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Why Him?

My mother-in-law asked me last week if knowing Robert has a heart condition makes it more difficult to discipline him. My honest answer was no. Thankfully, Robert’s heart problem is not part of our every day lives, with the exception of the one medication he takes twice a day. And he’s been taking meds his entire life so it’s not like that one medication is an inconvenience. It’s normal for us. Robert is healthy. He is active. He eats more than I do. (Well, more than I did before this tiniest one invaded my personal space.) He is just fine. And we are so grateful for that. We realize that things could be so much worse than they are. He could have lung problems. He could have been that poor 9 month baby awaiting a heart transplant I met in the hospital after Robert’s last surgery. One thing I have learned through all of this is that there is always someone worse off than “you.” And that’s humbling. I’ve hurt for my son and I have wondered why he was born with heart disease. After all, neither Christopher nor I have any history of it in our families. But I’ve never really cried out to God “Why Me? Why our son?” Because, why not?

(written July 11, 2014 and I thought it worth publishing)

On Raising Wild Children

So I have these five kids. These five wonderful, beautiful, funny, sweet, wild, stressful, stubborn, head-strong children. Five. FIVE. All incredibly head-strong and opinionated. One would think that at least one of the kids would be calm and compliant but that is most definitely not the case. Even the youngest at 14 months is showing us how stubborn he can be. He has this “You’re an idiot” face he likes to give me when he’s being defiant. I can tell his knows what I’m saying, and I can tell he’s choosing to ignore me, and I can tell that one day soon it’s going to stop being cute and it’s going to become maddening and frustrating and I’ll be going through the entire process all over again of molding a child’s stubborn heart. It’s hard. It’s overwhelming. I wonder if it will ever end.

Way back when I only had three kids, I thought there was something wrong with my parenting. My kids are WILD, y’all. They have so much energy, it’s unbelievable. We would take them to church every Sunday and wonder why in the world we bothered. ALL THE OTHER KIDS IN THE CHURCH would sit calmly and quietly with their parents either listening, coloring, or sleeping in their mother’s arms. Meanwhile, Christopher and I would have to march our kids out one by one for discipline because they couldn’t stop fussing or fighting or fidgeting or just plain disobeying. What were we doing wrong and how could we fix it?

I talked to all the moms that seemed to have perfect kids. I read a ton of books about dealing with strong-willed children. I tried so many different methods of discipline: time-outs, spankings, losing privileges, losing toys, reward systems, etc. Nothing worked. NOTHING. What was I doing wrong? Why were my kids so bad? But then I started to realize- my kids are not bad. They’re not. Wild? Yes. High energy? Yes! Strong-willed? YES! But bad? No. I realized that I was disciplining, no PUNISHING, my children for being….kids.

Some kids are born calm and sweet and naturally docile. I do not have those kids. I know those kids, but those kids are not my kids. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with my kids. There’s nothing wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with my parenting. God gave me high-energy children and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when I lose my mind and punish my children for being exactly who God made them to be. So as I looked for the true disobedience and as I worked to separate the wildness of my children from the defiance of my children, I began to see how great they really are. I was able to appreciate them more. It’s hard. It’s REALLY REALLY HARD. Because I am not high-energy. I never have been. So I don’t understand it. But just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean there’s something bad about it.

My kids are who God made them to be. It is my job to mold them, teach them, LOVE THEM, and yes, to discipline them. But it is not my job to make them stop being kids. I do need to help them to control themselves, and as they’ve gotten older they are much better at that. I’m not afraid to take them out in public. I often take all five kids out, all by myself, anywhere I need to go: grocery shopping, a play, a park, the library, a restaurant, church, wherever! It’s not always perfect but for the most part they all do very well. I have no problems disciplining when we’re out and about and they know that so that helps with the disobedience. And I try to keep them calm. But I don’t worry so much anymore about what people may think about my wild children because they aren’t bad kids. They are great kids. Great kids who are full of life, love, and laughter.

Last night, Christopher and I took all the kids out to dinner to celebrate Robert’s birthday a couple of days early. When we arrived, the older four just kind of lost their minds. We were at a sandwich shop where you could just grab your own chips, cookies, or brownie while ordering and they all went nuts grabbing food and taking off. I didn’t know who grabbed what or what I need to pay for. Then they got their cups and started filling them full of soda and fighting over whose turn it was next. Holy smokes, they lost their dang minds! So I took away all their food and drinks. I sat them all down. And I told them very sternly that they needed to calm themselves down. Stop grabbing things. Stop running around the restaurant. Stop being selfish. And sit and wait patiently so mommy and daddy could take care of everything. I told them that if they couldn’t behave, we would turn around and go right back home. And they believed me. And it worked. We didn’t have any more problems the rest of the night. But before we left, and older woman who had been enjoying her meal when we arrived and witnessed all the chaos and then the correction told me that she was very impressed with my parenting and that I did a great job handling the situation. She could see that I had good kids. They just needed to be reminded of who they are and where they are.

Parenting strong-willed, wild, stubborn children is stressful, hard, and can be very discouraging. But I think the key for me is realizing that, first of all, they are normal. God created children with a lot of energy. It’s a good thing. And a strong-will means that they won’t be easily pushed around or swayed as they get older. It does make parenting a challenge but it’s also a wonderful blessing. My children have amazing personalities and they aren’t afraid to show it.

I was that calm, obedient, quiet child and frankly, I was boring. Strangers didn’t smile at me and say how cute I was. People don’t remember me as a kid because I wasn’t at all memorable. My sister, however. Well, she’s always been a spitfire. And people LOVE her. They always have. They remember her. They admire her. She has PERSONALITY. And that’s how my kids are. They are and will be loved and remembered because they are fun and interesting. Not bad.

The X

I have a daughter. A beautiful baby girl to call my own. When Christopher and I found out we were expecting a girl we were shocked. Christopher told me, “We’re going to have to have a talk because I can’t make girls.” Well, there is no doubt who our daughter’s father is. This is most definitely a Meredith baby. IMG_20141218_170806800

Abigail’s due date was December 18. We had so much going on in the month of December that we needed her to come that very day and she obliged us.

I was scheduled for an induction on 12/18 at 5:30am. At around 4:30, my water broke at home. I was shocked and terrified I was going to give birth on my bathroom floor or, worse, on the side of the interstate. I rushed Christopher out the door and we arrived at the hospital at 5:30.

I was finally settled in by 6:30 and my nurse checked me. I was so upset to hear I was only dilated to a 4. I was counting on a really fast labor as my last one was only 3 hours long. Turns out I had nothing to be upset about. An hour later I was begging for an epidural so the nurse checked me again. I was an 8. I cried at that news for several different reasons. I was glad that labor was progressing so quickly but man did I want that epi!

Labor continued progressing although my contractions were very sporadic. They were not timeable or predictable in any way. But all of a sudden it was TIME. And my body began to push.

At that point, Christopher and I were the only ones in our room. My nurse had gone to check on my doctor’s whereabouts so when Christopher saw a head he got ready to catch the baby. Thankfully, that’s the moment my doctor rushed in and guided Abigail the rest of the way into this world. He joked about me not needing him and he placed Abigail on my chest. She was born screaming but as soon as I held her she stopped. She grabbed my finger in her tiny hand and gazed up at me. And I finally had her. My daughter. Abigail Anita born at 8:22am on December 18, roughly 4 hours after my labor began. IMG_20150214_093303500

Where is the X Chromosome?

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I am surrounded by boys, boogers, bugs, bumps, and bruises, and lots and lots of testosterone. Sometimes it gets to be a bit much.  Like when my 2 year old, who is finally just learning to talk, chooses “fart” as one of his first words.  And of course everyone bursts into laughter which makes said 2 year old repeat the word over and over. (And who am I kidding?  I am a Mattson.  I was laughing, too. But that’s beside the point.)

Boys are loud.  They are gross.  They can be pretty smelly.  They have no clue how much they trash the house on a daily basis.  And words like “poo poo” and “booty” and “tee tee” are wonderful words that require their own songs.  Alex made up a very special song about booties.  “It’s booty today!  It’s booty today!  It’s booty booty booty booty booty!”  It’s a rather catchy little ditty that will, unfortunately, get stuck in my head every time I hear it. (And now I will be singing it the rest of the evening. Great.)

I need a little girl.  A sweet little girl who will help me keep things neat and clean, who will go shopping with me, who will play dress up with me.  A daughter.  But as I pray for that and wait for it hopefully, I am thankful for my smelly, loud, wild little boys.  Little boys who will spend most of their outdoor time before dinner picking flowers for me because “you married Daddy and you deserve flowers.”

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I am so blessed to have my wild hooligans.  They are precious to me and I thank God for them every day.

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Two and a half weeks post surgery

IMG_20140307_092609812And not only is Robert’s heart healthier than it has ever been, but it has even improved since his appointment on February 24th!  Dr. Aggarwal said Robert’s heart is returning to its normal size, there is still no leak, and there is a slight stenosis.  There was some concern with the lack of healing at the top of his incision so he asked someone from surgery to come take a look at Robert.  Dr. Salazar’s wonderful guy, James, came and decided there was a string sticking out! James cut the string off and said Robert’s incision should heal properly now but that we should keep an eye on it to make sure. I am not worried about it.

The thing I am worried about and am asking for prayers for now is Robert’s stomach.  He has been complaining of almost daily stomach pain since October.  Sometimes, he was obviously lying and sometimes he was obviously in pain so I don’t know whether to believe him or not when he complains.  He was completely fine last week (particularly when Christopher and I were out of town and he was being cared for by my wonderful in-laws) but these past three days he has been complaining again.  We have not yet taken him to his pediatrician for this because we felt confident that it was an issue related to his heart, but now that his heart is fixed and he is still having pains and I honestly cannot tell whether or not he is lying about it, I have decided it is time to really get him checked out.  The good news is that after his surgery and numerous subsequent (expensive) cardiologist visits, we are done paying for doctor visits for Robert for the year. Please pray there is nothing serious wrong with Robert and that we can get to the bottom of his issues, whether it is a real physical problem or just sin.

 

One week!

IMG_20140225_183511475Here is our boy exactly one week after open heart surgery!  I cannot believe how far he has come.  We brought him home Saturday, attended church as a family Sunday, and Monday he had to go back to the hospital to get his staples (14!) and stitches taken out.  That was rough.  He was more afraid of pain than actually in pain and he became a little demon child.  I have never seen someone turn such a shade of red that he is glowing! When he started yelling out GET. YOUR. HANDS. OFF. OF. ME. RIGHT. NOW! I knew my Robert was gone and there was no getting through to him.  It was awful.  But it’s over now, his scar looks great, and he’s getting back his energy and appetite and his amicability. He will go back to school and Bible study next week and hopefully things will get back to normal at that time.

At the appointment Monday I asked Robert’s cardiologist if it is safe to say that Robert’s heart is, at this time, healthier than it has ever been.  He gave a surprised little chuckle and said “Yes!”  Dr. Aggarwal sounded amazed when he told me there is NO LEAK and Robert has only a slight stenosis.  And in the coming weeks, Dr. Aggarwal will begin to wean Robert off his medication so that he will have no daily meds at all!  I cannot believe it!  He’s been on medication since he was born with maybe a short break somewhere in there. This is a new life for Robert.  It’s amazing.  God’s amazing.  He just keeps going above and beyond what we ask.  We are so blessed.

Praise be to God

Our sweet brave boy is HOME! We are all relieved to be home and back together with the littler ones. Robert is still in some pain but he seems to be in better spirits. He just had a nice little nap in his own bed.

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I am absolutely amazed Dr. Salazar was once again able to repair Robert’s valve. And I am blown away by all the support, encouragement, and prayers we have received throughout this long, difficult week. Robert came home with 9 balloons and three bags of gifts. People have been providing food and gift cards so our bellies have been full. Our many visitors and vigil keepers on Tuesday have kept us sane. The prayers of everyone have kept us grounded. I just want to give a huge THANK YOU to you all. It’s wonderful to have such a close and loving family and friends who drop everything to help in our time of need.

While we are now home, Robert’s recovery is far from over. We have to limit his activity a bit for the next 6 weeks while his sternum heals. He has a broken bone so he’s in a lot of pain. He’s exhausted. And he’s embarrassed by his scars. So please continue praying for our son and for us as we try to help him and reestablish a routine with our other precious boys.

Friday Updates

I don’t really feel like typing, so we’ll let Robert provide some updates in his own words:

Thursday Afternoon

Robert is now in his own room on the fifth floor of Batson. It is astounding how quickly this improved his outlook and attitude. Just this morning Robert was thrashing in pain simply because I raised the head of his bed up slightly. A few hours later, after getting out of the PCICU, he was walking to the play room and playing with toys on the floor, and sitting in a chair coloring.

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The nurses are saying that the output of his chest tubes is very low, which is a good sign. In fact, they are saying he could go home as early as tomorrow, though we think he could use the extra day.

His bandage is now off and the incision looks like it is healing nicely. We were a bit surprised to see that they used staples this time rather than sutures, but I suppose it makes sense now that Robert is bigger.

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It is so wonderful to see him progressing so quickly and feeling better and better with each passing moment. We have been remembering that we saw a similar progression after his last surgery, and that memory has been so helpful to us during the times when we have been tempted–like Robert–to wonder if the pain will ever go away. It will and it is, right before our eyes.

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Thursday

Last night Robert asked, “What day is it tomorrow?” When I told him tomorrow is Thursday he said, “Then I have to go to Bible Study.” The poor guy is trying to think of every reason why he needs to leave the hospital now.

When Christopher and I arrived this morning Robert smiled at us. Then the next hour was filled with crying and screaming and defiance and demands. He refused to take his pain medicine and he thrashed around and fought the nurse so much that she now has to replace Robert’s iv line where she’s been injecting medication. We finally had to leave Robert so the nurses could do their thing. It was obvious that his dramatics were for our sake and our presence was not helping at all. I guess this is tough love.

Robert should have his own room this morning. We will send out an email when Robert is ready for visitors. He really needs more encouragement than we’ve been able to give him. In his 5 year old mind, his pain and hospital stay is going to last forever.