Going home

As I sit here tonight my heart is sad. My Aunt Edna is going to be with Jesus very soon, they said it would likely be tonight. It’s an odd thing to know really, that someone will be leaving this earth. I know it happens every second but it’s not someone I know every second. I am not sad for her at all. She will be with Jesus. That is a really mind blowing thought. Any moment now Jesus will call her home and she will see him for the first time. What must that be like? I can’t imagine. I can’t even describe the feelings I have about it right now, it’s just odd. To know that such a monumental thing in her life will happen at any moment is interesting. It’s like I have a portal open to heaven and this person who I have known my whole life will soon see Jesus. It’s like a part of me is there experiencing that with her. And I think about the day that will come all too soon when I will be where she is, at the doorstep of heaven. Waiting to cross over into real life. This we have on earth is just shadows of things to come in heaven. She is going to see real life while I will continue to live in the shadowlands. She is about to experience that moment where Jesus welcomes her in and she will live forever. She will trade her cancer ridden body for a beautiful and perfect vessel. She will see her mother and father and brother who have gone before her. I can’t imagine what that will be like. They haven’t all been together since she was 16. That seems like an eternity here on earth, but to them in heaven it was but a blink of an eye. It is a miraculous thing to be present at the beginning and end of someone’s life. As an adult I have experienced it a few times now, births and deaths of loved ones. You never realize the gravity of it until you experience it. It’s like heaven touches earth briefly.

Tonight I will sit and eat dinner and put the kids to bed and distract myself with TV and in the morning when I wake up my Aunt may not be a resident of earth any longer. It’s just such a big thing. She has lived a long and good life. I am thrilled for her that she gets this rest. I long for the day when I will join her, but it just seems so unreal at times until you get close to it like this. We live our lives in the monotony of ordinary and don’t think enough about what lies just beyond the vale of heaven, where real life is. It just brings so much perspective to this life’s trivialities. It just doesn’t matter, none of it. What matters is heaven and souls and eternal life. What matters is eternity.

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Prayers and Cookies

I like to bake, so I make cookies at least once a week. My kids know the sound of the Kitchenaid turning on and they immediately yell, “I call the spinner!” and whoever yells first gets to lick the spinner attachment when I’m done. It’s a bit Lord of the Flies around here sometimes. Never fear though, I do give everyone else a spoonful of batter to eat, but they are all so focused on the prize of the “spinner” they can’t understand that they really get more cookie dough if the get a spoon. Today my 6 year old won the “spinner” and my almost 3 year old was mad! He cried and cried, even after I gave him a spoon of dough. He’s holding this spoonful of dough and crying because he wants that “spinner” which he perceives as better. I had to laugh at the irony of it. He’s so focused on what he doesn’t have that he cannot enjoy what’s right in his hand.

We are like that sometimes. We got focused on something we want and we see those around us who have it and feel jealous. We think if only we had that thing then we could be happy or do something great. We loose sight of all the good things we have in our hands right now. I was asked to be on the prayer team at church. It’s a group of people who stand at the front of the church during prayer time and people come down and ask you to pray for them about this thing or that. My husband Glenn is on this team so they asked me to join him. Some people would think that was no big deal, but to me it’s a big deal. It’s WAY outside my comfort zone. The very first week I thought I would just tag along with Glenn and observe and figure out how this whole prayer thing works. Not that I don’t know how to pray, but praying for other people out loud is not something I am used to and it scared me a lot! That first week I ended up getting pushed into praying for someone by myself and it’s been that way every week since. Talk about jumping into the pool head first. I used to think, and still do sometimes, if I could just be like this person or that person then God could use me. There are so many people at church who pray better than me. I know it’s not a competition, but still, some people just know what to say and how to really move heaven. I feel so incompetent. I’ve never really prayed for other people before and I feel like they expect more than I can give. The first time I prayed I just did my best and as I stood there searching for the right words, God gave them to me. I allowed myself to be used and he did just that. I think admitting I had no idea what I was doing and He was going to have to help was the key. I have been praying for people for about a month now and I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing but at least I feel a little more comfortable. It gets easier if you just keep doing it.

Yesterday I was praying for a woman I look up to. Honestly I was surprised she asked me to pray for her. I felt unworthy to do that, but I did. I told her how much I admired her and she said something back to me that surprised me. She told me she admired me too and learned from me. I was thinking, “yeah, I can’t imagine that”, but she was sincere. What that taught me was two things. First, don’t assume that God can’t use you to do big things just because you feel unable or unqualified. Just step forward in what you feel He is calling you to do and he will give you the ability to do it as you need it. Second, don’t assume that people can’t learn from you just because you feel like a rookie. God uses all his children for his purposes not just those who seem to be the most mature.

I’m trying to learn to step forward and be bold in what God calls me to. That is not easy, most of the time. God doesn’t call you to comfortable stuff and he doesn’t call you at comfortable times. If you just look at our life right now it’s a mess. My mom just moved in with us after being in the hospital, we are trying to clean our her house and sell it. Glenn is super busy at work, Joshua and Kaki are struggling and we just had a miscarriage at the end of this summer. Not great timing for stepping forward into new things, but God calls when He sees fit not when we do. God has his hand on all these things. They aren’t a surprise to him and He had all this planned from the beginning so I will trust that He knows what he’s doing and as I step forward into challenging things for Him, He will provide the time and resources to do those things. Not my will, but His.

Today we remember

One year ago yesterday I sat in a doctor’s office and found out the worst news I could imagine at the time. I was 21 weeks pregnant and my baby had no heartbeat. Just three weeks earlier we had seen him on ultrasound and he was doing great, and now he was gone.

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I checked into the hospital later that night to do the hardest thing I could thing of, give birth to a baby who wasn’t going to cry or smile or breathe. Birth is supposed to be the happiest moment but this would prove to be the toughest. As I listened to the women in the room next to me give birth to her baby and hear him cry for the first time it became more real what was about to happen. By the way, it’s just cruel that you have to give birth on the maternity floor with all the other happy women, but that’s how it is. We had the kindest, most understanding nurses and doctors attending us through Andrew’s birth and we were thankful. It made an unbearable situation better.

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(This is his certificate of birth and those are his actual footprints. I have a plaque that the hospital made for us with those footprints and his name, I love it and will cherish it always)

One year ago today, during the afternoon, after laboring all night and morning I gave birth to Andrew Wallace Byrum. Today we remember that day. It changed us forever. It has softened our hearts and yet proved to us we are stronger than we ever thought we could be. It has reoriented our priorities and changed our life’s course. I wouldn’t change what happened because it has made us who we are. We thought at the time we wouldn’t make it through that we would just die with him, but we didn’t.

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(This is a little gown made for Andrew by a ministry called Caleb ministry. It was given to us at the hospital so we could have his picture taken in it.)

Friends and family gathered around us and we took one step at a time and survived. We grew closer to each other and to God. Today we are better than we were before. We have since experienced another miscarriage this summer, and that is hard, but we know that we do not grieve in vain, someday we will see these babies we have lost again and we cling to that truth in the hardest moments.

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(Handmade hat and booties made by the same ministry. They actually fit him, that is how small he was)

It took nearly a year but we finally ordered a headstone for Andrew’s grave. It was just too hard to face for so long, but we found this great family run business online and ordered a beautiful stone that we will place at this grave today in memory of him.

 

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“3 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”                       I Thessalonians 4:13

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11

 

Only beauty helps

I was reading The Journey of Desire by John Eldridge. It’s a great book,  I just love all his stuff. Anyway, he wrote that book just months after his dear friend died in a climbing accident. He wrote it from a place of real grief. He said in the book that we don’t grieve enough, or allow ourselves to grieve properly. We plaster on fake smiles, hide our feelings and get on with our lives because in our society grief equals weakness. And even in Christian circles we don’t know how to deal with someone who is grieving, we say dumb stuff that does help because we are uncomfortable with grief. We should get more comfortable because this world is full of grief and loss. We need to learn to deal with it properly or we will have underlying emotional and physical problems from not dealing with our feelings. He said in his book that in his darkest moments of grief only beauty helps. That really resonated with me. When I am going through a difficult time I just want to be in nature. I am drawn to it. After our most recent miscarriage last month we found ourselves drawn to get away from it all. We scheduled a beach trip for Labor day. We hadn’t gone anywhere this summer and we decided it was time, we needed a break. It was also monumental because we decided to not take our two special needs kids with us. It has been a long summer with them home all the time. They don’t like being at home, they prefer the routine of school, and by the end of summer they are having behavioral issues as a result. Then my husband, a school administrator, has to work most of August. Not just work, but work like 70 hours a week. It’s nights and weekends on top of the normal hours just to get school back in session. It is the longest month of my whole year. I was so done by the time the kids started school that this little beach vacation was just what was needed. Glenn said it was the most restful vacation we have had in 10 years. He was right. We didn’t do a whole lot other than just be together on the sand, but it was just what we needed. It was not an easy decision to leave our special kids here but it was the right one. If you are a caregiver for someone, whether they are an adult or a child, you need a break every now and then. It is vital. Thank goodness we have parents who understand because they are caregivers for an elderly grandmother. We provide a break for them by caring for her and they took care of our special kids for us this weekend. We needed to just be a normal family for a few days. It can be so exhausting, the mental and emotional toll of caring for special needs kids. It’s also draining to be a special family who is always looked at and held up to such a high standard all the time. It was nice to blend in for once.

It hasn’t been an easy season with our son Joshua. Really for the past two years since we moved from our old house he has been very challenging behaviorally. He is severely destructive and I mean will tear up anything and everything, clothes, toys, bedding, flooring, walls, whatever he can get access to. It’s exhausting and frustrating. We have tried rewards and punishments but nothing works. We are changing some medication right now to see if that will help. He has been throwing severe tantrums and started getting to where he is throwing furniture and hurting other people during these tantrums. The tiring part is he does not do this at school. I am thankful for that but also frustrated that it means he can on some level control this, but chooses not to. As you can imagine it’s just tiring to be in the house with him all the time when he chooses to act like that. So this break from all that chaos was just what we needed. I tell special needs parents all the time that they need a break. They have to find a way to get some respite from the chaos that is special needs parenting.

I found the beach so healing. We are coming up on the anniversary of Andrew’s birth/death and I won’t lie and say it’s easy. We finally bought a headstone for his grave. It took us a year to do it but we finally did it. We will place it there on the anniversary, September 29th. It’s been a few years of grief. The obvious grief of loosing Andrew and this latest miscarriage, but also the grief of dealing with Joshua’s challenges and grieving our ideas of what he could be versus what is. But in the end, only beauty helps. A sunset, a flower, the beach, the mountains. God calls to us through his creation and brings healing through beauty.

Collateral Beauty

I watched this movie last night called Collateral Beauty. I really liked it, although I will say there are some things I don’t agree with in the movie, as any movie that comes out of Hollywood. Anyway, the story is that this man looses his young daughter and he is trying to deal with it. What I liked about it was that they allow the character to be real about his feelings when people offered platitudes. They allowed him to deal with all the feelings that you have when dealing with loss. The name of the movie comes from a line that is said to the little girl’s mother as she is dying. An older woman is there sitting next to the mother, she is a stranger, but she tells the women to watch for the collateral beauty. It’s the idea that because this mother has lost a child she will now see the world differently. She will now see what she had and how precious it was. She will now see real beauty because she has seen real loss. It’s true. I have been through real loss and it helps you see things differently.

We had our first two kids without any trouble. We were blissfully ignorant to the trauma and loss that can come with pregnancy until we got pregnant a third time. Then out of the blue at 15 weeks we lost the baby. Then we lost the next baby at 9 weeks. At that point I couldn’t face loss anymore and we decided to take another route and adopt. However, adoption as great as it is, didn’t fix the pain and hurt we had from our losses. I thought it would. I thought if I just had a baby in my arms it wouldn’t hurt anymore. That’s not true. We got pregnant shortly after adopting and I was terrified. I lived in fear every second of that pregnancy and even after Elijah was born. I didn’t really face my fear until he was three months old. I realized I hadn’t even allowed myself to connect with him because I was afraid of loosing him. It was horrible when I realized it and I felt terrible about it. I knew it was then that I had to let go of my fear and love him. Whether it was for a day or a lifetime, I had to love him.  Love means risk, it means pain sometimes, most of the time. But that’s the deal. You cannot know what love really means until it costs you something to give it. Love isn’t easy. But I wouldn’t have known how much I could love until my losses. I wouldn’t have known how precious and blessed I was to have this baby if I hadn’t known loss. I loved him and Luke, the baby that came after him, with a more authentic and real love than I had prior to loss.

Having now lost three more babies since Luke was born, I can still say, even more so, that loss changes you. The most traumatic of our losses came just a year ago in losing our son Andrew at 21 weeks. It was more traumatic because we went through a delivery and then funeral for him. All these babies were losses but that one was much more difficult for us. There is nothing like having to bury a child. After that I didn’t think I would even see things the same way again. I wasn’t sure we would survive. But we did. And since that time I see things differently. I see the beauty in small things. The trivial stuff in life doesn’t matter anymore. At first I would get really irritated with people around me and their concerns about the smallest stuff or what I considered small, I’m sure to them it was large. I just realized what really mattered and that list was pretty short. I also found comfort in just sitting still and being in nature. Clarity comes in pain. You realize what is important and unimportant, and you are emboldened to do things you never thought you could because you have a bit of you that just doesn’t care anymore. I figured I had faced the worst and survived, so I could do bugger things than I thought possible. I also stopped caring so much what people thought. I have become someone who can have a hard conversation with someone if that is what is needed in the relationship. I used to be very afraid of confrontation but in these past few months I’ve become more comfortable with it. Not in a bad way, but in a healthy way. Rude is never good.

Loss is not something anyone wants to face, but it’s inevitable in this life. The older you get the more it seems to come. When it comes, be sure to watch for the collateral beauty, because it will come too.

Pressed but not crushed

I’ve been silent for a while now. There are reasons for that. We’ve been through a storm in our lives that we didn’t expect. I guess you never really expect storms but some you can see coming on the horizon and others sneak up on you. Last year at this time we were pregnant, due in February and in just a short month from now on September 29, 2016 we lost our sweet Andrew. He was stillborn. It was the most difficult thing we have ever been through. We thought we might not survive, but we did. Day by day. Finally early this year we decided we were ready to try again. Six months went by and no pregnancy. We went to the doctor and never expected what they would tell us. They said we had a 2% chance of ever getting pregnant again. We were shocked and sad. We didn’t expect that news. A couple months went by and we began to accept that news and be comfortable with this closed door in our lives and move forward with the six kids we have here on earth. Then in June I was late. I figured it was just stress or something, or getting older. But as the days went by I figured I should at least rule out pregnancy so I took a test and was completely shocked when it was positive. I called the doctor right away and they had us come in for a blood test because I really didn’t believe it. It was at that appointment the next day we learned that the numbers weren’t as high as they would like and things weren’t looking great. We didn’t tell anyone we were pregnant, we wanted to wait until we got some good news to be able to tell people. No one wants to say, “hey, we are pregnant, but….” So days turned into weeks and the news was up and down. Finally when I was 8 weeks pregnant we found out for sure the pregnancy wasn’t going to turn out as we had hoped. We told our family what was going on and  waited to miscarry. After two weeks of waiting and nothing happening, the doctor decided it was time to take some medication to help the process along. And now it’s been two more weeks since then and it’s finally over. We were pregnant for 11 weeks total. It has been a very difficult up and down journey of hope and disappointment. We never told anyone but our immediate family. It was just too hard. To be honest I felt like I had to keep up appearances. I felt like I had to act like a good christian and not fall apart through all this and I wasn’t sure I could if people were constantly asking me how I was doing. It was self imposed pressure, but it’s how I felt. So many people were watching us walk through loosing Andrew and so complementary about how we handled it, but it’s hard to walk through difficult times in front of a crowd. Sometimes it’s just easier to do it alone. Not really how God intends us to live life, I realize. I would do it differently if I could do it over again.

At first I felt jerked around and a little angry about all this. Why would God allow us to get pregnant, when the doctor had said it wouldn’t happen, only then have us go through a miscarriage again? What was the point? Just more heartache. But what I have learned is that God does have a purpose and even though this pregnancy didn’t work out as I wanted it to, it was no less a miracle. We only had a 2% chance of getting pregnant but we did. Then at 6 weeks we found out it was twins. I don’t have a percentage on the likelihood that I would get pregnant with twins but it’s very small. All that is a miracle and it has taught me that it does not matter what the doctor’s tell you, God has the final say. He wanted us to go through this for a reason. I think that reason is to show us He alone is in control and there is always Hope. Even when the doctor says there is no hope, there is. Even when those around you say there is not hope, there is. There is always hope. It is your choice whether you walk in it or not.

We are healing physically and emotionally. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard especially as we come up on the first anniversary of the loss of our son Andrew, but we are ok. We are putting on foot in front of the other and we just keep walking. That’s really the only choice you have if you want to survive. The verse above is 2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. ” I have read this verse so many times and thought it was a promise that God would not give you something that was so hard it was destroy you but I don’t think that is what it means. I think it’s Paul trying to encourage himself. It’s a declaration in hard times. That I will be hard pressed on every side but not crushed! I will be perplexed but not despair! I will be persecuted but I am never abandoned! I will be struck down but not destroyed! It’s a choice. I must declare it and walk in it. Hard stuff is going to come but it’s my choice how I respond. There is no promise that God will not give me more than I can handle, that is a verse people took out of context. I can tell you He will give you more that you can handle, because if it didn’t you would never realize your need for Him.

Following the crowd

Yesterday I was at Carowinds with some of our kids. For those of you who don’t know Carowinds is a local amusement park. We were waiting in line for a ride that splits into two lines at the end of it. There were lots of people in front of us in line but I noticed that they were all going to the left side of the line and no one on the right. Everyone assumed that the right side of the line was not for them, they thought it was only for people with special passes. There was no sign that said that, they just all assumed that and followed the person in front of them. When we got up to the split in the line, we decided to take the right side and we were able to get in front of all those poor people waiting in the left line. Even after we got in the shorter line we had to convince people behind us that it was okay to come in that line. They assumed that we were doing something wrong just because we were the only ones brave enough to try. It was just crazy.

It really got me thinking about life. So many times people follow the crowd because they assume the crowd knows what they are doing. People follow the crowd and end up in a bad situation, like waiting longer in line than is necessary, just because they were too scared to try something different. I have always had a rebellious streak, I know that surprises some of you, but it’s true. I wasn’t doing anything really awful but I was always just a bit different as a teenager than everyone else. I used to wear crazy socks and paint my nails crazy colors, just to be a little different. I didn’t worry about what others thought about my appearance anyway. I was not in the poplar crowd, to say the least. As I have gotten older, my life decisions were not what most people would consider “normal”. We have a large family and we adopted special needs/trans racial kids, none of that is normal. I chose to buy a house next door to my husband’s family, also not normal. We drive a 12 passenger van, definitely not normal. We just do things our own way a lot of the time and do things that are unexpected, but I have never regretted not following the crowd even in the line at Carowinds. I read a poem when I was young that really stuck with me and changed how I thought about life.

A road not taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I decided as a teenager that I would take the road less traveled and I am so glad I have, most of the time. I would never have had the courage to do the things I have done or the things which are ahead of me if I had chosen to take the road everyone else was on. It is often a scary looking path as you peer down it and wonder what is ahead. The road the crowd travels is bright and well lite, at least it appears that way. It’s predictable, or is seems so. It’s the American dream of wealth and a “normal” family with “normal” kids. It’s not at all what our life looks like. And I will admit sometimes I wish for that, when things are hard with our family life. This road isn’t easy, but it’s all worth it. How boring life would be if we did the predicable things. When life gives you a choice, take the less traveled road, don’t follow the crowd, it will make all the difference.
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out” Romans 12:2

Disciplining Children

Lately I have been reading some parenting books. Some out of interest and some out of desperation. Currently our kids are ages 14, 13, 10, 7, 6 and 2. Some of those are naturally challenging ages, namely the teenagers and two year old. Raising a 2 year old is old hat for me, having done it now five times. While Luke is a little strong willed he is not as bad as some I’ve had. Raising teenagers is a new frontier and honestly a little scary. I have read a bunch of books about it and for right now we are blessed to not have any major issues, just some moodiness and sassing, but no really big deal stuff. My biggest behavioral challenge is our 7 year old, Joshua. Ironically, as I write this I just had to pause to see about where a missing toy was. Turns out Joshua had taken it and torn it up and hid it under the couch and lied about it. This happened yesterday too. And yesterday he lost dessert for it. Today I’m upping the ante and he is sitting in his room for the rest of the day, lucky for him it’s already 3:30pm. Honestly, I will readily admit that I have no idea what do to with this child. I have parented five other kids and they have not given me as much trouble all together as this one has in his 7 short years. Nothing works with him. We have tried it all. We have also tried behavioral therapy, which is parenting coach basically, and that didn’t even work. He just continues to do whatever he wants regardless of consequences. You would think we were permissive parents and didn’t discipline him, which is far from the truth, it’s just that nothing works. Most of it is likely tied to his many disabilities, being ID, ADHD, and NF1. A bunch of letters that mean he doesn’t learn stuff like other kids therefore he doesn’t learn from past experiences and does the same stuff over and over again. With most kids when you hit a tough spot developmentally, like the terrible twos, you know that you can just hang on and they will grow out of it before too long. Not Josh. The very meaning of developmental delay is that we are stuck in the terrible twos indefinitely! It’s maddening to be honest. We have made small steps forward over the past few years, it’s just seems slow when you are in the middle of it all day every day. I cling to the hope he will grow out of some of this and will someday be an adult who can conduct himself with manners and not lie and steal stuff. I sure hope so, but right now it doesn’t feel like it.

If you are in the middle of a battle with one of your kids, whether they are special needs or not, know you aren’t alone. There are so many parents who are struggling, even those of us that people think have it all together. People tell me all the time we are such good parents. Man it doesn’t feel like it. But I wonder if anyone feels like a good parent. I have been reading some really good parenting books by John Rosemond and Kevin Leman. Anything they have written is good, I have read most of it and I would highly recommend it. Some of the most important lessons I have taken away from what I’ve read that I’m trying to employ are:

  1. Say it once, and walk away. Don’t keep repeating yourself over and over or making threats if the child doesn’t listen. If they don’t do what was asked, they when they ask you for something tell them you will not give them what they asked until what you asked has been done.
  2. Don’t make threats. I try hard not to do this, but I sometimes find myself saying stuff like, “if you don’t do ____, you won’t play video games every again. ” I’m not actually going to do that, and they know it. So they don’t take me seriously.
  3. If they act in a way I don’t approve of or they know is wrong, such as having a bad attitude, then I will say nothing at the time, but I will wait until they want something and deny them what they ask and then have a talk about their previous action.
  4. Two year olds are uncivilized barbarians and much of their behavior just has to be contained until they grow a bit older and can be trained better. This really helps me with Joshua, who is developmentally two, and Luke who is actually two. They are both very uncivilized and I wonder if they will ever learn to be nice. If I just hold on, they should grow out of some of this and be easier to train when they are “three”.
  5. Let your kids row their own boat. Don’t rescue your kids out of tough situations that they have caused. If they don’t do their homework, don’t remind them or say anything, just let them get bad grades and let life be the teacher. If they forget their jersey for ball practice, don’t go get it for them, let them deal with whatever consequences arise from them not having it. Parents 50 years ago would read that stuff and say, “well, that’s obvious”, because that’s how people parented until psychologist started writing books about parenting and then we all started second guessing our parenting. One thing I read that really stuck with me was that back in the 50s wives called themselves “housewives” if they didn’t work outside the home. Now we call our selves “stay at home moms”. Do you notice the difference? One is focused on the wife part and the other focused on the kids. We need to focus more on being an adult all unto our selves and being a wife then we do on our kids. That is a major shift in my thinking. It’s just takes your priorities and your life and shuffles them all around back to where they should be. God, husband, self, then kids. Not kids, God, husband, everything else under the sun and self last. That seems to be how must stay at home moms and moms in general prioritize. I’m really trying to think hard about this one and change some things.

Parenting is hard stuff. It’s a lot like training an unruly puppy, which I also have right now. It’s takes a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it in the end to have well behaved dog/adult kid. Parenting is a long game. You can’t just focus on today’s trials, or you might quit. You have to focus on the day when your kids will become productive members of society and leave your house, so you can finally have peace. lol

Just don’t think about it

Yesterday I went to an IEP meeting for my son Joshua. An IEP meeting is a meeting for parents and school staff of a student with a disability where they meet to make decisions on school placements and goals for the student in the school setting. Yesterday I met with Joshua’s school to discuss his placement for next year. The past two years he has been in a regular kindergarten classroom with normally abled peers, but he has had increasing amounts of time where a special education teacher was pulling him aside and working with him in a small group or individually because he just wasn’t making progress academically like the other children were. I knew for a long time there was something going on with him and that he wasn’t “normal”, I just wasn’t’ sure what it was. After some extensive testing this past spring we discovered what “it” was, Intellectual Disability, formerly known as Mental Retardation. He is on the line between Mild and Moderate, with his IQ being around 50. Most people you meet with Intellectual Disability (ID) have an IQ around 60-70, so he falls below that level. His IQ is higher than our daughter, who falls in the severe category, with an IQ of 25. Anyway, now that we knew what his issue is we begin discussing what our options are for his school placement. When you have a child with ID or Autism you can choose whether that child is in a regular classroom with extra help or put into what is called a self contained class with other kids who have a ID or Autism. It is a more specialized class with a special teacher and a lower kids to teacher ratio. Yesterday we decided that it would be best for him to be in a special class. We did that because he has been really struggling with anxiety and social issues and we feel that a smaller setting, that is more predictable, will help him.

This decision is not an easy one. It’s a big deal. The reason it’s a big deal is that once we decide to put him in this class he cannot come back to a regular class and he will not get a regular diploma, but he will get a certificate of completion upon graduation from high school. We are acknowledging that he will not be “normal”. We are acknowledging that he will never get a high school diploma and have a “normal” life. That’s not easy. It’s emotional and not at all where we expected we would be or wanted to be, but it’s where we are. We are doing what we feel is best for him, even if it’s not what we wanted. So, after I left the meeting yesterday I was feeling emotional. I wasn’t crying or anything but I was feeling the emotional weight and it was just under the surface. I was dressing my daughter for bed and I said to myself, “I just won’t think about it”. I can’t. If I spend too much time thinking about it all it will just make me too emotional. I can’t think about what we won’t have but just deal with what we do have. We have a little boy who tries the best he can. He makes progress in his own time. He isn’t like most kids, but that’s okay. We are trying to accept where he is and do what’s best for him in that place and not try to make him something he is not. I will not lie, that is hard. As a parent you want certain things for your child and having ID is not one of them. I never wanted to put my child in a self contained class, but no parent does. Some of us just find ourselves in that place.

Today I will go to a meeting for our daughter Kaki’s placement for next year. We are seeking to have her transferred to a special school for kids with very low IQ. We are accepting that even the kids in the self contained class she is in are much more capable than she and she needs more help. This school focuses on functional skills like dressing oneself and household tasks, rather than preparing kids for a job. We are accepting where she is and trying to help her be the best she is capable of. Our goals for her are simple ones of being able to be independent in some small areas like dressing, but that is the reality for her. For Joshua we hope he will learn to read and write and hold a small job that makes him happy someday. And we thank God for also blessing us with our “normal” kids. We, as a family, do not take for granted what so many do, of having an able body and mind and being able to make choices about what we want to do in our future. What job we might have and who we will marry and where we will live. Decisions that Joshua and Kaki will not be able to make for themselves. It’s perspective. Don’t take the small things for granted.

Why I like homeschooling

As we come to the end of another school year, I thought I would write about why I like homeschooling. I get asked why I homeschool and how we got started.  We started homeschooling 3 years ago out of practicality. At the time, I had two boys in the charter school where my husband works. They were doing well there. My third son Joshua was in a special preschool program for kids with special needs. So that was two drops offs and two pickups every day. I spent 3 hours in the car at that point. My fourth son Elijah was going to start preschool the next year and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get him there and back. And then our daughter would need yet another school for her special needs. That would be five kids in four schools. There was just no way I could do that, practically speaking. I was trying to figure it all out. Not to mention trying to juggle all the school related stuff like meetings and school activities. I just couldn’t do it. So, we decided to homeschool my two oldest sons, as well as my then youngest son, who was in preschool at the time. We kept the two special needs kids in their schools since they were doing well there and I found out I could get bus transportation for them and because they had special needs they could be dropped off at my door by a special bus. I felt comfortable with that, and so that was where we started. When we started my oldest two boys were in 5th and 2nd grades. I had some experiece with homeschooling because I did homeschool my oldest son in Kindergarten. My plan was to continue homeschooling him but then my husband started working at the charter school and it was a good fit for us at that time. My husband also homeschooled all through school so he knew a bit about it. The hardest part was deciding on curriculum. There are SO many choices. Truthfully it’s just trial and error to find one that fits your teaching style and your child’s learning style. We still don’t have it all worked out completely and it’s been three years, but we are pretty close. So, why do I like homeschooling?

  1. Flexibility: When I had my youngest son Luke we were able to take a month off school while I recovered and then made up the time later in the year. We take a week off at Valentines and Mother’s Days each year to work at our families florist. You can adjust your schedule as you need to. You can teach year round if you want to. It’s totally up to you. We generally stay on the same schedule as our local schools because we have two kids who go to those schools and it’s easier that way for us.
  2. Adaptability: When my youngest son was in regular school for the first two grades he struggled with reading and writing. He has some ADHD and school was challenging for him. Now that we homeschool I can adjust things to help him with his challenges. If he comes to me and doesn’t understand something I read it out loud to him and usually that helps. I know that from experience with him. I can give him extra time with some things and use certain curriculums that I know will work better for him. We don’t need an IEP or 504 plan because I already know how to address his issues. It works for us.
  3. Outside Growth: My oldest son works at our family’s florist one day a week. It is a wonderful opportunity for him to learn real world skills he would not otherwise be able to learn. It will give him an advantage when he is an adult and gets his first job. It has also given us an opportunity to teach him money management skills. He took a finance course last semester and now keeps his own budget to be able to pay for the things he wants and save for a car when he’s older. My younger son, Jordan, works by taking care of his great grandmother, by spending time with her and feeding her meals and small chores. He also works with his grandmother doing chores around her house for her. These are such valuable skills and he gets to know his grandparents better.
  4. No homework: I can’t tell you how thankful I am to not have to do the homework routine with my kids. I already have it with my Kindergartner who is in public school and believe me that is enough. I can’t imagine doing that every day with the others as well. Kids have so much homework these days, and I am so thankful not to have to deal with it.
  5. Independence: What I discovered when I met my husband was that he had a skill I didn’t have. Because of his homeschooling he was a self learner. He could dive into a textbook and learn stuff himself. He didn’t need the teacher to spoon feed it to him. That is how we homeschool. I don’t sit around and teach my kids everything. Now the Kindergartner I homeschool I do have to sit with a teach, but only because he cannot read independently yet well enough to be on his own, but by about 2nd grade he will be able to. With my older boys, I give them an assignment sheet for the week and they do their work. They come to me if they need help and I help them find the answers but I don’t “teach” them, they teach themselves. That will give them a leg up in college.
  6. Quality time: I like my kids. Not all the time, but mostly. I like that I get to spend all day with them everyday. We have a good relationship and that is valuable, especially as we enter the teen years. I also like that I am the greatest influence on my kids, not a school or their peers. This world is a messed up place and I don’t mind saying I seek to shelter my kids from some of it, if possible. I am married to a Middle/High School Principal so I am aware of what goes on even in a good school. I don’t want my kids apart of that stuff. Homeschooling provides a way to keep them away from most of it. I am not sure who decided sheltering your kids was a bad thing, but I think they are wrong.
  7. Relationships with one another and with others. My kids spend time with each other all the time. They do have outside friends at church but mostly they are together. Do they always get along? Nope! But overall I think they are forming good relationships with each other that will last a lifetime. I am thankful for that as I sit here and watch my 7th grader and toddler play. I also love the relationships they are forming with adults around them, grandparents and such. We get to spend time with people of all ages and in different contexts that we might not get in regular school. That is what the real world is all about and I think homeschooling provides them with a great skill. People are always worried about socialization with homeschooled kids, but when in your life are you as an adult spending time with other adults who are your exact same age? Pretty much never. You interact with people older and younger than you in the workplace and otherwise.

 

I really appreciate homeschooling at this time of the year when other kids are racing to finish end of year testing and projects and stressing themselves out. I know people out there are thinking, “oh my goodness,  I could never homeschool my kids”. Really though, don’t knock it till you try it. There are many advantages.