Decoding Drew

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When I heard that baby scream the second the doctor pulled him out, I laughed and said, "Lord, help us!" I knew then that we were in for it, but I had no idea how true that actually was. Almost seven years after the fact, I'm not laughing when I earnestly plead, " us..."

Life with Drew has never been easy or simple. He's always appeared to be a mystery to us; a seemingly impossible puzzle to figure out. When he was an infant, he screamed for hours on end before we realized he was in pain. Even after he was diagnosed, he was still tough to care for. We kept telling ourselves, "Things will be better after he's one." But one turned into two, two to three, three to four, and so on. Now he's six going on seven, giving us the same amount of difficulty, only in a bigger, stronger body.

Now, before I go on, I have to plead with you to understand and know I adore my sons -- both of them -- with much fervor. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. God created them to each be amazing little people. Drew, in particular, can be a goofy, sweet, and cuddly little boy. But when he isn't those things, that's when there are issues. When Drew isn't Drew. When Drew becomes someone else entirely.

When Drew becomes Anti-Drew, it isn't just bad behavior or the occasional spat with his brother we have to worry about. He completely loses himself and all control. This sometimes causes issues at school, which can include anywhere from minor meltdowns and silent protests to kicking chairs and slamming doors. He's even been threatened to be sent home early, as a last resort. Once, his teachers had to follow through and I had to come collect him, mid-day. He becomes belligerent, spiteful, and physically violent at times. He has been known to not only scream at us, but also kick, scratch, pinch, punch, and slap his brother and father. We often have to physically restrain him to keep him from hurting himself or us.

For some reason, I am off limits. We share a lot of the same life challenges and struggles; the same anxieties and personality traits -- good and bad. We are kindred spirits and share a deep connection. I'm grateful for that and try to use that connection to reach him. It's hit and miss, as I'm still trying to figure myself out at the same time. While we have had a lot of minor victories, we also have defeats. Last night was one of them.

We just recently updated our Wii to a Wii U -- a HUGE treat in our house that we badly needed after a hard, depressing January. We have greatly enjoyed introducing the boys to some of the games Matt and I used to play often and we really love to play games as a family, in general. Rob had lost the privilege of playing last night, so Drew got to play with Daddy alone. We explained to him that he would be allowed to play a couple races on Mario Kart and then it was time for bed. He agreed.

We noticed he was starting to lose his composure as soon as said races were finished, so I calmly told him, "Drew, we agreed. It's time for bed." He started to cry and walk away, controller in his hand. "Drew, time to put the controller back. If you choose to fight, you'll lose game privileges for tomorrow."


"I WILL play tomorrow," he says, squaring himself up with me. Matt and looked at each other, knowing the drill. We have found that immediately removing him from the situation and taking him to a bedroom to try and talk him down has proven successful in times past. But as soon as he saw us get up, he slammed the controller into the remote drawer and ran for his room. Matt followed him to his room and he started talking calmly to him. But Drew wasn't in the mood to talk. He wanted to rumble. He started screaming at Matt some more and ended up back in the living room, where he continued to disrespect his father. I admit, I lost my temper and took him by his ear to my bedroom at that point. I have no patience for disrespect. As soon as he sat down on our bed, he began kicking and punching Matt. Matt restrained him and we set in to wait him out, but he was in it for the long run. He continued to scream at us and kick and pinch Matt. At this point, Rob knocked on our door. We dismissed him, but he persisted. I held Drew so Matt could go to the door, discovering a highly distraught Rob on the other side. "I'm worried about Drew," he said, tears streaming down his face. He wasn't afraid of us hurting Drew, I assure you. He was afraid of Drew going too far and ending up hurting himself. Despite how Drew mistreats his brother, Rob deeply loves him.

Matt told Rob to head to bed and came back to assist me with Drew. We both laid on either side of him, holding his arms and legs as he struggled against us, yelling in our faces. Matt and just held on and told him how much we loved him. He was becoming overheated in his favorite footie pajamas, so I unzipped him and placed my hand on his chest. I could feel his heart frantically beating like a scared little bird in a cage. I begged him to take a deep breath and calm down, but he continued to fight, blankly staring at the ceiling.

Reality set in. One day he'll be bigger and stronger and we won't be able to restrain him or fend him off. Given the amount of blind rage he was expressing, we would have been dead at this point. The thought broke my heart and I lost my composure and began to cry. "You're making your mother cry," Matt softly whispered to him. Suddenly, I felt Drew's body relax. I looked up and saw two tear-filled eyes staring back at me. All I could think at that moment was, "He does care. Thank God, he cares. He doesn't want to be like this. There's hope."

We finally got our Drew back, if only for a moment, a day, or a week. The only comfort and hope we can take away from these fights is that eventually he'll come back to us, usually because he is too tired to keep fighting. I have never witnessed him give in because he felt bad for making one of us sad. Rob joined us in our bedroom again and we all hugged and loved on Drew at the same time. We had nothing but love and compassion for him at that moment.

I wish I knew how to help him better, but for now, we're striving to understand and love on this boy we all adore so dearly. God is revealing more about him to me every day, thus revealing more of myself. We are growing and healing together, and someday, hopefully, we'll both be happy, whole people. Until then, we struggle together. Please pray for us all.

Don't Stiff Your Small Business Friend

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Would you walk into a clothing store and assume you get free clothes? Would you walk into a restaurant and assume you get free food?

No, you wouldn't, right? So, why is it acceptable to assume you get free items or services from artists, crafters, or small business owners? We have bills to pay and families to care for, too. But when we ask for pay, people treat us like we're just being greedy. Someone want to explain to me how that's fair? Is our time, effort, and ability not just as valuable? Do you not realize how insulting and infuriating that double standard is?

I work my butt off, often missing out on family time and/or sleep, to make money for my family. I don't have set hours or days off; I often work until I'm done or my body gives up on me. I'm not 100% perfect in what I do or make, but I put 110% into what I am doing or making, because I know what's at stake. I learn to make whatever I can and will exhaust every (legal) effort in order to make extra money. I feel my skills are worth more than just "it's good exposure", "I'll pass your name around", or "I'm your friend/family/acquaintance". I'm a fairly giving person; I try to give when and where I can and I love to help people. But sometimes I just can't afford to. In hard times like these, the meager funds that I'm able to contribute are sometimes the difference between whether the boys get new shoes or clothes, whether we can afford that extra bit of groceries, or have money in our savings for when Matt's checks just can't cover. How greedy of me to ask for pay for my services!

Let's get in the habit of NOT assuming and realizing that doing so is massively insulting. Please. If you can't crochet a blanket, paint a beautiful painting, sew a lovely quilt, carve a rubber stamp, or take a quality photograph, don't downplay, cheat, or judge those who can for you and are doing so to make a living. Just don't be that person. Pay us what we're due or don't ask!

Our Anniversary

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This Valentine's Day, we celebrated 14 years of marriage. If you've been following along, that's a big deal.

We didn't have a lot of cash to work with this year, but I still wanted to do something special for this man, who so graciously puts up with me day in and day out. So, I decided to get crafty, which is kind of my thing. I die cut, assembled, and embossed 14 little envelopes, which had 14 little love notes (simple messages of what I loved about him) in them. I then blew up 14 red and pink balloons (hello, light-headed) and waited for him to finally go to bed (he can be quite stubborn to remove from the couch sometimes). As soon as he went to bed, I taped the envelopes to his monitor, which is his second stop in the morning when he's getting ready for work. I then took the four-garbage-bags-full of balloons out to his truck and proceeded to fill the cab with love and orneriness, all while receiving interesting glances from the lady across the street (why are you up at midnight anyways, HUH?!). Tickled with myself, I went to bed. A few hours later, he came in to place a kiss on my forehead and tell me goodbye, just like he does every morning. He loved everything, but later admitted that he was slightly irked while driving with the balloons. Hey, he asks for these things. Ask me how I know.

When he got home, he offered to do school-pickup duty (many, much brownie points) and gave me a lovely figurine of a couple in love (can't wait to get our living room chaos under control so we can place it). After our friend/sitter picked up our boys, we got ready to go to dinner at our favorite local coffee shop. Twin Beans (if you're not familiar with them and are local, you MUST try them out) put together a fantastic Valentine's Day Dinner for a good price and we were lucky enough to snag a reservation. Our meal started with drinks (we opted for had been a long day...I later regretted it) and an appetizer of hummus and their in-house focaccia bread. Then came a lovely pear, strawberry, and spinach salad with a poppyseed dressing. For the entree, Matt had prime rib and I had salmon, both with garlic mashed potatoes. Dessert was affogatos (espresso + ice cream = UH-MAZING). By the time we were done, I was ready to be rolled out to the car. It was a lovely meal and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together, chatting and laughing. We don't often get to go out on our actual anniversary, since everyone else has love in mind and flood every restaurant in town. So, it's always a major treat when it does happen. That's the downside of getting married on Valentine's Day and I don't recommend it.

The boys had a fun-filled day, as well. They both filled out Valentines and made mailboxes (Rob's tank was made for him last year, via Daddy, but he was sick and didn't get to use it). They then partied down at school all day, by exchanging said Valentines and eating way too much sugar (I'm so glad Matt went to pick them up). When they went with our friend during our date, they had the opportunity to watch a play rehearsal and all the inter-workings of all that entails. When they got bored with that, they ran up and down the halls with their friends like crazy people. They were quite tired when we picked them up, and our dinner went longer than we anticipated, so I requested a hooky day today. I think they really appreciated the downtime and sleeping in. I love our school situation.

So, that was our day! Nothing super fancy, but we got time together, which is always a plus. I just love hanging out with this guy.

As a side note (since this is my space to rant when and how I feel like it), I am frustrated to find a lot of shame flying around on Facebook today. It really let the air out of my balloon, so to speak. Trying not to let it bother me, but it does. If you choose not to "do gifts" with your significant other, please don't shame those who choose to do so. I'm not good with expressing my feelings, especially to those people nearest and dearest to me, so I choose to give/make gifts. Matt knows this and sees the intent behind it; I'm not trying to prove something or boast, even if I choose to post about it on social media. I'm simply sharing our day and saying, "Hey, I adore this man and this is how I told him so."  Maybe I'm taking it too personal, but I found it upsetting, nonetheless. If you feel "secure" enough in your relationship to skip those things, good for you. But my relationship definitely isn't "insecure" because we choose to give/make gifts. I don't really like the implication, there.

Rant over. Happy Valentine's Day!

My Story Isn't Over

Monday, February 6, 2017

Golden Hour on the Farm - Buhl, Idaho - 2016

I'm not a poet. I used to write them for school assignments, but haven't written any in several years. (Don't judge.) Sometimes a line or two pops into my head and I save them on my phone and add to them when I think of another line or two. It's very organic and rough.

My Story Isn't Over

I have cried my eyes dry,
I have screamed my lungs breathless,
I have opened my veins crimson,
I have beaten my face bruised.

I have taken too many pills,
I have denied myself nourishment,
I have run away from love,
I have buried myself in pain.

I have seen the heights of happiness,
I have delved the depths of darkness,
I have seen the mountain peak,
I have laid in the endless valley.

I have begged for death,
I have fought to live,
I have drank the laughter,
I have drowned in sorrow.

I have slept with an angel at my side,
I have woken with a demon on my back,
I have fought the beast of day,
I have feared the shadows of night.

I have screamed at Him, "I'm done!"
I have heard Him reply, "I'm not,"
My story isn't over,
The Author declares it so.

No Matter What

Sunday, February 5, 2017

"I will love you, no matter what."

"I will forgive you, no matter what."

"I will be there for you, no matter what."

No matter what. Three simple words that hold a lot a weight. It has kept our little family going for the past year. So much so, that it's become our official family motto.

This blog started out as a parenting blog and evolved over the years. Just like we as a family have changed, it was time for this blog to change -- in name and look, mainly. The content will remain mostly the same, but focused on our growth and journey as a family unit -- struggles, flaws, and all.

I will try to blog matter what! =)

I Choose To Fight: Getting Real About My Depression

I wrote this post on Facebook in March of 2016, but was afraid to post it publicly on my blog. Now that my blog is up and running again, I've decided to add it so it didn't get "lost". I still read this post on the hard days, to remind myself to keep fighting. If you find yourself struggling with depression today, I pray it helps you find a reason to fight, too. It's not too late.

I wanted to share something deeply personal today, because at this point in my life, I feel the need to be real and transparent about my testimony. Some details have been left out because of sensitivity, but it is complete, nonetheless. How it will be taken, I'm not really sure. My hope is to explain a few things and/or maybe even encourage someone else, if not to aid in my own healing. I know it's long, but hopefully you'll stick with it and read it to the end.

I have struggled with depression my whole life. Thinking back, I vividly remember first contemplating suicide at a very young age -- as young as Rob is now, actually. I blamed myself for many of the atrocities that happened to me in my young life and I thoroughly believed that God hated me and I needed to be punished, by myself. As a teen, I began cutting -- not to end my life, necessarily, but more because I felt I deserved the pain. I also began hitting my face, closed and open fisted, until I was a bruised pulp on the floor. I starved myself because I hated my body and because the kids at school relentlessly tormented me about my weight. I was a pathological liar and I frequently stole from my family. By the time I had graduated high school, I had wronged every single person in my life and I was alone. My family had all but given up on me, my lies had finally cost me all of my friendships, and my romantic relationship at the time suddenly ended in heartbreak. It was a very low moment, as I didn't see any clear future for me. It was at this time that Matt came into my life and wanted to pursue a relationship. I had interest in him, but I admit when he asked me out, my initial thought was, "Sure. Why not? I don't have anything left to lose." He didn't instantly fix all my problems, but he was definitely a breath of fresh air.

Soon after, we married. Our first year, we were too poor to fight, but we made up for it during our second. I assumed by all the fighting that I had made a mistake; that he wasn't really "the one". Really, this was just me being selfish and prideful. I wanted a perfect relationship that suited MY needs. I attempted to seek out other relationships while still being married to him. Thankfully, no one was interested. I heard his heart crack that day I admitted it to him. Graciously, he forgave me somehow. I, however, did not.

Our third year, things were only slightly better and we were trying to have a baby, but to no avail. By the fourth year, it became a wedge between us, but we were too busy working to make ends meet to really notice. About half way through our fourth year, I told him I didn't love him anymore. I heard the crack go all the way that time. (You understand now why I say I don't deserve this man? Because I really don't.) A month or so later, we decided to go to church to try and mend things. I wasn't expecting much; I had been to church before and had been unimpressed. But this time was different. I heard the gospel for the very first time and it drove me to my knees. God saved me that very day and Matt soon after. About a month later, we found out we were pregnant with Robby.

Life seemed to be on the upswing. God had given me a new lease on life, my marriage was on the mend, and we had our baby, finally. All cured, or so I thought. The darkness has a funny way of seeping in without you realizing it. After Drew was born, I figured it was just "baby blues" and stress and it would right itself. But it never did. I proceeded to talk to a doctor, who only shoved heavy anti-depressants in my face and accused my husband of being "unloving" because he was against medication. I had tried medication before and it ended very, very poorly. He didn't want a "chemically happy" wife and I agreed with him.

I started to spiral out of control. I started publicly lashing out at people and hitting my face again, angry that I wasn't better. I wasn't a good wife, I wasn't a good mother, and I wasn't a good Christian. I assumed none of God's promises in the Bible were for me -- as if in some way I was different or some loop hole excluded me. I started contemplating suicide again. I had several episodes of ups and downs, each time being scooped up and nursed back to health by my husband. But soon it became too much for him and we sought counseling through our pastor. This was purely an act of desperation; I trust no one, even my own husband, fully. To let an "outsider" in was excruciating, but he was incredibly kind and loving about it. I will never forget that.

A busy schedule stopped me from going to our sessions and I figured I was "fixed enough" to at least function on a daily basis, but my demons soon took me down again. Matt had a grueling schedule at work and I rarely saw him. We were nothing but roommates and I was bitter for having to be a "single parent" all the time. It almost broke our marriage. I stopped going to church, due to the immense amount of anxiety it gave me. I felt as if I had to "put on a good face" and hide all the pain that was searing inside of me whenever I was there. If I didn't, people questioned me. "What's wrong? Didn't you say that last week?" was usually what I received. I didn't expect them to understand, but I began having panic attacks at even the thought of going. My anxiety began to spread to other areas of my life as well. I couldn't even go to the bank via drive thru without becoming a crying mess at the door.

My busy season with Busy Hands and the holidays kept me distracted through the end of last year, but the new year brought back the darkness with a vengeance. Sickness plagued our household for months and I became extremely depressed. Soon my demons crept in and I did little to fight them off. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of failing. I was tired of struggling just to get out of bed every day. I was tired of pretending I was okay. I gave up and gave in to the darkness. I only got out of bed on the days that I absolutely had to. I had stopped eating, stopped participating, and planned my suicide. I just didn't care anymore. I have never seen my husband cry as much as he has in the last month or so, begging me to live. It should have broken my heart, but I felt nothing. Struggling with the darkness for so many years had finally left me dead inside.

True to Matt fashion, he stubbornly, but lovingly pulled me up out of the pit and helped me back on to my feet. We began reading the Bible together in the evenings and started to be more transparent with each other . I felt God pushing me towards Matt in a way I had never experienced in our 14 years together. I have always been afraid that once I start trusting him too much, God will take him from me. Out of desperation, I have chosen to trust that He won't. I fully believe that we are not to trust men, but only God, completely, but I do feel God gave me Matt to keep me here and to heal me. He is my lifeline.

During this process of healing, Matt was inspired to support me and fight beside me in any manner he could. He became familiar with the semi-colon movement -- the wave of people tattooing semi-colons on their bodies in support of people who struggle with depression and/or suicide. The premise is that an author uses a semi-colon to merely pause for a moment, but keep going rather than stop. In the same way, a person who suffers from depression has moments where their life comes to a stop -- usually with thoughts of suicide -- but they choose to keep going instead. We both appreciated the sentiment, but this most recent episode spurred him into action. "Do you want to get a semi-colon tattoo? Both of us? You for encouragement and me in support of you?" he asked me out of the blue. I admit I was shocked. "Really?" I asked. He paused for a moment, thinking, "Yes. I want to do this. Together." We planned out our designs and visited a local tattoo shop for a quote and to book an appointment. Last night was that appointment. A dear friend watched the boys for us and we both got tattooed. Yes, it hurt. Poor Matt suffered greatly, but regretted nothing. "I did it for you," he says. I believe him.

We decided to incorporate the cross into our designs, because that is the one, seemly-obvious thing I tend to forget when my depression hits. God is always there. He loves me. His promises are for me. I need to turn to Him no matter how deep into it I am. Along with the semi-colon, its statement is simply this: God is the true Author of my story and that story isn't over yet. I know this may come across as extreme to some of you, but for me the reminder literally needed to be tattooed on my arm. It may save my life someday. It has breathed new life into me and Matt tells me there's a light in my eyes that he's never seen before. I know that I will struggle with this until God calls me home and I have only won the battle and not the war, but now I have my war paint on and I am ready to fight.

By the grace of God and the love of my family, I choose to fight for my life instead of end it.