Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You Think You're Busy?

Maggie is a busy mom with a husband and 4 children, 3 of which are special needs.  Find out how this mom "does it all" and still maintains her good humor.

Tell us a bit about yourself
I am 39 years old. I've been married to my husband, Bill, for 21+ years. We live in Mechanicsburg, PA with our family, two greyhounds and 1 crazy cat. I've been described as "a little wild, a little crazy, a whole lot of fun" and "a breath of fresh air" by my friends. I've been described as "the best parent a kid could ever have~ part parent, part friend, not too much of one or the other" by my daughter. I've been described as "compassionate, caring, loving and warm" by those I work with. Sure, I have my moments when I'm less than ideal, we all do, but for the most part, I'm a happy, optimistic, see the glass half full kind of gal.

You have 4 children, 3 with special needs. Could you tell us about them?
My children are an eclectic bunch. No two are alike in any way, shape or form.

Jenna is our oldest, at 18. She was born prematurely, due to the death of her twin brother. We began having concerns with her developmental growth when she was just a couple months old. Something wasn't quite right. It took years to come up with the diagnoses of ADHD, Early Onset Childhood Bipolar, Type II Rapid Cycling, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and mild Asperger's Disorder. Add to all of this, learning differences that make learning math extremely difficult and you have Jenna. We didn't know quite what to expect with Jenna. She was home educated for 7 years of her schooling. She graduated from homeschooling in June. She had come farther than any of us thought she could. She now works part time in an assisted living facility and wants to be a geriatric nurse in the future. She said she doesn't care how long it takes, she will achieve this goal.

We had years of secondary infertility after the twins were born. It was an extremely painful and frustrating time in our lives. After 5 years I finally conceived and gave birth to our son, Jonathan. Aside from some problems in his early years, he has done well and has no diagnoses. He is now 13.

When the kids were 12 and 7 we wanted to add to the family. We tried, unsuccessfully, to have more children after Jonathan was born. Once we accepted that, we pursued adoption. Our oldest wanted a sister close to her age. We opted to do the special needs adoption. After much consideration and family involvement, we chose a petite blue-eyed blonde to join our family. She was 11 and in and out of numerous foster homes. She was labeled "unadoptable". We both felt that no child should be "unadoptable" and she deserved a chance. We took her in, finalized her adoption 9 months later and here we are now, 6 years later. She is 17 and entering 10th grade next week. She has a lot of problems. A child doesn't leave the "system" after 7 years without scars. She is very much a challenge. Some of her diagnoses include ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, PTSD, Mild Mental Retardation, Global Developmental Delay, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder...and the list goes on and on. She is challenging but we refuse to give up on her. We changed her name when we adopted her. She is now known as Jessica.

About a year after we finalized Jessica's adoption, we began persuing adoption again, this time for a boy. We spent about 6 months in the process and just weren't coming up with any good fit. Then our caseworker called us. We had just let our clearances expire and were taking a much needed break from the adoption merry-go-round. Well, as luck would have it, there was a newborn baby girl needing a home. However, even though she had special needs, it was a domestic adoption. We weren't anticipating nor were we prepared for this, but after much prayer and help from strangers and family alike, we were placed with this beautiful, very tiny, baby girl. We got her when she was 2 months old. We have a very very open adoption with her family and 4 years later, they are a very active part of her life. They have become our family. Hope is now 4 and is not without diagnoses of her own. She is very hyperactive, so I forsee a formal diagnosis of ADHD. She has left side hemiparesis (Cerebral Palsy) due to a brain bleed shortly before or during birth. She had early intervention with all therapies from the time we got her until she aged out at 3. She attends a special needs preschool and still receives speech therapy. She is doing well in all areas, though is still a little behind developmentally.

Are you a full-time mom or do you work outside of the home?
I actually work from home, part time, for a non-profit organization as a support coordinator. I also sit on an advisory board for a youth program and the Citizens Review Panel for the state of PA.

Tell us what a typical day is like for you
My husband and I are excellent at tag team parenting. I absolutely could not do it all alone and give him full credit for being my partner in crime. We always seem to hit the ground, running. He works full time out of the home, but his schedule is somewhat flexible. During the school year it's more structured than the summer, summer lacks any routine at all. A sample of our day would look like this: Bill gets the oldest up for work (she often works 6a-2p) and takes her to work (it's just about half a mile from our house, which is awesome), then he gets the next one up for school and on her way. I get up with Jonathan- he's cyber educated so I work with him throughout the day. I also get Hope up and going for the day.

I don't drive (I just got my driver's permit for the first time ever, this past April) so my husband takes the kids to all their appointments and sports activities.

Bed time is the same tag team parenting, only in reverse. Jenna and Jonathan manage their own bedtimes and know to go to bed if they have to get up early. Jessica has a very strict bedtime as does Hope. So Bill handles Hope's night time routine and gets Jess off to bed, while I stay up to work on the computer and go for my daily walk. I prefer to walk at night because it clears my head after a stressful day. I actually exchanged smoking for walking as smoking was my stress reliever and now walking is.

How do you juggle it all?
I juggle it all with help from my friends and husband. If it weren't for them, I would be a mess and likely on my 3rd or 4th nervous breakdown.

How do you relax...or do you?
I get out a couple of times a week with friends or my husband. Dinner out and time away for conversation and non-kid time is vital to my survival. A few times a year I sneak off to my brother's (no kids) for a long weekend just to sleep, talk and breathe. My nightly walks are vital to my survival. Sometimes a couple of my kids follow me, which is fine, just so they know when I put my headphones in I am NOT listening. It's MY time.

What have you learned from your children?
I have learned that I can't sweat the small stuff and unless someone is dead, dying or bleeding, it's all small stuff. At any given time I've had smiley faces drawn on my off-white berber carpet (it came out with the steam cleaner), 4 yr old graffiti on my walls( mr. clean eraser?) and the "tea" in the plastic tea pot? Don't drink it, it likely came from the dog's water bowl. I've learned that life isn't all rainbows and sunshine. There are moments of clouds and rain. While I look at the glass as half full, not half empty, I am a realist and know that it's not all easy. By being raised with and around special needs people, my children are blind to everything that isn't "important", and the only thing that is important is that you have a big heart. They befriend those who are without friends and support those who need a hand.

How do you cope emotionally?
Oh believe me, I have my moments of tears and self-pity. But I use them as learning moments for my family. Mom is Mom, not super woman. Mom has a breaking point. But that's where my friends, family and husband come in. Sometimes Mom just needs to go lock herself in the bathroom for a bit. No, that doesn't mean you slip her notes and legos under the door. It means she needs to block out the world for a minute or two.

Anything else you'd like to add?
I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. It's not easy, but parenting isn't for the weak at heart to begin with.

Thanks Maggie for giving us a glimpse into your life.  You truly are an inspiration and give moms everywhere hope.  You are the true definition of Mother. 

Check out Maggie's blog (yes she even does that) at;


Molly said...

This is amazing!!!! Thank you so much for this interview with a wonderful mom and inspiration. I've been researching blogs lately for info on moms of special needs kids. This was set off by an extraordinary book called There's Something about Daniel by Robyn Stecher. I was so moved and inspired by her memoirs of her experiences, and I've continued to be inspired by reading about other mothers and their struggles and triumphs. I think we all need to read these kinds of stories. It puts so much into perspective, and helps us all have an attitude of "glass half full". =) Thank you again for this!

Quixotically Chaotic said...

Thank you Sandie, and Molly! You know, Humor is the only way to go. It's not easy some days, but I wouldn't change it for ANYTHING!!!!!

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