Monday, June 20, 2016

Diving In

Our oldest kids started swimming lessons for the first time today. We arrived at the pool a good wholesome five minutes late because A) that's just how we roll, and B) because someone couldn't find their shoes. My son jumped with enthusiasm the very moment they blew the whistle to begin, my daughter took that as a sign to start her freak out. She was scared because she didn't know anyone there, and because she didn't know what to expect. I tried to calm her fears and began telling her things like, "Well the Lifeguards are our friends, not strangers, and they are here to help keep you safe in the water. And in order for you to stay safe in the water, you have to take lessons where they'll teach you how to swim."

She wasn't buying it. She continued to freak out, began to cry, and then started in with, "Well what happens if..." She does this lately. She takes in the situation and then immediately thinks of the worst that could happen and then asks a million "well what happens if" questions.

For example:

"Well what happens if the lifeguard isn't my friend?"

"Well what happens if I get water up my nose?"

"Well what happens if the fly comes into the water?"

"Well what happens if I can't swim yet like they tell me to?"

Some questions are legit, and others are simply her little mind racing against any possible positive thought. I tried to calm her down again and reassure her that they won't ask her to do anything she hasn't learned to do yet, that they'll be her friends and be kind, that she can do this even though she thinks she can't.

My son's lesson finished up and he came to dry off by us. Our daughter knew immediately this meant it was her turn and her nerves started to get to her again. Meanwhile, I began scanning the next crew of little swimmers that would be in my daughter's class, quietly hoping she'd know someone in her class, but alas, all new people, which I knew wouldn't help her nerves at all.

I also noticed that a lot of the moms came wearing their swimsuits. I was perplexed as to why they'd want to wear their swimsuits to sit in the hot sun watching their kids from the side of the pool. Maybe to work on their tan, I assumed. Or to show off their cute swimsuits.

The whistle blew and the new group of little fishies gathered around the lifeguards, including our own little redheaded mermaid, though her fins were shaking from fear. It was then that I heard the lifeguard call out, "And parents remember for the preschool class that you need to stay in the pool right by your child for the whole lesson!" Mothers in cute swimsuits and their mini-me's took to the zero-entry baby pool while I froze.

"Excuse me, did you say parents must be in the pool with their child if they're a preschool swimmer? Because I didn't know that, and well, I'm not exactly wearing my swimsuit."

"Well, can you wade in the water up to your knees then at least?"

Right. Yes. OK.

Not OK. Somewhere between moving out of one house and into another this week, and dealing with Chloe's trach plugs and appointments, and unpacking countless boxes, I missed the fact that I was supposed to swim with her.  I was wearing shorts, flipflops, and the mommy dress-code classic grey V-neck from the Target clearance rack. Admit it-you own like five of them too.  And I had an errand to run after lessons. But here I was, suddenly not thrilled with lessons, while my daughter's anxiety and fear diminished rather quickly now that she knew I'd be beside her the whole time.

If you've ever seen the show Gilmore Girls, there's this scene where the mother drops her daughter off for her first day of prep-school, but she overslept and ends up rushing out of the house wearing short shorts and a less than modest shirt because it was the fastest thing to throw on. She arrives at the expensive school, where teachers are wearing suits and ties, and feeling really out of place she tries to just drop her daughter off at the door, but her daughter insists that she needs to come in with her to sign something and get her all checked in. She knows she's not dressed properly, but none-the-less she goes inside with her daughter, pretends she doesn't see the awkward glances from other parents and faculty, and does what she needs to do for her daughter.

This was me today. I felt really out of place, and it was clearly obvious that I had not read the fine print on the swim lesson sign-up. I was that mom today. I realized quickly that wading to my knees wasn't an option if I wanted to really help my little girl do good on her first day of swim lessons. So I waded deeper and deeper, feeling more and more as if I'd just wet myself because of the awkward feeling of the wet, soaked shorts clinging to my body.

This wasn't the first time lately that I have had my own fears and anxiety about something new get the best of me, only to realize that the only way to do it was to just dive in and try. Recently we had an occupational therapist come to our home to visit Chloe and see about some new equipment. I was not prepared for this person to then roll into our home this beast of a theraputic, hydraulic, fifty-thousand adjustment-position chair. I nearly cried. Mostly because it took my breath away to realize that in order for my littlest girl to learn to sit and explore and thrive and grow, that this chair was going to help her do that properly, but also because I simply wasn't prepared to see a special needs chair like this in my life. I'd just never imagined it. It's taken ever since her five-month ultrasound to accept that our daughter isn't normal as society often reminds us, but it feels at times like just when I'm getting used to the idea and comfortable with all of her equipment and gear, that something new is needed to help her. And I cringe. I'm all for something to help me daughter, but it's just simply hard to accept this life sometimes of needing more and more things and therapies.

"Well what happens if I can't figure out all the gears and gadgets?"

"Well what happens if I don't get her strapped in good?"

"Well what happens if I break something on this crazy expensive on-loan looking piece of equipment?"

"Well what happens if I have trouble getting her in and out of it with all of her cords?"

"Well what happens if I just plain don't like having this beast of a chair in our living room as a daily reminder that she needs more help and that she can't do the things a normal child can do? Like sit?"

It's kind of like being at the pool and hearing that I have to get in the water fully clothed in order to really help my child have a great swim day, even if I missed the memo on this and am not comfortable with this or didn't choose this, or live life on the edge of the pool watching everyone else learn and grow, and hold my daughter back from that, simply because I wasn't ready.

I camped out here for nearly two weeks. I let anxiety, and let's be honest, grief that my daughter can't learn developmental things the way normal children can sink in during that time. I let our nurse work with her in this new chair instead.

But then I saw how Chloe loved the chair. It allowed her to be higher, to see new things. It allowed her to touch and explore things in front of her because of the tray attached. It could move and be adjusted so that she could either work her little body for PT, or to be relaxed back for her to just sit and enjoy time out of her crib and off her back. She loved it and wasn't afraid of it. She smiled the moment she was in it for the very first time.

So I dove in and tried it on my own with her one day, and we figured it out together. And none of the what if things happened. And I accepted that this intimidating special needs chair was something to be thankful for. At first I was reluctant towards any huge piece of equipment for her, but now I find myself longing to receive a grant we're working on applying for to get her more equipment like this.

Diving into something new is hard and intimidating, but I'm learning that when it comes to teaching our littles, be it our older daughter who's learning the joy and safety of swimming, or our littlest to simply sit, as a parent, you do whatever your child needs you to do in order to best support them.

And I'm thankful that the Lord is like that for me. He's constantly reminding me that I can do whatever it is that he's asking of me, if I let go of the fear and anxiety that fills my mind instead of His Word that fills me with wisdom and peace.

So we went swimming today, fully clothed and awkward as can be, and Chloe had fun in her therapeutic chair watching out the window at the blue skies and cars passing by with her sister sitting by her side.

We soaked up another new-normal hot summer day.

And apparently we left this sitting outside after lessons, for all of our new neighbors to see a glimpse of the personality of the crazy family that just moved in.The minion pretty much sums up how I felt in my shorts in the pool today.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


The room was brown. A mocha sipping, chocolate dripping, warm tone of brown.

"But I want a purple room!"

My four year old and I were not seeing eye to eye. We're in the process of moving across town, and are finishing up painting so that we can then start putting stuff in, but were paused for this all-out mother vs. daughter battle of creativity. The room was brown. A handsome brown, perfect for a baby boy room, with little blue accents. Or an office with manly leather chair and sturdy wooden desk.

But it was not a girl's room at this point, and I hoped to make it one. My desire was to turn this little boy room into a doll playing, Frozen dress wearing, flowery sanctuary where my oldest daughter could have, as my kids call it, 'quiet and alone time'. {Oddly enough Mommy rarely gets that, but they request it daily when they've had it with their sibling}.

So there we were, arguing over paint colors.

"But I want purple!!"

"But Hun, I don't think they'd like us to paint it purple, besides, we only have this blue or white paint left. It'll look like Arendelle!"

"Nope. Please don't paint these pretty purple walls!" But it didn't come out as sweetly as it sounds typed. Her little hands were on her hips like Tinkerbell, with angry tears starting to spill.

Purple? She thought the walls were already purple? Yep. She did. About this time her brother came into the debate, and sided with me that the walls were brown, not purple. She denied it. Finally a thought came to me, and I chameleoned on up to the wall in my very best Pascal from Tangled impression.

"Abi, look. My shirt is purple. The wall is not. We do not match, the wall and I. Now can I please make your room beautiful and surprise you with a room that I know you'll really love to play and spend time in? See, we'll hang a flower box under that window with beautiful flowers like in Arendelle. And over here we'll hang one of Mommy's lanterns. Do you trust that I can make this a wonderful room for you?"

I poured out my nurturing side, comforting her and cuddling her around the waist while I gently tried to convince her that I knew the things she liked, the colors she liked, the style she like. I was channeling my inner Johanna Gaines and trying to explain to her that I understood what she wanted for her room and that I'd vow to do that for her.

Feeling successful, I finished with, "So do you trust me? Can you trust me that I know what you're wanting and can do that for you, even if it means painting the room blue?"

My little redhead, swift as a fox, replied a resounding, "NO. I don't trust you to do that."

Thanks for the vote of confidence, sweet child. She always has been one to be honest with her words.

"Well it needs fresh paint, and we have this icy blue and white, so I'm painting it those colors, and you're just going to need to like it."

OK, well then, now that that was done, I picked up the brushes, set up my area, shook my frustration out on the can of Morning Fog tinted paint, and set to work. While we waited for paint to dry we ran a few errands. It was hot. Our second van doesn't have working air, but it does have ample space for moving boxes across town, so we suffered through the heat by making a run through Sonic for Happy Hour to quench our thirsty and tire bodies. We ventured into the local hardware store for hooks and flower baskets. We made our way to the nearest craft store and put together a Frozen-worthy bouquet. And then we went to our new home to get back to work on making it our own. I picked up the worn roller again and set to work on the west wall, making sure to cover each area evenly, when she walked in.

"Oh, Mama! I weally wuv it!!! It's beautiful! You did a good job painting, Mama! It looks like Frozen, like Anna and Elsa live here!"

By this evening she was thoroughly excited about her new room. The new muted teals reflecting around the room and bouncing over the brightly adorned window boxes. The sun was beginning to stream through the window, and the room felt warm and inviting. Any my daughter was thrilled.

It struck me then, in that moment with my daughter, while trying to convince her that I knew what was best for her and trying to make her say she trusted me, that it paralleled my own relationship with God. How many times does He say, "Trust me," and I say OK, and then three seconds later something has stops me from trusting.  How many times do I throw my little tantrum and say, "Nope, not today. I am choosing to not trust you today because I know me better than you do!"

Oh, ooooh how foolish that is of me to think that I know myself better than the One who formed me? Who knit me? Who created this world and orchestrated creation from the depths of the sea to the highest of snowy peaks. And He loves me. And knows me.

And I simply need to trust Him. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6