Thomas called last night. He’s super excited and nervous about moving to the group home. The progress of which is at a stand still while we wait for the State to make its next move. I’m ok with the wait. Thomas is in a great place with people who genuinely care for him. It’s not like we have to move him now or else…
While on the phone with him I couldn’t help but feel guilty. It’s the same guilt that has plagued me since he went to live at the residential school he’s at now. That I couldn’t serve all Thomas’ needs. I actually though this morning as I reminisced about his life, “Why did God give him to me knowing I couldn’t provide everything he needs?” As usual God’s ways are higher than ours and one day I’ll know His way regarding my son. Until then I wonder. I wonder if He gave me Thomas because He knew I’d try so hard to help him? Did He know I would go beyond our scope as a family to get Thomas what he needed even if it disrupted Tommy and my vision of what an intact family looked like? That we would allow Thomas to learn from people while living somewhere else? These are questions I ask rhetorically. I know with all my being that The Lord knows everything. As difficult as it was raising Thomas, God was there every step of the way. Orchestrating and overseeing it all. Nothing was a surprise to Him as it was to us.
I wish I didn’t feel the guilt. I supposed I’ll always feel some measure of guilt that Thomas’ needs go beyond what I can reasonably provide. I think back to all the doctors and specialists. Those who helped and those who were less than helpful (understatement). The Lord orchestrated every move; every appointment. He was faithful. And He’ll orchestrate my son’s future of this I am certain.
Earlier I said we are waiting for the State to make its next move but in reality God is in charge and it is His love and mercy that will decide what the next move is for Thomas. It always has been God.
I’m so proud of my daughter Alyssa. She started college today. Her first day. Tommy drove her in to Manhattan with him this morning. She said it went really well except for being unable to find her first class and arriving there late. She even made a friend. Everything you want for your child. I’m proud of her for going to college by herself in Manhattan. She’s very familiar with the city having gone many times with friends either shopping or going out to eat. But this is different, even though she’s still living at home she’s grown wings and is flying solo. She’s an adult.
Alyssa even went on an interview today to pass out a magazine during the upcoming fashion week. It’s a paid position and she has the opportunity to meet many different people including celebrities. I’m excited for her.
My heart swells for her. I love all my girls but Alyssa is my first girl. My first child after Thomas who was able to show me what a typical kid could do. And do it fabulously. I think of the days we lived in Jersey. Thomas would be going off on a tantrum and put in his room to calm down. I used to sit with Alyssa in front of Thomas’ door (guarding the door until he calmed down). Alyssa and I would sing the alphabet or her favorite Sesame Street song. She was 2 and fabulous even then.
I can’t wait to see what this semester brings for my YaYa. My girl. To watch her grow and blossom even more as an adult. I’m so proud of her.
It’s summer so it’s time for yet another one of my kids’ birthdays. The birthdays start in April with Lelly and peak in July (Thomas, Tommy and Alyssa) and end in August with Samantha. Samantha’s due date was July 31st with her arrival being August 1st. When I was pregnant with Samantha and she didn’t arrive on the 31st, my sister said she wanted her own birthday month.
I won’t say I can’t believe Samantha is 10. I do believe it. Being the youngest of all my children she’s probably the one I feel most present in her life. My first 3 children were closer in age to each other and with the added stress of undiagnosed Thomas some things are a blur with the older kids. Thankfully they have great memories and love to share things that happened when they were younger. Things that I seriously don’t remember. Not bad memories, just the opposite; happy times or silly things they did and my reaction. I do wonder if it’s the meds or the stress of the past that screws with my memory.
So she’s 10. Twelve years ago I was getting over 2 miscarriages and wondering if I’d ever have another baby. God was so good. The biblical meaning of the name Samuel is “God has heard” so it was only fitting that I named her Samantha. God did hear me and answered yes. When I learned we were having another girl I immediately thought, “no big deal we already have experience with Alyssa and Lelly”. Ha! Samantha is not like her sisters at all. She definitely walks to the beat of her own drummer preferring video games to dolls and challenging her teachers and authority figures. Things her sisters would have no part in when they were her age. Samantha was in the principals office when she was in pre-k! Oh my gosh I wanted to die. What the heck?? Yes Samantha is definitely her own person.
I remember after I gave birth, Thomas was 10 years old. My bff said, “OMG when Samantha is 10, Thomas will be 20!” That seemed like eons ago. And here we are. Thomas is 20. It’s amazing how fast and excruciatingly slow time can pass all at the same time. I hope to be present for the next 10 years not just for Samantha but for all my kids. They are all amazing people.
I think about how fast time flew by while raising my children, well still raising 2 and will always be a guardian to one. My Lelly is 15 years old. She was my “baby ” for the five years between her and Samantha. It’s funny because even after I had Lelly and things were so, so frantic with Thomas undiagnosed I didn’t feel “done”. If anyone asked I always answered that I’d have another. Then I would get the side eye glance but I didn’t care. Don’t ask if you don’t want an honest answer, not that it was anyone’s business anyway.
So anyway time flying by…I see and meet so many first time moms and young families at my work. Of course I remember myself in their shoes and I didn’t believe anyone who said “enjoy them… time goes by really fast”. I distinctly remember when Thomas a baby and I wanted time to stop. I enjoyed him as a baby so much maybe because he was our first? Probably. Before the crap hit the fan with neurologist visits, moulding helmet fittings, MRI’s, early intervention, physical therapy, etc… Our life with Thomas was incredibly sweet. He was a great baby, he smiled a lot, napped on schedule and was all around an easy, happy baby. I knew I wanted more kids after him.
So here we are 20 years and 3 more kids later. The magic of being that young family long gone. And that’s ok. I do like our life now. My husband and I communicate better now than we did in our younger years, my kids are for the most part independent; Samantha being almost 10 is busting out to be as independent as we will let her. Now I feel totally “done” and I’m enjoying this stage of of life. I have no desire to go back to the days when my kids were young. Being on that roller coaster once was enough. Being so “done” makes me enjoy my job all the more. I get to see these little babies, sometimes hold them, most times coo and talk to them and enjoy toothless smiles and then give them back to their parents or wave goodbye after we’re finished.
I like the young families I get to visit with. I do tell them to watch out because time does go so fast. They nod as I nodded way back then not fully understanding that time will fly and fly fast. That that baby they’re holding will grow up in what seems like it’s taking forever some days and other days your head is spinning with the quickness of it all. There have been a few times at work I’ll stumble upon a special needs mom and we immediately bond. That is by far the coolest I’ve ever experienced. I know for that moment I’m in the midst of the planning that God made possible.
My Alyssa, my YaYa (nickname courtesy of Daniella), our Deedle (nickname courtesy of Thomas). Whatever we call her we’re so proud of her. She made it through high school while enrolled in a very difficult honor’s program, the International Baccalaureate Program or simply “IB”. I hardly heard her complain about the work, she is one my children that never made it our business that she had a project or paper due, she just did her work and I see Daniella following in her footsteps.
So Alyssa is legally an adult, legal to get any piercing, tattoo or other body adornment. I won’t stop her if she does decide to do any of the above, I will however give my opinion and any pearls of wisdom from first hand experience, asked for or not. I’m optimistic she will make “good” choices.
I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday the way we all can reminisce about that day for any of our children. I chose to not have the epidural and looking back I know I didn’t need it. My labor was pretty short and the delivery was very quick. When the midwife announced “It’s a girl!” I was in shock of disbelief. My husband is one of 3 boys so I figured I’d never have a girl. Alyssa was so pink! And everyone who stopped by to see me exclaimed that she was so pretty. (I used to work at the hospital I gave birth in, I had many visitors of former co-workers). I thought everyone was just being “nice” but when I looked back at photos I knew they were telling the truth.She really was a pretty baby.
So now she’s 18 years old. She’s still has a pink complexion and she’s still pretty. Stunning if you ask me but I’m prejudiced. I see some of my husband in her face and she certainly did not inherit her long, ridiculously thick hair from me. She carries herself with grace and is one to dress pretty modestly. I can’t think of one instance where I made her change her clothes before going out or going to school. Adolescence/tween years were not fun; in fact I even called my mother to apologize for my own behavior at that age. Thankfully that time was short lived and by age 14 or so she was back to being our Yaya. Alyssa loves the Lord and isn’t afraid to openly worship Him. I love when she picks me up from work and she’s listening to Christian music, it makes my heart happy.
I wish for the world to be kind to this new adult, this young woman of mine; well mine for now.
And just like that today my boy turns 20. What’s sweet is that I have friends who remember me pregnant and remember my son when he was born. My husband and I have a good friend who is a big guy, we’re talking 6’3″ approximately and he’s no skinny drink of water. When we brought Thomas home from the hospital and Thomas would sit in that bouncy chair, our friend would pick up the whole chair with Thomas in it to see him. I’m guessing he wasn’t comfortable holding a small baby. It was so funny and the memory still makes me smile.
And just like that my son was this happy, smiley baby. I love to think back and remember what he was like before the proverbial crap hit the fan. Before all the doctors and specialists, trips to Manhattan, MRI, CAT scan…When Thomas and Tommy and I were our own little family. Optimistic and happy and close and together. Because Thomas was such a good baby we took him everywhere. I remember my inlaws were dying to babysit but I wouldn’t leave him, I never felt I had to. Thomas made me grow up. He made me a mom and me made me an advocate. He made me who I am today.
And just like that my son grew up. He went from baby to toddler to little boy, and so on. He wasn’t an easy child to parent but we did the best we could with what we knew. Tommy and I weren’t perfect I’ll never say we were.
And just like that Thomas is 20. He’s still easy going in his own way and when he smiles he makes you feel like a million bucks. He’s still teaching me ways to grow and I’m still learning.
My son turns 20 in a couple of days. That freaks me out a bit. It means that 20 years ago he made me a mom for the very first time. An important milestone. He was the very first baby I ever took care of without waiting for their own mom to come home; *I* was the mom. No instruction manual…no giving him back. He was mine, all mine. I remember freaking out when Thomas was about a week old or so. Tommy and I were on our way to take Thomas to see Tommy’s grandmother. I was crying and crying that maybe we had Thomas too soon, maybe we made a mistake. Tommy calmly said that it was too late for that don’t you think? Thomas was here. I think I felt very alone when I said that. Tommy made me feel that he was with me that we were in this together and I calmed down.
20 years ago we didn’t have cell phones like we had now. I had gotten Tommy a beeper when I was pregnant with Thomas. I was working as a nurse and Tommy was working at a family owned heating and air conditioning company and out on the road constantly. So he wasn’t easy to get a hold of in an emergency. I had one such “emergency” when I was about 7ish months pregnant. I had pains like right at the top of my uterus/stomach. Since I worked at the hospital I was planning to give birth at the nurse manager sent me right down to Labor and Delivery unit. It was determined that I had “uterine irritability” and they gave me a some IV fluids and sent me home. Tommy was out with friends and I was beeping him “911” with the hospital’s phone number. He came right away. By the time they sent me home it was 3 am (I worked the over night shift). We went to the bagel store, got some freshly made bagels, went home, made bacon and then went to bed. Funny how you remember somethings to the exact detail.
I gave birth in the hospital and Thomas was perfect, I remember he had these perfect pursed lips and I couldn’t help but kiss them. I had the typical newborn pictures taken while in the hospital. I remember within just a couple of days he didn’t look anything like those pictures. My mother was a huge help. Tommy stayed home a week with me and then went back to work. My mother would come over and help me with breastfeeding (she is a certified Lactation Consultant), fold my laundry, go for walks with me and Thomas in the carriage. I don’t know what I would have done without her. None of my friends had kids/babies. I was one of the youngest nurses on my unit so all my friends at work had older kids, I wasn’t friendly with anyone who had a baby. I was home from work for 4 months. I don’t know what I would have done without my mother and her constant reassuring presence. My dad told me I no longer had an identity I was now “Thomas’ mom” and he was right. To this day when I call Thomas’ school I say this is “Thomas’ mom” and they all know who I am.
20 years. It did go fast.
My Alyssa is graduating high school today. Today. She’s thisclose to turning 18 years old. I don’t wonder where the time went I was there I know how fast it all flew by. It wasn’t always flying by so fast there were days of excruciating slowness but I don’t remember them in detail so much. Much like labor pains those memories fade.
Alyssa is much like an oldest child rather than 2nd born. She was our first girl and our first typical child. I remember her as an infant (such a pretty baby even as a newborn), then toddler. In Pre-K she was the pretty little girl with long curls who clung to her mother’s leg and cried and cried. Grammar school graduation was sweet, Junior high grad was even sweeter. High school years that went so fast I stand in amazement at the woman she’s become in the past 4 years.
I feel incredibly blessed this morning. Blessed that my God has given me the privilege to raise this baby He gifted me with. I sit here holding back proud tears and remember all the times she’s made me proud, all the times she gave me the honor of being her mother. Even the times she made me want to rip my hair out. In gifting her to me, God gave me the opportunity to parent a very typical, very beautiful, very unique child.
While raising Thomas I often referred to the poem “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Pearl Kingsly: (http://www.our-kids.org/archives/Holland.html). There were too many times to mention that I mourned the fact that I didn’t sign up to be a special needs mom. That no, I did NOT want to be in Holland. Alyssa gave me the opportunity to visit “Italy”; the typical world, the world I thought I signed up for when I first became a mother. And for that I can never thank her enough. I don’t even know if she’d understand why I would be thanking her.
So I wish my girl all the best this world has to offer. She loves God and she loves me. What more could I ask for?
Yep, it’s that time again…bathing suit season ~~shudder~~. I decided to hit TJ Maxx for their selection and low prices. And believe it or not their dressing rooms were not set up for failure like most major department stores. Last year I went to Macy’s and the lighting in their dressing rooms seemed to emphasize every wrinkle, flaw, cellulite you name it. TJ Maxx on the other hand had bright enough lighting but not the glaring fluorescence that will highlight every flaw you already know you have and don’t need the extra reminder.
I ended up with your basic one piece suit, black and white. Its nice and fit well. Last year’s dilemma over wearing a bikini is no longer a dilemma due to the lovely weight gain I’ve experienced due to much needed medication. I’m not okay or happy with the weight gain but I’m not letting it rule my life as it had in the past. I’m not going to rock the boat and change medication that is already working well in the hopes that I will lose weight. I’d rather be this weight and mentally healthy than skinny and depressed.
Alyssa came home with her yearbook from high school. It was nice to go through it with her and see all the pictures of her and her friends. It brought the reality of her graduating all the more to the fore front. Today she showed me all the nice and wonderful things her friends wrote. It was sweet to read. Especially when the writer was someone she’d known since grammar school. I wrote to her as well. It was easy to write to her, the words just flowed from my heart to the page. Then…I got choked up. Especially when I wrote how God has blessed me with her and now I must let her go to have even more experiences. I’m so proud of Alyssa. She made me grow as a mother while I watched her grow into this amazing young woman. And I have the privilege of watching my younger 2 daughters grow in the same manner.
I’m still amazed at how fast the past almost 18 years have flown by. It does seem like yesterday that I was this young overwhelmed mother of (then) 2 children. I used to put Thomas and Alyssa in the double bus like stroller and walk the neighborhood with them. We were regulars at the Italian deli a few blocks over. Things were much simpler then but to be honest I wouldn’t go back even if I could. Once around that merry go round was enough. I enjoy my Alyssa these days, don’t get me wrong she can exasperate me like no other and she still leaves her stuff all around the house and she doesn’t empty the dishwasher… but I do enjoy her company. She is thoughtful and sweet and most important she talks to me. I pray for her future and that she will enjoy the brightness of it.
So my Alyssa will be graduating high school next week. Incredible… because as most parents we still remember her when she was a much younger child and the silly, funny things she would do. I’m amazed at how fast time flies by and even more amazed at how not so fast the minutes and hours and days go when waiting for things to happen. Like waiting on the IRS to send us information pertinent to Alyssa receiving her financial aid packet. The time has flown now that we are a week from graduation but time seems to have stood still in regard to the IRS getting our information to us.
The milestones for Alyssa have been nothing less than remarkable. She was stunning at her prom, as were her friends. All the makeup and hair up do’s were simply gorgeous on all of them. Although at that age all the girls could have worn a paper sack dress and still have been beyond beautiful. They went to the beach for the weekend after the prom and from what I can tell it was pretty uneventful. For that I’m so, so thankful.
This past Friday at our church high school youth group meeting they had a special event honoring the graduating seniors. It was great, the youth leader set things up as if he were interviewing each senior on the Tonight Show. Asking them what impacted them the most about youth group, what had their parents taught them that stood out the most, etc… It was really nice and some of them were so funny telling stories that made us all laugh out loud. Afterwards all the seniors were prayed over, it was so moving.
As for the group home placement and Thomas, I guess no news is good news. Tommy and I met with the agency’s nurse and psychologist last week and we liked them both. I’m thinking the last thing for the agency to do is screen Thomas to ensure he is appropriate for their group home. Its the hurry up and wait issue that bugs me. I’m not a good “waiter” for lack of a better word. At the meeting we discussed Thomas returning to the former school he attended before he went to residential. He would stay there a year until he turned 21 and then attend a day/vocational program. I’m thrilled with that plan as Thomas could then “graduate” from that school. Of course a CSE (committee on special education) meeting would have to be held to change Thomas’ placement and I doubt the board of ed will deny moving my son from expensive residential school to less expensive public day school. I just want all the pieces to fall into place…now. But I know things will happen in God’s time and his time is always perfect.