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THE MOTHER OF ALL MELTDOWNS- Virtual Blog Tour

7 Nov

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I recently had the honor, and I do mean honor, of being selected to participate in The Mother of all Meltdowns virtual blog tour. (Click on the title to purchase the book on Amazon.) Author Crystal Ponti has joined forces with 30 other fantastic, well known bloggers to recount their most memorable mother meltdown moments. If you’re a mom, if you’re a friend of a mom, a dad, if you are the child of a mom…you NEED to read this book. I found myself so totally absorbed within the first few minutes of starting it that I was surprised when my 3 year old daughter suddenly stuck her nose in front of my Tab, looking up at me with concern on her face, and asked why there were tears in my eyes? “Are you crying mommy? Why are you laughing and crying mommy?” She was completely confused. “Just reading a good story Ginger.” “A good story” is a total understatement. It was like these women had wandered, unbeknownst to me, into the confines of my head. Like they had been sitting front and center to the stage that had held some of my meltdowns. They had been where I had been. Of course, my 3 year old wouldn’t understand all of THAT. I couldn’t tell her “Well Ginger, see you kids drive mommy crazy sometimes and sometimes all you can do is sit back and hysterically laugh to the point of tears at the fact that you are not the only one being slowly driven to insanity some days.” “A good story” was the short and sweet answer. Satisfied, she wandered away and I was left alone for 20 more minutes to read a few more chapters. In my opinion, if you can laugh and cry within the first few pages of a book? You have gotten all of your moneys worth and more. There is no such thing as the perfect mom. Some days our houses are messy, our dinners are over cooked, okay… burned…I was trying to be nice there, our clothes are pj’s, and the laundry may be rewashed 3 times before making it into the dryer. Some days…mothers have meltdowns. But no matter what, our children are always loved.

As part of the virtual blog tour some of the authors have complied a list of Q & A’s for their readers.

What color is a meltdown?

“Black…by the time I am in a full blown meltdown mode, I feel the depths of despair. I feel like I just can’t fix it.” ~ Michelle Nahom, A Dish of Daily Life

“Clear. Like the color of vodka.” ~ Danielle Herzog, Martinis and Minivans

“I would say that depends on the nature of the meltdown. If it is an angry meltdown, it would be bright red. If it is a sad meltdown, then deep blue. Sometimes, there is even a meltdown born from panic. That one would be neon green.” ~ Lisa Witherspoon, The Golden Spoons

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘meltdown’?

“Puddles…big puddles of kids (or moms) on the floor. You have to be very careful about stepping around the meltdown or you might get caught up in it. Kinda like quicksand, I guess.” ~ Rabia Lieber, The Liebers

“Someone curled up in the fetal position hiding in a corner. Or so I’ve heard.” ~ Jennifer Barbour, Another Jennifer
“Yelling and crying and ending up in a big heap of someone that you don’t recognize as yourself.” ~ AnnMarie Gubenko, Tidbits from the Queen of Chaos

What was your story about?

“My story was about the holiday havoc that went down in history. My son was sick, but we brought him to my parents’ house to celebrate Christmas anyway. Little did we know that we were about to set off a massive family flu pandemic. I was so stressed out from taking care of everyone that I ended up fainting! (One of my friends actually thought I made my story up…but I swear on the lives of my children, it’s 100% true. Sad…but true.)” ~ Marie Bollman, Make Your Own Damn Dinner

“My story is about how an ordinary day can go off the rails and head towards a meltdown before you realize it. Starting out with locking my keys in the car, and ending with my kids not doing the thing I’ve asked them (nagged them??) to do constantly. Meltdown city!” ~ Angela Keck, Writer Mom’s Blog

“It’s what REALLY happens when you find out your pregnant. From taking four pregnancy tests at once, to then driving directly to the OBGYN’s office holding my pee sticks; it was the meltdown before the baby was even born.” ~ Danielle Herzog, Martinis and Minivans

What did you like best about working on The Mother of All Meltdowns project?

“Hands down, my favorite part was getting to know all of the other collaborators and feeling less alone in my insanity!” ~ Rabia Lieber, The Liebers

“I loved being part of a group of terrific authors, bloggers and mothers! We come from all over the country and have different kinds of blog, yet we all have so much in common with each other, including our meltdowns.” ~ Ginny Marie, Lemon Drop Pie

“I loved putting together my story and realizing that it was just one part of a much bigger project. The most fun part of the project was when I got that first draft and read through all the stories and really got a sense of how it was all coming together.” ~ Karen B., Baking In A Tornado

What advice do you have for other mothers who melt from time-to-time?

“The next time you’re in a long check-out line, look at the person in front of you and know they’ve had a meltdown. Look at the person behind you and know they’ve had a meltdown. Go home and reread The Mother of All Meltdowns. You are not alone.” ~ Karen B., Baking In A Tornado

“Don’t pretend you can handle it all. If you’re stressed, talk about it. Motherhood is the toughest job there is. We can only get through it with the support of others who are going through it too. It’s okay not to be perfect, it’s okay to lose your cool, it’s okay to talk about it. We’re all in this together.” ~ Marie Bollman, Make Your Own Damn Dinner

“Meltdowns happen. I remember my mom (and dad) having meltdowns, and I do the same thing they did after blowing up at their kids. After we calm down, I take my kids in my arms and we cuddle, read a story, say we’re sorry and that we love each other.” ~ Ginny Marie, Lemon Drop Pie

What is your favorite story in the book? Why?

“Oh, there’s no way I could pick a favorite. I’d probably pick a different one depending on my mood throughout the day. That’s the beauty of the book. There are so many perspectives. At least one story will speak to you at any given time!” ~ Jennifer Barbour, Another Jennifer

“Do I really have to pick just one? I truly found myself nodding along with each one. Even if it was an occasion, like a teenager getting her driver’s, that I haven’t experienced yet, I still could understand the emotions. If I had to narrow it down, though, my two favorites were probably “A Dresser Full” by Ginny Marie (because I have TOTALLY been there with my daughter, too) and “The great Powdered Sugar Fight of 2007” by Marcia Kester Doyle (because it is a more joyful meltdown that actually sounded kind of fun!).” ~ Lisa Witherspoon, The Golden Spoons

“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jennifer Barbour of Another Jennifer is one of my favorites because I can relate to trying to stay calm in public but then unleashing the frustration the minute you’re alone. Plus, I love a mom that admits she dropped the f-bomb since I’ve uttered that very word in a meltdown or two.” ~ AnnMarie Gubenko, Tidbits from the Queen of Chaos

Why should people buy the book?

“It’s freeing in a way. It makes you realize you aren’t alone. When you lose it, you feel like you’re the only one. But the reality is, we all have our moments. When we have a meltdown, it’s not just one thing that sets it off…it’s usually a series of events.” ~ Michelle Nahom, A Dish of Daily Life

“These stories could be shared by your best girlfriends sitting around a coffee shop and that’s exactly how it reads. It feels like you are sharing your worst moments with a group of women who totally get it. We could all use a little community in our lives and the feeling that we’re not on our own.” ~ Melissa Galileo, Completely Eclipsed

“To read talented writing! And just as importantly, I think if you are a parent, or you’re going to be a parent, or you had a parent, (so that makes everyone) you will be able to relate to these stories. Each one is unique and there are obviously many incidents that set us off into the land of meltdowns. It’s nice to get perspective because the 30 writers of our book tell very different stories, and each one is powerful in its own right.” ~ Tamara Bowman, Tamara (Like) Camera Blog

If you could associate any one song with the word meltdown, what would it be and why?

“I would choose “I’m Sexy And I Know It” – I have to keep telling myself that when I have a Goldfish stuck on my ass and spit up in my hair.” ~ Danielle Herzog, Martinis and Minivans

“I never thought about a song for meltdowns, first one that comes to mind is Hysteria by Def Leppard because a meltdown is definitely becoming hysterical! (And you’re welcome because I’m sure the song is now stuck in your head…)” ~ Angela Keck, Writer Mom’s Blog

“I can’t help thinking about “End of the World” by R.E.M. Just when he starts going off and singing all of those lyrics very fast and even if you Google the lyrics, you can’t quite repeat what he’s saying? That’s totally it for me.” ~ Tamara Bowman, Tamara (Like) Camera Blog

What made you want to contribute to The Mother of All Meltdowns?

“I think in some ways, it allowed me to look back on that time with fresh eyes and see what I learned from it. I think getting away from the stress would have been helpful for me. It’s not as if I didn’t have the support. My in laws live next door, and they were a tremendous help. But I was in a tunnel…my stress level was over the top at that point. Going through this also gave me a new respect for how precious life really is.” ~ Michelle Nahom, A Dish of Daily Life

“Honestly, I was a little intimidated at first because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share my worst moment! What would people think? Then, I realized that I would love to read other mothers’ real stories of the challenges of motherhood and how it overwhelmed them sometimes. The great part is that we also share how we overcame the meltdowns. Being a part of such a talented group of writers was also a no brainer!” ~ Jennifer Barbour, Another Jennifer

“Several things made me want to contribute. For one thing, when I saw the list of others who would be contributing, I knew I was in excellent company and felt honored to be included on the project with them. I also liked the idea of the project – sharing our worst moments; laughing at ourselves a little, and, hopefully, offering some comfort to other mothers. Finally, I won’t lie – the knowledge that something I wrote was actually going to be published for the whole world to read was incredibly exciting (and it still is!).” ~ Lisa Witherspoon, The Golden Spoon

What’s next for you?

“I’ve been working on a couple of articles for Queen Latifah’s website, and one has been published already. Another story of mine will be in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, coming out in December. And of course, I’ll be writing on my blog, LemonDropPie.com. If Crystal has a follow-up project for The Mother of All Meltdowns, I’m in! It has been such a pleasure to be a part of this book.” ~ Ginny Marie, Lemon Drop Pie

“I’m writing a memoir about the letters my grandmother and I wrote to each other for over a decade. It’s the story of my life weaved through our correspondence. It’s her words of advice and wisdom she shared with me during my clueless thirty-something years of life.” ~ Danielle Herzog, Martinis and Minivans

“I’ll just keep muddling my way through motherhood and blogging about all my misadventures at Make Your Own Damn Dinner.” ~ Marie Bollman, Make Your Own Damn Dinner

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Why I Feel The Luck Of The Irish Today

17 Mar

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day, Irishmen, luck, and all that, I thought I’d write a few reasons why I think I’m so lucky to be a special needs parent. Now, before you throw up a little from my extreme sappiness and begin thinking that I am THAT mom (you know, the one who tells you everything in life is great, chocolate and strawberry milkshakes, cotton candy, and unicorns). Just know that I didn’t always feel this way. If you’ve read most of my blog you already know this about me. (And if you haven’t read it, please do. If you want to. I’m saying that in my mom tone.) And also know that I don’t feel lucky every single day. Some days are really rough, but who doesn’t have those days? Special needs child or not. My rough days might just involve more Q-Tips, poop, and dinners gone wrong. I just try to remember to be grateful every day because if I forget that…it’s a very dangerous place for me to be in (Eventually I’ll get to that part in my story. Stay tuned. It’s a good story!)

I felt soooo sorry for myself for such a looooong time.

Why did this happen to me? I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t expect to have to have this kind of responsibility in my life. I didn’t want to drag my child to hundreds of doctor appointments, therapy appointments, put her through surgeries, conformer appointments, evaluations, and watch people as they judge her, make fun of her, or feel sorry for her. I also didn’t want people to judge me, question the decisions I made for her, or feel sorry for me.I didn’t want to have to watch my child struggle. I didn’t want to constantly wonder what she was thinking. Wonder if she was really happy. Wonder what she wanted and what her dreams were. I never wanted to feel like no matter what I did, that it wasn’t enough because I just couldn’t fix it for her. I couldn’t make people understand her or love her or treat her with compassion. I couldn’t stop the stares or the questions. And I couldn’t really know how much of it she understood.

I didn’t ask for any of it.

But, you know what?

Neither did Oli.

Neither did she.

So, eventually I got my head out of my ass and stopped being the person that I hated. The one who felt sorry for her and felt sorry for me.

Which now brings me to the reasons that I feel lucky to be her mom. After that very long winded introduction.

1. First off, I feel lucky to be anybodies mom. Seriously. To be in charge of little people who are so interesting and funny, strange and bizarre, naughty and annoying, but who are ALWAYS loving and amazing. It’s so crazy and I cannot believe that it is possible to love anyone as much as I love my children.

2. The people that I have met because of Oli are some of the most influential people in my life. Other moms who share their journey with me and continue to awe and inspire me every single day. They are some of the most courageous, generous, selfless, positive people that I have ever met. Therapists, doctors, outreach coordinators, teachers, parent support coordinators, ocularists….the list goes on. I’m so lucky to have these people in my life. Without any of them, I couldn’t do any of what I do. I need support and sometimes I just need someone to listen. Because of Oli I have all of that.

3. I feel lucky that because of Oli I have something to write about. Bad reason, I know. But, it’s true. Because of her I get to tell our story. I get to reach out and maybe let someone else, whose been where I’ve been, know that it’s okay. They’re not alone. It’s really crappy at first. And it’s hard and it’s sad, but it gets better. It gets so much better. Even if it gets harder because our kids get older, it still gets better.

4. On that note, I feel lucky that I get to share my story with so many people who don’t have a special needs child. Because maybe they’ll read my story and gain a little bit of understanding and perspective. Maybe they’ll read my story and the next time they see a child in public who looks a little different or who is having a meltdown, flapping, shaking, humming or yelling, they’ll think of my Oli. And then they’ll remember what I have said about my journey. How hard it really is sometimes and that all we want is a little bit of compassion. Maybe they will try not to look at the parents with pity or not judge them because they can’t control their kids. Maybe I’ve reached someone out there and it will make a difference in someone else’s life.

5. Most of all I feel lucky to be her mom because…well, because she is just my Oli. If you’ve met her you know what I mean. She feels everything with a fierce emotion that is so rare. I’m glad to be a part of that. I get to see her face challenges head on and never back down. Rarely does she show fear. She trusts me so much that sometimes it scares me. She loves me so much that sometimes it takes my breath away. And she is so brave, strong, funny, curious, and stubborn that sometimes I just look at her in amazement. How can such a big, sweet, phenomenal personality fit into such a tiny little girl. She reminds me every single day what my purpose is in life and allows me to share this bumpy road with her. She forgives me when I mess up, she forgives me when I have to do something unpleasant to her, she forgives me when I allow doctors to do things that are unpleasant, she ALWAYS forgives me. She always just continues to love me. She might be mad for a little while, but then she will wrap her little arms around my neck, pat me on the back, and whisper “Mom-Mom” in my ear. It’s like she’s saying, “I know it’s not your fault Mommy. I know you didn’t ask for this either. I know that you are just trying to do what’s right and are doing what you think is best for me. I love you and I love that you walk BESIDE me and not IN FRONT of me. And I’m really glad that you don’t feel sorry for us anymore.”

And those are the reasons that I’m so lucky to be Oli’s mom.

Is She Afraid?

4 Mar

I can only imagine that preparing a typical child for surgery is difficult for any mother. Trying to explain something about hospitals, doctors, sleepy medicine, discomfort, and recovery time to a 5 year old must be like trying to explain Japanese to someone who has never heard of Japan.

I have never had to do it. Oli is the only one of my children, so far, (I have a sneaky suspicion that Ginger will one day break something doing her karate, dance, acrobats off the furniture) that has spent any significant amount of time in the hospital.

This last October, Kekoa fell off of his bike and required a few stitches. However minor it seemed to everyone else, it was traumatic for him. He was really scared on the drive there. He wanted to know exactly what they would do, exactly how much it would hurt, and exactly who would be fixing him. He wanted to know what would happen if they couldn’t fix his cut? What would happen if it hurt too bad? (Worst case scenarios. I wonder where he gets this?) He needed all of the information and was not so thrilled about trusting someone he didn’t know to make him better. Up to that point, I had always done that.

“Why can’t you just fix it mommy?” He asked me that multiple times on the drive there. I told him that the cut was just a little too deep for mommy to fix. I talked to him about the nurses and the hospital room where it would happen. I told him that they would put some numbing medicine on it and that it probably wouldn’t hurt too badly. I told him that I would be right there with him the whole time.

Despite all of these conversations and words of comfort, he was really scared and nervous. Until we met a boy a little bit older than him in the ER waiting room that had gotten stitches a few months before. He told Kekoa all about it and assured him that it was no big deal and that it didn’t hurt. He immediately looked at me with relief in his eyes and said “See mom. It’s no big deal. I’ll be fine.”

I could only smile and thank that little boy for providing the comfort for my child that I just couldn’t seem to give him.

As I walked Oli into that same hospital on Friday morning I wished that someone could provide Oli with that. Despite talking to her in the waiting room, telling her we were there to see a doctor, and explaining what we were doing step by step, I still wondered if she felt afraid. It’s hard to explain a concept like surgery to Oli. I don’t know any other way besides just talking about it like I talked about stitches to Kekoa. When the nurse took her temperature, her blood pressure, listened to her heart and then had her change into a hospital gown, I just talked her through it.

But does she understand what is happening? Does she think we are at her pediatrician’s office, her neurologist, or another specialist? Does she notice that a hospital smells different than a physician’s office? Does she think that someone is going to hurt her eyes? The last time she had surgery she had an implant put in her eye. This was a painful surgery. Does she think that I am doing this to her? She’s always pretty mad afterwards. What does she think when I hand her off to a stranger and don’t go with her? Is she scared? Does she think that I’m not there for her?

I don’t know. It worries me more and more as she gets older. I think that she understands a lot and I talk to her like she does. The nurse did give her a sedative before they took her back. I’m sure it helps because I assume that she is scared just like any other child would be.

A child life specialist came into her room before the procedure and asked what would help her not to be afraid. I just said “Talk to her. Talk. Talk. Talk. Tell her everything. Tell her your name. Tell her before you touch her and tell her exactly what you are doing before she goes to sleep.” I told this to everyone who walked into her room that morning. Both the doctors, 4 different nurses, the audiologist, the student audiologist, and the child life specialist.

When it was time to take her back to the operating room she was fairly sedated and had a glazed look on her face. I gave her a kiss, told her that I loved her and that I would be there when she woke up. I handed my precious girl to the OR nurse who carried her away and prayed that God would go with her. I prayed that she understood what was happening and that she wasn’t scared. I prayed that they would quickly get her off to sleep so that if she was scared, she wasn’t for very long.

This not knowing…not knowing what she is feeling…is the absolute hardest part of being Oli’s mom. It’s so hard not knowing just what she understands.

Can You See Me? I’m Here In The Darkness. (Part 2)

23 Feb

As I continued my experience randomly selecting food and taking small fearful bites (you never know when they would sneak in another olive, or infinitely worse, a bit of cilantro) I start listening to the conversations around me. I turn my head to the left and listen.

Perk. No one could see that I was eavesdropping.

They were talking about what brought them here tonight. Most people had just heard about it and thought it would be an interesting thing to try. I speak up and say that I have a blind daughter. They start asking me questions about her and want to know what she has to say about blindness. I explain that Oli has autism and doesn’t talk. A woman across from me and to my left starts to tell me about her friends daughter who is also autistic. We are interrupted by a loud voice behind me.

“Seth’s wife? Seth’s wife?”

“I’m here!” I call out.

Were you wondering where my husband was during my first moments in the café?

Where else?

In the bathroom. Minutes before we followed the waitress behind the curtain and stumbled into the darkness, Seth decides he has to pee.

I guess the line was really long because he hadn’t returned when it was our turn to be seated. I knew he would find me eventually.

I grab his hand, well. . .I try to grab his hand, but really just keep grabbing our waitress Faith’s hand.

“Nope. Your still holding onto Faith.” She tells me as she tries to guide me to Seth’s hand.

“See? Woman hand.” I touch her smooth hand. “Man hand” She laughs as I finally grasp hold of Seth.

“Ahhh. . .very important detail. Smooth soft girlie hands and rough man hands.” I say giggling about my complete ignorance.

I really need to concentrate and let me other senses take over. I am focusing on the blackness with my eyes. Opening them wide and trying to discern any tiny shape, form or different shade of darkness. There was nothing and I am disoriented.

After Seth is seated I turn back to my left and try to speak to the woman about her friends daughter again.

“So your friend’s daughter has autism?” I speak in the direction I had before.

There is no reply.

My voice seems small and gets lost amidst the other conversations. I have no other way to get her attention because I cannot make eye contact with her and don’t know where she is to touch her arm. I don’t even know her name.

All of a sudden I feel very alone and lost. I feel unseen and unnoticed.

Is this what it is like for Oli? She can’t see me and she can’t talk to me.

Does this sweet little girl feel unnoticed, unheard, lost and afraid in her world of darkness?

I slump in my chair as my heart begins to feel unbearably heavy. I sit back as those startling realizations hit me and think about that moment.

I think about how I am feeling at that exact point in time and try to burn it into my brain. I don’t want to forget it because I am learning. I am finally learning a very small part about what it is really like living in Oli’s world.

(Check back later. I have more to tell you!)

What did I do before Facebook?

4 Feb

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

― C.S. Lewis

As I struggled to understand what the doctors were telling me, looking up every unfamiliar word, phrase, and condition, I was also furiously searching the Internet for other families who had kids with Oli’s condition.

There had to be more of us out there! Where were they? This was pre-facebook when it was not as easy to find people or support.

Finally I stumbled across a Yahoo online support group for families of anophthalmic/microphthalmic children. I submitted a request to join the group explaining that I had a one month old daughter with the condition.

I was silently begging this woman on the other side of the country….

Please, please accept me. Please tell me that you can help and that you understand.

I received an email the next day telling me to follow the link to the online forum. I waited until everyone in the house was sleeping before I went back online.

With the darkness of the house surrounding me I was looking into a new light, a new hope via my small computer screen.

I clicked on the link and walked into a whole new world. A world in which my child was no longer a small minority with a strange condition. A place where I was no longer just one mom alone on this foreign voyage. I had found the hope and the sense of community that I had been looking for.

I read through numerous conversation links and looked at handfuls of photographs of children who looked like my Oli. Beautiful children with positive and inspirational parents who told me not to be discouraged. They told me that they too lived my story. My life, her life, her future was not to be without hope. I could be myself with them. I could be angry, express my grief, my sense of loss. I could tell them about the strange looks that people gave my daughter. I could tell them how annoyed I was when people thought Oli was sleeping because she couldn’t really open her eyes. They understood because they too had the same experiences.

They knew me and they knew my struggles. I never had to pretend with these women. In the months to come I clung to my computer screen in the darkness and welcomed that light. I asked many questions and always received honest and compassionate answers. I found friendship in a most unlikely place. With women I would never meet. Most of them have never heard the sound of my voice, invited me over for coffee or out to lunch. Most of them were just names on the computer screen. But, those women knew me in those early days. They knew me better than some of my closest friends because I told them how I really felt.

I never told them that I was fine.

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