Books and Family: Does it get any better?

Look at these four! How blessed am I!?!? I was in the kitchen getting lunch ready and the four children were being very quiet. Scary, huh?! But they were not fighting. They were not destroying the house. They were not into any type of mischief. Nope, they were sitting together doing the one thing that their English major Gigi has prayed that they would love to do….Reading!

All four of them were huddled around a book and taking turns pointing to the pictures to give their own rendition of the story either through words or sounds. It was 101 Dalmations so there was a lot of barking followed by a few “oh no’s” from Elliott who has recently been explosive with his imagination and everything that looks a little scary is met with this expression.  (He brought me a toy spider this morning saying “oh no!” and then chased me with it. Remember, I HATE spiders!!!)

Anyway, the words and sounds were not nearly as important as was the fact that they were all together (something we once thought would never happen again) and they were enjoying a book together by taking turns and sharing. It is amazing what togetherness does for cousins. It helps them to grow, learn, and form true emotional bonds. It brings them comfort and joy in a way that no other relationships can. It strengthens their sense of self and forms their sense of citizenry.

Every day, I get to sneak a little peek into their world. Truly, how blessed am I?!

“Gigi”

Advertisements

Wait! She can do that too?!? Daily Discoveries with a grandchild with Down’s Syndrome

When we were told that they were testing Gloria for Down’s Syndrome, we faced the possibilities as a family but we were all aware of all of the obstacles that she would face should the test come back positive. We knew all of the things that they said that she “couldn’t” or “wouldn’t” do and we knew the extensive timeline they gave her for the things that she would “eventually” do. We were okay with all of this so long as she was healthy and able to get the most out of life as possible.

Well, the test, as you all know, came back positive and we immediately began screening therapists and preparing ourselves for other health issues that are associated with Down’s Syndrome. However, to date, we have had no major issues! None! One heart doctor watched a hole for a few months. Let me rephrase….one heart doctor watched a hole in her heart close over the course of a few months! She has flown through every physical and medical obstacle that they said we would have already encountered!

This Girl is Unstoppable!

Now, of course, there are some delays but we no longer accept the “couldn’t” or “wouldn’t” because obviously, they don’t know her. Yet, despite the entire family refusing to see anything but a small delay, we are all still overcome with amazement when she conquers even the smallest task.

For instance, mom, Chelsea, and I took the kids to the park the other day. (Yes, Chelsea is my son’s ex but she is also a part of the family so we still do family things together). The kids are all playing and we look up to see this:

playground

She didn’t need help. She didn’t need a hand up. She just climbed right on and played. Just like any other child! Do you see how proud she is? Magnify that by a million and you can imagine the faces behind the camera!

I spoke earlier about celebrating every first. With Gloria, this is easy. Every step she takes, she was told that she couldn’t but yet, here she is, doing her thing!

Interpret the word “can’t” as “haven’t yet!”

“Gigi”

Celebrate Every First! Homecoming Parade!

For most parents and grandparents, you anticipate celebrating certain firsts. In fact, you buy a neat little baby book to document each and every first for the first year of their life. For those of us who have battled with CPS, firsts are different. Firsts happen every day. We may have lost a lot of the typical firsts, but we are blessed to spend the rest of our lives celebrating every single one after that horrific year! I mean, we have celebrated haircuts and holidays so why not the very first parade that one of the children have participated in!?!

So….today, Clarabelle and her mommy climbed aboard the float for her dance classes and cheered in their red attire alongside the other girls and mothers!

parade

Elliott, my mother, and I stood waiting for her to appear to catch a glimpse of that perfect smile!

biggest-fan.jpg
Sissy’s Biggest Fan!

We are so blessed every day! All of us! There is always something to celebrate. There is always something worth shouting from the rooftops! These may seem so small to so many, but to us, these moments are what we fought so hard to get.

What moment are you celebrating today?

“Gigi”

To the Parents of Pregnant Teenager Daughters

Sometime in the last day, or weeks, or months, your daughter has been faced with many decisions. The moment those two little lines appeared on the stick that she purchased with her allowance, she had to decide whether to run or stay. She had to decide whether to tell the world or keep her “condition” a secret. She had to decide whether or not to stay in school or look for a job. She had to decide if she would become a mother, terminate the pregnancy, or choose adoption. She had to decide how to tell the father and her best friend. She had to think about college and her future. She has had her entire world shaken and now, after all of this uncertainty, she has come to you.

Of all the decisions she is facing, you only have one to make. Will you stand by her or turn her away. That is it. You do not have to choose whether or not she will keep the baby or choose another option. You do not have to decide what her future holds. You only have to decide if you will hold onto your role as her mother or walk away. This choice is yours and yours alone. Release yourself from all concerns of stigmatization and fears. Realize that this is your only choice to make regarding your teenage daughter. The rest is hers to decide.

Do not make this decision quickly or without serious consideration. You are hurt. You are scared. You may even be ashamed. But, ask yourself why are you feeling this way? Do you believe that your daughter intentionally harmed you? Do you believe that you have some reasons to be afraid? Your only role in this is to decide what relationship you want with your child. That is it. That is not hurtful or scary. As a mother or father, you have been making this decision every day. Ashamed? Did you encourage your daughter to become pregnant? Did you announce the pregnancy standing in your pajamas at a formal dinner? This is not your “shame” so you do not get to carry it. The pregnancy belongs to your daughter. Whether or not it is viewed as a shame or a blessing will be based on her way of presenting her pregnancy.

Now, do not get me wrong, I felt all of these emotions on the morning that not one but two of my teenagers told me that I would be a grandmother. Both my son’s girlfriend (18) and my daughter (17) took pregnancy tests and informed me at the same time! Immediately I became scared for them. How would their lives be now that they would have to focus on raising children? What would others say about them or about our family? How could they possibly handle children when they were but children themselves? How could they put us in this position? Oh, I was hurt, scared, ashamed, and maybe even a little bit angry.

Our waitress came to the table as all of these emotions flooded through my mind. My heart was aching and my hands were shaking. When she asked what I wanted, all I could say was “two virgins and two negative pregnancy tests. But since I am not getting that, two eggs over medium will do.”

Everyone at the table laughed and the waitress stepped away from what was obviously a family moment. The laughter has never stopped. I made a decision right then that I would stand by my children.

However, I have not been perfect in my plight to stand by them without standing in their way and there are things I wish someone would have told me. I mean, I was a teenage mother and I guess I should have known a few things about it, but if I could have heard these words, a few things may have gone a bit smoother:

  1. Your child still needs you: I know you feel displaced right now but they are trying to figure out what it means for them to become a parent. Give them time and be there.
  2. Your child needs you differently: They no longer need you to tell them things but rather to show them without appearing to be parenting! This is tricky but it is important.
  3. You do not have to stop your life: If you stop living at any stage of parenting, your child will believe that they have to do the same. If your fear was that they would be limited in their life by this pregnancy, then stopping your own life will only realize this fear.
  4. Forgive: I mean forgive everyone. Forgive your child for whatever you feel they have done wrong. Forgive your child for whatever decisions they make. Forgive yourself for believing that it was wrong. Forgive others for having an opinion. Forgive because, if not, you will never move forward.
  5. Be involved: Yes, this is your child’s child but, this is YOUR grandchild! I mean seriously! You are young enough to enjoy everything! Buy the loud toys! Feed them late night chocolate! Do everything!

I know this is not how you planned your story. This is not how you planned your child’s life. This is not how you envisioned being told that you are becoming a grandparent. But our stories are written as we go. In an interview with author Nabila Fairuz, blogger  TooFulltoWrite reports the author as stating that the middle part is the hardest because you have to “eradicate the loopholes.” Life also does not come with an outline, as Fairuz stated in the interview, how it began and how it ends is easy. It is the middle that is so difficult to figure out and when life throws us curveballs, it is our task to determine how we will allow these to affect the other moments in our life.

You have a decision to make. When your child becomes a parent, where do you want to stand?

Whatever you decide, remember, you are only accountable for your own decisions!

“Gigi”

Do not Stop Fighting: They are your Children!

I am a member of several groups on Facebook regarding the fight against CPS. I acknowledge that many of you may still be under the misconception that Child Protective Services is in place to “save” children and, in some rare instances, this is true. However, from our experience and the experiences of many others, there is a broken and corrupt system at play here that is systematically reassigning children for profit. Now, I do not intend to debate with anyone, at least not at this point, the logistics of the system, the money trail, or the abuse in foster care. Instead, I want you all to take a moment and pray for the families who are struggling with losing their children. The mothers who have jumped through the impossible hoops of “improvement plans” only to face termination of their parental rights. The addicts who have gotten clean. Those who have never had a drug problem. The mothers and fathers who have lost their children due to the behaviors of their significant others who they have left at the first sign of trouble.

I read the posts online and I see the despair. I read the articles about mothers and fathers who have taken their own lives in the face of losing their children. Did you know, if they ask for mental health aid during a CPS case that this is used against them to show instability? Would you need therapy if your children were ripped from your dinner table? Would that show you as being unfit or so loving that you cannot imagine your life without your children? Is it wrong that mothers and fathers define their identity as such?

I read of a woman who had been clean from drugs for many years yet, someone accused her of using again. She tested clean but because she had a history of drug use, the state took her children to “be safe” and promised to return them once they were sure that she was clean. Many years later, still fighting the system, she gave up. She gave them what they wanted. She returned to drugs and once they had broken her, they adopted her children to another family.

They will try to break you. They will use every ounce of your past against you. They will bring up things that have nothing to do with your ability to parent. They will make your love for your children look like your weakness or your ability to remain calm look like a lack of caring. They will try everything that they can to keep your children once they have them.

These are the realities of CPS. These are scary facts that may make you wonder how I can say to keep fighting. Why not give up if they are going to keep going? The answer is simple:

These are your children!

Be mad. Be angry. Be hurt. Be sad. But do not alter in your presentation of yourself. Do not be weak inside because they will use it against you. Do not give up! Do not give them what they want, your children, without a fight because there is hope. We are hope. Right now, the children who they tried to steal are eating breakfast and planning out the day. We are still recovering. There are still questions. But we are getting through it as a family. You will too. So please, to the men and women who are considering giving up, who are considering suicide or drugs, your children need to know now, more than ever, that you will not give up on them!

My heart aches for these families. Please, take a moment to educate yourself on what is happening in our country and around the world. Please take a moment to pray for those who are sad and uplift those who need a hand.

Be a friend. Lend an ear. Make a change.

“Gigi”

When Night and Day Conspire: The Boys in Action

Polar opposites without a doubt, Braxton and Elliott spend more time trying to get the other one in trouble than they do trying to stay out of trouble themselves. It takes every eye possible to determine if anyone actually touched the other or if they just want to see how far they can push it. It is a riot! For instance, Elliott will be sitting on the couch and Braxton across the room and Braxton will start screaming and pointing at Elliott as if he had caused the tears. If we tell Braxton to calm down and walk away, Elliott will then run up and try to get him to cry but typically get caught as we turn back around. The two of them are quite the duo!

Mostly because of Elliott’s injuries during infancy, we only use time out for punishment. We know that he was too young to remember the abuse and that spanking is different than abuse, but it just doesn’t make sense in this family to teach a child to not hit by hitting. Granted, every family is different and I am not here to judge anyone’s choices, just preempting the next part of this story.

We use time out and, as I have noted in previous blogs, timeout typically meant going to the room full of toys without the other children. Well, this did not seem to have any effect on their behavior so we moved to a timeout chair. Well, the other children would simply talk to them or they would watch what they were doing. Finally, we went for the wall. Now, most people would say the corner but I had one of those grandmother’s who collected EVERYTHING and Ashley, at around 4 years old, was sent to the corner there one day when we were visiting. The poor thing walked around crying and when asked what was wrong, she said, “I can’t find a corner!”  It was true. There was some shelf or basket in every corner so we found a spot on the wall to stand!

Now, even though Elliott and Braxton get along as well as oil and water on most days, they feed off of the other one for attention. For instance, if Elliott is throwing cars at the girls and gets sent to the wall, then Braxton will immediately do the same thing. Elliott, notably, stands more than a head taller than Braxton despite their only 3 month age difference so, to see these two next to each other trying to look at the wall is about the cutest thing I have ever seen. They hear us chuckle and, yep, they begin to do some cute little wiggle and off the wall they come!

They know exactly how to get to us. They know that they are the cutest duo and that I cannot resist them. If I didn’t know any better (which I do not) I would swear that the second one to get in trouble does so just so that they could work together to set the first one “free” from the wall! These two are going to be trouble one day!

A morning chuckle makes the day a brighter place! I hope you enjoyed!

“Gigi”

Understanding the Military: Toddler Talk

There are some things that we wish children would never have to understand. Death. Distance. Alienation. War. Danger. Just to name a few. But the fact remains, that these things do occur and this is the world that we are passing off to our children and grandchildren. Hell, this is the world that was passed on to each of us.

Today, Clarabelle and Elliott’s stepfather will be boarding a plane Washington state where he, along with other members of the United States Marine Corps, will check in to prepare for their flight to Okinawa, Japan. The following is our exchange this morning about his departure:

Clarabelle: Mikey is leaving today. Mommy looks a little sad. I feel a little sad too.

Gigi: Well, it is okay to be sad that you are going to miss someone but remember, he can call you a lot and he will be home before you know it.

Clarabelle: What if it is a long time? It is a long job to keep us safe. (This is how we had described his work…keeping everyone safe).

Gigi: Yes, well, when his time is up keeping us safe, someone else will take his place so he can come home.

Clarabelle: Maybe no one will have to leave their family to keep us safe. That would be good, huh?

Gigi: That sure would be good, baby. That sure would be good.

 

Isn’t it amazing that a toddler understands how wrong it is that families have to be torn apart because grown-ups cannot get along? A three-year-old should be dreaming of ponies and princess castles instead of world peace and safety. But this is her world. This is all of our world. And this is what we have made it.

It makes me sad that she is so aware but so proud of her awareness at the same time. Perhaps, one day, she can simply dream a little girl’s dreams.

Today, let’s remember the families torn apart and pray that one day, we can see the world through a toddler’s eyes!

“Gigi”