Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Home.....Where we belong


"Do you miss home?"
I get asked this question a lot, especially when people find out I grew up in Northern Ireland. You see, much to the horror of my family, I have lost my accent just a wee bit! Sometimes, people are really surprised when I tell them that I did not grow up here in the States.As a teenager, the idea of living in another country seemed appealing, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it might happen. I was quite a homebody and would become horribly homesick any time I went away from home. As a child, I would stay overnight with my grandparents; they lived about 20 miles away.I have memories of them having to drive me back home because I would be crying so much.When I stepped onto that Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Chicago on Aug. 15, 1998 to spend a year at college, the excitement of a year away was much anticipated. I did drag my feet a little in making the decision to go, though, because I loved where I grew up.It was my home.I really had no intentions of meeting the love of my life, getting married, moving to the United States permanently and raising my family here, but thankfully, I am not the one in control of my life.I do miss certain things about Northern Ireland: the breathtaking scenery, the greenness of the grass year-round, the friendliness and humor of the people, drinking tea and eating chocolate biscuits with good friends.
Over the years, though, I think the word “home” has really started to mean something different to me, especially now that we have our own children and I really feel settled here. I understand now that home is just not a physical place but a place where I belong.As much as I miss my immediate family in Northern Ireland, I really feel like this is where I am supposed to be. Home to me now is where I live with my husband and our three boys. I love quotes, and this one sums up our family home: “Where we LOVE is home."
If you ever visit our home, you will probably be most overwhelmingly greeted with a lot of noise. You will see two boys wrestling in the middle of our living room floor, a very cute baby cooing and smiling or possibly screaming for his mama, baskets of laundry - some clean and some not clean - sitting in piles on the couch. But hopefully amidst the craziness and chaos, you will know this is a place of love, forgiveness, growth and strength. A place where we can be ourselves. And the place where we belong.

Friendship at a time of need

After our son was diagnosed with autism, I remember feeling strangely relieved. We could finally move forward and begin educating ourselves so we could figure out how to help our son. At the same time, though, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness, a fear of the unknown and loneliness.Those early days were difficult and very hard; there was so much for me to process mentally but also emotionally and spiritually.During that time, there are two people for whom I am so thankful that God brought them into my life.I remember receiving a phone call not long after we heard the news. It was from a mom whom I didn't know personally; she did not know us but knew friends of ours. Her son had been diagnosed prior to ours, and she wanted to call and let me know that she was there for support.I just remember being so encouraged by the fact that someone took the time to contact me. I remember crying and just being so relieved that someone else knew and understood what I was dealing with at that time. Even though she was extremely busy with her own life, she took the time to call me because she cared. A few weeks after our conversation, she arrived at our house with a bag full of gluten- and dairy-free groceries for our son. She knew how hard it was to start a diet like that with your child, so she wanted to give us some ideas and new foods to taste.Again, I was just blown away by her thoughtfulness and kindness.

The second lady I met was through a support contact list I had been given through the school. I was having a very bad day. I needed to talk to someone who could maybe help to answer some of my questions.When I called her, she said, much to my surprise, “Why don’t you and your boys just come and visit our home?” I was so surprised that, again, a total stranger would care enough about this frantic stranger and invite her to her home! I remember feeling so welcomed. She listened to me, gave me support, understood and was patient when my son had a meltdown because it was time for us to leave.

These two ladies were brought into my life because of something that we had in common. They were able to reach out and love me in the way I needed to be loved and supported at that time. They, too, had gone through the same thing and knew the challenges we were facing.Thankfully, they didn’t want me to go through this on my own. They knew the pain of an autism diagnosis.I am learning that the painful things that happen in our lives can be the very things that enable us to reach out and help other people. These two ladies - and others I have met since - have inspired me to want to do the same. This is a difficult journey, but when you have people in your life who love and support you along the way, it does help to make it a little easier. I hope that whatever difficult circumstance you are facing today, you will be able to find others who can reach out and support you. Also, out of your pain, you will understand what it is to be a friend to those who really need your love and support.

Making mess and memories

One day, while searching around on Pinterest, I found this great quote that I would love to display on a big plaque as you come through the front door of my home.
“Excuse the mess...the children are making memories.”
I do like and appreciate order and cleanliness in my home, but I have come to understand that when you have children - especially when you have boys - it is often difficult to have a mess-free home. As you enter my home, you will most likely have to step over a few light sabers, squeaky baby toys and probably a stray Lego or two.Both of my older boys are mud magnets, especially my oldest. For him, it may be sensory-related. He seems to find great comfort and delight in playing in dirt, especially wet, muddy dirt, so you can imagine the mess. He finds great pleasure in covering himself from head to toe. Then, of course, that dirt gets transferred to my home, so you can often see a track of muddy footprints all the way from the back door to the bathroom.Over the years, I have learned to let go of those messes. At first, they would bother me. As time went on, I realized I would much rather have my boys outside having fun in the dirt and playing with each other. The alternative was often watching TV or playing on the computer. But if they were out in the dirt playing, it meant that my oldest boy was engaging with his younger brother and doing something fun, which is often very hard for him since he is on the autism spectrum. My desire for my boys is for them to know they are more important than how their home looks. This doesn’t mean that we don’t respect our home by tearing up the place. But it means that if fun is to be had, and it means making a mess, then that is OK.
The boys love to take all the sofa cushions off and jump around on them. Their laughter can be heard throughout the house. Yes, it makes for a big mess in my living room, but again, they are playing together and enjoying each others' company.
I have learned that when the boys are making messes, they are also often learning a new skill. Last year, the boys and I made a paper mache turkey for Thanksgiving. I think there was more of it on the floor than on the balloon.When I let the boys bake with me, and they want to do the measuring, I know the cleanup will be much more.When I let go of control in this area and come to terms with the fact that there will be a mess, my boys both feel accomplished because they have learned something new, and they are also helping me by assisting in the kitchen. I also have them help me clean up the messes, too. It may not be cleaned up how I would like it, but they are learning responsibility.
 There are times where I have chosen to leave those handprints on the patio door just for a few extra days, a reminder that there are special and beautiful children living in our home. Life is too short for us to be worried about those everyday messes, so I am learning to enjoy and embrace the mess even if it means a little extra work for me.
Jayne Gautreau is married with three sons. Read her Mondays on Douglas County Moms.

Seeing through the post partum Fog

Leaving the house recently for a doctor's appointment, I looked down to see a huge, white, baby spit-up stain on my jeans. I was late, as usual, and had no time to change. Even if I did have the luxury of time, this was one of only two pairs of clean jeans that would fit this postpartum body. The reality that life had changed again and I was back in that baby stage after seven years hit me all at once. I was so very thankful for the blessing of another baby, a baby that I had prayed for diligently, but underneath there was a fogginess that I just couldn’t seem to shake! It is very important that you talk to a doctor if things seem to be getting out of control, or if you feel like you just can’t cope. This fogginess, as I like to call it, was accompanied at times with sadness, anxiety, fatigue and disinterest for life. I felt like Eeyore; if I looked up, I was pretty sure there was a rain cloud hanging over my head. I felt so terribly guilty for feeling this way; I was so in love with this beautiful baby boy that we truly felt was a gift to our family. But I was so out of sorts at the same time.
My husband during this time was a huge support to me, even though he didn’t quite understand how I was feeling or exactly how to help. He would do dishes, make meals, help fold laundry and take the older boys out of the house for a while. I had a hard time just doing regular everyday duties; my brain was struggling just to process. During this time, I found that talking to close friends, asking for prayer from those I trusted, and also crying out to God privately was a huge step in helping me.

Here are some other ideas that can help women who are living through the first weeks and months of motherhood and a new life in the home:
1. Find some form of exercise you enjoy. Plan ahead of time so Daddy or another adult can be available to help out with the baby and other children while you exercise.
2. Go for a walk in the fresh, crisp air! This will remind you that there is life outside of the four walls of your home.
3. Invite a friend or relative over for tea or coffee and a chat.
4. Let go of the fact that your house isn’t quite put together the way you may like it.
5. Spend some time each day just sitting and enjoying your baby, not just at the times when he or she needs you.
6. Eat regularly, keeping a snack and water on hand.
7. Talk to another mother so that you will realize you are not alone.
8. Tell your husband or someone you trust about your feelings.
9. Read a book just for pleasure, even if it's only in five-minute snatches.
10. Honestly discuss your outlook on life and your feelings to your OB/GYN or midwife at your postpartum checkups, or call your physician if you feel you need a medical opinion on how you are working through the stresses and changes of having a new baby in your home.

It is very important that you talk to a doctor if things seem to be getting out of control, or if you feel like you just can’t cope. There is no shame in feeling this way! You are not a bad mom or person. I am about six months postpartum now, and the rain cloud is finally shifting!

Qualities of Motherhood

“You have the exact qualities God knew your kids would need in a mother….” Lysa TerKeurst

As I read this Facebook status the other day, I was thankful for such a timely reminder.
I had been struggling with this exact thing on that particular day - and on previous days. I was feeling pretty inadequate and a little discouraged as a mom. As we go about our days, there can be situations that happen that lead to us feeling that way.Recently, as we were rushing out of the house, my older boys could not find their shoes.As a mom, I have faced probably some of the hardest challenges I have ever dealt with in my life. There are days when I just have no clue what I am doing (or at least I feel that way!).The qualities of patience and grace were definitely not showing in this mom of three boys at this point.
This scene seems to happen quite regularly in my home, no one knowing where their shoes are - especially when we are in a hurry.I found the qualities of exasperation and frustration more prevalent at this point, but my boys did not need a crabby mom at that moment, as it was definitely not helping the already volatile situation. Still, I did not want to be helpful in finding shoes because, quite frankly, it was not my fault that they kicked off their shoes and didn’t leave them in the shoebox by the front door. After a quick lecture on the need to leave shoes where they can find them, I did let those frustrations go and found the qualities of patience and grace to help the boys find their shoes.

As a mom, I have faced probably some of the hardest challenges I have ever dealt with in my life. There are days when I just have no clue what I am doing (or at least I feel that way!). This was especially true when our oldest son was showing signs of developmental delays and was then diagnosed with autism at age 4.
I remember being told often, “You’re the best mom for this child. You’re so patient.” I was grateful for the encouragement and that someone else was able to see that quality that I wasn’t always able to see myself.
I felt very inadequate for the job description and unprepared for what lay ahead of us. I have found, though,
especially in those early days of diagnosis, that somehow God seemed to give me the qualities I needed at that time, whether it was patience, strength, wisdom or grace as we faced difficult and unknown days.

We have been blessed with three very energetic, fun boys.As I grow older and face different challenges in motherhood, I am seeing that I am attaining new qualities, too. Strength to wipe up another messy footprint on the floor. Grace to deal with my son’s repetitive autistic behavior. Patience with my persistent and curious 7-year-old who likes to ask lots of questions, and endurance as I take care of the constant needs of a 5-month-old! Sometimes, we have no idea the kind of qualities we actually have until we are put in certain situations, and for that I am very thankful.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Transitions

Transition is a word we are quite familiar with in our home. I have probably used this word more in the last 4 years than I have in my lifetime. Having a child on the Autism spectrum, transition can often be a difficult and stressful thing in our home and especially for our oldest boy who has Autism.
With that being said this year we as a family are going through some pretty major transitions and thankfully all of them are great things. But with transition even if it is good it can bring challenges and adjustment. But with God's grace, he helps us manouver through them.



In the last month one of our newest transitions is, my husband after working for 5 years as a landscaper gave in his notice and 3 weeks later he was the full time Children and Young family pastor at our Church. His first week of work was helping to run Vacation Bible school. He had a great but exhausting week! We are so excited about this new adventure and thankful for how God has led and directed our family up to this point. It is all pretty exciting as we think about the journey that got us here!



Our next transition coming up is the birth of our 3rd baby boy, who should be arriving Early September. It will be a big change as we haven't had a newborn in our home for over 6 years, so it is back to diaper changes, through the night feedings and hauling a diaper bag around with me again, but I couldn't be more excited about this little guy. I know it will probably bring some difficult days and challenges, but I feel we are ready for this transition and again we know we do not do this on our own strength!

Both boys have had a fun Summer and the next transition for them personally is back to school on Sept. 4th. E will be in 4th grade and M in 1st grade. For E this is a big year as he is transitioning from one elementary school to another. We have been trying to prepare him mentally and physically for this transition over the last year. He will probably do great, but change in E's world always seems to bring a little bit of anxiety for mom. But I know he has lots of people helping and supporting him through this change.

Both boys got to do something new this Summer, E got to attend a week long Sports program through the YMCA, it was a partnership program for children who have special needs. He had a blast, his favorite activity was swimming.
The last day of the program finished with a medal ceremony, which was very moving for this mommy!

As a family we got to attend our first Church staff camping retreat, we had a wonderful time. M got to fish for the very first time and was thrilled to catch 3 fish, it was a big day for him.


So I am learning transitions aren't always bad but with them brings change and that is good as that means we are learning and growing, but also continually having to trust in God, which is the most important thing!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enjoying this season


Well I still have about 3 months to go before this little one arrives, but I have been slowly trying to get things ready. Since our older boys were born over 6 years ago, I had pretty much given away or had sold all baby clothing and most of our accessories. Last weekend I found these cute buys ( in picture above) at a yard sale.
I am actually really enjoying this stage of pregnancy,  even though bending over, getting up & sitting down is starting to become a challenge & a few extra varicose veins that were not there before have appeared, the 2nd trimester has been pretty uneventful.
I am loving the kicks and movement, my heart soars with joy every time I feel our little boy move! I am thankful for the blessing of this baby and feel like I am maybe much more aware this time of how huge a blessing he is to our family. Not that I wasn't with the boys but maybe having experienced miscarriage a year previously has made me much more aware and I have been trying to enjoy each moment of this time in my life that I won't get back again! The boys already love this little one and have been rubbing, kissing and patting moms tummy and they even giggle at how round mama's tummy is starting to look :)

I am thankful for this season in our family.