Happy Birthday, Elliott!

Elliott is TWO!!!

cake

I swear it seems like just a short moment ago that Ashley came through the house asking for a pimento cheese sandwich. “Ashley,” I asked blatantly, “are you pregnant?”

“No way!” she responded and continued to add that she always eats pimento cheese sandwiches.

My response was simple. “Ashley, no you do not. A) You always said it tasted weird on bread and only ate a few crackers with pimento cheese. B) I am your mother and know these things. C) You are pregnant!”

Days later, with the father pacing in front of my door, my daughter told me that I was going to be a grandmother again!

A few scares in the beginning of the pregnancy gave way to a relatively easy and seemingly quick pregnancy. Before I knew it, I was holding this beautiful baby in my arms for the first time!

EJ birth

I could not imagine a more perfect way to start out the new year in 2016!

Then, things got hard. Then, they got harder. It seemed that this perfect little man was going to have a rough way to go starting soon after his birth. But he just kept smiling through it!

Now, all healed up and home with his mommy by his side, he smiles:

mommy

He smiled and he overcame and he developed into the strongest person that I know! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING stops him. I don’t believe that anything ever will! In two short years, he has faced things that would shatter most but yet, here he is, a happy, healthy, loving two-year-old who is ready to take on the world (as long as the world has candy, trains, and his big sister!)

big sister

Whatever the world has in store for him, I have no doubt that he will smile his way through it and come out stronger, kinder, and unstoppable!

Happy Birthday, Elliott James!

“Gigi”

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All I want for Christmas, I won back from CPS

Do not give up! If you are facing this holiday season without your children, know that our hearts are with you and that the view on the other side is not only beautiful but also reachable!

We thought we were in a never-ending nightmare. We felt the depth of the gorge and saw the height of the mountains that we were determined to climb. We questioned the view from the top and wondered about what would come on the other side if we were to ever make it out of the valley.

I know many of you feel this now. The holidays are overwhelming for your children or grandchildren, for any number of reasons either real or false reports, are dreaming of sugar plums in a bed that is not their own. For those of you who have not experienced this, imagine the emptiness of a stocking on Christmas morning because there is no child to shriek with excitement. Imagine seeing other parents urge their children to sit on Santa’s lap and wondering if your own is scared or excited. The magnitude of this cannot easily be portrayed but I am here to tell you that the view from atop that mountain, what lies beyond the valley, is beautiful!

I mean, look at this smile!

smiles
We just saw Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol!

They tried to tell me, in the valley, that this smile would not be over that ridge! But on a Friday night at a local Christmas tree lighting, Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol told them that they were wrong. She smiles and I smile!

But wait, they also said that my daughter would never smile again and that she would no longer get “mommy moments” but they were wrong.

mommy smiles
Banana Pudding: Just Because!

Of course, they did not count on me snapping a quick photo while the children made banana pudding with their mommy! They did not know that, on the other side of that seemingly insurmountable mountain, my daughter would smile again!

In fact, they did not count on library craft mornings or ice cream afternoons!

But the smiles are real and so is the view! Do not give up! If you are facing this holiday season without your children, know that our hearts are with you and that the view on the other side is not only beautiful but also reachable!

Many blessings and prayers to all of you!

“Gigi”

Take a Bite but DO NOT Bite: Ways we Confuse Toddlers

Have you ever experienced the shocking pain of someone so cute and dear to your heart closing their teeth firmly on your arm? OUCH!!! With four toddlers running around the house, obviously, we have all felt the cringing pain more than once. I remember discussing this with other parents when my own children were little and the answer was always something along the lines of “they are just figuring it out” or “this is just something children do!”

Okay, maybe if it is only adults who are falling prey to this “rite of passage” so to speak, then maybe I could accept those answers. However, again, with four toddlers we have ALL (children included) experienced this pain at one point or another as the four take turns transforming from sweet little children to the spawn of Dracula!

Usually, Clarabelle alerts us as to the culprit shouting “Elliott bit Gloria,” or “Braxton bit Elliott!” I mean, they are quick with it. One minute they are all sitting around with blocks and we think it is safe to refill cups and the next minute there is a shriek and an announcement of the bite!

As most parents and grandparents have done, I searched the internet for methods to stop this and these methods all lead to some form of punishment for the action and align the “fault” with either the child or simply development. To understand why I disagreed with these methods, you have to understand two things about our situation.

  1. These are my grandchildren so I simply cannot see “fault” in them (smiley Gigi face icon not available!)
  2. Seconly, one of my grandchildren was the victim of child abuse as an infant and one has Down syndrome. Punishment takes special circumstances because of these situations and we try to be fair regarding all four children.

With that said, punishment occurs in the form of timeout or standing against the wall but it is hard to assign punishment based on the words of a three-year-old (no matter how verbal and advanced Clarabelle is.) So, if we do not see it happen, it is really hard to punish over biting.

Besides, I got to thinking, there has to be a significant reason why most children at this age think biting is okay. I mean, I tell them one time on most things such as “the trash is dirty do not touch,” or “do not hit” and they generally comprehend what I am saying and refrain from these behaviors. But biting, for some reason, is different. It is like they forget following each incident that biting is wrong and that being bitten hurts.

During my whole thought process, I found myself snacking on some cookies. (Hey, it is the holidays so no judging)!!! As the children passed, I asked them if they wanted a bite….

Let me say that again. As the children passed, I asked them if they wanted a bite!!!

Wait, a minute ago, a bite was bad but now bite means cookie?

We work with children on context clues, vocabulary, synonyms, phonics, etc. but not before the age of 2. Maybe, just maybe, if we could use more specific words for specific actions, then they would understand the context clearer.

Granted, I realize that this offers little to no advice for all of us who are struggling with the toddler teeth situation, but I hope it offers a different way of thinking about a child’s behaviors. Sometimes, we expect that they should just know things. If that was the case, what are we here for?

 

If we do not teach then they will never know,

“Gigi”

Tonight, I pray: Please pray with me!

Okay, I know on #48 I stated that we do not attend church. I am not changing that statement but please know that this does not mean that we do not pray. In fact, I was raised in a Pentecostal church and know that when 2 or more come in accord our prayers are heard. With 592 followers, I only ask that one of you that follow our blog say this prayer with me.

Dear heavenly father, tomorrow is a test of our faith. We must have faith in a system that once failed not only us but all members of this family. We ask for a peaceful transition. We ask for the love for the children to supersede the feelings of anger and entitlement. We ask for God to be there so that all parties recognize the that He, not man, paves the way to peace. We pray that our family will be safe and that everyone will turn to His guidance in approaching this day. In Jesus’s name, we pray…Amen and Amen

I cannot provide more details than this but I hope, that on faith, you will speak these words with us tonight.

From my grandchildren and I, thank you for joining us on our journey and our prayer!

“Gigi”

 

Kindness: It Really Does Matter

We have encountered a lot of people over the years of adding smudges! Some of these people have made the journey more enjoyable while others have taken the liberty of smearing every possible fingerprint possible. In the end, I can honestly say that I would rather see myself in the reflection of those smudges than to have to squint in their mirrors to try to see myself as “perfect” as they.

There are many reasons to be angry and, perhaps even to be cruel. But that is not the type of image I want to see in my mirror. You see, it is I, no one else, who has to like what I see and I cannot imagine having to look at a woman staring back at me who is unkind or full of hate. I have seen that reflection in the past. I have spoken ill and failed to be genuinely kind. But I have learned from those moments. I have grown and I have allowed myself to remember how that looked on me.

There are moments when being gracious or kind just seems impossible. There are situations that I encounter that make me want to say things just to make others feel as small as they have tried to make me feel. But I remember two things. The first is that I do not want to see the anger in myself and the second, but most important, is that my grandchildren are watching me. They are learning how to cope with the world. They are learning how to treat others. They look to me for assurance when they are scared, comfort when they are sad, and stability when the world is trying to shake their normalcy. I will be the foundation for them that they can be proud of and I will continue to look in my mirror with pride as I know that kindness will be reflected.

What do you see in the mirror? What will your grandchildren see? Make it kindness!

“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”