This Mother’s Day Thing is a Mixed Bag

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We love our mothers. Of course we love our mothers. But they drive us crazy. They raised us wonderfully/strangely/amazingly/poorly or they didn’t raise us at all. They fill us with love or hate or guilt or horror or remorse. We take care of them or they take care of us. Perhaps we have never met them. Perhaps we like it that way. Perhaps we spend our entire lives searching for them. What if we lost them to death and the thought is still too much to bear? Mothers fill us with emotion. But they make us So. Very. Tired.

No matter how you feel about your mother, somebody will tell you you’re wrong. She’s sweet but overbearing. She was abusive but at least you had a mother. She was missing or dead but at least she wasn’t abusive. Be grateful for what you have. Think of all of the other people out there who love/hate/avoid their mothers. They really had it bad. You’re lucky and ungrateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

We love our kids. Of course we love our kids. But they drive us crazy. They disobey and spill things on the carpet. They get into our things and date people that scare us. All three of them try to sit on our laps at the same time. They’re always in the hospital. They’re always in rehab. They scrape their knees and pierce their faces and take razors to their skin and hurt our hearts. They make us so incredibly happy and so desperately sad. They want their arms around us 24/7 when we need a break or won’t hug us when we’re dying for their affection. Perhaps we’ve lost one or two or several, and Mother’s Day reminds us keenly. Children are made of kisses and starlight and demons and magic and they make us So. Very. Tired.

No matter how you feel about your children, somebody will tell you you’re wrong. If you’re weary from not sleeping through the night for 16 months or for crying about their newest and greatest hurt, somebody will tell you to think of those who can’t have children. Who would be grateful for the nights spent worrying, calling their friends and hospitals looking for them, for helping them through their nightmares, for finding out that you couldn’t protect them from the monsters in their lives. Think of all of the women who would be better mothers to your children. You’re lucky and ungrateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

There are women who are mothers, but not physically. They’re teachers, aunts, babysitters, Nana’s, friends, family by blood or by mutual decision. Perhaps they ache because they have no children of their own. Perhaps it’s by choice. Perhaps they’re told they’re less-than because they have working wombs but “selfishly” won’t use them to create babies.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Single fathers, who do all of the work, go to all of the plays, and fall asleep in front of the TV at night.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Individuals who want nothing to do with children at all, but have pearls and cards and chocolate advertisements shoved in their faces.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I know people who love the holiday. I know people who hate the holiday. It can stir up the happiest and darkest of emotions. I have friends who won’t come to church on Mother’s Day because the speakers wax on about their virtuous mothers, and it makes my friends feel inadequate. It feels like a day where we’re judged. Put on a pedestal or judged too harshly or perhaps we have distorted views of ourselves. We see ourselves when we’re frazzled and stressed and sick and we’re feeding everybody cold cereal for dinner. It’s easy to forget the love and cuddles when all we can see is that we can’t afford the money or time for a child’s gymnastic’s class or football practice.

Let’s forget the judgement. Let’s be kind. Celebrate this Mother’s Day, and give each other (and yourself) a pat on the back. Enough with the Mommy Wars, the Gender Wars, and every other single kind of war that saps us of our energy.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Goodbye, Jack Ketchum <3

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His name was Dallas Mayr, but most of you know him as Jack Ketchum. He was a brilliant writer and dear man. If you haven’t read The Girl Next Door, you should. It’s a wonderfully written, horribly disturbing book.

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Mercedes, Dallas, and Laura J. Hickman at Killercon 2011

I have a few memories of Dallas, but my favorite was at Killercon in 2011. I had just had my triplets, and two passed away. The other was still in the NICU. I went to a writer’s conference here in Vegas, and was still little shaky. In fact, that very morning I had cut off my hospital bracelets so I could attend the conference.

It seemed too soon.

Dallas had heard about my loss and gently asked about it. His kindness and sensitivity meant so much to a grieving woman who spent some time sobbing in the stairwell during that conference. He didn’t have to take the time to talk to me, but he chose to. I’ll never forget it.

Rest in the sweetest of peace, Dallas. You deserve wonderful things.

Thank You, Delivery Workers! <3

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I saw this somewhere, and the idea touched my heart. I wanted to thank those who were working so hard during this holiday season to bring us our packages.

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Every time I go outside, find a package, and see a missing treat, it feels like Santa has taken a bite out the Christmas cookies we left for him! It’s a special kind of magic. Merry Christmas! May you all have a wonderful holiday with those you love. ❤

Christmas Gifts for Children with Special Needs

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This is a toughie. It can be downright hard, because there are so many emotions tied up with the holidays. We have expectations. Christmas is supposed to be a time where we express our love and gifts are a way we do that.

What if the child, who has special needs, doesn’t like their gift? What if they don’t play with it? What if they open it, don’t react, and turn to their iPad instead?

It seems like a little thing but it can hurt. It hurts because Grandma and Grandpa want Julia to love her baby doll like they loved their baby dolls. They want Juan to love airplanes like they loved their airplanes. This hurts Grandma and Grandpa because their gift, their love, was tossed aside. It hurts Mom and Dad because they knew Juan didn’t like airplanes and really wanted a toaster instead, but that’s painful information to share because it shores up that Juan is different. It hurts Juan because he can sense new tension but he doesn’t understand where it came from or why it’s there.

It may seem silly to somebody who doesn’t have a child with special needs in their life, but it’s a very real issue. We want to fit in. We want our children to fit in. We want everybody to be happy, and to share the magic of the holidays that we enjoyed as a children, or to make them better than ours ever were. But a child often doesn’t appreciate the nuance of what we’re trying to do, and if you toss in any sort of disability, it complicates it even more.

What do we do? How do we keep feelings from being hurt?

I’ve learned through experience that the first thing to do is take a deep breath and let the expectations fall. This moment isn’t about us. It’s about the child.

I’m going to say that again, with love and relief.

It isn’t about us. It’s about the child.

We need to let go of the stress and the hurt. We have our own hangups that we carry with us. Set those aside, because it isn’t Julia and Juan’s fault that we feel stress to find the perfect gift, or that our gift has to be bigger than the other set of grandparents, or that we’re afraid our child will feel unloved if his or her gifts are simple. This is our perceived reality that we’re forcing on our sweet kiddo, and it isn’t fair. It isn’t about us.

What does Juan want? What does he really want, not “what do I think Juan should want?”

Here are some gifts that have made a difference in our lives, and I’ll tailor them to Juan and his beloved toasters.

1) The Object

Juan loves toasters with an unholy love. Does the household need a new toaster? Does Juan need a shiny toaster in the kitchen that is just for him? My son loves bread machines, so he received one for his tenth birthday. You’ve never seen a happier child.

2) Things Related to the Object

There are, believe it or not, stuffed toasters. Toaster-themed bedroom decor. The movie “The Brave Little Toaster.” Make him a sweater with a toaster on it. What about a toaster cake? A bag of his favorite bread with a little card that says, “Juan’s Special Toaster Bread” on it? You may think I’m kidding, but something small and dear like that means so much. It means that you see him, you see what he likes, and you support him in liking that thing. You aren’t trying to change him. You’re simply loving him the way he is.

Try giving him a toaster manual. Take pictures of toasters and put them together in a book for him to flip through. My dear friend did that with ceiling fans, and her son had a book specifically designed for him. Perhaps make a short video of your family and friends, waving and saying hi to Juan. Call him by name. Tell him you love him. Show him your toaster and how it works. Show him the buttons and slides and levers. Wipe it down so he can see it become clean and shiny. Make a piece of toast. Smile, because he is special to you, and you are letting him know in a way he can understand.

My brother and sister-in-law did this for my son with their washers and dryers. Everyone in the family got together with their kids and showed him their laundry room. They showed him where they kept their soap and started a load of laundry for him. “Here’s the dial for the water. I’m going to put it on low because I’m doing a small load.” He was rapt, seeing his favorite people doing his favorite thing, smiling at him and using his name. I cried. I’m tearing up again simply thinking about it. It was a 30 minute movie that was just for him, and it’s been replayed often. It might be the most touching, thoughtful gift we’ve ever received.

3) Experiences

Life changes when special needs happen. Things that used to be simple, like leaving the house, become astronomically difficult. Modifcations must be made and expectations adjusted.

Experiences don’t need to be big to be meaningful. Perhaps for Christmas, you can give Juan a card saying that you’ll take him to the store to look at toasters. He can look at toasters as long as he wants to. He can touch them and study the coils inside. You won’t rush. This is his Christmas gift. Just you and an experience he’ll enjoy.

You can visit a pawn shop and pick up a junky old toaster. You can have a date at your house so he can use your toaster. You’ll make and eat toast together, just the two of you. Or perhaps he can make toast for the whole family. It will be half an hour where everybody sits down and enjoys Chef Juan’s toast. It will be his contribution, a way that he can show his love while you show yours.

Does the child in your life like escalators? You can take her to the mall and ride the escalators for half an hour. Does she like the feel of fabric? Then how about an outing to a fabric store so she can feel every piece of fabric that she wants? Whatever you do, treat it as special because it is. Give her a calendar with the date of your outing circled in red. “This is the day we’re going to do this fun thing together.” Let her look forward to it.

4) Mend Treasures

Perhaps Juan only has five toys he’s interested in, and they’ve taken a lot of abuse. This is a wonderful time to give these treasures some care.

Replace their batteries. Stitch them back together. Fix the wonky eye, the broken lens, the bent rims. Wipe them down. Shine them up. Replace missing parts and make them magical again. Show him these things are important to you because they’re important to him.

I hope your hearts and those dear to you are filled as you share your love. Disabilities can be so difficult and isolating, and the fact that you searched for this topic says so very much about you and your kindness. May you continue to be a joy to those who love you, and a light to the sweet child you care about. Happy holidays. ❤

 

 

This Is What Love Looks Like

I’m under some pretty intense deadlines and other stresses. How do you eat an elephant? You unhinge your jaw and try to devour all of it at once. Naturally.

I came home from an unscheduled grocery store run (Arg, it ate up half an hour I didn’t intend to lose!) to this beautiful spread by Middlest.

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“You need to eat, Mom. You forgot all morning.”

This is what love looks like.

Welcome to Miss Murder’s Family Farm

My house is where unwanted animals magically appear. And I love it, I truly do.

I stayed up until 2:00 last night trying to get some words done. And I wrote 4,300 of them, which delights me. What did not delight me as much was waking up three hours later because of the chickens.

Yes, we have chickens again. A dear friend had to give hers up, and we chicken-sat a dozen for a week before we ended up keeping four.

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Morning, ladies!

We have Jessica Fletcher (my friend took her when we had the dog, and we’re delighted to have Her Prissiness back!), Pork Bowl, Brown Chicken Brown Cow, and the bantam, which isn’t pictured here. She’s called The Bantam Menace. She’s gone all day and only comes back to eat and roost. Moocher.

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Jessica Fletcher looking unusually regal in the sunrise.

Why were the chickens upset? Because of this beauty.

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He’s a stray that wandered into our yard, and then decided to visit every morning. He’s letting me pet him, feed him, and today I took the brush and brushed the yuck out of his fur.

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He’s sweet, affectionate, and look at how beautiful he is! I’m so happy he comes by. My husband is deathly allergic to cats, so I left the brush outside. Then I threw my clothes in the incinerator (er, washing machine) and took a shower before kissing hubby goodbye.

Then it was time to feed the bunnies, because. Bunnies. Thug Bunny was rescued from a shelter. He was another unwanted animal. Bunniculas Cage, whom the girls call Yum Yums, was intended to be rabbit meat. We bought him from a local feed store and promised never to eat him.

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Thug Bunny and Yum Yums deign to eat from their hooman’s hand just this once.

Now it’s time to be soundly ignored by Rush the turtle, who wants nothing to do with us. Ever. She was given up by her owner several years ago, and has been silently loathing and judging me ever since.

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She’s inside this log, flipping me off with all four feet. Just so I get the picture.

I love my animals. They give me joy, although perhaps more joy if they slept in. But the early morning furry/feathery/leathery snuggles make for a happy day.

What do you have wandering around in your home and yards? I’d love to know!

 

In Which I Discover That We’ve Been Robbed

We packed up the car and headed to my parent’s house for the holidays.  We had everything that was really important with us: the family, my laptop, the kids’ medicine.  It was a good thing, too, because our home was broken into on Christmas Eve, and we were robbed.

Our neighbor, who knew that we were out of town, saw that our front door and garage door were open.  She called the police and a family friend.  When they did a walkthrough of the house, they discovered that it had been completely ransacked.  Everything was pulled out of our drawers.  Our bed was torn apart.  My husband, who came home for work while the kids and I planned to stay until New Year’s with my parents, said that the house was “ugly”.  He took pictures and waited while the police dusted for prints.   The kids and I cut our trip short and headed home.  The house looked lovely.  This is because my wonderful husband stayed up until 3:00 in the morning two nights in a row, cleaning and putting things back in order so we wouldn’t be frightened by the carnage.  I sneaked a peek at the pictures he took before cleaning, and yes, the kids would have been terrified.  Both my husband and I were deeply saddened by some of the sentimental things that were taken.  We were also cheered that minimal damage occurred, and especially that nobody was home at the time.  We realize how blessed we are.

I feel violated. I feel angry. I feel sad and I feel unsafe in my own home.  But I also feel encouraged by the outpouring of love that we received.  People showed up to help clean the mess. Friends offered to rekey our house or board things up until we made it home.  My father packed a broom, a bucket, and a mop before loading us in the car and driving us the seven long hours to our house. 

While I cried about losing my late grandmother’s jewelery and a dear friend’s dog tags, I’m comforted to know that while there are creeps in the world, there are also lovely, lovely people who won’t stand for that kind of appalling behavior.  While one or two people managed to shake our security and effectively ruin our day, many more dear hearts gathered together and tried their very best to put us to rights. Thank you for that.  Thank you for letting me vent and offering your support and love.  I think you are all wonderful.  I think those who are with us are more than those who are with them.