She said, She said….College edition

 

pandme1

This is the first in what I hope is many guest appearances on the blog.  She’s a pretty cool chick who I’m lucky enough to have as a daughter.  She is in her second year at college and we’ve gone through A LOT of changes and adjustments this previous year as we find a new “normal” having a mostly grown adult as part of the family.  I’ll go first and explain the changes I’ve found to be challenging, rewarding, scary, etc. as we’ve navigated her first experience really away from home.

Let’s start with a little humor before we really jump into it….

Honest College Ad – YouTube.

I think both of our expectations of what college would be like varied for both of us.  I attended a trade school immediately out of high school, entered the work force for a few years, and then attended a community college for a few years.  It was a commuter school so I didn’t experience the dorm life and a “typical” college life that awaited her.  I had NO idea what any of it would be like so we spent a lot of time what we thought was preparing her for what society says is normal college life.  Parties, late nights, no rules, shenanigans, etc.

Here’s my best advice to those of you parenting a kid who is headed off:  Strap in, throw your hands and prayers up and hope for the best.  Seriously.

Well, not really.  While my husband and I were anticipating distractions and evil and temptation lurking around every dorm corner, we neglected to think about the real things she’d be facing.  Time management, phone and meeting skills with professors, taking care of financial obligations (housing, checking meal plans, etc.), making and keeping appointments both at school and organizing them when she was scheduled to be at home… We have come to realize that we did her a huge disservice growing up by handling those kinds of things for her instead of teaching her along the way how to do them herself.  I think this is because of being a parent of a special needs child (her sister), we always tried to anticipate and intercept problems before they occurred so they didn’t become one more thing we had to deal with down the line or a mess we didn’t have to clean up if we could head it off before it happened.  While that may work for Madie, it didn’t teach Paige all the skills she would need on her own.  Things like needing to go pay a housing bill or just calling an office when she’d rather stay and watch one more mindless episode of Archer on Netflix.   Advice: Make sure they are prepared for these things – time management is KEY!  That’s easier said than done for me as well as Paige.  I struggle with procrastination and getting overwhelmed when there is so many things to remember as does she so I tried to prepare her to break tasks down into manageable chunks and make lists.

Perhaps my most challenging adjustment I needed to make in myself was judging her decisions and choices.  Let’s be honest – how many of us as adults make bad choices ourselves?  My hand is raised and waving in the air here at my house.  Your kid is not the same person as you are.  They are still learning.  Yes, age wise they can vote.  However, being their first taste of freedom is scary and exciting both and who doesn’t want to experience it all at once.  Yes, there are temptations lurking around every corner like we tried to lecture her before she left home.  We were forgetting that temptations also were everywhere even while she lived at home and for the most part, she handled them well so why did we assume it would be different?  We tried to teach responsibility and safety as number one concern and I believe she learned that well.  Does that mean she sits in her dorm room studying at all times like we think she should?  Ummmm, have you met her?  For those who haven’t, I assure you, this isn’t her and we shouldn’t have expected that.  However, we’ve found that although she’s places we would rather her not be, we have to trust that we taught her well.

Through really honest conversation with both myself, her dad, and her, we sat with her and discussed what was the worst that could happen if she procrastinated too much and didn’t take care of things like meetings, phone calls, appointments, bills, etc.  It was really freeing for us and her to discover that life would go on.  Noone would physically get hurt.  None of these things were life or death.  While the outcome was not one she’d enjoy (having to move back home, leave college, work a few jobs to pay off loans, etc.), it was up to her to decide to take care of obligations or not.  Which outcome did she want? It was up to her.  I believe when we put it that way, and came to realize it ourselves, it became more enjoyable and exciting to view opportunities as a means to an outcome she truly wanted.  I stopped checking up on her (as much :) ) and handed over responsibility to her and watched her become proud of herself when she handled things on her own.  She has always been fiercely independent – to a fault sometimes, I tell her…and things became a power struggle when we tried to micro manage her.  Why did we think we could do that from so far away?

Another thing I’ve tried to do is not to ask too many questions about social life things.  The first year was SO hard not knowing who she was hanging out with, what were they doing, who was she crushing on, that sort of stuff. I asked ALL THE TIME.  I got on her nerves.  I hated myself for asking those questions.  So sue me. I’m nosy.  I live vicariously through her.  It killed me to know she was having adventures I didn’t know about.  Guess what?  Did my parents know where I ate lunch and with who when I was on my own at first or even now years later?  Did they know what time I went to bed, for heaven’s sake?  Did I take my medicine this morning?  Geesh, I was UNBEARABLE!  Sorry Paige!  Now, I try to be content with the info she gives me.  When I ask less, she offers more – it’s pretty cool!

Last thing from me…trust that you taught them well.  Trust them.  Will they make great choices all the time?  Do you?!?  Will they be okay even if they make a bad choice?  Probably.  Hopefully they’ll learn and not repeat it.  Hopefully they’ll ask for help when they need it or figure it out.  I pray (A LOT) to put people in her path exactly when she needs them and God never fails at that.  She’s a pretty cool kid.  She’s come really far in a year.  She’s *sigh* growing up and finding her way.  I hate it and I love it.  I’ll enjoy the time she gives me fiercely. I’ll enjoy her just being her and I’ll be alright if it’s different than what I THINK it should be.

Her turn:

Sorry in advance if I keep this short and sweet – I’m a college student, how much time do you think I have to sit and write a blog?? (Actually, it’s a lot. Thank God for syllabus week!)

Anyway, I think my parents did a good job of getting me to be able to adjust to the social part of being at school. Moving around a lot throughout my childhood made me incredibly easily adaptable and I’m pretty good at making new acquaintances, whether or not they end up being my good friends. I was a little worried at first about finding people to spend my time with, but throughout my almost two years here I’ve learned that doing things alone isn’t as bad as it’s made to seem. I spend a lot of time by myself now, and I don’t mind it at all! While I was terrified of doing so last year because I didn’t exactly have the greatest thoughts that I wanted to be alone with, I feel much better about my situation now and I’m content with being alone. So that aspect of college life isn’t too bad at all.

Moving on now to the academic parts. I’ll admit that I’m not the greatest student. In elementary and middle school and some of high school, I was just the “smart kid” and I didn’t really have to apply myself at all in order to get good grades. I’m naturally pretty intelligent (thanks mom and dad!) and I let myself slide by. However, that’s not applicable in college. At all. I struggled last year with making myself stay motivated and excited to learn. Especially during the winter, when walking from class to class is a NIGHTMARE. Especially with the snow on the ground. So I’ll admit that I didn’t get the best grades or do too well in general. As my mom said, I’m a HUGE procrastinator, so I would just sit around and wait until the day something was due to actually hurry and get it done. I like to say I work best under pressure, and while that may be true, I don’t want to put myself through that stress anymore, so this year I’ve been really working on that aspect of my life. Already I’ve been getting better grades and actually applying myself makes me feel super accomplished and great!

Finally, the “real world” aspect of college. This is the part that really terrifies me and makes me nervous. The real world is SO SCARY!!! Who knew?! I always thought that I could sit on my parents’ shoulders and they would carry me and kick down over all the roadblocks in my life, but now I’m learning that I have to crawl over them myself. Paying bills to make sure I have a place to live, making phone calls and having meetings with people who could make or break my future, and learning to save my money so I can budget it and not be poor and homeless is honestly really really hard for me. I don’t WANT to give 3,000 dollars away to housing, I want it for myself! I realize that I really have to work on that aspect of myself, otherwise I’ll end up living “in a box on the beach,” as my mom says (although she says she thinks I would be fine doing so!). I don’t want to be an adult and I don’t want to grow up and have real responsibilities, but then I guess nobody does. Sure I had a personal finance class in high school that taught me how to balance a checkbook and make a resume, but what the heck are taxes?! Who gets that money?! Why do I get some back??! I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. But I’m trying to learn and get things done as quickly and diligently as possible, and so far I haven’t been kicked out onto the street yet for not paying my housing bill. I guess I’ll just fake it till I make it, and by make it I mean know what on earth I’m doing.

I guess this actually got really lengthy and I don’t even really know what I talked about, because when I start to write it all just sort of flows out of me and I don’t even know if it really makes sense, but I think that my mom and I have gotten a lot closer as I have been at school and I think that we will continue to do so as I get more and more mature and work on myself and we continue to be honest with each other. I don’t really know how to end a blog post but I guess that that’s just me- for real!

-Paige

Why I don’t watch the news…

I HATE the news.  Television news, the newspaper, news websites, etc.  With a few exceptions, almost all news is sensationalized, tweaked and edited to show the most doom and gloom as possible.  Inciting dissension and unhappiness is their MO.  If the public isn’t scared of the latest threat, they aren’t doing their job.

I can’t live like that.  I can’t believe people are mostly bad.  Yes, there are those out their that just exemplify evil.  They are the exception and people forget that.  Why are stories of the good in people buried or thrown in as an afterthought?  What is wrong with us as a society that we almost glamorize the horrible things going on and don’t celebrate the good people are doing?

I know this isn’t public opinion in most circles but I don’t think all the younger generation is going to hell in a handbasket.  God, I felt old writing that – when did I exit the younger generation and “hell in a handbasket?!” Really, Deena, step up your cool game would you?!   I think many of them are doing amazing things.  Yes, some are selfish, many are self absorbed.  We were too if I remember correctly.  It’s history.  Hello, it’s always been that way.  I think, though, that there is a HUGE number of them that are fed up with how things are going and are striving to change things.  They are getting a bad rap.  Many of them are getting involved.  Watch this video below.  It’ll bring you to tears or you aren’t human.  These kids are incredible.  (it’s lengthy – hang in there….it’s TOTALLY worth watching until the end)

E:60 Dedication Game – YouTube.

This stuff happens more than is reported.  How can we remain optimists if we watch the crap they program every day on local networks?  Think of the most pessimistic person you know….news watcher?  Newspaper reader?!

Wanna live happier and believe in people again?  Check out sites like Godvine.com.  Yes, it’s a Christian site but it’s not “preachy”.  Check out Upworthy.com   It’s thought provoking and yes, sometimes, it hits you hard but it’s inspirational.

I’m not a ostrich burying my head in the sand to avoid life’s struggles.  I know enough…I’m on Facebook where you can’t escape it but it’s not where I put my focus.  I can’t.  I decided long ago I won’t live in fear every day and I can’t watch the news and stay positive and loving people.  People are good.  I HAVE to believe that or I’d want to hide and give up.  Look inside your circle of people you know…they are good, right?

Focus on the good, people.   Have hope in others.  Love one another.

Great place to start:

http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/more/about-us/

Good news is available.  Now read it and spread it!

 

still? after 15 years?

You know how your kids gain independence as they get older?  Well, here’s a glimpse into our reality with our littlest little.  Our whole first floor of our house is a bit of a wreck today because we got our family room carpet steam cleaned this morning.  Our family room….keep that in mind.  So, I warmed up lunch for the Madster and took it into our dining room.  I’m not one of those moms who fuss (too much) about the dining room.  We actually use it if we are lucky enough to all eat together.  I don’t fuss (too much) about the white carpet and the cream colored cushions on the chairs.  Our kitchen table was moved because our family room furniture was just slid into the kitchen so Madster was eating in the dining room instead.  After a few bites in, this happened…

image

and this was AFTER I flipped the bowl right side up.  Black beans and rice all over the carpet that was NOT just cleaned.  It was an accident so I wasn’t mad at her just a bit sad that after 15 years, we are still cleaning up messes like this.  For those of you who say “well, my kid is “normal” and they still make a mess!,”  I ask you this; is it a normal occurrence or just a rare event?  Just an inconvenience or what you deal with routinely?  Like I said, this is our normal and we can’t get upset with her when accidents happen but sometimes reality makes us a bit melancholy.  The good outweighs the bad but God has a sick sense of humor, right?  Right after we get the carpet cleaned? REALLY?!?!  Ugh.

and to add insult to injury, while I was attempting the cleanup, she was emptying out the fridge in the kitchen to find something else to eat since her meal had the audacity to dump itself on the dining room floor.  One thing after another after another after another…..

Food is my nemesis and my best friend

This is me during the holidays.

http://embodypolefitness.com/blog/recover-from-eating-too-much/

This is me after the holidays.

http://www.howtogetridofindigestion.com/tag/bloating-and-gas

 

I hate food.  I love food.  I have NO willpower when it applies to food.  Let’s delve into the psychology of this, shall we?

I can remember nights, right before bed growing up,  sitting at our kitchen counter with my mom having a snack of milk and cookies or some other yumminess while she drank tea.  I relished those quiet times with her and normally we just sat quietly or talked about the next day.  Any family event, like most families, revolved around food and were spent in the kitchen.  Many special foods were normally only made at certain times of the year so we looked forward to them with anticipation.  Polish foods, foods too time consuming to make on an ordinary basis.  My dad was almost always home for mealtimes so those also were times to enjoy.  My mom cooked every day and while I hated some things she cooked (SPAM, really?!?!?!), I loved the times spent around the table.  I remember a standoff one night between me and the asparagus and my mother.  The asparagus and my mom won and it’s not very enjoyable cold and shriveled.   Guess that’s what happens after a decade staring at me on the plate while I stubbornly refused to eat it.  hhhmmm, guess ALL mealtimes weren’t great….

The above scenarios are pretty typical for many people.  I have carried over my sick affair with food into adulthood and have come to both loathe my addiction to food and love the comfort of it.  I have come to also HATE the fact that being 800 lbs is unhealthy.  One of God’s great jokes on humanity I suppose.

I have always used food as a reward.  When something good happens, who doesn’t go eat as celebration?  Got through another day? Well, good for you – here’s a cupcake.   Vacuumed the carpet? Well, you deserve a 6 pack for that!!!!

Special treats are cheap.  It’s not hard to justify a cookie at Starbucks with that coffee but I don’t think the hubs would particularly jump for joy at my elation with the purchase of a new outfit just for wiping down the bathroom counter.

I can also eat while driving.  Try explaining to the cop why you are enjoying that cocktail while driving that it’s your reward because it’s Friday!  The same cop probably wouldn’t bat an eyelash if I had French fry salt smeared all over my face and empty McD bags on the floor.  He may judge me but that’s hardly worth a ticket!

I’d really like to drink every time I wanted to eat!  At least at some point, I’d stop because I passed out!  I think that’s a little frowned upon as a middle aged mom :(

I can also indulge while multitasking.  Some say “exercise when you feel like eating” or “just go into another room and read a book.”  Aside from the fact that I will punch anyone who seriously thinks EXERCISE is a NOT a swear word, who in their right mind can exercise or read for the same amount of time it takes to eat half that cake that somehow mysteriously showed up on my kitchen counter?  Also, I can eat said cake while I’m cooking dinner for the family, or folding laundry, or watching TV….Those things take time I don’t have!  Also, I will eat out of frustration BECAUSE I don’t have time to read that book I’ve wanted to pick up the last few days.

I’m really trying to come to terms with food.  I have conversations with it.  “I hate how you shrink my clothes,” “You make me feel so happy,”” I hate how you make me feel 16 months pregnant,”,”Why do you call to me from the bakery window?”  Sometimes it whispers back.

Time to fight back, food.  I’m switching to gum. (Glad they make dessert flavored gum now!!!!) Place your bets as to who will win…time will tell….

 

oh, internet…you slay me

 

I just love the rabbit hole that is the internet.  Nothing quite sucks your time like trying to “quickly” locate something you need to find.  Case in point:  The other day I was trying to find a picture to add to a previous post and typed in “stressed” into my search engine on the free royalty image page I try to use (I’m trying to be legal and all that….citing sources is just way to much work :) ).

So I type in “stressed,” trying to find a picture something like this:stress-543658_640

This pretty much depicts what I feel like after a long day.  Imagine my surprise when I typed in “stressed” and this is actually the picture that kept popping up:urinary-incontinence-103063_640 You are oh so welcome for that visual that you wished you had never seen.   Can anyone please tell me how a gentleman with urinary incontinence would be an acceptable picture for “stressed?”  I know, I know, I’d be stressed also if that were me in that position but maybe they meant it would cause me stress to see that picture?  Either way, you can see how frustrated I was to see ridiculous pictures when I just wanted a relevant image!!

That being said, I will post images I now find easily – legality be damned.  Well, not actually, I just I’ll just suck it up and cite my sources.  Besides who doesn’t love fun images instead of just reading words.  Here are some other funny ones just for your pleasure.  P (my older little who I admitted was off limits but is acceptable here because I’m not talking ABOUT her) like to send each other goofy pics just to amuse each other.  Here are some previous giggles we’ve sent each other….don’t judge, it’s our weird way of bonding!  Enjoy. And you’re welcome!

 

“My story”

I wrote the below essay as I was considering membership to a previous church we attended.  We were asked to consider our spiritual journey and discover our story of transformation in Christ.  Having a special needs child makes you look at things so differently and it’s a grieving process that you have to go through when you realize what you thought was going to be your “normal” isn’t going to be your reality.  I was asked to give my testimony in front of the congregation because it tied in so well with the series we were going through at the time about the prodigal son.  The son who stayed behind and “did the right thing” became so bitter and angry and the “prodigal son” who strayed, ran away, and lived life by cultures norm.  I related strongly to the “one who stayed” and this is what I presented as “my story.”  I’m praying this gives you a little insight into why we view both of our children as perfect!

After my husband and I were married for five years, we decided to start a family and were blessed with an amazing, perfect little girl, who we named Paige.  After a few years of having an only child,I convinced my husband into another child so Paige would have a sibling like I had growing up.  A few years later we had our second daughter, Madison, but at 10 months we started voicing our concerns to our doctor about her not pulling up to stand on time.  She also hadn’t developed any verbal language but doctors didn’t seem too concerned and we let time pass hoping she would just catch up.

            After many years, countless doctors, hospitals, inconclusive tests, lots of shrugged shoulders, and comments such as “hmmm, we’ve never seen a child like her before…”, we were given the diagnosis of mental retardation.  Shocked and convinced that this couldn’t be and didn’t sound like our daughter, we explored a second opinion and she was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder,  which placed her on the autism spectrum.  Neither the 1st or 2nd diagnosis led to any answers and no hope.

How on earth did this happen to our family?  We were “good Christians.”  We did the right things, wore the right clothes to church, and even showed up each Sunday!  For any parent of a child with a special need, there is a profound loss and grief that comes when your child isn’t close to “normal.”  While we were going through all the motions, just like the brother who stayed, inside I was black, dead, and empty.  Filled with so much anger towards God, guilt for talking my husband into another child and changing his future forever as well as giving Paige a future she never asked for,  I was so self absorbed and disgusted with my situation, that most days I wanted to walk out the door and never come back.  Life wasn’t fair. 

            I know so well, the unfairness and disappointment of the older brother who remained at home.  While in his fathers’ presence, who I can only believe was loving and giving and all things a father should be, his heart was broken.  I know the pain he felt watching his father rejoice and bless the prodigal upon his return.  I wondered how could others such as junkies and abusers be blessed by God with perfect healthy children they abused and neglected when we had an imperfect child?

While struggling with my own resentment, I stumbled upon a novel by a Christian author about a mom whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver.  I was blown away with the mother’s resolve to hold onto her anger and realized she was really me.  In this book, the author referred to Lamentations in the Bible where Jeremiah cries out in anger to God.  For the first time in years I opened my Bible and poured over Lamentations.  Sobbing each time I spent time with God through his word, I now discovered that God didn’t desert us and in fact, was relentlessly pursuing me and for the first time ever I understood that I couldn’t do it on my own.  God was reaching for me to have an honest relationship and was big enough to handle ALL my emotions, especially my anger, fear, and sadness.  He was pursuing me through worship each Sunday at church, pastors, small groups, sometimes so directly and clearly it literally took my breath away.  My eyes were opened to a true honest REAL relationship through his Holy Spirit.

Madison is now eleven and most days are very challenging and exhausting, but the peace and happiness releasing it all to Christ our Savior is indescribable.  God NEVER makes mistakes and almost every day, I see him and hear him reassuring me that ALL things are PERFECT “in his time.”  Whether I ever hear “I love you, mom” and she’s healed here on earth or in heaven rejoicing with her Heavenly Father someday, God gave us, really, TWO perfect gifts in our family, and I’m so thankful he didn’t give up on me and came after me when I was too blind to turn to him first.