Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oh, Mr. Postman...

Guess what I just sent back in the mail today?

true story, folks.
true story.

Note that it's being sent from the government.
To top it off, it was a drivers license suspension to boot.

It seems as if Scarlett has a radar for mail she shouldn't open.  I've had (miss-addressed) wedding announcements, shower name it, she's opened it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In which I win an award and talk about candy.

The adorable girls over at The Plum Verbana (love that blog!) gave me an award a few of weeks back.  I'm been meaning to post it forever, but I needed to get all the other craziness (literally! hah!) out of the way first.  Sorry it's taken me so long, girls!  Anyway, without further ado...

The Liebster Award is for blogs that have 200 followers or less. The word “Liebster” is German for kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, valued, cute, pleasant, endearing and welcome.  How sweet is that?  It's perfect for intimate little blogs like mine :)

Here are the rules for accepting this award:

1. Each person most post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you, and then create 11 new questions for the people you tag with the award.
3. Choose 11 bloggers (with less then 200 followers) and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them about the award (social networks accepted).
5. If you have not done so already, follow the tagger and visit at least three nominees. Spread the love!
6. And remember, no tag backs!

FIRST: Things you don't know about me.

1. I have the flattest, thinnest hair and I hate it.  I spend my entire life coveting nice thick hair.  I know it's hot, causes head and neck-aches...blah, blah, blah.  I still want it.

2. I wasn't very maternal before I started having kids.  I didn't enjoy babysitting, I didn't even particularly enjoy holding babies, and forced familial babysitting was like death.  Luckily for my kids that all changed once I had my own.  Now, I love my brood :)

3. I adore candy.  All that sugary goodness truly is what makes the world go 'round.

4. Oddly enough, however, I'm not all that big of a fan of cinnamon candy.  It's too hot for my tastes (I'm a baby, I know).  I'll eat it if it's the last thing in the Halloween candy bowl, but it's definitely not my fave. Black licorice candy gets thrown away.  ewwww.  (well, except for black jellybeans.  those are tolerable)

5. I am content in my laziness.

6. When I get around to going back to college, I plan on going into library science.  My very favorite job was working in the library at BYU and I can't think of a better way to spend my post-SAHM years.

7. I sincerely believe big earrings makes every outfit better.

8. My spelling has gone waaaay downhill since high school.  I used to be a great speller.  Now I'm just a lazy speller.  Thank you, automatic Spell Check :P

9. If it was sane to have babies forever, I probably would.

10. I simply cannot live without cover-up.  I have horrid dark circles under my eyes and I spend my life combating the extreme that I probably end up with white makeup raccoon eyes :P

11. I love, love, love Christmas...but I reeeeeally love Halloween.  So much so that it's in a death-match with Christmas as my favorite.  It combines all my favorite elements: candy, makeup, dressing up in loud and/or whimsical clothing, sparkly decor, and candy.  and more candy.  What's not to love?

SECOND: Answers to the award giver's questions.

1.  Cake or Pie?  Pie. Pie. Pie.  Always and eternally pie.  The only competition is with cheesecake and that's practically pie.

2.  Best gift you have ever received?  When my husband gave me my Vintage Pearl name necklace.  I love it.

3.  Favorite guilty pleasure food?  Candy.  obviously.  Followed only by popcicles.

4. Do you sing in the shower or in the car?  car.

5.  Anywhere exotic/off the beaten path you would love to go?  Heck, Canada is practically exotic since I've never been out of the US.  If you want truly exotic, though, I'd love to go to Russia and have Spencer show me the sights.  I'd also love to try the Caribbean.  All of Europe, really, but I don't know if that counts as "off the beaten path" or not.

6.  What would you buy for yourself with $100?  Clothes and fabric. Predictable, I know.

7.  If you could go on a dream date (think Bachelor/Bachelorette style) where would you go?  What would you do?  I'd go to Mexico to lie on the beach.  Spencer would be free to go scuba diving.  Does it count as a date if we're not together?  He'd end up next to me on the beach...we possibly just wouldn't spend the entire date together.  Hey, we've been married 8 year...give me a break ;)

8. Favorite, can’t live without, beauty product?  Oops, I accidentally already answered this in my previous section (teach me to answer the post without reading through all the questions first!).  I'll give you my other favorite product, then: mascara.  A girl simply can't live without it.  It makes such a difference.  Biggest mistake people make with is?  Not putting nearly enough on.

9. Would you rather buy an old house with lots of character or a new house you could add your own style to?  As much as I love my old house, I think, at the end of the day, I'd rather have a fresh new one and have a big ol' hand in the design.

10.  Favorite TV show?  It's funny, I have gobs of fave TV shows, even though I'm not a huge TV watcher.  Thank heavens for hulu which lets me binge when TV binging is called for. Favorite serious show to watch with my husband: White Collar.  Favorite serious show to watch by myself: Downton Abbey.  Favorite funny shows: Parks and Recreation, New Girl, The Middle, and Modern Family.  Favorite reality shows: Project Runway and The Voice.

11.  One thing on your Bucket List?  Visit all the major art museums in Europe.

THREE: Questions for the winners.

 1.  Favorite candy? (you knew it was coming)

2.  What's one thing you'd change about yourself?

3.  To cuff pants or not to cuff pants?  That is the question.

4.  Favorite type of crafting?

5.  The best book you've read recently?

6.  Favorite way to unwind at the end of the day?

7.  How did you meet your husband?

8.  Hot cocoa or hot apple cider?

9.  Do you hang-dry your shirts or dryer-dry them? (odd question, I know, but I'm kind of OCD about my laundry)

10.  Biggest pet peeve?

11.  Favorite holiday?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The New Normal, part II

As Ezra is currently hiding under the table, gagging and sobbing at the mere thought of eating a single bite of broccoli cheddar soup, while also currently throwing a massive tantrum at his impending haircut tonight, I'm reminded, once again, of the very real presence of the Autism Spectrum in my life.  Ezra has always been...different.  Pre-diagnosis, post-diagnosis...all of it.  He's always been quirky.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's start at beginning...

Ezra came into this world a fairly difficult infant.  He had food allergies and severe reflux and was just overly-sensitive about most things (I mean...what infant do you know that's scared of the dark?).  He screamed a lot...and I mean a lot. After the first 6 months we had his different ailments all diagnosed and things started to calm down a bit.  He was still fussy and sensitive, but at least we weren't dealing with physical ailments on top of an already cranky baby.

As Ezra grew he remained...tempermental.  I spent his entire toddlerhood and preschool years begging Ezra to just be tolerant of the people surrounding him.  He's always been my little raincloud.  I felt like I was constantly apologizing for him to playmates and cousins...making endless excuses about him being tired, having a cold, being out of sorts, etc. etc. etc.

Really, Ezra was just...


In so many ways Ezra has always been inflexible about so many things.  He's extremely particular about the clothes he wears and the food he eats. Ezra is, hands down, the pickiest kid I know.  I'm sure there are kids out there that are more-so...but he's pretty hard-core about it.  As Ezra's psychologist and I joked, if we could only re-direct that passion towards something useful, like world peace, we'd be all set.  He's rigid about a million different rules...he refuses to wear buttons on his shirts or anything remotely constricting (Sunday is a much-fought-for exception; years after the first battle was fought, Ezra finally wears button-down shirts and occasionally a tie every Sabbath with only minor amounts of blood-loss).  He'll often refuse clothing simply because it's "too stripey" or some other random reason.  Combing his hair is a daily battle with much screeching about hurting scalps and it not being "flat enough" (heaven forbid I do anything except a comb-over...I swear the boy was born with a calculator in his pocket and a beeper clipped to his pants).  There's just a million little routines and rules that direct Ezra's world...from mealtime to bedtime and everything in between.  When the chaotic world that he resides in doesn't fit his never-ending rules, all hell breaks loose and major tantrums ensue.

Most of those rules, though, we've gotten used to.  We've learned to compromise and get along.  What really pushed me over the edge into getting him tested was his social issues.  At first glance (and second...and really even third and fourth glances) Ezra seems perfectly normal.  He has friends who like him.  He has siblings who adore him and who he loves back.  He talks and plays with his schoolmates.  He does his work at school and doesn't get into any trouble.  His teachers have all loved him (no one complains about the kid who keeps his head down and colors quietly).  He's a wonderful little boy...but he's just not normal, in the traditional sense.  One of my first big vibrant red flags was Ezra's lack of natural empathy.  His sister would fall down and bloody her knee and he'd barely bat an eye, walk away, come inside and start rambling about legos to me.  He isn't a mean boy, he just doesn't really feel all that sorry for people.  He lacks the ability to see things from another person's perspective.  Ezra has an extreme sense of justice and doesn't hesitate to act as judge, jury, and jailor.  He loves his friends, but doesn't hesitate to wander off and play by himself frequently during playdates.  It's not that he doesn't like their company...he's just content on his own.  The list keeps going...he has trouble making eye contact, has a hard time with extended back-and-forth conversation, will go on and on about his latest obsessions, doesn't absorb social information about his friends (their likes and dislikes, etc), has extreme reactions to minor daily hiccups, and doesn't really understand figurative speech all that well.


we got him tested.

and he was placed on the autism spectrum.

His official diagnosis is Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).  PDD-NOS is the diagnosis used when they're not quite sure exactly where one fits on the Autism Spectrum, but they know one still belongs on it.  As Ezra's psychologist put it, Ezra is borderline Aspergers, but he doesn't show enough physical traits (hand-flapping, head bobbing, etc) to fully qualify him for an Asperger Syndrome diagnoses.  He still shows all of the other criteria one would typically assign to Aspergers, however.

I've had mixed feelings about Ezra's diagnosis.  There's been sadness and joy.  I've felt overwhelmed at the thought of the work ahead.  I felt guilty for even putting my foot on the Autism Spectrum when my load is so much lighter than so many others who are dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  I've worried and worried and worried about how the world around him will react to his quirks as he grows up.

Overall, though, I've mostly just felt


You see, for years I wondered if it was all in my head.  I didn't know if my parenting had made Ezra so temperamental.  I didn't know how to explain to people why my son was throwing a 45 minute fit on the floor because they were serving pancakes instead of waffles at the church Christmas Breakfast.  I didn't know what I should do when Ezra refused to deviate from the expected daily routine.  I didn't know if it was all my fault and if I was making him worse.

His ASD gave me the freedom to stop blaming myself.  It also gave me the freedom to stop blaming Ezra.

One of the biggest reasons I got Ezra tested was because I could tell I was beginning to resent him.  He could be so hard to handle and I hated the way he consumed all of my attention.  He's one of four kids and I simply could not give him that much of myself.  There was only so much to go around.

Having an ASD diagnosis helped me realize the good that comes with the bad.  He's a wonderful rule-follower.  If Ezra and I agree on a list of chores, nine times out of ten he'll do them.  He almost never lies.  In fact, he can't fathom how anyone else could lie to him (ex: he insists, to the death, that his cousin Gavin got stitches in his hand after being bit by a snake.  Embellishment is simply not possible).  When he does try his unsteady hand at telling an untruth, he almost immediately confesses.  He's incredible at math.  He just started first grade and already does fairly large addition and subtraction in his head and basic multiplication and division.  He has such a natural mechanical mind too.  He has a truly amazing memory.  He's just such a smart, good little boy.

Our relationship has come so, so far in the last 6 months, since we started the whole diagnosis process last Spring.  I see Ezra in a whole new light and just understand him so much better.  I now realize why he act the way he does and why he says the things he says.  It also helps me to better understand why we had Ezra and our other children when we did.  Ezra's psychologist and I have talked about how beneficial it's been for him to grow up with so many other children and in the chaos that comes with them.  It's forced Ezra from very early on in his life (from 19 months on, to be exact) to have to cope, to some degree, with other children.  If he was all on his lonesome then who would step on his lego creations and steal the last cookie?  That thought has given me a lot of comfort when the question has crossed my mind, as I'm sure it does every mother of a brood, whether I'm hurting or helping my children by splitting my attention in so many ways.  I've often been plagued with the What If wonders...what if we'd had our children later?  what if we'd spaced them farther apart?  what if...

Now I know that the Lord had us do what we did for a reason.  We did it, in part, for Ezra.

Ezra's diagnosis has been such a blessing to me.  When I realized what was going on inside of that bright little head of his, I realized that Ezra is the way he is the way he is.  My job, as his mother, is to help him learn to navigate things from his unique point of view.  I can help him adapt to the world around him, with all of its inevitable surprises, but I cannot fix my child.

You see...


He's just Ezra.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The New Normal, part I

I've promised myself for a long time I was going to write about my



and medication.

...but, still, I hesitated.  I rarely worry about what others think of me.  It's both a strength and a weakness of mine.  I think it has a lot to do with growing up in a community where keeping up appearances was very, very important to a heck of a lot of people.  It put a bad taste in my mouth and I've studiously avoided caring about the general populace's opinion of me ever since.  Yet, there's just something about sending out my mental health status for all the world wide web to see that made me a little nervous.  It would open me up to judgement.  Judgement that, at times, can be very harsh...especially to a mom of 4 (with hopes of one more) who, some might think, has made her bed and now should just buck up and lie in it.

And then...

Ezra was diagnosed this summer with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Once again, I was worried about judgement.  Judgement that I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill.  I worried that he would be treated differently.  Worried that he wouldn't be treated any differently and, hence, that he would be held to too high of a standard. Worried that people would think I was just looking for an excuse to allow my child to continue being a bratty, picky, hyper-sensitive, tantrum-thrower.

At the end of the day, however, I knew I still had to let this information out.

Because knowledge is power.

And I'd rather wade through the judgement of the ninety-and-nine to help the one who needs to hear what I have to say.

So, this post will be about me and then the next post will be about Ezra.

Now...let's start at the beginning.

Looking back now, from the other side, I can see that my depression and anxiety has been with me for most of my life.  I would lie in bed at night throughout the elementary school years and worry...just worry...late into the night.  I'd studiously plan what I would do in the case of a fire, burglary, ghost-invasion, or earthquake (fyi: I would always run and save my brothers first since I figured my parents and older sisters were able-bodied enough to fend for themselves...just, you know, in case you were wondering and everything).  I would sob into my pillow overwhelmed at the thought of having to get up and live and go to school for 11 long more years (as of 2nd grade, anyway).

Things didn't get better in middle school.  Instead, they got worse.  With the onset of tumultuous pre-teen and teenage years, life got even more drastically up and down.  I was hyper-sensitive in social situations and beyond anxious about everything.  Throw in frequent month-long bouts of depression and it didn't make for a particularly happy girl.  I know so many early teens have high-highs and very comes with the I can't say mine was oh-so-much worse.  It was what it was...and it only got much, much worse come high school.  I won't get into all the details, but lets just say those were some pretty dark years for me emotionally.  Luckily, things got loads better once I graduated high school and left for college.  I was in a new place at a new chapter in my life and I think, for once, I felt in control of my life.  I could finally make my own decisions and it made the world a much brighter place.  That's also when I decided to give up caring what the world thought of me.  After those socially hyper-sensitive adolescent years, it was like a huge weight lifted off my chest when I realized that I didn't have to care about the opinions of others.  They could think what they'd think and it didn't have to matter to me.

It's funny, though, one would never, ever guess if they were on the outside looking in.  I'm sure I seemed perfectly normal.  I think depression is often that way.  It's something that people often miss which then causes the sufferer to doubt their own doubts about their mental health.  It's like, if one is dealing with anxiety, they might wonder if they have anxiety, but then their anxiety is going to make them doubt their gut instincts and then they'll anxiously wonder if it's just unnecessary anxiety that's making them think they have anxiety.  clear as mud?;)  Really, though, what I'm trying to say is that one never knows what someone's battling behind closed doors and inside their head.

Remember that.

Moving right along...

I went to college, met and married my husband, and life was grand.  I had bouts of anxiety here and there, but they were short-lived and, really, no big deal.  Then...I got pregnant...and pretty much went crazy.  Ok, not crazy-crazy.  But, still, not all that normal, either.  I was so, so irritable and hormonal and, well, crazy-pants.  Things started to slide into depression during the last couple of months of my pregnancy and did NOT improve after Ezra was born.  Ezra was an extremely fussy, gassy, and overall difficult infant.  I was alone with a screaming baby from the time I woke up until Spencer came home from work and school, often late at night in our teeny ice-cold basement apartment.  Even when Ezra wasn't screaming (he was actually a decent napper, thank heavens), I just was so overwhelmed and unhappy.  I never blamed the baby...but I did blame my husband.  Frankly, he wasn't all that fond of the raging lunatic his wife had become either.  It was hard on Spencer and it was hard on our marriage.  Luckily, the post-partum depression fog started to lift by the time Ezra was about 8 months old.  I stabilized and life got a heck of a lot better.  I had another baby (Georgia).  This time, things were normal.  I was normal...which further convinced me that I had had postpartum depression with Ezra, since now I knew what typical baby blues felt like.

Then I had Scarlett and the same thing happened again, although not quite so bad.  This time I had 3 kids, 3 and under (Ezra turned three 5 days before Scarlett was born).  Things were crazy and, frankly, so was I.  Again, things started to stabilize around 8 months and by a year things were mostly back to normal.

The whole time all this was going on I would question and re-question myself about the possibility of being "officially" depressed.  There was this underlying idea that even if it was depression I should just deal with it because, as I mentioned earlier, I had made my bed and now I was going to have to lie in it.  I'm the one who had chosen to have kids and I'm the one who chose to have my children so close in age (at least for 2 of the 3).  If I was overwhelmed, well, that was just too dang bad.  I considered going to a doctor to discuss it...but when one is in the fog of depression everything just seems so...hard.  The idea of setting up a doctors appointment (an overwhelming task on it's own) and then go, bare all, and be told it's all in your head was just much too scary of a thought to pursue.

Anyway, moving on now...

2 years ago this fall, I found out I was pregnant with Oak.  I was super-duper happy about the pregnancy and couldn't wait to have another baby.  However, it wasn't very long before the old depression red-flags started flying.  I know when I start to tell Spencer that I'm "not coping well" that things are nicht so gut.  I was working with a new midwife during this pregnancy and discussed my high risk of postpartum depression with her.  She was the one who first brought up the idea of medication, even during my pregnancy, to help take off the hormonal edge, especially during the highest-risk time right after birth.  At first I was a little scared.  I mean, I'm not even allowed to have ibuprofen during pregnancy, for heavens sake, how could it possibly be safe to take an anti-depressant? Well, as the pregnancy progressed and we discussed my mental health more and more each visit, I started to feel strongly I should give medication a try.  I would occasionally ask Spencer if he thought it might be depression and anxiety and he would throw the question back at me and ask if I thought I was depressed and anxious.  You see, Spencer had a hard time with the idea of mental and hormonal issues like depression.  It's not that he didn't believe in them, per se, it's just that he's so unemotionally driven himself that he had a very hard time understanding how one would not be able to control their emotions and, instead, be controlled by their emotions. So, he wasn't exactly supportive when I decided to go on zoloft (which is the safest anti-depressant to be on during pregnancy and breast-feeding) about 2 weeks before Oak was born (he was 16 days early).  Regardless, he was supportive of me doing what I felt like needed to be done and that was that.  To say that zoloft made a difference is the understatement of the year.  For the first time in a very, very long time, I remembered what it was to feel truly normal.  To feel like bad, overwhelming, not-very-fun stuff happens, but that I could cope...that I would survive.  Here I was with 4 kids, ages 5, 4, 2, and 0, (none of which were in school that summer, to boot) and I was having the best, most laid-back time of my life.

I felt like I could finally breathe.

I've had some ups and downs since then.  We've had to adjust my medication when my hormone levels changed and what-not, but overall, things have been so. much. better.  The best thing is now that I know what normal feels like, I can tell when things are not normal.  Sometimes, (as Spencer likes to point out to me :P) it's because I've forgotten to take my medication, but often, it's just a reminder to step back and re-group.

So, I'm here to tell y'all that it's ok to ask for help.  I know, I know, it's a cliche, but it's so true.  It's ok to go to a therapist or take a medication.  It doesn't mean that you're a bad mom or wife if you just can't handle life on your own.  I used to think that if my depression/anxiety was hormonal then that was somehow more worthy of attention than if it was environmental.  That, after all, I had done this whole pregnancy and baby thing to myself.  But, that's just not true.  Hormonal, environmental, whatever...depression is depression is depression.  And it ALL deserves attention.  I take medication not because I'm a bad mom but because I'm a good mom.  I simply didn't want to be the screaming mom who couldn't cope.  Who couldn't stop fretting and freaking long enough to enjoy her children, her husband, and her life.  If I have to take a little blue pill for the rest of my life to be a happier version of myself, then I am completely ok with that.

I much prefer this version of me.