Gathering

The past couple of months there has been a lack of peace in my home, and I often thought, this mothering gig really isn’t my thing anymore. 4 teenagers, one with profound special needs, a pre teen, a 10 year old, a 9 year old, and a four year old who has no lack of confidence. It was a lot. Between health and job and hormonal issues which led to emotional issues and arguing and backtalk and snarkiness and bad attitudes and the older kids teaching the younger kids things they had no business knowing; the whole thing was a big honkin cup that overfloweth… or perhaps, it was more like a kitchen sink or the bathtub spilling over & it was causing significant damage. And we – the parents – should have immediately steered the ship back on course, but instead we bickered & bitched & complained as we held on for dear life to the raft boat the kids threw us when they made us walk the plank.

This sudden change in the family dynamic was attributed to a few circumstances: one, everyone was getting older and hormonal and becoming more opinionated & two, our move to an urban community where the kids had opportunities for activities, sleepovers, and jobs and the focus slowly shifted from the family unit – a strong unit we had in rural America where we relied heavily on each other because it was all we had – to individualized focus “You take care of you, and I’ll take care of me” & as long as the older crew took ownership of themselves: jobs, food, school, homework, play – we didn’t question much. We reasoned it was simply a stressful time in our life and “this too shall pass” and then…

Then, a few weeks ago, I said to my husband “I really miss family dinners.” You see, with the introduction of jobs and late nights and neighborhood kids to play with and everyone fending for themselves, and in turn each individual grabbing a bite to eat here and there, dinner time as a family had become almost obsolete – the rare exception in our family since our conception in 2011. For 8 years, we have religiously sat down at the dinner table and enjoyed a meal together – religiously until the move this past December. When Ryan and I married, we knew this tradition would provide a foundation to our success as a blended family – the art of gathering around a table for a home cooked meal and offering a blessing for not only the food we were about to eat but also for his faithfulness through our lives. We knew that the table would provide the foundation for community and connectedness in our newly blended home and the absence of the table would only leave a void and disconnect.

We recently reincorporated family dinner night. It looks a little different than it did in rural America, and we eat later – around 6 now because of play time with the neighborhood kids. We’ve made it a requirement for any child who is home that evening, and my oh my, what a difference we’ve seen already. Attitudes have changed and lightened as we laugh around the table partaking in fresh pasta and warm bread. I like my kids again & I think they might like me too as the focus has shifted, and we get to know each other on a heart level – on a real level- rather than just co-existing.

There is so much chatter in the world today about how lonely we all are, how depressed and isolated and longing for community, and this is not only true for ourselves as adults, but it’s desperately true for our kids. Our homes need to be safe places of respect & connections and what better way to foster these desperately needed essentials than around a table? What better way to encourage conversations? And what better way to show love than to invest our time, our most precious commodity, in them? Give it a try. You won’t regret it ❤

Just keep livin.

Manna for the Moment

Luke has been back in school for about a week now.

Experts claim that special needs caretakers often experience PTSD, and I particularly notice this tendency when I don’t have him on my radar for an extended period of time.

Every 30 minutes or so, I ignore the sounds around me – the whir of the washing machine, the chattering of my four year old, the constant buzz of lawnmowers outside – I ignore the background noise and selectively pinpoint my hearing to the basement – listening intently for Luke – listening for either a scream of “ALL DONE!” or, lately “WIGGLES!” which really just means I don’t like what I’m doing or watching so please offer 500 additional options, and then I’ll agree to one of them by telling you – “BYE! BYE!” Or I wander aimlessly to my bedroom where I check the 24/7 surveillance monitor, but there are no screams and the image on the screen is empty.

And every couple of hours I find myself in the basement, lost, having forgotten what I came for, but my body can’t forget the summer routine, and I breathe deeply – quickly checking for any indication that there may be a diaper to change but there isn’t. There are only the remains of Luke’s favorites: his iPad – in need of charging before he arrives home and numerous sippy cups scattered about that need cleaning – the only cups he will drink from.

And like clock work, morning, noon, and night I ask myself “What am I going to feed Luke today, and do we have those ingredients?” Due to sensory issues, I often prepare his meals separately, and due to my desire for him to eat healthy food, I will go the extra mile to hide the zucchini and green beans.

This is the process of PTSD for caretakers – always being on, always having our senses at high alert; always being at the beckon call of another. It is a refining process like no other; a constant laying down of our life and our desires for someone who is unable to care for themselves. It is a holy calling; it is an exhaustive undertaking. It takes patience and self care and sometimes righteous anger and unrelenting faith – faith in meaning beyond ourselves for that’s why we do it, right? Why we rise to the calling and fulfill the mundane and monotonous tasks day in and day out.

And somehow, gloriously – miraculously really – as the sun appears, or maybe it doesn’t some days, we are greeted yet again with the gift of time which will bring fresh grace and new mercies served alongside lots of lukewarm coffee as we hurriedly offer a familiar prayer – “Give us this day, our daily bread” – like fresh manna from Heaven – manna for the moment – and that is enough. It has to be enough.

Just keep livin.

10 OCD Steps For Great Sleep

Hello!

As promised last week, I’m going to share my extensive sleep routine. I have numerous OCD/Obsessive/Type A quirks (that’s what we’ll call them) and have never been a great sleeper until I stumbled upon these options and then slowly added them until I was miraculously sleeping throughout the night.

Ok, here goes.

1.Hug and kiss all of the kids good night at 8:00 p.m. Yes, ALL of our children retreat to their areas of the home at this time. Most (none) go to sleep immediately but instead read, draw, play Legos, watch television (the boys) – you get the point but our point as parents to 8 children is this, mom and dad need two hours of alone time to decompress, regroup, and relax before the circus begins all over again at 6 a.m.

2.Draw the room darkening shades and room darkening curtains.  I need pitch black without a trace of light in my room in order to sleep.

3.Watch Netflix with Ryan in bed until 9:30

4. 9:30 – take 1/2 a Unisome.  I started this when I was pregnant for Mabel and have never stopped.  Honestly, I’m not sure I actually need it anymore but who wants to take that chance?

5. take 1/2 tea magnesium calm in water

6. Make Yogi Sleepy tea and add 1/2 tea Reishi Mushroom.

7. Take CBD Tincture

8. Rub Hemp Balm wherever there’s pain (usually my feet and hip)

9. Drink tea while falling asleep to Friends (Yes, it has to be friends)

10. 10:30 – Fan on, lights out – Ryan’s job because I’m usually already asleep.

 

 

There ya have it! Yes, I’ve tried Valerian and Melatonin.  Both give me weird dreams. Maybe this routine will help someone else in need of a solid night of sleep.

On a different note, I really should have affiliate links for all of these products, but I don’t.  I’m horrible with details, and I don’t have the time to mess with it.  It’s been suggested on a number of occasions that I should pursue a marketing specialist and/or blog manager for monetizing options, SEO, picture layout, etc.  I’m open to this idea; however, the right person would have to be content with primarily working for a percentage of the profits at this point in my career. Maybe a stay at home mom who wants to make a little extra cash? A college kid who knows his stuff?  A retiree? Some thoughts. If you know someone who would be a great fit for a position like this, please send them my way at jessplusthemess@gmail.com.

Just keep livin!

(This post does contain affiliate links that I may receive compensation for).

A Birthday Wish for Luke

It’s Luke’s 15th birthday exactly one month from today. August 12, 2004 he came screaming into this world as he was gently lifted from the gaping hole in my belly. I held my breath & desperately prayed that he would defy every odd and please dear God, let him LIVE and he did! Hallelujah! and he not only lived but he thrived and progressed for almost 15 years! Praise Jesus! And as thankful as we are for his life and progression, the simple fact remains that as Luke ages and gets bigger and stronger and goes through puberty with lots of pent up testosterone flowing through his body, his needs have become quite intense, and it’s difficult to keep him satisfied, entertained, and at times, safe.

Continue reading “A Birthday Wish for Luke”