Monday, June 17, 2013

What It Takes

A few days ago, my eight-year-old, John Paul, called Emre to the bathroom as he was getting ready for bed.  "Dad, watch this!"  At which point John Paul, standing still and stone-faced,  rolled his eyes in a zany manner: back and forth, up and down, around... Typical child silliness, right?  The type of thing most of us take for granted or may even grow annoyed with from our young'uns?

Not so this night, in this instance, with this child.  Once done with his eye-socket aerobics J.P. eagerly asked, "Did you see my whole head move or just my eyes?"  Emre  answered, "Just your eyes!"  John Paul countered, "When I was little I couldn't do that; my eyes were too dry and they stayed stuck.  I'd have to move my whole head, like this."


You see, John Paul was diagnosed with Convergence Insufficiency last February.  Convergence Insufficiency is a disorder which interferes with an individual's binocular vision, and is often undiagnosed as it is possible to have 20/20 vision and still suffer from CI.  (If you have never heard of this disorder, I encourage you to follow this link, particularly if your child has been diagnosed with or is suspected of having ADD, ADHD, or exhibits difficulty or reluctance in reading.)

I'd suspected that John Paul had visual perception issues; I found a Behavioral Optometrist, and she was the one who diagnosed the problem.  (Prior to this, he had passed the vision exams at his pediatrician's office, and he had scored in the average range for visual perception when an Occupational Therapist tested him.)  Since February, I have been taking him to Vision Therapy each week.  We start each day with his homework from said Vision Therapist.

As in all things, some days there are battles of wills between my son and I over this need.  I have come to understand that the work is difficult for him, and requires a lot of effort and energy on his part.  Typical of me, I've struggled with guilt for having not caught this sooner,  for teaching him at home and growing frustrated at his distraction and his oft-outright anger if asked to read.  I have learned that when his eyes leave a page as we read, it isn't because he was "unfocused" or blandly "uninterested" or intending to be defiant.  It is because the written words on his page looked like the examples shown here.  

He has always tired quickly doing school work.  In his first grade year, I began to believe the lousy O.T. I'd had him visiting (the same one who dismissively said his Visual Perception score was fine), and blamed myself for not pushing him hard enough, for not conditioning him to act like kids in "real" schools (like the one she worked at, part-time).  That O.T. was gravely wrong (not to mention biased against homeschooling).  John Paul's fatigue was real, not imagined; it was an obstacle he needed help to overcome, not an "excuse" to be disciplined out of him.

 I have squandered a lot of energy beating myself up for not knowing these things sooner, for not teaching him better, earlier.  This week's bathroom conversation with Emre assuaged my deepest fears: I am getting the job done.  We are getting the job done.  John Paul sees improvement in himself, and his confidence is increasing. 

Another case in point: we'd spent all of last month writing thank you cards for his First Holy Communion (and I am embarrassed to admit that no, I still have not mailed them; they sit on the bookshelf, waiting for stamps).  To say this project was an undertaking would be an understatement; he could not write on a regular glossy-card; as a leftie, he smudged the words he'd written, and the cards were too small for him to properly and neatly fit his words.  (He also works with an Occupational Therapist, now a far better one, to improve his fine and gross motor skills.)  He was immediately frustrated and despairing when we tried the traditional card approach. 

Rather than argue or cajole him into using the Thank You Cards we'd bought, I gave him the option of using lined paper and decorating that like stationary.  This was the approach he settled on.  We worked out a system in which he wrote 2-3 notes a day, an unprecedented amount of writing for him.  It took over 3 weeks, but in the end he'd written a card for every gift he'd received.  Wrapped into this commitment were lessons on manners and gratitude, how to show love... and how to not quit.

The fruit of John Paul's labor. 

We have discovered what it takes. 

Endurance. Perseverance. Fortitude. Hope. Faith. Forgiveness. Charity.  All of these virtues and possibly more, on both our parts, but perhaps sometimes more so on mine; he takes his cues from me, after all.  Children are not innately born knowing how to be these things.  At day's start and day's end, I am the model he looks to in learning how to react.  If I give up, he will too.  If I grow disheartened, so too will he. 

All of this is more than I am capable of on my own.  The virtues are not strong in me; I lean on God to grant the grace I need to grow in each one.  So in counting our successes, I am quick to count my blessings and say: God's grace is sufficient. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Where Have I Been?

Life has caused me to put this blog on the back-burner for a while; I’ve had a couple of inquiries about what's going on/where I’ve been.  This is going to be a chatty and un-inspired catch-up, for anyone else who may have noticed my internet silence and wondered where I’ve been. This entry serves as a much needed diagnostic self-check for me, too, so I might as well indulge myself.  

I have been in stasis.  

After weeks-- months-- of proclaiming, “No way I am going to make it to my due date, I was stunned to find that I made it to June 9th... then missed it... and now George and I are well past it!  If I were superstitious, I’d truly believe that I’d jinxed myself.

George, still in utero, just before our due date.

The past several weeks have been emotionally challenging for me and my husband.  May kicked off with John Paul’s First Holy Communion, which was wonderful but the preparation for which I’d agonized over and stressed over, because in all honesty, as the third trimester progressed, I’d felt increasingly overwhelmed in trying to get through my regular obligations to the family: homeschooling academics, getting to extra-curriculars, improving my relationship/parenting/discpline techniques, John Paul’s therapies, and basic household management.  Plus Emre had just resumed graduate school, and entered the most hectic time of year in his profession: concert season/end-of-the school year.
I was staring down long hours on my own with the kids, and entering the “labor-could-be-any-time-now” stage.  I was anxious.

A week after J.P.’s Communion, Emre’s mom fell seriously ill and needed to go to the ER.  She was admitted for a gall bladder surgery, and had several complications.  Happily, she has recovered and is home now, resuming her normal routine, but for two weeks solid my husband, her only child, was at her bedside.  She had a bad reaction to the morphine post-op; he rode out her confusion and mania with her.  The kids and I saw him briefly at the end of each night.  He bore it all well, but after two weeks of worry about her needs and my own impending labor, I started to come undone.   Thankfully, her sister drove up from Florida so that my mother-in-law could return to her own home to recouperate; this was a relief to us all.  

Then my doctor thought perhaps George’s kidney was dilated, that he might be a tad underweight, that I had too much fluid in the amniotic sac.   He said it was “probably nothing,” and “just a precaution,” but he scheduled me to have an ultrasound and the hospital and be seen by another OB, to discern whether or not George would require extra care at delivery.  I worked hard to not stress about it, but yes: I was stressed.  Luckily, the other OB (whose manner and style bore an uncanny resemblance to  Dr. House) assured me and Emre that the fluid was still in the normal range, that George’s kidney was slightly dilated but may clear up at delivery, and would not preclude me from delivering at the smaller “less sophisticated” birthing center in my local hospital; he’d just need an ultrasound in his first two days outside the womb to verify that there were no blockages.  Furthermore, my own doctor's office had his weight off; he was bigger than 6lbs 10oz; he was more like 8 lbs. 5oz.   

Relief.  Except, George was already so far down that Dr. House didn’t think I’d make it to my due date the following Sunday.  This was on Thursday.  My girls’ dress rehearsal and dance recital fell on the same day as my due date.

Anna was looking forward to receiving her third year trophy, and she was worried about what would happen to her partner in the show without her.  Every co-dependent, desire-to-please/fix/make OK alarm sounded in my body; I wanted my girls there even if I was sweating it out and pushing George into the world at that very moment!  I did not want to disappoint them... but if Emre was with me as labor coach, was that feasible?  Practical?  Prudent?  Yes, I had a dance mom on standby, willing to come and pick them up and do their hair... but I don’t know her well, neither do my girls, and while Anna would be old enough to handle this upheaval in stride, would little Gianna manage?  What if one of them got hurt or fell ill while backstage?  What to do!?  My husband helped me to discern that I was stressing out  over the possibility of separation; the actual separation into unchartered territory would  create more anxiety for me during labor and that was exactly what I didn’t need.  Furthermore, my concerns were not entirely paranoid.   

I saw he was right.  We took a “play-it-by-ear”approach.  As it turns out, my worrying, plotting and planning was unnecessary.  On Sunday morning, I made it to the rehearsal and took some stunning pictures.  This totally exhausted me.  In the evening, Emre brought his mom and the girls to the recital; I stayed home with John Paul.  I ordered the DVD and will watch it with my own mom when it arrives; I hadn’t wanted my own family to travl here from Massachusetts, because I’d figured out months ago that would be too much stress for me to co-ordinate.  

Have I mentioned that my husband is a band teacher?  That week he’d had his end-of-year concert.  The following week he had a small ensemble concert, and a field trip to perform at a local senior center.  Have I mentioned that he works an hour away?  That sometimes traffic makes the commute longer?  That we have had several massive rainstorms in the past seven days, the type that makes driving really slow?  Is it just me, or is that a recipe for uneasiness?  

And in all of this my hormones have raged, painful memories of past events and regrets have spilled from cracked open memory drawers; I have wept, raged, and wept some more.  No wonder poor George seems so steadfast in staying put; why would he want to emerge to all of this?

Where have I been? I have been humbled.  I have had to turn to others for help: watching my kids, unloading my frustrations, fears and angst on friends.  There have been no game faces here these days. 

Most recently, after submitting to a procedure to strip my membranes to start labor, I had child care in the form of a friend's two daughters, here for two days, overnight.  What began as promising, with eight hours of sporadic contractions that grew closer together and seemed to further effacement, ended with disappointment when said contractions all but disappeared before dawn.  The best laid plans of mice and men, awry again.  I felt guilty for Emre’s having missed two more days of work, again.  I felt foolish for needing help, asking for help and then having no baby to show for it.  

You know something?  I've concluded that this is good for my ego; it keeps me from being inflated by pride.  These situations remind me that I am. not. perfect.  I never have been perfect.  I am human, like everyone else.  God has once more shown me that I am not the one in control here.  I need to stop striving to take those reins away from him.

This is where I have been: stuck in a continuum of emotional anxiety, balanced out by a logical gratefulness as life works itself out, entirely aware that God’s grace alone sustains me.  I couldn’t keep on without Him.  I have learned, with humility, to open myself up and accept the help of others.  Furthermore, I have learned to ask for the help of others.  I have shared my ugly and honest struggles with my husband and my friends.   

All of this has been draining, time consuming and a lot to process.  I am better for it; I think I am more real for it all.  I'm sure I've linked this tune here before, but it is, once again, fitting for where I've been, so here it goes:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The Sacred and the Profane

1.  I'd forgotten Friday was the Feast of the Visitation until our dear friend and very real spiritual father called me that morning, to share the day's Magnificat reflection; he told me he'd thought, "Who could need to hear this at this moment more than you?"  Heather King's reflection was about the difficulty and humility that is called for in receiving. The very fact of my receiving his phone call bore out what she said as true: to stop and sit, to quiet myself enough to listen and hear the wisdom this friend sought to impart, required a great deal of effort; I had to disengage from action long enough to just be.  That stilling of self can be excruciating.

2.  Here again is proof of how sometimes God just intervenes in my life; I'd resolved to live Friday as a quieter, more interior time to finally pray at leisure and to write. Yet at that point my morning routine was already distracting me away from my resolution.  As a result, I'd almost missed time pondering my favorite women, and the best conversations the world was ever privy to:

"And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:43-45).

3. One reason I'd neglected my writing this month was because I couldn't sit still.  I have been driven by anxiety and family drama, including: my mother-in-law's frightening health crisis (gall bladder & poor reaction to post-op morphine)  that took my husband (her only child) 2 weeks of solid effort to help her through; my own freaky-odd-hormonal roller-coaster ride through this pregnancy, now entering its 39th week; my husband's most stressful time of year at work (i.e., concert season); my kids' several activities at fevered end-of-year-pitch; and for the record, with all of our doctor/teherapy/activity engagements, this is what May looked like on my calendar:

Is it just me... or was this slightly insane?!

Then, when you flip to June, the first week looks kind of the same, the punchline being June 9th:  "Dance Rehearsal 9am, Dance Recital 6pm & George's DUE DATE."  Oh, that kills  me.

4. On Friday, Gianna perched on my knee as we scrolled through my photos on FB. Seeing this one, she stopped me and said, "When was this?!" I answered, "Last summer." 
Oh my gosh, I'd forgotten what its like to see my toes!

She then asked, "Hey, where's George?" To which I said, "He wasn't made yet; he wasn't in my belly then." At that point she turned, looked down and addressed the audience in my belly by excitedly saying, "Hey George, did you hear that? Did you know there was a time when you weren't here?" 

This struck me as the perfect and unabashed illustration of Faith: "the Confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction of the things we do not see"  (Hebrews 11:1). Gianna has not seen her brother, but she already knows and has a relationship with him!

5.  After our night time prayers last evening, Gianna engaged George again, this time as follows:  "Hey George? Could you please not be born tomorrow? You see, my friend's birthday party is tomorrow, and if you are born then, I don't know what I'm gonna do. So you can be born the day *after* tomorrow, OK?"

6.  Let me say that Cari at Clan Donaldson had what I at first thought was an inspired idea: selfies for Theme Thursday.  She even the led the charge by not putting on make-up for her own.  What the heck,  I figured, full steam ahead!  I took five different shots, and uploaded them.  Looking at them, I almost cried.  I still expect to see 23-year-old-me in photographs.  Reality check: I am 39 and I have wrinkles. I also have broken capillaries under one eye and on another eyelid, from delivering each of my girls.  Ugh.  But... Whatever. Here I am, barely caffeinated on a Thursday at 8am, sans make-up and owning it:
Seeing these pics really did not fill me with the sort of empowerment those Dove ads promised.

7.  Thus, yesterday and today I had to live in opposition to the pregnant-momma-in-comfy-pants-sans-make-up mode. I'll write up something about this and post it to the Fine Linen and Purple link-up... but for now, here is the picture to balance out #6, and salvage my feelings of femininity:

My husband shared this picture to his own Facebook page and captioned it, "My beautiful wife," at which point my pain from #6 was wiped completely away, and I felt immediately and terribly bad for all the hormonal mean-wife comments I've barked out at him in the last seven days.

He is such a sweetheart.

That's it for today, folks.  I'm late to the game, but I played!  Check in with Jen if you haven't already.

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!