“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. I'll always be with you.”
~A.A. Milne, from "Winnie the Pooh"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On the Overusage of the R Word

 A word that is widely used in our culture. It's thrown thoughtlessly into our every day conversations, in reference to anything that is stupid or idiotic.
Its a word that I never gave a second thought to. It was so common in even my own dialogues that I never even blinked to hear it said by someone else. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I used to be one of "those" people. In fact, not that I would have ever been heartless enough to do it in front of someone with a disability, but I even used to act like the stereotypical mentally delayed person just to get laughs from friends. Never once during the thousand times that I acted so despicably or said that tiny little word repeatedly did I ever stop to think about just what my callous actions were teaching my son, or considered the possibility that I might be unintentionally hurting someone's feelings...someone who overheard me or saw me, someone with a child, a sibling, a friend, the world at large would use that word to describe.
I'm ashamed. Truly truly ashamed.
I don't have any excuses. I don't believe that even claiming my own ignorance is excuse enough.
In all those times, no one ever called me on the inappropriateness of my words or my actions.
I now find myself in the unique position of being that mother who overheard me joking with MY son in the grocery store, the one who was too shocked and hurt by the actions of a stranger to speak up and say something.......

I don't say much about the use of that word. I probably should say more. I know, logically, that when someone says it, my child never enters their mind. She is loved greatly by those I hear it from most, in fact.
 But the truth is, regardless of the lack of vocalization on my part when it is said, it hurts. Its sort of crazy how one word can have the effect of sticking a thousand tiny knives in my heart. I WANT to say something but the words stick in my throat and I can't get past my shock that knowing my daughter, someone actually would say it to me.
I know it isn't a word that I will ever be able to completely shield Lydia from. That's just an unfortunate fact of life. However, the word does strike strong feelings in me and I can only imagine what hearing that word from the mouth of someone who loves her will do to her someday......
So, to the several people in our lives who have used this word without even blinking in conversation with me over the last month or two, I'm asking you to please (PLEASE!) find another word. Be conscientious enough to realize that you said it, and apologize if you do. I promise I'm not going to turn into the word Nazi...I'm just asking as a friend, as a family member, as the parent of a child that will have a place in MY child's life, don't say it to me. Don't say it to anyone. There are plenty of other words to use, words that I can promise are a whole lot more creative...and just might make you look brilliant!

PS To the friend who used this word in conversation, immediately switched it to another word, and apologized....(you know who you are!) I love you, girl. That one second had more of an effect on me than you will ever know. No one has ever even stopped to think about what they said to me before...and I appreciate that you care enough to try to not say it..and not teach it to your kids! :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Caleb's Birthday Video.....

Happy late birthday to my precious son.......
Surely no mother is prouder to call any young man their own. :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Phoenix

I am a high school drop out.
There I said it. I've never had a graduation before....I've never walked the stage on nervous knees to grasp a diploma, amidst the wild cheering of my family in the audience.
My senior year of high school was kind of a nightmare. I was heartbroken. I was an emotional train wreck. And I was facing the darkest period of my life. Quite honestly, surviving each day was all that was truly in my capabilities to accomplish. 
Dropping out (or getting kicked out, rather) wasn't really a surprise. Not to me and I'm sure not to anyone else. 
Sitting in the audience during other graduation ceremonies was heart breaking in later days....knowing that I lost the opportunity to make that walk across the stage and take the diploma, smiling ear to ear. The feeling of accomplishment was lost. That dream had died. 
Last night was the culmination of a whole lot of dreams, which rose from the ashes left behind back in 1996. As I walked across that stage, radiantly beaming, knowing that my babies were in the audience watching, a sense of coming full circle washed over me. I FINALLY WAS WEARING THAT CAP AND GOWN...I WAS FINALLY WALKING ACROSS THE STAGE THAT SO MANY IN MY FAMILY HAD WALKED BEFORE ME! Knowing in my heart what I have overcome to be there on that stage last night made me even more proud to be there. I know there were a whole lot of people who felt just as I did...but I gotta say that I don't think any of them was as proud as me. 

Like the phoenix, I have risen from the ashes. 

I could never have made it this far without the love and support of my family and many friends. Your belief in me, even when I didn't believe in myself, has given me the faith to keep going when many thought that I would fail. Those yellow cords around my neck are the culmination of your encouragement...your quiet voices telling me that I am smart enough, strong enough, and determined enough to beat the odds and not just slide through with good enough, but EXCEL. I love you all and words can't adequately describe how much you all mean to me. As cheesy as it may sound, this degree..that walk across the stage that many of you waited 16 years to happen...belongs as much to you as it does to me! Thank you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Being a mom is hard. Sometimes really, really hard. There's this fine line between being too overprotective and too restrictive, and being too permissive. That line is all too often blurry and hard to decipher. Its an awesome responsibility to have little lives placed in your arms, little beings who look to you for protection, guidance, education, and love. Its an even more daunting responsibility to be the one in charge of allowing them to spread their wings, flying out into a world full of dangers they don't even truly understand. I always thought that it would get easier with time, but it doesn't. Its easy guiding a baby who needs you for everything. It is both eye opening and heart breaking to be guiding a man child who doesn't need you for much at all (except maybe as a taxi driver...or a bank...)
With Lydia's birth, I found myself walking a strange line...the line which balances between my two kids...one who is preparing to leave the nest in too short a time and the other who has just settled in. Being the mom of a teenager AND a toddler has often stretched me to the limits of everything...my patience, my strength, my good judgement and sometimes even my faith. Five years ago, I would have never imagined myself in this position; watching my baby boy grow up way too fast for this mama's liking and starting all over again with a baby girl.

Caleb turns 14 next Tuesday. 14. It doesn't even seem remotely possible despite the fact that he has long since outgrown me and now stands awfully darn close to 6 ft tall, or the fact that he has sprouted peach fuzz on his lip, or the fact that he will be starting high school at the end of August, or the girlfriend who has now been around for an entire year. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were the talk of the hospital...the superhuman mom who gave birth to an adorable 9 lb baby boy? Wasn't it just yesterday that he was a blonde haired blue eyed chubby cheeked cherub? Wasn't it yesterday that his dad and I were giggling about his adorable little mispronunciations, which were too darn cute to correct (lellow, hamsmer, cwash etc)? Where are the scabbed knees and dirty faces? What happened to the days when I had magical kisses that made everything all better? Where did that little boy go? When did he morph into the man I catch glimpses of more and more?
Why hasn't someone figured out a way to stop time? 
The realization has sunk in that my days with him are numbered. He already has a life outside of my home that doesn't involve me at all. And I find that, as proud of him as I am, it still completely breaks my heart. I'm not ready to let go. I'm not ready to watch him pack up his car and drive away. I'm not ready to face his empty room, knowing that he will never sleep under my roof again. All things that I know will be happening way too soon. Long before I am ready. 
I find myself wishing that I had known 14 years ago the lessons I have learned throughout the last year....that I had been in less of a hurry for him to grow up, that I had just drunk in every second of his life, that I had told him more often when he was little how blessed I am to be his mother. I wish I hadn't been so obsessed with the meaningless drudgery of life and had spent more time crawling around with him, crashing cars, and playing in the dirt, and a thousand other little things that I always intended to do tomorrow...when I wasn't so tired, when I didn't have this or that to do, when it was more convenient. I never realized that time would slip away so quickly and tomorrow would be completely lost in the shuffle of life. I've never been so sorry for those wasted intentions as I am now, watching him grow up and move further and further down the road to independence. 
My only excuse is that I didn't know better and that excuse rings hollow to my ears. 
Somehow, despite it all, his father and I have managed to raise a pretty awesome young man. I worried incessantly about the damage our divorce would cause him and yet, somehow he seems to have emerged unscathed. I worried about his ability to accept having a sister, sharing me with a little someone who needed so much after so many years of having me all to himself. I worried about how he would deal with the extra challenges she faces, whether he would be ashamed, whether I raised him to be truly accepting of ALL people. I sold him short. He loves his baby sister without reservation, for who she is, and proudly tells everyone that yes, she has Down syndrome, but she is perfect just the same. 
I thought I was blessed being his mother before. I thought I was proud to call him my son. Those thoughts don't even compare to the love and pride I have now. 
I worried that he would lose an important part of me when Liddy was born....but the truth is, I think that we both regained the most important thing, each other. 
Being a mom is a learning process. It never ends.  But looking back, I can say, without a doubt, that I am beyond grateful that he was my first teacher.......

I love you, Caleb Daniel. I am more proud to be your mom with each and every passing day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

For my sisters

Dear Ashley and Amanda,
I always wanted a sister or a brother. The entire first 7 years of my life, I repeatedly argued why I should get one (although at the time I didn't quite understand that I couldn't have a BIG brother or sister!) as quickly as possible. Then came Ashley. FINALLY. Somehow, I became the big sister, instead of actually getting one. :) One of her first words was a distinctively "Heidi" (although I'm pretty sure that just might have been a figment of my proud big sister imagination!) The year of her birth brought with it a complete change of life as I knew it, but I loved having an adorable baby sister.
Then just a little over two years later, along came Amanda. The most precious little terror.... :)

I babysat both of you a whole lot and you both followed me around even more (sometimes to my great chagrin.) Caring for the two of you, who were both considerably younger, was my first taste of what it meant to be a mommy.
I haven't always been the greatest at fulfilling my big sisterly duties. I spent a few years trying to put myself back together and I avoided being around you both because I didn't want you to see what I had become while overcoming my demons. I didn't want to expose you to my overwhelming depression and the chaos that found me in its wake. I missed a lot during those dark years and I can't help but feel as if in a way, despite my belief that I was doing what was best for you, you might have felt abandoned by me. I have tried my very best since I have emerged from the shadows to be the big sister you need me to be, someone you know you can count on no matter what.
I give advice...but I try to only give it when it's asked for. And even then, in most cases, that advice is a delicate balance between what I think you need to hear and what I think you feel. My heart breaks when yours is broken and even is I am your sister, the mama bear in me comes out if someone hurts you.  We get mad at each other. We fight. We make up. Sometimes we go for long periods of time without talking and as much as I hate it, I hope you know that my door is never closed. No matter what, I will always welcome you with open arms and be there when you need me most. We're sisters. For life. You will never get rid of me.

I want you to both know that you are beautiful, smart, funny, and absolutely amazing women. Women I have watched blossom over the years into people that I am proud to know. You are loved. More than you could possibly know. And I want you to never for one second doubt how strong you both are. In the midst of the fiercest storm, you still have the capability to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and come out better on the other side. I had hoped that through the mistakes that I have made and the heartbreak I have endured that I could somehow spare you from ever having your heart broken. But I couldn't. While I might not be able to protect you from the hard knocks of life, I am here...always. No one believes in you more than I do (except maybe your mama!) and I will continue to be a cheerleader, a friend, the voice of reason (or madness if it applies!), your own personal Dear Abby, and one of the many people who loves you unconditionally.

Ashley, things are hard for you right now. I have been in similar shoes before. This isn't the end...although it may be the end of this particular road. That just means that you are embarking on a brand new adventure....albeit with the pieces of your broken heart in hand. It'll mend, even though now it feels like there is no way possible for the pain to cease. It will. It will fade away a little each day. Make no mistake. There is a plan in this as well. And we all know that God's plans are better than what we can plan ourselves. You are tough. You are faithful. You believe in prayer (which you better believe you're wrapped in constantly.) You are chosen.....to become a diamond through God's grace and love. I love you so much and I am rooting for you! Now bring your booty home so I can hug all over you!!!!!!!