Category Archives: parenting and motherhood

Breaking News: I Volunteered Today


At the beginning of each school year, the volunteer opps flood in. Volunteer in the classroom, volunteer for the PTA, volunteer in the media center, volunteer for picture day,  volunteer for classroom parties. This year I didn’t sign up for anything. Because frog.


Apparently I’m not the only person who gets into situations and then goes along without realizing all the ramifications.

Allowing Toast to spend time at his Nana and FauxPa’s has really opened my eyes to several forests I couldn’t see for the trees.

First of all, every move I make in our home, when the dog is here, must be evaluated in the moment to consider what it will mean for the dog. Will he eat these shoes if I leave them out? Will he jump on that person who comes in the door? Will he chew this up? Of course I realize puppies chew on things, and that it’s normal. But for me, it has been stressful to always wonder what the dog is going to do next when I am trying to focus on Kepler, or on some task.

Secondly, it wasn’t until today, the first school day I have had since the beginning of the year where I could focus exclusively on Kepler, that I realized how the combination of Kepler + Toast is actually pretty amazingly something else. I think part of what has been going on is that Toast never quite knows what Kepler is going to do next. And he responds to Kepler, so if Kepler is highly energetic, or inadvertently whips Toast into a frenzy, I find it challenging to handle both the needs of the dog, and the needs of the child, not to mention any little piddly needs I might have in the situation.

Third, while I was out this morning at my normal Monday meeting, I had the realization that I have been feeling like I have to rush home from wherever I am in order to let the dog out. Like, the crate is ok and very acceptable as it is plenty big, and Toast is crate-trained, but I have been feeling bad about leaving him in the crate more than absolutely necessary. I realized that if I wanted to I could stop by Kepler’s school and volunteer for awhile, or take my time at the library, or even go an extra place I hadn’t been planning on. That little Visitor tag from Kepler’s school is the first one I have worn this entire school year.

Fourth, when I drove into the driveway today, I realized that I have been stressing out over knowing that when I opened the garage door, or the front door, I would immediately need to take care of the dog. I’ve always found it stressful to come into the house and have to immediately begin to respond to needs. I need just a little time to ease into the house, set my stuff down, and just be for a second before I have to get back “on duty.”

Oh, you dog lovers out there, I see you shaking your heads at my naivete, and nodding your heads at these most obvious things about having a dog. Thankfully, Toast is very much enjoying Grandparents Camp, and the grandparents are very much enjoying having Toast visit. (Overheard at Grandparents Camp: “I really don’t know how Susan has been doing this with Toast and Kepler.”)

When Kepler got home from school this afternoon, he and I talked and walked together into the house. When we got in, we got to sit down and read a book together. And I could give him my full attention. And he could give me his. He is pretty distractible, and I have noticed that Toast distracts him tremendously.

So today has been about letting myself off the hook for not being able to manage a high energetic puppy, and an energetic child, without feeling drained and exhausted.

Dear husband left town last Wednesday and returns tonight. So all of this has happened while he has been out of town, and much of the time, he was not available by phone. Of course any decisions that are to be made will include him fully. At least I have finally figured out what has been making me so tired. And that is a very good thing.



Star Wars, Oh My Heart

You don’t have to be a fan of Star Wars to read this post. But if you do happen to intend to see the movie and haven’t, there WILL BE spoilers in here. One can’t really write about this movie without giving some things away.

I think I remember seeing the very first Star Wars in the theater. I definitely remember watching the first three at different times at movie nights at Wheaton. We would all gather in the chapel and watch a movie on a really big screen. Reminder: this was pre-I-can-watch-whatever-whenever-wherever days. Our options to watch a movie included going to the theater, and . . . oh, that was it. So, Wheaton offered regular movie nights for the student body, which were quite fun.

The hype surrounding movies these days is something to behold. Even I knew months ago that December 18 was the opening day for this latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. I figured I would see it, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

Here’s the thing I wasn’t expecting. I related to a character who was the mother of someone who had chosen the Dark Side. Although not intended, I’m sure, the son who had chosen the Dark Side was a perfect picture of an addict, culminating in this line of dialogue: “I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. I know what I have to do but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?”

I had already started boohooing earlier in the film. When Han and Leia saw each other for the first time in the movie, I had such a deep sense of awareness of time having passed, of having been my young naive self when the first movie came out in 1977, and seeing these same characters, who had grown older just like I have grown older, brought the tears.

I will definitely see this movie again in the theater, maybe even more than once. I haven’t seen a movie over 2 hours in I don’t know how long that kept my attention like this one did. So, yes, I recommend it highly, to anyone who has an appreciation for the first three Star Wars movies. Do you remember Luke, Leia, and Han from a time when you “wore a younger [wo]man’s clothes” (to quote Billy Joel)? I do and I loved it.

Singing the Hallelujah Chorus This Morning

Greg is home.

That means that this morning when Kepler was too tired to cooperate and get up, I could do the raspberries on the tummy and put on his socks while Greg protected my back from the puppy who is an excitable boy in the mornings. It means that I could pack a lunch for Kepler while Greg took the dog outside and played catch with him for several minutes to work out some of the energy Toast stores up overnight in the crate. It means that I can search YouTube for the perfect rendition of the Messiah while Greg takes Kepler and Toast out to the bus stop. It means that there are TWO people here to do the job of 10, instead of just one person! Happy Friday, y’all. And if you didn’t listen to the Hallelujah Chorus, go ahead. It’s only three and half minutes long and it’s beautiful. You will be energized by such a magnificent piece of music.

When You’re the ONLY Visitor at Rehab on Family Visitation Night

image from

Last Tuesday, I took my girls and we visited Eli. Tuesdays include a 30-minute session of family education before the hour of visiting. There were about six other families visiting that evening. This week, I was the only person. Not just the only visiting Eli, but the only one visiting ANYONE!

The family education portion was on the topic of re-establishing trust. This seemed like a perfect topic for us, because I have been wondering about how to do this with Eli. There have been many times when I have been willing to start fresh and trust again, but I think I have always dived into trust too deep and too soon. Trusting an addict who is in active addiction is just a recipe for being manipulated and lied to, that’s for sure. Oftentimes, I’ve have a sense of what might be going on, but not direct knowledge and have been willing to keep my head in the sand. Totes do not like sand in my ears and eyes. But it has been easier than what I imagined a confrontation might be like.

What seems of major importance in this process is to be willing to confront when I sense the truth is not present. I believe I worry way too much about making sure no one ever has hurt feelings. If you do that, or you know someone who does, you can probably understand what can go wrong when the highest priority is making sure no one ever has hurt feelings. I think I probably get manipulative in my own way as I strive to make sure everyone feels good about their interactions with me. Geez, maybe that’s why I stay home all the time — gets exhausting to think I’m responsible for everyone else’s feelings. (Co-dependents Anonymous, I’m coming for you tonight.)

During the family education portion, we each had to write some answers to some questions and I found it most interesting to see how much we are on the same page. I appreciated hearing that his answers closely matched mine, which have pretty much been the same for a long time. His are evolving.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit him for two hours each week. It’s actually helpful to have the limits, because it gives me time to think about our discussions and the dynamics of our family relationships. Our next visit will be Saturday afternoon and I am looking forward to it. The rubber will meet the road once he finishes in-patient and his life isn’t nearly as regimented by an outside authority.

The supervisor for the visitation left for a few minutes near the end of the hour. I was very surprised that he left us alone. And curious about it as well. Did he know he could leave us alone because we wouldn’t try to break any rules? Did he leave because he didn’t really care whether we did? The only rule I would have thought to break was I might hold Eli’s hand if there wasn’t a rule against any touching. But there is, and the LAST thing I would want to do is cause him to get a reprimand. Reprimands aren’t always given out evenly and fairly in life, as we all know. So, I try to just do the right thing whenever I can and trust that that will be enough.

He’s been there for 30 days already and it’s exciting to see the things he is learning. I value the opportunity to respect the confidentiality requirement, while still being able to share my own experience and reactions to things. Thanks for reading.

BTDubs, I do have this other kid

Almost 17 years ago, along came this little girl, the bookend to my eldest, surrounding the two boys. Kepler at that point was not even on the horizon. We had four children for 7 years before he was born. Therefore, SuperGirl was the baby of the family for a long time. I remember noticing how my level of attention toward her changed once Kepler was born, but she was the fourth child and had a high degree of ability to roll with things. We moved here when she was less than a year old and I involved her in all the homeschooling from the beginning. I have a picture of me and the three older kids painting the living room together. Supergirl was holding a bottle in my arms while we painted.

Years later, the eldest three had moved on to other things and we just had her and Kepler here at home. She then assumed the role of a firstborn. For a long time, she served as junior mom to Kepler. She was not in public school at the time, so had time to help me get him on the bus, off the bus, and generally act as my assistant. And she was (and is) fantastic at it.

As she has matured, she has understandably turned from being family-centered to friends-centered. She’s busy with a job, her friends, show choir, drama productions, volunteering, and school work. With all of the attention that goes toward Eli and Kepler, she is now in the role of the middle child, the one who often gets overlooked.

Today she mentioned that she will be singing “Superboy and the Invisible Girl” as her audition song for the fall musical. We chatted about it for awhile, and after a few minutes, it suddenly dawned on me. “Do you feel like the Invisible Girl sometimes?”

And we had a companionable laugh about how I blog about her older brother a lot and her younger brother a lot, but not much about her.

She’s really amazing, actually. Somehow she managed to snag some outgoing genes from the two introverts who created her. She’s an artist, a musician, a thespian, a straight-A student, a good driver, and she has her own style. She’s been a joyful child from the get-go when all 11 pounds 7 ounces began life on the outside at 9am one morning. She’s such a easy child to parent, sometimes I worry that I’m not paying enough attention to her. Turns out, that is a thing. But instead of acting out, she tells me. Amazing.

Perhaps our parenting fit really well with her temperament, too. She is gracious and compassionate. She gives great hugs. She gets herself up at 5 in the morning to get herself to school and hasn’t been late one time. She also recognizes that she is perfectly imperfect, as do I. But she sure is fun to be around.

I’d love to put 20 photos of her on here, but she’s at an age where I want to respect her privacy. So, you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you she is beautiful, inside and out.

Top 10 Things I Learned from the Dog Trainer on Sunday


  1. We must initiate giving attention to Toast, not respond to his nudges and barks and requests for attention. This establishes who is the boss.
  2. To extinguish his jumping, we are to stand perfectly still, and look at the ceiling. Toast is learning very quickly that jumping yields absolutely nothing from us. VERY cool to see Kepler implementing this and having it work beautifully.
  3. Kong makes excellent dog toys and they can be stuffed with a variety of foods.
  4. We do not use his name during correction, only during positive interactions. I confess I did yelp out his name today when I saw him beginning to wee-wee on the floor. But he got way more positive communication from us using his name today than negative.
  5. It is best not to find accidents, which means I have to have my eyes on the dog when he is moving around, and not allow him to go into other rooms unattended.
  6. Trips outside for potty are not to be mixed with trips outside for play. He needs to understand that potty trips are quick out, quick in.
  7. When he mouths/nips/bites, we say “ouch” loudly and substitute a toy immediately. This helps him learn what it’s ok to bite.
  8. Having a highly trained dog is eminently doable.
  9. Mike is a really good trainer.

Me, An Anthill, A Beehive, and a Pinball Machine

In other words: Me and Kepler.

We were on our way to church this morning when we spied Bob, a homeless man who lives in a tent near the highway. I had one of my “homeless people lunches” with me so we swung into the parking lot to see if he would like to have it. He said no thanks but was grateful for some socks, some advil and a jacket.


We didn’t make it to church after all, so we went ahead and did some necessary shopping at Kohl’s and the grocery store. Shopping with Kepler, unless I am on Kepler time, is some kind of challenge opportunity. Unfortunately, my opportunity radar was on the blink this morning so I allowed myself to become very agitated by his ongoing interest in every little thing along the way. I wanted to MOVE, MOVE, MOVE. He wanted to — well, here’s a Family Circus cartoon which kind of illustrates his method of motion.

Anthills, beehives, and pinball machines are arguably neutral-to-good entities. No doubt, going through the store Kepler’s way would yield all kinds of interesting things. But not when I’m in a hurry, hurry, hurry. And sometimes it’s not even the issue of being in a hurry as much as trying to find a certain item. I only have so much brain space, ya know?

Happily, I know our trips to the store and the library and all the little errands we go on are great for him to learn about things and places and people and ideas. And here in the quiet, with the hum of the air conditioner in the background, and the evening sky darkening, I can remember that.

Greg mentioned situational leadership this afternoon and I found those principles to be very helpful in thinking about this. The idea is that followers are best served when the leader adjusts to the situation and leads in a way that is appropriate for that situation. Kepler needs a lot of guidance and direction. This means that I cannot lead him expecting him to act as though he does not need guidance and direction. And when I do lead that way, then the anthill, the beehive and the pinball machine careen to and fro while waiting for the leader to notice what is going on.

It is these moments of reflection, combined with wise words and good listening from my dearest, which enable me to remember this is a journey, and to take a few deep breaths, and to begin again.

Tennis, Anyone?

Kepler is left-handed. For some reason today at the Buddy Up demo, his buddy insisted he play right-handed. I got very hung up on this. I figure he has enough challenges already without insisting he play wrong-handed. 

I know it didn’t impact the outcome of a match or game. I know he had fun. But I wanted him to be able to do this thing the way it comes naturally. Why would an adult take the racquet out of his dominant hand? 

I think I’m making up a story that she assumed because he has Down syndrome he doesn’t know which hand to hold the racquet with. That’s why it bothered me so much.

If she was going to assume anything, I’d like her to assume he knows what the heck he’s doing when he holds his racquet. 

There’s probably a really good reason why she kept taking the racquet out of his left hand and I wish I knew what it was because this is still sticking with me. 

This is a perfect illustration of the kind of thinking that has gotten me stuck before. I make up a story about why someone else does something. And about 99.987% of the time I don’t know, do I?

I suppose we all do this, but it certainly makes for a less satisfying experience. I think I’m harboring a little secret desire that he’ll be able to participate in the Special Olympics someday so I want his sports experiences to be as good as possible. Which to me means he plays left-handed. 

 But it’s time to let it go. Learn from it. Acknowledge; and move on, as my boy Lloyd Dobler said in Say Anything. It happened. We lived. And everything’ll be ok. I know it. 

The Current State of Affairs

I’ve been in close proximity to an addict since Thursday afternoon. The circumstances have included me keeping my eyes on him at all times. This has necessitated some help from family with caring for Kepler and getting him places. This also included a decision I made to forego a social event with the rest of my family in order to stay with this addicted person. It has been intense.

I have been very transparent on my blog and yet I feel like I need to be very protective right now of privacy. My experience of this is that I am clear what it is I have been doing since Thursday afternoon and I also know that I cannot fix this problem. This time is just part of our journey.

I think the experience of an addict knowing he will be standing in front of the judge tomorrow is kind of like deciding you’re going to go on a diet on Monday. Boy, on Sunday, the thoughts of eating all the crap you can are surely present.  “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow I die(t).” But if my diet was going to be strictly enforced by a jail guard, I might feel even more desperate for one more banana split or Reese’s cup. Since I’m not going on a diet tomorrow and I have no jail guards to worry about, I can’t understand enough what it feels like. But I can understand that we all face really, really difficult things, and all of us have opportunities at every point to decide how we are going to respond. I believe that for myself. I believe it is possible for others, but they have to decide it is possible for themselves.

You know they say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. That’s really true. You can show someone all the most beautiful ideas in the world but you can’t force them to believe in the idea or choose the idea or trust the idea. So, I’ll spend the rest of today continuing to show my horse the water, the beautiful water, that sparkling, satisfying water, and he’ll have to choose whether or not to flap those horsey lips and take some of the water in.

Guest Post by our Son in California (and me)


Recently, our 16yo daughter traveled out to California to visit her big brother, at his invitation. He shares a little about his experience here:

This is the last day of my sister’s stay in California (she flies out tomorrow morning at 7:30). She’s spent most of this week relaxing in a beach house 200 yards from the Pacific Ocean, watching Steven Universe and making s’mores, while back home my 19-year-old brother continues to work his way through addiction and recovery, which ends up being a higher priority than being a big brother.

At a conservative estimate, AJ has gone without a real big-brother figure for about 16 years, and without one at all for over 2 now, ever since I moved out. I have a little bit of insider knowledge on this subject: my girlfriend has been essentially abandoned by both older brothers for the past ten years.

I wasn’t really ready for how much I missed my sister. Even though I tried to play it cool (classic big brother stuff) I was beyond excited to see her, more than I’ve been in months. Suddenly everything seemed back to normal again, despite all the stress I’ve had in the last six months. It felt like it had been less than a day since I’d moved out.

As much as I might miss home, there are things and people and places in California you can’t find in Ohio. After years of keeping my head lodged in my own butt, I finally have a chance to show my little sister my world. I wouldn’t trade this chance for anything.

Our daughter had a most wonderful time with our son and his girlfriend and we were delighted she had the opportunity to visit him. Although a wee bit nervous about flying alone all the way across the US, she was a trouper, as we knew she would be. It’s a lovely thing to see our adult (and near-adult) children being their wonderful selves. Although not all the sibling relationships among our children are tight right now, I remember there was a day when I and my sisters were not the best of friends that we are now.

When Jude (California son) flew out for that initial job interview at 18 years of age, he was much different than he is now at 21. He has found an entire world out there that we don’t have in Ohio. I attribute a good bit of this to his girlfriend who first coaxed him out of his shell and then introduced him to many new ideas and experiences. I think it was she who helped him discover how much he wanted to be in relationship with his younger sister.

I know other parents who read my blog understand the joy in watching children become adults, and discovering who they are going to become. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life. And I think there is another trip to CA being cooked up by these two!