Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Always my Sunshine!

I don't know if we're ever really ready for our children to leave home.  I know we start preparing them for this the minute they are born.  Personally, I've dreaded it since I first held him in my arms.   I knew it was coming, and the older he got, the faster time flew. I've watched my close friends and my brother/sister send their kids off into the world and thought I got it.  Now, I get it.  It, is the strangest feeling ever.

In the last week or so, I might burst into tears when I pass his room and see him sleeping, with those same curled up fingers, that fist he's made since the womb.  I might burst into tears when I see his jeans, boots, t-shirts and toothpaste packed up in the camo duffel bag we bought him for Christmas what seems like decades ago, the one he put his best friend Phillip in to show how big it was. I might burst into tears when I think about I won't know where he is and what he's doing and if he is safe.  I might burst into tears when I realize his razor, toothbrush and comb aren't in the bathroom anymore when I open the cabinet.  I might burst into tears when I plan the week ahead and remember that he won't be here. I might burst into tears when I see him hold his brothers and whisper that he'll miss them.  I might burst into tears just because I woke up this morning and knew it was the last day together before he spreads his wings and flies.

A weird thing happened in this last year since he graduated.  This son of mine,  in the process of growing up and becoming a man,  became my friend.  Our conversations have changed.  He has supported and been our strength through some tough days.

I know he'll be back.  I know I'll see him as often as possible.  I know he will always be my Shaynie.

And I also know that things will never be the same, part of me is leaving.  And for that, I might burst into tears. Sad and Happy - Proud Hot tears.

I was helping him pack this week and a few things dawned on me that I hadn't been intentional about telling him. Important things that I think he needs to know like...

  • Checking pockets WILL save money on laundry; it's worth a few minutes to not have to replace the entire load. 

  • Don't skimp on Kleenex and Toilet Paper.  Buy the good stuff. 

  • If you're ever not sure if food has gone bad- it has.  Throw it away! 

  • Don't leave your paycheck laying in your unlocked car.  Your Dad gets away with it, but most people end up having theirs stolen. 

  • You can ALWAYS call your Momma! 

  • Use rectangle laundry baskets.  Round ones don't hold enough.
  • If you fold your sheets and pillow cases- fold from long end to end first.  And those fitted sheets, forget it, just wad them up and be done with it. 

  • All the Rules and Reminders you hated growing up are now your compass, let them guide you as you choose right. 
  • You can only reuse a towel so many times before it has to be washed. Trust me.

  • Make your bed- it's more relaxing to climb in after a long day of class, work and missing your family. 

  • You can survive on Ra men Noodles and Pop-Tarts, but eat good when you can. 

  • Find a good church where you can worship and fellowship with people you connect with.  They will be the people who encourage and support you when life gets harder.  Don't play church.  Be real with your faith.
  • You will miss me singing, You are my Sunshine, to you.  You won't admit it, but you'll miss it. 

  • Everybody, even single college guys need a Christmas tree, so I got you a special one. 

My baby is moving out, leaving home and taking up residence in another state.  And I might burst into tears.

Happy Wednesday y'all!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sacred Spaces.

That's what she calls the work we're doing.  She, is our in-home counselor.  We didn't want her.  We didn't want to need her.  But then again, we didn't want to have to clean up the mess created before we knew our boys.  We didn't want to walk this journey. 

But we are.  

As parents of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) we find ourselves desperate.  In crisis.  At the end of our rope.  Confused and near hopeless.

So we stepped out of our comfort zone for the sake of our son, and opened our home to her. And we do need her.  And she is a blessing to our family.

Sacred Spaces.

When the issues of the heart flow from the mouth, it can be sweet.  Or it can be ugly.  It can take you completely by surprise.  The issues flowing from the heart, might take you into your son's dark closet where you find yourself weeping with him as he spills forth feelings kept bottled inside for way too long and begs to know why and what.   

His grief, equal to his anger and rage- we call spewing venom. And the venom, it feels like poison- taking our breath away and paralyzing us with disbelief that those hateful and mean words come out of the same little boy that hours later say "I love you Mommy, I'm sorry" and giggles over Duck Dynasty. 

The sacred spaces- where truth pours out because it's been shoved deep down and can't be shoved any further and can't be hidden not even with his Halloween pumpkin; where truth can't be told when begged for because we don't have it.  The place where the pain of your child dealing with demons and memories and fears and looking for needs that we might not be able to meet no matter how much we want to and how hard we try- it's a sacred space. 


We're just getting started on this journey into the sacred spaces of healing.  The road is scary and almost sure to be long and isn't guaranteed to end where we want it to.  But we'll keep walking it, because in his dark closet holding my son tonight, I saw a distant light of hope.  And hope is everything.

"To console those who mourn in Zion, o give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." 
Isaiah 61:3

Happy Thursday y'all!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

And the (NON load bearing) wall came tumbling down- for good.

We recently knocked a wall out in our house. 
Partly, because we could.
Mostly, because we love have family and friends over and we wanted a room big enough for everyone to be in one place.

Some of the project was a bit shocking.  Like finding out the built in cabinet I loved wasn't built in at all.  That some of the ceiling had new drywall, some of the walls were thicker than others and the floor was completely uneven between the two rooms.  Oh, and that one piece of knob and tube we found hidden in the wall...

... old Farmhouse charm. 

during, dining room facing den- loved the plaster between the boards

during, den side facing dining room


We are still cleaning dust from every other inch of the house.  How it got upstairs, I don't know.

peek-a-boo I see through you
the process ain't pretty people

doorway to bedroom- gone, drywall going up
before, from den facing dining room (left of door)
before, from den facing dining room (right of door- at office)
 We like the soft copper paint color, so we repeated it in the new room

after, from edge of office door facing kitchen
before, from kitchen looking through dining room into den (open doorway to bedroom
and can barely see basement doorway far right) 
after, couch is where wall and doorway to bedroom was- basement door where it always was 

after, another picture from kitchen doorway

after, from basement door facing bathroom door and kitchen on left

It was a good decision and we are glad we did it.. just in time for Christmas sleepovers!

And thank you Adam Ayers who did a most excellent job - working nights and weekends to finish this mega project in two weeks.

Happy Sunday y'all!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Biddy Bowl November 2 2013

It was a gorgeous day for football.
Isaiah's first Biddy Bowl. 
His first time being introduced and his tackles announced.
His first time playing on a field that wasn't grass.    

Introducing South City Warriors, Isaiah Allen#20

Touch Down- love the ball in the air

oh yea, that's my baby doing the back bend

and now a little flip

always with the shoe laces

not so fast you...

taking him down

another tackle by #20, Isaiah Allen

saying hi to Uncle Keith at half time

I love this one.

and back at it

taking on the big boys

receiving his medal, which he pronounces "middle" cause he is just that cute

so big and so small


getting some of this proud mommy's lovin'

team photo- mean faces

we're number 1

what just happened here?

don't ever grow up, okay?
Happy Saturday y'all!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recon Redo- All Pumped Up. Done.

It's been six weeks since my surgery.  

During these past weeks, in addition to healing from major surgery- phase two of reconstruction has been steady going.  A lot of people have asked me about the reconstruction process- I'll keep it simple.

After the initial surgery to either remove breasts (mastectomy) or remove previous placed implants as a result of mastectomy- expansion takes place.  The surgeon inserts a "balloon" behind the chest wall where one or both breasts would've been.  At each doctor visit, in my case weekly, as long as the body is ready, the surgeon adds saline to each side until the correct amount or desired size has been added.  There's magnets and buttons where the needle is inserted to keep the balloons from popping.  That wouldn't be good for sure. 

It isn't the worst pain I've experienced, but needles into your breast is never fun, and it is noticeably uncomfortable.  The purpose of the balloons is to stretch- and you can feel it.  The pain, as my surgeon puts it, is the "ripping away of the balloon from the chest wall."

I wouldn't call expansion and reconstruction easy- it is a difficult and pain filled surgery and the emotional side complicates it.  I crave the shower with the warmth washing over the reminders that I will never be who I was- each shower bringing me closer  to the finish line. It doesn't matter that this is a temporary step in the process. I struggle to look in the mirror- the reflection staring back is strange and scary and sometimes I don't recognize her at all.  No, not easy- but easier than the first time and for that, I am so thankful.

So, hearing my surgeon tell me that I am done made me very happy. I might have celebrated with a waffle cone filled with homemade orange cranberry ice cream.  I might have celebrated alone.

That may sound strange- because I've been surrounded with Rex, the boys, family and friends during these last six weeks, but it's just me in that room when the needles go in.  From the very first biopsy over a decade ago- to this week's appointment- it feels very personal and lonely sitting in that exam room in the pink paper top.  So, it seemed okay to be just me enjoying the ice cream cone in a personal celebration of being DONE.

Done with the needles, at least.

In order for everything to stretch and heal and settle, we wait.  For about six weeks my body will continue to accept the changes forced upon it.  And while it's settling, silly things matter- like whether I should continue sleeping in the recliner that wraps me safely or try to sleep in bed, knowing I will toss and turn and not really sleep at all.  Do I dare get into a bath or keep taking the showers.  When will my concentration come back.  And do I have to give up my naps. I'll deal with the back and shoulder aches and odd shooting pains that will continue until we're ready to finish this up with the second surgery- when the balloons come out and are replaced with implants. 

My surgeon is amazed that I've come so far in just six weeks- he said I could be the poster child for expansion.  I'm amazed too- thinking back ten years ago how different the first time I had this surgery was from this one. 

My family is getting back to normal- Eli isn't crying every time I fall asleep sure that I'm dead and Isaiah isn't hiding across the room afraid to come near me.  We're back to "bear hugs" and I missed those as much as they did.  I cooked my family's favorite spaghetti this week and even tried out a new crock-pot casserole.  And Rex, my rock, who has been doing mom and dad duty getting kids to football and school and daycare and bed and fed and clothed- I know he's glad that I'm done too.

Normal.  We wouldn't be the 5Allenz without a little chaos, so we didn't think twice about taking on more change during my recovery....  we started a major remodel in our house tearing down a wall, building a walk-in closet and switching 5 rooms around.  Boring just isn't in our vocabulary.

And because I know what you're thinking- yes, we made sure it wasn't a load bearing wall before they tore it down. 

Rex cleaning up after some demo

me- standing where the wall stood - photo courtesy of Eli

We might have called the wall coming down reconstruction

Whether it's breast reconstruction or walls coming down or Shayne leaving for school or the team we're building to help our RAD son- this family couldn't do a bit of it in our own strength.  So thank each of you for investing in and praying for us.  We sure appreciate you.

Thankful to be back at the keyboard - Happy Wednesday y'all!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Will you like him anyway?

Love is unconditional.  It's easy to love him.  Like... that's another story.
He's hard to like some days. 

Suspended for punching.
Kicked off the bus for arguing.
Sent to office for stealing.
Screaming at daycare teachers.

I'm not surprised.  Home isn't such a happy place these days either.  We're in a minute by minute survival mode. The meltdowns are daily.

He's hard to like some days.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is an ugly, complex and scary disorder.  And it's real. So real. 

As ugly as it is, we realize more and more the need for an awareness and understanding of this disorder.

There are some famous people who had attachment disorder- and it's pretty clear the affect it can have on them and the people closest to them...Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Sadam Hussein, Adolf Hitler. 

What causes it?
RAD is a condition characterized by the inability of a child to form long-lasting, strong and meaningful relationships. The basis of this condition is chronic and severe neglect or abuse during early childhood.

What are the symptoms of RAD?
I have highlighted the ones we live with daily.
  • superficially engaging & charming (phoniness)
  • lack of eye contact
  • indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
  • lack of ability to give and receive affection- unless it's on his terms
  • extreme control problems: often manifest in covert “sneaky” ways
  • destructive to self and others
  • cruelty to animals
  • chronic crazy lying
  • no impulse controls (stealing etc.)
  • learning lags and disorders
  • lack of cause and effect thinking
  • lack of conscience
  • abnormal eating patterns
  • poor peer relationships
  • preoccupied with fire, blood & gore
  • persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter (jabbering)
  • inappropriately demanding / clingy
  • abnormal speech patterns
  • false allegations of abuse
  • triangulation of adults (splitting)
  • parents appear hostile &angry
  • defiant
It may seem these kids do all this out of spite, but the truth is, they can't help the way they feel and don't even understand why they do what they do.  They've suffered so much they'll do whatever it takes to protect their heart from being hurt again. 

So RAD kids need, more than anything, consistent, strong and loving people in their life to show that they are trustworthy and can keep them safe.  It takes a whole team, a support system to do this- school teachers, bus drivers, principals, friends, Sunday School teachers and the family to not walk away in disgust but to like him when he is doing everything he can to push us away to prove that we really aren't trustworthy after all.  We can't do this alone.     

RAD kids feed off emotions.  Chaotic emotions is where they're most comfortable- they want the adults to be "in their world".  And it's our natural tendency to want to punish behavior that seems so intentional, so manipulative, so disrespectful.  To "teach him now" she said so he doesn't end up in jail, as if we don't think about that possibility every day.

Parents of RAD kids try it all, and the only thing we know for sure is that traditional punishment doesn't work. It simply makes it worse.  So, it looks to the people who call wanting us to deal with- fix- stop his behaviors, like we're making excuses for him.  They want us to punish him so he doesn't do it again. Which would be great, if he understood cause and effect. This lack of awareness and understanding makes dealing with school and daycare so difficult- because traditional punishment is what everybody knows.  It's the default.  But, punishment is punitive.  Discipline, on the other hand comes from the word disciple, which means to teach, not degrade or punish.  It takes thinking ahead, staying calm and never reacting, always being pro-active.  And we're trying to teach without shame or anger.  We are desperate for the school and daycare to understand the difference.  Not ignore behavior- but help us in teaching --changing the behavior in a way that will work for a RAD kid, not just punishment. Consistency is key- lack of consistency leads to regression.

It's discouraging spending hours on the phone with people who have so much control over his life when he is away from us,  but lacks the willingness to really understand and partner with us.  Some days we feel like giving up. 

He's hard to like some days.

But there is another famous person who had attachment disorder- Helen Keller.  Her legacy is quiet different. And while we're exhausted, frustrated and scared- we are not ready to give up hope.  Our help comes from the Lord.  So we keep praying for God to change his heart and develop his conscience.

And we know it's a lot to ask you - all the people in his day to day life either by choice or profession-  when he's making it really difficult to like him anyway. 

Together, as a team and with God's grace, we have to believe we can develop Keller qualities in our son.

Happy Wednesday y'all!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Recon Redo- Main Surgery

It's been a week since I got home from the hospital.

The surgery went well.  My surgeon says it's the hardest part but I don't agree. Being put to sleep is the easy part in my book, the hardest part is waking up and facing the recovery.  Not just the healing part, but the being still and not doing part. 
The first few days are pretty much a blur- filled with really good pain meds, very little movement and from what I'm told,  me entertaining my nurses, friends and family with all sorts of great truth and made up lies about puppies.  Did I mention the really good pain meds?

Coming home is always a mix of thank goodness and figuring out the basics. How to get comfy- where to sleep.  Where I can be part of chaos without it swallowing me up. 

For days I felt a little like a Christmas tree adorned with colorful bruises and hanging ornaments (JP Drains).  Did I mention the hard part?  There is something unnatural and a little depressing seeing your body look a bit like a war zone.  I look in the mirror with disgust. Rex lovingly reminded me that this is not the end, it's just the beginning and we're not done. Recon is a work in progress and isn't completed with one surgery.   What I see now is not what will be, this is a journey. Have I mentioned how blessed I am to have him?  

I can't help but wonder if, when God looks at us He shakes His head in disgust at the war zone we create for ourselves.  He sees the holes and scars- swollen and battered bodies because we are still His work in progress.  Our relationship with Him is a faith journey.

Aren't you glad that He doesn't give up on us when He sees us in this "in progress" state. I sure am.

I had my first post-op visit yesterday.  He said I'm doing great- and was able to take out ALL the stitches.  The doctor was able to take both drains on my right side out- he said that never happens.  I told him I had a lot of people praying.  I don't think he knew how to respond- he just smiled.  Only one drain came out on the left, so my friend, #4 will be hanging around with me for at least another week. 

Other than him fussing at me for stopping the pain meds and "doing too much" it was a very good first visit.  He says I'm rushing it. 

I was physically unable to list my arms the first few weeks after my surgery 10 years ago, so I guess because I can move my arms this time I confused that with being allowed too. Did I mention the hard part?

We are so blessed and grateful for the prayers and support of our friends, family and VHBC Life's Journey Sunday School and church family. The meals, sweet gifts and notes of encouragement are huge.  And our rocks- well, you know who you are.  Thank you! Please know that if I don't respond immediately to a FB note, email, phone call or message it is not that I don't love and appreciate you. 

I'm still feeling a little spacey extremely tired and my focus is still a little off - I've been known to fall asleep with phone in hand between likes :)

Week one down, let's take on week two---- within my guidelines, of course!

Happy Wednesday y'all!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Redo I Didn't Want to Do Again.

Almost 10 years ago, I went through the darkest days of my life.  Scary days- when I wondered if life would ever be okay again.  Pain-filled days that spilled into the night and seemed to all run together.  Days where I was literally helpless and had to depend on my church, friends, coworkers and family for everything from helping me to the bathroom to driving me to the Doctor to taking me for walks to regain strength.

They were the days that followed my double mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries and there were hundreds of them. Those dark days.

How glad I was when they were over.  Done.  Healed up, energy back and living life with the expectation of forever perky.  

I was a survivor in the earliest possible way- no chance of breast cancer ever again and I was feeling good.  Finally.  

For about 4 years. 
Then the complications began.

It was subtle at first so like I normally do, I claimed being fine and pretended nothing was wrong.  And one week turned into several, turned into months, turned into years. And several visits to the surgeon, each one a little more obvious there was a problem.   The perky was not forever.

And now here we are in a place so distant yet way too familiar.

Monday morning, I'll drop my boys off at school and then head to the hospital for major surgery.  Undoing what took 4 surgeries and 13 months to accomplish the first time, and we'll start over. 

Can you keep a secret?  I don't want to.

I'm struggling with this one.  I know I'm not supposed to fear.  I know God is bigger than my fears. 

Have you met my younger kids? 
How many different appointments we juggle for the two of them?
Do you have any idea how much laundry I do? 
And how often I wash my hair? 

Complications, well they like me. 
So there's this battle I've been having for a few months now-
What if... Stop It, God's in control.
What if.. Stop It, don't be afraid.
What if...You know better, Robin!  

There's something unsettling about knowing what to expect. The first time I went through this, I expected it to be six sweet weeks growing closer to Jesus and then back to normal.

I planned to spend hours upon hours in prayer and bible study-  just relaxing in post op vacation, propped up in my chair pouring over the Word.  And praying.  Lots of praying. 

The reality was that I couldn't read- at all- without my insides feeling like they'd explode.  I couldn't focus on anything for more than a few minutes.  I couldn't pray. I was empty.  Instead of praying and reading and thriving- I survived.  The ticking clock was my enemy and my friend.  It reminded me my life was slipping by and that  life would eventually come back.

People made me anxious. 
Noise made me cry. 
I couldn't breathe without pain for months. 

Perspective changes when you're on a different side.  Looking back, I see how God was teaching me about real prayer and worship.  It isn't always the audible prayers.  Some of the sweetest times with my Jesus was the 3am talks without a word spoken.  Eyes wide open, perfectly still in that hateful recliner in the dark; waiting for the train whistle that became my friend, signaling the sun would come up soon.  Waiting for the joy He promised would come in the morning.  Waiting morning after morning after morning.

And finding it, when I remembered that joy ain't just a happy feeling.  It's the settled assurance that God has everything under control and I can trust Him.  It was learning humility- 'cause when you can't go to the bathroom by yourself you find yourself humbled by the friend who gives new meaning to going with you.  It was learning to ask for and receiving help from others; both people I'd known for years and some I didn't know at all.  It was learning empathy- for people who suffer- without an end in sight.  I found it when God slowed me down to stop- and it, that joy didn't feel anything like joy at the time.

And He is doing it again. Slowing me down to stop.

So, I'm struggling with the dread of the days ahead and the chance to experience joy again- in new ways that I expect God to show me.  

Whatever the days ahead are- REX ALLEN thank you in advance for taking on the hard stuff not once, but twice.  I love you more than you know. 

Got your Mammogram?  What are you waiting for?

Happy Saturday y'all!

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