Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Negotiator

Bronco's quiet time is deemed a success on three criteria; dry undies, he's quiet, and doesn't wake up Shelby. Lately I've been able to work with him by negotiating stickers. 
One Month Old Bronco

"If you're quiet buddy you can get one sticker, if you're quiet and your undies are dry you get TWO stickers!" The thought of two stickers was like winning the lottery to this kid.

Lately he's upped his game a little. I say my usual pre-quiet time spat about stickers and he adds to it.

"Ok, Bronco gets TWO stickers a sucker AND hot chocolate."  He always seems so proud of his new terms.
"How about THREE stickers and a hug?" I retort.

"How about a lot of stickers and hot chocolate?"  He's clever this one.

"How about one sticker and hot coco?" I have obviously won.

"No, Bronco gets 2 stickers, a sucker and a hug?" He says, with his arms open wide.

"Deal" I say, swooping in to hug my little negotiator. 

I'm pretty sure the only sucker in the house is me...a big sucker for my kiddos and free hugs!

Today's negotian?? 

A Gatorade, two stickers and mommy reads him a book. That seemed like a pretty dang good deal too. ;)

I can't believe he's already 3. My how the time has flown with each of our babies. It's exciting and scary to know it'd 15 years and he's on his own. Nevertheless, I'm holding onto now and the special moments he gives me.
3 Year old Bronco

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Oh My!

So after being sick for nearly two weeks Abigail had a week off. She is now sick again and seems to be a little annoyed by the whole thing.  Despite being sick she has started to really explore the house. She wants to stand on Bronco's timeout stool and feel the stove, the sink, the counters and cupboards. It's really exciting to see her learning and growing in ways we thought wouldn't come for a few more years.
This is not a smokey eye attempt on my part...it's a sleptinmymakefupanditworks look.
This girl has been so cuddly and cute despite being sick!
We had her stand on the stool at the sink and we filled it with water. She loved splashing and feeling the water pour from the faucet. It was super cute and exciting to watch. However, now anytime she hears the water running in the kitchen she walks to the kitchen (yes walks! no crawling!) and demands we pick her up so she can play with the water. Needless to say this is extra motivation to get ALL the dishes done every night so she can go exploring. :)
Shelby loves her big sister.
She's always trying to follow her and do what she's doing. 

Bronco has really started talking more eloquently lately.  Jon was brushing his teeth and rummaging through drawers. Bronco came up to me and said, "Oh mom. What is dad looking for? His clothes?" I was amazed at all the words he fit into his question and how much attention he was paying to Jon's morning routine.
We were just taking picture this morning. :)
such a stud like daddy!
He's also started dressing himself, (best gift ever!), keeping his undies dry all day (and on occasion all night!) and doing his chores without being asked. I credit all this to his brilliance and his sticker chart.
So simple it works!
This little chart I threw together in minutes has been a life saver. I see posts of all these super cute crafts for kids' charts and thought mine had to be cute. But we picked 5 easy categories for him. Anytime he meets one he gets a sticker. When he gets all his stickers each week he gets a reward. Last week he got a Jr Frosty date with mom at Wendy's. His two week goal?? He's earning stickers to buy batteries for his remote control McQueen car. :) He wanted candy at first but when his car wasn't working I told him the batteries were dead. And a light clicked on! I said, "Bronco you can get batteries for McQueen when you get all your stickers". Now he always tells me, "Mom Bronco's earning stickers to get batteries for McQueen, so he's not dead anymore!" LOVE IT! There isn't anything he does that isn't followed by him saying, "See mom, Bronco's earning stickers! It's so exciting!".

Shelby has demanded she get a sticker chart too. So I drew a giant heart with her name above it. After she's done eating we give her a sticker.She thinks she is the coolest girl ever putting them on her chart. She's so active and chatty! If she's not bringing out all of her "babies" (every stuffed animal in their room) and telling me all about them (wish I knew what she was saying), then she's walking around the house pointing and chatting about everything she sees. She recently started eating with a spoon and fork like champ. Which has eliminated 80% of dinner clean up! If she decides to go face first in her bowl of spaghetti than I just sit her inn the sink. :) 
She also has a VERY unique method of drinking out of her sippy.
She only uses one when she's playing.
This chick is expert at drinking out of cups.

"Chug!" That green ribbon is her pretty necklace.
She won't let me remove it!

All together these three kiddos keep me on my toes. I am happy they're becoming more independent. It's giving me time to write, relax, clean and hope that things will go smoothly once baby Scott arrives in February!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh the Holiday Season....

I am beyond excited for this holiday season. Thanksgiving and Christmas had always been a sore spot for me as a child.  They weren't really holiday's but reminders. Reminders of what life my family didn't have, the family dynamic we lacked and the overall feeling of being loved that we missed.

Then, when I felt like I could take no more a miracle happened; my siblings and I were placed in foster care.
Christmas in foster care was always hard.  Our foster parents would give away our gifts or complain that we were only getting gifts because of pity.  Yet, the thing that bothered me most was my family still had no family.

After 18 months in the foster care system parental rights of our biological parents were terminated and we were up for adoption. Instead of being separated and farmed out to various foster homes, the youngest possibly getting adopted, we were given a family.

My parents now, should have retired and moved on with life when their youngest of SEVEN was nearing the end of his senior year of high school. Instead, they decided to expand their family by adding 5 more children; my 4 younger siblings and myself.

I don't recall our first Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. We were not yet adopted and it didn't feel like we were an official family. There was still a chance that this "dream"  could end very abruptly.

After our adoption finalized in 2004 I knew we were a family.  There was no turning back, Kent and Shari Johnson were without a doubt Mom and Dad. They became the mom and dad my family had always deserved. They bought a new house, in a new town and we started fresh as a family.

We spent the summer and early fall working out in the lawn and making it our home.  As much as us kids complained about the work it meant everything to us. Our first Thanksgiving I noticed the beautiful arrangements my mom had put on the table. My brother Karlin and his wife Sonya brought pies and rolls (by far the best rolls I've ever had), Kaylan and Natalie were there also. I watched as she knitted a beautiful afghan. Karalee brought her baby girl Taleena who loved spending time with grandma. Kailee was there, my older sister that I idolized and looked up too. Everyone was making pie crusts, pies, parts of Thanksgiving dinner and the fire was roaring in the living room.

After dinner my mom was excited to put up Christmas decorations. We put the tree up, fluffed it (so there weren't ANY gaps), added all the beautiful made bows, bulbs and ribbons. The decorations for the walls came next. When we bought the Parma house and moved, she also bought an event calendar. Each year we got to hang ornaments according to the day. I tried to act like it wasn't a big deal, after all I was teenager. But each year,  December 24th,  the night before my birthday, was saved for me. I always knew that Christmas Eve's ornament would be waiting in it's box for me to hang up and I looked forward to it every year.

Once Christmas day rolled around we were all up bright and early waiting to open our gifts.  I remember very few of my gifts.  I know that sounds horrible. After all, my parents had put much thought into each child. I remember, though, exactly how I felt on Christmas day. The joy, warmth and love which consumed me never faded through the years...those feelings only grew.  The best gift my parents ever gave me was after our adoption when we were sealed. They don't know how much that day meant to me. Even more so, how it impacted my first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a Johnson.

Now, I have a family of my own. Hanging in our living room is that very event calendar that means so much to me.  I wish more than anything we could go home for Thanksgiving and I could help put up the tree once more. I've missed it for so many years now. However, this year I have the blessing of creating memories with my children and husband. We'll make our own pies, turkey and Thanksgiving happiness. Afterwards we'll put up the tree, decorate it and wait patiently for December 1st. On the eve of December 1st we'll hang up that first ornament on our little calendar. And count down the days until we celebrate the joy, warmth and love that has created and protected our little family.

Mrs Lee

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Bond Stolen

I am 22 weeks pregnant now.  As I prepare our lives for baby #4 one aspect of motherhood is creeping up behind me: breastfeeding.  Each child before was bottle fed. I wanted to nurse them, I wanted to feel that bond all my sisters, friends and forums talked about.

I would try with each baby and every time I couldn't do it.  Flashbacks.

Flashbacks to Lana's* (name of my biological mother, also changed) many boyfriends.  Each had a "special love" for  me. A love that would continue to grow as my body did.  One man told me when I was 9, "You're so pretty and beautiful, I'm waiting for your breasts to grow so I can really show you how much I love you."
I  was scared. When I was 10.5 years old I was already a B cup.  I wore big shirts and tried to tape them flat. No one could ever know I had them.

My secret didn't last for too long. My brothers and their friends had all been drinking one night.  I went back to their room to see if Lana had bought any food for us kids before she left.  I don't know how I ended up being pushed around between their friends. They were taunting me and laughing at me. One of them grabbed my shirt and it completely ripped. Exposing my budding chest.  I ran out of the room in tears and went to the back room, normally occupied by Lana's live-in boyfriend.

I  woke up and noticed it was dark outside. Sitting at the foot of the bed was Tubs. My brother's 17 year old friend. He told me he was waiting to tell me about my beautiful body and perky chest. I grabbed the blanket and  held it over me. I prayed.  Prayed to the God I had been learning about at Twin Falls Community Christian Church. Surely God would stop what seemed to  be inevitable. Yet, to my disappointment He did/could not.

Tubs was tall and muscular and blocking the exit. Within a split second, he had removed my shirt and was grabbing, touching, and kissing the very essence of my developing womanhood I tried so hard to protect. He found every chance he could to violate me. Between him and the many others after I hated my breasts.

I saw  no value in them...no point to them.

Now, years later I'm a mother. 3 times a mother. And each time I thought about nursing my beautiful babies I died inside. I tried nursing them each, in hopes that I could have that bond, they could have the nourishment. But I could not escape the flood of memories and ill feelings nursing brought to my heart and mind.

For four years I've dealt with the judgement of my "choice" to not breastfeed.  I wish it was my choice. I wish I was apart of a movement of mothers who were "pro-choice" on breastfeeding. My ability to nurse and nourish my children was stripped from me when I was just a child.

I've had family members pressure me and family members support me.  I've had nurses tell me my children wouldn't be able to compete as well academically if I didn't nurse.  I had a breastfeeding consultant, after I rejected her offer to help, tell my newborn that "mommy just doesn't know better. I'm sorry".

Our baby boy is due in February. I look up info online, look at breast pumps and try to imagine myself in an innocent moment of mother-child intimacy...I get knots. Those knots turn to aches in my chest and turn into tears.

I've learned one really big lesson out of all this: love is unconditional.

I do not think my children love me any less because I could not nurse them.  I do not love them any less because I could not nurse them.  Most importantly  we are bonded together through our love. They are each unique, brilliant, beautifully sweet children. I do not think, for one minute, our relationship has suffered or their health, because they were formula fed.

Every woman has a story, has a reason for their mothering styles.  When it comes to breastfeeding I do not believe we should judge others for what they choose to do or not choose to do.

In the end I choose to be the best mother I know how to be.  I choose to educate myself, to love my children unconditionally and give them the best that I HAVE TO OFFER.

With  every baby that I've brought home I've felt lost and saddened that I could not nurse them. I've always seen my inability to do so as a bond stolen. It is that feeling I am dreading this 4th time around.  My prayer is that, despite questioning nurses, doctors and strangers I remember this one thing...

The greatest bond I will have with my children will be created through the honest, nourishing, sacrificing love
that only I can give them as their mother.


Mrs Lee

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Friday, October 4, 2013

It's never OK and that is just Fine

When we were expecting our Abigail almost 4 years ago we pictured a perfect little baby with all her senses working in harmony. After her two big diagnosis that cause her blindness and growth issues it felt as if something was stolen. I didn't feel like something was stolen from me but rather from her. She would never see her own beautiful face, the many colors of our world, flowers, animals,  people and her family.

It was a couple months after she was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and Septo Optic Dysplasia that the tears stopped and acceptance began. But I wasn't prepared for moments like a family outing to the aquarium. I had mixed feelings as I watched my, now 3, children react to the wonders of the ocean.

Bronco ran up to each exhibit in awe, pointing and gasping. Shelby pressed her face to the glass as her daddy held her up high. Abby sat in her stroller as we pushed her along. I tried describing what the rest of us were seeing but she was in her own world. My tears came without warning, the knot in my chest turned and turned until we left.

Our little girl was missing out and I was facing the fear I had years before. The fear of her missing out on  wonderful moments like our walk with the sea creatures. In reality we are the ones missing out not her.

She is "seeing" the world in an entirely different way. To Abigail everything is music. Whether it's a chair, patting her legs, the walls around our home, she's always on beat. She can't tell us what exactly she's drumming along with. But I imagine she's hearing our conversations, laughter, tapping of feet all in song.

We stepped outside to wait for the bus and were greeted by a bitter chilly wind. As I impatiently waited to get out of the cold, Abigail  lifted her head and let out loud giggles as it passed through her hair. I closed my eyes and after a minute I started to feel a gentle tickle along the tops of my ears and through my bangs. I  was so busy complaining about the wind and the chill that I didn't realize it was nature trying to play.

Having only been in school for 2 weeks now, our Abby bug is starting to use different letter  sounds and walked half way to the bus. And as I held her tight, gave her kisses and told her to have fun at school with her teacher Ms Linda her eyes lit up and she said "Linda, Liin-da!" and boarded the bus.

I had to fill out a form marking the number 1 for everything she does do and zero for what she doesn't do. As I was placing 1's in the majority of boxes for children of age 1 and watched the zeros pile up as I got closer to her age, I expected to be heartbroken once again. But all I could think was she WILL do those things. She will start talking, she will start walking on her own for longer periods of time, she will say her siblings names, play on the playground, read books with mom and enjoy feeding herself.

My fears of her missing out are valid concerns of any parent  with children with a disability. But holding onto those fears, harboring them in my heart will be what holds her back.

When Bronco was about 18 months old we were worried and scared. I'd call out his name and he wouldn't respond. He'd be rocking in chairs, in bed, in the car and went to his own world. There was a fear that our other baby would also have struggles in life that weren't apart of "the plan".  Disabled or not, I now know, that having struggles in life happen to every child. And those struggles only grow larger as they get older.

Our fears of Bronco being on the spectrum proved  to be just fears. It's  hard to be a parent of a child with special needs and be 100% honest. We say we are OK with it and we love our child/children just the way they are. The love part is true. Without a doubt in our hearts we love our Abigail. But we'll never be 100% OK with the struggles she's facing because of her disabilities. If we were truly 100% fine with our children's diagnosis, then parents of special needs children wouldn't have FEARS of their other babies having a disability.

And you know what??? THAT IS OK. It's OK to NOT be fine. I have no doubts my daughter and my other children will struggle and I hate the very idea. But because they have people who care, their father and me they will get through those trials.

Since Abigail we've had 2 (now 3) children. There is always the question of "Will this baby be born special?" We may have not been prepared if Bronco or Shelby had a disability, we may have even been heartbroken that another child would be sadly "different". However, we were ready to love. We were ready to accept our precious  babies in whatever manner Heavenly Father saw fit to deliver them to us.

Abigail's smile, contagious laughter, and her determination to learn and grow, let me know she won't be held down. I see great things in ALL of my children. And if our little boy is born like his sister, she is proof he'll do great things.

I just have to thank God for trusting us with his children. And giving us the opportunity to guard and protect one of his most precious angels. She has made us better parents and people. Mostly, she's given us a kind of happiness that only blossoms from a painful trial. Her disabilities are our storm  but Abigail is our rainbow.

Mrs Lee

Friday, August 30, 2013

You are My Sunshine

I've often heard of finding joy in the little things, or humor in the little things. After having children I've decided that "little things" actually means "little ones". We've all had days when it feels like our children are out to get us.

There have been plenty of times when Abigail was having a rough day, Shelby wanted to be held all the time and Bronco would do everything he KNEW wasn't allowed. I recall one day specifically he kept climbing on the table, trying  to get on the counter, sneaking into the fridge. It was endless.

I asked him as I was cleaning up a mess...

"You're out to get mommy huh?"
He replied, ever so hilariously...

"Yes! I'm gonna getcha!" And proceeded to attempt a tickle fight.

He thought I was laughing because he was tickling me. I was actually laughing, quite hard, at his answer. I know that my children can push my buttons, I have rough days but they are out to get me. They're trying to get me to play with them, to laugh with with, they're trying  to get me to know they love me.

I knew motherhood would be challenging at times, fun, tiresome, rewarding, but I never pictured it being hilarious.

Abigail is an expert drummer. She knows how to make music drumming away on the couch, walls, floor, TV an especially Dad's belly. She can go from having a total meltdown into a manic laughing episode without anyone near. That always sends the whole family into giggles.

Bronco's humor is off the charts. Just yesterday he was telling me he had two hearts. I turned around to see my toddler holding my bra up to his chest, patting the cups and saying "My hearts go bump, bump, bump" and "My hearts are blue and pretty!".

He constantly puts himself in time out when we ask him to eat his dinner, clean up his messes etc. We'll call out for him, "Bronco! Come eat your supper!"

He marches down the hall, into the kitchen and sits on the time out mat. Once he's folded his arms and crossed his legs he retorts "I can't, I'm in time out".

Shelby is a great "mommy" to her dolly. She's expert at putting it to bed, dressing it and giving it loves.

Today she was giving her baby "medicine". Apparently the baby spit  out the medicine. Shelby sighed heavily, said "Oh no, Baby", pretended to get more medicine (using  a toy syringe) and successfully completed round 2. She clapped and said yay for her little dolly and then fed her a bottle...a REAL bottle that I had to scrub off the doll and her clothing.

Yesterday, I had made two burritos...( YES 2...SUE ME). I had them on a plate, one of them already bitten into. I went for a glass of water, looked back at my plate and they were GONE. I checked the floor thinking they fell. Then my 15 month old came waltzing over, with this look that said "Whatcha lose this time?" In one hand was a full burrito, in the other (half of it in her mouth) was the 2nd burrito.

I walked towards her, and in a classic Shelby fashion, she ran and dived into all the couch pillows with a yelp. I let her keep the one she slobbered all over and we ate them together.

These are just a few of the little things of recent. I can't get over how darling my children are (especially when they're sleeping)! Between all the hundreds of moments that make up my many days with my babes, there are a million more moments I keep to myself and treasure. Holding onto those makes rough times bearable, tantrums just a phase and make spilled milk something really not worth crying about.

The mega plus in all of this is my ultra-handsome husband who knows gas station nachos makes everything A-OK! ;)


Mrs Lee


Monday, August 26, 2013

Change: Always Good but Always Hard

I haven't stuck to my blogger schedule I set for myself. My free time has been consumed by preparing Abby for school, getting all her necessary documentation and just fretting in general.

Lately she's really been struggling socially. Bronco and Shelby have become timid around our dear Abigail. They're afraid every movement she makes in attempt to hurt them.  Shelby and Bronco are still too young to understand Abby can't see and that she's afraid. Even now as I write this I am fighting tears.
Abigail 2 Years Old
My heart aches and yearns to understand her and fulfill her needs. I wish "my heart aches", was a figurative term. My chest literally tightens on days like today. Days like today consist of Abigail biting, scratching at her siblings just because she hears them. If  she hears Shelby in the kitchen Abby crawls to her to exert her frustrations. When I finally have Bronco and Shelby down for a  nap, on days like today,  I spend two  hours holding a crying child. Cries from a desperate little girl who wants nothing more than to tell mommy what's bothering her, why she hurts her siblings, why she has such sad days. I know she wants me to hear these things so I can help her.

I've often read about "the gift of tongues" and heard miraculous stories of missionaries picking up a language practically overnight so they can serve their Heavenly Father. Many times I've gone to the Lord in prayer, pleading that I would be given the gift to understand my Abby, so I can better serve her as mother, as the Lord would want. I have prayed that she would be given the gift of words to ease her struggles.
Abigail 3.5 Years Old
Yet, communication with my 3 year-old remains a guessing game of trying everything I can to appease her. I realize that I only KNOW so much. I realize that I don't have the tools nor the knowledge to help her learn speech. Which is why her attending preschool for the Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind is so imperative.

I have so many mixed feelings about school. I am POSITIVE it will be good for her. I feel that she'll get many learning tools there and help that I cannot offer her at home. I am scared for her; scared for days like today when she is crying, feeling anxious and alone, that I won't be there for her. I feel RELIEF that I will have more time to focus on Shelby and Bronco during the day. More relief that they will have "worry free" time to play and  not walk on eggshells whenever Abby comes out for the morning. I know that Abigail can only benefit from preschool. Change is good but it's also hard.

We are so blessed that Abby will have such an extensive and regular school schedule (even through summer time). We are blessed  to have an  opportunity to focus on our other children without stress on them. Life is about to get a whole lot easier but I am still praying that my Bugaboo's evaluation goes well tomorrow so she will be in school ASAP.

All my frustrations, sadness and worry about understanding my little girl and vice-versa seem as if they're about to be alleviated. I feel that is exactly what Heavenly Father has in mind to help His angel daughter receive the gift of speech. It's wonderful how every puzzle piece of our struggles over the last several months led us here for us and for her... But that's another post for another time.

Mrs Lee

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fresh Start

It's been months and months since I last wrote in my previous family blog. I took care to write about every good thing, every perfect moment that I had as a wife and mother.  I didn't write about my kids' tantrums, dishes piling up, the bun that made it's residence on top of my head and much more.  My personal struggles with faith and self worth I'd dare not touch on.

After awhile I realized that I was feeling depressed, like I couldn't amount to what a wife and mother was suppose to be.  My unkempt hair, pile of laundry, and dishes from dinner slowly made me feel like I was failing. Then recently I noticed something wonderful.

My kitchen wasn't always perfect, my makeup hardly done, toys were scattered here and there. But...

My children were smiling all the time. My daughter Abby was walking and learning. My two youngest were best of friends. Bronco gives hugs and kisses and "I love you's" to us all. He doesn't thank me for doing the dishes but thanks me for putting down the sponge and dancing with him. My daughter doesn't stop fussing because I'm scrubbing out the fridge, she giggles and laugh because I'm reading her stories. I noticed my children were loving, happy and healthy.

Basically I finally decided that keeping up with the day to day was as easy as knowing imperfection is OK.
And that alone, has made all the difference in me and for my family. So this new family blog is a fresh start and a chance for me to embrace EVERY moment that comes my way.


Mrs Lee