Friday, August 31, 2012

John

Sometimes it's a real pain trying to get Carter to play outside. He likes to be entertained by screens. TV, Wii, LeapFrog, iPad, iPhone, computer, you name it. As long as it has a screen with moving images. On the days when it's cool enough to go outside (we live in a desert, remember?), I'll send him out. After much whining and dragging of feet, he's out the door, only to spend the entire time sitting on the welcome mat. Sigh. Whatever happened to the good ol' days when it was a feat to get kids to come home after being out all day?

Anyway, you can imagine my pleasant surprise when Carter asked if he could play outside today. By all means, kid.

Fifteen minutes later he came bounding back in.

"I caught a frog!" shrieked my wide-eyed grinning boy.

My heart swelled with pride. 'Atta boy, Carter. That's the essence of childhood right there.
I may or may not have been just as excited as he was, so we hopped in the car and drove straight to the pet store. A helpful employee instructed us on proper frog care and with a few purchases (including mealworms, YUCK!), we were off to create frog utopia.

"What are you going to name him?" I asked after we'd made the final touch of positioning the leaves just so.

"John." Carter answered, matter of fact.

I couldn't contain myself. There's nothing funnier than pets having human names, don't you think?

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My goal is to get these kids away from electronics. Not altogether, but there's got to be a balance. There's so much about childhood to enjoy. I once came across a book at Barnes and Noble titled 1001 Things Your Kids Should See & Do. It's got things like:

  • They need to collect a jar of lightning bugs at night
  • They need to ride a bike. And fall down. And get up and ride some more
  • They need to hear for themselves that a Monster Truck show just might be the noisiest thing in the world
  • They need to bait a hook. And take a fish off one. Learn that life is messy. Even some of the best parts


    You get the idea. Kids need to experience the wonder of life before the magic wears off. Life is messy. It gets downright unbearable at times. When that happens, it would do us well to get out there and maybe just go catch a dang ol' frog.

    And perhaps name it John.

  • Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    Sick Days

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    When I was a kid, I LOVED getting sick. Especially if I was already at school. I loved going down to the nurse's office, having a legit high temperature, and calling my mom to come pick me up. Yes, I felt like crap. But I also felt awesome, awaiting my imminent rescue from the dullness that is the classroom.

    Yesterday morning, the school nurse called. Alexis had a headache, and a temperature of 100.3. I paused.

    "So...should I come pick her up?"

    I don't know these things. I haven't had experience with sick school-aged children. When are they too sick for school? In addition, fevers have always confused me. How hot is too hot?
    I'm sure the nurse was thinking, 'Yes you should pick her up, you idiot. I just told you she has a fever of 100.3."
    In any case, I was told to come get her. I was stoked. Mom to the rescue!

    "Come on kids! We're going to get Alexis!"

    Carter, Elizabeth and I piled into the car and I cheerily sang along to the radio the entire way. It was my turn to play superhero Mom, coming to whisk my daughter away, back home to chicken noodle soup, humidifiers, and cuddling.

    The poor dear was pale as pale could be. Once at home, I whipped up the soup. She sipped some of it up, then it was off to bed. I rubbed some peppermint oil on her temples and chest, brought some water, made sure she was all comfy-cozy, and began reading aloud James and the Giant Peach. We read until I couldn't move my mouth anymore without yawning.

    It's what I remember my mom doing: everything she could to make me feel loved and taken care of.
    Sure, I was overdoing it. But I'm a mom. That's my job.

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    "Mama?"

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    Once a month, Elizabeth goes up to stay with her dad for a few days at a time. In the summer months, she stays for a whole week.
    She's a year and a half.
    I worry sick for her, thinking she's probably confused, afraid, or wondering where her mom is.

    A few nights ago, she returned from a weeklong trip.
    I LOVE when I get her back, that moment when she sees me and her entire face lights up and I hear, "Mama!".
    Mmm, I could just eat her up.

    Later that night, she had a rough time falling asleep. Usually she passes out quickly, but this time it took her an hour.

    Mike and I went to bed. That's when she started crying. Again. Not normal. Typically, once she's asleep, she stays asleep.
    I went into her room to try calming her down, but when I tried to leave again, she was in hysterics.

    So I laid down with her.

    We cuddled up, and her sniffles started to die down. After a few minutes, I could tell she was starting to doze off.

    Suddenly, she jerked awake and called out.

    "Mama?"

    "What, honey?" I answered.

    Then she turned over and went back to sleep.
    I smiled and held her closer.
    I don't know if she was just checking to see if I was still there
    but I like to think so.

    There's nothing quite like being able to comfort a child.

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    FYI

    I'll be posting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week.

    Happy weekend!

    Friday, August 24, 2012

    Boy: Noise With Dirt On It

    I come from a family of girls. Three sisters. No brothers. Even our dog was a girl. My sisters and mom also have muscular dystrophy, so things were pretty mellow growing up around our house.

    Enter Carter.

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    Five years old.
    150% boy.

    This kid has two energy modes: psychotic and asleep. He asks questions like a machine gun: one right after another. All. Day. Long. He has Midas' touch, except instead of things turning to gold, they get broken. If he had it his way, he'd spend everyday dressed up in his Spiderman costume, running up and down the street shooting innocent passersby with his invisible web-shooter screaming, "Hahaha! Gotcha!".

    I'd talk to my neighbor, my mom, my friends. I told them how defiant and stubborn he could be. Apparently, "that's just what boys do".
    Like I said. Psychotic.

    After a while, I found myself not wanting to be around him. The summer days were long and hot, and life with three kids got pretty exhausting. I began counting down the days until school started. It could not come fast enough.

    Until it did.

    Suddenly, it was the day before kindergarten and I felt something new and unexpected. I felt...sad! I was sad that Carter was going to school! My little guy! I looked at him a lot that day. He seemed so little. So innocent. So eager-eyed and ready to jump into life with both feet.

    Feeling this way surprised me. I wasn't his "real" mom. I'd only been in his life about a year and a half. He drove me nuts all the time. But I guess through all of that, we'd built a significant bond. I never realized how strong it had gotten, until I sent him off on the bus and I felt a little tug on my heartstring.

    He's growing up.

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    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Growing Wings: Part Three

    God does not forget us in our time of need.

    On November 2, 2010, I gave birth to a healthy little girl. She was given the name Elizabeth Grace. It was a name that had continued to pop into my mind throughout my pregnancy, although I didn't love it. But sometimes the meaning of a name is more important than the name itself.

    Elizabeth: Consecrated to God
    Grace: Divine means of strength of help

    It was perfect.

    A few months earlier, I had gotten a job. It didn't pay much, but it was decent and I was able to pay my bills. My coworkers turned into friends who lifted me up with their caring and support. Members of my church came together. Some of the ladies threw a baby shower, and literally showered me with love. It seemed as if my parents' entire neighborhood was rooting for me.
    I might have been dealt a difficult hand, but be it church, work, or home, I was surrounded by angels.

    God does not forget us.

    Life with a newborn was glorious, and I basked in it. Elizabeth slept on my chest at night. It was the only way she would. For months I fell asleep lying on my back, head to one side, my hand over my slumbering baby.
    I was so happy.

    Every now and then, though, I had an unsettling thought:

    Will I ever get married again?

    I wanted to. Divorce had not scared me off. I knew that not all men would leave their wife. I was afraid of being alone. How was I going to date with a job and a new baby? It could be years before I found anyone and then we'd have to date for at least a year until we could get engaged and then...

    It became overwhelming to think about. My parents were great, but it felt sad to think that I might be living with them for years, not being able to see my baby while I was working. I would probably need to go back to school to be able to get a better job, which meant spending even more time away from my baby. It sounded like a lonely life, for the both of us. Sometimes it was hard to stay positive, with such a bleak, lonely future.

    I wasn't sure if I was ready to date yet, but part of me wanted to see what was out there. But how? I refused to date anyone from work. That was a recipe for disaster. It felt too depressing to go to church with the young single adult group. Most of them were college students who had never been married, let alone had any kids. I didn't feel like I fit in there anymore. There was no way I was going to go out to any clubs. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to find any husband material shaking my post-partum booty on the dance floor.

    That's when it occurred to me: online dating.

    I instantly dismissed the thought.
    No way. That's for socially awkward weirdos.

    But I kept thinking about it. It wouldn't hurt to see what kinds of people were out there. Looking was a good first step. I found a website and created an account.
    I clicked through several profiles and was concerned, to say the least. Then discouraged. There was a reason many of these people were still single.

    This is going to be a long journey.

    Days turned into weeks, which turned into months. Eventually I began to give up hope in the online dating scene and decided to stop. Maybe I just wasn't ready. I logged into my account and was about to delete my profile, when I saw a message from someone who didn't look like they had a Star Wars shrine in their closet or a stack of Playboy magazines under their bed.

    He seemed harmless. In fact, maybe not so bad.
    So I replied.
    His name was Mike.
    His wife had left him and the children a few years ago.
    He had a great job and was raising two kids all by himself.
    He went to church
    He liked "Lost", my favorite TV show.
    And he hated black licorice.
    Above all, he seemed normal.

    It seemed I'd found some potential, after all.

    We met. Things went well. We dated. Things went even better. We came from similar backgrounds, had the same values, and even found ourselves thinking the same things. The children loved me and we all got along beautifully.

    Several months later, Mike asked me to marry him.

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    God does not forget us.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Stay tuned...

    Final part coming Wednesday.

    Growing Wings: Part Two

    Sunlight streamed in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The busy sounds of nurses, doctors, and family bustling about was just outside the door. A machine dutifully printing out baby's vitals stood beside the hospital bed. From my chair across the room, I watched my friend, Diane, lying there with her eyes closed, the sweetest smile on her face. It had been only a few days since I'd returned to Utah, but here I was watching one of my dear friends give birth to her first child. My job was to photograph it all. It was my first time viewing a live birth, and I was honored to be there there.

    My husband and I hadn't talked much. He remained distant any time we tried. It was a rare day when we got through a conversation without arguing. I wished it were different, but I couldn't shake the deep, black hole that had grown inside of me. I had nothing to give. Right now, all I cared about was basking in this moment of joy.

    "Ready to push?"
    The doctor entered the room, flipping through his charts. It was time. I got up from my seat and we gathered round.

    How I wish I could describe the experience of a child being born.
    It literally changes you.
    Heaven and earth come together in that moment.
    Love fills the room
    cocooning you in its sweet warmth.
    It swells up from deep inside of you
    so thick and so tangible
    that you feel your body is not big enough to contain
    so powerful a feeling.

    In that moment, I knew that my husband needed to see our baby's birth. He would be changed, too. Then we'd forget all of this and go back to the way things should be.

    I tried calling him to share this experiencen and reached voicemail. Another day passed, and still no word.
    Diane came over with her sweet new baby. We shared in the joy of such a beautiful miracle and looked forward to my own.

    That night, I got a call from my husband. He wanted to know how things were going. I told him of the birth of Diane's baby, how she'd come over today, and how wonderful her daughter was. Instantly, he became upset. I was supposed to be working on getting better, not spending time with friends. I was so hurt that my husband couldn't see that being uplifted by others was an important part of my healing. I was going to counseling and would soon get medication, but I also needed love, support, and encouragement. He didn't want to hear about it.
    We were both angry and hurt. We both wanted love, but had none to give.
    Our relationship was starving.

    After that conversation, my husband stopped returning my calls, texts, and emails. Weeks went by with no word from him. I became increasingly panicked. It was all I could do to make it through one day, waiting, wondering what was going on. Every night I prayed and asked that my husband would call me.
    Finally, that call came.

    He called! I ran outside to get some privacy from my family.
    But there was something wrong about his voice.
    He didn't want to talk

    My husband wanted a divorce.

    I freaked. FREAKED! I left all dignity at the door and begged my heart out. But he remained firm. It had been over a month since I'd left and we'd barely talked during that time. My husband had officially checked out of the marriage. Out of us. He wasn't changing his mind. Once I realized this, my world fell apart.

    My baby.

    My sweet girl. She wouldn't have a family. She needed a family. I didn't have a job. My husband's wasn't going to make ends meet. I wondered if I should put her up for adoption. Most horrible feeling of my life. My sadness gave way to anger.

    I couldn't do this. I hung up the phone, and went inside. My face was soaked with tears and snot. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe. I wanted to die.

    I need my mom.

    She had been fearing this moment and put her arms around me. I cried long and hard.


    A couple of weeks later, divorce papers arrived in the mail.
    Mediation would be soon. We needed to figure out where our daughter would be living once she was born.
    My husband was fighting for full custody on the basis that I was emotionally unstable.
    I couldn't bear the thought of losing her.
    All because of someone else's decision.

    I realized I needed heavenly help.

    I've never prayed so hard in my life. Several times a day I prayed. Incessantly. Desperately.

    "Heavenly Father, please don't let them take her away."

    My faith was strong, but so was my fear.
    I went to bed each night hoping that maybe this was just a terrible dream and that it would magically go away.
    But I'd always wake up in the morning
    back to reality
    feeling like I was going to throw up.

    On the day of mediation, I prayed all morning long.

    "Please help me, Heavenly Father. If you give me nothing else in this life, that's OK. But I can't lose my baby."

    God heard my prayers.

    At mediation, my husband softened his position. To my joy and relief, it was determined that I would be given full physical custody.

    My arms would not be empty.
    My baby would be mine.
    Nothing else mattered.
    I was complete.

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Stay tuned...

    Part 2 will be posted Monday!

    Growing Wings: Part One

    I've been getting the strangest feelings.
    Something has been telling me:

    I need to share my story.

    So, here we go!

    Four months pregnant. I lay on our living room couch.
    My tears would not stop.
    My husband was at work, at the new job we'd moved to San Diego for. I'd left my friends and family behind in Utah.
    I knew no one.
    I was alone.

    I knew I should get up and figure out something to feed my husband when he got home, but I just couldn't will myself to do anything.
    All I could do was lie there and cry.

    That's how most of my days in San Diego went.
    I tried to distract myself by running errands, but driving around an unfamiliar city filled with strangers only intensified the empty feeling that was my constant companion:

    I was completely alone.

    Of course, I had my husband. But he had to work. A lot. Even though it was only a part-time job.
    Yes, that's right. We'd moved to San Diego for one part-time job, with no insurance, when I was prego.
    Later, it would turn into a full-time position, but for now, we couldn't afford to pay all of our bills.
    I shake my head now. What were we thinking?
    My husband desperately wanted me to get a job, and I made genuine but feeble attempts to do so.
    I'd do my best to put on a happy face, but it was like they saw right through me. That something wasn't right.
    (Either that, or they noticed a subtle bulge in my stomach.)

    After a short time job hunting, I gave up. I couldn't do it. I couldn't be pregnant in a foreign place, knowing nobody, having nowhere to go, unable to get a job, and depressed as all get-out.

    Even now, I can remember what it felt like to feel those feelings of deep sadness.

    I had no idea that I was going through what's called "prenatal depression".


    My husband tried to be patient with me, but nothing he could do helped. We usually spent our time fighting about me getting a job or me being unresponsive and distant.
    One evening after a crazy fight where I almost walked out the door, I collapsed into despondency. I literally could not function anymore. I needed someone to take care of me. I needed help, badly.

    That night, I emailed a desperate plea to my parents:

    "Please help me. Something's wrong with me. I need to come home."

    My parents responded right away:

    "OK."


    They weren't trying to rescue me or take me away from my husband. We'd been in contact, and they knew I was going downhill.

    I spoke to my husband about it. We both cried.
    We knew the challenge it would be to be apart, and I felt so guilty leaving him alone in this place. But I knew that I needed some serious medical help and I was ready to do whatever it took to get baby and I better.

    We agreed that I would go back home to Utah, live with my parents, and they would help me get counseling and medication.
    Once I was better, I'd rejoin my husband in San Diego, have our baby, and enjoy our life with a new little girl.
    It would be hard, but we both agreed it was the right thing to do.

    I hated thinking that I'd have to be on medication while pregnant. It made me sick with guilt. But then again, all the feelings of anxiety, stress, and sadness probably weren't having the best effect on the little body growing inside me.

    A few days later, I said goodbye to my husband.
    He seemed distant and didn't want to talk to me.
    Point blank, he was angry. Again, the guilt kicked me in the stomach.
    I questioned whether what I was doing was right, but then I always felt the same confirming feeling:

    This is what needs to happen.


    My father and sister drove into LA and picked me up. We began the long drive home. I was quiet all of the way back, thinking and thinking and thinking about what I'd done, what I was going to do, and trying to find some hope that everything would be okay. I wondered, and almost feared, how I would feel once we came around the mountain and saw the familiar lights of Provo and Salt Lake City. Would I see them and realize that I'd made a mistake? Would the guilt be too overwhelming? Would I feel empty once I got to my parents' house and realized that I belonged in San Diego with my husband?

    The hours went on. The sun went down. Soon we approached the mountain that precedes the Utah Valley. As we came around, I saw all those familiar places, signs, lights, and streets. My heart came alive and I felt the most beautiful feeling of reassurance, peace, and comfort. For the first time in weeks, I felt like everything was going to be OK.

    I made the right choice.
    I am exactly where I need to be.

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    First Annual Back to School Feast!

    The DeMotte family celebrated it's first annual Back to School Feast on Tuesday. It was SO fun! (For those of you who know of Nie Nie, this will be familiar to you. Not gonna lie, I pretty much copied everything she did.) It was great fun, and sure to be a long-standing tradition for years to come.

    The theme for this year was chosen by my husband:


    *PRESS FORWARD*


    The Menu

    caprese on a stick
    herbed roast chicken
    broccoli salad
    cheesy scalloped potatoes
    slush punch
    rainbow sherbet


    I made the kids wait upstairs until everything was ready, and when it was, they stampeded down to their very own crowns, fancy china and glasses (all from DI), decor, and glorious food. We discussed the year's theme and how to make friends. When dinner was over, Mike gave the kids their school blessings.
    All in all, it was an incredibly memorable and fulfilling night. I'm so grateful that this new phase in life is upon us. Grateful for change and growth and improvement.

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