the wrong side of gray

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lately I have been stuck in a rut. (Side note: when I just typed out "rut", and said it in my head, it looked and sounded weird, so I went to look it up on Merriam-Webster to see how they defined it, and here is the first definition that is listed: "RUT: an annually recurrent state of sexual excitement in the male deer..."). Um, exsqueeze me? Clearly that is not that type of rut that I have been stuck in.
This guy on the other hand....

Interesting stuff. 

Anyway, back to my rut. I don't believe I have shared with you all about our latest living situation. It started last Fall when the lease on our townhouse was about to run out. (The one where we had the big kid conundrum.)  Well, we totally were not feeling comfortable enough there to renew our lease for another year, but we also had no idea what the heck we would do. Having been a semi-nomadic family since the day my husband and I married, I really did not want to move yet again, but I knew that it was going to be best for us. Problem was we had no idea where to go. The biggest issue was the never-ending school discussion. We did not know at that point whether Archie would stay at his current school for several years, or just for a little while... did we want to move closer to Joey's work... did we want to continue leasing... was having a yard a must... apartment, townhouse, house... in-town, further west. We had no idea what we wanted to do, and we were running out of time. 

Joey's mom kindly offered us a room at her townhouse for as long as we needed to get things figured out. So in we moved. And when I say "a room", I literally mean one room. For the four of us. 
There she is.... (yes, you're looking at the entire room). 

To say this has been an adventure would be an understatement. My mother-in-law has been ridiculously gracious and never complains when my kids leave giant messes all over the place. Or when I leave a sink piled with dishes. She has been awesome and we are so grateful that she has let us take over her home these past several months, and I don't want it to sound any other way. 

In the beginning it was so easy for me to keep things in perspective. Having been to Bulgaria and seeing where Archie grew up; having seen how those children lived, every day, piled on top of each other in tiny rooms jam-packed with beds and cribs, it was easy for me to remember at the end of the day that I still had it good. Really good. My family was safe, and fed, with a roof over our heads.

But a few months into it, I heard myself complaining. Whining about not having our own space, and dreaming of the day that we would. I could usually snap myself back into perspective pretty quickly, but it seemed to be getting a little tougher every day. The other day in the car, I had just hung up the phone with Joey after discussing house situations, and I said out loud to the kids, "Oh whatever, I don't even care where we live, as long as I am with you guys I would be happy living in a cardboard box...we don't need a lot of stuff anyway." And Ace quickly responded, "umm mom, it's gonna have to be a big box because actually I do need a lot of stuff."

I don't remember exactly when it was, but somewhere along the line I started playing the waiting game again. I know I have talked about it here before. I guess it is one of those things that I come in and out of. You know, the one where you just sit and wait for life to pass by until you actually start living. Waiting for a situation to change or a season to pass. That's the worst. Putting life on hold. Yuck. It's like, "Hello, lady! You have an amazing life and family already, what the heck are you waiting for?!"

The problem with me (yes, there is only one problem) is that I am such an all or nothing person. There's never any middle of the road, no gray area. And there are times when I find myself on the wrong side of gray. And it sucks. The right side of gray is fantastic, although also completely unrealistic. The pressure to stay on the right side of gray is also unbearable, which is why I only stay on it for short periods of time. For example, I will be the healthiest, cleanest eating, water-only drinking, most self-disciplined person for an extended period of time, and then one day, I give in to temptation and eat a bag of Cheetos or a Cadbury egg, and then it's over. Then the next day I find myself waiting anxiously in the drive-thru line at McDonald's salivating over the thought of biting into that 99 cent double cheeseburger (gross) and those overly (yet perfectly) salted fries. And a large coke. But it never stops there. And this is where the slope gets super slippery and I slide straight down into my rut. (And apparently it's also where Sally sells seashells by the seashore).

The disgusting eating habits are just the beginning. That then translates into my household duties, parenting skills, etc. On the right side of gray, I have myself on strict cleaning routines; on the wrong side, getting a load of laundry into the washer, and transferred to the dryer is about as far as it goes. On the right side, I read to my kids every night; on the wrong side, they ask me if we will ever finish that book we only got to chapter three on. On the right side, I devise and implement discipline systems that actually work on my kids; on the wrong side, I have a white flag permanently waving over my head and I allow two tiny hooligans to run my life. On the right side, I exfoliate and moisturize every night; on the wrong side, I go to sleep in whatever make-up I was able to slap on in the car that morning. You get the picture. It's not pretty. 

And when I am on the wrong side, I am just not my chipper self. Last night I turned down the opportunity to go to a Rockets game with my husband and some really awesome friends because I just felt like "ugh". Like a chunky monkey with no clothes to wear, zits like a greasy 14 year old, and some awkward white girl afro that requires an explanation. And for a person who doesn't care much about what others think (especially about appearance), I still felt uncomfortable enough to know that I probably wasn't going to be able to be myself around these people who are so pretty and seem so put together. (I know, I know, Glennon Melton, they are not as put together as they seem). But I was still feeling inferior.

I hate this "all or nothing" mentality that I have. I hate not being able to find middle ground. Why can't I do things "right" most of the time, but slip in a double cheeseburger or an extra TV show every once in a while.

So I am making the commitment to myself right now. And I am sharing it with you all because they say that sharing your resolutions helps you feel accountable, and helps you keep them.

My real goal is to be able to lay my head down at night and reflect on what a great day I had, and smile about the fun I had with my kids, instead of stressing over the things I didn't get done or the time I wasted.

I am also freakishly excited for summer so thank God it's just around the corner!

Lots of Love!

the incredible quinn

Monday, April 1, 2013

One of my millions of favorite things about having Archie as a part of our family is the amazing new friends we have made along the way. Friends we are connected to thanks to that extra chromosome. 

Last September I received a message from an old friend. She let me know that a close friend of hers had just received a diagnosis of Down syndrome for her baby, and thought I could reach out to her. Megan. I wrote Megan immediately and was really excited to talk to her. In the meantime, I received another message from a different old friend from high school, Katie. She explained that her sister had just gotten the news that her baby boy had Down syndrome, and she thought of me. Her sister is Megan. Small, small world. 

As I said before in my post about GiGi and baby Noah, I knew nothing about this part of it all-- receiving the diagnosis, and having a newborn with Down syndrome, but I was so happy that they had thought of me and I was excited to get to know Megan and her family. 

Little did I know, they would quickly become some of our absolute favorite people on earth. We became fast friends. Every time Joey and I left an evening with them, we would find ourselves saying things like, "man, they are awesome...I hope they like us as much as we like them."  Yes, they are that cool. (And yes, we are that big of dorks).

What I loved most about our conversations was their honesty. They shared their fears, their grief, and we got to see them through what has been an amazing journey. 

Anyway, this is a long introduction to a guest post from Megan herself. She is a very talented writer and I am so happy she said yes when I asked her to do this post. So without further adieu, Megan--

In the spring of 2012, getting pregnant was the last thing on my agenda. Brian and I had made the decision to move from Austin to Houston so he could start a new career with his dad’s brokerage firm. It was a difficult choice to make, as we adored Austin, but with a two-year-old and mountains of student loan debt, we knew it was the best decision for our family financially. I was lucky to find a job teaching at Stratford High School, my alma mater, almost immediately after applying with the district, and we knew selling our house wouldn’t be much trouble in the hot Austin real estate market. After being outbid on a number of properties in Houston and spending our last few weekends as Austinites driving back and forth between two cities, we finally made an offer on a 3-bedroom house sight-unseen. When our realtor called to let us know that our offer had been accepted, I immediately felt queasy.
And who wouldn’t in such circumstances? With the purchase of that house, we were making the move official. It was a move from a city that had treated us well the past 12 years; Austin is where I received my education, married my husband, bought my first house, began my career, and had my first child. It was my home. And now we were leaving. Queasiness was completely normal, right? Plus, it was Mother’s Day and I had already indulged in a couple mimosas…
But then I started doing the math and realized there might be more to this queasiness. After a quick trip to the drugstore and a seemingly interminable minute wait, I learned there was more to my nausea than nerves and champagne. I was pregnant.
Based on all the aforementioned changes, it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t the best time to be having a baby. Nevertheless, we embraced it as best we could. We settled into our new home, sold our house in Austin, and eventually began our new jobs. It would have been chaos without the morning sickness, fatigue, and moodiness that accompany pregnancy, but those ugly symptoms just made things worse. I was struggling to adjust to my new surroundings, and really having a hard time with all the changes. We learned we were having another boy, and I foolishly mourned the loss of a daughter I might never have. Little did I know just how silly it was for me to cry over my baby’s sex, because just two weeks after learning that our second child was a boy, we also learned he had Down syndrome.

Looking back on the time we received his diagnosis is a blur of emotion. I felt myself grieving for our son as if he had died, which feels so foolish now. But I wasn’t prepared for this journey. I couldn’t imagine my life with a special needs child and all the hopes and dreams I had for this baby shattered around me like broken glass. It took time for me to realize that the best way to pick up the pieces was to rearrange them in my mind. Raising this child would be different, yes, but not any less rewarding. I learned quickly that my idea of Down syndrome was based on antiquated notions. The possibilities for my child truly were endless, even if it would require a bit more effort and attention from us all.  
The rest of my pregnancy was a blur. Due to his diagnosis, I was being closely monitored so that any possible health issues could be identified in utero. Children with Ds are prone to congenital heart disease and gastrointestinal issues. My weekly ultrasounds revealed fluid around his heart and lungs, as well as calcifications on his liver and kidneys. These things could mean anything or nothing, but the doctors liked to present us with worst-case scenarios, and we waited with baited breath for our guy to make his arrival, not knowing if he would get here safely or not.
Then at 35 weeks, I woke up with a painful contraction. I thought little of it since it was so early, so I went back to sleep. But they kept coming, so I put in a call to my doctor. She asked me to come in just to be safe, but convinced me I was having false labor. When I showed up in her office, I was fully dilated and ready to deliver. Since I had driven myself to the hospital, my husband almost didn’t arrive in time to hold my hand.
On December 17, 2012, over five weeks early and after only one hour of labor, Quinton Robert Emil Mennes came into this world kicking and screaming. The NICU nurses were on hand to look him over, but deemed him healthy enough to stay with us. All the worry and the worst-case scenarios were for nothing. Our son had arrived, and he was thriving. After a few days, he became jaundiced and had trouble breathing, so he was eventually admitted to the NICU, but his stay was short. A week after he was born, just three days before Christmas, Quinn came home and we became a family of four. 

Now my little guy is almost four months old. He smiles and coos and bats at toys. He can roll over and sleeps through the night. He rarely cries. He’s bigger than his older brother Atticus was at this age and manages to amaze us each and every day. We know we’ll face some challenges ahead, but we’ve fallen so deeply in love with this sweet boy that we’re willing to take on the world to give him what he needs. And along the way we’ve been fortunate to meet so many wonderful new friends who are walking similar paths. Our joy in our children’s accomplishments is overwhelming, and our fear at their struggles is well-managed with one another’s support. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have each other and I can’t imagine this journey without them. 
Parenting is the hardest job I will ever have. This would be true even if my son did not have Down syndrome. But he does. And we love him not in spite of it or even because of it. We love him because he is our son, our Quinn, and he just happens to have Down syndrome. It does not define him, it only enhances him. And it makes me so appreciative of everything I have in this life, especially my children.

So thankful for this precious boy and his family. 
Follow Megan's journey on her blog-

Lots of Love!