She’s 18

My Alyssa, my YaYa (nickname courtesy of Daniella), our Deedle (nickname courtesy of Thomas). Whatever we call her we’re so proud of her. She made it through high school while enrolled in a very difficult honor’s program, the International Baccalaureate Program or simply “IB”. I hardly heard her complain about the work, she is one my children that never made it our business that she had a project or paper due, she just did her work and I see Daniella following in her footsteps.

So Alyssa is legally an adult, legal to get any piercing, tattoo or other body adornment. I won’t stop her if she does decide to do any of the above, I will however give my opinion and any pearls of wisdom from first hand experience, asked for or not. I’m optimistic she will make “good” choices.

I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday the way we all can reminisce about that day for any of our children. I chose to not have the epidural and looking back I know I didn’t need it. My labor was pretty short and the delivery was very quick. When the midwife announced “It’s a girl!” I was in shock of disbelief. My husband is one of 3 boys so I figured I’d never have a girl.  Alyssa was so pink! And everyone who stopped by to see me exclaimed that she was so pretty. (I used to work at the hospital I gave birth in, I had many visitors of former co-workers). I thought everyone was just being “nice” but when I looked back at photos I knew they were telling the truth.She really was a pretty baby.

So now she’s 18 years old. She’s still has a pink complexion and she’s still pretty. Stunning if you ask me but I’m prejudiced. I see some of my husband in her face and she certainly did not inherit her long, ridiculously thick hair from me. She carries herself with grace and is one to dress pretty modestly. I can’t think of one instance where I made her change her clothes before going out or going to school. Adolescence/tween years were not fun; in fact I even called my mother to apologize for my own behavior at that age. Thankfully that time was short lived and by age 14 or so she was back to being our Yaya. Alyssa loves the Lord and isn’t afraid to openly worship Him. I love when she picks me up from work and she’s listening to Christian music, it makes my heart happy.

I wish for the world to be kind to this new adult, this young woman of mine; well mine for now.

And just like that…

And just like that today my boy turns 20. What’s sweet is that I have friends who remember me pregnant and remember my son when he was born. My husband and I have a good friend who is a big guy, we’re talking 6’3″ approximately and he’s no skinny drink of water. When we brought Thomas home from the hospital and Thomas would sit in that bouncy chair, our friend would pick up the whole chair with Thomas in it to see him. I’m guessing he wasn’t comfortable holding a small baby. It was so funny and the memory still  makes me smile.

And just like that my son was this happy, smiley baby. I love to think back and remember what he was like before the proverbial crap hit the fan. Before all the doctors and specialists, trips to Manhattan, MRI, CAT scan…When Thomas  and Tommy and I were our own little family. Optimistic and happy and close and together. Because Thomas was such a good baby we took him everywhere. I remember my inlaws were dying to babysit but I wouldn’t leave him, I never felt I had to. Thomas made me grow up. He made me a mom and me made me an advocate. He made me who I am today.

And just like that my son grew up. He went from baby to toddler to little boy, and so on. He wasn’t an easy child to parent but we did the best we could with what we knew. Tommy and I weren’t perfect I’ll never say we were.

And just like that Thomas is 20. He’s still easy going in his own way and when he smiles he makes you feel like a million bucks. He’s still teaching me ways to grow and I’m still learning.

Being In The Now.

The other day (my birthday) my husband and I were talking about when we were younger and dating. We began dating around age 17 but met when we were 15 years old. He asked me when did I know that I wanted to marry him. I told him I remember it vividly. We were driving on the highway towards my house (my Mom and Dad’s house). We were talking about how we were back together after a breakup fueled by teen angst. I remember feeling that this was permanent. I was going to marry this boy. We were about 18 years old at the time. This isn’t to say we dated happily ever after. There were a few more teen angst break ups along the road to engagement time. But I am glad we stayed together and eventually married. He really is my best friend.

I also asked my husband if he ever wanted to “go back” like to when we were younger say in our early 20’s. Tommy answered that only if he could know what he knows now. Smart man. I find it amusing that I can remember so well something that happened over 20 years ago yet my kids ask me if I remember something from a couple of years ago and I’m completely clueless. A couple of years ago was during my depression and I didn’t ever feel “in the moment” like I do now. Today I feel so in the present and I’m glad to be here. I’m glad I have the state of mind that I do. I didn’t realize how detached I was back then until I’m asked to remember something.

I don’t like staying in a remembrance of the past. It was really nice a couple of weeks ago when we got together with old friends from years ago/high school. It was nice to reminisce but it was equally as nice to talk about our lives now, our kids now, us as a whole now; to be in the present with people from the past.

I’m so thankful to be a part of the “now”.

Pictures and albums

I’ve been in a cleaning out/organizing mode lately. I donated one big garbage bag of shoes and 2 big bags of clothes and jackets. I also decided this was as good a time as any to organize our pictures into albums. Three trips to Michael’s craft store and three photo albums later I think I’m done. That is if I would stop finding packets of photos in every closet or storage space I decide to clear out.

It’s funny when I’m putting the photos in albums many were pictures I’d been avoiding for years. Pictures of Thomas as a baby, then toddler, etc… Those photos were a painful reminder of a time when Thomas was “normal” although looking back he was never typical; his delays just didn’t catch up to him just yet. This time was different for me though. Looking back at those photos I remembered what a great time we had when it was just the three of us. How happy and hopeful we were. Thomas was an absolute beautiful baby if I do say so myself. He was always smiling with those big green eyes he inherited from his dad. I enjoyed my trip down memory lane and was surprised at how transported I felt back to that time in my life.

My next group of photos were a camping trip Tommy and I took with friends about 2 months before we were married. I remember that trip like it was yesterday.  We had a great time with great friends that we are still close with today. In fact one couple from that trip are now married with a son and we all went on vacation together this past summer. Good times.

Then I found a ton of pictures from our honeymoon in Hawaii. We were adorable and so young. We were 25 when we got married and this year marks our 20th anniversary. A week before we were married we found out I was pregnant to Thomas. We told no one but my sister and Tommys oldest brother. I didn’t want people looking at me funny and judging every move during the reception. And I was horrified that my older relatives would possibly think we “had” to get married. Tommy scolded me saying, “Menay! We’ve been planning this wedding for 2 years no one will think that!” As it was a couple of years later my great aunt did ask me if I was pregnant when I got married. I didn’t lie and told her yes. She just noddedjas if I confirmed what she was thinking.

I loved looking at the Hawaii pictures I loved remembering what it was like to be that young and in love. I remember feeling so serious about being married. I loved that Tommy was now my husband; I loved referring to him as my husband. It was so new and fresh. I enjoyed tripping down memory lane as I looked at the photos from that trip. I remember Tommy and I laying on the warm perfect beach saying we should start planning at that time for a return trip to Hawaii. Our ten year anniversary seemed so far away never mind our 20th. We vowed to return one day. That day hasn’t arrived yet but that’s okay. I can wait.

Time away

My husband and I recently were able to get away for 3 days this past week.  Nothing over the top, we went to Atlantic City, NJ.  A place not too far away but far enough that we felt “away”.  It was nice.  There I said it, it was nice to be with just my husband and no kids.  Alone.  And do what ever we wanted to, watch whatever we wanted to on television and do whatever we wanted to in the middle of the afternoon with no regards for who was watching who or where “they” were. 

What I find amusing is we chose a place famous for gambling to get away to and neither one of us is a big gambler.  I mean, I like to play around on the slot machines but to be honest I felt a bit angry when I lost.  And then guilty even though it was a relatively small amount of money.  Tommy felt that it was “fun money” to play around with and if I lost it well then it was lost~no big deal.  I suppose his attitude is the right one to have but being in Atlantic City those few days made me realize I am totally *not* a gambler.  I do not want to “lose” money.  We work way to hard to make that money to give it away to a casino. 

We did have a really nice time otherwise.  We ate in the finest restaurants and went shopping a bit.  We walked a lot.  And I mean a lot.  Oh my goodness my husband loves to walk!  I’m not complaining just stating a fact.  We walked the boardwalk quite a bit and it was A-Okay with me.  We walked and explored just about every casino and mall within the casinos.  It was fun because we were together and both wanted to do that. We laughed and talked and then didn’t need to talk. We people watched and oh yes we even sat through a time share sales pitch. Yes we did. No, we didn’t buy the timeshare but it was interesting to learn about what this particular company offered and of course it was sweet to receive the gift card we earned/were promised by sitting through the schpeal.

I’m glad we got away. It really does make you appreciate “home” more when you return. Even things you don’t realize you appreciate. Like showers that aren’t from a “low flow” shower head. I’d had enough of that. And just my house and my bed. I missed my “little” queen sized bed after sleeping on this huge California king. And yes I even missed my kids. I am so glad we were able to go and just be alone, together.

He makes all things work together for our good

I went to church yesterday as usual but I *almost* didn’t go.  Then when I saw parking was very tight due to all the snow around here, then I figured I wouldn’t go if I couldn’t find a parking space.  The perfect parking space opened up, no kidding.  God was working and so was the enemy.  I believe the enemy works to find ways to keep us from God, like keeping me wrapped up on the computer right before it was time to leave for church and making the parking situation look so much worse than it was.  I won’t say anymore about him. I love how The Lord made way for me to able to worship Him when I had such doubtful thoughts.

When I arrived at church I realized how much I missed being there from the week before.  Then I remembered we (the choir) sang last week.  I cried through some of the worship songs, the words are so powerful and really make you think.  “You make all things work together for my good”, is one lyric that almost made me sit down and made me cry.  Those are such powerful words to believe and I do believe it absolutely.  But when I think of the seasons of pain, Thomas being aggressive to me and then depression I get sad and teary knowing that those are some “things” God has worked together for my good.  How and why I have no idea but I trust Him.

I was on the ferry last week writing in a journal how God plans our every move, our everything for His glory. It’s a wonderful thing to think about. How He orchestrates all of our moves in life even the “small” ones for our good and His glory. Yesterday our Pastor said, “Nothing brings hope like the name of Jesus.” Oh my goodness the truth in that statement is overwhelming. How we pray and want to be like Jesus, to want to follow Him and love Him. And He loves us and His name is what we cling to for hope. Even writing this gets me teary (I’m a bit emotional lately, bear with me) That statement struck such a nerve with me, but in a good way. I think our nerves need to be struck every now and then. Jesus is the name we call out to for hope when we’re in pain. I remember one instance years ago when Thomas was aggressive with me, I literally yelled out, “Jesus!” but not in vain I called out for help. Help for Thomas to stop. When Thomas heard me yell out it stunned him and he stopped for a moment, enough time for me to get my bearings. I needed hope so bad that day and who’s name did I call out? Jesus. He gave me hope he really did. He sent the most caring ambulance workers and police officers to my house that day after I called 911.

I don’t mean to skip down memory lane to painful memories but I can’t help it when I think of The Lord working everything together for my good, because He is in charge and His way will always be better than mine in the long run. One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned these past couple of years is to *really* trust Him. To honestly and truly put my life in his hands. To know with all my heart that if He hasn’t already planned it, it’s not going to be. So tough to put into practice but so necessary to know.

15

15 years old.  That’s how old my daughter is and the majority of the girls in my car were today. It was after a gymnastics meet (My daughter competed in vault) and I was the ride home for Alyssa and her friends. They laughed and talked and laughed, sang to the radio, and talked more. My gosh it brings me back, how can it not? I really enjoyed being with them and for a while I was a bit envious. I had a great “teen-hood” IMO anyway. I was on the gymnastics team, had a sweet boyfiend (now husband) and awesome friends. The majority of my friends were guys, there were a few close girlfriends but the majority were guys. The guys were great, usually drama free or less drama than most typical girls. I could trust my close guy friends with most conversations and just trust them with *me* and they were the best “brothers” I’ll ever have. Don’t get me wrong there was plenty of teen angst I mean really…didn’t we all have angst? I laugh at that now, but it wasn’t all that funny back in the day.

Anyway back to the car ride, I loved listening to them talk. Talk about themselves, making fun of themselves, poking fun at each other, talking about other people; not in a mean way though. It reminded me of how serious everything was back then and how everything could *not* be serious as well. In a weird way they made me want to go back. But only to go back to the fun, not the angst. The fun of being so young with everything ahead of you. Everything. Only you don’t know it. I never thought I’d enjoy being around teens. It seems like forever that your kids are small and you’re in charge of everything. Then you turn around and they’re “going out”. I’m cool with that I really am it’s just odd and fun to see your kids at an age you can really identify with. I can’t imagine what it’s like when they get much older into adulthood. I know those days will come but right now I’m enjoying watching from the outside and getting thrown back into my own memories~but only the good ones.

A Meeting

Meeting the Lord.  I remember the first time I met The Lord and I treasure that memory.  Treasure it as I should.  I figured it would be a once in a lifetime meeting but I was wrong.  I didn’t know you could meet The Lord more than once and I am in such awe of Him.  The feeling of peace and excitement after you realize what just happened is almost indescribable.  It makes you fall in love with Him all over again and wonder how you ever had moments of doubt.  

The first time I met The Lord, I was in my car as I was stopped at a red light about a mile from my house. I was listening to the song “Praise You In This Storm” by Casting Crowns and I was crying my heart out. Thomas was back in the hospital and I was so angry and tired of it all. Most of all I was angry. As the song played the lyric, ” and every tear I cry you hold in your hand…” gave me a distinct vision of Jesus standing behind me cupping his hand to gather my tears. My anger faded and I realized that emotion was gone. This really happened and I then understood what it meant to meet Him. He truly meets you where you are. And until that day I didn’t understand that concept until it happened to me that morning sitting at a red light.

I love writing about The Lord. I love looking back at memories a year ago, 5 years ago, even the past week and recognizing when His hand was blatantly at work that there could never be another explanation. When the Holy Spirit moved and things happened.

I wrote my last post about boldness and wishing I were more bold. I still wish that and when I pray I ask for boldness. God is amazing and I know he has a plan.

Another Mom’s View

This morning I ran into a mom I met through one of Thomas’ recreation programs.  Her name is Janice and she’s such a nice person.  Her son is not as high functioning as my son and she works so hard to make sure he is in the correct programs.  Her son is in his early twenties I believe.  Anyway, it was so nice to see her, I told her Thomas  wasn’t attending the recreation program anymore as he’s now in a residential school.  Her face immediately changed and she said to me, “You love your son so much that you did this for him, you got him into a residential school for him. You and your husband made that decision and I know it was hard. You really love him. I don’t think I love my son as much because I can’t let him go.” Turns out Janice’s son was in a residential placement a few years ago but she was very unhappy with how he was treated so she took him out.

I almost fell over hearing her say those words. Fell over at the fruit and vegetable stand we were chatting in. I told her that of course she loves her son that she did do residential but it didn’t work out, it wasn’t the right time. And I mean every word I said, I’m not one to patronize.

We chatted more about our sons, I gave a quick summary of Thomas’ behavior that ultimately led to us having to chose residential. Janice completely understood and said her son isn’t as aggressive but some days are very difficult. I understood her.

These days Janice has created a program for her son and similar functioning young adults. There’s socialization and activities, I was so impressed with what she has created and now has up and running. It’s amazing really.

It really shows how God works. If her son had stayed in residential, I wonder if would she had been as driven to create this program ? It’s also amazing that I ran into her now, not when I would have burst into tears trying to explain things. Today I was able to hold a normal conversation which is what one is supposed to do. It was nice to talk to another mom of a special needs child.

It was very nice to hear someone “in the know” say that I love my son so much but I don’t think I love my son anymore than she loves hers.

After the Sail school

So as you can imagine our house was fairly quiet after Thomas was admitted to the residential school.  Honestly I don’t remember much about the month of July with the exception of celebrating 3 birthdays.  Tommy, Thomas and Alyssa all have July birthdays.  For Thomas’ birthday we took him out to dinner at this Irish Pub down the road from his school. Daniella made him a cake and the waitress was so thoughtful, she put it in the kitchen for us until after dinner. When we were ready we sang “Happy Birthday” and the waitress brought out the cake with plates and a cake server. I thought that was really sweet. Leaving Thomas was really hard. He was only at the school for just over a week but there was no way we wouldn’t celebrate.

In the middle of July, Tommy wanted to get away so we stayed overnight in Wildwood, NJ. It was nice, we went to the beach and stayed at a motel right on the beach. We all had some sunburn so the next day we hit the outlets in NJ on the way home. Tommy and I were both not right but it was good to get away for a little bit.

In August we went to Myrtle Beach, SC. We stayed at a friend’s condo. We had gone there the year before after Thomas was discharged from the hospital. Going without Thomas was difficult, everything we did reminded us of the year before when he was with us. In a weird way I’m glad we went because it forced us to get over doing things as a family without Thomas.

After Myrtle Beach I don’t remember much of the summer. To this day I’m surprised at what I don’t remember. What I do remember is feeling like a failure as a mother. That after all the running around to see all these doctors and specialists, all the evaluations and medications, hospitalizations…residential school was the end result for this child I love so much. I felt like that for months. I addressed this mostly with my therapist, I mean how do you explain this to friends and family?