Category Archives: Lele Marie

Real Wooden Bookshelves 


“Of course he did. Of course Gil f***ing died.” I mumbled it under my breath. In the front seat of our van. We were driving home from Iowa. From Bob’s funeral. I opened up my phone to see that Jonathan Crombie had passed away. 

He was Gilbert Blythe. On VHS. Several places were warped. I didn’t own a copy. They were always from libraries. Too many libraries to count, because we moved so much. 

When we moved into a new house, I would unpack all my books. Before my clothes. Most of my belongings stayed in cardboard boxes, ready for the next move. But my books were always freed and put on the white shelf. Not even a real bookshelf. It was one of those veneer over pressed board shelves that bubbled up when I accidentally left a glass of iced sun tea to sweat on it. It was wobbly. But it held my books. And I always unpacked Anne and Gil first. Their covers completely falling off. 

I’d read them dozens of times before I even saw the movie for the first time. But once I saw it, Megan and Jonathan were now the faces. And they were perfection. As I read and reread the entire series from Green Gables to Ingleside, I couldn’t shake them. And their voices recited the lines. Jonathan’s Canadian accent replaced the voice I had created in my imagination.

I hated saying goodbyes. You trade addresses with a kid you know you can never write to, because you have no stamps.  You make promises to see one another again someday. My friends would send one card, with a new school photo. I had no photos to send back. We always bought the cheapest package and my photos went to family members I saw twice a year. But I did this ritual over and over again. Crappy rental after crappy rental. Nodding that I would write, and hoping maybe we could afford stamps this time around. But we never could.

I didn’t need money to read my books. I didn’t need money to ride my bike to the library. I didn’t need money to daydream about Prince Edward Island or how amazing it would be to have a “dad” like Matthew Cuthbert and get a scholarship to college and marry a man like Gilbert.

And as a 32-year-old me traveled home on a long stretch of highway with a grieving 5-year-old who actually had me photograph him with the coffin so he could always remember how weird the embalming fluid made his Papa’s hands look, I grieved losing the person who was the closest I had to a dad. Bob was finally dead. The road to being destroyed by cancer had been simultaneously fast and drawn out. But he was my Matthew. Taking me in and making me his own, even though he already had children. And I cried over Jonathan’s death. A brain hemorrhage. His family didn’t even get to say goodbye. They had waited 3 days to announce his death. 

It’s probably why I never want to leave this place. This house we’ve been working on for 11 years. Because it’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my entire life. We came home to this place after our honeymoon. We brought all four of our newborns here. We came back to this place after leaving two of our children with hospital pathologists. We were here when Bob lived. We were here when Bob died. Dave surprised me with my own copies of the movies, which have been the centerpiece of many date nights in this house. And my tattered, yellowed books are on a real wooden shelf in this house. A shelf bolted to a wall we own. 

Two years later, I miss Bob nearly every day. I think about how he teased me for having so many books that Dave had to keep building new shelves. And he would’ve teased me for crying over Jonathan’s death. And he would’ve teased me for being so sappy. I miss the teasing so much. That was the worst goodbye of the countless goodbyes in my life. And a stamp can’t fix it. 

Tagged ,

Five Minute Friday | Define

“How would you describe yourself as a Mom?” 

“An incompetent loser.” 

That’s what I wanted to answer. 

Instead, I said something along the lines of, “I’m a stay-at-home mom. I was in drug-free labor for almost 20 hours before an emergency c-section. I’m a breastfeeding mom. A baby food-making mom. He doesn’t watch TV. We plan on homeschooling him. Probably starting kindergarten early, in one of those co-ops where he’ll learn Latin.”

I know there was more in my rambling answer. Can’t recall all of it right now. 

I don’t know what she was actually expecting me to say, but I’m sure my checklist made no sense. 

I had learned early on in the Mom Community to define myself by choices. These topics filled magazines, blogs, and Facebook forums. Birth, sleeping, feeding, free time. Everyone had an opinion. And it stressed me out. 

I was a new mom, with a fantastic support system, but I thought everyone was doing this mom thing better than I was. Graham was a difficult baby. Sleep eluded us. He was a frequent cluster nurser. He was strong-willed. I spent his first 8 months of life trying to figure out what I had done wrong. 

I hadn’t done anything wrong. Except the part where I was trying to control another human with his own desires. I hadn’t yet learned the difference between control and guidance. Breaking versus molding. 

In that moment, I tried to define my motherhood by some choices I had made. And decisions we would make years down the road. Trying to fit into a strange box of motherhood. 

It’s comical how experience changes you. How other kids change you. I spent a few years talking about homeschooling Graham early. Then we started him at the normal time. We didn’t join a co-op. He knows zero Latin. My kids watch lots of TV. Adelaide goes to public school. My girls ate homemade baby food, those pouch things, and jarred food. I’m about to have my 4th and final c-section. 

What would my answer be now? 

“I’m a mom of 6 kids, with 4 surviving. I’m learning to enjoy all these different seasons, including the really hard ones. I’m taking this thing one day at a time. Past that, I have no idea.”

And that’s okay. 


Time’s up. Join me at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw and unedited writing. 

Tagged

Going Public | My Raw Thoughts About Making My Abuse Known

The day after I remembered my abuse, I went to a police station to give a statement. I knew nothing about the process I was starting. I sat across from strangers. Officers and Detectives I had seen at parades and events around town and on Facebook. But I didn’t know them. 

I nursed Bess and asked them if I could close my eyes during the retelling, because I was embarrassed. They were wonderful. And I left feeling a newfound freedom. They had believed me. For a decade as a child and teenager, my father had always told me the police wouldn’t believe me. He was wrong. 

During those early months of the investigation in two states, I wasn’t allowed to say much. We didn’t want him to run away before a District Attorney could do her job. So I pretended like nothing had happened. Only a very small group of people knew what was going on. Even know, many details are just not discussed. But I worked tirelessly with two departments to help them get whatever they needed. I completed a timeline where I tried to remember (and give detail) about every instance of abuse in my life. It was hell. But I kept going, because I was determined to do everything in my power to get him imprisoned. 

People often ask me why I fought so hard to get him incarcerated. Why I felt the urgency to go public after the trial. Why I didn’t just go to therapy, get over my issues, and move on with my life? Silently. 

The answer is pretty simple. I didn’t want him hurting anyone else. I’m not his only victim. And I can’t go back in time to the first time he abused me and make it right. Get him arrested and incarcerated all those years ago. Save all those other people from him. But I can help others now.

By going to the police, his crimes were out in the open. When I sat in that first interview, I had no idea if he would still get prison time after all these years. Statutes of limitations are tricky things. But I knew keeping quiet gave him the power to keep doing what he was doing. And, like most predators, he was getting “better” at it. I knew that I couldn’t sit around when he was most likely grooming and abusing new victims. 

Some people, who are no longer part of my life, said I should’ve just let it go. It was so long ago. What did it matter now? I responded that it mattered to me. I was worth it. And it mattered to all the people he wouldn’t get to abuse because I was speaking up. They were worth it. 

He stated in a report that he was going to move back to my area after he was done serving his sentence. So when I had been on the fence about how much I was going to share publicly, that was the catalyst for going to the blog. I wanted as many local people as possible to know what he had done. What he was capable of. If he thinks he’s moving back here, that’s fine. But thousands of people know the truth. Tens of thousands of people have read and shared these posts, which will make it harder for him to abuse the next person. 

Going public was not just part of my healing process. It was my way of saying, “You aren’t fooling anyone.” Just recently, someone stopped me to say she had appreciated him as a pastor and wanted to know how he was doing. “Well, he’s in prison for being a child molester.” Her face was shocked. “How do you know it’s true?” “Because I was one of the children. And he had multiple affairs, stole all my mom’s money, then tried to kill himself to cover everything up.” Then I walked away. One more person who knew the truth. I want this area saturated with people who know. I want him to be recognized for what he is. Not what he says he is. 

Some accused me of being bitter. I’m not bitter. I’m smart. I know that predators are less likely to strike again when they can’t hide behind the facades. Blame it on being the oldest child, but I feel a duty to protect others. And I’m using my tiny corner of the internet to do it. And I’ll keep using it. Because I’m in the minority. Most people who are abused will never tell anyone. Never go to the police. Never go public. 

But maybe one person will read my posts and take that first step to say, “I’m worth it. And I can help stop this person from hurting others.” I was victimized long enough. I’m now a survivor. That freedom is worth every moment of hell it took to get here. And it started with a trip to a small police station in the middle of America. Where a scared-out-of-her-mind woman nursed a baby girl, while simultaneously protecting her from the grandfather she will never know. 

Tagged ,

A Rose By Any Other Name | My Thoughts On Disability Language

I was a Special Education teacher back in the day. Before kids. Before Adelaide’s first MRI. So I took class after class focused on disability law, people first language, and being politically correct at all times. I was once involved in a graded debate about the appropriate use of disabled vs. differently abled. 

I left college scared to death that I would use the wrong word and offend someone. Because I had been conditioned that only certain terms were acceptable. And certain terms were deplorable. 

Last Summer, we were at Silver Dollar City. Adelaide was in her wheelchair, enjoying life. The attendant asked if we had her special riding pass booklet, which shows the rides and attractions she can legally ride. It’s catered to her specific abilities. Graham answered, “We’ve got her book! She’s disabled!” 

“You should use other words for her. Maybe that’s offensive.” A stranger in line corrected Graham. I was about to step in when Graham looked this man in the eyes, and stated in true Graham-fashion, “I don’t know what ‘offendisive’ means, but you see da wheelchair, right? Cuz she’s in one!” 

I have no idea if this man had a disability, cared for someone with a disability, or just liked butting into random conversations while in line at a children’s play area, but I was taken back to my college days. This stranger never once smiled at Adelaide. Or greeted her. Or asked if she was enjoying herself. His only interaction with us was correcting a child. 

Our family uses many terms for all our kids. Disabled, disability, non-disabled, neurodisabled, nonverbal, wheelchair-user, normal, atypical, neuro-typical, verbal, special needs, and many others. I cater our words to the occasion. Forms, discussions with doctors, interactions with 90-year-old women at the grocery store. Because I prefer that people interact with us rather than giving off a vibe that we’re going to judge you for using the “wrong” word. 

“Is she retarded?” An elderly man with oxygen and a cane asked me, while we were visiting Bob in a transitional care unit. Bob was just a few weeks from going home on hospice. Everyone at the facility loved when Adelaide visited. She was always clapping and laughing. I didn’t say, “You aren’t supposed to use the r-word anymore.” I knew his heart and he genuinely wanted to know about Adelaide. “She has lots of brain issues and can’t speak or walk, but we aren’t sure what she’s thinking. She loves counting!” Then he stooped down to count with her. I later found out no one visited him. Seeing Adelaide brought him joy. 

Imagine if I had said, “We no longer use that word. If you were on the internet, you would know this. And some people don’t want you using Special Needs or disabled, either.” 

Talk about a conversation killer. With a lonely veteran of a foreign war, who just wanted to chat about Adelaide. 

I’m not saying you should use the word retarded. I’m saying that Dave and I focus more on engaging in conversations with people who want to know about Adelaide, and we use a variety of language to do it. 

When a small child comes up and asks, “What’s wrong with her?” I never say, “The word ‘wrong’ is a bit harsh.” I squat down next to Adelaide’s wheelchair and answer, “When she was growing in my belly, her brain formed a different way than yours did.” And I continue from there. 

If I knew what Adelaide wanted me to say, I would say it. But I don’t. Dave and I are her voices. We speak for her. She is nonverbal. I was once told in a forum that the term ‘nonverbal’ is offensive. It was news to me. I still use it for my own child. And I’m sure I use lots of other words that would make college professors cringe. But this is my world. A Special Needs Mom raising a kid with disabilities. And I’ll use the words I want to use to teach people about our family. 

I long for the day when people see Adelaide and greet her at Silver Dollar City, instead of making assumptions about which buzz words she would choose if she could talk, sign, or use a communication device. She does understand “Hello!” and will often return the greeting. So let’s start there. Maybe focusing on the person is far more important than focusing on people first language. But that’s just my two cents. 

Tagged ,

Adelaide Walks For Water

In honor of Adelaide’s 2nd wheelchair anniversary and International Women’s Day, we are participating in our very first family 6k! 

On May 6th, Adelaide will lead the way in her wheelchair while our entire family walks 6k to raise money and awareness for children all over the world who walk 6k everyday to find dirty, unsafe water. 

Adelaide wants you to join us! You can sign up to walk/run/push a stroller or wheelchair for 6k wherever you are in the world! You can donate toward our fundraising goal! You can commit to praying for the children whose lives will be changed by this walk! 

Have a blessed Wednesday! 

Team Adelaide 

Tagged , ,

I Regret Saying “I Love You”

Dave and I started off wobbly. That’s the best word for it. When I saw Dave, it was literally love at first sight. But Dave saw me as a friend. I broke up with a nice guy, because I was so in love with Dave. Dave went on living his life as normal, but added in my friendship. 

It was awkward. I know I came off as desperate. I was fearful that the person I wanted to marry would never want to marry me. 

After months of being friends, I decided to tell him that I wanted more. I had finished some book about being brave and not operating out of fear and who knows what else it said. So I told him I wanted to be more than friends. I told him I was interested in dating him. I will never forget the look on his face. It was a mixture of confusion and I-knew-this-was-coming and “Oh shit.” 

He was not in the same place. I thought I had been brave, but I had actually been cowardly in trying to make something work. 

So we stayed friends and it was everything I had feared. And I felt like a rejected loser. 

Later, Dave decided he did want to date me. Asked me out in a beautifully romantic way. A boy at my window at 2am. Asking through the screen, to a chorus of cicadas and crickets, if I would date him. I found flowers and music in my car the next day. 

But I was terrified he would change his mind. I had a difficult time enjoying those early days of finally being what he wanted. I figured he would snap out of it. Remember he didn’t want a relationship. Go back to his dreams of traveling the world, becoming an academic, sitting next to a fireplace, surrounded by books. A lifelong bachelor. 

But our first kiss told me he wasn’t playing around. When we had been friends, he mentioned in passing that he wouldn’t kiss a woman again if he didn’t know that he loved her and wanted to marry her. So our first kiss was more than lips touching. It was a proclamation. 

And it should’ve been enough. But my love language is Words of Affirmation. I was eagerly anticipating those three little words. And they were never said. Days turned into weeks. I started to get nervous. 

Certain friends didn’t help. Many of them weren’t mature when it came to relationships, and they planted seeds of doubt that I watered with my own insecurities. They said he was going to change his mind. He wasn’t committed. I was more invested than he was. 

None of it was true. Dave’s actions were the opposite of all those things. We didn’t kiss very often, but our kisses were indescribable. He planned thoughtful dates, with all the details screaming “I love you!” 

It wasn’t enough, and I ended up doing something I regretted from the moment it happened. And I couldn’t take it back. People I shouldn’t have been listening to told me he didn’t love me. So I planned a special date to get an “I love you” out of him. It was desperation. And it didn’t end up working. The setting, the mood, none of it. I sat there waiting for him to declare his love, and he couldn’t stop talking about the stars. So, I forced the moment.

“I love you.” I don’t know what I was expecting. But his eyes were sad. I had fabricated all of it. I meant what I said, but the timing was wrong. Everything was wrong. I had only done it out of fear. After several seconds, he said, “I love you, too.” And I could tell it wasn’t how it was supposed to play out. I had stolen something from him. 

I don’t know how long it would’ve taken him to initiate it. I regret that I basically butchered a milestone. All because I bought into a lie that his lack of words meant a lack of love. 

Dave doesn’t always say the words, but he always shows it. Always. His love language is Acts of Service. He can go three days without initiating an “I love you,” but he’s never gone even one day without showing me. 

I was too immature then to see it. I got caught up in needing to hear the words. I cringe when I think about how infantile I was about all of it. 

Dave says “I love you” when it matters. And he always says it back to me, even though I throw it around several times a day. He’ll be going to the grocery store, and I’ll say, “I love you! Be careful!” He will always respond, “I love you, too. I will.” He never withholds reciprocating the words. He just doesn’t usually offer them first. But, sometimes, when I’m leaving, he says, “I love you.” Or he says it completely out of the blue. And 33-year-old Lyndse knows whether he says it or not, that he does. He loves me. 

The week of Valentine’s Day 2009, we found out we were pregnant. Our first child. We were elated. One of the best days of our lives. He took me in his arms, kissed me, captured my gaze in his, and said, “I love you so much.” And it was perfection. 

Tagged

She’s Getting So Big

Adelaide is no longer a baby. Or a toddler. Or even a preschooler. We’re about to fill out her kindergarten enrollment packet. She’s off to elementary school soon. A k-4 classroom. 


And it seems like all these new “big girl” issues came at us quickly. Wasn’t she just a baby?


She outgrew normal diaper sizes. Overnight. The Pampers size 7 we buy from Amazon are too small. She wears cloth at home, but needs disposable for school, church, and outings. We’re looking at medical diapers. For big kids. I need to find a good balance between effectiveness and cost. And hopefully something that I can get through Amazon on subscribe and save. 


I was dressing her a couple weeks back and shouted to Dave, “There’s something wrong with her knees!” Then I realized it was ingrown hairs. Since she crawls and knee-walks, she’s broken off all the leg hair on her knees and caused ingrown hairs. I have no idea how to deal with this issue. At all. And I used Google to find zero answers. Early puberty is an issue with some neurodisabled kids, but no one explains what to do with ingrown hairs. 


Adelaide needs a new bed. She’s outgrowing her crib. Since we have zero coverage for medical equipment, we’ll be building our own bed. A twin with large railed walls all the way around. And a gate, so she can crawl in and out by herself. But the tall rails and closed gate will keep her in until we are ready for her to get up. This morning, she woke up at 2:30am. We need to keep her contained, as I listen from another room. 


We’re constantly outgrowing clothes and figuring out which outfits will work for therapy and wheelchairs. Her weight and height are disproportional, so it takes some creativity to dress her. 


She’s outgrown her highchair and bathseat and I don’t even know where to start on those. All gear for Adelaide is out-of-pocket, so I’m looking at all our options and seeing what we can get used or discounted. 


None of this is life-altering, but it’s definitely getting tougher to deal with Adelaide’s issues. She’s truly becoming a big girl…and all that entails. 

Tagged ,

Five Minute Friday | Breathe

Ready, set, go…

Last year, I was tucking Graham into bed when he started a difficult conversation. One I wasn’t yet ready to have. We had just lost Laurence and Flannery the day before. 

“Mama, I’m so sad our babies died, but I’m glad I get to sleep in yours bed. How long we gonna be so sad? And can we be sad and happy? Cuz I wanna be sad sometimes and happy lots of times. Will we get babies again in your belly? Can we be mean to people? Cuz I wanna be mean to people. Am I still your favorite boy? I’ll be okay if you get more favorite boys. I’m so happy you aren’t in da hospital again tonight cuz I missed you last night. Someday you gotta tell me about the dead baby surgery. Da hospital was pwobly too quiet, huh?”

“We will be sad when we need to be sad and happy when we want to be happy. We can be sad as long as we want to be, as long as we don’t hurt ourselves or be mean to other people. That’s not being sad, that’s other things that aren’t showing God’s love to ourselves and others. I don’t know if we get to have other babies in my belly. But I love all five of you so much! And, yes, you’re still my favorite boy. And I’m so happy I’m home with you. The hospital was very quiet, which was nice. But I missed all our noise.”

“You forgotted da surgery part.”

“When you are older.”

How that was exactly one year ago yesterday, I’m not sure. Time is so strange when you’re 33-going-on-34. 
We made it through the anniversary of the twins’ birth and death. I had been dreading February 1st, but it ended up being easier than I thought it would be. Partially because my kids kept me completely busy and I barely had time to think about it. And partially because I decided to place zero expectations on myself. 

I didn’t make plans to commemorate it at all. No tattoos. No visit to the cemetery. No “one year later” post. Just regular life. Just breathing in and out. 

My word for 2017 is breathe. For whatever that’s worth. It came to me at the very end of December. 

Yesterday, in conversation with Nicole, while our kids were running through the house laughing and screaming, I realized I had found my word for 2017. Nothing profound. But the last several years have been more difficult than not, and I’m choosing to focus on the basics in the new year. Breathing in my husband. Breathing in my children. Breathing in new baby smell. Breathing in friendship. Breathing in the Holy Spirit. “Nicole, I think next year is my year to breathe.” She nodded, then we cleaned some weird orange goo off Graham and Thatcher’s hands, changed Adelaide’s diaper, hunted for Chandler’s missing drink, and averted a near disaster as Bess stuck her head into a birdcage. I was breathing in motherhood, and I felt alive.

I breathed my way through February 1st, the anniversary of losing two children. And I breathed my way through February 2nd, the anniversary of coming home from the hospital empty-handed. And I breathed my way through preschool drop-off and pick-up. I breathed my way through homeschool and pottytraining and dishes and laundry and calling in prescriptions. And I breathed my way through making room for another baby. A baby brother. Who probably eased some of the pain on February 1st. But in the words of Graham, “Getting a new baby doesn’t make me miss our dead ones less. I wish we could have all free of dem!” We’re all breathing our way though pregnancy after losing children. One breath at a time. 
Time’s up.

Join me over at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw and unedited thoughts on the word “breathe”…a safe place to share. 

Tagged , , , ,

A Tale Of Two Cousins

Bess and Melody started pottytraining on the same day. Purely coincidental. 

One took about 10 days to fully train. She went from diapers full-time to panties 24/7. No nighttime accidents. 

The other waits until mom leaves the room to remove panties, put on sister’s diaper, pee in the diaper, remove the diaper, toss it into the trash can, and put panties back on. 

You’ll never guess which one is which…


You’ll never guess. 

Tagged

Year Of Fiction 

Most of my reading from 2012 to 2016 was non-fiction. How to be a better mom, blogger, baker, editor, believer, survivor, wife, organizer, teacher, cook, budgeter, dresser, copywriter, DIYer, friend, and the list goes on. 

So I declared 2017 as my Year Of Fiction. 

For 365 days, all my book choices would be fiction. 

Last night, I read 35 pages of a dear friend’s sci-fi manuscript. It was love at first page. 

I’m also currently reading a few mysteries, several classics, a novel about post-Civil War California, and rereading some short story collections and poetry anthologies. 

I’m obviously still reading my fair share of non-fiction with Graham, but all my silent reading time has been a lovely escape. 

What’s on your reading list this year? Might I suggest Sense and Sensibility? No Year is complete without a dose of Austen. 

Image credit 

Tagged ,