~ My Daily Grind ~
I often find myself wishing I’d written more as my children were growing up. I remember so many times thinking I was too busy to stop and jot something down, always assuring myself I would remember it later. The sad truth is, you don’t always remember it later. Things you think you could never forget are forgotten as the years pass you by. When they say cherish every moment you should listen, they really do go by too quickly.
When I found this particular writing in my shoebox of memories, I was able to recall this day so clearly as I read the faded words; until I pulled the crinkled, yellow legal pad it was written on out of the shoebox though, I had not. In my heart, it was only yesterday, but in reality, this day, and many more like it, happened many, many years ago.
When my kids were little, it seemed like they would be that way forever. Forever turned out to go by far, far too fast.
It’s 4:30 a.m. when I awake and attempt to open my sleepy eyes. I can’t see anything, darkness surrounds me and though I try, I can’t seem to move. I’m paralyzed from my shoulders up. Intense panic begins to set in. I feel trapped and suffocated. Just before pure terror consumes me, I take the sleeping baby off of my head and tell myself to stop being so dramatic.
I gingerly slide out of bed in slower than slow motion, partly because I am too stiff to move, and partly not to awaken the youngest of my blessed offspring. As I stumble my way into the bathroom I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I wonder if those are dark circles under my eyes or if they are the result of the mega battle Batman had with Godzilla yesterday.
Batman can fly you know. Yep, that caped freak plowed me right between the eyes as I was innocently kneeling to gather laundry. I made one of those mommy rules when my vision returned. From that moment on, super heroes, their sidekicks and their enemies were no longer allowed to fly in the house or they would be sent to prison for an undetermined amount of time. The kids knew what that meant. Those plastic parasites would go into the garage and probably never be seen again.
Feeling quite certain it wouldn’t make much of a difference in my overall appearance anyway, I decided not to worry about it and made my way back to bed. I snuggled in knowing I was free to snooze the morning away. There was no school and that meant I didn’t have to wake up until I was good and ready to. My moment of rest lasted exactly a moment. I’d forgotten kids have some sort of biological clock somewhere within them set to go off at the crack of dawn on weekends and holidays. This time it was set for 5:00 a.m.
I slid out of bed again and told them to play quietly so mommy could sleep for a little while. I knew before I said it I was deluding myself, but it was worth a shot. It’s 6:30 a.m. when I again regain consciousness. It’s the mind-numbing, blaring of the television stealing my slumber this time. I yell for the children to turn the blasted thing down and they yell back “Why?” I so very much dislike that word. “Because you’re gonna wake up the baby!”
It occurs to me as I watch a soggy little diaper running from the room I should have kept my big mouth shut. The television is soon quieted and I begrudgingly arise to prepare breakfast. I notice the absence of one hungry little mouth, I knew she would sleep late, I heard the pound puppies making a jailbreak around midnight.
After the corn flakes had been poured and the toast had been served, our first fight of the day erupted. Apparently, even though the bowls and cups are a matching set, they can tell the difference and began to duke it out over whose bowl was whose. The whole issue is dropped when the youngest of this trio of trolls throws his cup across the table sending corn flakes and milk all over the place. We almost make it to lunch without too much incident, just the usual stuff. “He’s touching me.”, “He’s breathing again Mommy.”, “He say’s I’m an alien.” So on and so forth.
Around 11:30 a.m. the girl child awakes. This haggard little creature stumbles into the kitchen and asks for breakfast. I explain to her it’s almost time for lunch and she can wait a few more minutes. This of course makes me the meanest and most unfair person in the whole world. In the most pathetic voice she could muster she says, “Even Cinderella got to eat breakfast.” I gently reminded her that Cinderella got up before the sun and made her own dang breakfast.
It always amazes me how acute a child’s sense of hearing becomes when the mention of food is so much as even whispered. Within seconds of the first lunch plate touching the table, all four of them were seated. Five minutes into the meal war breaks out over something and everyone is sent away from the table for a time out.
Everyone except the innocent littlest brother who unbeknownst to me, helps himself to his favorite items from each of their unattended meals and devours the stolen goodies before they return. They come back to find half empty plates and begin accusing each other of grand theft Cheetos. I make a mental note never to feed them all at the same time again and I replenish their food supply.
With full tummies, they retreat to other parts of the house to play and I begin to clean up and do the usual household chores. Next thing I know, gut wrenching screams echo throughout our home. I run to the bedroom as fast as I can to find a sobbing little girl curled up in a ball on the floor.
I just knew the boys had done something dreadful to her. They of course denied any wrong doing so I turned my interrogation to the injured party. “Did they hit you?” She shakes her head no. “Did you get kicked, pushed pinched? What happened? TELL ME!”
Through her tears she says, “He said the Beast doesn’t turn into a prince and marry Belle, he said he just stays a beast and eats her for dinner.” I tried to be sympathetic, I really did, but something came over me and as I rocked her in the comfort and safety of my arms I said, “Well honey, he probably did.” I am still to this day making up for that error in judgment. I can now recite every word of Beauty and the beast with amazing accuracy.
I realize as I begin to search for dinner items we need to make a trip to the grocery store. I tell the kids to get out of their jammies and get ready to go. Hey, it’s a holiday, if they stay in their jammies all day that means less laundry for me. I load them into the minivan and head for the store.
Now, I have a conspiracy theory about supermarkets. I think they have little devices in the sensors of those automatic doors that scramble the brain waves of young children. You know what I’m talking about, it makes their voices louder, it makes them become argumentative and it causes drastic mood swings.
I enter the store as quickly as possible to avoid prolonged exposure to the mood altering rays and begin my shopping enjoyment. My youngest son spots the bananas first thing and begins his usual repetitive request, ba-na, ba-na, ba-na. The sweet little tones of his baby voice soon dissipate into the torturous screams of a hungry troll. Screams, by the way, nobody else in the store want invading the empty space between their ears. Dirty looks, vicious glances and irritated stares ensue. Do they think I am enjoying this? I bag up a bunch of ba-nas and put them in the cart. This seems to anger the troll even more so I give him one.
Ahh . . . Peace and quiet. Does my silencing of the beast appease the angry masses? NO! Now the lady with the screaming kid is stealing a banana! I soon lock eyes with the most annoyed of my judgmental, mental being the key word here, grocery store patrons and it’s on. The starter pistol has been fired. Ready, set, GO!
I follow her wondering if she knows what a grave mistake she has made. I keep pace with her throughout the store, down aisles I have no need to stroll through. I forced her to endure the antics of my brain scrambled children for at least thirty minutes. By the time we reached the checkout line she looked haggard and seemed to have aged a few years. She knew she’d been beaten and took her place in line behind me.
Once we were home and the groceries were put away, I engaged in a heated debate with one of the boys about why it is not polite to belch your ABCs in public. He had some good arguments, he gave it his best shot but I was victorious. I always win with the good old, because I said so, rule.
I changed the third diaper of the day, figured my checkbook, did a load of laundry, I even paired up the socks. I watered the plants just to see if they could be resurrected, mended a boo-boo, refereed three fights, read a story, issued four time outs and put Mr. Freeze in prison. I didn’t even know he could fly. I made a joke that made me the coolest mommy in the world, don’t ask, I can’t remember what it was. Finally, after about a half a dozen other things I sat down . . . for about ten seconds.
Screams of pure terror were coming from the back yard. Racing for the door I imagine countless heart wrenching reasons for these horrible screams, none of which I encountered when I rounded the corner. What I did find, was an insanely frightened two-year old with an ant crawling on his shoe. No blood. No missing limbs. Just an ant. Relieved, I flicked the ant off his shoe and held my trembling son. Poor thing, his little heart was pounding. I did a very good job keeping my laughter at bay until he recovered.
At around 4:30 p.m., the daddy-o walked through the door. I was still smiling when he came into the kitchen. “You look happy.” he says in a thankfully relieved tone. “What’d you guys do today?” I told him of the ant encounter and my victory at the supermarket. He laughed about the ant but thought I was a little mean for torturing the lady at the store.
I start dinner and the whole house is unusually quiet. The baby-man was watching Pooh Bear for the gazillianth time and the other three were in the back yard creating an insect village. My dear husband disappeared into the garage and I enjoyed the serenity and harmony of my world. It lasted long enough for the water to boil.
My now not so dear husband storms in ranting about some missing tool which he soon finds right where he left it The children begin to fight over the custody of a rolly polly bug and the baby’s diaper explodes. Calmly, I tell every member of my loving family if anyone wants to eat dinner they had better take care of whatever problems they had and leave me alone or I was going on strike.
The kitchen cleared out and I continued on with my duties. My darling spouse unwillingly changed the diaper, I heard the usual ewws and ughs along with comments like, “What the heck do you feed this kid?” and my favorite, “When was the last time you even changed him?” The rolly polly escaped in the heat of battle and the kids where once again hunting for new pets.
Shortly after 5:00 p.m. the children sit down and quietly consume the nutritious, balanced meal I’d lovingly prepared for them. They rinsed their dishes and skipped off to brush their teeth. Their father made sure they were bathed and ready for bed. He read them a story while I relaxed and unwound in the shower. Once again refreshed and revived, I snuck in to say prayers with them, I snuggled close and kissed them goodnight and they fall fast asleep.
You didn’t buy into a word of that did you? In all honesty, they did eat dinner quietly. Hot dogs, mac & cheese, corn niblets and milk make for a nutritious meal, right? It really was lovingly prepared. The dishes actually sat on the table until about 10:00 p.m. and I think at least two of them brushed their teeth.
Daddy wiped them down with a washcloth while I rinsed some unknown substance off my hand. Then we said prayers and gave hugs and kisses. Then there where drinks and bathroom trips and more hugs and monster under the bed checks and more kisses. All in all, it took the Sandman a little over an hour to find our house and guide them off to sleepyville.
At 10:52 p.m., my husband gently kisses me goodnight and my eyes slam shut. I am rudely awakened not long after by the deafening sounds coming from my snoring soul mate. My perfect husband, the love of my life, I pinch his nose shut until he grunts and rolls over. I say a prayer and thank God for getting me through another day and then finally, I sleep.
It is 4:30 a.m. again. I awaken and all is dark. I can’t see. I can’t move. I feel as if I am being suffocated. Trapped and helpless, terror begins to take over.
In a desperate attempt to save myself, I take the sleeping baby off of my head and gently place him atop my husband’s precious face to muffle the snoring and I drift back to sleep . . .
Crystal R. Cook
Books! Sweet Books!
Such magical things,
filled with ideas,
and thoughts and dreams.
Page after page
of marvelous words
big ones and little ones,
they want to be heard!
Long ones and short ones
and ones in between,
new ones and old ones,
there’s so much to read!
Open a book
and a journey begins,
then open another
when that one ends.
You’re never alone
with a book in hand
they are portable friends
that make life so grand.
Okay, so the poem is a little cheesy – I wrote it when my kids were little and just beginning to discover the joys of reading on their own. They grew up surrounded by books, I read to them from the moment I brought each of those little bundles of joy home from the hospital. Books are important to me, I wanted them to be important to them as well.
These days, it seems even more important for parents to teach their children the value of reading, to help them find the magic books contain. I wasn’t competing with the volume of video games, cell phones, and internet when my kids were still kids; we read and we made up stories and we sat on the floor and played together, sometimes we still do.
My children have friends who have never picked up a book for the sheer pleasure of losing themselves in it, the only books they’ve read were assigned to them at school . . . I must admit, it makes me feel a little sad for them. I know not everyone enjoys literature as much as I do, but I just can’t imagine a life without it.
I have a lot of books, a lot. I kind of hoard them to be honest. I have more books than I will ever have time enough to read, but that doesn’t stop me from getting more each chance I get. This morning I was practically giddy when my Barnes & Noble coupons arrived in the mail, perfect timing, don’t ya think? It is World Book Day after all.
I don’t have the shelf space I need, not that it matters, I just stack them here and there and everywhere. I think it might drive my husband a little nuts, he isn’t much of a reader, I don’t know how I missed that when I decided to marry him. He likes to hear me read though, when we find something he has even the slightest interest in, I’ll offer to read it to him and he almost always takes me up on the offer. He likes to listen to the things I like to read too, at least he lets me think he does.
He keeps promising to build me more shelves, he’ll have to if he wants the book towers to disappear. One day he says he’ll build a room just for me and my beloved books and I really think he will. The next kid that leaves home is having their room turned into a sanctuary for my books until he does . . .
~ Happy World Book Day ~
Last month was, for lack of a better word, inspiring. The outpouring of compassion was simply amazing. 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion is still growing, and this month, we are coming together on March 20th to stand up and speak up about bullying.
If you haven’t yet heard about this beautiful movement that’s been sweeping the internet, check out the 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion Facebook page here and visit the blog here. You can find us on Twitter as well, at #1000Speak. Click the linky button below to read all of last months posts, there are so many blessings to be found here! This link is closed for submissions, but a new one will be open on March 20th for the next round of #1000Speak posts.
Crystal R. Cook
She never meant for it to go this far. The whole thing began in innocence, I suppose it often does though. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? She just thought she needed something, something more, something else . . . She felt selfish at the thought of it, but the feelings of need and desire only intensified with the passage of time. The more she tried to quell her longings the more they grew until the intensity was too much to bear and she gave in. It wasn’t the first time. She knew too well how it could all end.
She began to steal moments in the day while the family she loved was away to feed her hunger, to satiate the desire that burned within, and for a long while she was satisfied. She felt no true remorse; no one knew what she did during those fleeting moments in the light of the afternoon sun. What they don’t know couldn’t possibly hurt them right? Soon though, it wasn’t enough. She began to take chances. Late into the night when she was certain her love was sleeping sound, she would sneak from their bed for a midnight rendezvous.
The old flame had been rekindled within her and once again she felt the rush only secrecy can hold. She began to grow careless, every so often a giggle would escape and float down the hall, she hoped the closed door would spare her husband the sound of it. It was only in those moments she felt the slightest twinge of guilt, knowing what she was doing was wrong. Knowing when the morning came she would be weary and the day would be long, but the thought of what the night held for her was stronger than those moments of guilt.
Days, weeks, months went by before she realized something was wrong. She had no idea she’d woken her husband with her carelessness many times. She had no way of knowing how many nights he spent, listening through the door, wondering what he should do. He made the decision to confront her, to catch her in the act. When the night came, he kissed her sweetly and whispered his love to her. He closed his eyes and feigned sleep until she slowly slid out of the bed, tiptoed across the room and quietly closed the door behind her. He waited. Patiently, giving her enough time to begin doing what she had snuck out to do. He slowly opened the door just as quietly as she had closed it and made his way down the hall until he could see her shadow, glowing in a soft, flickering light.
His heart sunk. It all made sense now. The tired mornings, the hastily prepared meals and earlier bedtimes . . . All of her energy was devoted to the night, he wasn’t going to lose her to this . . . thief. No, he would not be robbed of his precious wife, not again. He was going to save her, just as he had done before. He approached her; gently placing his hand upon her shoulder. She jumped and tears began to fall when her eyes met his.
“Why?” is all he could manage to say. She hadn’t an answer to give, not one that could make him understand. In that moment she realized she was tired. So very, very tired. She looked into his bloodshot eyes and softly said she was sorry. He knew she was. He motioned to the object of her obsession and she knew what she had to do. She reached her shaking hand forward, gently moving the mouse until the arrow was atop the ‘shut down’ button. The screen seemed to beg her not to, but she had to. She knew she had to.
She closed her eyes and did it. The click of the button was deafening as the room went dark. She took her husband’s outreached hand and followed him back to bed. She closed her eyes and slept. It was a beautiful sleep. She dreamed of writing and blogging and Facebook and Pinterest, of all they to offer, the freedom to express herself, the joys of acknowledgment, the recipes, the silly cat videos, the motivational sayings . . . they were always there for her. Now there would be no more midnight visits to the vast world of point and click.
She awoke the next day, refreshed and ready to take on the world. She stared at the computer, remembering an email she was waiting for. She didn’t think it would hurt to quickly check. The minutes passed quickly, the hours even faster. Her husband came home and found her wide-eyed, fingers flying across the keyboard. He had been beat. He decided to give up. He ordered pizza for the kids, gently kissed her forehead as if to say he understood. She didn’t even know he had come home.
Crystal R. Cook
I have two children, now adults, on the autistic spectrum. They are amazing and wonderful, smart and sweet, but they are different and that’s okay with me, it’s okay with them. Most of the time, the outside world doesn’t get to us, but now and then, it does.
I’ve encountered many different types of people on our journey through life with autism, some are supportive and accepting, some are cruel, intentional or not, and then there are those seemingly well-meaning people who unintentionally fall somewhere in between.
Those are the ones who can sometimes hurt us the most. They can be loving friends, family or complete strangers, it doesn’t matter who they are, what does matter is what they say.
Please do not tell me you understand. You do not. There is no way you could.
Please do not tell me your typical child does the same things, trust me, there is no comparison.
Please do not tell me it is just a boy thing.
Please do not tell me it is a phase or they will grow out of it. It is not and they will not.
Please do not tell me I need to discipline more. Discipline does not cure autism.
Please do not look at me or my children with pity. We do not need it nor do we want it.
Please do not ask me if I wish they were different. I don’t.
Please do not give me advice unless you walk the same walk we do.
Please do not tell me what worked for your child unless your child happens to be autistic.
Please do not tell me they do not look autistic. That is ridiculous.
Please do not tell me they do not act autistic. No two autistics truly act the same.
Please do not say things like, “If that was my kid, I would . . .”.
Please do not accuse me of letting them get away with things. I certainly do not.
Please do not ask me what I did or did not do during my pregnancy. That has nothing to do with it.
There are more, but I think you get the point. I hope so. I spend every minute of my life trying to teach my children coping skills, daily living, and social skills. The fact that they do not always ‘act’ autistic is because of the amazing strength and determination they have, and to be honest, because of mine as well. So sometimes you will see them like they are any other young person their age, and other times you will see them in all their autistic glory.
I discipline my children, maybe not the same way you do, but I do. Everything is a teaching moment, there is a difference between discipline and punishment. You do not punish a toddler when he falls as he is learning to take his first steps, you help by teaching them how to pick themselves up and try again.
When someone asks if I would change them if I could, it infuriates me. Would you change your child? The fact is, personally, I wouldn’t and the fact is, I can’t, so why ask such a silly question? God, in his infinite wisdom, gave me these amazing children as they are, I accept and love and cherish them without question. The first time this was asked of me it broke my heart. From the moment I laid eyes on them, the moment I realized they were different and every moment since, the thought has never crossed my mind that I would want them any other way.
What you say and how you say leaves a mark, an impact on the very heart and soul of me, of every parent with special needs children. I know it is impossible to put yourself in our shoes, to imagine what life is like, but if you could just stop and think about how you would feel if someone gave you a backhanded compliment, belittled you and judged you for something they do not truly understand, you might choose your words with a bit more care.
Crystal R. Cook