All The Things I Control

After any major behavior episode at my house has been fully resolved and the children are calm and the issues have been discussed, I need 30 minutes or so to be alone. I used to characterize this time as a period of rest–just half an hour to boost my energy back up. As the tantrums have grown worse and the behaviors more outrageous, I have come to understand this time as recovery and rediscovery. It’s the time I need to remember who I am outside of a crisis, when there is not a child hurting me or hurting himself or hating himself.

These episodes might last only a few minutes or they might be an hour or more, but they often leave me feeling disconnected from myself. Twenty minutes attempting to soothe a child who is reliving his trauma, screaming out his rage, throwing wild punches and kicks can feel like a lifetime. Sometimes afterward I wonder if I’m still the same person. I’ll ice a bite on my arm thinking whose arm is this and sweep up a broken plate wondering whose home is this.

This meditation has come together over time as my path back to myself when I begin to feel lost. Please feel free to adapt and use it. I’ll usually get some Frankincense oil diffusing to help set a meditative mood. I tuck myself into bed, and then I begin my inventory of all the things I can control. Not the universe, nor the weather. Not my city or my kid’s school. I can’t control the teachers, doctors or therapists. I can’t control my foster kids’ family. I can’t control the judge or the attorneys. I can’t control the kids. All these things I can’t control, and what’s left? Just me. I can control only me. I let a feeling of smallness sit for a minute.

But I am smart and kind and mighty. Controlling only myself is not a limit; it’s an invitation. I wiggle my toes and feel my nails scratch the threads on the sheet. I slide my feet left to right, in and out of the pocket of warmth from where they’ve been resting. I flex my calves and feel power and energy there as my muscles bunch almost to the point of cramping. These legs have chased a child through a parking lot and out to the street, just in time to snatch him from in front of a car. I flex my thighs and my lower abs. These muscles create the lap where my kids sit for stories at bed time. They power strollers down sidewalks at the zoo. I stretch and extend one finger at a time, first my left hand then right. These hands have blocked punches and tied shoe laces. I flex and stretch my arms, rolling my shoulders. These arms hold them when they cry.  These shoulders carry diaper bags and hold small bodies up to see over the crowd. I breathe deeply, holding my breath to the point of pain and exhale. This breath fuels my blood, calms me when I’m angry,  gives volume to shouts across the playground. This tongue, these teeth, these lips speak life, sip wine, blow kisses. This nose detects dirty diapers and absorbs the musky, grounding scent of the frankincense. These eyes cry and cry and see too much and see too little.

I think my name, not mom or momma or honey or wifey, but my true name. I visualize things that bring my joy: my dogs, my sister, my husband, my garden, diet coke, books, the lake, the river, the ocean. I visualize things that hurt me: a four year old holding a fistful of hair ripped from my scalp, shocked and sick at himself over his own anger. A two year old screaming through night terrors. This mind has a great capacity for thought and feeling. This mind holds sadness and joy, empathizes and problem solves.

I finish my meditation looking inward, celebrating all that’s in my power. All I control is me. I control all of me.


Generosity from Strangers

In November my Insta-Mom status hit a 4 month anniversary, and we were still struggling. Tantrums were high, morale was low, and it was time to start investigating new resources and interventions for Little Man. Out of respect for Little Man’s privacy, I won’t share details, but the behavior issues we were working on were severe, exhausting and at times extremely dangerous.

I was at the Oklahoma Autism Conference one Saturday, and there was a distributor of Young Living Essential Oils sharing her experiences using essential oils as a special education instructor. I texted a good friend of mine who is also a special education teacher who I knew to use oils to ask her if she thought it would help Little Man, and we discovered that my friend was also a friend of this distributor. When I think about what happened next, this small “coincidence” feels more like a nudge of divine intervention. My friend told the distributor about myself and my family. I talked with her about the behaviors and emotions we were working through as well as the numerous interventions and therapies we were already using. She suggested that oils might be the missing piece.

And then she changed our lives. She gifted us with an incredible collection of oils. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was hopeful about oils and desperate to try anything, but also skeptical–You mean I just put a few drops of this plant juice on my kid and he might feel a little better? It was hard to accept a gift of that magnitude, but we knew we would be goofy to turn it down. The only thing she asked for us in return was to actually use this gift. Don’t let it sit and collect dust. Use it.

About ten days went by from this moment until it all showed up at my door. I had done some research on how to use oils, which would be most beneficial to the kids, how to blend them and dilute them, etc. By the time the box arrived my anticipation far outweighed my skepticism. I opened it up and hurriedly shoved the business materials aside (business materials? I never even used this stuff before–I’m certainly not selling it!) to get to the goodies. There were 11 excellent oils plus one bonus oil, a sleek looking diffuser, numerous samples and quite a few pamphlets, brochures and other odds and ends. I read each label and remembered feeling pretty darned awed by how much hope could live in a 5 ml bottle.

Over the next few weeks I would like to tell you more about how specific oils have helped the kids in specific ways. For now, let’s just say that this has been a game changer. Are we un-enrolling them from therapy and stopping their medicine? Definitely not, but we can tone down the stress when our routine gets out of sync by diffusing Lavender, Joy and Lemon. We can round off the sharp edges of a big tantrum by applying Peace & Calming topically. I can have small moments of self-care throughout the day using oils that smell nice and make me feel great.

The generosity of a stranger improved my family’s life, not for a day or week or month, but forever. These oils are part of our regular routines, or emergency tantrum kit and our self-care. I think everyone might benefit from them, and I would love to pass on a piece of the gift we received to you, including you readers who are strangers to me. If you’d like to give this a try and get a Premium Starter Kit, use the link below. I can’t pay for all of it for you, but I can send you $25 (check or Paypal) to put toward it.


This post is dedicated to Stefanie Barker-Olsen, a generous stranger friend.