My Journey of Beginning to Appreciate the ‘Small Stuff’

Enjoying life and it’s small moments of sparkle have become a priority; building in my work commitments and ambitions, household chores, my children’s homework/play dates/therapy appointments, and life’s other demands have all, slowly, started to become ‘smaller deals’, and integrated into routines whenever possible.

Confused? That’s ok. I’m still figuring it out myself. My journey is continuously evolving as a mother, wife, therapist, writer, and a woman, as I strive for a life of balance. As I write, whether it’s for a book that I am working on or for a blog post, I have felt as though I am truly sharing pieces of not only my life, but of my heart. I hope that trials and successes of my life, and consequent ‘tips and tricks’ that I have learned as a result can help other parents and caregivers find balance in life that often goes so quickly that it feels too busy to grasp.

Some History
I’m on the subway. Finding small moments and taking full advantage to write out my heart, to me feels pretty eye-opening.

I’m a pretty private person. I don’t share feelings well, ever since I was a kid. This portion of writing is going to be a real test in that area, but I’ll try my best, because I truly think that so much of my life lately can be learned from (mistakes, trials, and successes).

I was twenty when I married the love of my life. We met as counselors-in-training at sleepaway camp in upstate NY. He was a lifeguard, and I was (surprise) a day camp counselor and a counselor who worked with children developmental disabilities. Two people will be forever etched in my heart from that summer of 2002 (sorry JJ): JJ and Talia. Talia was an 8-year old girl with Downs Syndrome. It came to the point that summer that if I wasn’t with JJ, people knew that I was with Talia. We were so close that I don’t know who I was more excited to introduce to my parents on visiting day, JJ or Talia!

Letter from Talia
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Picture of bench: “Lauren, will you go out with me?”
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Me and JJ that summer
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Would you believe that on the bus ride back from camp, we had serious talks about planning for how we could get married? We mapped out plans of how we could each graduate college in three years, how he could work at the same time, what jobs we would have, etc. Our parents indulged us for the most part, reminding us periodically of the odds of high school relationships turning into marriage. We smiled wisely at them, in on the secret only we knew: there was no other future for us. We were soul mates.

High School Prom
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My 18th Birthday
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We’re Married!
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We were married at 20; I was turning 21 three months later. I gave birth to our eldest daughter Shayna at 22. Yosef was born 15 months later, followed by Lianna, who followed her brother after 17 months. All three kids were born one month early, and both of my girls were in the NICU for minor complications from delivery, including fever and some breathing concerns.

Baby Shayna
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Baby Yosef
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Baby Lianna
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When Yosef was around 8 weeks old, I noticed that he was not only not smiling; he wasn’t even looking at me! His eyes were going back and forth in a repetitive pattern. After going to the pediatric opthalmologist, we discovered that he had low vision and nystagmus, and would require adaptations, services, and modifications as he got older.

As soon as we brought Lianna home from the NICU, piercing screams resonated from around 5 AM until 8 PM, with a few minutes reprieve for our sore ears. I don’t know how many types of swaddling blankets, formulas, bottles, rockers, pacifiers, infant massage techniques or walks around our house we completed, but we definitely felt like worn out dishrags until she was around 7 or 8 months old and she decided to start smiling. Well, sometimes.

Lianna was diagnosed very early by a neurologist with Hypotonia, and received every early intervention service available. Juggling the service provider schedule in my house became extremely complicated, as you can imagine. Keeping Shayna occupied while feeling special while her siblings received services became an added complication, as well. I just didn’t have enough time to devote individualized one-on-one ‘therapy’ for Shayna every day while juggling everything else going on. It just was not realistic, and when I attempted to manage this expectation, the weight of it was almost crushing.

The Good Always Balances the Tough Stuff…If You Look Hard Enough

So, there I was, all of 24, with my hands more than full, feeling like I was sinking fast.

I’m tough; I would tell myself so often that it became a daily mantra. I can just get through this juggling-no-sleep-worrying-three under 3.

I’ve gone through a ton already, I thought to myself: I studied for my graduate school finals in my hospital bed after giving birth to Shayna (I was required to take them 2 weeks later), I took my board certification exam (with a stool under my feet) 2 weeks before giving birth to Yosef, and was working literally until my water broke at 35 weeks with Lianna. Yosef is legally blind,Lianna has hypotonia/colic/lives to scream. It can’t get worse, I thought.

And life happened: the good, the neutral, and the bad.

Here’s some of the tough stuff:

I miscarried my child. The baby was only around 8 weeks, but I was awake for it all: I can recall every sight, sound, touch, smell, and physical sensation that happened in those 30 minutes.

Sending my child into an OR, under general anesthesia, praying that he would be safe.

The first time Yosef came home from school and told me that he was physically hurt by a child on the playground.

Having to stay in the hospital myself for a few days, and being treated for a blood clot, that, if not found, could have had life-threatening results.

Finding a lump in my breast, and having it removed surgically; knowing that it needs to be continuously monitored, to ensure that there is no malignancy. This is an ongoing battle, and I pray every day that I will be there, healthy, for my children.
Here is some of the good stuff:

Yosef had his first eye muscle surgery when he turned one. That very afternoon, he lifted his belly off of the floor, and started crawling.

Watching Shayna confidently navigate her new school, and socialize with her friends, letting me know that our recent move has been not only ok, but good.

Being told by Lianna that she wants to be a mommy like me, because I’m ‘the best mommy’. (Even though there are many times that I don’t feel that way!)

Publishing my first book on self-regulation for children, and relishing in the positive feedback that I have heard from parents, educators and therapists from around the globe, still not believing that my words could have traveled so far. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to make a difference.

Hearing my children laugh, uncontrollably.

The warm feel of their hugs, before I go to work and as I put them to bed, letting me know how much they still need me.

“You’re the best mommy and abba!” It never gets old. I know that as they grow up, they may say the opposite, but for now I’ll appreciate and savor these words even on those tough days.

So much more, but that’s a separate blog post.

Life balances out: the good with the bad. Part of it, at least in my experience, is how much emphasis you put on the positive experiences vs. the negative experiences.

I often say to the kids I work with: “When I am having a hard day, I find something to look forward to, no matter how small. Since I love food, it’s usually around cooking and eating a delicious dinner. What about you? What’s something, even if it’s a tiny part of your day that you can focus on, to make this day feel not only better, not only ok, but maybe even good?” You’d be surprised at how well this worked, once I took my own advice.

I hope that you can take something valuable out of this article; even the understanding that you are not alone 🙂

Have an amazing rest of your week (I would say restful, but would that be accurate? :p)

Lauren

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