Motherhood 

Motherhood

It found me

I was out hunting for it, sure it would look like a round belly, swollen ankles and screams, pink booties and softness 

When it snuck up on me that’s not how it looked 
It came suddenly with beeps and cords, instructions and fears, uncertainties and strength

It expanded with chaos and laughter, messes and learning, loud and surprising, unending smiles

It grew again with new life and sighs, cuddles and blue booties, “don’t squeeze you brother”‘s and lullabies 

Then it came full circle with the twinkle of her eye, quiet moments, things shifted 

The connection I had been on the hunt for but not in a package I expected. I was looking for this- 

It was supposed to come, I was sure, swaddled in a hospital room and instead she came walking up the sidewalk nervously adjusting her purse

Left to hunting I would never have found it. I was looking on well worn and popular hunting paths, not knowing that my goal was in the wilds of the forest

Motherhood found me in new and surprising ways and it stills finds me every day

In the phone call for advice 

In the adjustments of Batman’s cape

In the first words 

In the skinned knees 

In the skinned hearts 

In the stories of monsters and princesses 

In the spreading of wings

In the ABC’s 

In the pretty dresses

In the muddy shoes 

While I was out hunting

It found me 

Sometimes I Break

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You have probably seen her at some point in your life. Maybe you reached out or maybe you avoided her, uncomfortable with all the emotions she was losing control over. She is the woman weeping in the waiting room, trying to hide her tears with her head down, avoiding eye contact.

Today that woman was me. The tears are still coming every few minutes, unannounced and unwelcome and yet there they are-flowing down my cheeks.

Monday’s are always a bit chaotic in our house. Damien, Perry, Caleb, and Oliver have therapy and Alizé usually tags along and hangs out in the waiting room. Therapy starts at 8AM so I have to prep the night before and get up extra early to make sure things go smoothly.

We started this Monday off crazy. I overslept by almost two hours. That meant I never did my hair, I think I brushed my teeth and I generally looked a mess. Thankfully I had laid out all the kids’ clothes the night before and everyone was freshly bathed and easy to get ready. Except Alizé’s skirt did not fit and Caleb fought putting on his shoes because he is still not sure about these new braces. The kids got dry cereal in snack cups for breakfast as we raced out the door.

It was INSANITY.

And then we got to the Therapy Office….

For the last few weeks Caleb has really been struggling. As a general rule he loves his therapists and thinks they are so much fun. He needs something lately and he cannot tell us and both us and the therapists have yet to figure it out. This means some days he goes back and does a great job at therapy and some days within minutes he is back in the waiting room clinging to me and sobbing so hard he is on the verge of making himself ill.

Today was not one of our good days. We tried it all. The therapist tried numerous different tactics and techniques. I even tried taking his pants off and letting him try life in just his diaper since he loves being naked. We tried calming exercises, we tried deep pressure, we tried everything under the sun. Caleb was still flailing in my lap clearly upset and unable to communicate with us what he needed. There are few feelings as helpless as watching your child struggle and know he is trying to tell you why but he is not able to communicate it.

Then it was time for a therapist switch and another one came out to give it a try. She too was trying every tactic we could come up with. As I started to thank her for the hard work and for understanding where we are without me having to explain anything, I broke. The last week, months, and years bowled me over and I started crying.

Last week was a doozy. We had all the usual- kids therapies, working through things that are hard, adulthood, bills, housework, etc. We also had two big appointments, one for Damien and one for Caleb.

Damien has been struggling a lot lately. Lots of anxiety, trauma induced behaviors, destructive behaviors, acting out, fine motor struggles, sensory overload, impulsive behaviors and the like. Damien had his first week of Occupational Therapy to start addressing these concerns from the foundation up, although it is already showing a difference he was struggling with the new place and people. He also began seeing a counselor to help from the top down with the same issues.

This sounds like nothing but good things, however it is yet another battle one of our children is fighting that we cannot fix. We cannot undo the trauma he has suffered and we cannot wave a wand and change the way his body processes the world around him to make it easier. All we can do is love him and help him find the tools he needs to win the war.

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We also had a four hour appointment for Caleb to have the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule assessment. This was a four hour long assessment with three different specialist at the children’s hospital. Shortly after we arrived Caleb managed to pee through his pants so we were the family going from office to office in the hospital with the pantless boy. Ha-ha. He loved that part. He did amazing and was so cooperative with the testing, I was amazed.

The tests revealed what we already suspected, Caleb does have Autism. As you may or may not know, Autism is a spectrum of disorders ranging from mild to severe. Caleb falls on the severe end of the spectrum. Hearing this officially and hearing that it is unlikely he will ever be able to live independently was hard. Harder than I imagined it would be, much like when we got his CMT diagnosis (see No More Denial). Another thing we learned during the testing is that all of the specialist agreed that they saw signs of Cerebral Palsy as well as the Autism and the CMT.

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I sobbed, ugly hyperventilating sobbed, on the drive home from the appointment.

I cannot think of a time I have felt more helpless. Our children are amazing, they are my heroes in every sense of the word. They have all been handed such hard hands and have to fight so hard for what comes so easily to so many others. Getting so many new diagnoses and information over such a short time feels like it is just piling up and getting harder for them and there is so little in our control.

We cannot “fix” it for them. We cannot make it suddenly easy.

All of this combined today while Caleb was completely melting down and I could not help him enough that he could finish therapy. Then I wanted to let the therapist know how much I appreciate that she gets when it is hard without me having to explain myself and I saw how deeply she feels the pain for our babies and in that moment of feeling so understood- it just broke the dam of my emotions.

It is all hard but it is so wonderful to know I do not have to explain it, I do not have to qualify my emotions, I do not have to explain the kids – She just got it. Not only does she get it but she is there in the midst of this hard work the kids are doing and she is walking through it with our entire family.

That is rare. There are people who care but do not get it. There are people who get it but are not emotionally invested. There are people who care and who get it but are not in the middle of it. Rarely are there people who care, who get it, and who are right there in the middle of the mud and the muck with us.

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We will tackle these new obstacles as a family and I am sure, as usual, our kiddos with defy all the odds laid before them. I will be picking myself up to fight with them, cheer them on and do everything in my power to help them in their daily battles. For today though the emotions are in control and I am going to weep for all the things I cannot do for them and all the battles we have coming.

 

Where is the trap door?

Many of us have seen the hilarious video of a mom hiding in her pantry to eat a snack and many of us can relate.

Earlier this week I was desperately wishing I had a pantry big enough to hide in. Allow me to paint you a picture of how my first hour out of bed went, and keep in mind this was not an unusual morning.

I’m woken by Alizé bouncing on my head after she kept me up until midnight. As you may remember, she was sleeping on the couch with me because of the basement flooding.

I drag myself upstairs to try and pee in peace and of course hearing my feet Caleb starts screaming loudly.

I let him out of his room as I walk by and let Damien out as well.

I groggily return to the kitchen to start my coffee.

Oh Great what is that on the floor? Yep, the dog pooped on the rug. Clean up poop on the floor.

Alizé is now crying and screaming because while going to the bathroom and trying getting dressed she got her pants tangled and she is too tired to function.

All with a soundtrack of Perry yelling “Moooooom” and Oliver screaming as if being murdered in the background.

I go and get them up as well, I get everyone’s diapers changed and make them bowls of cereal.

Oh shit, I’m supposed to do this plank first thing. I do my plank in the kitchen with Oliver screaming at me because he is sure he needs a cup that very second. Olivers cereal is now all over the floor and he is acting as if he lost a limb and not a bowl of cereal. Sigh. Time to clean that up.

Oh crap, I need to drink my warm lemon water before my coffee, I start that process.

Meanwhile, Perry needs three reminders to clean his room and help getting the bathroom door open.

Oh that’s right, we are hosting family night dinner and I need to start dinner in the crock pot. I gather all the things to start it, I am in the middle of unwrapping the chicken when Caleb comes running into the kitchen in full meltdown. Why? His slipper fell off, but he is so upset it takes him quite a while to calm down enough that I can put his slipper back on.

From the kitchen floor I realize, my lemon water is getting cold and I am supposed to drink it warm.  Caleb’s calm but now needs a banana. I get him his banana and I return to making dinner.

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Ear piercing screams are heard from the dining room. What’s the problem now?

Oh, Caleb sat in front of Oliver’s tablet instead of his own because he liked what was on it. I switch the tablets out but Oliver is still so upset he is screaming and trying to climb my leg, Caleb is screaming and trying to throw his cereal bowl because his tablet isn’t showing the show he wanted, Oliver now slides off my foot and slightly bumps into Alizé who starts screaming. All of this while Damien is trying to yell/sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to Caleb thinking it will help him calm down and Perry is trying to yell over all the noise to say “Can I have a cup pleeeeeeaaaaase?”

Somehow I calm everyone down and I am able to return to finish dinner. Damn,  my water is lukewarm. I chug it and Alizé comes hobbling in from the bathroom in hysterics because she got tangled in her pants again trying to get dressed and she can’t get out. I get her untangled and she returns to the table to eat her breakfast.

I was finally able to finish prepping dinner, make my coffee, and wish desperately that I had a big pantry to hide in or a trap door somewhere.

The kids all file into the kitchen wanting me to hold them, watch this trick, listen to them describe a youtube video, etc. Deep Breath. I tell them they  all they needed to go play elsewhere. Mommy needs a minute.

I look at the clock.

How have we been up less than an hour? 

I now have two sinks of dishes to wash, laundry to start, and the project of the day-sorting all the PILES and PILES of paperwork the kids have.

Shoot, I have a phone meeting today about starting our local CMT branch, I need to get all my things gathered before the meetings starts.

There has to be a mommy escape hatch around here somewhere.

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Bites and Braces, Floods and Fussing, Dancing and Dinners

A week in our house usually feels like about a month and this last week was no exception.

If you ever want to give it a go I recommend attempting to juggle knives, on a sinking canoe, in the middle of a hurricane, while hoping you’re not completely screwing up the lives of six other humans while trying to pretend everything is fine, you know what you are doing, and that you have not noticed there are few life jackets in sight.

The early part of our week resulted in something we all dread, walking through our basement to discover there is water rising under our feet. NOOOOOOOO

Our air conditioner pump got clogged and had flooded half of our basement before we discovered it or solved the problem. If our basement was unfinished it would have merely been an annoyance but no such luck, the rooms that flooded were our bedroom and Alizé’s room. We are still working on drying everything out and while Alizé’s room (the only carpeted one) is a mess she has been camping on the couch with me. Now, usually our kiddos go to bed around 7pm and at almost 11pm the other night she was still going strong wanting to take selfies and laughing hysterically. Mama was flagging and is missing nights of good sleep but loving the snuggles. 

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The other problem with our flood is that dealing with it has eaten up a lot of time that I was hoping to use to get everything organized and together for our school year. We are using the WinterPromise curriculum this year and although it is wonderfully laid out for the year I need to gather all my supplies, that our currently in about 12 different piles around the house. I also need to tweak the curriculum for our boys, neither of whom can do a traditional approach to education right now.

In the land of therapy it was also a busy week.

Damien was able to officially start Occupational Therapy, and it is already helping him and helping us with new ideas to use at home to help him navigate things. After a week of phone tag we were also able to nail down a time for Damien to start counseling to work through the remnants of trauma, something that will make a huge impact in his life.

Perry is doing tremendously well in his therapies. This week they worked hard with him to keep him in the present and work through real life scenarios. This is a huge challenge because he has an immense inner world, to rival Ally McBeal, and when he is challenged by something he retreats to the safety of his imagination. Unfortunately, all of his siblings did not fair as well in therapy.

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Caleb had a rough start to his therapy week, he struggled with both Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy. He lost it quite a few times, and was particularly weak this week. Unfortunately, this was the week Caleb was going to get his new Chipmunk Braces, something I knew was going to be a challenge. Thankfully, we are starting small and easy, the braces fit directly into his shoes. They still had to be fitted and that is when things got a little hairy. As many Autism parents can tell you, it is not uncommon to be bit/hit and hugged within second of each other. While we tried to ensure the braces fit Caleb hugged me, screamed, and of course gave me some new bruises and teeth marks. He was able to rally though and although he was still having a lot of muscle weakness he did get around the hospital in his new braces, wobbly, but he did it. He was very proud of himself by the time we made it out to the Valet stand. 

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Alizé did great at therapy this week, despite the adventures of our couch camp out and her entire schedule being off. She is becoming so chatty. This week she made her first utterance that had nothing to do with what was currently going on. While driving to therapy she started (her usual) yelling “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”. Usually when I answer she either laughs and says nothing or yells her Ze-Ze talk. This time she yelled “I anna see Kaija”. When I told her she would see her cousin again in a few days she was overjoyed that I understood what she was trying to tell me. It is great having conversations verbally and amazing to watch when other people can figure out what she is trying to communicate.

Oliver just absolutely loves going to therapy. He would go every day if he had his way. Sadly for him, he has to wait for the second appointment when we go and he spends the entire wait trying to figure out how to get through locked doors or trying to stealthily sneak in with other people going back to the therapy rooms. He is slowly making progress with verbal communication but is really getting the idea of how communication works.

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There of course was still the usual events of a life with five young children. A life of amusement and exhaustion and nonstop adventure. Oliver and Alizé have been fighting like cats and dogs lately, and simultaneously both think I should hold them (but not the other) at all times. I spend most days prepping meals or doing tasks with fussing little ones trailing behind because Mama cannot hold us every second of the day. Caleb has decided he should wear slippers at all times, like he keeps getting very stinky feet because he will not take them off. Damien and Perry got their first taste of urban farming and fell in love. They got to do their first harvest of sweet peppers and tomatoes. They could not stop eating them. They were walking around eating peppers as if they were apples. Today we had two rainstorms and Damien cheered and ran to the windows to be sure the tomato plants were getting water. While Perry came to ask me about the veggies included in dinner and if we could plant them in our garden too.

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In adoption news, we officially have all of our paperwork gathered and next week we will be officially filing to make Kaitlyn’s adoption official. Our girl will officially be stuck with us forever. The boys are so excited about it. they are really the only ones old enough to understand it and they cannot contain their excitement. Damien asks almost every day when we will see Kaitlyn again and then he and Perry divulge into an argument over who has a bigger claim to her as a sister.

The weekend is coming and is going to be a busy one. When I look forward to next week I am sure it will be even crazier. Wish us luck.

Happy GR-iversary 

Home. It’s a word I don’t have a handle on yet. 

For some people home is where they were born, where their family has live for generations. For some home is a place they find as adults and build their lives there. 

Thus far in life I have had lots of homes. 

Home was moving around. 

Home was where family was, but the definition of family for me is different than most. 

Home was Michigan. 

Home was the DC Metro Area. 

Home. Where is it? 

I think home for me has to be the places and the people I always return to. 

I live in a beautiful home with my amazing family. I lived in this same home 10 years ago while I was going to college. I have returned like a salmon swimming upstream. 

A year ago we made the jump and moved back to Grand Rapids. We had talked about doing so every few months since we started dating. It was a big change for my husband who had spent the majority of his life in the same county of West Virginia. 

Now a year later here we are.  

The year has been a whirlwind with a whole lot of adjustments and craziness. 

The place is home. I feel the connection in my very bones. I feel the connection to the streets and noise and the quiet. To the hun of the city around us. To the way of life. What our kids need is here. The services for the kids are incomparable. 

We lost part of home on the move too. We lost our carefully constructed village of people. People from all walks of life and all avenues of our lives who all shared one amazing quality- they loved and they showed up. I look at the pictures of our move here to Grand Rapids last year and I see them. I see them loading the truck with us, I see them driving from Pennsylvania to Michigan with us. I see them unpacking the new house with us. 

To find home we had to lose their daily presence. 

Time will shift things. Our village here will grow, if I’m quiet and look around I can see the new growth starting. 

What will home mean to our kids? Will home be people in one place and life in another or will they have a version of home different than I can yet fathom?

No matter where or what home has meant to me over the years, there is a thread that runs through it all and that is love. 

Home is complicated. 

Love is simple. 

My Oldest Daughter Is Only 9 Years Younger Than Me

In 1995 I was a typical 9 year old girl. I was obsessed with the Spice Girls and Cheerleading. I lived on a small hobby farm in Western Maryland with my family and I was about to become a mother.

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I just did not know it yet. A state away my oldest daughter was being born, I  would not find her for another 19 years.

The number of things that had to happen and fall into line for us to find our oldest daughter, Kaitlyn is unfathomable. If one tiny thing had gone differently in my life, Tyler’s life, or Kaitlyn’s life we would never have found each other.

Flash forward 19 years; Tyler and I had finalized Caleb’s adoption and we were waiting to finalize the adoptions of Damien, Perry, Alizé, and Oliver. It was during this time that I realized I needed a hand with the kids. We had some false starts and people who did not work out as I looked for a Nanny. It was a nightmare, I had gotten to the point I was giving up on finding someone.

Then I got a late night e-mail and my heart soared. From the moment I read Kaitlyn’s message I felt something stirring in my heart. I assumed it was because I was relieved to find someone to lend a hand.

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The day for her interview came and as I watched her walk towards the front door I thought, this girl is adorable and perfect. She came in and we chatted for quite a while. I knew she was exactly what we needed.

Shortly after hiring her we had a death in the family and I called to ask Kaitlyn to accompany me on the trip from Pennsylvania to Michigan with all five kids. During this trip everything changed. Kaitlyn went from someone I barely knew and had hired to someone I felt deeply connected to, we just got each other. Kaitlyn told me her life story and I learned why she was without what anyone could call a true family and had been for the majority of her life. Kaitlyn also got the kids in a deep and personal way.

As the days and weeks went on we realized Kaitlyn completed our family in a way we could not have planned for or imagined. There was a hole in our hearts and home until she walked through the door.

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We got to watch and help her as she finished her college degree and at her college graduation there were no prouder parents watching than us. It had been years that we had called and considered Kaitlyn our daughter and we would not have missed this milestone for the world. During this trip we talked about making it official, Kaitlyn asked if after all these years we would legally and formally adopt her to make what was true for us all true for the world as well. We said yes instantly, we would have adopted her the first month if we could have.

Adult adoption is a great deal easier than adopting a minor, with the other kids we had multiple hearings and endless paperwork. Kaitlyn’s adoption will take a handful of paperwork and some mailing of documents and then it is FINALLY official. Kaitlyn is officially our daughter forever. The thing that is the exact same as all our other adoptions, with the other kids as soon as we met I felt something shift and click into place deep inside me, and I felt the exact same way the day I met Kaitlyn.

Family is Forever

Calm And Then Chaos

I found myself one night recently, laying sprawled across a mountain of laundry I was “supposed” to be putting away, holding my sore feet in the air while messaging with my sister for Mom life support.

It was not a particularly unusual day here; therapies, appointments, trying to make phone calls with five screeching monkeys in the background, laughter, tears, games, time outs, messes all over the house and not enough Mommy in the day. Some days the day goes exactly the same and I feel on top of it all, some days I feel like I chasing calm all day without ever catching up.

There has been a lot going on in Casa Rudisill and I have been a bad Mommy Blogger when it comes to updating all the people on the interwebs. 😦

Kaitlyn- YAY!!! It is finally coming together!! After over two years we are finally able to make official what has been true for us for years. We have started the paperwork to make Kaitlyn’s adoption official. Now is there some magic law that makes it mandatory she has to live closer than Florida? Ha-Ha. We cannot wait until we get everything finalized and we cannot wait to see her again at Christmas.

Damien- Holy Cow!! He is turning six?! How did this happen?? He has been struggling behavior wise lately but he is also clearly in the middle of a developmental leap and things are always crazy during such times. He is counting down the days until we start school again and showing great progress on his reading.

Perry- Man, he is thriving lately. He is responding so well to the Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy, I cannot wait to see how things progress when we add in Music Therapy. He is really processing things better and slower lately so he is making less impulse decisions and being safer which is wonderful.

Caleb- We finally found a good fit for Physical Therapy for Caleb. It took a while, almost a year, but Caleb is doing really well with it. He worked so hard at PT this last week he was kind of wobbly on his feet. Unfortunately, he has been incredibly oral lately and both Mommy and Aunt Chaz have sustained some good bites. We are working on it, but it is definitely a work in progress.

Alizé- Oh this diva, it is never dull with her around. Now that she is talking more and more she is showing even more of her hilarious personality. It is so wonderful to be able to have conversations with her. So now, she can tell you when she needs her nails to be “pretty” and when she needs help getting her princess dresses on.

Oliver- Our little monkey is becoming more of a climber and a risk taker as time goes on. He is the one, the one who will give Mommy all white hair before he reaches five years old. He is adding a few more words and gets the tone of how conversations go even if his words do not match he has the rhythm down.

Tyler was able to change to second shift this past week and it has been amazing. It was like I suddenly got my husband back. I knew I had been lonely this last year between him suddenly working third shift and leaving our friends, family, and support system down in the Mid-Atlantic. I had no idea how lonely I had been or how used to managing a lot of kid things myself until Tyler was around so much more and able to share the load. It has made such a difference in life.

For the last few months I have been going through a phase I am calling “religiously bi-polar”. Basically, after non-stop major life change after major life change for about four years straight and pouring every ounce of myself into our miracles, I have completely lost track of who I am. I could not clearly tell you what I believe anymore. To figure that out I have decided to take a step back and explore things and myself and seek out some Spiritual Direction.

Another new change on the horizon is that I have started working with the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association to start a CMTA Branch for support, education, and to consolidate resources in the area. It is going to be an adventure but I am so excited to get the community gathered and spread awareness.

For now I am seeking out the moments of calm in between the storms of complete chaos.