mess. Then when she was done with the first twelve baking cups, I did the remaining twelve. Since my daughter had been so generous with first half, there wasn't enough batter for the rest of the baking cups. Normally it would not have been a big deal but I'd set out our cute cupcake stand that had exactly 24 spots. I tried to downplay it but Princess was set on making sure there were 24 cupcakes. So I told her I'd help her figure it out.
About this time Princess had probably had enough and needed a break. She chose this time to leave me while she attended to her hygiene needs. I encouraged her to hurry along, but she still took a half hour to return to our baking session. While she was gone, I'd tried to even out the cupcakes a little but that left many of the liners wrinkled. For my OCD kiddo wrinkled liners were a sign of imperfection so I came up with the brilliant idea of putting the batter from the wrinkled liners into fresh ones. This took a bit of finesse and my patience had worn this by this time. I did not realize the stress that making these cupcakes had placed on my daughter until a saw a tear roll down her cheek. I thought she was crying because she couldn't do it. I snapped at her and said, "Stop crying!" This made things worse. Only later did she tell me that she wanted me to be proud of her so she was trying to be perfect. I quickly apologized before putting the cupcakes in the oven.
After that fiasco, I was pretty frazzled so I suggested that she frost the cupcakes with her sitter that night since my husband and I were going to go out for Valentine's Day. All went well except the sugar monster took over. Princess could not help herself. She ate four cupcakes even though she only had permission to eat one. That really annoyed me because she insisted that we make 24 cupcakes to fill up the cupcake stand but then she immediately ate four. Well, I guess there were 24  for about a minute. That counts for something right?
When my husband and I arrived home to this news later that night, I realized that having these kinds of sweets in the house was not a good idea. This is something that we've been dealing with at home lately.
When Princess woke up the next morning, she discovered that the cupcakes had gone into the witness protection program. No one in the house would tell her where they went. A few days later I brought out a few cupcakes for our family to enjoy. I gave the rest to a family friend.
For now we may just stick to making smoothies.
Calgon anyone?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Grieving the Loss of My Dreams

"Let go and let God." That simple little phrase has meant a lot to me over the years. The first time I let go of something I was holding on to was when I was single. One day, at the age of 32,  I decided to give up the fight of ever finding a man who would love me. I told God that if he wanted me to remain celibate all of my life, I would do it. I had thought that I'd go serve Him on the mission field in some far off country. Two weeks later the charming man who is now my husband walked into my life.
I have had to let go of things that I had a tight grip on many occasions. I let go of my teaching career so that I could tend to my daughter's needs.  Most recently I gave up dreams that I had for my child.
This is not to say that I no longer dream for my child, but I don't dwell on these so much. They no longer consume my thoughts.
About a year ago our family therapist suggested that my husband and I grieve all of the hopes and dreams we'd had for our daughter. She gave us homework to write all of our dreams on slips of colored construction paper. We were to each write them out separately then we'd discussion them in session with her. When we got home, I started on mine right away and was done in the next day or two. My husband took a little longer, but he did get his done even if it was in the nick of time.
Some of my grievings were that Princess might not get to go to my alma mater because college is too stressful for her. I grieved that we may never get to go to Paris or even NYC. Another grieving was that her acting career that all of us thought she'd be good at was on hold indefinitely. I also listed that she was at risk of suicide due to her Bipolar Disorder diagnosis.
My husband listed that he could no longer go on father/daughter camping trips with Princess since they always ended in a disaster. Many of his other grievings were the same or similar to mine.
When we went to our therapy session the following week, we discussed our strips of paper at length. It took us about two sessions to really pour over them and give them the time that they deserved. It was really painful and gut wrenching. At first we considered burning these grievings as a sign of moving on, but our therapist came up with a better idea. She asked us to find a family photo and a phrase or verse that had a lot of meaning to us. Then we were to tear or cut the strips into little pieces and make a mosaic out of them around a piece of  photo matting. The finished product is pictured below. It hangs in our family room.
As painful as this process was, it really helped my husband and I move on past some unrealistic dreams we were holding on to.
About two weeks after we completed this process, Princess started on the wonder drug that you can read about here. I am happy to report we are starting to dream again. They're little dreams but dreams still. I've found that when I let go of the things I'm holding on to, God does some amazing things. Even if He didn't, the sense of freedom from giving over the reigns is pretty incredible.

This reads: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."~ Jeremiah 29:11
This photo was taken at Yosemite National Park in 2011, our last family vacation.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Set Free

February 15, 2012: A day that will live in infamy- At least in my mind anyways. That is the day that my teaching career took a fatal blow. On that day, I was like a little kid trying to please a parent who I could never measure up to. I was already a nervous wreck, but I so desperately wanted to please my bully that I did as she requested.  I worked really hard at trying to raise my teaching to her standards. I often did this at the expense of my own family. I was working about 60-70 hours a week.
On this particular day, there was a lack of communication on both of our parts, my administrator and I. Early in the morning she felt the need to clarify some things with me. She chose to confront me in my classroom in front of my students. I remember feeling humiliated and numb. My students were shell shocked as well. One of my Kindergarteners even said, "What the heck just happened? Why did she just yell at you?" I knew no one would believe what had occurred in my classroom and they sure as heck would not believe a class full of five and six year olds.
I really wanted to run home at that moment, but I knew that wasn't the answer so I somehow muddled my way through the day.
Shortly after that I began having recurring nightmares. I also started to lose my hair. About two weeks later, I suffered a panic attack on my way to school. I don't even know how I taught that day, but I did. That night I decided to get serious about taking care of me.  My emotional well-being was more important than pleasing my boss. I sought the advice of our family psychiatrist who agreed to put me on stress leave. She also gave me some medication to help me cope with life. In addition to this I began seeing a counselor on a weekly basis.
This experience was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to face. It shook me to my very core.  I eventually ended up leaving teaching to care for my special needs daughter. I'm OK with that because I am no longer in that toxic environment.
Today, three years later, I may not be richer in material wealth, but I am richer in mental health. This morning at church, as we sung the words that are listed below. I truly felt that I have been set free.
Note: To read more about this, read my original post here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Target and My Special Needs Child

Here in America, Target stores are pretty much a required store for lots of families.  Heck even Buzzfeed made a really cool video about women going to Target.
 In our town, there are at three stores. The closest one to me is West Fullerton Target. I've been going there since it first opened about 15 years ago. When Princess was an infant, I used to push our jogging stroller there several times a week just to get out of the house and get a little exercise. Princess even learned what the sale sticker looked like and schooled her grandma on it when she was around four years old. I'll be the first to admit that there are some days that I go there more than once a day.
The great thing about our particular Target is that there is a low turnover rate. That's awesome for us because my outgoing child has cashiers and stock people who know her by name. Our favorite cashier is Susan. Susan always has a warm smile and a hug waiting for Princess. If Princess is not with me, she will ask how she is. She knows that Princess has her struggles, but she loves her just the same. Another long time employee is Mimi. This lovely gal is a little person. Princess connected with her right away. It was as if she knew something was different about her, but she just treated her like everyone else. I think Mimi knew that Princess had her own challenges long before I shared them with her. When Princess had her first hospitalization back in 2012, Mimi somehow felt in her gut that something was amiss because I kept going to the store without my shopping buddy. I shared with Mimi a little of what was going on in our world. This precious lady went out of her way to bring a necklace from home for Princess. She kept it in her pocket until she saw us one day. Then she presented it to my daughter. She told her that when she saw this necklace, it made her think of Princess. Out of all of the people that she knows, she thought of my daughter. She took the time to make her feel special.
There are other  wonderful employees who work there as well. Amanda is one of the managers. She keeps her employees happy and focused. I never see them chatting with each other or on their cell phones like I do in some other stores. There's another employee who has the same name as my daughter. (Her real one) She's friendly and professional.
All of this to say this store knows my child and I. If I did not get excellent customer service, I would not keep going there.
On a recent outing to our local Target, Princess was distracted. It was a few days before Valentine's Day. We were at the store picking up a few gifts for staff members at Princess' school. I thought Princess was right next to me, but she had wandered off to look at something else. I saw where she was, but she didn't see me. After realizing she'd lost sight of me. she headed over to customer service. They were just about to call me, when I showed up. It was a relief to hear the young ladies behind the counter say that they recognized my daughter and knew she belonged with me.
Targets are like your local neighborhood school, if you like yours, you feel blessed.
I know that not every single Target is like mine, but I'm glad to know its customer service shines.
This motto is definitely true of the West Fullerton Target

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Little Snuggle Bug is Back!

Moms of newborns and toddlers will tell you that one of the most precious times spent with their child is when they are cuddling with them. It is when they can bond and connect with this little human. When Princess was a baby, I could cuddle with her but that all changed when she learned to walk. I soon only got those snuggles when she was sick or really tired. She was not one to climb up into my lap because she was always on the go. I later discovered it was also due in part to her Sensory Processing Disorder. Princess did not like the way it felt to be hugged. I think it was just too painful for her. So I'll admit it, I kind of liked it when she was sick and wanted to be held.
Princess was always on the go, think Engergizer Bunny, so to stop and cuddle with mommy was not going to happen.
One way I found around this, was that I would sit her on my lap when I read to her. We have this ottoman that is lavender. We call it the purple chair because it made more sense to call it that when Princess was learning to talk and comprehend words. I was very diligent about reading to Princess on a nightly basis. The one good thing that came out of this was that Princess learned how to read by the age of five. She may not have enjoyed sitting in my lap but she sure enjoyed those books.
As Princess got older, she'd hug her father and I good bye or hello but would not linger. She'd even give us a peck on the cheek at nighttime or if we were leaving for the day.
Additionally, our family room has a couch and a love seat in it. Princess prefers to sit on the couch by herself or with her dolls and stuffed animals. Whenever my husband or I go to sit next to her, she tries to push us away. We've seen this same behavior play out at restaurants with booths. Since my husband is the Jack Sprat type he can sometimes get away with sitting on the same side as Princess but not I. In Princess' mind, the booth or sofa never had enough room for the two of us. At first I was offended by this behavior, but in time I came to realize it was just one  Princess'  many quirks.
I had that deep longing in my heart to spend more time snuggling with my precious child but the more unstable she became the less of that that I received.
All of that changed once she got on the right medication. The medication that helped her moods stabilize also helped to lessen many of her SPD symptoms. I cannot explain it except to say that since everything is not so prickly to Princess anymore, she's more willing to initiate cuddle time.
This morning was a perfect example of this. I was sitting down in the office when Princess came in and sat on my lap. Usually she's pushing me off of the chair so she can have it to herself. She genuinely wanted to just sit with me and cuddle. So we did. I stopped everything and held my baby girl until the school van picked her up. In a way I feel like I'm getting back something that I thought was lost forever.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Embracing My Daughter's Compassion

Ever since Princess was little she's had a very big heart. Whenever someone is hurt or crying, she's the first one to run to their side. There were many times when she was younger that she'd actually ask a stranger if she could pray for them. She's the kid who always asks how someone got injured.
I remember one time when Princess was in preschool that she wasn't so kind. The director of the school called me to come get my child because she had bit another child very hard. Miss Sally was very concerned because it appeared that Princess was not upset by what had happened. I believe that Princess did not possess the words to express herself. Even though she was a very verbal child with a huge vocabulary, she did not know how to apologize for her actions. That came across as a lack of remorse. Over the years Princess has brought up this incident numerous times.  She does feel compassion and is quite shocked that she inflicted pain on another classmate.
This scene played out many times. Princess would injure a child, lack the ability to feel remorse in the moment but then later express concern for her fellow classmate.
Instead of focusing on Princess' aggression, I chose to focus on her compassion. Before Disneyland raised their Annual Passholder prices out of our pocket book range, Princess and I were AP's for about five years.  We'd go to The Happiest Place on Earth once or twice a month. One day when she was around seven I decided to capitalize on Princess' kind words. I took her to City Hall on Main Street to get her an Honorary Citizen badge. I told her that she was an Ambassador of Good Cheer at the park for the day. She took her job seriously. Every time we saw someone with a birthday, engagement or My 1st Visit button; Princess would acknowledge them accordingly. People were shocked but generally thrilled.
My acceptance of Princess' unique ability to cheer people up did not come overnight. For a very long time I was annoyed by it. It took us more time to get to our final destination when we were out in public. Plus when Princess was greeting or praying for others, I had to engage as well. I am a pretty friendly person by nature but my daughter takes kindness to a whole other level.
I still talked with her about her aggressive behavior. She received consequences for it at home as well. I just reminded her of the good feelings that making someone's day brought. I know that in the past 14 months Princess has made significant gains in all areas. These are mostly due to an awesome medication and a wonderful school. I can't help but to think that I helped in some small way by embracing my child's compassionate heart rather than shame her for it.

This is a picture of Princess at Disneyland when she was about five. She asked these random cast members to sign her autograph book and to pose for a picture with her.