The Worst.

This past weekend, I got my heart ripped out of my chest and stomped on by my 11 year old son. I’ve written about him before (About A Boy). He was born with visual impairments (including microphthalmia, which means one of his eyes is visually smaller than the other) and in the time since his birth, we have also realized learning disabilities, processing disorders, autistic tendencies and ADHD. It is not easy to be my son.

The worst.

Despite all of these adversities, all of these struggles, he was blessed with a wonderful little personality. He is a happy kid, always smiling. Out of my children, the other two being girls, he is easily my most sensitive and caring. Every day, he will ask me, my husband and our girls how our days were — and he honestly cares. He loves giving out hugs, with one of his former teachers saying he had a knack for knowing when she really needed one.

But, as with any kid, the one we see at home is different from the one who walks through the school doors. The older he’s gotten, the less smiles we see. His anxiety has ticked up. His frustrations and insecurities regarding his vision and the issues that subsequently stem from them rear their ugly heads far too frequently.  This weekend, however, took the cake. An entire bakery’s worth of cakes, actually.

I honestly don’t even remember what brought it on. He was sitting at the breakfast table, complaining about something. (He is not a morning person — much like his mama.) My husband and I took turns trying to talk him down. The next thing we know, he’s shouting “I hate looking in the mirror! WHY did you make me this way?!”

You wanna talk about a sucker punch? I literally felt like someone had punched me, straight in the gut. I felt the air leave my lungs and I spun around before he could see my face crumble. My husband was right there and immediately wrapped his arms around me as I silently sobbed into my hands. I didn’t look at my husband but I’m pretty sure he was trying very hard not to cry as well as he told me that our son didn’t mean it like that and that it’s not my fault.

But it is.

The genes that are responsible for his eye issues? My husband, my son and I were all tested before my son even reached a year old. Those genes come from me. So while I didn’t knowingly give him his eye problems, the genes that caused them came from me. Me. His mom.

Up until this weekend, we never even really spoke much about his visual impairments. They were kind of like the elephant in the room – as he’s gotten older, he has realized that he looks different from the other kids and that he has trouble seeing what other people do, and yet, we still never really discussed it. Great parenting, huh? I don’t know about my husband but for me, I didn’t know what to say.

But when he cried out “I hate looking in the mirror! Why did you make me this way?!”, there was absolutely no way around it.

I told him we were sorry.

I told him that if I could give him my eyes, I would have done it. I shook my head as I remembered my own mother saying something similar to me in regards to my back pain. I was born with spina bifida and while it was corrected in a surgery when I was 4 months old, I am still left with residual back pain and other complications. She would see me wince when I was younger and tell me that if she could take my pain for me, she would. I remember my 8-year-old self thinking that she was insane for wishing she could have the pain instead. Now I get it, because I would take his coloboma, his nystagmus, his microphthalmia, I’d take it all if it meant he could have normal sight.

I told him that the genes were from me, though I never would have chosen to give him these impairments, and that when he feels angry and needs someone to blame, he can blame me. Because it’s true. It’s my fault.

We told him that his emotions are normal and it’s okay to feel sorry for himself and even to feel anger at his situation, but never allow those emotions more than a day. We told him that there are so many people worse off than he is. That even though his sight isn’t perfect, he still has it. His favorite color is orange. Other people have no idea what “orange” is. When he goes to the beach, he can see the ocean. He can see the sand. Some of the other kids that attend the same summer camp are completely blind. They can only imagine the ocean and the sand.

We told him that even people whose bodies are differently-abled can still achieve fantastic things. We told him about Stevie Wonder, who still plays the piano even though he’s totally blind. Beethoven, who wrote beautiful music while deaf. Stephen Hawking, a world-reknown physicist who can’t even move his mouth to speak but whose mind still works and discovers amazing new things about our universe.

We told him that his eyes do not define him and they never will, unless he allows them to. We told him that when people look at him, they don’t see “the kid with the eyes.” They see a sweet, kind, caring kid. (I may have also thrown “ridiculously handsome” in there because, hey, he is.) And right on cue, I came across a paper he had saved from school on which his teachers and classmates had written their favorite things about him. “Sweet.” “Funny.” “Awesome.” “Kind.” “Positive.” That is what people see when they see my boy. As an 11-year-old, he may not understand it now but those are all the adjectives that matter. Those are the adjectives that make his father and I immeasurably proud.

There were tears on Saturday. There is frustration every day. There is sadness some days. But there is also hope and love all the time. Yes, it hurts me to the core of my being to know that my sweet son will have more struggles in life than most people because of anyone I’ve ever known, he deserves them the least. But… things could always be worse.  And despite the struggles, he is surrounded by people – family, teachers, friends at school, friends from church – who have formed an amazing support system for not only him, but his dad and me as well.

He isn’t perfect. (Who is?!)

But he is loved beyond words.

And for that, we are blessed.

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Samantha

It’s been a year since I last saw you. One full rotation around the sun, 366 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes. One full rotation around the sun too long. 366 days too many. 8760 hours since your last kiss. And 525,600 minutes of having an unfixable hole in my heart.

You came into my life on August 17, 2002. It was a normal, lazy Saturday morning until my parents’ next-door neighbor knocked on their back door and asked if we happened to know if anyone who was looking to adopt a puppy. I looked down. You looked up. And that was it. It was love at first sight for both of us, I think.

Samantha Puppy

I wasn’t looking to adopt a dog. I still lived with my parents. But I begged and pleaded and eventually, they gave in making me promise that you would move out once Daddy graduated from college and moved back to Maryland. What they didn’t know was that they’d fall in love with you too. Your adoption created Grandmommy and Granddaddy, since we had to differentiate between me (Mommy) and them. Even now, with you gone, my children call them that. My brother’s daughter calls them that. Because of you! How’s that for a legacy?

I’m pretty sure that everyone who knew you loved you. How could they not? You were so happy, always always smiling. You were so laid back. You were so loving. It sounds so cliche to say that you were my best friend, but you were really were. You were so much more than just a dog. A lot of people won’t get that, even if they say that they do. Even if they think that they do. They don’t, not really, and they never will.

picThey will never understand the bond we had. They weren’t there on our quick jaunts to the snowball stand or the road trips to Virginia Tech to go see Daddy. They weren’t there when I’d cling to you after a particularly hard day or a big fight. And you’d just let me. You’d stay there as long as I needed you and just let me hug you. God, I miss that.

I miss everything about you. I miss that dent in between your eyes that was my favorite place to kiss. I miss how you’d walk over to and nudge my elbow up to pet you. I miss how you’d follow me wherever I went. I miss how you’d get so excited at hearing “go look out the window.” “Daddy’s home.” “Do you wanna…” “Grandmommy/Granddaddy/Uncle Robbie’s here!” “Sammie, look – there’s a bunny!” I miss how you’d look back at me when I made you go outside to do your business in the rain. (You were such a priss.) I miss how you loved to go bye-byes and how you would stick your head out the window. I miss how you said “boof” instead of “woof.” There isn’t really anything that I don’t miss about you.

I always said that when you died, I’d lock myself in my room for days and cry and as much as I did want to do that when the time did come, I couldn’t. I had to go on, I had kids to take care of and work to do. I actually surprised myself at how “strong” I was through such a sad time but I think – I hope – you’d have been proud of me. I had (and still have) my moments. Daddy, Grandmommy and Granddaddy gave me a gift certificate to get a stuffed version of you for my birthday that made me burst into tears. Looking at pictures of you has the same effect. Writing this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written and it still doesn’t feel like enough. You deserve a book or a song for everything you were to me.

sams urnYou left us on Friday, June 12, 2015, just two weeks shy of your 13th birthday. The kids traced their handprints so you wouldn’t be alone. We had you cremated along with the handprints, and Baby and Hedgehog, your two favorite toys. Your ashes sit on top of our mantle in a beautiful marble urn that says “Our Sweet Girl” with your name and dates on it, and one day it’ll be buried with me so we’ll be together forever. Grandmommy even had your paw print turned into a pendant that I wear every day, so you’re never really far from my heart. I usually go to sleep each night holding the pendant, remembering the 12 years and 8 months that I had it all.

My beautiful Samantha puppy.

My beautiful Samantha Puppy.

 

Happy times with my girl.

Happy times with Samantha.

 

Happy, smiling girl.

Happy, smiling Sam.

 

obx6

Sammie ith Daddy at OBX, June 2005.

 

Miss that face.

Miss Sam’s beautiful face.

 

sam and me 5

Goofing off.

sam and me 4

sam and me 3

 

 

She always loved the snow. She'd lay in it for hours.

Sammie Girl always loved the snow. She’d lay in it for hours.

 

I love you, Sam, and I miss you more than I could ever put into words. I hope you know that somehow. And I pray that we will be reunited one day.

A Balancing Act

balancing actLife is all about balancing, isn’t it?

Balancing school and play.

Work and play.

And those are just the main things. Then you’ve got sub-balancing. Kids’ activities. Your activities. Cleaning the house. Cooking dinner. It never ends! I don’t know about you, but I get exhausted from all this balancing. And after almost 12 years of marriage, 10 of which I’ve been a mom, I keep waiting to get better at it and it still eludes me.

I want to be one of those moms who has it all together. I want to be one of those moms at which others marvel, wondering how I do it. I want beautiful, gray-free, frizz-free hair and stylish clothes. I want to be that Pinterest mom who churns out homemade organic nutrition for her family, has a clean house, hand makes her own wreaths and other assorted decor, the mom who is never late, never frazzled, and remembers everything her kids need for every little school project.  That’s what I want. What I am is very different. I do not have it all together. I definitely do not have frizz-free hair (or gray-free, anymore). Definitely don’t have stylish clothes. My Pinterest fails far outnumber my Pinterest wins. I don’t make organic stuff; half the time anymore, I don’t even make dinner. Forget wreaths and decor. I’m late, I’m frazzled, and 9 times out of 10, I send my kid off to school without the supplies for the school project and without the planner signed. I’m the mom in the drop-off line at preschool with sunglasses on on a cloudy day because I don’t want others to see so plainly that I haven’t even had the chance to shower yet. I am, in two simple words, a mess.

And that’s just me as a mom! The other part of me, the wife bit? Yeah. Kaput.

During the 2 hours and 45 minutes I have to myself each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while my littlest one is in preschool, I let my mind wander as I head back home and 99% of the time, it wanders somewhere along the lines of: what happened to you? WHO are you anymore? I used to be a musician. I used to be a reader. I used to get the occasional manicure. I used to go to the salon regularly and get new clothes or shoes (or both!)… just because. I used to go to the movies more than once a year. I had interests and dreams.

My littlest one, the one currently in preschool, will enter kindergarten in August and in our district, that’s a full-day deal. Some days, I can’t wait. (Today was one of those days. Holy tantrum, Batman!) Some days, the thought of watching ALL of my children ride the bus off to school tears my heart out and I can barely breathe. I wonder though, could this be a chance to reclaim myself? This will be the first time in over TEN YEARS that I haven’t had a kid with me. Ten years. Am I too far gone? Am I even that same person I used to be? WHO am I anymore? Edited to add: Oh crap, is this the making of a midlife crisis??

The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know who I am. It sounds like I’m not happy. (I am, though!) I have a solid marriage with a good man who loves me (except my feet). I have 3 kids that, while trying sometimes, are really great kids. I love my family and my church and my town and my friends. I am content. But when I have more time; more time to balance work vs. play vs. kids vs. husband vs. us vs. me, could I maybe move past contentment? Contentment’s pretty great… but is there more?

Only time will tell.