Friday, October 16, 2015

Saved

Happy one year anniversary to my blog!  Today's post is dedicated to my parents. 
I got to talk to my parents a few days ago.  I love it when we can chat.  It is rare to get a full conversation in when all my kids are home, but twice this week, I've been able to talk to my Mom and Dad.  

While on the phone we talked about all sorts of things - the kids, school, the upcoming holidays, and Ronan's health. Those are "the usual" topics we try to catch up on in phone calls, but we talked about something else this week: the fact that what happened to Ronan helped save his little sister's life.  

Izzy brings that up every now and then.  She remembers that fact usually after Ronan's had a major struggle.  When the struggle is over and Ronan is okay again, Izzy looks at her big brother longingly.  Some days when I see her staring at him, I know not to interrupt.  I know that she's worried.  I can see that she's sad.  I understand that she wishes that things could be different for him.  But I don't cloud her thoughts with my input, and I wait for her to come to me.  She comes to me for comfort and for a big hug. 

Ronan saved his little sisters.  He didn't volunteer to do it. He didn't get any reward for his heroism. And he went through hell to do it, and Izzy realized that a few years ago: 

“Seizures?  Mommy, why?  Why does he have to have seizures?” 

I gave her the G-rated version of what happened to Ronan because I didn’t want to fill her head with too much doom and gloom.  She’s heard so much medical talk about Ronan in the past, but I didn’t know how much she truly understood about the science behind Ronan’s problems.  Since she’s the kid sister and arrived into the family after Ronan’s vaccine injury she has only known his signs, symptoms and the talk of seizures, mito disease, blood work and more.  To her this part of his life is his “normal.”  She missed seeing first-hand what happened, [and how typical  he was before he got sick] but I didn’t give her enough credit.  Izzy understood the explanation I gave about Ronan, his brain, the seizures and examples of what his body can’t do.  She looked at me and said, “So, Ronan got his shots, then he got seizures and now he can’t talk and play like me.”  

Bingo.

Because of what we learned about Ronan's health and how vaccines caused him more harm than good, and because they also negatively affected Ronan's younger brother, we knew to be carefully when it was time to consider medical interventions we would be offered when Izzy was born.  Her health depended on it!  

When she arrived, we were armed with much more information and were confident about accepting (or declining) what others deemed standard medical care and safe and effective than we had been with her older siblings. 

Izzy knows this now as do our other children.  None of them likes that we had to learn the hard way, me included.  My parents don't like what we've gone through either.  They understand that this hasn't been easy for any of us and are supportive of what I've had to do to protect my children.  I hear their support in the conversations that we have over the phone and see the love they have for all of my kids when they visit us.  

It's no surprise with all that's happened that my children are mini-activist and advocates in the making, Izzy being one of the best in the bunch.  She is one of the biggest blessings in Ronan's life (and mine, too!).  Just last night as we were getting settled for bed, I was helping Ronan finish up on some exercises.  Izzy saw me setting some things up and was curious what I was doing.  She asked if she could watch Ronan.  I told her better than that, she could be my assistant.  She quickly jumped right in.  

I showed her the material we'd be using and then walked her through what we were doing and why.  It wasn't easy for her, but the commitment Izzy has for her brother helped her stay focused.  Ronan liked the extra attention and tried to get some belly zerberts from little sister before he was done.  With a giggle and gentle redirection, as we do with other tasks, Izzy and I finished helping Ronan with his exercises as a team.

If you'd asked me to predict what my children would be exposed to before I had kids, I would never expect that my children would have seen or heard or experienced a fraction of what they have seen, heard and experienced.  No child should be subjected to the struggles, the stress, nor the sadness that they have.  But it's through those struggles, stresses, and sadness that has shaped them into who they are right now.  

They are hard working.  

They are passionate.  

They are kind, considerate, amazing little humans. 

And they have been saved from further harm because of what happened to their brother.  
xo, Cat



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rearranged

Every few months I get an overwhelming urge to rearrange the furniture.  Usually, it's my kids' rooms that get a quick makeover, but sometimes it's one of the common rooms in the house that I tackle.  The last time I decided to rearrange a room it was the office, a.k.a. my hidey hole.  

I love our home office.  I get lots of writing and thinking done in that room.  It's the size of a small bedroom and rather cozy.  But lately, it's been referred to as the ROD (Room Of Death--thanks to my Sacred Sister for that name!) as it is the dumping ground for any and all receipts, important paperwork, medical notes, insurance Explanation of Benefits, pesky bills waiting to be paid, and anything that whatever else that I'm trying to ignore.  

I had ignored some paperwork that was sitting in front of the file cabinet in the office for way too many weeks.  I knew I had to sort through it, but I was starting to dread it.  There are reminders in that pile - of medication mishaps, of costly mistakes, and of frustration.  I dreaded having to go through the pile, and soon, I had started to dread walking into the room that was quietly housing that pile.  Instead of facing the frustrations, I let them stack up around me and take over a room that our entire family needs to use.  

The day I finally decided to attack that pile, I looked around and saw that it wasn't just the pile making me feel overwhelmed.  The flow of the room was off, too.  The cozy feel that this room usually offers was no where to be found.  I glanced at the piano bench and the small end table and saw why.  The coziness had been replaced with clutter--and not just mine this time!  

The kids had been pig piling into the office a lot more and have been leaving traces of themselves behind--a headband, a food wrapper, a pair of mix-matched socks, flip flops, and some dirt that had been tracked in.  Ugh.  I couldn't blame them for the mess though.  I haven't been the perfect role model cleaning up after myself!  It was time to motivate myself, to clean up, and to get reorganized.

Sometimes motivation is hard to come by.  With distractions all around, it's easier to get (and to stay) sidetracked with those distractions than to focus.  I know that when I remember to clean up, though, the flow of a room, our house, and even my thoughts, become positive again and lots more can get done.   

I don't know if I'll ever catch up on everything around here, but I've finally gotten (most of) that unruly pile sorted.  With that challenge behind me, the office was getting its cozy feel back.  After reducing the stress and the clutter that I'd allowed in, I did some minor rearranging of the furniture and like what I saw.  

The room looks nice again.  

It feels cozy again.  

It's inviting.  

It's welcoming.  

And it now has a spot where, when I have time, I can snuggle up and read.  

I read a lot--magazines, newspapers, articles on the web--but never books.  My attention span is ridiculously short, partly because of the demands being demanded of me all.day.long but also partly because my attention span is just ridiculously short!  When I found one of my favorite books of all time late this summer, I thought I'd work through that short attention span and read the book in one sitting.  

Ha!  

It's taken me forever to get through the book - not just because of daily demands and that I'm a slow reader, but also because of how rearranged life gets.  Just when I think I have enough time to relax, my family needs me.  Just as soon as I get one thing done, something else immediately requires my attention.  Just when I think everything is finally in order, our schedule changes.  Just when we get used to a routine, I get tugged in one direction and then in another.  The book has gone with me to doctor's appointments, to volleyball games, and accompanied me in the car ride line as I wait for the kids' dismissal bell.  I bring it with me in the hopes that I can finish it.  But I have yet to finish it.  

I know I will soon.  And I know just where I will sit down to do that - in a quiet corner in our cozy home office.  That'll happen on a day when I feel like I am caught up with life.  

Some days I feel like I can't catch up.  But I do my best.  I do my best to be positive, to stay organized, to focus on what's important, to appreciate the little things, and to always inch forward.

xo, Cat  


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Featured


I love writing.  I love this magazine.  I love writing for this magazine!  Oh, I love my family, too.  They helped inspire my latest.  Here it is featured in The Autism File Magazine's recent edition, Issue 64:  


I am thankful that I can share my thoughts, ideas, and experiences with other families.  I am even more grateful that people encourage me to write about my experiences.  Thank you, The Autism File Magazine!

xo, Cat

---

To read other articles I've written for this magazine, click the link under the cover photo:

Issue 61 

Issue 51 



Sunday, October 4, 2015

Parade of Babies

Originally written in October 2015, I have always wanted to add just a few more things to this post.  I finally had time to do that today.  

-

To those young parents juggling cranky babies, tired toddlers, and chatty preschoolers at Church– tough moments may be overwhelming, but those moments end.   New moments follow.  Those will bring smiles, warmth, and encouragement, and not just for you - but for others.  

“We need to see more babies,” my daughter whispered to me on Saturday night.

I smiled and nodded.  We had just seen the tail end of what we call the Parade of Babies.  My daughter only saw three babies that night.  We usually see many more, but at the Vigil Mass this weekend, The Parade of Babies is short. On Sundays, we see so many more children.  

Young moms wear their babies.  

Young dads hold their preschoolers.  

Wiggly toddlers are juggled in mom’s arms and then in dad’s.  

Sometimes, older brothers or sisters are tasked to pitch in to help a younger sibling.  

Where they'd rather be playing, talking or running around outside, the youngest members of my church haven't mastered sitting quietly through Mass just yet.  With more practice and encouragement, that'll come.  Thankfully, they are not admonished for their typical, playful behavior. 

I love seeing young families at Mass.  Still having to split up because my son is unable to attend, my husband goes to the early while I go to the later Mass on Sunday.  On rare occasions, like this evening, I get to go to the Vigil Mass.  No matter which one I'm attending, I find it encouraging to see so many families sitting together at Church.  But just like what I usually witness on Sunday mornings, not every family makes it through Mass in one spot.  Some find themselves having to retreat from the pew and the congregation to seek shelter in a quieter spot.  

The quieter spot in our Church is a small vestibule.  Situated between the sanctuary and the entrance of the Church, soon after the Gospel, it can get quite crowded in there.  That's when, one by one, several young parents leave their pew.  Looking for refuge with their child, they sit, they stand, and sometimes, depending on how many have gathered, they overcrowd the small vestibule together.

With the children’s cries and the parents’ exhaustion muffled behind the glass French doors, Mass continues.  

As the end of Mass nears, those of us who've been able to stay in our pews will soon get a peek at something special.  A group of harried parents begins to line up to receive Communion with one, two, and sometimes three or more children in tow.  Among the last of the congregation to receive, they walk from the vestibule toward the altar.  

Finally, the Parade of Babies begins.  

The most vulnerable and the most innocent of lives in our parish start to whisk past me.  With the parade in full swing, my youngest daughter and I stare in awe.  On a Sunday morning, babies of all shapes and sizes, and some with little volume control, captivate us.  We see fewer young ones tonight, but we are just as excited to see them.  

As I spy them coming down the aisle, I glance at their parents.  Young.  Tired.  Dedicated.  I cannot help but stare.  Rushing toward the back of the Church again, many of those holding these precious babies bypass their pew once more.  Instead of being able to kneel, pray, and join in the last few quiet minutes of Mass, several parents return to the cramped vestibule.  With their wiggly toddler, chatty preschooler, or a finally snoozing infant, those who've had to scurry toward the back are still able to participate.  They may not have been able to sit with the rest of us in the pews, but they have joined in the prayers.  They have reflected on the readings.  They have been offered a Sign of Peace, too.  

Juggling a child who wanted to be elsewhere wasn't easy, but these parents and those devoted caregivers stayed as focused as their child's short attention span allowed them to.  They could've taken a few more steps through the vestibule and walked out the church doors toward the parking lot when things got overwhelming, but they didn't.  

They stayed.  

They prayed.  

And they received.  

I am thrilled that these parents overcame bursts of distractions and moments of temporary frustration.  Saying a thankful prayer for them, my thoughts bring me to my own parenting and how it's shaped me.  I think about my own children, too, including my son who didn't make it to Mass once more.  I long for him to be there with me, but I know that sometimes, home is a much better place for him.  Proving over and over again that that's true, I'll sometimes feel an overwhelming sadness that he cannot be at church with me.  But I quickly remember to be joyful.  That's because while he was safe and happy at home, I had the opportunity to go to Mass.  I had the opportunity to participate in it fully.  And, like these other tired and brave parents, I also had the opportunity to receive.  

Having juggled what I've had to juggle, and having tripped over myself - or a child who wouldn't budge, I see my younger self in some of the parents' faces.  Offering a polite smile when I can as they walked by, I hope it gives them some sort of reassurance.  From the newest member of our church wrapped in receiving blankets, to the oldest—usually a child of 4 or 5 years of age, children of all ages and stages were lovingly held, firmly lead, and quietly reminded to follow that parents' lead.  What a treat it was to see them process down the aisle, too.  

Some may not see what I see though.  Some may only see a young, loud child who doesn't listen.  They may only hear the chaos and the cacophony coming from their little bodies.  These children can be so very distracting!  But it's during their distractions that I and others are called upon to concentrate more.  While we are distracted by the most vulnerable and the most innocent lives in our parish, I am also reminded that their loud, little lives are sacred.  Even though their are wiggly, tired, and cranky, they are first and foremost beautiful children of God.  No matter what size, no matter what age, and no matter what volume level they do (or do not) use, these children are precious.  

Stealing a peek at them themselves, my children eagerly look forward to seeing younger children at Mass.  Right before the Parade of Babies begins, I sense their excitement.  

Feeling a nudge on my right arm and hear a small whisper, “A newborn!  Mom, did you see how tiny she was?”  

I feel another nudge on my left arm, “Twins!  Did you see the twins?!”  

With each of us grinning, we try to keep our heads low and our voices lower.  Not wanting to distract those near us, my children and I cannot help but smile.  We feel and see God’s grace in the sweet faces that have just marched past us.  We see and feel the pride, as well as the exhaustion, in the parents' faces as well. 

Having been that young mom who needed to find that quieter spot, I have great admiration for the young families in my Church who find that they need to remove themselves temporarily each weekend.  The minutes on the clock may tick by painfully slow for them, but they made it through.  They made it through moments that felt endless.  They made it through the embarrassment, the frustration, and the sadness that may have cropped up, too.  More importantly, they made it through to Communion, to the Final Blessing, and to the end of Mass where they will soon be reunited with the rest of their family.

The Parade of Babies happens each week in our church and no doubt in many churches.  It isn’t a very long parade, but it is one that brings me and my children great joy.  The joy may not yet be felt by the young parent who's had to hold a squirmy, gassy child or for the parent who's trying to hush hush a cranky, loud toddler.  But seeing that Parade of Babies toward the end of Mass is such a delight.  

Even as short as tonight's was, as it went by, we witnessed sacrifice, we witnessed love, and we witnessed life.  We know that life is not always respected.  Until it is, our family will continue to bow our heads, we will continue to pray for peace, and we will continue to encourage those young parents who find themselves walking in the Parade of Babies to always keep marching forward.  

xo, Cat