Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Family Fun Night-Pumkin Decorating

Pretty hard at work
Marlene's creation. I guess I see a resemblance

Number One's finished "arachnid" project
The albino pumpkin
A work in progress
Snort and his pipe cleaner
Getting ready for the fun to begin

Our cute little pumpkin family
left to right
Marlene, Beast, Pretty, Beast for Angela, Number One, The King, Snort, Little Guy
Do you see a resemblance?

Snort and Little Guy's pumpkins
Little Guy adoring his big brother, Number One!

More brotherly love. Don't be fooled, people. They just look innocent.

The King being a big goofball

I think Snort liked his pumpkin

The aftermath of Snort's hair and highchair after a yummy treat.

The King's pumpkin

Number One's arachnid pumpkin with the King's unibrow thingy.

A very proud Beast displaying his fine works of art.

Each Monday night, we try to spend time together as a family. Marlene usually joins us since it's just her on Monday nights, and we don't think anyone should spend family night alone. Sometimes our activity is a silly game, other times it's watching a church video on the internet, and at other times it's sitting around singing goofy songs. Either way, it's our little family and we have a really good time together.

This week, we decorated pumpkins. Number One usually breaks out if he gets pumpkin guts on himself, so I just got each person a little pumpkin (of their choice) and a bunch of crafting supplies. Then, I set everyone off to do their own thing. I helped Snort and Little Guy, (note the canula, hearing aids, and glasses) but the rest were all done by each person on their own.

Number One spent the most time on his. He wanted his albino pumpkin to be an arachnid. He was apparently feeling very detail-oriented that night. The Beast decorated his own pumpkin to look like...um...hmmm...something very special. When he was done with that, he made one for Angela. I promised her I'd e-mail her a copy. (I put in on facebook for her).

Pretty was very excited about using the raffia as hair. She spent most of her time trying to use two drops of glue to attach about fifty pounds of raffia. I'm most impressed by her unique placement of the googly eyes.

Snort was most interested in his one red pipe cleaner and the snacks. Who can really resist cookies and apple cider, right? Yum-O!

Little Guy spent most of the time in his jumping thing. He loves to bounce in that, and he was delighted that we pulled it up close to us so he could be part of the action, too. After things calmed down a little bit, you can see that Number One gave him a little affection, too.

The King made his pumpkin look like....some dude with a unibrow I guess? I think it was first inspired by Bert from Sesame Street and then became a creature all of its own. Being that this was Halloween, I'd say that's perfectly appropriate.

All in all, I'd say it was a great family night. And no one even got hurt or did something to get sent to jail or anything. Success!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why Me? Why Not?

With the current poor economy and the outbreak of so many illnesses and the increase in autism and whatever else one can think of, I've noticed a new sort of disease. Why Me Syndrome. I have some thoughts on this that are mine and mine alone. I'm going to share them and you're welcome to read on with the understanding that I'm in no way trying to be unsympathetic to the plight of those who suffer. On the contrary, my thoughts and prayers are continually with those who weep, suffer, and are heavy burdened.

I think it needs to be put out there that no person is ever going to be exempt from pain and suffering at some point in life. Why, then, do we often find people crying "why me?" when bad things happen? Sometimes I feel like the only answer I can give is "Why not you? What have you done to exempt you from ever having undesirable things happen to you?"

Let me explain myself. It's my firm belief that muscle can only be built through hard work and endurance. The same goes for emotional and spiritual muscle. If we don't have opportunities to endure, we don't have the chance to build our emotional and spiritual muscle. While times of trial and tribulation can often seem like a dark tunnel with no light in sight while we're in the midst of them, it's undeniable that we come out stronger because of them. We may not see it right away, or maybe not ever in this life, but the painful hardships we endure today are providing the framework for the stronger, more capable people we have the potential to become tomorrow.

I get asked the same question all the time. It's not always phrased the same way, but the jist is the same. "How do you do it, Aimee? How do you handle five very young children, three of whom have special needs? Do you ever wonder why you are the one with these children and these difficulties?" I'll tell you how.

It's very simple really. I was taught from a very young age that the trials we face in this life are God's way of complimenting us. We are told that God won't ever give us more than we can handle with His help. If He honestly believes that I can handle all that He's given me, He must think very highly of me. And that is a compliment.

Another thing that leaves me feeling okay about mothering these particular children is greed. Plain and simple. I'm greedy. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that enduring to the end will result in guaranteed blessings, and I will do anything to earn more. I know that these blessings come because I've experienced it first hand. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that my family and I have had far more goodness in our lives than we've had hardships. It's not even always so much in a spiritual sense. Sometimes it's just plain and simple happiness. Before we had children with special needs, we were unable to see the amazing details of day to day life. We didn't realize how amazing it is to see your child walk for the first time, or to hear him utter his first real word. We took good general health for granted. The task of breathing in and out while still keeping our hearts pumping was mundane and never thought of. Now, I relish the time I spend just watching Little Guy breathe in and out and in and out. And I'm happy for those things.

I think there are many people who live by the misguided notion that living a life that is good and faithful to whatever religion they embrace should exempt them from pain. The truth is that there is really no "vaccine" for hardship. No one can prevent it from spreading to themselves. Living a good and faithful life is simply one way to find the tools to face pain head-on when it comes. When we live by the principles of some gospel and have a belief in some sort of God, we give our lives a sense of purpose and meaning. We give ourselves an outlet through which we can seek out peace and comfort. All of these things can ease the pains we suffer, though they can't prevent them from coming in the first place.

Setting aside the spiritual aspects of it all, I have to ask why NOT me? Were I to sit down and cry and pout and beg someone to explain why me, I would hope someone would point out that I am no different than any other person on this planet. I don't come with some special ticket that allows me to go directly to the front of the happiness line. Last I checked, there was no "get out of jail" card for pain and suffering. Why and how could I for one minute think to myself "why me?".

If not me, then who? Who would I see fit to suffer my pains and frustrations and disappointments? What makes me so much better than anyone else that I should think I don't "deserve" this to happen to me? Really, who does deserve to suffer? Is there one person more deserving of afflictions like cancer than another? Does one set of parents "deserve" a perfectly healthy baby more than another set of parents? Does one baby deserve to come into the world and become part of a healthy well-functioning family more than another baby? Were we really able to decide who to give pain to, how would we decide that? How, as a society, would we decide why one person over another?

I'm not going to lie. It's not easy. I've had frustrations time and time again. I've had times where it just seemed like one bad situation after another was piling on me. There have been times that I've felt that I just needed to sit down and cry, and that's precisely what I've done. Just cry. I get tired, so very tired sometimes. Sometimes I want to run and hide because I feel woefully inadequate for the responsibilities placed before me. On occasion, I have to acknowledge that it hurts to know that so many people look at my children with pity. Who wants perfect strangers to feel sorry for their children? No, it's not easy. It never has been.

To those who ask me how I do it, I want to say that I really can't imagine not doing it. Mothering these children is what I was born to do. They are my purpose. I don't know that I had the tools to provide all that they needed from day one, but I know I've worked hard to gain those tools, and in so doing I've become a better person. Facing my hardships head on has made me a stronger person in so many aspects of my life. I've looked the fear of failure in the eye and beaten it. I'm by no means the perfect mom. I never will be. But I, with all of my shortcomings, am the perfect mom for them. That I know for sure.

I don't know that my ramblings have made any sense in terms of the Why Me Syndrome I see so often. My point is simple, though. When we sit down and cry, why me, we miss out on seeing the opportunities for growth right in front of us. Whether it be growth for our caregivers in our times of physical weakness, or our own opportunities to gain knowledge, or simply the opportunity to come to really appreciate life for all it is, the opportunities are there.

My plate is full. All our plates are really overflowing with stress, worry, pain, frustration, and whatever else is weighing on us. I can't ask why me because I honestly can't think of one reason why NOT me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Am a Crazy Old Lady Magnet

If I were a smart person, I'd simply stop going shopping in places like WalMart and Target all together. We all know the history I have with these places. From unfortunate pooping incidents, to screaming children, to parking lot incidents, to who knows what else I ALWAYS have something happen when I go to either of these places. The truth is that it doesn't really matter where I go. I will have something happen. I should probably go ahead and plant a garden complete with some free range chickens and milking cows. (I guess that's really called a farm, isn't it?) If I could become completely self-reliant I wouldn't ever have to leave the house again and would therefore avoid any possibility of unfortunate incidents. That said, just imagine the potential blog fodder that would come should I be the one running a farm.

So, what has been the latest and greatest shopping issue? OLD PEOPLE with coupons and competitors' advertisements. I'm not suggesting that I have a problem with elderly people. I think they have something wonderful to offer to society. If we could learn more from the history that our elderly carry with them, we would prevent a huge portion of societal problems that we see today. See? I do value old people. But we need to discuss their shopping habits.

Without fail, every. single. time. I go to the store, I choose the wrong check-out line. It seems like common sense, right? Choose the line with the least people in it who also have the emptiest baskets. I mean, don't we all do that? Really? Is there any other way to pick a check-out line?

If I am using the same method to choose a check-out line as every other person in the store, how is it that I am always the person behind the old lady that has serious "shopping issues"?!?!? In this economy, I can understand the desire to save a penny here and there, and respect it. But, let's use a little common sense, old ladies! If the coupon says it expired four years ago, it really means it. It's no good anymore. And, no, you can't ask the checker to just scan the same coupon twelve times so you can save twenty cents on your cat food over and over and over and over again. And, really, do you need to have someone run a price check on every single thing you've purchased? It's a can of tuna, for goodness sake!!! Does sixty-nine cents vs. sixty-seven cents really make that much difference to you? REALLY?!?!? Let me just pay for that for you. Consider it a gift. No, not to you. To ME. Inevitably, I'm behind this lady and have children with me who are tired and grumpy and hungry. Without fail, I tell you!

Then there's the lady who feels the need to comp. every item in her buggy. Again, I respect the desire to save some money. I wish I could be better at it. But, if you're going to comp. every single thing, maybe do us all a favor and make sure you have the right items! Make sure the advertisement you're using to comp. with is from this century. Just like coupons, stores only honor what is still valid. Really. It's true. No amount of talking and begging is going to change that. What? You don't want the items if you can't comp. them?? Seriously? You're going to make the checker re-scan every single item so you can be sure she's done it right, and you're going to put back what isn't really a good deal for you? Wow! Just wow!

Lastly, there's the old lady who refuses to write out her check until she has fully inspected the receipt and asked for explaination of at least twenty items on the check. Would it be so much to ask that you check your receipt later? How many errors can there be after you've made the checker unload and re-scan every item with you standing there breathing down her neck?

Honestly, every shopping trip in the past three weeks has resulted in me getting in line behind these very sweet old people. The best part is that, since I'm stuck in the line for who knows how long, these same old people feel like they need to touch Little Guy, make comments about his oxygen, and hearing aids, and point out that birth control is an option. Let me just help you out, you lovely elderly people. Let me just go ahead and answer your questions right here for you so that you don't have to ask them.
"Does he really need that oxygen thing?" No! I just thought it looked really cool and was trying to start a new trend. Before long, everyone is going to have their babies wearing oxygen.
"Those are hearing aids in his ears? Does he really have a hearing loss?" Again, nope. I am just really trying to start this new trend. You know, so that we can teach children from infancy to be more accepting of Deaf people and people who need oxygen.
"Are all these kids your's?" No, of course not! I just don't think a trip to Wal Mart on Saturday is at all complete without half a dozen kids. I went ahead and borrowed these extras from my neighbors.
"You do know what causes all these children, right?" No, would you mind telling me. I'd like diagrams and flow charts, please. OR, my personal favorite answer to that one: Yes. I do know what causes it. But, I'm trying to do my duty according to God by using my talents. Is it my fault that my talents cause children to come?
And, while we're at it, please stop touching Little Guy. I know he's adorable. (He gets that from me, you know.) I know you feel sorry that he has to wear that oxygen. (And, you shouldn't feel sorry, by the way. He loves the oxygen. It keeps him from turning blue. Really.) I know there is nothing more irrestible than a sweet baby smiling up at you and kicking his adorable legs for all he's worth. But, please, if you think he's that cute, tell him from a distance. Look at him, talk to him, make stupid faces at him, do what you want. Just do it from a distance.

Well, I feel much better now that I've let out that little rant. I think it's probably been festering for a while. I think that little release should keep me good to go for at least the next four or five shopping trips. Honestly, I think it's just time to accept the fact that I am a crazy old lady magnet.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How'd I Get Here in the First Place?

Lots of changes are happening in our family. Really none of it is horrible. Just changes. Some good, some scary, and some just....well, just. The King's plant is closing its doors in about a year in a half. We thought we had a plan of action, but things changed. Not necessarily for the bad. Just changed, which means we get to spend more time wondering where we'll be. Our pediatrician is leaving. We all know how I feel about that. Our children are growing and hitting life's little milestones one after another. At any rate, all these changes mean I have to sit down a little and ask where we're going from here.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I can't really determine where I'm going until I acknowledge where I've been, or at least try to determine what the thing was that got me here in the first place. Obviously choosing the King was the pivotal point that got me where I am. I mean, let's face it. Without him, there wouldn't be five little people running around calling me Mommy all the time. But, what was it that got me to the point that I was good enough to deserve such a great guy? What happened? What moment or series of events led me to the good life I chose?

It's plain and simple. I'm lucky. I am just about the luckiest person who ever walked this great Earth. I very obviously have a Father in Heaven who saw something in me and did His darndest to save me for whatever it is He wants me to be. I am lucky. I am lucky to have had a biological dad who signed the papers to turn me over to my mother and her family. Had he stayed in my life, I would have taken his path of less resistance. So, I'm lucky he signed those papers. I am lucky to have had grandparents, nutty as they are, who took me in at eight years old instead of letting me become a foster care statistic. I am lucky to have had a birth mom who came with a truckload of issues. Her issues impacted me in that they made me stronger. I'm resilient. I always come out on top, not necessarily unscathed, but always on top.

Obviously, the King and my children are the biggest evidence of my luck. There is never any question of that. As for the pivotal thing that happened to me in my life to get me here, there has never been any question of that, either. It all goes back to luck (and the undeniable hand of God in my life).

I was thirteen years old when luck hit me once again. My favorite uncle and aunt had just had their son, and two weeks later moved away across the country. I was crushed. I cried and moped and was just generally sad. At that moment, it felt like my motivation for making good choices had just disappeared.

Enter Min and Hen. This moment. This day that they moved in five houses from my home is still fresh in my mind. I didn't know it on that day, and wouldn't really realize it for almost a decade, but that day was the day guardian angels came into my life.

Min and Hen just happened to be Mormon, like me. Imagine that!! Two LDS families in CT living on the same street. Unheard of! Min and Hen happened to have something I loved, a bargaining chip of sorts. They had a baby boy, and a baby girl was on the way. And they needed a babysitter. Jackpot!! I didn't feel at that time that I was good at much, but I was a pretty good babysitter. That babysitting job was life altering.

I got a lot out of being with Min and Hen, which was good because I spent a LOT of time with them. In time, they even gave me my own house key. Hen was a typical guy in a lot of ways, except he was a "smart guy". He used big words, and I usually pretended to know what they meant before going home and opening my dictionary. My favorite word from Hen: Scatological. Not sure what it means? Look it up. It fits me well. Really.

Then there was Min. She taught me how to sew on her sewing machine. I must have made four thousand hair scrunchies. (Don't get all excited, people. I don't remember even a little bit of how to sew. I can barely sew on a button anymore.) She gave me real responsibilities in her home. She trusted me.

It was the little things they did. They made me a real part of their family. I went on their little vacations and day trips with them. Min even got a cookie jar with my name on it and kept it stocked with my favorite cookies. When my family went on vacations, I stayed behind. And I stayed with Min and Hen.

From all this, it sounds like I just happened to work for a nice little family who happened to like discussing poop (did you look up the definition of Hen's word yet?) and knew what kind of cookies I liked. It was more than that, though. I don't know if they intended it from day one, or if maybe they realized later on down the road that there was a need, or if it was just...well, luck. I don't know what it was, but they inspired me.

Something about them made me want to make right choices. I didn't ever want to let them down. That's not to suggest by any means that I didn't screw up here and there. I most certainly did. (Hopefully to this day they don't know ALL of my screw-ups!) But, I wanted to be better for them. They made me a part of their family, and I wanted to deserve that privilege. They were NORMAL. It was like I had finally become part of a "typical family" with a mom and a dad who loved each other and respected each other. All these years of knowing them, and I still don't know if Min and Hen fight. If they do, they do it behind closed doors where their children aren't privy to it. Finally, I was part of a family and I didn't want to blow it.

In the eighth grade, I started smoking. I don't think it was much more than curiosity and it didn't last long. My worst nightmare would have been Min finding out and looking at me with that one look she had when she was disappointed and disapproving. She didn't give me that look often really. I remember getting it when I started dating a guy she either didn't like or maybe just knew I shouldn't have been with. I may have gotten it a time or two when I was beyond disrespectful to my parents. I just remember wanting so badly to never see that look again. I didn't want to disappoint her. I wanted to deserve to be a part of this amazing family. And, eventually somewhere somehow, I came to realize I didn't have to work so hard. I was in. They accepted me with no questions asked unconditionally-even with the mistakes.

Shortly before my senior year, the worst case scenario (I thought at the time) happened. Hen was being transferred. To the exact opposite side of the country!!! I worried about what I'd do without them. (And I happen to know they wondered what I'd do without them.) We kept in touch all the time. They weren't with me physically, but they were with me in thought and spirit. And I survived that year. Mostly.

When I moved away to college, I'd spend my summers with Min and Hen. I lived in their garage, and I loved it there. I worked at a local daycare center, attended a singles ward in their area, and got a real view of what a family could be. They laid the groundwork for what I would base my own marriage and life around.

The day I was married, Hen signed the marriage certificate as a withness. Min stood in as my mom. (My own mom couldn't come and my grandparents boycotted the wedding-that's a whole other blog post.) Their daughters were my flower girls.

Looking back on it all now, I know what really happened. A Father in Heaven put them in that little house down the street from me at a time when I was most vulnerable and also most malleable. They didn't need me to babysit. I needed them to be examples in my life. I needed them to show me what marriage, life, and truly living the gospel of Jesus Christ could be. I needed them.

They laid the groundwork, and then when the time was right, they were literally the ones to stand beside me and send me off into the life I was destined to live. They are still there in the wings cheering me on, wondering what on earth possesses me to do the crazy things I do, and always having every ounce of faith in me that I'll succeed. And I haven't let them down yet...I hope.

So, I don't really know where on this planet our family will wind up. I don't know what sort of goofy antics my children will get me into, or what sort of medical/developmental surprises they have in store for me. Wherever it is that we, as a family, and us as a couple and I as wife-mom-me wind up, I know it'll be okay. I know that because I know what got me here in the first place.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Didn't Think Pretty Could Be Any Prettier

It's never been a secret that I looooooove having a Pretty. Since the day she was born, I have loved doing her hair. For her first 2 1/2 years or so, she really only had one or two hairs on her head. Well, that and an unfortunate mullet that we trimmed for her before it became a big enough issue that permanant emotional damage could be done. I would style those two hairs to the death. I always had a new hair nobby or big clippy to put in there. As it got longer, delighted in putting it in braids, clips, pony tails, and anything else I could do with it. It was long enough that it was almost half way down her back.

As much as I loved how long and princess-like it had become, I also knew that it was getting scraggly. She really needed a good cut that would help her get rid of the dead ends and give her hair a chance to grow in a little thicker and healthier. So, yesterday I took the plunge. I finally let her get her first official haircut. And I did it on a whim.

She was so proud. She loved wearing the cape, having her hair squirted with bottled water, feeling the chair go up and down, and seeing all of her long locks on the floor. I, however, was sitting in the chair next to her feeling the need to breathe deeply into a brown paper bag.

In the end, she was as beautiful as ever. Maybe even prettier than she was minutes before. She walked out with her hair about at her chin undercut into a bob. I blew it out for her today, and I'm just astounded by how beautiful she really is. We won't even talk about how grown up she looks. She's a little lady now.
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