Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “parenting”

Not Giving Up Saves Lives …by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Are popsicles coffee?

By Julie

I’m not quite sure how to start this, even though I wrote an outline, because I FEEL it so much. I feel all of the obstacles lying flat beneath my feet, the signs all pointing the way I led everyone to go, and this is what not giving up is about.

Sammy has made so much progress recently it’s unbelievable. Truly unbelievable. A few things have gotten us here: the right diagnosis, the right medication, the right commitment, the right amount of help and the right kind, and a child that lets nothing put him down. All over the past month or so, Sam has gone from NEVER using the potty, to ALWAYS using the potty. He’s learning to separate himself when he feels angry and asking for quiet moments with me reading when he’s ready. He’s speaking really, really smoothly, with zero to minimal jabber, or “word salad.” His attention span is spectacular. This child is a miracle, and he made himself that way.

I hear an awful lot that most mothers would not go this far to support their child. I’ve suffered a lot–but we have suffered a lot. And I cannot let my child suffer. I don’t have the ability. I don’t have the ability to quit some things. Growing, helping, loving, teaching my children is one of them.

Because if I teach my kids that there’s a time to quit, they’ll see nothing but the limits to reach.

If I teach them that their happiness is negotiable, what chance do they have of pushing limits to find it?

If I teach them to stop the harder it gets, I’ve taught them that what they’ve pushed through was unnecessary.

If I teach them to give up, have I taught them anything at all? I’ve only taken from them. Taken their light at the end of their own personal tunnels, taken the depth of their feelings and made light of them, taken their ability to ask “what if” and think of all the other boxes to think outside of and break through. I’ve taken their ability to stop at nothing because I’ve shown them that something can stop me.

We’ve been watching a lot of America’s Got Talent, and I love these people that will stop at nothing, no matter how unconventional their dream. For some people, the dream is just to be happy. But this one made me cry harder than the rest.

I saw this when Sam was just sitting beside me, playing a building game on my tablet, something that would have been too dangerous (yes, dangerous), he wouldn’t have had the ability to sit and do anyway. Pato, because of his OCD, was unable to leave the house, couldn’t ask for help, resorted to begging for money to support himself. To make it where he has is incredible, but all I could think was, my Sammy will never have to experience that because we fought to combat OCD. First.

It’s easy to yell at a child who dictates who goes in what order up the stairs when you’re carrying armfuls of groceries and he’s been making your life hell all day. But seeing what the alternative does to him makes it non-negotiable for me. Imagine that such a trivial thing could throw a child into a wild-eyed sobbing episode for an hour, that he’d remember this moment for days. Imagine facing that every day, having to fight not only himself, his own brain, but to fight for understanding, too. When he can’t understand it himself. Can barely tell us what he wants.

How do you not help that child? How do you not put his needs first?

Because we did this, because I knew what Bipolar Disorder looked like when I brought him to the pediatrician at barely four, because we treated what we could then–OCD and Hyperactivity Disorder–and we were “on watch” for a mood disorder, because we knew what was happening when that mood disorder became real, because we didn’t stop, Sam has every chance of not going through the hell that so many other people have. We got this. That is what not giving up is.

NOW ABOUT ME. ME ME ME ME ME ME.

This summer so far was not about me and my needs, and I knew that going in. I had a strict timeline of what I wanted for Sam, what I needed from professionals, what I needed to see in changes due to behavior therapy and medication, and I needed to see what I could do having him home during such immense changes. July 15th was my deadline for a lot of things. I also was doing editing for clients and trying to have FUN with the kids, because I refuse not to have fun. (We have had so much fun.)

Now is the time for me to focus on my work. What *I* need. So as not to stretch myself too far, I had to suspend working on my own writing because I don’t want to hurt myself (think nervous breakdown, ulcerative colitis, debilitating panic attacks), and I refused to do my best I could do without it being my best.

I made all the right choices.

I have a new list of agents to pitch THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS TO….a book whose query is now a shining thing of magnificence that begs for reading, and a book that I am now finally able to finish the sequel to! I’m halfway through the sequel, and have a good start on the prequel and had to stop in May to concentrate on other things. My time has come.

Wait, weirdo, you’re writing a sequel and a prequel to a book that isn’t even being published yet?

YES I AM BECAUSE I DON’T STOP AND THIS BOOK WILL NOT GO UNNOTICED.

I don’t write because of what anyone else wants. I write for what I need. And every moment of my life is teaching something to these two amazing kids. They will see that my passion is what drives me and I drive it right back. That I give all I have to get more, and what I want is dependent on nobody but myself. There is no magic number of rejections, no “almosts” in my world. There’s always another way. There’s always more roads to travel. I’ll dig relentlessly making my own if that’s what it takes. And because this is who I am, it is now showing my kids who they are. What they can do and what won’t stop them on their way to it. It’s why Sam remembers little things I say like, “You like what you like. If you like the Alice in Wonderland tea set and you want to offer tea to everyone while doing ninja moves, then hey. You like what you like. Nobody can stop you.”

Be you, everyone. Stop at nothing to be who you want to be. Define your own happiness. Make your own rules–they’re just ideas anyway. Rules about publishing, rules about how young a child can be to show a certain illness, rules about what to say and who to say it to, rules about gender, rules about love, rules that we make for ourselves…. Reshape your world to be what you need. That’s what not giving up is about.

 

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An Ode to Ryan at Register 4

TODAY’S BREW: Water. My skin is like lava.

By Julie

I don’t get out much these days, and I’m good that way, but last night an old friend and colleague and a woman I admire more than I can say took me to dinner.

She said she wanted to celebrate my success.

What the hell did I do? I thought. My first book is 3 years old, my THE HARPY is behind schedule with my new publisher, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS has yet to be picked up…. I don’t do things. What the hell success is she talking about?

Well, it wasn’t what I did that makes me a success for her, it’s what I do. My fight for Sam, finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, while still editing for clients consistently, continuously writing and revising, being involved in the school and being the mother I work to be for my boys and the wife I try to be…. it’s success. Every day it’s success because it’s exactly what I want to be doing, and it isn’t easy but I will damn well do all of it.

It made me remember that everyone is a hero to someone. Accomplishments don’t make a hero, actions do. It’s not always the big things you’re a hero for, and everyone’s visions of what the big things are is different.

You mean something. You aren’t just anything–you’re important. Someone remembers you for something you did, said, stood for. Chances are it’s for something you’ve forgotten entirely.

My latest hero is Ryan at Target in Hanover.

target receipt

You all know my family has been contending with our baby’s mood disorder. We’re doing wonders with it, but there’s always going to be bad moments, triggers that can’t always be avoided, new ones that come. Well, on June 12th Sam had a serious episode in the Hanover, MA Target. We weren’t there long, we didn’t need a lot, and everything was going fine, and then SNAP. He started crying, hiding, didn’t want anyone near him as we were checking out. I gave him his space, we made it to the doorway and he crumpled. Sobbing, begging me to leave him there, that he couldn’t be near people, that he couldn’t even stand up to leave because someone would see him and he shouldn’t be near people. So me and Ben and Sam sat in the corner in front of the big glass doors, for as long as it took, as loud as he needed to be, as much of a spectacle as we had to be, to make Sammy okay. A number of people stopped on their way out and said things like, “you’re doing awesome,” “can I do anything to help?” and “my child has x disorder and I know what you’re going through.”

It was the young man that cashed us out, Ryan, who had seen Sammy breaking down before we made it to the door, who told me he understood and why, who was so thoughtful and connected that particularly made me feel supported. All of the folks who stopped were amazing, one coming to tears with me, but this cashier didn’t just stop at getting me out of his line. He went to the Starbuck’s and got me a glass of ice water, and brought it to me as I sat on the floor with my kids, with Sam howling aand Ben just doing anything he could to help. I heard the lady at the Starbuck’s counter say, “That was so nice, Ryan,” and I haven’t forgotten.

Eventually we were able to comfortably get Sammy out of the store and he was fine within an hour of the episode’s start. We work hard as a family to ensure that he is okay. Nothing is more important. And Ryan at register four was a part of making it okay. He made a difference. He helped us get through another five minutes when–well, when I needed it. We all suffer with Sam, and let me tell you, I cry in public like it’s my job. It’s part of the reason why I can fight as hard as I do, why I can endure the unpredictability and be strong. I don’t hide from anyone, because I’m human, and because I want my boys to know that it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to freak out, and yeah, it’s okay to cry if you need to. Whenever it happens.

But it can be very isolating, even amidst all of these wonderful people that were at Target that day, I needed that ice water hug. Ryan saw that and he helped. He wasn’t just a cashier that day, and he isn’t ever just a cashier to me. I keep that Target receipt, and I called the store to ensure he was recognized, because he was a hero to me. And he reminded me that there are heroes all over the place, suffering and saving and hurting and helping. Being there for each other, even/especially strangers, makes you mean something.

And Ryan at register 4? You mean a lot.

 

For the Love of Donuts by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: I call it Hatred Hazelnut because I accidentally bought beans instead of ground coffee.

By Julie

The hours of 3:30 to approximately 5:30 Monday through Friday are a little like having a bald eagle rip out your eyes around here. It would be painful as hell, but I’d be sort of honored because it was a bald eagle, right? I’m so glad I get to pick up my kids from school every day because for so long I couldn’t. And that after-school time is a wild stampede.

Today was NUTS. I give you the breakdown:

3:00 “Sam, wake up, we have to pick up Ben soon.” (at 3:20)

3:45 OH MY  GOD I FELL ASLEEP (on my laptop), fly to school where Ben stands on the stairs and yells “YOU FORGOT ME” then laughs, thank Christ.

3:50 “Sure, we can go to the park.” Sam proceeds to freak out within 10 minutes because none of the kids are playing with him. (literally ALL OF THE KIDS ARE PLAYING WITH HIM).

4:00 I have given Sam enough alone time to scream at us from the dirty tree that he has his freakouts under. I deliver the blanket. We do nothing without the blanket.

4:05 Sam is walking around the playground, screaming at no one. Bennett yells from across the playground at friend “I DON’T WANT TO PLAY YOUR PEE PEE GAME YOU WEIRDO.”

4:07 Am discussing with fellow mom that I have no energy to sugar-coat this, that her kid child has to stop peeing in the woods and chasing Bennett saying he has pee pee hands. Neither of us can have this talk with a straight face.

4:10 Sam has ordered us all to stop goddamn playing because we are LEAVING.

4:12 Am calming Sam down as he sobs saying nobody even loves him and threatening to kill himself. (Yes, we see not one, but two therapists. It’s being handled.)

4:15 I ran over a bird on my street on the way home. What the hell bird doesn’t FLY AWAY?

4:16 Sobbing Sam refuses to get out of the car. Ben is yelling at me from the doorway that we got a package and can he open it. Sam is streaked in dirt. I’m late taking my meds.

4:20 Sam asks me to go up the stairs first. (OCD requires that we do this exactly as he asks). Proceeds to cry that I left him behind.

4:25 Ben is still going on about the package. I’m reading a book to Sam who is calming down. Ben approaches, a look of horror on his face and breaks to me with agonizing slowness that our elderly dog peed on the floor. (She does this literally 5 times a day, this is not newsworthy.)

4:30 I forgot to take dinner out of the freezer.

5:00 Laundry has to happen. Ben has finally been given permission to open the box. It is a replacement Lego that the company was kind enough to send us after Boba Fett mysteriously disappeared.

5:05 Legos are all over my couch, I’m making sandwiches, and excuse myself upon delivery. “I’m going to cry for three minutes, and I’ll be back. There will be no more excitement today. I’m all excited out.”

Then you know what? I cried for a couple of minutes, but I didn’t think any of these things:

  • THE WORLD WILL END IF I DON’T CLEAN THIS HOUSE WHAT KIND OF A PERSON LIVES IN THIS MANY LEGOS
  • I am the worst mother
  • I can’t live like this one more minute
  • Everything is horrible and then it’s soaked in pee and why bother please let me go to bed now.

I DID think these things:

  • Ben is 9 and I’ve never missed picking him up at school because I fell asleep. Which is a pretty damn good accomplishment if you knew what I did in a day.
  • I still brought the kids to the park even though I knew Sam might have a tantrum and it was late.
  • This is just a couple of hours that are rough every day almost, and then it will be good
  • What kind of bird doesn’t just fly away??
  • I got to revise my book today and am halfway done with editing and that’s pretty cool
  • I feel not one ounce bad for eating 2 mini packs of cookies.

See, this lifestyle is why I love donuts. Donuts GET ME around this time every day. I don’t eat a donut every day, but I probably would if they were here. And if I eat a salad for lunch, like today, I have extra rights. The fact that I’m smiling now, and not freaking out shows me what headway I’ve made mentally, emotionally and hormonally in the past month alone. It’s a damn good feeling. I can handle some chaos. I maybe even like it a little. I like it just fine when I have donuts.

 

Julie Gets Sappy About Living the Dream

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Cappuccino Something or Other

By Julie

Work/Life Balance is this unicorn everyone is always chasing, correct?

I finally have it.

I almost said I “think” I finally have it, but no. I do. I have it. At least for now. I might lose it again, but looking for it is fun, too. Trying to achieve is never a bad feeling. Exhausting, sure. But not bad.

Last night a book club in my neighborhood that’s been meeting for twelve years brought me to dinner (lobster ravioli and harvest sangria), and these wonderful women not only read RUNNING HOME, but loved it. We talked books, and the neighborhood, and kids, and I talked shop about being an author and that it’s what I’ve always wanted to do my entire life, and that I went to school for it, and that I had a great job and I got rid of it and we laughed and I was so happy. So grateful.

It’s one thing to be recognized in the world of publishing as a solid author. It’s another thing when your neighbors and the community you live in recognize that this is YOU.

Yesterday afternoon after school one of Bennett’s classmates came up to me and said, “I learned today that you’re a writer and you’re coming to talk to my class.” My heart stopped as it does every time one of these kids finds this out.

Friday I get to go to Bennett’s class and talk for an hour about drafting. They came home with packets about how a particular author they’re reading developed her novel through five drafts. I get to show these incredible kids and their incredible teacher that there’s not just one way to write the story you want to write. Everyone has their own process, everyone finds it on their own by trying. That getting it “wrong” in the first draft is an illusion–that the first draft is telling yourself the story, and every draft after that is about making it what you want it to be. Drafting, editing, revising–it isn’t about fixing what’s wrong. It’s about knowing what you want it to be and shaping it to be that. By your standards and nobody else’s.

I do a lot in a day. It’s not always easy, but greatness rarely is. Greatness by my standard–no one else’s. I get to bring my babies to school every day and bring them home. I got to carve pumpkins with Sam’s class on Friday, and host a giant trick or treating parade Saturday night. I learned that a novel I edited was nominated for the Bath Novel Award. I made scrapbooks with my kids and watched movies all weekend and write in short spurts, making every word count. Every single day we go to the park after school and my kids and their little troupe leave the swings behind and play in the woods, and their parents and I have made these amazing friendships while our kids play together. And while I worry about Christmas money and car inspections and new tires and rent, I remember that amazing literary agents are reading my latest novel, one that I believe strongly in, and growth comes with growing pains. And I remember that living the dream is exactly that–living it. Not getting it. But getting there. I want all these things: the bonding, the creativity, the time, the comfort. I’ve worked for it, I’ll work to keep it, and I’ll work to make it better all the time. Success for me comes in succeeding, and in all the steps it takes to get there. Feeling all the rocks underfoot in the road and smiling at the potholes. The potholes are deep, but my strength runs deeper.

Work/Life Balance isn’t just about time for me. It’s about meaning. Doing something meaningful myself, showing my family and community that they’re a part of that every step of the way. Seeing all the parts form the whole. The whole is my standard, and no one else’s.

The Illusion of Routine and the Mad Scientist Mom by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin FacePunch. (This is what I named it because it is SO pumpkiny.)

By Julie

I realized a few minutes ago as I woke up and cleaned the kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee that I reheated from last night’s pot, listening to the kids fight over Matchbox cars as they slam onto the wood floor, that this is not what I usually do.

I also realized that what I usually do is an illusion. I have an ideal of what I want to do every morning, a routine that I like to think of as mine: Make the coffee, clean one chosen thing and make breakfasts while I wait for it to brew, do 20 pushups before I sit down to edit while the kids watch TV before school. But this is not even MY ideal.

This is me, working around a series of non-negotiables and squeezing in time to do what I want to do, which is write 1000 words, edit for clients, drink my coffee in peace and—happens AROUND the non-negotiables.

I also realized that my ideal routine—and I’m not talking about My Perfect Day Routine If I Was Only One Thing and Not Twenty Each Day—my ideal routine that involves the things I need to do and want to do and the incidentals that prevent me from doing them seamlessly DOESN’T WORK.

It’s okay that it doesn’t work. Routines need to change consistently as your non-negotiables grow and real life gets in the way. I’ve always been of the mindset that you need to change your routine or things will always go exactly the same.

I can’t do anything NEW if I do everything the same.

I can’t grow if I don’t implement change.

I can’t be excited about doing if I’m always doing the same things.

If I really change my routine all the time then routine becomes experiment—and experiments fail.

To be clear, I’m happy. My stuff—all my stuff—is working. But it could work better. This is the first month of school drawing to a close. All new routines for everyone in the house. I am the captain of the routines—their routines are dependent upon my implementation. So now that I have found what works for my family, I have to adjust my routine accordingly.

I don’t come first in the planning scenario. That’s okay. I’m going into October with a few new thoughts:

  • MY time and needs are still important and non-negotiable despite being the last to get planned. Timing and importance are not the same thing.
  • Having multiple routines in the house that I am the captain of means that I have a crew. A crew means that everyone has responsibility that I hold them accountable for. The new change that I have to implement is that responsibilities are not favors to me—they’re important to everyone. (Bringing dishes to the sink and navigating your own quiet time are responsibilities to yourselves, kids. Not favors to me.)
  • My time to do necessary things needs to feel less like stolen moments—even if they are. Otherwise my time to do stuff I just feel like doing makes me resentful.
  • Implementing accountability and realization of responsibilities for a whole family takes time. If I don’t take the time to set those up now in light of all the new stuff we’re doing, I will regret it later. Also known as: THE EVOLUTION OF THE CHORE CHART WHICH NEVER WORKED ANYWAY.
  • CHECKLISTS AND CALENDARS AND ROUTINES ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Chew on that one for a while, organization freaks.

I guess at the end of this whole seemingly well-organized ramble, what I’ve realized is that my responsibilities need to be as important to my family as theirs are to me. We’re a crew. While writing, editing, and all the things that contribute to that are MINE and belong to me alone, respecting what each of us does as individuals on the crew has always been part of our routine. Growing how we view each other’s non-negotiables is how we grow our respect for each other and ourselves. It’s that perfect balance of routine and individuality and growing great kids that value themselves and people that I don’t just want and demand, but that I’ve already started. This is the next stage. Life is an experiment and one that almost never seems to totally blow up on me, so I look forward to this next phase of life with a smile on my face and a stack of calendars and lists in my hand.

Stumbling Along the Parenthood Path

TODAY’S BREW: Is Praying for Booze a flavor?

By Julie

Tonight is my beautiful 6 year old’s school concert. Moms always want to see their kids in things like this, myself included.

But my little boy has come down with recently a social anxiety in events like this that leaves me utterly baffled. Whenever attention is on him in a crowd, he panics. Even the thought of being in the middle of a situation like that sends him into tears. This only started this year, and extends from things like small family parties to meeting Santa at school.

Now bring him to a situation where he won’t be recognized? He’s incredible. Outgoing, a leader, totally confident.

I recognize that this is something everyone goes through, not just children, but how to treat it when it’s someone you would protect with your life is the question that plagues me. While I want him to grow past his fear and know that he’s supported, I don’t want to make him do anything he’s uncomfortable with. I don’t want him to think he can always Just Say No to situations that take him out of his comfort zone, but if this is a real social anxiety disorder, I don’t want to make it worse. I want him to know I will always be there to make sure he feels protected and that I’ll save him if things get to be too much, but when does that point come?

A friend’s 12 year old little girl has been having such trouble with bullies at school that she asked to be homeschooled. My immediate reaction was what a strong, brilliant kid to make such a grownup decision and take the stand that isn’t a stand, if you know what I mean. She didn’t adhere to the rules of standing up for yourself via outsmarting them with your words brand of confrontation.She realized she may not be cut out for public school and forced socialization.

This amazing child opted to say she wasn’t going to put herself in that situation anymore. She would make her own rules.

I want to have a parade for this kid. I think she is an amazing role model.

If my little boy doesn’t want to participate in these relatively small crowd social events, I want him to feel like he has the power to say no. I confess, I don’t like them either! I want to see my kids having a good time and being part of something, but I have a problem in small crowds like that, myself. I can do a presentation for hundreds of people, but when I had to run sales meetings for a group, I stressed over it for weeks. But I know that some things can’t be avoided, no matter how much I don’t want to do them. Sometimes you do have to play by the rules.

Hence, my confusion. I won’t really know until we leave for this little extravaganza tonight what’s going to happen. My friend doesn’t know if this homeschooling thing will work out either. I think there can’t be a solid rule for do it or don’t do it situations like this, there has to be an element of calling your shots in the moment, and knowing that there are choices.

I’ve asked this question before, and I will probably ask it again. Do you deal with this with your kids? Do your own memories of being bullied or being afraid as a child affect your decisions now for your own children? Stumble along this path of parenthood with me, and let me know your thoughts.

 

Big Deal For Tiny Person

TODAY’S BREW: Delicious Chocolate Cappuccino flavor. Finally, something that doesn’t taste like the airport floor.

By Julie

 

The 6 year old’s Kindergarten graduation is today. He has been against this thing from the get-go. Now, he’s not an introvert, and is usually the star of little school how-do-ya-do’s, but this one, he is just not feeling.  So the question is:

DO YOU MAKE THE KID GO? OR IS IT A HIGH FALLUTIN’ EVENT THAT NOBODY WILL EVER REMEMBER?

This is where we raise the question, will the kid really thank us for making him sing “the girly firefly song” or will he thank us more for listening to him and doing what he wants to do?

Is there any value in making him do this thing because he only graduates Kindergarten once?

Do you feel guilt about not attending every single goddamn school function?

Will forcing the child to do something like this that he doesn’t want to do make him look back and say, “man, my parents were such douches?”

Is it totally archaic to just tell him to suck it up?

Does it really benefit a child to see his parents have such interest in his school functions, even if he does not?

Remember when there was only the one graduation, from high school, and it was a huge deal because it was the only one?

 

I’m feeling  like we tell the boy we are going because it is important to celebrate accomplishments. It’s also important to celebrate accomplishments the way the accomplisher wants to. Therefore, we will have cupcakes and mini golf later. Either way, he does not have to sing.

Yes, we all have to do things we don’t want to do, but you know what else we have to have? Someone who says, “you know what? You don’t have to do it.”

One way or another, we are getting cupcakes out of this deal.

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