Is your nest full? Mine sure is.

  ‘How do you know when you’re done having kids?’, is a common question asked by mothers, even a question I USED to ask.  I read copious articles, said many prayers, asked many wise women, but never really found an answer.  When I had number 4, I was 90% sure I was done, but there was always a part of me that felt heartbroken at the thought of being done. I wondered if this feeling would always remain.  Would I always have this feeling of incompleteness?  

I’m relieved to be able to share that I feel done, I feel complete.  Before I fell pregnant with #5, I was 98% sure I was done, but still grieved the thought. How can a woman simply and peacefully say, ‘I’m done’, without any regret or any uncertainty as many of my friends have been able to do? How can the woman or man make such a permanent choice by undergoing surgery to stop pregnancy from happening? With the phone number for the Urologist on hand ready to go for the snip, I fell pregnant with number 5.  I was in shock. Unlike with the previous pregnancies, it took several months for me to get used to the idea.  Whilst I will always see pregnancy as a blessing, even now with a 3mth old, I have less patience than I used to with things like sleep training.  I also find myself getting excited about further study and job opportunities.  Now when people announce their pregnancies to me, I’m thankful it’s them, not me.  I can so peacefully say now, ‘I’m done’, without any uncertainty or any chance of regret.  I’m so proud to be mother duck of my tribe.  I’m so blessed to be their mother, what a gift, but I also feel a sense of completeness.  I feel excited about the next part of our journey together.  So for me, the answer to, ‘how do you know you’re done?’, is ‘oh, you will know’.  I write this with much peace, no regret, and a whole lot of thankfulness for this peace and my beautiful family.

Next stop on the road to healing: Genesville

  
Things are never dull in our house.  This week we’ve launched into an entirely new realm, something I know very little about. It’s genetics. On recommendation from our doctor, we had our son do a saliva DNA test.  The reason was because the supplements we were giving were causing more adverse reactions rather than improving things.  When we already walk on eggshells because of my son’s aggression and abuse, having this get worse not better, is frightening.

The results of the test have blown us away.  It’s confirmed his diagnosis and also our suspicions of histamine and Oxalates intolerance.  I’m so impressed with the test. It’s painted a clearer picture of why the aggression is happening too.  Those unhelpful people who believe ODD and ADHD are result of bad parenting can really just go and stick it. This test has revealed otherwise. Hopefully knowing this, seeing the results for myself, will help calm my farm on days when I feel like a failure as a parent. This defiance is because of his wiring, not all because of me. Phew!

What’s next?  These results have shown the doctor what genes are muted. She now knows which Enzymes he needs and which supplements will better support his body. Can you fix muted genes? Many of them are treatable, some will remain weaknesses but with supplements they’ll be barely noticeable.  This gives me hope.

I’ve recently been working my way through a wonderful Youtube presentation by Dr Russell Barkley (here). He believes in a few years time, when someone enters the doctors office with suspected ADHD, the doctors first step will be to do DNA testing.  If this test comes back positive for ADHD, the doctor will be able to better choose medication that targets the particular gene that needs supporting. I just find this idea fascinating and AMAZING. 

If you’ve been sick for a long time and not sure why, or your current treatments aren’t effective, see a Biomed doctor (so they can help you interpret it) and get your DNA test.  If you’re nervous about having your information out there, you can give them false names etc. I guess we will have to see if the supplements and treatment work, but for now this has given me a clearer picture of my son and his needs, and most importantly, the hope that I need right now.

Climb aboard the food allergy train

   

Part of my day to day navigating life business, I navigate a silly amount of food allergies. Some for me, some for the kids and our baby.  As part of finding gratitude in all things, I have to say I’m thankful that none of these are life threatening.  However, if I slip up and give one particular child foods he shouldn’t have, my own life is threatened. He loses all control and turns into an aggressive, mean beast, and threatens to kill me. Nice!

The most difficult part of dealing with food allergies and kids, is actually breastfeeding a baby with suspected allergies.  The early days are the trickiest when you aren’t sure exactly what is upsetting their system.  You cut out the usual suspects of chocolate, dairy and soy (most of this family can’t handle those foods). The reflux and unsettled behaviour improves, but you can tell something is still upsetting them. They have a particularly bad day and you blame yourself, desperately trying to analyse everything you’ve eaten in the last few days.  This is a rather difficult task when you are so sleep deprived. You are already doing silly things like accidentally reaching for a nappy to put on yourself instead of underwear.  Trying to remember what you ate yesterday is a hard task, as is remembering to write down everything you eat to help you track it. Anyway, I’m over having to analyse what I eat and trying to cut out suspect foods.  I’ve been doing this for 8yrs and it doesn’t get any easier. So far, we are dairy, soy, chocolate, banana and gluten free.  That’s all the good things.  But, oh the guilt you experience when your baby has a flare up and is chocking because they can’t breathe because of their reflux response to whatever you’ve eaten, helps you stick to this silly diet. I’m trying so hard. It’s just hard to see milk that should nourish this little guy’s body, cause pain and discomfort. It’s not fair.  Even if I decided to give him formula, the hypoallergenic one he’d need is about $40 a can. That is just not an option.

So, as I starve because I’m out of food ideas to eat, and plough through the food detective game filled with guilt and sadness to see a little one in pai, I will continue to work on being thankful for our little guy and foods that we can actually eat without pain. Just praying that all milk he drinks will be a blessing to his little body. Who would’ve thought breastmilk would need this kind of prayer?

The vaccination debate…in my head!

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There comes a time when you’ve read WAY too much in life. 8yrs ago when we had our first child, giving vaccinations was something we felt needed barely any consideration. Of course you give them, why on earth wouldn’t you?!

8yrs down the track, all of a sudden on vaccination day, I’m questioning, feeling guilty and relief all in one.  Many parents have testified that vaccinations changed their child. It gave them Autism. Parents know their kids so well that I can believe that statement. For some, genetically Autism was already there, but maybe hadn’t become apparent yet, so perhaps a coincidence. For some, maybe not. For some, the vaccinations absolutely caused their child to change. Vaccinations are full of heavy metals etc that can do that. Now through extensive treatment with a Biomed doctor, some are slowly getting their child back, some are not.  All these testimonies and arguments, I can believe for sure. I have a child on the spectrum, I understand the grief, stress, and sadness these parents can experience.

On the other hand, vaccinations save lives. That’s the reason they were made. Simple. My world came crashing down in 2015 when my 7 week old got Whooping Cough. It was a devastating time seeing my little person struggle so much.  Thankfully she had a milder case, so didn’t need hospitalization.  Turns out part of the reason it was milder was probably because I had been vaccinated prior to the pregnancy, so I was passing antibodies through my breast milk.  THANK GOODNESS!

Can you see why I sit on the fence and feel guilty and relief at the same time on vaccination day? Do I choose Autism, particularly when severe, can rob someone of their life? Or, do I choose to vaccinate and prevent life threatening illnesses? Whooping Cough or Autism? Whooping Cough or Autism. It’s not an easy choice, especially when you’ve experienced both!

Play parties: When large families have friends over

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Oh the chaos. Oh the noise.  This mumma duck is still getting used to the size of her family.

We had a play date today.  Can you call it a play date when you already have so many kids? I think not. I’m officially renaming play dates in our family, Play Parties! Seriously, you add an extra child or two to my five kids and there is so much extra noise, chaos, and fun, it feels like a kids party.  When the friends left this afternoon, I needed a nap.

I’m having fun wading through the big family waters, although I know especially in the Middle East, 5 kids isn’t really that big.  As a teacher, 5 kids is manageable, but for me, it’s the noise that kills me.  Some days, I wonder whether I’m the one with Sensory Processing Disorder, and not my child. The excessive amounts of noise coming from kids with shocking volume control makes me stressed! It makes me want to hide in a corner with my hands over my ears and rock.  Yes, yes, it does.  This is one of the big skills I am still to learn as a mum of lots of kids, how do I stop the noise from causing stress? It’s not fair on the kids that I get stressed and grumpy with them.  They didn’t choose to have a big family so it’s no way fair to get cross with them.  As part of my new year (as mentioned in my previous post), I’m trying really hard to have a heart of gratitude. I want to find more joy this year and to do this I’m working hard in having gratitude in every moment. Having thankfulness in all situations, is changing my attitude and renewing my joy every day.  I guess this is why I’m feeling so proud of my big tribe.  I’ve been working through the things that are stressing me out, and finding joy in those moments.  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). I love the book of James, but I was finding it way too challenging to find joy in tough situations that would arise.  By focussing on gratitude and looking for the positive in challenging moments, I’m having way more success. For instance, rather than getting down and frustrated at the noise, I try to smile and thank God for my awesome tribe of mini Thorpes, or the particular clown causing the chaos.  I find I smile more and frown less throughout my days. Nobody is perfect, so there will be days that I forget to try and find gratitude, and end up in a stressed, frazzled mess.  For those days, I think I need ear plugs!

Does the noise of your large family cause you stress or is it just me?

Happy New Year: Pressing stop and restarting the year.

I don’t normally write the title first, but as I was reaching for my IPad to write this post, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the year ahead.  It indeed feels like a new year.

The past 18mths has been the hardest yet of my expat adventures.  I thought leaving behind Jerusalem was a brilliant idea.  It was.  Living in Jordan has been like a vacation in terms of the change of countries.  We definitely left behind intensity, insecurity and uncertainty in our day to day living, for a place of peace and hospitality.  But I also left behind some very dear friends who I miss so much.  I didn’t really take into account having to make new friendships and a new life.  Not sure why I didn’t, but I didn’t.  With a hardworking husband travelling most of this year for work, it has left me utterly burnt out.  Trying to homeschool an extremely defiant, aggressive kid whilst taming my awesome toddler and other two lads, whilst pregnant, had drained my inner being.  What’s worst? I haven’t made a close nit group of friends.  To be honest, trying to homeschool and just survive, I haven’t had a huge opportunity to get out there and make friends.  This made me feel pretty lonely and down at some points and resentful of husband at times, even if he was going out for work dinners.  I wanted in too!

It’s nice being able to type this in reflective mode, knowing that a massive change is coming through, hence the beginning of a new year, or new season.  I feel light, enthusiastic and happy.  My homeschooler has gotten a place in our top school of choice.  He is sooo happy there, in fact, thriving.  Homeschooling him was an important time.  It was a time of growth for him, particularly in his love for learning, and confidence as a learner.  It’s nice to be able to send him back off into the world knowing that he is thriving.   Considering school used to be a high stress point for him. This homeschooling time wasn’t light and fluffy though, oh no, no, it wasn’t.  Trying to teach a defiant child was sometimes like hell.  I had many inward and outward tantrums, many of which I’m not proud of.  But, some of the battles he put up were beyond ridiculous!  Homeschooling really did put a strain on our relationship.  We needed the space from each other, it was way too intense. School is the perfect breath of fresh air that we needed.

Anyway, we have a newborn in the house again.  Three kids have started back at school and a toddler at home. The world is my oyster, so they say.  I’ve started arranging play dates, Bible Study, and in a few months will begin playing sport again.  I’m thrilled to have a piece of me back that was missing for so long.  Not to mention, my hardworking husband has got a new position which has barely any travel too.  See why I call this a new year?  It sure feels like it. It’s time to thrive rather than barely survive.  It’s time to laugh and smile again, rather than frown and cry.  It’s time to press ‘go’, moving forward to a place of joy and contentment with where we are and where we are going in God’s grand plan.

Juggling

My navigation of life continues to be a juggle in the Hasmite Kingdom.  A juggle of spending quality time with all kids, homeschooling my intense and sometimes aggressive little man, attending play dates where I barely understand what is being said, enduring constant illnesses as our little one gets used to the new bugs, raising our kids alone most days while Joel also juggles his hectic work life.  Why am I here again? Yep, the honeymoon period of the expat has come to an end.  It’s never nice when it does.  Thought it would also be fun to throw in some low iron, low vitamin D and lazy thyroid, why not?  I must admit though, life is tough enough without that level of exhaustion, but throw in those extra things and I was EXHAUSTED!  It’s nice now that the fog has lifted and I have some bounce in my stride.

Another thing that eats away at me, or keeps me humble really, is the fact of having a kid with extra needs thrown into the mix.  Even though my head knows these kids need different approaches when it comes to teaching, guiding and disciplining them, I still can’t help but feel like a failure.  It’s an unhealthy way to be, I know, but a perfectionist can’t help it.  When you have a kid with oppositional defiance tendencies, you can’t help but think maybe this is happening because Im not being strict or consistent enough.  These thoughts smash me everyday.  Thank goodness for God’s grace and strategies.  After a LONG time, I’ve come back to His feet, smashed and humble, but ready to be carried.  Nothing like the ouchiness of humility, but the freedom and strength in God is so refreshing.  As I type this, I can say all my kids have taught me SO much about love, grace, patience and humility.  I’ve also learnt so far, so much about parenting a child with extra needs, so I know one day I will be able to hopefully help others that have children with special needs on a more personal level.  Hmmm, I guess this is the thing I lack too.  We have a diagnosis and some medication waved in our face, but then left to our own devices.  I’m madly reading most days trying to work out how to teach our kid the executive function skills he is missing, not really having a clue of what I’m doing.  Anyway, I’m sure God will use all of this that I’m learning now for my own family but others too.  

Jordan can be a challenging place to break into and make friends with the locals.  The locals have big families which consume most of their social life.  One of the ways for my kids to feel at home is of course by making friends.  So, I decided to invite the mothers and kids from my son’s class (in a local Arabic school) over to play.  Play dates are not something they do a lot of here, so the mothers were super excited by the idea.  We had about 8 come and all up about 20 kids.  It was awesome.  A challenge for me with my little bit of Arabic that I have, and hosting in a respectful way (they have lots of customs I had to remember),  but it was fun.  The mothers liked it so much that we’ve started a Whatsapp play date group for my son’s class. This is great.  We meet often to play.  Tick!

My heart continues to break for our neighbours across the bridge in Palestine (and the nice Israelis who want peace).  It’s sad to see this place in so much trouble but inevitable if you continue to try and solve problems by killing people or oppressing people even more, and not allowing some mothers access to attend their childrens funerals.  How inhumane can you be?!

Anyway, my life continues to be full, hectic, reflective and enjoyable in a funny kind of way.