This is an excerpt from a post I wrote back in 2013. Not much has changed.  Today, on this Father’s Day 2018, we woke up to poop and a rotten egg; the egg which was discovered, of course, after we had already cracked 12 good eggs into the pan.  What do you do except “just keep livin” 🙂 Happy Father’s Day to all of you amazing men. 

Sunday was Father’s Day, and we had every intention in the world of making it to church although that task in and of itself can often be enormously tedious. I laid out all of the kids church clothes the night before, bought donuts for an easy breakfast and purchased a honey baked ham for lunch. I snuck out of bed early without waking Ryan, displayed his Father’s Day card on top of the bathroom sink to surprise him, went downstairs, made a cup of coffee (it may be Fathers Day but some things still don’t change!) and then made him a cup as well. I was in a cheerful mood, having slept well and asked Mabel to go downstairs and let Luke out of his bed. He has a huge, 6 foot tall, padded bed (similar to a baby crib) that opens in the corner to allow him access in and out. She ran down to “free” him for breakfast and two seconds later Tate came running up the stairs, out of breath, barely gasping out the words..

“Mom, Luke is covered head to toe in poop and he’s crawling all over the basement!”

“WHAT!” I exclaimed in horror, eyes bulging out of my head, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME???”

Any cheerful disposition was pretty much down the drain and exchanged with some choice thoughts bordering on profanity.

I raced downstairs to discover that yes, indeed, Luke was covered in excrement and bonus, he was naked. This is his new thing, and we don’t know what to do about it. When he gets bored, he takes his clothes off. Apparently he didn’t want to wear his pajamas that morning and apparently he also didn’t want to wear his dirty diaper any longer and decided to take matters literally into his own hands. He undressed, took off his two diapers, and in the process made a huge mess all over his bed, his walls, his floor and the basement. No picture for this one… use your imagination, it wasn’t pretty.

My happy demeanor was completely gone. I wasn’t exactly “giving thanks in all circumstances” as Paul admonished the Thessalonians to do around 2000 years ago as I scooped him up, placed him ever so gently into the bathtub, and then proceeded to fill a big bucket with lots of soapy water, scrubbed down the bed with one hand and large cup of coffee in the other. I felt angry tears forming, out of pure frustration at how difficult it can be to raise a severely handicapped 8 year old, especially as two curious three year olds looked on offering their commentary about how “stinky” it was, and then suddenly, my hero stepped into the room.

“What happened honey?” he asked.

My husband, my calm in the face of some serious crap, my much more patient half on his special day, Father’s Day, offering assistance.

“You clean Luke, and I’ll get the bed” he offered with a smile.

“But it’s Father’s Fay” I protested, “You shouldn’t have to clean up crap on Father’s Day!”

“It’s just another day” he replied with a smirk.

Tate then piped in his delightful two cents –  “This is probably the worst Father’s Day ever, huh dad?”

His father did not reply. Ryan’s a good man like that, he just does what needs to be done without making a big deal out of it. I am a blessed woman to have him in my life, our kids are blessed to have him in their lives, and Luke is blessed to have a father, an adopted father, who without batting an eye, or puking up his dinner from the day before, cleaned up piles of poop on Father’s Day. Yup, we have a keeper over here at our house.

We did not make it to church with the mess taking most of the morning to adequately clean up.

The rest of the day was a little less eventful, church on tv, honey baked ham for lunch and a wonderful Father’s Day grill out for the amazing man in our life.

Just keep livin!

 

The first week of summer break sucks every single year.

I always vow to wrap my mind around the concept of all of my blessed offspring being home for every blessed second of all of our blessed lives but apparently I fail somewhere because it doesn’t feel very blessed about 10 minutes into the first morning as the fighting begins over PBS versus Netflix followed by moans of disgust at the sight of scrambled eggs and teenage smirks as the youngest squeals “CABUB! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!”

Where’d I set my coffee?

I know, some parents love the freedom and flexibility that summer break offers, but I am not one of those people. I love structure because structure in the form of a school building brings me a few peaceful hours of productivity and peace and productivity are this introverted mama’s best friends. Amen.

Every year, a week or so before the last day of school, I vow to do better. I vow to have more patience, be more intentional in my unique calling, have more grace and mercy and love – all of those good motherly qualities- but inevitably the stress mounts, especially during the first week as the kids revolt, their need for constant food and entertainment arises, they fight and bicker and moan and bewail their existence, and I turn and hiss at my husband in the dead of the night – or actually like 9 p.m. because we’re so dang tired –

“You can’t work anymore. You need to stay home and co parent for the summer. No individual is physically and emotionally capable of raising this many human beings for any stretch of time by themselves. And honey, four teenagers! Do you understand the complexities and the zits and the hormones? Are you listening honey?”

I hiss even louder –

“It would drive anyone insane!.”

Those are the words I say, and he smiles and lovingly replies, “Honey, you go through this every summer. It’ll get better after a week.”

”

NO IT WON’T! I wail and open my eyes balls really wide so he knows just how serious I am.

“Give it time” he smiles again.

Of course he smiles – he gets to go to work the next morning.

I usually enjoy the rural life that we chose – the peace, the birds chirping, the river, the beauty, the land our children get to roam upon and the innocence this life has provided. I enjoy it all until the last day of school, and then it begins to feel a tiny bit like the land is closing in on me, and the river is rising, and I’m trapped in a zoo where the birds never stop chirping (and yelling and screaming and fighting) and the coyotes are ready to tear me limb to limb if I don’t remain constantly vigilant, and in desperation I inform my husband that we are not living in the country any more. We are moving to the biggest city we can find before the next school year begins. NEW YORK CITY if need be, and I swear I’m not living in rural America for one more day, no sir, no how, I need options! I need restaurants! I need a coffee house and a park and easy access friends for my children and a Mrs. Jones who lives down the road who will dote on my precious babies and feed them snacks and allow constant video games so that their mother can enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet as she figures out how to survive summer break.

I have 8 kids. In our middle of nowhere. 8 children ranging in age from 2-15 and did I mention, four teenagers? One of those teenagers is my special needs boy Lucas who would rather watch videos all day long than go anywhere, and that’s pretty much okay, because it’s really difficult to get out of the house with him AND his seven siblings.

I chose this life but that doesn’t make it easy. I chose to have four children. I chose life for Luke my handicapped son. I chose Ryan and I chose to adopt his three kids. I chose a rural life, and I chose to have another baby but damn – those choices kick my rear end the first week of summer break as we all figure it out again, figure out how to maintain loving, somewhat tolerable relationships with one another in close quarters – relationships with respect and boundaries – relationships where we still like each other at the end of summer. There is a steep learning curve as the kids give up a huge chunk of their social life from school and a huge learning curve as I give up a pretty significant chuck of quiet work hours. Not to mention, the substantial increase in dishes and trash and diaper changes and grocery runs and meals (have I mentioned the meals)?

Every year I prep for the last day of school thinking that forethought will surely save me this summer break.  I frantically implement great ideas for our many hours together such as our pool purchase a few years ago. I plan vacations. I sign them up for camps and volunteer positions and kids bowl free coupons, and Luke! Luke has consistent summer school for the first time ever this year and that will help immensely and honestly, it all helps! It really does. And we eventually get into the groove. We stay up a little later, and we sleep in. I begin to relax into what summer is all about and the kids do too. I kick up my feet and read a good book while they splash away in the pool. I shorten the to do list. I lower my expectations and then – just as soon as summer break begins, it comes to an end and without fail I realize, I survived summer break, and I turn to my husband and whisper in shocked acknowledgement –

“Honey. The kids and I have found our groove. They are really having fun together and doing their chores without me nagging, and helping with Luke and Annabelle and I kind of like this motherhood gig again. Maybe we should consider homeschooling!”

And he rolls eyes just like he does every summer the week before school begins again because he understands that the only reason we have all found our groove is because we’ve also found the light at the end of the tunnel. Those two miraculous life giving head lights that will soon be rolling down our dusty dirt road at 6:30 a.m, firmly attached to a big yellow bus that will transport 7 eager souls promptly back to school.

Ahhhhh. Structure.

Just keep livin.

 

It can be difficult to understand the complexities of raising a special needs child if this calling is not part of your daily reality. I get it. I never gave these children nor their caretakers a second thought before I had a handicapped child. It’s hard to empathize with a situation without experience.

 

My goal in writing – in books, on the blog, and on social media – is to tell stories that portray all of the aspects of raising a special needs child – the demanding, the taxing, the beautiful, and the joy.

 

There is undoubtedly a blessing. These kids are closer to Heaven than we will ever be with their innocence and child-like faith. They teach us invaluable lessons about the nature of our heavenly father’s love and care for his children. They model joy, perseverance, and faith in quantities us “normal” folk can only dream about BUT –

 

Raising a special needs child is a massively exhausting undertaking as well.

 

A few weeks ago a friend’s 8 year old daughter unexpectedly passed away. This little girl was never supposed to survive; however, these kids often have a way of proving the experts wrong. I recently asked her mama if the new ease of life was haunting because when you live in special needs world, there are rarely moments of ease. It’s like being in a combat zone. You’re always mentally anticipating your child’s next basic needs – hunger, pain, angst, smell, what, where, when, why – all the time. These kids often don’t grow up and become independent so there is no end in sight which can feel overwhelming.

 

One of my greatest goals with The Lucas Project – a non-profit organization to assist special needs families in rural Tennessee – is to educate people on why they should care – even if it’s not a part of their daily reality.

 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

 

These children are the least of the least of the least of these. They often have the mental and emotional capacity of an infant. They are usually physically unable to care for themselves without continual assistance, and without the loving intervention of caretakers, these children could not survive.

 

I would admonish you to care about these kids and their families because you don’t have to care, and that’s a blessing.

 

Special needs may not be a part of your daily reality, but it is a reality for 6.7 million children (nces.ed.gov) and often includes:

 

Bathing a grown child

Feeding – either by utensil or tube feeding – often restrained in a special chair.

Diapering a thirteen year old

Wondering at times if one day you’ll be diapering a thirty year old.

Restraining a teenager who has become aggressive due to puberty.

Entering the local ER in the middle of the night to play a guessing game for the next 24 hours as you try to determine the cause of angst in your non-verbal child.

Declining an invitation for a fun event because there is no one to watch your child, and he or she would cause disruptions and outbursts.

Attempting to distract a child who is frustrated and banging his head against his crib.

Sleeping with a baby monitor beside your head for 18 + years

Getting up multiple times in the middle of the night to administer meds, tubes or breathing equipment or to make sure your child is still alive.

Spending the majority of your free time in a doctor or therapist’s office.

Not being alone with your spouse in years because there is no one you trust to care for your child in your absence.

Suffering extreme pain and popping Advil like it’s candy because your child has grown too large for you to comfortably handle, and the strain is taking a toll on your aging body.

 

You should care about caretakers who experience stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression on a regular basis but don’t have the funds nor the time to address the problem, and in rural environments, lacking in professionals to even help address the problem!

 

You should care if you live where resources are plentiful because there are people who live in rural communities where resources are sorely lacking.

 

You should care if your children are healthy because there are parents who manage a child’s chronic illness every day of their lives.

 

You should care because we are all a part of this grand body known as humanity, and we have a moral obligation to care for one another, especially the least of these, like our lives depend upon it – because they do.

 

Please consider a donation to The Lucas Project so that we can all begin caring or check out TheLucasProject.org to learn more.

 

Just keep livin.

Today I’m sharing with you four of my all time favorite cookbooks.

I get it, many of you no longer use cookbooks like we all did twenty years ago with the rise of online sites like Pinterest, and allrecipes.com which can provide any 5 star recipe for anything at any time of day but… there are some strange souls still out there, just like myself, who enjoy nothing more than curling up with a real cookbook, in all of its tattered, splattered and mangled glory. I probably own 50+ cookbooks – most purchased at Goodwill or garage sales, including two of the ones mentioned today. All of these can be purchased used on Amazon for under $2.00 – totally worth the pure joy (and tastiness) they’ll bring to your life. Continue reading “Meet Some of my Favorite Cookbooks”