Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Talk

The title of this post isn't about the CBS show on afternoon tv, but rather the dreaded time when you can't ignore that you must converse with your child about where babies come from. Don't act like you were looking forward to it because no one will believe you! And don't think because you survived the biology lesson you are through. Truthfully, that is the easy part. Phase two can be even more challenging but is extremely important follow through. With four children we experienced the child that pushed the discussion before we were ready, as well as the child that avoided the topic vehemently. I finally roped her into "the" discussion by using my method of planting flower seeds. Here's the spiel..."Flowers begin as seeds. We plant them in the soil and as the rain falls and the sun shines the seeds become a flower." It is a visual your child can wrap their brain around. Next I would transition to a baby. A baby starts as as a seed, too. The baby seed is planted in mommy's tummy in a very special way that was God's idea. I would then proceed with the biology lesson. As their eyes widen and they exclaim "Ooooohhh," refer back to "remember I said it's God's idea." If your child is young and this is the first time you have broached the subject, you may get away with the seed application. Because Anna Grace was older, she received the full lesson...even the part that produces the most disdain, that parents do the big nasty because they like it, not just to make a baby. One thing that stands out in my mind took place on the drive home from piano lessons. Anna Grace was seated in the back of the suburban. She was always content to read books on the numerous trips a mother of four makes getting each to school and activities everyday. As we turned on to our cul de sac, she rang out "sex, sex, sex. I want my middle name to be sex, and when I can drive, I want a purple car with a top that goes down...and sometimes when I drive, I want to hold a cigarette! " Rebekah and I were speechless! Younger parents often ask what age is appropriate. It is a good question with no specific answer. I conducted an experiment with Joseph in an attempt to know just where his interests were with regard to the opposite sex. We were shoe shopping and the young sales clerk had a tatoo on her chest and ankle. The chest art was visible only as she leaned forward to size the shoes he was trying on. As we drove home I asked if he had noticed her tatoo. His reply..."Oh, she had two, Mom." Joseph 's answer was our cue. It was time for the talk! Abby resisted much like Anna Grace, which was a surprise to me. I had approached her but made she made it clear she had no interest talking about "that." I said that was fine with me as long as she didn't discuss it at school. Her reply was, "Mom, I would never talk about THAT at school." I found that odd. School was where I learned everything! One of my friends in school seemed well informed on the subject and what she didn't know, her older sister did. I had two older sisters. Wonder why I didn't just ask them? Well, Abby didn't talk about it at school. But she did engage the subject at church! One Sunday Rebekah came running to me and whispered in my ear, "Mom, one of her friends just told Abby that sex is when your Mom and Dad put their private parts together!" I was thrilled. I had worried that Abby would be the one to initiate conversation first and we would be apologizing to someone's parents. Whew! Escaped that one! Believe me, when you have four children, you are thankful for every smooth issue! Rebekah was our only child that pushed the envelope in this category. At 8 she asked where babies came from but did buy my seed/flower explanation, for a while. Next my sweet Rebekah thought through our first discussion and presented the dreaded question, "Mom, I understand babies start as a seed but... (here it comes, the moment I knew would test my ability to hang tough in hard explanations or just do what felt safe, which was just lie!!)... how does it get IN there?" Well great, she had to go and bust up our party! We had ourselves a health lesson followed with "by the way, mommies and daddies do this because they like it, not just to make a baby!" There, I had done the evil deed! I dared to explain a very adult matter to a child. Not even a teenager, but a precious child. I must admit I felt pretty proud of my performance. I measured that primarily from what I felt at the end of the discussion (she didn't cry, yell or throw up!) followed by no more questions! That must mean she took it all in, right? WRONG! Months later when I displayed the lovely symptoms of morning sickness followed by afternoon sickness followed by evening sickness, I became suspicious! True to form these symptoms meant a fourth baby was in the oven! Surprised and then excited, we decided it best to wait until I was past the first trimester so the kids wouldn't have so long to wait for their new sibling. It was October which meant one thing, the Arkansas State Fair! We loved the fair with rides, funnel cakes, and the petting area (Especially the baby chicks sliding down into a tub of water!) The combination of movement from the rides and the aroma of fair food filling the air didn't create a pleasure filled Saturday afternoon for me. They expected me to accompany them on the rides like always, but I just couldn't bring myself to participate. They kept asking "what's wrong, Mom? C'mon, Mom." Sunday morning Jeff and I decided to share the news since I would probably have several more weeks of not feeling normal. Jeff called everyone to the kitchen, told our news, and we celebrated together as we said over and over we didn't know if it would be a boy or girl! We were all going our separate ways to finish getting dressed for church, except Rebekah. Remember when I said they don't recall all you told them or it did not register the way you meant? Rebekah approached Jeff with the question, "Dad, how long have you and Mom known she was pregnant?" "Three weeks " was his reply. Her comeback, "You mean you and Mom had sex three weeks ago and didn't tell us?" His second reply was, "You should go talk to your Mom." I remember like it was yesterday! She repeated her question and waited for me to explain. "When we talked, I explained how parents have sex because they like it. Remember it was God's idea." After hesitating she asked, "Well, how much do you do it?" After more hesitating I answered, "several times a week!" Her comeback--"I bet the Goad's don't do that!!!" (I considered replacing their name to protect their inocence but decided Starla and Phil would like the shout out!) Children are the most precious yet most challenging parts of life! Jeff and I continue to be pleased from our efforts to raise them to be as transparent as is appropriate to prepare them for the reality that life can bring their way. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the biological approach of preparing your children for sex is by far the easiest lesson. Jeff was diligent to question each child about their behavior with the opposite sex...very specifically I might add! This is one reason we allowed our children to date in high school. We wanted them to come home so we could teach them through disappointments and challenges dating provides as opposed to their roommate in college who might not have the best counsel. Remember, exchanging affection in front of your children is both normal and healthy. It is the beginning of what true love looks like. Don't be afraid of "the talk," rather prepare to embrace this hot topic!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back in Business

Christmas 1996 Jeff insisted we should buy a computer for a family gift. I resisted because my tendency was to not give in to buying new things just because they were the latest and greatest. I remember having the same attitude about cordless phones until we moved into a tri-level house with three kids! Jeff encouraged me to explore the computer. First of all, I didn't have time, and secondly, wasn't it ok if there was one thing I couldn't do! HaHa ... I soon accepted a position with Noven Pharmaceuticals, and they placed a hand held computer in my hands. In other words, I was being forced into the technological world I had escaped until now. I adjusted and even enjoyed less paperwork. After six years, I decided it was time to work full time. In the last half of the 15 year run of college tuition we had with our four children, (and that didn't include two daughter's weddings in the first eight years, and Anna Grace's freshman year overlapped Joseph's senior year), I knew I had to step it up. The manager that interviewed me asked me what I considered my greatest weakness to be. I came clean and confessed "computer skills." But she hired me anyway, and my confession soon became a thorn in the flesh. Early on I got realigned to a different district and my new manager had a teaching background and he taught me a crash course in computers 101 and 102! I could cut, copy and paste with the best (not really with the best, but at least I didn't dread the idea of opening the once dreaded laptop with this e-mail driven company). After the five year mark with Covidien I found myself on FMLA since my speech had not improved but continued to digress, still with no diagnosis. Jeff came home one evening with a dry erase board and although thoughtful, it was not quite the answer for a verbose female. An Ipad was the next step, and quickly became my new best friend. My fingers flew all over the modified keyboard and I was able to reconnect with my family and friends. I could talk on the phone some, and text, yet not in normal Nancy style. Until November of 2010, I could write and answer e-mails that took the place of days of what had become normal by cramming the most I could in a 24 hour period. First I lost the use of my index fingers, but not to worry because I had full use of my third, fourth and pinky fingers and didn't experience any less ability to accomplish whatever I needed or wanted to write. I had started blogging while Jeff and I were on a trip to Colorado in August and had more ideas of things I wanted to write than I could get done. By Christmas I was limited to two fingers per hand and had to position myself to use them effectively. My last strategy was knuckle typing with my pinkies and the drawback became weakness in my shoulders to support this effort. I chuckle at the many ways I tried to prolong the use of my Ipad to communicate. In March I started a post that I didn't finish til the end of the month. I had to break up with my cool technology that got lots of attention from adults and children. Now I face the greatest challenge by far if I want to continue to communicate. With no ability to speak and no use of my hands, so sign language is a bust, I am left with the option of using my eyes gazing across a keyboard to type. I am thankful for the technology that created this communication device called Ecopoint. It has amazing capabilities that I have just begun to learn, but with only one rep servicing the entire state I have to wait my turn for tutorials with Jennifer. In fact this is my second attempt to complete this post. I "gazed" three hours only to accidentally erase my thoughts. I have no words to express my frustration. I vowed I was finished blogging, but being unable to use my Ipad effectively March through April, I composed so much in my mind and am determined to put pen to thoughts. Communication is sharing, and something I miss drastically. I have so many questions to ask and so many answers to give! (Like when did Pizza and wings become a combo? Pizza and salad, yes, wings and potato salad, slaw, or fries, sure. But pizza and wings? Not so much)! I am comforted by the fact that I have talked in great detail about that which I considered important, even to the degree that I became the brunt of jokes for talking too much! The benefit now is that Jeff, our kids, my family and friends know what and how I think so my input still is considered. I am reminded of a scene from the movie Mr. Holland's Opus. After learning their son couldn't hear, with clenched fists pounding the air and feet stomping the floor, Iris exclaims, "I want to talk to my son!!!" I completely share her sentiment. I want to talk to Jeff and my kids. I want to read stories to Hudson and Hamilton. I want to continue mothering in the fashion that requires more than a word or sentence here and there. Living with ALS doesn't always bring out the best in us. I think I will scream (if I could) if I hear "I don't know what you mean" one more time! And I know Jeff thinks "really, Nancy, you think I understand what your eyes or groans mean?" Some of those moments have led to tears, complete exasperation, and even a fist in the sheetrock to be completely honest. To add fair balance, living with ALS brings out the best in us as well. Somehow we get past what seems in the moment to be unbearable and move forward. Jeff and I have lived with the understanding that if we were going to be at fault, which of course we would be at times, then we preferred to over communicate rather than under communicate. I am so thankful we did! If you are waiting for the perfect opportunity to communicate love, instruction, forgiveness, excitement, or pleasure, what are you waiting for? Select what means of communication you prefer and get busy!!