Orange Stripe

As I type, I’m hiding in my bed. The kids are watching tv and Matt’s grilling steaks. I’m tired. I anticipate being more tired tomorrow. Severe storms are expected to roll through after 11 and with those, I always find myself awake for hours with frightened children. Such is life, no?

Liam was awarded his Orange Stripe tonight in his jiujitsu class. I’m proud of him. We’ve been in a cycle of testing and analyzing and figuring out for months now and it was nice to walk in, sit down and know he would take his test and pass.

Yesterday, drove back up to the neurologist for a full report on the testing they did for him last month. As Liam has gotten older, the effects of his brain injury at 22 months have become more obvious. And as school has become more complex, I’ve been concerned. Overall, I wasn’t really told anything I didn’t already know, but at the same time, it confirmed that I need to make some changes to some things, but celebrate that others are exactly what he needs.

Liam was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder last year and works regularly with a cognitive behavioral therapist. She has really helped his quality of life and while he still struggles a great deal, he is no longer obsessed with having a stroke, so for that I’m grateful. The days can be very long and on ones like today when he is pushed beyond his comfort (albeit for something valuable like a swimming lesson), he is miserable to be around because he struggles with re-centering his mindset and continues to function at a very tense level. At least 4-5 nights a week he cannot sleep for hours and I’m working on his routine to try and help the insomnia without having to medicate him for sleep.

During the evaluation, they discovered that he has a language processing disorder and ADD. I will admit that the ADD diagnosis took me by surprise. Even though I know he has trouble concentrating and is very unlikely to focus for any length of time, I’ve accepted that as part and parcel with the head injury fallout. It’s our life. However, medications can help to straighten out those neural pathways so that instead of his brain jumping all over the place, it can actually complete a thought or task now. Taking a pill was a hard task for him and continues to be, however, his medication has improved the quality of his life immensely (and by default mine as well).

Prior to medication, he would take 10 minutes to struggle through reading 3 sentences. Now, three weeks later, he is reading chapter books. I showed him how to “carry the 1” while we were doing math last night and he grasped the concept. And it wasn’t a struggle. We have been trying to help him adapt to the effects of a brain injury for 5 years, and finally we are on the right path.

Next on the docket though is to get a spine MRI done to check on the nerve development. His somatic response to pain stimuli is extreme and he is still highly monitored for intestinal function. He also is in for another OT/PT referral since the dyspraxia/hypotonia is worse having discontinued therapy. I also need to reassess his math curriculum to see if I can find something that is more effective for his learning needs. He’s been doing Saxon and is about 3/4 of the way through the second grade material, but he is not retaining the math facts. Anything logic based, he can do and do well, but when it comes to the rote memory, it’s not so hot.

I had envisioned writing this post with great joy and excitement that we had all the answers and knew what steps we were to be taking next. I don’t quite feel that way. Dyspraxia. Sensory Integration Disorder. Attention Deficit Disorder. Language Processing Disorder. Hypotonia. I have read the diagnostic sheet over and over. Each child is different and while there are recommendations, there aren’t set-in-stone steps… I want that, but I won’t get it just yet. Instead of feeling like all the proverbial ducks are in a row, I feel more like the ducks are headed toward the row. We can do this. We will do this.

In light of all, I decided to start documenting our life again. I’ve been wanting to return to blogging, but didn’t know what I’d talk about. Here it is: Life. We will beginning our third year of homeschooling in August, this time with a second grader and a kindergartner. Liam is learning to play guitar. Both kids are swimming. Liam is in jiujitsu. Sylvia is in ballet. Our garden is growing. I killed my sourdough starter. There are things to talk about and milestones to celebrate. So I will do just that.

Dance Mom

This weekend was the weekend I’ve been dreaming of since Sylvia was born. Ballet recital weekend. I’ve been looking forward to these days for quite a while and was just over-the-moon when we finally arrived at the date. Sylvia skipped into the venue with our make up and costume and many expectations for a wonderful evening.

But you see, ballet moming is not for the faint of heart. Oh my. I didn’t realize that a two hour performance requires 5 hours of my presence and attention. Also, the dressing room may have been an entrance to Hell given the temperature that we could decrease regardless of attempts. I was not aware of how many times tiny ballerinas need to go to the bathroom while fully dressed and perfectly bunned. It’s a lot.

So I left on Friday night, exhausted and hot. Sylvia fell asleep in the car on the way home and I did little more than remove her makeup before putting her to bed. I then crawled in bed myself, grateful that I have served my time and would be able to sit out in the audience on Saturday and just enjoy. At 430am, she woke me up with the announcement that she was going to throw up. And she did. A lot.

We made the trek back to the recital the following day with a bucket, a roll of paper towels and the prayer that she wouldn’t puke on stage. You know what? She didn’t. And she went out on that stage with a big smile on her face and danced her heart out. She came off the stage and said she was ready to go home. I’m proud of her her being brave and dancing on stage like that, but I’m even more proud that she realized how tough she actually is. It’s no fun to perform when you don’t feel well (trust me, lots of experience) and yet she did it with so much grace and maturity.

Despite my personal discomfort this weekend, I have never been so impressed. I grew up dancing for a studio that prided itself on perfection, so I had expectations of what ballet would be like for her. Almost every expectation I’ve had has been flawed. During her tech rehearsal, the director sat the little girls down and talked to them about how to take care of their bodies: eating good meals with lots of protein, making sure they were hydrated and resting every night leading up to the performance.

Mistakes were made. Sylvia’s class is 4 and 5 year olds. But not once was it ever mentioned. Instead, her teacher and the directors focused on how proud they were of each child. I have walked off a stage to criticism and was so delighted that Sylvia didn’t have that experience. In fact, as she and I were talking about the show yesterday, she mentioned that she made a mistake during her dance and then said “but it’s ok because I didn’t let it stop me“.

I’m so proud of her. And even more grateful that we chose a studio that is helping me build her up like this. Even if it means sweating half my body weight out in a cramped dressing room. I hope I can be a dance mom for… ever.

Hello?

I know. It’s been almost a year since I last wrote. But I’m back. I think. I just can’t let go of this blog quite yet. The Pug certainly cannot let go of the kitchen.

In the time since I last wrote, I’ve started working part time for Moms Clean Air Force here in Ohio. I love it. So much that I went on our local tv station and was interviewed for the show “I Love my Job”. It airs next week and until then, I’ll be wondering if I actually sounded as awkward and nerdy as I do in my head. Also, there was no mirror with which to check my hair or teeth… I am legitimately afraid.

Today, I pulled everything out of the school closet and organized it. And while I love it’s newly cleaned appearance, I’m sad. No one needs the letter matching cards or color puzzles any more. It’s as though they grew up without letting me know it was happening. I mean, I packed the diapers up a few years ago and the last time Sylvia had a stomach bug, she took care of herself and I didn’t clean up puke once. But the realization of how much they’ve grown up seems to be all sorts of raw lately.

Liam’s last day of school for the 2015-2016 year is Friday. Since August we have completed the entire 1st grade Saxon math curriculum and half of the 2nd grade material. We have completed all of the All About Spelling level 1 book and are several lessons into level 2. We’ve gone through world geography and cultures. We’ve completed the Apologia botany curriculum. We learned a ton about space. Starting next week we will just be reading and working on math on a daily basis. Liam’s short term memory isn’t the best and I just can’t stand the thought of him sitting in front of a math book in a few months unable to recall what he had previously excelled at.

Sylvia will graduate from preschool in three weeks. I hate to say it, but I am done. The three of us have a lovely daily routine with schooling and my work and their activities and play. Interrupting that loveliness three times a week has gotten old. And yet, today, she and I went over her letter recognition and sounds. She blew me away. Preschool has been good for her. And honestly, it’s been good for me. But it’s the end of the school year, folks. Mom. Is. Out.

So. I’m back. It’s feels good to type in this space again. And to get those thoughts out of my head. Tonight, I’m going to be brave and attempt to make gluten free wonton wrappers. I’ve haven’t been brave in a long time. It’s time to step out once again and be fearless.

On Why I Care SO Much About Climate Change

Moms Clean Air Force director, Dominique Browning, opened the press conference, surrounded by 500 passionate moms, fathers, children, nurses, reporters all hoping to communicate our goal clearly and effectively!

A week ago, I woke up in a hotel room in Washington D.C. I was there to participate in the Moms Clean Air Force Play-in for Climate Change. I had left my home and gotten on a plane… two, in fact… to participate in this event. I haven’t flown in nine years due to an extreme fear and the lucky excuse of having small children who don’t travel well. Yet, there I was, miles away from home because the issue of Climate Change is very important to me.

I suppose I’m a bit of an anomaly. I’m Baptist. I’m Republican. I’m Ohioan. On paper, those three details do not make an environmentalist. But not shown on said paper is my background as a biologist. What does not show are the months/years I spent following around my ecology professor asking endless questions, reading studies and soaking in lectures. What you cannot see are the weekends I spent as a college student doing lake monitoring, cleaning up creek beds in Tulsa or recording data about the wetlands. And before, you don’t see the teenager pestering her Biology teacher to explain how micro-evolution works when species are exposed to chemicals in their environment.

Four years ago, I was introduced to Moms Clean Air Force. I had an infant and a toddler. I was terrified of driving in traffic. I was afraid of navigating Columbus to attend group meetings. But what I was not afraid of was calling up to the Ohio Senate and talking to staffers for my congressmen. I was not afraid to educate them, ask questions about their standing on coal fired power plants. And when the opportunity came to go and speak to these politicians in person came, I got in my car and drove downtown… during morning rush hour. As the years have passed, I’ve gotten to be involved in ways that my biology degree did not prepare me for… I blew my senior presentation despite having two semesters of oral communication classes as preparation. {Apparently, I talk at mach speeds when I’m nervous and have yet to really conquer that.} I’ve discovered how much I actually enjoy speaking in front of people. Especially when I get to talk about science.

That’s the thing. Climate Change is actually science. It’s not an excuse. It’s not emotional {although sometimes I get choked up talking about the effects of climate change on our children}. It’s not a hoax. And it most certainly is not something that is politically one-sided. We are all impacted whether we “believe” it or not. As I type, a series of strong storms are headed my way. Did you know that as the temperature on earth increases, it adds moisture to the air? The moisture in the air joins our water cycle {a favorite topic of mine, so if you have questions, I love to talk!} increasing the intensity of our storms. That being said, the next time a nasty storm heads your way, or the forecast shows snow for days, stop whining. Call your senators and ask them to consider their position on pollution. In addition to making our air nasty, pollution creates what could be described as a fuzzy blanket around the earth, trapping the heat and moisture.

It doesn’t matter if you in New York or Amish Country, Ohio. We are all impacted by the pollution in our air. Some to a greater degree than others {I’m looking at you China}, but it is incredibly foolish to think that just because we may not live in an area with poor air quality, we are not effected. Those particles are in the air and the air moves. And fyi: state boundaries mean nothing to particulates traveling on the breeze. So it’s time to stop pointing fingers and stand up. If you live in an area of good air quality, consider yourself lucky, but don’t forget about the children suffering from asthma who aren’t as fortunate you. Aren’t quite sure what all the fuss is about? Check out this page for plenty of info on health, climate change, pollution and extreme weather. Read up and educate yourself. Gather your friends and take a stand. And call me. I’ll stand with you!

Dear Future Daughter-in-Law

Yesterday was  Liam’s 6th birthday. SIXTH! I feel that I should launch a complaint against Father Time for being so sneaky with the whole slipping-calendar-years-past-me-without-notice bit. Due to some scheduling craziness, I didn’t see him until right before his party last night and while looking at one of those “on this day” type apps for my Facebook account, I was reminded of this article. I wrote it for our church’s women’s ministry newsletter several years ago and it seemed the appropriate time to share it here.

I tweaked this letter a bit from the original because in the passing years, my thoughts on the topic of marriage have changed. It’s less black and white than I once believed it to be… we are humans, each with different personalities and what works for my marriage may not work for someone else’s. But the main point I hope to get across that although there are differences, they should be cause for celebration, not comparison.

To my future daughter-in-law

Though I do not yet know you, I know that God does. I know that He is right now shaping you into the woman you will be for my son. Right now, he is my sweet, precious little baby but someday, he will be your husband. I am doing my best to raise him to be a godly young man for you; to train him to be the best he can be. 

I pray for you as you grow up. I pray that you have a deep love for God and for people. I pray you love my son more than life itself. I pray that some one somewhere teaches you how to be a godly, feminine woman. 

I want you to know that being a godly wife and mother isn’t about your personality; it’s about your heart. I have spent years struggling with my feelings on how to go about being a godly woman since I have such a strong, independent personality. I honestly believe that God uses a spirit like mine if I am willing to let Him. Just because I am independent doesn’t mean that I have to be in charge. If you are like this submitting to your husband will be the greatest challenge in your marriage, but also the most rewarding one. 

We live in a world where the successes in marriage and family are not applauded as much as being a “strong, independent, conquering” woman. You don’t have to be a feminist to be an individual woman, but you also don’t have to be a wimp to be feminine. Don’t ever allow someone to tell you that you are wasting your life by wanting to stay at home with your children. If you chose to work outside the home, then cherish those moments you have with your husband and your children, and don’t allow someone to say you aren’t enough. Don’t spend your free time being busy just because everyone else says you have to be.

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel outlines what an excellent wife looks like. She’s tender, not weak. She knows how to manage her home, but she isn’t bossy or overbearing. The woman being described is one who has learned to balance the management of a household and family gracefully. Her children know that she disciplines out of love, not control. She has learned to be a supportive wife and a caring mother. Did you catch that? She has learned. She didn’t walk up the wedding aisle and was instantly perfect and a role model. It takes time to learn how to be “excellent”, but it’s not out of reach.

The road to being a godly wife and mother can be long. It takes experience and discipline to reach your goal. It’s a challenge worth taking everyday. I pray that as you read this letter you know how much I love you and welcome you into my family.

Faithfulness on Friday

On this Friday morning, I’m sitting outside while the breeze blows my devotional off the table repeatedly and the kids play. It’s going to be another hot one today and I have to laugh at the times I thought that for sure I’d be able to survive without the air on until July. Ha. The best laid plans, right?image

I ordered the Study on the book of Hosea from Kristen and so far have really enjoyed it. When I’m done with that, I’ll start the one from She Reads Truth on Hosea. What can I say? When I find something I’m interested in, I tend to soak up every word on the topic.

This morning as I put laundry in the washer, I was thinking about my life in the last 10 years. I’ve had to repeatedly filled out health history forms recently and so I’ve had plenty of time to review decisions and choices and simple products of time. And as we have nailed now causes for why my body is on a suicide mission, I’ve considered how we often ignore other ways we destroy ourselves.

Sure. There disease is everywhere we look. It’s in bodies as the result of irresponsiblity and the result of genetics. It comes because we cannot prevent every possible interaction of bacteria or viruses. Disease is just a part of living. But we so often forget the diseases of our souls.

This morning, I couldn’t help but think back over the last 10 years and realize that while my body has not improved, the diseases of comparison and inferiority and insecurity and bitterness have been treated and healed in my life. And while my physical symptoms have lately caused me to spend more days than I care to admit laying on the couch, exhausted and ill, bitterness has not reared it’s ugly head.

Perhaps, it’s because I’ve learned more about the sovereignty of God. Perhaps, I’ve accepted that I live in a fallen world and sometimes, that nature just does it’s own thing. Perhaps, I’ve finally realized how loved we are and that if we can just accept the love offered, we can spend our time celebrating the 1,000+ blessings in our life inspite of the hardships.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; GREAT is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Maybe you already know this. Maybe accepting that you are loved and even when things are horrid, He is still good, is not a challenge… or one you can easily usurp. Perhaps, I’m just slow in this realization. Regardless, as I thought over my life and where I am right now, I couldn’t help but feel so grateful. Grateful that in spite of how I feel, I know He. Is. Good.

The quiet of Tuesday

On Tuesdays, I am alone. Matt works late and I purposely choose to keep my Tuesdays empty. I rarely answer my phone and the kids and I hunker down in the quiet. Tuesdays call for quiet in my opinion.

For our family, Wednesday is typically the busiest day of the week, with Thursday following shortly behind. Tuesday has become my fortress. We read and create and play. I skip the laundry and don’t cook. Tuesday is for me.

I rearranged the dining room this afternoon. It’s summer and I want to face the yard while I sew. There are baby quilts to be made and Christmas gifts to begin. I know. It’s June. But when the Fall comes and I start school up again in full force, I won’t have the time to sit and sew for hours. I learned that lesson last year as I frantically scrambled to finish those last few stitches. 

This morning, I overheard Liam telling Matt that on Tuesday, we do nothing. Maybe nothing compared to other families, but our nothing today involved hours of imaginative play, the creation of a 3-d art project for my grandmother, Liam choosing books all on his own to read to us at bedtime, and my trimming the tree out front so I can see the wren box from my desk.

Tuesday is my ordinary day. As Emily Freeman says, “Tuesday gives me permission to be unremarkable.” I appreciate the ordinary. I appreciate this permission to just exist and celebrate that simple fact. For in this world where I feel the constant pressure to improve and achieve and do more, Tuesday brings comfort in the settled quiet.

Wednesday has enough for three days of activity, but for tonight, I shall curl up on my couch, watching Anne of Avonlea and sewing. Tuesdays are ordinary and Tuesdays are for me.

Graduation

My youngest brother graduated from high school on Sunday. And that morning I just couldn’t grasp the passage of time. He’s been a part of our lives for almost 17 years and yet it seems like yesterday he toddled in through our door for the very first time.

Because I’m so much older than him and having the advantage of being the sibling and not the parent, I’ve gotten to cherish his life for him and not experience the hardships like one responsible for the outcome of his development. Toddlers are hard. Elementary aged children are begging for balance between still wanting to curl up with their lovey and keep up with their peers. Preteens are dramatic. Teenagers are moody and hormonal. And if you can only focus on these hallmarks of development, it becomes difficult to cherish the moments.

Of all the advice I got prior to having children, I wish that had more prominent. I wish more people had been willing to acknowledge how difficult life is and yet how much beauty can be found in the midst of the hard. Instead, I was given endless commentaries on diapers and feeding and discipline, but no one really told me that I’d never get any of those moments back.

Watching him walk across the stage and get that diploma was one of the most special moments of my life. I wished I could have frozen that moment for a while and just soaked it up. I’m not sad the moment is over, I’m just realizing even more so how quickly life passes by.

I’m so grateful for the moments I get to experience… and my thoughts turned to his birth mother. I wished I could have shared this with her. I wish I could have told her how wonderfully he turned out. How handsome he is. I wished she could have seen his soccer accomplishments. Of course I wish these moments for the mother he and I share, but she got to see so much in the years she was alive. Birth mama only got him for 8 days. And I wonder if in those 8 days, she was able to soak up enough of him?

I came home and hugged my own babies a little tighter. The moments will pass quickly between now and the day when each one walks across the graduation stage. Until then, I plan to soak in as much as I can of not only my babies, but my brother. I can’t wait to watch their lives unfold!

On Detoxing from the Quick Yes

In the last week, I’ve been on a sugar detox. Dietary changes were needed, and by default, 90% of my sugar intake for the day was also cut. Detox is not fun. I have had all sorts of symptoms and drama stemming from this change. Nausea, shaking, irritability… I was actually embarrassed to realize how dedicated to sugar by body had become!

It’s been a week now and I feel much better overall. I’m feeling like the changes that were made are actually going to benefit my life and not just leave me a miserable shell of my hungry self. So, you know, little victories. In this week (because one challenge wasn’t enough apparently) I’ve also taken the time to begin detoxing from busy.

You know what I mean, the attitude of “Well, if I’m going to be here, I may as well be involved.” The attitude that tells you if you aren’t participating, you’re lazy. And entitled. And selfish. This attitude is soon accompanied by her sister, Guilt. She reminds you repeatedly of all the times you’ve failed your children, friends, family, etc. in the name of healthy boundaries.

And when that happens, I almost always fold. I give up on the detox and go right back to where I was. Miserable and tired and on the verge of resentment. You’d think that after years of starting and stopping this trend, I’d learn not to give up so quickly, but nope. Before 7am today, I received an email asking me for info I did not have. Usually, I’d email the correct person, wait for the response (which I wouldn’t get quickly), forward the response to the original person and play email ping pong for another series of questions and answers before getting frustrated with the situation I created and wind up stressed out.

This morning, I typed out a response saying I’d find out the information for this family before my eye caught sight of the book A Circle of Quiet. I just stopped mid-type and looked at the book. In that moment, I realized that instead of protecting the quiet I’ve been working to cultivate, I’d be ripping a big old hole in the circle! I deleted my email, forwarded on the appropriate person’s info and wished the family a lovely summer. Done and Done.

I mean. Can we just talk about this for a minute? We laud busy. We say with awe in our voices that we cannot understand how She-Who-Does-It-All does it all and still has great hair. But we don’t stop for a moment to consider that perhaps she, too, is standing on the verge of a Quick Yes Detox. We tell her we can’t imagine how she does it all as we pile another task on her plate. And when she says she can’t, we act like she just shot a puppy.

What can we do? I don’t know. I don’t know beyond practicing a Slow Response. I only know that I need to take a step back and think before I commit. Changes take time… the Quick Yes is more than a habit, it’s a lifestyle for many of us, so we cannot rely on our change to take hold within that neat 21 day period. And while we are practicing a season of Slow Response, we need to practice extending grace to not only ourselves, but those around us.

Every person you meet is in the midst of a detox. It may not be the same as yours, but they still require your grace. Just as you need someone to respect your boundaries, the mom with the perfect hair is crying out for the same. So while detox makes us all a little cranky, grace can soothe that beast. Maybe not quite as well as a bowl of ice cream, but in case you’re detoxing from Eating Your Feelings, I’ll suggest grace instead.

**There are affiliate links for the book embedded in my post. Any earnings from these links simply continue to fund my reading habits!**

Because Summer Reading is Upon Us!

I sat down with my school planner this morning and calculated the completion of Kindergarten (and by default, my first year as an official homeschool Mama). Two more weeks people, two. more. weeks. Granted, I have a few field trips planned in those two weeks, but still, the end is near!!!

With the end of school, the beginning of patio-sitting-while-the-kids-play season. I sit there, sometimes in the sun and sometimes in the shade. I don’t often get to read too much in one sitting because people do actually still need me. Maybe not for snacks or potty breaks, but they do need someone to ooh and ahh over their latest sand creation.

This summer will find me reading a variety of books. Some because the list I keep is getting so long, I’m running out of room, and some because I finally figured out how to borrow ebooks from the library.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live – I’m almost done with this book, but it’s a borrowed book and this reading will be my second. I like it enough that I am seriously considering purchasing it just so I can read it again and this time highlight everything that has stood out so boldly to me.

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are – I’m going to the Women of Faith Conference in a few hours and Shauna is one of the speakers. I’m excited to hear her speak and read more of her work… so far, Savor is a winner. And any book that comes with a gorgeous bound cover and ribbon bookmark gets bonus points from me!

The Blessed Woman: Learning About Grace from the Women of the Bible
– This is a library book, so I need to read faster. 🙂 But it should be mentioned that already what I have read has been beneficial. Especially on Tuesday. Usually, I stagger from my bed, fire up the keurig and open up my She Reads Truth app. Tuesday, it would not work. It didn’t work on any of the three devices I tried. So I decided to read this book. The very first chapter spoke to me where I was, easing my heart… I was scheduled to speak that morning at MOPS and was really overcome with self-doubt and wondering why on Earth I had agreed to speak in the first place. If anyone was unqualified, I felt I should have the top score. And yet, as I read the first chapter, again and I again, I felt it whispered to my heart that I was right where He wanted me.

Anne of Green Gables, Complete 8-Book Box Set – I haven’t read these books since I was pregnant with Sylvia. Following the death of Jonathan Crombie last month, I just needed to reconnect. I watched the first two movies yesterday (yay cold and dreary day!) and decided that I need to read through the entire series again. Also, I discovered that there is yet one more book written by Montgomery, The Blythes Are Quoted, but I am holding off until I re-read their entire story before I explore this last edition.

If I finish these books before I need to begin buckling down for the school year and all the planning that brings, there are several books on this list that I’d like to check out. But if I don’t, there’s always the dead of winter when I don’t want to be creative or busy or much of anything but a sponge. Those days are the ones where in contrast to the summer heat, I just want to curl up with tea and a quilt and read. I don’t know about you, but for me, book will always hold the key to worlds I’d never before imagined, even worlds within myself that I’d never dared to consider!

What about you? What are you reading this summer?

**There are affiliate links for these books embedded in my post. Any earnings from these links simply continue to fund my reading habits!**