focus, part 1

focus, part 1

When Boone was three, he had some awful bedtimes. During that three year old summer, he would be OK during the day, but as soon as the first hint of nighttime was in the air, it was like a switch would flip. His eyes got wide, his body went tense, and it was like he wasn’t in control of himself anymore.

It was rough. But, I theorized, he was THREE. And adjusting to a new baby brother. And one day, he’d grow out of it.

When Boone was four, the awful bedtimes continued. The same wide eyes and tense muscles, the same nightly stress for his mama. “He just needs to be in school full time,” I thought. “He’ll do much better when he gets worn out from learning all day.”

When Boone was five and started kindergarten, we had some bedtime peace. After school each day, I’d ask “what did you do?” And he would mumble something like “I don’t know” and shrug when I’d ask him where he left his lunch box. Or jacket. Or shoes.

But, clearly, this was an adjustment. He was still adapting, right? Adapting to a full time school day, to school rules, to… everything. I was noticing that other kids were telling their parents everything that happened throughout their day. Boone still wasn’t… but that was hardly anything to worry about, I decided. He was excelling at academics; one of his class’s top readers, top spellers, top workers.

When Boone was six and in first grade, his teacher said to me, “he’s clearly very smart, but his focus is not there.”

Umm… what?

WHOA.

WHOA.

My smart angel precious baby child wasn’t focusing well? At first I dove into some heavy denial (maybe she’s just remembering days he was kind of sick, maybe she’s confusing him with someone else?), but then I thought about the bedtimes. Then I thought about the times he couldn’t tell me what he did during a day of school. Then I thought about all of the lost lunch boxes and clothing items. Then I remembered when my husband Jason, the pediatrician, said, “you know, I think Boone has ADHD.”

I’m very open about my own mental health. Depression, anxiety, and meds are not topics I’ll shy away from.

When they’re about me.

But with Boone… I didn’t want him to bear labels and stigmas so young. He wasn’t at an age where he could “own a diagnosis,” or so I thought, and I did not want to push that on him. And besides, didn’t ADHD give kids unbridled energy? And if he had ADHD, could he do all of the things he does, like speed through novellas and ace spelling tests? In first grade he was doing multiplication worksheets, for crying out loud!

Too cool for school (and focus issues…)?

So, like any reasonable person would do, I cried and stressed out and ate chocolate and avoided making decisions for as long as possible.

But then I realized the problems weren’t going away, despite every “focus hack” I found online or in books. While Boone could sit and read an entire book, if he were told to do something he didn’t want to do, it was an epic battle of wills. It didn’t matter if he was capable of, say, practicing piano, or writing a short journal entry, if he didn’t want to do it, it was a struggle. And not just a little, tiny, let’s talk about it struggle. Nope. It was three year old bedtimes all over again.

So I made an appointment with our pediatrician (who is not Boone’s father, by the way, going for unbiased opinions here) and after some surveys with Boone’s teacher, Jason, and myself, it was clear: Boone’s focus needed help. We had an official diagnosis of ADHD and a plan to trial some low dose medication.

My questions still lingered. Where was all of his energy? Oh yeah… at bedtimes. How could he read so fast? Oh yeah… he was choosing the books he wanted to read. What about the multiplication?! Oh yeah… even though he could solve the problems, getting him to sit down to work on it was a chore, to put it mildly.

I had a little more research to do, but I was ready to help my son reach his full potential in any way I could. I filled a prescription for Concerta, said a prayer, and began to watch and wait.

For part two of this post, come back to this blog NEXT WEEK, Wednesday, September 27.

all the things i do not know

I like knowing stuff.

And based on how many questions my kids ask me each day, I mean, it’s a good thing. Like any modern day mom, I answer what I can and google what I can’t. And this little arrangement has made me the smartest person in our family — according to our kids, anyway. On most days. Unless daddy bought donuts – or took the boys to a park – or, generally, is home.

Either way, if the kids have questions, I have answers. It’s a good arrangement that only makes me want to lock myself in a closet with headphones to get a break from the constant “hey mom?”s some of the time. And that’s pretty good!

And then I was putting Boone to bed one night…

“Hey mom?”

Here we go…

“Where do people go when they die?”

“Oh, um, Heaven, if they believe in Jesus.”

“What if they don’t?”
“Um, Hell, I think.”
“OK well do they go straight to Hell? Because I have heard people say that. Do they meet Jesus first and then Jesus sends them there? What if Jesus forgets I believe in Jesus and accidentally sends me there? Will you be in Heaven when I get there?”

We have now reached the point in the conversation where I basically look like this:

I am a believer. I believe that Jesus died so I could spend eternity in Heaven. I believe John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have eternal life.” But I don’t have answers for like… any of Boone’s questions there. I haven’t died. I haven’t personally met someone who took a death vacation and gave me the slide show presentation of afterlife pics. But Boone looked at me so expectantly. So hungry for knowledge. And these are good questions! I didn’t want to dismiss them. So I sent up a quick help me prayer, and I responded.

“Buddy, I don’t know.”

“Um… what? You always know things.”

I told him no one has all of the answers. But that I believe in Jesus and I believe I will go to Heaven when I die. I don’t know what Heaven looks like, I don’t know if you and I will be the same people we are now. I believe you will go to Heaven too, if you believe in Jesus, and do not worry, God won’t get your beliefs mixed up. Then I let out the big breath I had been holding in and I asked, “hey Boone, what do you think about all of this?”

Jonah has questions also.

He basically echoed a lot of my sentiments and said his fair share of “I don’t know”s. He ended with, “but you know what? I think I’ll see you there, and we’ll be the same, you and me.”

I grew up with a very black and white view of salvation. Believe in Jesus = Heaven. Don’t believe in Jesus = Hell. End of story. Any lingering questions about Heaven of Hell were answered with “it’s perfect!” or “it’s terrible!” and that was that. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to really own the questions I had about my faith. Until I wrestled with these thoughts, I don’t think I really had the same understanding about my faith. It wasn’t personal.

I want my children to believe everything I believe. It’s true. They’re my little human copies, right? I want us to be on the same page about everything. But I know that won’t happen. If my father’s deep love of olives on pizza (double olives on pizza – WHAT) is any indication, kids just don’t always follow in their parents footsteps. And if kids did just blindly follow, would my dad like that I ate his terrible olive pizza even if I hated it? Maybe, I mean, because he’d probably have been able to order it more, but I think he’d be happier if I ate it because I truly enjoyed the nuance of the rubbery seawater taste of those awful little black and green fruits? Nuts? Fungi? What the heck are olives, anyway?

Back to my point. I want Boone and Jonah to share in my beliefs, but I want them to make it personal. They need to think and hear and choose for themselves. And in order to help this along… I have to say “I don’t know.” I will tell them what I think. But I will be honest about what I know — and what I don’t.

For someone who lives with answers at her fingertips, it’s hard to admit what I don’t know. Especially to the little people I’m raising. But I truly believe to help our children find the answers, we’ll have to admit that we don’t have them.

christmas time is here

Everyone: “Your kids are at such a great age for Christmas! What a magical year this will be!”

Me: “Haha (gracious smile), oh yes (eye crinkle) – magical.”

I’m here to make Christmas magical and eat tomatoes like apples, and I just ran out of tomatoes.

I love Christmas. I love my kids. But let’s be honest with ourselves: Christmas isn’t always magical.

Yes – of course – the spirit and true meaning of Christmas? Extraordinary. The month of December, with the 25th in particular? Occasionally – simply – extra ordinary. (Get it? Extremely like any other normal day? Have some coffee and come back to this one, it’s clever.)

My children are six and two, and this is the first Christmas that they both kind of understand that Christmas is a big deal. The six year old has memories from Christmases past, and it’s amazing to see him remember traditions and make connections on his own. My two year old is really, really, really two.

This photo has little relevance to the rest of the post, but I feel like Jonah is having a pretty intelligent conversation with that goat, and that makes me smile.

Jonah is your quintessential toddler this year: he loves decorations, he can tell you that baby Jesus was born in a manger, and he looks great in a holiday sweater. He’s also broken a minimum of seven ornaments and tried to make a snowman indoors. Before I had kids, I had this ability to turn off the world on holidays, even if only for a little bit. I could step outside my body and feel peace and warmth while my family and friends spread the love of the season. That’s not to say I have never felt my share of the depression that comes with the season – I could just step away from it momentarily to soak in the magic. No small feat, I understand.

But now? I have so much expectation for Christmas. Even if we aren’t your perfect television family in Christmas pajamas with perfect hair and makeup at 6am (yeah, no), we are together, laughing, embracing. There is no talk of sickness or cleaning or homework or potty training. There is simply goodness. No details. Just good. In real life, Christmas looks more like parents not feeling the coffee work fast enough while kids rip through packages so quickly they barely know what they’re opening. It looks like your toddler taking a self-imposed time out to discretely poop in a corner, inches from the potty seat that now has a permanent and disgusting place in your living room. It’s bag after bag of ripped wrapping paper and ribbons that took hours, if not days, to make your presents look perfect – only to become shreds in seconds. 

I think Christmas is hard because we want so much from it. 

I have a mantra I’m adopting this year, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s tricky. It’s countercultural and hard to live out, but here it is: Christmas is a day.

Yes, Christmas is a season, and the reason for the season is life-changing, life-giving, life-saving. We should not be grateful that Jesus was born to save us all only in December. We should not show our family and friends that we love them or read the second chapter of Luke or spend time making special meals only as the calendar year draws to a close. If we can add a little more Christmas into our every day life, maybe we can remove some pressure from the one day that brings all of our stress to a head. 

If you’re hurting this year? If someone you love can’t be near you? If your toddler is destroying things left and right and then inexplicably screaming at you about the messes he made? Take the pressure off December 25. Christmas is a day. I hope you can find things to bring you joy all day long, but if you can’t, realize December 26 is a day too. It’s a day that can bring you just as much magic and mystery and love – if you let it.

peace and guacamole

This is the second week in my Advent Series. To see the first week, click here.

I confess I’ve had a heavy heart over the past couple of weeks. This is quite normal for me even in the calmest of Decembers — once the Christmas season officially starts, I find myself overwhelmed with functions and responsibilities. The tree is beautiful for a few days and then, slowly and surely, it’s plastic needles littering the carpeting and broken ornaments in the hands of enthusiastic toddlers. The normal routine becomes chaos: concerts, parties, late nights, long days.

 

Tonight alone, John said “MOM! Ev is kicking me!” no less than five times. To be clear: Ev was in his high chair, and John kept walking in front of him. Ev’s new favorite thing is yelling “OW!” even when no one is touching him, but rather when he is inconvenienced. Water cup is on the floor? “OW!” Can’t get out of the shopping cart at Target? “OW!” Need a diaper change? “OW! OW! OW!”

At the end of the night, Jay and I collapse onto couches and stare, glassy-eyed, at whatever show we are watching that moment. (It is currently Jessica Jones on Netflix.) At the end of the night, I would like to rest in peace, but instead I wallow in exhaustion.

So can we really know peace?

When the boys are fighting in front of me, I usually counter their loudness with more loudness. I get agitated. I get frustrated. I get tired. I don’t see peace in my home. When I look to the outside world, I see Syrian refugees being turned away. I see terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic. I don’t see peace in the world, either.

 

We won’t find peace if we are looking for worldly comfort. We will only find peace when we make time to talk with God and discover his will for our lives. If your day is hard, if it is painful and exhausting, stop and ask for peace. It isn’t about changing things around you, it’s about re-centering yourself.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

If you are caught up in the frustration of preparing for another holiday party, stop, find your peace, and take fifteen minutes to throw together this guacamole. It’s easy! It’s festive! It’s good for you! (Kind of. Unless you eat the whole bowl. With a bag of tortilla chips. Which I can easily do.)

GUACAMOLE

IMG_9696

This recipe is not exact. You have to use trial and error and sample a lot as you go (go ahead, pretend to feel sad about that).

6 ripe avocados
1 tomato
1 lemon
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Chop the avocados and tomato as shown above. Add the juice of one lemon, several splashes of red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. Stir so the guacamole becomes slightly mushy (this is the technical cooking term) and taste, add, taste, add until you get the balance of ingredients you enjoy.

IMG_9698
Festive, because red and green! See? Enjoy!