Friday, July 6, 2012

Joelle: A Praying Mom

My friend Joelle (Blog: I Hope For A Cure)- or as I like to call her, Wonder Woman (she probably laughed and rolled her eyes when she read that) gives some insight today. I am sure she has her faults, but she just always seems so balanced, to me!
I really credit her and my friend Joanne for giving me the idea of prying into others Mom’s minds. She was the one who made me realize that many Mom’s are very different from me, and that’s okay (yes, you would of thought I came to that realization a long time ago..). “But, I wont let my girls go to bed before EVERYTHING is put back in its place. I even make them get out of bed to fix it if it’s not. Is that okay?” She reassured me that as a teacher, she observes these types of children to be very responsible- I’m praying that is the result I get.
I was able to really get to know Joelle best after I had the opportunity to work under her as she directed a short play that the Women’sMinistry put on at CCC. She was so amazingly patient (it may have taken her more patience to work with a bunch of multi tasking women than teenagers) and almost unshakable. We had so many unexpected things thrown at us during that production, and she may have been having a breakdown in her head but none of us ever knew. I learned so much from her, and appreciated and grew from her honesty and direction.
Daryl received his private helicopter license
Joelle will share below some of the many huge obstacles she and her family have, and continue to face. I love that Joelle has never allowed her “disabilities” to define or limit her. On days that I would of remained in bed, she is in church, attending events for her children, or running errands for her family. She remains one of the strongest unbelievable women I know (she always laughs us off when we say that), full of faith, love, and more talent than I have in my little finger.
My name is Joelle and I was born in Rochester, NY where I also met my husband of 16 years. I have been living in South Florida since 1999 working as a middle school teacher at Ramblewood Middle in Coral Springs. I taught language arts and had the unique opportunity to start the drama program at my school. One of my former drama students is currently starring as Boq in Wicked on Broadway. 
However, my biggest joy is being a mother of 3 daughters ages 6, 8, and 10.In 2008, my husband and I experienced several unexpected blows. My husband, Daryl, was attending helicopter school in hopes of becoming a flight instructor, but his dream was derailed when the school he was attending abruptly closed and declared bankruptcy after taking the entire loan. The same month, I was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, pseudotumor cerebri, also known as intracranial hypertension.The illness gives me all the symptoms of having a brain tumor, which is caused by excessive cerebral spinal fluid putting pressure on my brain, not an actual tumor. In 2011 I underwent brain surgery to have a vp shunt put in to help relieve the pressure. My daily symptoms continue to be frequently debilitating and have caused me to leave my teaching job and old life behind. My husband and I have found the hope we needed in Christ. In fact, I see the school closing and my illness as a blessing as it has ‘fast tracked’ our faith journey. In addition to being a wife and mother, I enjoy writing, reading, and being creative. My lifelong goal is to grow in my relationship with Christ while modeling my Christian walk for my three daughters that they may grow into their own relationship with Him.

Are you a Scheduled or Non-Scheduled Mom? What are the benefits and downfalls to your choice?
I have struggled in the area of scheduling. Is there a thing as too much scheduling or not enough? Of course there is. Ideally there should be a balance. Ahhh, balance. That seems to come up so much in mothering….balancing a baby on one hip, while feeding the toddler, consoling a friend on the phone, thinking about where you are possibly going to find time to stop and relieve your overflowing bladder. I have friends that are schedulers and non-schedulers.  I have spent a great deal of time observing. I thought scheduling meant that every second of the day was planned out, like an organized classroom. I thought non-scheduling meant there was no discipline or structure. I find days where I don’t have enough scheduled and that’s when mischievous ideation begins for my six year old. I find days when I have so much scheduled and planned and all the girls really want to do is play with the neighbor next door. However, don’t come to my house between 5-6pm as we are always eating dinner. I schedule dinner. I have ideas of things I’d like to do with the girls, but as I have had to learn, sometimes what I want isn’t always what is in His plans for my day. I have learned to have an idea of what the day ahead might look like, but being flexible is key. I used to plan a great deal more when my girls were much younger. I needed to have snacks, and drinks and diapers, and a clean outfit…oh, and can’t forget the wipes and hand sanitizer along with the cart cover, stroller… better make sure I have that extra binkies… but as they have grown I have had to plan ahead less.
What is your biggest Mommy Pet-Peeve?
My biggest Mommy pet-peeve is definitely playing the TV or iPod too loud. I am constantly telling my girls to “turn it down or put on your head set!”

Given the opportunity, what- if anything- would you do differently as a Mom?
Something I am doing differently is taking the time to play with the girls. I can’t run around with them, but I can play board games or play a game with them on their iPod. This is something I’m sorry to say I didn’t do so well with when they were younger.  I could use the excuse that there were three of them and only one of me or that I was working full time, but I don’t spend my whole day playing with them.  I give some of my time. Yes, I have a house to maintain like most people and things that need to get done. It all goes back to balance. There is time for what’s important and to me, letting my kids know that I am there for them falls high on my priority list. I notice that when I do take the time to play with them, they reciprocate by helping me with the things around the house that need to get done. They have their own household duties, but when I play with them, they see that they could spend even more time with mom if they help me. It’s a win, win.

Do you have a secret “Mommy Confession”- something that you did/do that you are willing to share?
I have been having an exceptional amount of sadness in having to let go of the mother I used to be and embracing the person I am able to be now. My illness changed many things for my family, including who I am as a mother. My energy level gets depleted easily and I am not able to do the fun activities I used to be able to do with my kids. This has been a struggle for me. I am in the process of identifying the things I am capable of doing with and for them. Next week, for the first time ever, my kids will go, without me, to a day camp. We always had fun together, but life is different now. I pray that my time with them will be better because I will be able to conserve more energy. It will be a new experience for them and they are excited. I think I am the only one who feels badly about sending them to camp. I know that, even in this experience, God has given me an opportunity to continue abiding in his love, grace and mercy.
What are your “non-negotiables” when it comes to your kids?
A non-negotiable… hmmm. There are a few I can think of but the top one is telling the truth, something I myself model. I was surprised by how difficult it can be to be truthful. The tooth fairy, Santa, and the Easter bunny are only a few of the imaginary idols that I introduced to my girls before coming to Christ. I struggled with how to switch over while remaining honest and not destroying their trust in me. What I did was focus on the joy of the event and the reason behind it MORE than the imaginary idol. I have down played Santa and the Easter bunny and focused on Jesus’ birth and resurrection. My oldest at one point straight out asked me to tell her the truth if so-and-so was real.  I told her the truth. I guess I see how following the way of the world can be easier at times, but I see that my goal is for my girls to come to know, to love, and to have a relationship with Christ and I am not making steps towards that if I am focused on what the world focus’ on during these holidays.
What was your biggest fear when you found out you were going to be a Mom?
By far, my biggest fear for my children has been their physical safety. I was sexually abused as a young girl by a boy who was sleeping over with my old brother.  My parents were home. I find myself very protective in this area, but know that everything that has happened in my past was part of the journey to get to where I am today, which is in the loving arms of grace. I trust that God will guide my decisions about sleep-over’s and allowing the girls to play at others’ houses along with the advice and counsel of my husband. I must trust that as much as God has great plans for me and loves me, so does he love the girls and their futures. I trust that regardless of what happens, God knows what he is doing and has the big picture under control. It’s been very freeing to give my life over to God. This is not to say that the initial concern has vanished, it has not, but I don’t allow fear to run my life, I allow God to by using prayer, reading his word and following it.

Did you breastfeed- why/why not? Did you feel pressure to/not to?
I am a huge breastfeeding advocate! I was told I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, buy my mother was wrong. My family was not too savvy of the idea of breastfeeding as they didn’t get to feed the girls as often as I think they would have liked. I noticed how uncomfortable others felt about my breastfeeding, which I truly could not comprehend as I knew that it was the absolute best thing for my baby. I was determined to nurse for 1 year and am happy to report that I did that for each of my girls. If I could go back, I would have allowed the bottle sooner than I did, so my family would have felt more included. I also feel that I did a great deal of judging others moms who couldn’t or wouldn’t breastfeed. I have come to realize that their journey is just that…theirs!  I don’t walk in their shoes. I don’t know their life. It’s not my place to judge but to love and support others mothers as best I can.

What is your “secret” addiction or obsession?
I am secretly addicted to Swedish Fish and lately it has been the colored ones. I’m not suppose to have sugar, but I think these little guys just whisk me back to my one of my few happy childhood memories. I used to search under the couch cushion and on the floor of the car just to find change to buy the $.01 treat at the Village Shop. It’s nice to share my love of them with my girls. They all have a favorite color.

One thing that you do for your kids- because you love them- but you absolutely dread it every time!?
Truth? I don’t want to play. Often I am dragged away from bed or a chore that I am right in the middle of doing to go off and play Monopoly or play dough. But yes, I love them more than focusing on my headache or having to complete the chore right then and there. I know whatever it was I walked away from would still be there, but my kids wanting me to play won’t last forever.
What is something you said you would NEVER do with/to your children, that you have found yourself doing?
I said I would never let my kids go outside and play without me being there. I recall criticizing someone else for allowing their 6 year old to roam outside without supervision. In fact, I was appalled! Fast forward a few years, I became sick, not flu sick, but long term, chronic sick. There are times my 6 year old is outside riding her bike. Yes, her older sisters are out there. Yes, we have boundaries and rules. But, yes, my kids play outside without me there. (I can only imagine the dropped jaws, under-the-breath accusations/thoughts, and blatant disapproval.) However, I believe I am slowly teaching my girls how to fly from this nest. Giving them this small independence is one step toward that goal. In this process, I have had to learn to trust others. I trust that my families of neighbors are keeping watch over my children when I am in bed in pain with no help. They know my situation and have been generous in this area. It’s funny that we call ourselves Christians, yet don’t take the time to notice the needs of those who live around us. Instead of judging a neighbor for allowing a child to do something, I have learned to extend grace and invite the child to join us or just keep an eye on him/her myself. Isn’t that what we would hope someone would do us? I know I do.

Labor with drugs or without drugs?
My plan was a natural birth….but even the best laid plans go awry. I was induced with all three girls and had an epidural for each. I didn’t expect to have gestational diabetes, but did with my first, so that is why they wanted to induce. My second, the doctors thought would be too big and ended up weighing almost a pound less than my first.  My third was late.

Your biggest Mommy “Aha” moment?
My biggest “Aha” moment was coming to the realization that my children are not “mine”, they are God’s. A huge weight lifted for me in this realization. My job is to love them and plant the seeds. Ultimately, I am in partnership with God to raise them.  He will take the planted seeds and complete the work in them.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to a new Mother?
The best advice I could give a new mother is instead of looking towards friends and family for answers as to what to do with your children, partner with God first. Ultimately, He loves our children even more than we do. Secondly, it’s NEVER too early to be a praying parent. Prayer is powerful and when we pray for our children intentionally, we have given them one of the best gifts they will ever receive

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