Mar 182010

Wasn’t I Supposed to have Perfect Children?

I know this is an unrealistic question, but I have asked myself this so many times. I had a tough adolescence and young adulthood. My life was very dark and confusing for many years due to my own choices. When I finally turned my life around I met Prince Charming. I had prayed for him and God delivered an amazing husband who loved God, and who loved me, despite my colorful past. Life was finally perfect. So naturally it was time to add some perfect children to the mix. Caroline was born 2 ½ years into our marriage and oh was she perfect. So beautiful, so sweet, so absolutely perfect. A delight to parent, a little jewel. Like all children she has her moments, but her moments are my moments and I totally get her. We click.

Two years later Max was born. I was not expecting a boy, I wanted another girl. I wanted to dress them up in matching clothes and hair ribbons. I wanted to make other people envious with the cuteness that I would unleash on the world. But that did not happen, I was given my Max. At 6 weeks old I began to have a funny feeling Max was “not perfect.” I could not put my finger on it, but I just felt it. The first year was a blur of adjusting to being a parent of two, so I didn’t have much time to dwell on my funny feeling.

The second year was better, I was getting used to things and Max was adorable and full of smiles. However, it was during that year that I began to notice he was not hitting his milestones. He was a little late with crawling, walking, talking, pointing and waving. This didn’t seem to be too big a deal. I heard that second children can be slower with things, so I rolled with it. What began to concern me though were the looks. I would take him to a mommy and me music class and he would enjoy himself and then cry hysterically every time the song changed. At first I thought, “OK, he is a boy, right, these things happen.” However, I didn’t get the “I have been there looks”. I was getting the “oh, he is special, poor you” looks from other parents. This really undid me and I would leave the class in tears. I swore off classes for a while and then I thought I would try again, I picked a tumbling class. What little boy would not love to run around a gym and flop on mats? He screamed, he hated it, he wouldn’t participate and he wanted back in his stroller. I sat in the car in the parking lot and called my mom in tears.

This is where it began, the journey of denial, education, love, heartache, amazing friendships and worry beyond what I though possible. An Early Intervention team came to look at him. (this runs through the county school system). He was deemed delayed in play, speech, gross motor, fine motor and self help skills. Before they came I had convinced myself it was all a mistake and I was just a neurotic parent. They were going to tell me he was just like his daddy, an inside boy, a junior engineer, that was all. But they didn’t, they pointed out things like the fact that he could only bend at his waist and could not squat at all. We knew he had a funny run, but they told us technically it was not even a run, since both feet never left the floor at the same time. They told us that playing the piano for 45 minutes at a time was a bad sign in a 22 month old, and that the three electronic toys he played with over and over, was not “just like Daddy” but a sign of delayed social skills.

We started therapy right away, Speech, Occupational and Physical. He was referred down to the Denver Children’s Hospital for tests for Muscular Dystrophy, Fragile X, Thyroid issues and Chromosome deletions. Every test was a roller coaster filled with fear. I was sure with each test it would come back positive and I would grieve it. Then we would get the negative results I would shout to the world, see my son is normal. Then they would order another test, I would grieve again, and then again shout SEEEEE!

But I knew something was wrong, he could not go up and down stairs, he still crawled a lot, and he had big transition problems. We were encouraged as we watched his speech improve quickly, but with his new found speech we noticed a new problem. He would get stuck and repeat the same thing over and over again. He was unable to turn his thoughts off. This was a tough one. I felt I could handle physical issues, but mental? That seemed scarier somehow.

I felt so alone. From the beginning there were SO many well meaning friends and family who would say, “he will be fine, he is just a boy, don’t worry he will grow out of it, he is a late bloomer.” Part of me wanted to believe them but most of me wanted to scream at them since they didn’t get it. I pushed people out of my life, I struggled with close family members who were only trying to help, but it felt like no one was helping. I wanted support, but I didn’t want to face things fully. No one was going to be able to say the right thing to me.

My husband was by my side encouraging me. His engineer brain accepted right away that something was wrong and we would just be logical about it and help Max. He was not swinging from one side to another like I was. He listened and comforted at every step. I met a woman through an Ebay transaction. Such a random way to meet someone, but we clicked and we shared. She had walked in my shoes with her own son with special needs. She was amazing, she helped me SO much on this journey. When I would be mad, sad, confused or all of the above she would email me letting me know she heard me, that it was OK to feel those feelings. Then she would gently ask me where I was on accepting things. Fine, just fine I would report. After all I was driving him to Denver for tests, he was just enrolled in a therapy preschool, what could I not be accepting?

But she knew my heart, and my heart was breaking over and over. We would have a good day and I would convince myself it is all a mistake and that my son was totally normal. Then our usual life would return and I would be devastated all over again. I felt like on the good days the blinders had been ripped from my eyes. I saw how NORMAL people got to live. I would be overcome with anger and even rage at my lot in life, where was my perfect?

After swinging from good to bad for 18 months I hit an emotional wall and a car door….one day Max had spent over an hour obsessing, saying the same sentence over and over. I tried every trick I knew, nothing worked. I was spent, sad and scared. What was happening to my son? I went to load some things in the car for preschool and in my distraction I opened the door right into my forehead – hard. I saw stars. I came back into the house sobbing. That moment changed everything. The hit on the head woke me up. It woke me up to the fact that that I needed help too. I could not keep going on this roller coaster. I had to get off and accept our life.

It has been said that when you hit bottom the only way left to go is up. That has been true for me. I stood up, and with the help of friends, my doctor and my family, I am now climbing up out of self pity and my longing for perfection. I am healthy enough now to make changes for Max that are showing some great results for him mentally. His stuck thoughts seem to be less and less and when he does get stuck he doesn’t stay that way very long. This has brought us great joy and hope. I have also gained enough strength to handle his recent physical set backs, which although very concerning are laced with peace. He recently spent 10 days limping with 2 days not being able to walk at all. We have no idea why, but I know what ever it is, more medical tests are on order, we can handle it.

I struggle to even put into words the changes that have happened in me. I see Max so differently now. I feel hope. I didn’t realize how much I was missing that. I feel that we are apart of something bigger. I can now see so many blessings and beautiful things that are happening, where before I could only see our pain. I am humbled by this journey and I realize it has only just begun. We still have both good and bad days. I am slowly learning to love the good days, to be thankful and to cherish them for the rest and blessing that they are. When the bad days arrive, I have more energy for them now, I have more hope stored up.

God gave this child to me. It is very obvious to me that he was not given to me due to my amazing ability to parent him. I see how he was given to me so I can grow. I am profoundly thankful for this opportunity…I need it. I have a new definition of perfect now. Perfect is a child who helps you grow closer to God. Max does this, through his trials and his successes I feel us moving closer. And it is just perfect.

Mar 032010

Monkees, meet…. Jennifer M, who sent this essay after I suggested that that the only guest post rule is no writing about me. But as you will learn today, nobody is the boss of Jennifer. She handles her business, this lady. She’s a full time single mom and a full time career woman and when the going gets tough, she keeps laughing and praying. She’s honest and funny and kind and tough and I’m proud to know her.

Jennifer M

(This is actually Jennifer A, not M, but the resemblance is ridiculous.)

I’ve never been one to follow rules, so regarding the “rule” that Momastery set for me about not writing about our creator, well, you can just go to the kitchen, find a fork, and stick it in your eye. Get over it, you can’t tell me what I am not allowed to write about. So there, nani nani boo boo!

I wish I could write like Glennon or Adrianne or Chimmy. I hate and love to write. I love it because it’s my form of therapy, I hate it because I read other people’s stuff and think “Damn, I really should have paid more attention in English class.”

A year ago when a friend of mine finally (let’s call her Gwenin) got on facebook and accepted my friend request (insert silent yippee) I looked through her pictures. There was one picture I think I must have looked at for a good ten minutes. It was the picture of her at her church’s holiday play; the one where she played the Virgin Mary.

In high school I had friends in every group, I didn’t discriminate but I also didn’t do things that weren’t perceived as “cool” and church I thought wasn’t cool. I think I was a senior when I stopped going and became one of those holiday worshipers, you know the one’s that only going for Easter & Christmas.

When I had my daughter I wanted to go back but I was scared. I was a single mom from the time my daughter was 4 months old. I got pregnant with a guy I barely knew. Something I’m not proud of but something I will never regret. I won’t lie, abortion went through my mind, but I was more scared of having an abortion then actually having the baby. He moved in with me and then the tornado hit, or maybe I should say Tsunami because that’s more devastating than a tornado. The man I was with, the father of my daughter was an alcoholic and was a mean one at that. I was scared. There were several times where he wouldn’t come home at night. Several times when he did come home drunk, I learned to stay clear of him until he sobered up. There wasn’t a single night that I didn’t pray, a single night that I didn’t ask, “what do I do?” I was scared for myself, scared for my unborn child, but I stayed, because I was more scared of raising a child by myself.

No one knew what was going on. I couldn’t tell anyone. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Once our daughter was born I hoped and prayed that things would change. Eventually I realized that they wouldn’t. The night he laid his final hand on me, I was holding our baby, and after that, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I felt a strength inside me that I knew was coming from up above. I knew I had to leave (ok, well I didn’t leave because let’s be honest, moving sucks and it was my place first, so I kicked him out), but I did it and I did it knowing that I was going to be a single mom. I was ok with that because I wasn’t going to raise my daughter around violence, and I knew God was ok with my decision, too.

Like I said before, I needed help. Years had past and I continued to pray every night but stayed on the course of being a great holiday worshiper. I got married when my daughter was 4 to a wonderful man who was raised in the church, who went on missions every year building houses on Indian reservations, who came from a great family with great values. When I was 8 months pregnant with our son, he decided to come clean and tell me that he was an alcoholic (he wasn’t a mean drunk though, for which I am truly thankful for). Seriously God, I know you never give us more then we can handle, but I think you have me confused with someone else. My questions once again were why? Why me? How can this be happening AGAIN? I didn’t grow up with parents that drank; I never had alcohol in my fridge and after dealing with my daughter’s father how could I have not seen the signs going on under my own roof? My therapist loves my life. I think I just bought her a new car.

I needed help now more then ever. Once again I was dealing with the fact that I was going to be a single mom. I won’t bore you with the details but we did separate.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to the Catholic Church, I thought for sure there wasn’t a chance that the Catholics would want me, so I started to look at other religions. I even went to Mormon services and I absolutely loved the services. I felt like they accepted my kids behavior and didn’t banish us to the sound proof room off to the side of the church because they had something to say or were crying or laughing or just fidgeting; it didn’t matter because, well Mormons have a lot of kids so they are all used to the noise.

After months of attending the Mormon Church and thinking that it was the right place for us I didn’t join because I thought it wasn’t the “cool” thing to do and plus it would have upset my parents. I’m 33 years old and I still care about what my parents will think.

And then I saw my friend’s picture, the one where she was dressed as the Virgin Mary. Now I assume this is the part where our friend Gwenin should go grab a fork. Go ahead; we’ll wait for you to find a fork. You do have forks in your house, right? Gwenin is one of the reasons I started going back to church and I don’t think she should be embarrassed by knowing this or me telling the rest of the Monkees this. I thought if Gwenin can go to church then it’s obvious that going to church really is the “cool” thing to do.

I did eventually choose to go back to the Catholic Church after many months of talking and praying and finding a church where I felt comfortable. And you know what? Those sound proof rooms are kind of a blessing and I don’t mind them so much anymore. I don’t think they are trying to banish us because our kids are loud, I think they just want everyone to be able to hear the message and I am thankful that I can still hear the service in those sound proof rooms and my kids can still be kids.

I do struggle with all the rules of the Catholic Church; I still have my own beliefs and I will teach those beliefs to my children. I will teach them that love is love no matter what. I know that God would never ever turn His back on me because I don’t fully agree with the way the Bible is translated. God made me with a strong will and I think that was for a good reason, although my Mom would tell you I’m just being stubborn.

I feel so grateful and honored to be a part of this group of Monkees. It reminds me of the online group I joined when I first got pregnant with my daughter. It was a group of women from around the world who were all due to have babies in March of 2002. We lost some ladies through the years but there are still seventeen of us who have remained faithful to the friendships created almost nine years ago. They are my sisters and the best friends I could ever have and I have only had the chance to meet one of them in person. To have that bond with a bunch of women over the internet is an incredible feeling and such a blessing. I’m glad to see that I have found and belong to another group that seems to be headed in the same direction.

Thanks for letting me be a part of it.


Mothers are warriors and Jennifer is proof.

Jennifer had these bumper stickers made for us, so that we could vehicularly declare our Monkee intentions to the world.

Aren’t they amazing? I love how they say “I” am trying not to be a jerk instead of our usual “We” are trying not to be jerks because honestly, I usually feel like the only one in my car trying very hard, and so I don’t think my kids should get any credit.

The stickers cost $4 and Jennifer has Paypal, for convenience. If you’d like one, email her at niffiee43(at)yahoo(dot)com.

**ALSO** Jennifer and I are giving away two free stickers! Tomorrow morning we will randomly choose one new follower and one commenter from today to win a free sticker! Come out and play, Monkees!

Have a great day, sisters.

G and J

Feb 252010
Monkees…Ask and you shall receive. A guest post from Our Krystal….

Following Jake

I know that many Monkees are parents. A lot of you have beautiful young children and a few of us have teenagers and young adults. Being a mom has been the best lesson I’ve ever had in “I can do hard things.” It’s not all episodes of Barney around here, folks, now is it? I want to share the story of just one of my five masterpieces. I could share the story of Kendall who is just plain perfect, but instead I want to share the one about Jake. Nobody really believes all that perfection crap anyway.

My first son, Jacob Aaron Courtney, was the most beautiful baby ever born. He had a golden beautiful glow around him and he was perfect. That is how I felt about him for a long, long time. Jake was good and kind and smart and funny. He stayed that way until around his twelfth birthday. By twelve, he was still all of those things but he was also learning that when I said “you may not turn your hair blue” that came with the post script “until I leave this house to go to work, then knock yourself out.”

By age thirteen, Jake was suspended from school for three days for um…inciting riot (starting a food fight). He was also suspended for cursing. The principal said that the teacher said Jake told another student to “shut the hell up.” Jake said that was not, in fact, the truth. He’d actually told the entire class to shut the hell up. They were keeping him from hearing the teacher. He burned a table with a light bulb in shop class, got picked up by the cops for skateboarding in an apartment complex. Etc.

I was a single mom at this point in his life and up to this point I have to admit that I secretly laughed inside when he did things like this because I was such a goody-two-shoes that I never ever got sent to the principal’s office in school. I liked the rebel in my son. I still punished him for his crimes, but probably half-heartedly.

By high school, I was re-thinking my admiration. Jake became such a liar and a sneak that I had to quickly reel him in. In ninth grade he met his girlfriend, Megan. He loved that girl so much that he’d do anything to be with her. He also had found the nicest group of criminal minded friends to hang around with. They weren’t bad, they just dressed that way (riiiight). Well, as fast as he was learning ways to get around my rules, I was finding new ways to thwart his evil plans. I sat him down with a written list of rules. I explained that I really wanted nothing more in life than to be good to him and treat him nicely, but there were things he had to do if he wanted to continue to live in my house. The rules were simple. Get good grades, don’t lie, no porn, no sex, no drugs, no alcohol. That list might as well have said “please tear me up and ignore me.” The next step was to invade every area of his life. I had his locker searched at school (and the lockers of every one of his friends), my husband and I recorded his phone calls, logged his internet conversations, tracked his browser history and checked up on him when he went somewhere with friends by actually following him. I drug tested him regularly and randomly (he always passed, amazingly enough). This might seem extreme. It was extreme. But, you see, I had to. I love that boy. I love him with all of my heart and what he was doing could potentially get him killed. For example, if his girlfriend got pregnant…I’d kill him. This tracking and stalking did not come easy for us. Jake was sucking so much energy from our family. I was determined to not allow him to destroy us and he was determined to self-destruct.

By the summer before his senior year in high school, Jake was barely in the position to graduate the next year. He was still with the girlfriend and the chips on our shoulders were craters. I caught him lying once again and I reminded him that he could live by my rules or get out.

He said “ok, I’m going to live with dad.” I died. How could the baby I raised choose to live with his dad rather than live by my reasonable rules?

So I said “pack your stuff.”And off he went to his dad’s house. The second he left I cried and cried. And then our family became quieter and happier and we missed him but we were able to breathe.

He was there for almost 3 months before asking to come back home. I allowed it, but with the understanding that this is not a revolving door…this is his last trip back home. I reminded him that the rules hadn’t changed and he said that was ok. He missed our big noisy family and he wanted to be at home. It was a wonderful homecoming, for about two months. Things were back to normal quickly though. Only this time my husband and I were not ready to return to a life of following Jake. Instead, what we did was the complete opposite.

Jake’s new non-rules were these : You’re free. You come and go as you please but the house doors are locked at 10pm. You’re an adult. You pay for whatever you want. You want the internet? Buy yourself a computer and you can pay us to use our internet. You want money? Get a job. You need to go somewhere? Here’s the name and number of a local cab company. You may watch our TV as long as you don’t mind watching what we’re watching. Your drug tests will be regular and random, just as before. We still love you, but we don’t believe a word you say and now you have no reason to lie…try speaking the truth or not speaking at all.

He was FURIOUS with this new set of non-rules. But we weren’t. We stopped following, listening and prying. He stopped sneaking out, lying to us, hiding things. He started working, bought a car, paid his way in life, got fabulous grades in his senior year and he graduated. Jake’s now in college and he works and he’s good and kind and funny and handsome oh and he is still with that same girlfriend, Megan, whom we have all grown to love now that she’s not hidden away from us. He also became the son I knew he would be, that first day when he was born.

Raising Jake was the hardest thing I’ve done in life so far. The rewards for raising him the way we did have been so wide-spread. His younger siblings watched and learned through him and if they forget, Jake quickly reminds them that while it might not seem fair, they should just man-up and behave because the alternate route is no way to go.

I really believe that raising our kids is something we have to do our own way. I hope my younger kids decide to teach me gentler lessons in life. Whatever they bring, I’m ready!

Jake and Megan