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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Fit For A Princess

2 new tiaras have made their way into my house …
One for each daughter to wear to the upcoming Daddy/Daughter Dance.

I am pretty sure these tiaras mean more to me than they do to Marco or either girl. They represent something I never truly had; an involved father.

Tiaras with copyright

I love my dad more than anything. I know he tried. I know he did the best he knew how, especially with his very weird work schedule (he rotated days and nights so we rarely saw him).
My desire, even as a 40 year old married woman with 5 kids, is to please him and make him proud of me. I still feel like a little kid around him; I want him to notice me. Everything single thing I do, I do for his approval.

Despite always asking, he never did anything like this (a daddy/daughter dance) with me. He danced with me once at my wedding.

He never went to my concerts, plays, games, … I’m not saying he didn’t give me extravagant gifts or life changing opportunities. He did. I appreciate each one more than you can ever know. Sometimes, however, it is little things that make the bigger impact on a person’s soul.

I love my dad and I logically know he simply struggles with showing his love for me (and everyone else). He thinks gifts are the best way to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or whatever emotion he can’t vocalize. What I always wanted and needed was for him to dance with me, come to my concerts, cheer me on at my games …
I still desperately want him to be proud and approve, but I fall short every time.

My dad and I have a story and it is ours. Most of it is messy, but there are some really nice parts too; like the one time he acted silly and he piggy-backed my down the aisle at my rehearsal dinner. It was completely out of character for him and it is one of my favorite memories of him. I accept our story, but it doesn’t mean I want the same story for my daughters and Marco is well aware of that fact. This is why this dance is ridiculously important to me. It is the girls’ first dance ever and they get to go with the best man in the world.

I always wanted my husband to be the dad who did things with his daughters, like dress up in ties and tiaras (which happens to be the dance theme) and dance the night away. I wanted them to have the dad who went to their concerts and plays and what-not.

They have all of that and more. They get nightly piggy-back rides to bed, special songs sung to them, random dancing in the living room, and so much more. The girls love their daddy and he is amazing at making time for each child (not an easy feat with 5 kids). They want to go to the dance and so he is bringing them. I confess I get jealous at times. Not bitter. I just wish I had what they have with their daddy.

This dance is the closest I will ever get to a daddy/daughter dance, so I although neither girl expected or asked for a tiara, I bought them each one. I will dress them up and put make-up on them and do their hair fancy and make them feel like royalty. I will love and cherish each second of getting them ready. I get to live my dream out through them. I hope one day they look back and see how very lucky they are to have Marco as their daddy.

Now excuse me while I go put one of their tiaras on while I do housework.

~Andrea
#bekindalways
#youhavepurpose

*written 3/28/18*

UPDATE:

Mark and girls with copy right

The girls and their daddy. Be still my heart.

The 11 year old doesn’t like dresses so we shopped for a beautiful pants outfit. The top is so feminine and perfect on her!
They had an amazing time. The girls got to dance with their daddy.
The 8 year old was a social butterfly, flitting around and dancing with her friends. The 11 year old had a blast with her friends. They all did the Chicken Dance.

Me and Mark with copyright

It might not have been my dance, but I love a man in a suit and had to get a picture before the moment disappeared.

Something of Value

My husband hung 2 white shelves in my kitchen for me. They are the type of shelf meant for decorations. They look perfect.

The night he hung them we were all in bed and suddenly an enormous crash woke us up. My husband and I went flying down the stairs to see, in utter dismay, one of the shelves fell. The anchors were still in the wall, but the shelf managed to fall and everything on it crashed to the floor. Oddly, the decorative sugar bowl didn’t shatter. Neither did the clay bird my 15 year old made in kindergarten. The mold of the 7 year old’s hand broke a little; the base and one finger. The finger I can glue back on. Everything else shattered.

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The upper shelf fell at 1:30 AM. A part of me wishes I had taken a picture of the epic mess it made. 

Someone mentioned to me how sorry they were that all my stuff broke. What I found interesting was that I wasn’t sorry at all.

Back track 4 years ago, I would have been so upset had this happened. I love elephants and one off the items that shattered was my little black elephant statue. The teapot my mom sent also shattered, as did the heart I made in Bible Study. I would emotionally attach myself to objects all the time. Why? Why did I have this attachment? I think it was a learned behavior. We are taught to put extra value on items that can reference any memory, emotion, or family history. However, none of these objects, aside from the heart, really had a meaningful story behind it. The story behind the heart is one I can simply pass down to my children, no object needed.

So what changed in the last 4 years? Why am I suddenly able to emotionally separate myself from objects I was once attached to? I think it was an evolution really. Over the last 4 years I dealt with so many unknowns, inconsistencies, changes, and more. I learned nothing is permanent or reliable no matter how hard you try to keep things “as is.” It took 4 years to learn this lesson and the comment from one person to realize I learned it.

So what does it mean? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Frankly, I don’t think it is falls into either category. I think it is great to have sentimental attachments, but to a degree. We can’t attach ourselves to every little thing in our lives. We become obsessed.

I also think it is unhealthy to have zero attachment anything at all. We are humans and we are made to have feelings. That is one of the major distinctions between us and animals; and even then some species are closing that gap. But I digress …

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Some things help you remember moments more clearly; helping to to treasure the important aspects of life. 

Back to my shelf … Bummer the teapot, elephant, and heart broke, but it is OK. They are just stuff. However, had the hand or bird been shattered, I know there would have been tears. Why? Because, God forbid anything to happen to one of my children, these precious pieces of art that they hand made transport me to the time they made them. Their joy at showing me their amazing creations. Knowing their hands carefully crafted the items. I can see the pudgy kindergarten hands of my now 15 year old. I can see the sparkle of excitement in the eyes of the 7 year old. I remember odd things, like what they were wearing, and these objects help my brain to keep those memories fresh and focused. Sometimes we NEED the physical reminder so we don’t forget.

I understand this post is mostly babble to you and that is OK. I am realizing what things really matter in life because not everything can hold value, but I am also learning it is OK to have attachment to some things.

~Andrea

Deliberate

planner

My new planner, stickers, and an inspiration journal, which actually goes with a different planner, but I loved the layout.

I am challenging myself in 2017. I have a word that will define my year; deliberate. I have 3 verses from the Bible to focus on (they go together and also go with my word); Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” and Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” and Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

I have a new top-secret life plan (it is currently between Marco, God, & me), I have a new planner, a new journal, a new determination.

Back to deliberate…
I have always been a picture-taking Momma. I am also a person who throws useless junk away, but I tend to do it in moments of anger because there are messes and stuff just laying around. I want to be more organized about it; more deliberate.

I am also going to be deliberate in my memory-catching. Each day I want to take a picture with a theme. There is a catch though. Each picture has to also have a story. Whether personal to me directly or one of my kids, my husband, my brothers, parents, etc. It simply can’t just be a random picture. It will be interesting how I make some things more than just a random picture. I got the picture list from a Google search (get it HERE). It is not my list. I do not credit myself with it. Do not give me credit in the creation of the list. I do not own it.

I also want to be more deliberate with my purging. Currently I toss stuff that simply angers me because it is in my way in that moment. I want a method to my purging madness. It will not be everyday; just a few per month. The point is I want to be deliberate.

I am going to test run this challenge in January and take it month by month and tweak it as needed. I am not sure if I will post daily or weekly. That is why January is my test run. Here is my January schedule.

January 1 — photograph favorite color & purge clothing, shoes, hats, scarves, etc
January 2 — photograph a circle
January 3 — photograph an animal
January 4 — photograph a favorite item
January 5 — photograph something delicious
January 6 — photograph myself
January 7 — photograph inside fridge
January 8 — photograph a wall
January 9 — photograph a bag
January 10 — photograph 2 things
January 11 — photograph time
January 12 — photograph a leaf
January 13 — photograph people
January 14 — photograph a path
January 15 — photograph where I sleep & purge in side toys
January 16 — photograph music
January 17 — photograph mail
January 18 — photograph today
January 19 — photograph a shape
January 20 — photograph something white
January 21 — photograph growth
January 22 — photograph in my town & purge DVDs
January 23 — photograph this is mine
January 24 — photograph what I do
January 25 — photograph in the backyard
January 26 — photograph yum
January 27 — photograph I can’t live without
January 28 — photograph a sign
January 29 — photograph shadow & purge old bikes, scooters, skates, etc
January 30 — photograph hello
January 31 — photograph something colorful

I will leave you with my favorite saying that I made into a picture.

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~Andrea

Gingerbread Train

In an effort to make memories many families make gingerbread houses for the holiday season. I saved up and opted for a train. I also opted for a pre-packaged kit because, even though we can’t eat it, it is cheaper than trying to make a gluten-free version that might not even work.

I brilliantly opted to set up the train station (hee hee, see what I did there) while Zen napped. He usually naps, at the very least, an hour but usually 2-3 hours. My plan was perfect.

The kids and I set out. I squirted out the Royal Icing and the kids built the train. We started decorating and the train was turning into a masterful work of art. Our hands were sticky with sugar and we were laughing and suddenly Zen was in the kitchen with us. No one heard him wake up. No one heard him make his way over to us. He is stealth-like. Next thing we know his hands are grabbing all the candies faster than we could say “Stop eating our gingerbread train!”

Our peaceful decorating turned into a crazy scene of “Fast! We need to finish this before he eats it all!” Between squirting frosting, flying shreds of coconut, and candy being pried from chubby baby hands we finished the train….mostly. It sure isn’t pretty any more. It is wilty and a bit sad, but it was fun and we laughed a lot. Score 1 for memory making!

Sure Zen made the moment crazy, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. He made us laugh a lot. He got to be a part of the process. It is OK he pulled wheels off and took the roof off and made the train tip over. We all had a fantastic time and that is really the point.

Merry Christmas!

It may not be pretty, but it was lots of fun!

It may not be pretty, but it was lots of fun!

Christmas Trees

I like Christmas decorations. A lot. I guess it is better to say I love them. I especially love Christmas trees. I love the lights and the twinkling. White lights or colored lights, it doesn’t matter. I love the pretty ornaments and the sentimental ones.Store bought and homemade. Real trees and fake trees. I seriously love Christmas trees! I guess that is why Elf is one of Santa’s elves.

Each year I have numerous trees. I have a small one for those small ornaments that seem to get lost on a big tree, I have a fake tree, and I have a real tree. The real tree is for me and I like it to be a themed tree (color-coordinated). This is the tree that will have white lights.

We have a medium-sized unlit fake tree. I don’t like pre-lit trees. We learned the hard way they are a pain and once the lights die you have to replace the tree. We stick witht he unlit ones. Our fake tree is the kids’ tree. They decorate it with colored lights and all the mismatched ornaments they have. This year was fun because it was the first time Zen helped.
He clapped and high-fived me after he placed (or threw) each ornament onto the tree. He didn’t care that I went after him to actually hang each one. The big kids loved remembering each ornament. “Oh! I remember this one!” “Hey, where is the puppy one?” “Look! This one used to be Mommy’s and now it is MINE!!!” “Sunny!!!! Stop eating the tree!”

That last one was said by me about our real tree and it was said several times. Dang dog.

Yes, much fun was had. I treasured up each second because I know that in a blink of an eye life changes. I thought it would be fun to post pictures of the kids decorating their tree. I hope you enjoy these.

Oldest and youngest

Oldest and youngest

My 2 middle kids

My 2 middle kids

Oldest kiddo

Oldest kiddo

My littlest girl

My littlest girl

The youngest 3

The youngest 3

And the completed tree looked fantastic! Drum roll please!

A happy mismatch or ornaments full of memories.

A happy mismatch or ornaments full of memories.

Merry Christmas!
May all of you have special memories this month.
~Andrea

**About 10 minutes after I wrote this Zen pulled both trees down. Yes, both. We always anchor our trees (and furniture) and somehow talked about it but then forgot to follow through. Thank goodness no one was hurt; scared but not hurt. This is my reminder to you that if you have little ones, even if they are visitors, that is is always best to anchor trees! We lost some ornaments, but it really could have been much worse.
This is life and it is messy 🙂

200,000 Miles

My van hit 200,000 miles this summer. I knew it was coming and one day I looked down and it had passed. I had missed it. Nothing spectacular happened. No fireworks. No cheering. Thank the stars there was no disastrous breaking down. It was quite anticlimactic.

It made me think about when we bought this vehicle. It seems like a lifetime ago, but it wasn’t really that long ago in the grand scheme of life. A lot has happened since we bought this van so I decided to write about my life in 200,000 miles.

It all started in 2007 when I bought the van……

In 200,000 miles I was working in lactation for an inner city WIC office and doing hospital rounds. Mark was working at a very small account for his (now former) company.
In 200,000 miles I had 3 children.
In 200,000 miles my eldest was trekking through kindergarten and my baby daughter was allowed to go to work with me as a living example of how to breastfeed.
In 200,000 miles Mark took a transfer to a new state; moving our family halfway across the country.
In 200,000 miles I crossed the Mississippi River for the first time ever.

In 200,000 miles we made our home in the Midwest.
In 200,000 miles my eldest son started first grade.
In 200,000 the school nurse called to tell me my son’s head got cut open on the playground; he had to be stapled shut. This was our first “tragic” accident as parents.
In 200,000 miles I made it through my first tornado.

In 200,000 miles I discovered I was pregnant with baby #4!
In 200,000 miles I loaded up 3 kids and my very pregnant self and traveled to Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and then New York again for a summer-long trip to see family and friends (some whom I hadn’t seen since graduating high school!) and watch my beautiful cousin get married while Mark worked.

In 200,000 miles we drove to Iowa in the August heat, went to the famous Iowa State Fair, and watched one of our favorite people get married to his gorgeous bride.

In 200,000 miles my eldest son had surgery. This was a very hard time for me, yet he took it in stride. Bless him.
In 200,000 miles my second son developed a golf ball sized lump in his neck and we waited in scared horror for the results.
In 200,000 miles we learned that we were lucky and our son didn’t have cancer but rather a spectacular infection that would stick with him for quite some time.

In 200,000 miles I made the extremely difficult and personal decision to homeschool my children.
In 200,000 miles I taught 2 children to read.
In 200,000 miles I learned things I never knew as I taught them to my children.

In 200,000 miles we made an autumn family trip to Indiana to see another beautiful cousin get married.
In 200,000 miles I suffered from extreme hypotension and had to be induced and after a very scary birth of a blue baby (cord wrapped 3X around the neck) we welcomed another beautiful baby girl into our family.

In 200,000 miles we heard the gut wrenching scream of a child falling and breaking their arm.
In 200,000 miles my eldest endured a second surgery for the same issue as previous and my mom flew to Missouri to be with us.
In 200,000 miles we drove to Florida and saw family and went to Sea World; our first real family vacation.
In 200,000 miles we traveled to Florida a second time in order to visit with my grandmother who was staying with her daughter for a spell; a trip I am so glad I made because it was the last time I would see her healthy.
In 200,000 miles I made weekly phone calls to my grandmother and learned so much about her I never knew beforehand.

In 200,000 miles Mark’s baby sister celebrated love and got married.
In 200,000 miles we made several trips to AL to visit my parents.
In 200,000 miles we sat helplessly watching difficult times hit friends and family and we prayed.
In 200,000 miles we rejoiced over the good things happening to friends and family and we praised God.

In 200,000 miles we said good bye to Mark’s grandmother, my Great Uncle L (who I thought would live forever), and many others whom we loved.
In 200,000 miles we watched friends and family joyously welcome new life into the world.
In 200,000 miles we walked beside and prayed for friends who took the journey of fostering. We have learned so much through this and them.

In 200,000 miles our parents (all 4 of them!) had various surgeries as we stood helplessly hundreds of miles away and simply prayed for the best for all of them.
In 200,000 miles we learned just how grateful we are for siblings.
In 200,000 miles our second son had surgery on his tongue and we praised God the lump wan’t cancer (what is it with him and weird lumps?).

In 200,000 miles I learned baby #5 was coming. This was an enormous shock.
In 200,000 miles my eldest daughter went to kindergarten at the public school but after 2 months dropped out because we moved to a different district (that was awful).
In 200,000 miles I homeschooled 3 kids.

In 200,000 miles I went through a deep depression and learned who my real friends and family are as I was surrounded by loving support.
In 200,000 miles I made new friends.
In 200,000 miles I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in a pool of water; a birth that was able to heal the trauma of my daughter’s not-so-smooth birth and the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy.

In 200,000 miles we learned the account Mark was at had to close its doors and we were going to be transferred to Indiana.
In 200,000 miles our eldest earned an academic scholarship to attend Space Camp!
In 200,000 miles we moved and were shocked to discover our east-coast hearts were actually in Missouri and that we wanted to go back.

In 200,000 miles Mark came home from work carrying a box….

In 200,000 miles Mark was unemployed for the first time ever.
In 200,000 miles we learned what poverty really is, that no one is immune, and that there are people who are selfless and help those in need.
In 200,000 miles we learned humility.
in 200,000 miles we learned judgement.

In 200,000 miles, with some help, I was able to fly to MA and make good on a promise to my grandmother. She met baby Zen and I said goodbye to the woman who had more influence in my life than I think she ever realized.

In 200,000 miles I drove to Ohio with 5 children and a dog to visit family.

In 200,000 miles both older boys broke a foot each.
In 200,000 miles my eldest called me while I was out and said, “I cut myself really badly.”
In 200,000 miles he got stitches (a first for our family).

In 200,000 miles we made the decision to move back to Missouri.
In 200,000 miles Mark found the job that would allow us to move home.
In 200,000 miles we learned that being homeless sucks but that we are lucky that we have friends and family to take us in while we transition.

In 200,000 miles we cried, we laughed, we loved, we were scared, we were optimistic, we were sick, healthy, tired, full of energy….
In 200,000 miles my love for my husband only grew and my respect for him deepened.
In 200,000 miles we lived life and made memories.

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Here is to another 200,000 miles.