I can hardly believe summer has come and gone since I last updated. I often ponder over this site and end up not updating because I simply do not see anything interesting or worth speaking of that would catch anyone’s attention so I move on to the next thing. In my reflection, I realize there are many people who deeply care for our family and want to know how Ryan is doing as well as the older kids – all of us really. I need to do a better job of staying abreast of changes in our family and update this blog more often. I will certainly try, that I can say.
So, what have we been doing for the past three months? Some days it feels like absolutely nothing is the right answer, and on other days, it feels like I cannot get off the merry-go-round. I know we all feel that way at times, but as the kids get older, life just gets easier and slows down. There are days I know my kids are out there living full, busy lives yet I am sitting at home looking outside at the lush, greenery in my yard and listening to the sounds of the world pass by. And many days I am fine with that scenario while at other times I catch myself longing for days gone by when the kids were running around the backyard in their swimming suits jumping in and out of the pool, friends coming and going, while intermittently running up to the backdoor begging for popsicles or a drink of water. Those days of peanut butter and jelly smeared on the kitchen table and banana peels hanging half way out of the trash are long gone. In their place are car keys on the hutch, make up on the bathroom counter, and adult size shoes next to the front door.
Travis and I have had several conversations about what life will be like in two years when Trevor leaves. We joke that we need more hobbies, but in reality, we really do need to make sure we have things we like to do together that will keep us connected and happy as we transition to the empty nest. And yes, Ryan will still be home as he will never leave, but there is an element of difficulty in trying to move on with our lives and focus our days on doing things Travis and I enjoy when Ryan is so limited in what he can tolerate. Travis and I do not have the luxury of just jumping in the car and taking off for the weekend nor can we do something random and unexpected without planning head for someone to watch Ryan. While I would not change the circumstances of my daily life, we realize planning ahead is essential for Travis and me to be able to go enjoy life together.
The last post I wrote was just a day or two after Ryan was discharged from the hospital after surgery to place his mitrofanoff (catheter in his belly button to drain his bladder). I am happy to say the procedure is well, and he tolerates being cathed just fine. There are days when he gets feisty and does not want to be messed with, but patience generally pays off, and Ryan eventually realizes this procedure is not optional so he gives in. He has been very awake this summer for some reason which is a nice change. He used to sleep for 14 to 18 hours a day or more, but now he is down to about 12 hours or so. He takes short power naps instead and has rediscovered his love of opening and slamming the kitchen drawers and cabinets. I can honestly say I never thought we would have to put locks back on the kitchen cupboards for a 13-year-old, but we recently did just that. The biggest change for Ryan is that he will attend school all day starting Monday. It has been at least six or more years since he has attended a full day of school because he had been sleeping for a minimum of 2-3 hours in the classroom so we decided to keep him home in the mornings. It did not seem right for the schools to pay a para to watch him sleep when he could do that in his own bed. To say I am emotional about transitioning to all day school on top of him attending a new school is an understatement. We love Southeast and know Ryan will be in good hands, but it is still hard when he is vulnerable and medically fragile plus no one there knows him. It is not as if he can speak for himself, but we trust he will be in good hands. We just met with some of the staff at LSE this week which eased some of my anxiety, but Monday morning will definitely bring an emotional, teary drive to work after I drop him off. Travis will go to school that first day around noon to make sure the nurse knows how to do his mitrofanoff cares, and thankfully both nurses have experience with this type of catheterization from a previous student. Most people – including doctors and nurses alike – have never heard of nor seen a mitrofanoff which makes us uneasy as parents. Ryan’s seizures are still very active, but overall he is doing as well as can be expected. His strength and balance continue to decline, and he really does not walk anymore except when we force him to do so. Even then, he cannot walk without hands on assistance. But as we have always said, we only wish for him to be safe and happy which he most definitely is.
Trevor is heading into his junior year which is known as the hardest of high school. I am certain he will do great. He is a low key, content teenager who is usually hiding out in the basement or off to his friends’ houses. This is the year when he needs to try to make some decisions over college and what to do with his life after graduation, and so far, we do not even broach the subject. Trevor has time on his hands, but he has no idea what his future may hold. With as much pressure as kids feel to plan their futures, we certainly want him to just enjoy these teen years and worry about college later.
Sidney started her summer with a trip to Mexico for fifteen days then went to Kansas City just a week or so later as a leader for a junior high mission’s trip. She had a busy summer working at HyVee and as a nanny two days a week. And now Sidney is heading off to UNL on Friday when she moves into the dorm. She is a mixed bag of emotions as most kids at this age are, but I can see and hear the excitement when she speaks of college. I am certain that once she gets settled and makes it through her first week or two of classes, she will love it. Like any move to something new, it takes time to feel settled and confident in the new pace and routine. Her clothes are not yet packed, but one of the basement couches is piled with things for her dorm. It has been hard this summer watching her prepare to leave, and even though she will still be in town, she is moving on to the next stage of life. She will not be present every day, and her absence will greatly affect the dynamics of our home. Travis and I are very excited to watch her thrive and know she will love college life. She is ready, and it is time for her to spread her wings and just focus on herself for once. She has always been one to focus on everyone else, and I told her this is her season of life. It is time for Sidney to be selfish and only think of herself which she does not know how to do. I cannot imagine very many other parents are sending their kids off to school telling them to be selfish and think of no one but themselves; to just do whatever makes her happy and put herself first. But for Sidney, who is very compassionate and puts everyone else’s desires, wishes and needs above her own, it is appropriate. I have no doubt my independent, strong, social girl will bloom this year.
Brad is home right now, but this is his first real stay of the summer. He told us last spring he was going to work at a summer camp, and I will be honest I had a very hard time accepting that decision but I supported him fully. As my first to leave the nest, he was supposed to come home one last time for the summer. I thought I had more time. I wanted to keep him within arm’s reach just one more summer before he left for good. And that did not happen. Once I saw the pictures and videos the camp director posted on line after each weekly camp session, I realized just how happy he was. I saw the smiles on his face; I imagined the lives being changed. Brad was an intern as a small Christian camp in Missouri and spent the summer in a leadership role over the camp counselors. He also played the drums during worship and led some of the Bible studies as well as many other duties that kept him busy. It was a fabulous summer for Brad, and he really enjoyed his time at camp. He is now home for a week to ten days then will return to St. Joe to get ready for his second year. Brad is living in the BSU house (Baptist Student Union) with three other guys, and I know he will love it. As much as I miss him, I am so very thankful he is thriving and enjoying this season.
I remember when Brad was a senior in high school just two short years ago. It was football season and the team was playing out of town. After the games, the parents always gathered by the bus to cheer the boys on and feed them before they loaded the bus. As we stood there waiting for the boys to exit the locker room, several of the other moms and I were talking and one of them said she wished parents understood how great the college years are. I never really understood that comment, but I never forgot it either. And I am finding it to be true. While they leave our home, their need for parental support really kind of grows instead of diminishing. It is just a different kind of need. Brad still relies on me to help him order his books, and while he can certainly do it himself, he knows I love to do it and want to help, so he lets me. I still buy him school supplies and send him home with food and anything else he needs. While he may not lay his head down to sleep every night, and Sidney will soon do the same, they both need to know we are here whenever they need us. I had to laugh a few weeks ago when I got a text at work of a shirt and jeans with the caption, “do these match?”. Even at 19, Brad still wanted my advice on whether his clothes match. And I will take it. Whatever I can get, I will take it. Here I sit on this beautifully cool August morning, thinking to Monday when school officially starts and begins the cascade of sending one off to school at a time. My heart begs summer to stick around just a bit longer, but I know it is time to move on to new adventures and another year of school. Losing two this fall and knowing they will not return is hard on this mom’s heart, but I am fully confident the relationships we have built with our kids are not defined by physical proximity to each other, but instead by the love, devotion and admiration we share.