When past, present & future collide.

That moment when past, present and future collide. If you’ve experienced it before, than you may already have an image in your head. If not- let me share mine with you and maybe it will inspire recollection of one of your own magical moments such as this.

At first glance you might just see a sweet image of two hands together. One big, one small. But for me, This picture was taken because I simply could not let the significance of the moment pass by without capturing it and assuring that it could somehow be frozen in time.

For instance in this moment I felt every emotion possible. But of all the emotions there are, It started with frustration.

As usual, I was awoken by my youngest child in a rough and demanding type of a way. He- coming off of a wonderful night’s sleep in a big bed with the comfort of his mom by his side, me- coming off of another interrupted night’s sleep due to a small yet strong child pushing me towards the edge of the bed after being kicked multiple times during the night.

Why do I endure this you might wonder?

Because he’s my baby. My 3rd child. The one who broke me of all sleep training/parenting strategies and inevitably lead me into an unexpected attachment style parenting situation.

At first I thought my lack of motivation towards sleep training with Jackson was due to him being the said “3rd child.”

But when he obtained a conductive hearing loss at the age of 1 that was actually an undetected Bilateral SNHL caused by a genetic syndrome, I believe the Co-sleeping and attachment parenting was actually the result of an unspoken connection that developed between the two of us. One that I didn’t know was happening, but I believe he knew that we would both need.

But back to waking up that morning. Jackson usually shakes me with more energy than someone who just achieved R.E.M should receive and the volume of his voice is typically louder than usual as he has not put on his cochlear implants yet. Sometimes I respond similar to that of a teenager with a “5 more minutes!” Sometimes I just can’t help but smile (after I finally “come-to”) because he has a way of looking at you as if you are the most amazing person in the world.

Sometimes he is ready to get up and get going. Other times he actually wants to talk and snuggle a bit more. This particular morning he found his hand in mine and he said, “Look mom! My hand is almost as big as yours! It’s getting bigger! Soon it will be as big as yours and then I can be your husband!”

I immediately began to laugh and then he laughed and it was a moment full of giggling and tickling. Then he was off and ready to start his day and as soon as I got up to begin mine, I just couldn’t stop thinking about what he said.

Precious Moments like this one always send me on a trip down memory lane.

I started to recall some hard and wonderful moments from the previous years.

I remember that checkup when the pediatrician asked me with concern in her voice, “does he have any words yet?”

I remember when he only had 30 words and then he got hearing aids and within the span of a few months he was up to 300. It didn’t matter that the typical 3 year old had ____ many words, to us his development was monumental.

I remember when I was told that he qualified under the deaf and blind category for benefits and it deepened the reality that his syndrome will inevitably lead to vision loss.

So hearing my 7 year old son speak in complete sentences with thoughts regarding his growth, and his future…

Takes my breath away.

Sometimes our present becomes priceless because of our past. And sometimes our future becomes full of hope because of how our past turned into a present that we never thought possible.

As we embark upon each New Year, we reflect on what has passed and we take stock of our present. And with these reflections we consider what we hope for.

For some, this is an annual experience, complete with new a planner, or journal, goal-setting worksheets and a fresh “one-word” for the year.

For others these practices are rejected and avoided at all costs. Maybe because it is cliche and all too often filled with fleeting promises that will be forgotten after the buzz of the new year fades. Or maybe because new years hopes had been established in years prior only to be met with disappointment and heartache.

Regardless of your theory or opinion, I think it is important to take a moment to think of where you have been, and where you are now. If those reflections are painful, maybe it is necessary to do so with the support of a loved one or a counselor. In doing so, my prayer for you would be that your tomorrow finds hope possible.

If you find that you connect with myself and my life stories, I pray that your reflections remind you of how far you have come, and how faithful God has been. He has seen you and I through the deserts and the valleys, met us on the mountaintops and at times even parted the seas.

I pray that you see your worth and the impact your life has on those around you. And that you give yourself permission to establish hopes for your new year and trust that the Lord is always at work in your life. And most of all- “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Calling all Mama’s with No Margin.

– A continuation of “Because every mama needs someone who gets “it” and someone who wants to.”

There is nothing like those moments when you are talking with a friend and you share a struggle that you and your child are having and she says,

“Oh girl- SAME!!!”

Friend who gets “it.”

And then to make it even better, she either tells you a story about her child that is literally identical to yours, OR when you describe how you feel, what you’ve tried, or what else they (your special needs child) has done, she basically completes your sentences.

I have a friend who has been completing my sentences since I was pregnant with my first.

See, coincidentally we have literally been walking the same path. Our first born children were born within weeks of one another. They are both girls. Our following 2 children, both boys and spanning the same ages. We both had husbands in ministry, went from working to stay-at-home moms, lived in one of the most expensive suburbs of DC on a one-income salary and then moved away from Northern Virginia for our husband’s jobs.

Every time we catch up on the phone we pick up where we left off, as if we had seen each other yesterday.

So when we both started to recognize some neuro-divergent behaviors in our children, it almost made sense.

Almost.

Because life with neuro-divergent children does everything but make sense.

But there is something so comforting about sharing what your life is like with another, and it totally makes sense to them.

It makes sense to them when you say,

“It feels like we just can’t leave the house.”

“Other moms just look at me like we’re crazy.”

“I just don’t have capacity for anything else.”

Friend who gets “it.”

The need for connection and a desire to be understood is a natural desire. One that is so imperative for the health of anyone raising children in this world.

When they say it takes a village, it’s not just because we all need an extra hand (especially if the kids outnumber the adults) but because every mom needs a little reassurance!

For me, being able to connect with a mom who can personally relate to having a high needs child and all that it encompasses is so very necessary.

She understands when I talk about how hard it is to be in a community group at church because of the needs of our kids.

She understands when I share about how I wish our family could just feel “functional” for one day.

She understands when I say, I have no margin for anything else.

This kind of connection is so important for the mental health of moms, especially moms of children with high needs. This kind of connection provides validation, affirmation, encouragement and hope.

Every mother’s life holds differences and similarities to the next and I think it’s extremely valuable to have a life that is enriched by the perspectives and methods of both.

If you feel alone in your motherhood journey, I hope you won’t stay there.

Pray for the Lord to place that mama in your life that HE knows you need. He will provide. And do some digging.

When we came back from living overseas, we did not return to the home that we we left in Florida, we went instead to NY in an effort to live near family because I was coming to the realization that for me- having 3 young children, 2 of them with special needs, was going to require a village.

So when that attempt did not work out and we ended up moving back to Florida, I’ll never forget the advice I was given from a counselor who knew all that we had been through and all that was to come. He said, “Leave no stone unturned in an effort to find the help that you need for your family to thrive.”

That advice dove deep into my heart and mind and has been the energy that has provided me with perseverance when I have grown tired and weary in the face of opposition.

In this special needs life, there is great opposition. Some ignorant and some intentional. I have had to battle and advocate and be “the squeaky wheel that gets the oil” more times than I have felt comfortable. I have battled my own thoughts and the disagreement and disapproval of others. I have fought for 504’s, IEP’s, accommodations, explanations, appealed denied insurance claims, argued for the approval of services, jumped through hoops and over red tape all without an official job title even though more days than not it has felt like a full-time job.

But I have not done it without the support of other incredible women. From friends, to moms, to other “special needs mama’s,” to therapists, to doctors, psychologists and counselors. And above all, the Lord. He who made me in my mother’s womb, and made my children in mine. He who knows all of my days past and present, and the number of hairs on my head. He who has never forsaken me, loves me unconditionally, and teaches me how to do the same for my children.

So Mama- leave no stone unturned, find your people, and look up to the Lord- he sees you and hears you.

Catch me doing good.

I had this miraculous moment the other day. That moment when everything you have been working on and everything your children have been working on collides into one beautiful, epic and effective conversation. It was an out of body experience to say the least. I felt like I was watching this interaction take place from above and I was witnessing all the parenting tools I have learned being utilized AND executed successfully. To make it even sweeter- it was all falling on receptive ears!

Not only was I witnessing this miracle, there were witnesses present!

In that moment, I could feel it in my entire being that I was actually doing something right. And afterward, I received one of the best compliments I’ve ever had! This most wonderful witness encouraged me that I had done a wonderful job handling my children in the midst of some unruly behaviors. And then she said, “It was as if you knew all the right things to say!”

Mic drop.

What?!

I could not believe my ears and laughed in disbelief and shock. I was also close to crying in gratitude for it’s not every (or any) day in motherhood that someone witnesses you getting it right, AND lets you know! So many emotions all at once! I quickly confessed that I could not take credit, but the years of intervention and therapy that my children and I have experienced for their various needs were to thank. But then again, I have always struggled to take any credit.

Don’t get me wrong- I want the credit! But I often struggle with feeling undeserving of praise, or even doubtful of it, as if it happened by accident or something. Simultaneously, I also believe that anything good that comes from me is because of Jesus! But like most human beings, I can’t help but hope that I am doing something right and if I am, someone will let me know!

Have you ever tangibly felt yourself trying SO hard to get it right? Trying so hard to get better? Maybe it was piano lessons or a sport when you were younger. Maybe it was cooking meals for your family, or sticking to a budget? Maybe it was not getting so angry, or having more patience?

How about your children? Have you ever watched them experience that moment of success! That monumental moment of potty training, or eating with silverware? Cleaning their room or writing their name? I’m sure the list of things that we ourselves and our children have worked at are endless. Some progress is easier to notice, and easier to celebrate. Some progress is less obvious because the number of fails overshadows any small glimmer of growth.

Me in total awe as Garrett hopped up onto the dentist’s chair, ready to go.

Early on when my son received his first of multiple diagnoses, the Dr. gave me this advice, “Catch him doing good.”

She knew that catching him making mistakes or wrong choices would be all too easy. She knew that the attention I’d have to give towards correction would dominate. She knew that as hard as he would have to work in areas such as speaking kindly, having patience and self-control, I would have to work at catching him when he did.

Depending on your personality, you may need to work on catching yourself doing well too! I would argue that the intrinsic motivation that results from experiencing yourself doing something well is way more powerful than the extrinsic motivation that comes from fear of making a mistake.

I can see it in my child’s eyes, they sparkle when I shout, “That was so great! I loved the way you used your words and asked for help!” Just as I am sure my eyes sparkled upon receiving the compliment from this sweet woman regarding my handling of some difficult behaviors.

What you can see- 3 kids playing a game. What you can’t see- mom jumping up and down in joy celebrating three kids playing a game TOGETHER.

One week later, in the same location, and with the same friends, those difficult behaviors were not received with the same patience, grace and effective communication. Instead I felt myself exhaling, “Guys, please just stop.”

I am not completely sure why I felt so different this time. So unable to respond with the same tools. Maybe it was less sleep, or the weight of other worries and to-do lists occupying my mental space, but I just couldn’t shift into that same mode of parenting that felt like such a major milestone the week prior.

And that is OK. Because even though I did not have a repeat of that same stellar performance, I remembered it.

I REMEMBERED it even in the midst of my impatient response to my children.

It came up in my brain simultaneously as I was about to lose my cool.

It became a new reference point for what I am capable of.

And instead of giving way to my less than ideal parenting, I recovered quickly and began moving once again in the direction of parenting the way that I had the week before.

It is the same with our children. When they take 5 steps forward and make it from mommy’s arms to daddy’s, and then the next time they fall after 3 steps, that is OK. And so it should also be OK when they show incredible self-control one day, and the next day, maybe not as much.

Personally, I had noticed that if my child had multiple successes in an area that he had been working on like keeping his hands to himself, but then reverted back to hitting his brother despite the progress he had been making, my heart would sink to the lie that he would never truly grow in this area. It was almost as if the behavioral “high” made the following behavioral “low” even lower. But it is easier for our minds and bodies to remember the negative than it is the positive. We have to work at mindfulness to retain every ounce of a positive experience. And if we do this, we can nurture the brain to remember our successes so much more and as a result develop a greater chance at repeating them!

Imagine that kind of impact in a child’s brain. For every time they are losing self-control, a memory of when they displayed self-control and were utterly praised for it would race to the surface as if to say to their “down-stairs brain”- “You got this! I saw you do it before! You felt it too, you can do it again!” Imagine getting to see their eyes sparkle more and more!

I am so grateful that this woman “caught” me doing something good. It inspired me to pay more attention. I want to catch my children doing good as often as possible, and celebrate it! I want to catch myself doing well and let myself feel good about it!

I want to spend less time soaking in their mistakes or my own, and more time embracing all that we are capable of. I think it is when we focus on these things that we truly create space for ourselves and others to continue to surprise us!

That is all, for today.

Getting out of my own way.

How many times have you been annoyed by a recent fad? Or tired of seeing everyone jump on the bandwagon; confident that the latest trend will be short lived, until the next latest and greatest gains the attention of the masses? Have you ever found yourself feeling a little proud for not “buying in” yet at the same time, wondering how SO MANY people are all sharing positive experiences about the same thing?

It’s tricky. As people, we innately share what we love. We naturally share with others what has worked for us! Sometimes our thoughts, opinions and experiences are requested. A lot of the time however, it is unsolicited. Before social media, advice and recommendations were more sought after, and then delivered by others we know and trust, or books, internet searches and professionals etc…

In the age of social media, anyone and everyone can share their two cents. We scroll through our feeds in an effort to connect with others, and often instead we read about the latest news (unsure if it is factual), the latest trend (unsure how long it will last) and the latest business opportunity (unsure if it is worthy to be trusted.)

This is not news to anyone. We all know this is what we will be exposed to on social media. There is a lot of garbage content, a lot of frustrating posts and a lot of opportunity for confrontation. But that’s not just social media. That’s life. Content, be it good or bad, fruitful or damaging, positive or negative, true or false is everywhere.

So how do we filter all the content? And how we manage the content that we contribute? Because let’s be honest, none of us our innocent when it comes to sharing content. If you are on social media, at some point in time, I’d wager that you shared your opinion, your like, your best selfie or latest cute kid pic. And why do we do this? I still believe it has to do with connection.

As humans we were created for connection, for relationships. When we post, share, like, comment- we experience something. It could be joy, or laughter, validation or impact, justice or freedom.

Before we moved overseas, I was not on social media as much as I am now. Instead, I used to journal. Writing down my thoughts, questions, prayers, and experiences was like therapy. Yet, in the thick of young motherhood, I stopped journalling. Even though I had all these experiences, all these feelings, all this content that I wanted to document, process and share, I just didn’t have the same freedom of time. I think that is when I began getting more involved with social media. Being either pregnant or breastfeeding over the course of 7 years provides less time to physically write, but a lot of time to scroll.

Mamas, you feel me?

Social media made a way for connection in those endless nursing sessions, or sleepless nights. I enjoyed reading positive content and feeling connected with others, but I wanted to be sense of encouragement for others too. So when I experienced freedom and encouragement from a book, or scripture verse or sermon, I felt compelled to share it. When I experienced a sleep training victory, or a moment of pure joy with the kids- sharing about it made it eternal and potentially valuable for someone else. And when I began experiencing such an incredibly positive impact with the use of Young Living Essential Oils, I wanted others to experience the same positive impact in their lives!

(To read more about the impact of essential oils, click on the photo below or link here) http://heatherbraucher.com/2020/06/03/mommy-ing-with-anxiety-and-oils/

When we moved overseas, social media proved helpful for maintaining connection but the time zone difference made it a bit more challenging. So I started writing a blog and sharing it on social media because it was a great way for me to capture our experiences as a family overseas as well as an efficient way to give more than one person an update on how we were doing at the same time. The connection I began to experience was life breathing! Being so far from everyone I knew and loved, not knowing many people at all, including the local language as well as living in another time zone, created a thirst in me for connection.

(Check out that first blog by clicking on the photo below or the link here!) http://heatherbraucher.com/2019/04/12/the-journey-begins/

When we moved back to the states, our life was in such an unpredictable state. And the pandemic only added to that. For us, and I believe for many, social media enabled connection during a time when we people were literally forced to be physically distant. I began sharing more and more about essential oils and started a business with Young Living. And I loved it!

BUT.

I realized, I had become THAT person. The type that was sharing on social media about a recent fad that I had bought into, that everyone was annoyed by. I was the one offering unsolicited advice, making cheesy videos, memes and …….(gasp)…….working for an MLM…….(gulp)…….selling something.

AND even worse……… I LOVED IT.

Let me clarify. I loved sharing with others what was life breathing for me, in an effort to bring life to others. I had hoped that I would become one of those social media unicorns with a solid team of others sharing the business, changing lives, and helping to support my family financially.

From a business perspective, it did not take off as I had hoped. But I loved every single minute of running a Young Living business. I loved making cheesy videos, and memes and making creative content to share. I loved exploring the social media platforms and all of the fun, creative tools you could use to share your message or your content. I loved being a part of something, a community of other like-minded individuals who supported one another and encouraged each other to continue working to make a positive impact on the world around us. In a way, running a virtual Young Living Business during a pandemic, 3 months after moving back to the states, in a completely uncertain season of life was such a blessing. I am so glad that I got out of my own way, and gave it a try, despite the stigma that can come with running a business such as this.

(To see more cheesy photos or join my YL group on FB, click the photo below.)

In March, 2 years after I started, I made the decision to stop pursuing Young Living as a business. I love essential oils, and will continue to share and connect anyone with these incredible products, but I was discerning in prayer that this season was coming to an end. I did not know what would be next and I did battle discouragement, and a sense of sadness because I really did enjoy it. As a mama of 3 young kids, 2 with “extra” needs, this was my outlet. This was the thing that was just mine. This was the way that I could potentially bring in an income and help support my family, and also help others. I grieved that it was ending. I worried. The dynamics of our family and the needs of our children require me to be at home. The medical expenses that acquire from caring for two children with “extra” or “special” needs is significant. But I could feel the Lord pressing upon my heart, “Trust me.”

(To read more about life as a parent of special needs children, click the photo below or the link here.) http://heatherbraucher.com/2020/05/13/mothers-day/

I anticipated a long season of wait. A long season of unknown. But sometimes the Lord works fast. Especially when we are listening. What HE had in store for me next, I NEVER would have guessed.

Find out what in my next blog!