Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Roller Coaster vs Merry Go Round

Hi.  It's been awhile.  I am sparing you excuses and digging right in.

I am sure many of my friends reading this will be rolling their eyes with, "Oh Grace back on the Roller Coaster vs Merry Go Round conversation again."  I have been rather obsessed with it lately.

Basically it goes like this.  What's better a life of contentment, peace, and sameness aka Merry Go Round? Or a life of dramatic highs and lows, aka the roller coaster.  I categorize people, well not normally to their face, but in my head as one or the other.  The calm, rational ones usually in the Merry Go Round department and ones more like me, in the roller coaster category.  I am known to have a mood swing or two, just sayin.  In general I have longed and wished to be a Merry Go Round person, it just isn't happening.  No matter how hard I try to keep my mouth shut for any number of minutes, an hour seemingly impossible, I blurt out something, often times completely inappropriate things, leading to crashes in various relationships.  Now, it's not all bad, because with roller coasters, there is always a thrill, a high, an enviable rush and the passion in my marriage is such.  The bonds in my close relationships unbreakable.  The love felt by and for my children, literally a force of nature.  It's that intensity that makes me, me.  So why do I question it?  Why do I analyze it's value and importance to death?  Because that's what I do with a freaking commercial on TV; of course I do it with this!  In all seriousness, my over analytical nature is often times a nagging problem for restless nights and questions that frequently don't have answers. But, still it's interesting.

Will our children grow up and say, "Seriously calm down and stop bickering!"?  Probably.  For where there is true passion and love, there is also fire and ice.  We aren't your average lovey, dovey couple.  We can go to bat for our opposite view points for hours, both stubborn and unwilling to relent.  Jeremy will succumb more than I, no doubt, but don't let those blue eyes fool you, he has equal intensity.  That's not to say that we are without our romantic, loving, soft, side either.  His words and warm embrace can heal my wounds and overflow my heart.  My support and admiration mean the world to him.  We are each others go to person, and we also go after each other.  I wish we didn't, I wish we were less intense.  And I wonder what a house is like with a "traditional" Merry Go Round way of functioning.  Do they have dance parties at 5 on a Tuesday?  Probably not.  Do they tell fart jokes with their 7 year old? I am guessing that's inappropriate after age 18.  So as much as our biting tongues lash out, our hearts engage and fill with every ounce of laughter.  Is that so bad?

Still, is it more valuable to have parents that are in control.  Smile and hug you, are predictable in schedule and emotions.  Are at peace in general with their relationships and generally don't challenge their life circumstances or complain about their environments.  Even as I write that, I feel tense, thinking, "OMG I am SO not that person!!!!!!!"  As Jeremy would say, "There is this color in the world that you should learn, it's called grey."  I realize that Merry Go Rounds do sometimes break and you can get dizzy on them.  But for the most part, how bad can it be, it's a Merry Go Round.  It seems the real danger in life, the risks are on that roller coaster and that is where I get worried.  Before you go freaking out, I am not talking about major things like abuse of any kind, I am talking about yelling and losing it when you have to ask your kids 14 times to brush their teeth or put on their shoes.  Merry Go Rounds don't do that.  They speak in sing song and keep their composure at all times, or at least 95% of the time, much higher than my generously self-given 75%.  

I think the toughest part about being a parent is the constant questioning as to if you are doing it "right".  I don't think there is an answer.  I am sure Graham will never forget when I was blaring Kesha's Timber in the minivan as I pulled up to school to drop them off and he was shouting, "Mom stop it! This is so embarrassing!!!"  I smiled and turned it down just as the button pushed to open the door and spare his 2nd grade boyhood from complete horror.  But my heart jumped, clearing the top of the 1,783 hill that it has climbed.  The slight rush of fun and humor and love that filled the mini; it's in those moments it all makes sense.  I am crazy, this ride is exhilarating.  There is no other way to do this for me, in this life.  I think my focus needs to shift from, is this right?  To, this is our life.   It's a ride, enjoy it either way. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

connections

I think as parents we all have a theme so to say.  Something that perhaps was lacking in our childhood, or something we really loved about it.  Either way it is an overwhelming force that drives our parenting skills.  I have seen it with friends- where they spend hours of time and energy on athletics and coaching, watching, participating, encouraging their child to do well.  Others are the same way with music; art; and of course academics.  I thought mine would be the latter.  Academics was encouraged in our house growing up; more than anything else; you were expected to do well and try your best.  It wasn't shoved down our throats or anything, but it was known.  I thought I would follow along with exposing my children to a variety of interests and activities but in the end, academia would take center stage.  Then life hits.  Two children with special needs will take a genius IQ right out of you.  (Not that I have one!)  But, really it makes you re-think what is success?  What is it that I want for my kids?  Most people will blurt out thoughtlessly: happy and healthy.  Well of course.  But, really, what does that mean, happiness. 

I think I finally have my theme figured out.  It all comes down to connections.  At the end of the day, a life filled with education and world travel- alone- means little.  A life filled with riches and material items are fruitless and empty without someone to share it with.  A life filled with peace and tranquility is simply boring without any social interaction.  At the end of the day, that is the most important thing.  How to be a good friend and maintain healthy, happy relationships.

I can't say I am a master at this, it takes effort.  Thinking and doing things that don't necessarily come naturally to me.  I am opinionated and blurt many things out without thinking.  I speak in generalizations and harsh tones often.  I am high maintenance and like to eat and go to certain places.  I mean- don't you want to be friends with me?  That's it.  That's my point.  I have had to learn how to compromise, how to extend myself past my own crap to get to the best part of a friendship.  It ain't easy.  And still I am learning, I am sure I will forever.  And so, that's what I have been talking to my kids about.  That is what our focus is here at home.  Have you been kind?  Is that a nice thing to say?  Would you want a friend like you?  Who did you play with at school today?  Did you share?  Did you let other people make choices and help them feel important?

Graham came home last year off the bus and this was our conversation.

G: Patrick hates me.
M: Graham we don't say that word.
G:  I know, but he does.
M: Why would you say that.
G: Because he doesn't want to sit with me on the bus unless no one else is around.
M: (heart breaking) Well that is his choice.  What is your choice?
G:  To keep trying to sit with him.
M: Well do you want a friend that only likes you when no one else is around? 
G:  No
M:  Do you think Patrick is trying to be mean or simply wants to play and sit with someone else? So what could you do?
G:  Sit with Luke; that's what I have been doing; but I want to sit with Patrick
M: So you only like Luke when Patrick won't sit with you?
G:  Yeah
M:  How do you think that makes Luke feel?

It's tough this friendship business.  We have all been there, people we click with more naturally that we would rather be with or sit with on the bus.  What is the right thing.  To just sit with someone if no one else is around?  To sit with someone you don't really like all that much, but at least they always like you?  Really though, it happens in adulthood.  I have found what I have learned is it's about liking and loving the people you are with in that moment.  Appreciating them for who they are right there.  I can't tell you how many times I have been sat next to someone in a large group and I sigh internally and think "oh great".  But, lately I have been learning what feels good to me isn't having the best conversation- it's finding a common ground and interest with that person anyway.  It doesn't always work out, but it works better, if I am not thinking about what fun I could be having down on the other end of the table.  It's different.  But it's still fun.  I want them to learn to cherish all of their friendships and connections.  That all the effort in life shouldn't go to just pleasing yourself or money or success or hockey.  But, in fact one thing you will never look back and regret is forming a relationship and connection to someone else. 

I don't know how to teach that in everyday ways.  I don't know how to ingrain that into their brains.  I only can show them through my efforts, that being vulnerable is worth it.  That taking a chance and talking to someone you don't think is "cool" sometimes turns out to be- way cool.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes people reject you.  They look at you like a freak and don't want to take the time to know you.  Sometimes people simply don't click and get along and that's fine too.  It doesn't make them bad or mean.  It also doesn't make you bad or mean.  It just simply means it's time to move forward to a new relationship. 

All I know is never in my life have I felt more supported and enveloped in love and friends have everything to do with it.  It is pretty spectacular to know that they love me for me.  Not for only parts of me.  Not that they can't get irritated with me.  Not that we don't see things differently sometimes.  Not that we aren't worlds apart in some arenas of life.  But, still we connect.  We find interests, common bonds, emotions and connect.  I love the diversity of my friends.  I am proud that I have some with chickens and goats; some living in high rises; some with 5 kids; some with none; some married; some divorced; republicans; democrats; atheists; Catholics.  You name it- they stretch a long divide.  I love them and am so grateful they stretch to reach me too.  They say you are the 5 people you spend the most time with.  It's important this friendship business.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

lessons

I realize I have been a totally awful blogger lately, I mean once a month is so lame.  Building a house and summer with 4 kids take most of my time- my relaxation in form of really crap TV or going out with friends fills the rest.  Mostly if I am blogging rarely it's a good thing, meaning life is flowing and going well.  I have a million topics always swirling in my head wanting a place to purge them and well that is what finds me here tonight.

 For the most part, we cruise along in life- days turn into weeks, we create memories, laugh and celebrate the life we were given.  It isn't easy our life, but funny enough, Jeremy and I generally don't talk or dwell very much on what we or our children could have had.  We spend most of our time dwelling on what is.  And what that is is pretty dang awesome.  Yet, there are times when we are jolted back to reality.  In those times, I always find the most learning I have to do is right there waiting.

We recently went to Jeremy's brothers wedding and Graham and Audrey were both in it, along with Jeremy.  So, what was I going to do with two babies, because despite the fact that Nolan is almost 3, he is a baby in so many ways.  I hate that feeling.  The feeling of helplessness.  That if I had typical kids, even one of them that didn't need to be carried or could be "controlled" by predictable ways, like suckers, tv, something; we could have brought them.  It races through my head especially during major events like this.  Even more so- maybe Nolan would have been in the wedding- well since two other 3 year olds were and of course they did beautifully.  I can't tell you that doesn't eat me up inside.  Bring tears to my eyes.  I can't tell you I don't want to scream- "why is this so damn hard!".  Because I do all of those things.  The moments flow through as quickly as the tears dry up.  We spent a wonderful weekend soaking up every minute with our amazing "big kids".  We tell ourselves this time is good for us and them, to have our attention and be able to do family things without major stress that babies bring.  We tell ourselves, just pretend we have twins that are a year old- we would leave them right?  It's OK to leave half your clan behind right?  The guilt is a strong hold on my heart. 

There are moments I catch my breath as if I am betraying them by not including them.  I tell myself it's because of their abilities not because of their disability.  It's weird though, like you are phony, pretending to be a family when half of you is gone.  Like you are hiding something- I can't explain it.  Impossible really.  I was taking a zillion photos, occupying my time with children duties and chatting up a storm, normal behavior.  Along with some cocktails of course.  I was trying to get pics of relatives and families together and someone asked to take ours and we both stopped and looked at each other and said, "nope, that's ok."  There is something that stirs deep within when we see a photo of Graham and Audrey and us and no babies in it.  As if we left half of us out.  Why would we want that photo?  It isn't our family.  I know, totally crazy, just our thing.  Then after I took this photo of Jeremy's parents and the grandkids- it was perfection, I imagninged putting it on canvas for them in their living room, and it dawned on me, I forgot the other two, just like that I vanished them and guilt hit again.


Our life isn't just perfect photos and parties.  It isn't a gorgeous house and new shoes.  It isn't flawless hair and smiling children.  It is complicated and messy.  Just like yours I assume.  You realize that the more you get to know people.  Everyone's life is messy.  It's all they know.  This is all we know.  So now that I told you the nitty gritty of dirty, let me let you in on the miracle of roots that come from that soil. 

12 days prior to leaving I found myself with no one to take the babies (long story), so I scrambled, calling relatives, babysitters, trying to mold together times that someone could watch two babies alone at our home while we were in another state!  It's not like I could just find a sitter on craigslist!
 I knew our friends would help, but they have their own children and busy summer plans.  And truth be told it's literally impossible for me to ASK!  So I leaned on family, it is NOT easy for me, in fact prior to these babies, I wouldn't have done it. Prior to these babies- short of being in a coma- I rarely ask for help.  It's a really, really bad trait.  To act as if you never need anyone or anything.  Because I say "act" intentionally.  We all NEED someone and something...sometimes.  So, this acting gig of mine was up.  I actually 100 percent couldn't do it without help.  And there I was in a vulnerable state yet again.  Cursing for having to ask and be vulnerable, wanting to retreat and forget a wedding was even happening.  It's ridiculous isn't it?  I mean I love when I can help someone, it literally fills me, so to rob others of that and to not let them love me back, well that's just stupid. And so, my amazing cousin, who seriously loves our babies and children better than me- and is only 23- came and slept alone in the Abe Lincoln house and rocked them, played with them, sent me videos and pics.  My Aunt Deb joined in the giving and spent the next night and enjoyed some baby time for herself.  And my Aunt Ruth and our babysitter filled in the rest.  They sent me texts of the giggles and praised me on how sweet and well they did.  They shared with me the amount of energy and patience it takes and how impressed they were I did it every day.  They celebrated their accomplishments first hand watching how they have grown.  They embraced their sweet arms and kissed their cheeks and learned some sign language in the process.  Ultimately, we all grew a little closer.  I trusted them with my most valued treasures and they gave me the greatest gift, love and trust that they could care for them.  They were generous with their time amidst their busy lives filled with their demands and on short notice came through and showed up for us.  I can't thank them enough. 

The lesson isn't lost on me that I wouldn't have done this without Down Syndrome and Trisomy 9.  I simply wouldn't have been in that vulnerable of a place that needed people to help.  I wouldn't have known the feeling one gets when those around you rally for you and your family.  To receive that cements in me the willingness to give as much as I can.  On the surface, we may look like our life is perfect and heck almost easy, but it isn't.  We need people, and we are so happy they need us too.  The lessons kept on coming...

When we arrived to the hotel- Jeremy's biological dad is literally in the room next to us, who we haven't seen or spoken with in years despite our best efforts to be loving and kind, we don't meet him with anger or resentment.  Our hearts are healed in so many ways.  We don't have room for baggage of hate and anger.  We have peace.  I was so proud of Jeremy in his speech at the reception for acknowledging his parents and their participation in the wedding and naming Jim and his wife.  He didn't have to do that.  But, always, always he rises to the occasion and does the right thing.  Not sure without our path that would have been as easy as it was for him or us.  Have no idea how they felt or what they thought, but that's just it, it doesn't matter anymore.  We are at peace with us.  Our choices, our path.   
 Every moment I turned and saw beauty, a bride glowing, her step-daughter grinning ear to ear; my beautiful girl ready to walk down that aisle. 

 Little girl shoes and feet, I could hardly take them!  They were so cute.  Their smiles, their hair, their dresses, their spirits. 
 And we danced, for hours, at this point, I put the camera away, no pics, sorry.  You will just have to imagine Graham and Audrey going strong for three hours and Jeremy and I taking turns to keep up.  We smiled at each other more than once wishing Nolan was there, he would have loved the music and dancing, loved it.  It was a glorious weekend of celebration and love and life lessons learned.