The Story of Boy Part 1

I have permission to tell his story. It took a year and it took us coming to the understanding that while he wants to forget it, his mom can’t. Because it isn’t just Boy’s story. It is his family’s story. A beautiful and funny family who are far from perfect and who are struggling intensely while managing to keep their heads above water …

Until they no longer could and they crashed into an abyss.

I asked the oldest sibling if he minded if I told their story because even though it is Boy’s it is also his … He appreciates I considered his feelings, since many forget it is his story too. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants to forget and move on. I get that, but sometimes the story needs to be told for everyone to be able to move on. He grudgingly understands some can’t heal until they can tell their part. I respect his side won’t be told until he is ready. We have an understanding.

So what is this story?

It is the story of a boy unlike any other. A boy who is a super hero, his greatest strength also being his greatest weakness. That is his story … His strength becoming his weakness.

Boy was born on a cold winter day and with the great capacity to feel far more deeply than most humans. This may not seem like much, but don’t underestimate the power of feelings.

Boy’s empathy is so great that even as a tiny toddler he would cry and ask his mom to save all the orphans. Heartwrenching sobs for vague humans he never even saw a picture of, but knew existed.

Boy has struggles in life; his world is black & white but the real world is full of grey. He doesn’t understand grey, but he feels it into his bones and because of that he struggles. He is a warrior and his mother is his guide.

It is this deep empathy though that also created Boy’s biggest struggle because his feelings and emotions manifested so deeply into him that he would personalize it and own it in his soul. And there began the struggle …

You cannot speak words into Boy without his heart and soul immediately claiming them as truth. This means that as a child he was funny, loving, energetic, smart, and all the beautiful words parents tell their children. This also means that as Boy got older he clutched onto the words of others including stupid, slow, annoying, trouble, liar, gay …. words that weren’t true, but he owned them as his because in his black & white world why would anyone tell him things that are untrue?

The worst were the words from trusted adults. Yes. Adults. Adults whose only job was to love him and show him Christ’s love. The task they had wasn’t hard, yet they met him with judgement, unkindness, and even disgust. They believe so deeply in the lie of complete conformity that they were unwilling to see the beauty of differences. So instead of helping him blossom they crushed him over a period of months until he exploded.

During this time Mom saw and tried to make it better. She tried to get the adults to see. She tried to create positive change. What she missed was the internal struggle in Boy was terrible, like gnashing teeth against his soul. He became irritable, irrational, and even mean.

His brain finally told him “The world is better off without you.” And in that moment he walked upstairs, closed his door, and tightened a belt around his throat and pulled until he collapsed on his floor.

His mom was sitting at her desk. Something in the air was off. She could feel it. The aura of the house was different. Her heart was pounding and she didn’t know why. She got up and walked straight into Boy’s room, hitting his head with the door as she opened it because she didn’t know he was laying there. She remembers she felt terrible for opening the door on him. “Oh my gosh, Boy! Why are you on the floor? Are you ok?” And she grabbed his shoulder and turned him over and saw the belt.

And she screamed.

She screamed and screamed and screamed and her fingers fumbled horribly with the belt until she got it off.

He had a pulse still. Faint. But it was there.

And the oldest was next to her and she was screaming and he was pushing his sisters down the stairs so they wouldn’t see.

I won’t tell anymore of his story since he wants to forget it. I respect that. But know he was there. He saw it all. It hasn’t been an easy year for him. His story is his to tell if he ever decides he needs to and not for you to ask him about, but know he was there and he saw it all.

There were so many police and she just kept apologizing. She failed. She failed at protecting her family. She failed as a mom. She kept saying “I am so sorry.” Her husband came home from work and the ambulance took him and Boy away. And she apologized. “I am sorry we inconvenienced you. Yes the rest of the kids are safe. No we have never had a problem like this before. Yes we will get help. I am so sorry.”

She made her way to the hospital. She knows the roads well enough that she can’t remember how she got there, but she did …. And she apologized to the desk worker for not knowing where her son was and to the nurses who took care of Boy and to whom ever would listen to her pleading voice asking to be forgiven for failing.

Boy survived. He got help (that continues even now) and some days are still rough, but he is a warrior.

Mom … well, some days we still wonder how her story will end …

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Let Them be Little

My kids are playing with a cheap $5 plastic bowling set. Zen is sleeping. Where I am sitting I have the perfect view of their game. It is loud and wonderful. They are playing nicely; not something that happens all the time. I can’t take my eyes off them and honestly writing one line of this post takes more than 10 minutes because the kids are fascinating to watch.  I can’t help but look at them and see them as…kids.
So many times I look at them, especially the older 2, and I see my expectations of what they should be able to do. I forget they still need to climb and run and play. 

Earlier I was watching a video on a blog and it said “Though she grows, she is still so small.” That simple phrase grabbed me.

It speaks volumes to me. She is not suggesting her child is small for her age. She is stating that the age of 2 is still little. It is so true. Step back and look at your child with some perspective. How did you used to see a 2 year old before you had one? I am guessing you regarded them as a baby still. Your expectations probably weren’t grand. You didn’t expect them to know their colors and write their name. They are still so little. Yet as soon as we have our own we force them to grow too fast. I am not saying do not allow your child to develop and discover. I am saying just let them be little. Follow their cues. Let them be curious and discover at their own pace. Keep it age appropriate. 

I forced my oldest to grow up too fast. My expectations changed with my second.  can never change that fact I expected more from my eldest child than I did from my students who were older than him. I was never mean or forceful, I was just always ready to start the next thing with him and didn’t allow either of of us to savor the moments. Perspective and hind sight…..

With each child my expectations change. They are only little for a small glimmer of time and those days can be exhaustively long. I know this too well. I will, however, let my kids be little for as long as they need to be.

*written 3 years ago and rediscovered today 11/7/2016.

~Andrea

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3 is not too old to be rocked to sleep. Savoring the moments.

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Letting her make the pizza dough. Her joy is worth it all. 

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Letting her conquer her fears at her own pace makes the success that much sweeter. 

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As they get older they can still play….even if it makes your heart beat harder in fear. 

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Imagine, measure, cut, paint, create…..Making wands.

Crossroads

This year has been emotionally hard on me. One really big reason why is I have had more days than not when I feel like homeschooling 4 kids and caring for a toddler is just not for me. The only person I have mentioned this to is Mark so this is probably going to surprise those who know me best.

I struggle nearly everyday. I am worn from it. I really feel like the 2 girls would benefit from at least a year in a formal school setting. They are so much fun to be with, but I think they both need to find some independence away from their big brothers. I would like to see them blossom into their own beings. Their brothers, bless them, hold them back a little. I know they do not realize it. They are just protective.

My oldest is also going to “officially” be in high school this next year. I would like to focus more energy on getting him situated so he can achieve his very lofty life goals. My sweet 12 year old son would stay home with me also. He struggles and over the years we have discovered the best ways to help him learn and retain information. They are very nontraditional methods so a traditional school setting really wouldn’t be in his best interest.

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Elf is turning into a bookworm. She loves books as much as her eldest brother!

What do I do? I really do not want to send the girls to public school. I am not criticizing public school at all. My oldest went to public school for 2 years and Elf went for half a year until we changed school districts. My objection is personal to our family dynamics, beliefs, and goals. These are things that each family must personally decide on. For me, public school isn’t really an option at this time. I say “at this time” because I am not so bold as to say I am 100% against it. I am open for a change of mind and heart so long as it is the right choice for US.

That leaves private school. Who has money for that though? I have searched local schools and scholarship options. I actually have one place bookmarked that we may be able to make a reality. I have yet to get in touch with the school, but I plan to. There is also online school. That would keep the girls home without having to worry about planning their school days. That doesn’t help with my wanting them to develop themselves away from their brothers though.

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Princess making a cake while Zen watches. 

I really have no idea what I am going to do. Although Mark and I are a team, this is ultimately my decision since I am the one who is home all day with the kids. I know I have my husband’s support and that does make it easier. I know that when I make a decision he will back me up. That is a good feeling. Right now though, I am torn. I am not 100% convinced either way. I am no closer to an answer than I was in October. Time is not on my side. I need to make a decision sooner rather than later.

Why am I bothering telling you all of this if I am at a loss for what I am going to do? Well, writing it all out makes it more real. I need to see how I will react once I start getting feedback, because I know there will be feedback. Also, I feel like I can’t be the only parent struggling with the decision on what type of schooling is best for their child(ren). I want others to know they aren’t alone. The struggle is real. We are all just trying to do what is best and it is OK to doubt through the process.
~Andrea

This Week in Pictures January 9-15 2015

Here is a look at random moments from our lives this past week. It was a bit crazy, but full of fun. Enjoy!

Mark and C-Dog playing air hockey at the YMCA before swim practice

Mark and C-Dog playing air hockey at the YMCA before swim practice.

Elf decided that her bed was a cozier place to do school work than at the desk or table.

Elf decided that her bed was a cozier place to do school work than at the desk or table.

Bug after swim team practice. We were waiting for C-Dog to get out of the shower.

Bug after swim team practice. We were waiting for C-Dog to get out of the shower.

I decided to pull out some old costumes. C-Dog was loving Mark's cloak but Sunny was a bit leery.

I decided to pull out some old costumes. C-Dog was loving Mark’s cloak but Sunny was a bit leery.

Family breakfast. Recipe to follow soon! Be on the look-out for it.

Family breakfast. Recipe to follow soon! Be on the look-out for it.

Elf decided to help Princess with her school. Sisters and friends. Princess is learning to spell her color words.

Elf decided to help Princess with her school. Sisters and friends. Princess is learning to spell her color words.

Road Trip to New York

At the beginning of August Mark and I packed up the 5 kids and dog and took the nearly 24 hour trip to upstate New York. In order to avoid hotel costs Mark and I drove straight through. He definitely drove more than I did, but that is because he is just simply amazing 🙂

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Our first stop once we hit east of the Mississippi River was Dunkin Donuts. Oh my word, how I love their jelly doughnuts. I may or may not have eaten 2 😉
I have not been to any doughnut place that does their jelly doughnuts like DD. They cover them in a very fine granulated sugar. Most places use powdered sugar or glaze. I have even encountered frosted ones (blech). A few have kept them plain. None hold a candle to how DD does them though. Excuse me while I think about their yummy goodness for a minute.
OK, enough about my love affair with jelly doughnuts.

The second place we stopped was Wegmans. Ah Wegmans. How do we love thee? Sigh. I have never found a grocery store that compares to Wegmans. If you have never been then head east and go to one. Trust me. You won’t regret it. I love them and I splurged on their Greek Bar. I didn’t get stuffed grape leaves (what is wrong with me??) but I did get stuffed olives. Mmmmmm. Feta stuffed and almond stuffed to be exact. OK, now I am hungry. I need to move on.

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Our third stop was our friends’ house. They have 3 kids whom match up age-wise with 3 of our kids. We hadn’t seen them since we left New York 6 years ago. It was wonderful to catch up and finally meet their baby, who is just a bit older than Zen. I am so glad we stopped there and I pray we get to see them again soon. My only regret is we didn’t take pictures of us together! What the heck is wrong with us?!?!

The next day we took a 10 minute drive to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I have been wanting to see them for awhile now. My aunt is the sister I never had and I spent a lot of time visiting her when I lived in New York. My uncle is fighting cancer so I wanted to see him before his next treatment round. I got to see my cousin and her sons, one whom I hadn’t met yet. I also got to meet my other cousin’s girlfriend. Unfortunately he was at work so I didn’t see him.
They all got to meet Princess and Zen. Last time they had seen me I was pregnant with Princess and my cousin’s youngest was just a twinkle in her eye (meaning not conceived yet).
It was a gorgeous day and we spent it outside. The kids had a blast in my aunt’s amazing garden. They picked carrots and raspberries and broccoli and cucumbers. They washed them with the garden hose and ate them. They were in heaven. My kids love being outside and they love gardens. Overall, it was a lovely visit and i wish we could have stayed longer.

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That evening we loaded up and drove the 2 hours it would take to get to Mark’s parents’ house. They had never met Princess or Zen so this was an exciting trip.
Once we got there the kids ate snack and I dried all the clothes since they got soaked. They were in the roof carrier and it poured. Not just rain, but torrential downpour. Nothing was spared. Thank goodness we only had clothes up there! It was well past bedtime by the time the kids got tucked in.

The next day was my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary! We spent the day hanging out and then they went to dinner to celebrate alone. While they dined Mark and I brought the kids to the local YMCA to swim. When we returned Mark’s brother and sister and her family were there. His brother came up from Florida. We have seen him recently since Florida is closer for us to visit than New York, but it was still great to see him again. Mark’s sister lives close by to his parents’ house so we hadn’t seen her in 5 years. The kids were thrilled to catch up with their cousins.
It was great to see everyone again. The cousins all played together while the adults chatted.

The next day was the big day; the reason for the timing of our trip. My amazing sister-in-law had planned a dinner celebration for Mark’s parents but they had no clue that out-of-state relatives had come to help celebrate their anniversary!
We got to the restaurant where we had a private room. My sister-in-law had planned the menu and provided a cake. Mark’s parents were thrilled to see everyone. I got to meet people for the first time (crazy since Mark and I have been married over 15 years). The food was amazing and the restaurant was very patient and understanding about our food allergies. My in-laws had a great time. My sister-in-law did an amazing job making this memory.

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Once we were all done we headed to a park across the street. My sister-in-law brought fresh fruit and water for everyone, the kids played, and we got pictures taken. Overall, it was an amazing time. Again, hats off to my sister-in-law. This never would have happened if she hadn’t been planning it!

What a joy to celebrate 50 years of marriage! Not everyone makes it to this amazing milestone. My in-laws are an inspiration. They have endured a lot through life. The road wasn’t easy and yet they stuck together and walked hand-in-hand. Their story is beautiful and I am so glad my children got to help celebrate with them.

The next day we piled the kids and dog back into the van. We stopped in Rochester, NY to have lunch with a very close family friend and then headed back to MO. Yes, it was a fast trip. We didn’t get to see many people whom we love. We also didn’t get to see any sites. We missed my favorite Rochester places like the Seneca Park Zoo, Strong Museum of Play, the Science Center, and Lake Ontario just to name a few. Although Mark and I and the 3 oldest kids have been to Niagara Falls it was a long time ago. We drove by the exit and I sighed sadly. Perhaps we will be able to go back soon. We shall see….

We are cozy in our home and settling in nicely. I am scrambling to get ready for the new school year. The kids are swimming nearly every day and I am slowly catching up with friends.

The trip east was too short, but I am so glad we saw who we could. Maybe next time I won’t let 6 years pass by before I see people!

Peace and love,
Andrea

**I am careful to post pictures that do not show people’s faces unless I have their specific permission. I opted not to post my in-laws, despite the fact the trip was for them, because I have not asked them if I can post their beautiful faces 🙂

A Change of Scenery

It had only been a week since Mark left for his new job but it felt like a month. It did not help that is had rained all week long. Sure we played in the rain when we could, but more often than not thunder and lightening accompanied the rain so we were stuck inside.

I love my children desperately but you have to be a saint to not get cabin fever after a week of cold rain. They were driving me batty. They were bored and no amount of ingenious creativity was going to change this. Pillow tents, picnics with stuffed animals, art projects (which was difficult since we have crayons, pencils, and one glue stick unpacked and nothing else), dance parties, plays, comedy shows, school work, chores, packing…..You name it and we probably did it. However each activity seemed to only take up 5 minutes and the minutes lasted for hours.

That is it! The kids were about done as I was. Early Friday morning I packed up the kids and the dog and we headed east to my Aunt D’s house. I planned to stay only one night, but it was worth it. We needed a change of scenery. The 3.5 hour drive took 4 hours because we did stop once. Not too bad! The kids and dog traveled well.

We pulled up to my aunt’s house and C-Dog bounded out of the car and cheerfully hugged everyone, despite not remembering most of the people. Princess had to warm up to everyone but quickly showed her charming smile. The kids chattered happily and quickly made themselves at home. They were delighted to discover my aunt, in all her brilliant glory, had kept a bike, scooter, play set, and some toys even though her youngest child is 15 years old.

Elf was thrilled with Uncle J. She has been missing her daddy something fierce so when Uncle J pushed her on the swing set she was practically glowing with joy.

The afternoon was a revolving door of people. Of course there was my aunt, Uncle J, and cousin J but there was more. See, my aunt and several of her siblings still live in the area where they grew up. My mom’s family had 8 children and I ended up with over 20 first cousins on her side alone. I love that many of them still live there. I used to spend summers there, visiting my grandparents, and so even though I have never lived there I consider that area one of my homes. I got to see Aunt L and her 3 children. I got to meet N and K; the daughters of 2 of my cousins. Such sweet little girls! One reminds me of Elf and the other reminds me of Princess.
I also got to meet Baby Z, the son of cousin G.

I love seeing my cousins. Being one of the older cousins I have plenty of memories of these guys as babies and little kids. Seeing them grown with families of their own is neat.

I think the highlight was meeting Baby Z though because he is Zen’s cousin-twin. They were born on the same day! Do not get me wrong, the girls delighted me and they are cuter than can be. I can see qualities of my cousins in them and it was fun to watch them interact with Princess since they are all close in age. It was just really fun to meet Baby Z since he and Zen were both huge surprises for our family and both happened to also be born on the same day.

The house was loud, lively, and full of love. Friday night came and Aunt D and I got to sip some wine and catch up. It was fun to hear stories. I learned things I never knew about her. The next morning I woke and learned that, despite chilly weather, Aunt D sits on her couch with the door open and listens to the birds, sips coffee, and savors the moment. Oh my gosh I love that about her!

That morning she went back into time to when she was in Germany. The cool smell of the morning reminded her of her time there. I have only ever heard snippets of her time over seas so I really appreciated this story. I felt like I was there. In my mind I could see that little German village nestled in the valley of the mountains. I could smell the German food. It was a rare treat to share this time with her.

The kids slept late. They needed it. C-Dog woke up over-stimulated and was on edge all day, but we managed to survive another round of people. I got to see Uncle B and meet the woman who has made his life so happy. He had been a widower too long. I am so glad he found someone and I look forward to a new aunt joining our family. I got to see cousin G and Baby Z came back to visit for the day.
Bug bonded with cousin J. Being 12, he was quite thrilled his slightly older cousin let him hang out with him. I also got to meet a family friend. Apparently this woman was friends with most of my aunts in high school so she knows my family quite well. It was neat to meet someone who is connected to my family; someone who knew my grandparents when they were living and my aunts when they were a bit crazier than they are now.

Zen and Baby Z were a hoot to watch. When one cried the other would sympathy cry. Baby Z was inspired as he watched his cousin twin walking around the house and took more steps than he had been taking. At one point I counted a total of 10 consecutive steps before he fell. Good job Baby Z!

It was a fast trip but it revived me. It gave me the much needed adult time and the kids a change in scenery. I got to see family I haven’t seen since my cousin L got married 5 years ago. I got to meet new people. Best of all I got to savor the moment.

Thank you Aunt D and Uncle J for hosting us. you were amazing and generous and patient beyond belief.