Saturday, June 9, 2012

Guilt, Grief & Dreams

Guilt, Grief and Lost Dreams~

Thinking back to when I was pregnant with each of my babies, I remember the prayers for each of them before they were born.  Prayers for health.  Prayers for purpose.  Prayers for strong bodies and minds.  Like all pregnant moms I prayed for ideal children.  Children who were at the top of the bell curve.  Children I could be proud of.  Of course, I also asked God for red hair and freckles!

Somewhere in each of my pregnancies I prayed another prayer.  I asked God to create my children in just such a way that they could please him.  He could have their personalities, their interests and talents.  And, in an ideal way, I meant every word of those prayers.  At what point did God “overlook” my idealism and create within my children “something just a little bit different” than I asked for. 

I’ve learned a lot about prayers and praying over the past 14 years of raising my kids.  Prayers are more of a chance to get to know God than they are meant to be “shopping sessions.”  “Registering” for children didn’t work out the same as registering for first time baby gifts!  When we registered at Target, we got exactly what we asked for. God, on the other hand, had so much more in mind for my kids than I ever dreamed.  In hindsight, I should have spent less time praying for what I wanted and less time asking God to prepare me for what He wanted.  BUT, that one moment of prayer, asking God to do Hid will in the lives of my kids, that one time when I really let go and asked God to take the reigns in their creation, He worked his masterpieces. 

From the moment Caleb (now almost 14) decided to enter the world, I realized that my ideas for him as a child and for me as a mom were going to collide!  Caleb decided to join us 6 weeks ahead of schedule.  To this day he does not like confined spaces, so I am convinced that it was he who broke my water in an escape attempt!  He was an amazingly large preemie, weighing in at 5 lb 13 oz., but he was still smaller than the cat when we brought him home from the hospital! 

As you can see from the picture, one of his favorite pastimes those first few weeks was sleeping.  The doctor told us that until he caught up to his due date that he would sleep even more than usual for a newborn.  He was just perfect those first few weeks.  All he did was eat, sleep and poop! He was so little that my body slimmed right back up, he rarely cried and so all was well with the world!  He even got to go to his own baby showers that were supposed to be AFTER he was born. 

Then he turned 3 weeks old.  It was like a switch turned on in his head and he WOKE UP!  He started screaming.  The screaming started about 4 each afternoon and didn’t ever stop until about eleven each night.  After the first day, I thought, “Woah!  What did I eat that is making him so upset!”  After the second, third and fourth days, I don’t remember exactly what I thought, but I do remember getting out the “What to Expect The First Year” book and looking up Colic.  It had to be just colic.  After a month of continuous screaming, a trip to the doctor, and some well intentioned advice later, he was still screaming.  He screamed constantly in the evenings and was only just a wee bit happier during the day. 

The “What to expect” book promised that most cases of colic settle down after 6 weeks.  We were at 5 weeks at the time and I remember thinking, “Thank Goodness!  Only about a week to go!”  Then the thought hit me, “Wait!  Will he be 6 weeks not or at 12 weeks when he would have been 6 weeks if he was born on time!”  When the 6th week came and went, I knew we were in trouble!  When the 12th week came and went, he was still terribly cranky, I went back to work and he still woke every 2 hours to eat at night!  Needless to say, the Grief had kicked in in high gear LONG before then!  The only ones who benefited from the situation were my 6th graders.  I was in no shape to teach school but had to go each day quite sleep deprived.  I gave them very little homework and what homework I did give, we graded in class because I had no energy left in the evenings to grade it. 

Speaking of those evenings, the only thing I could do was be the human pacifier.  The only time Caleb was not screaming ws when he was eating.  We did supplement his nursing with bottles while I was working but enough was never enough.  If I wanted to hold him when he was not screaming I had to be feeding him.  No other form of soothing worked, and believe me, WE TRIED EVERYTHING short of giving him whiskey! (Our neighbor lady told us that ‘back in the day’ when her kids – now parents and grandparents themselves – were cranky she would add whiskey to their bottles.  In hindsight, we should have tried it!  But he was our first and you know how it is, you have to do everything by the book!  The ONLY bright side of being a mom then was weighing 50 pounds less than I do now.  I could eat as much as I wanted and he just drank it away!

OK, there might have been a few other bright sides, but in my extreme sleep deprivation, I have a hard time remembering them.  I do remember telling myself that it is a good thing God gives us such cute babies.  It helps us want to keep them! 

Besides grief, I also had to deal with guilt.  What were we doing or not doing as parents to have such a cranky kid.  My other friends who were having babies looked at me like I was making up stories about Caleb when we talked about our babies.  I grieved every time I heard them tell about the next milestone there babies were reaching when mine missed nearly all of them.  I also had guilt over neglecting my husband.  Raising special needs kids is exceptionally hard on a marriage.  I was so exhausted physically and emotionally I had no reserves left for Cory.  And, he, being a first time dad, did not have the intuitiveness at that point to recognize my isolation.  If it weren’t for the Grace of God and a divinely timed little weekend vacation away from Caleb (when he was about a year old) our marriage could easily have spiraled out of control.

Turning the calendar forward 14 years, the grief is not quite as painful, the guilt is not as prevalent and our dreams for Caleb have broken free from anything we ever imagined.  At times I see my friends sons who were born near the same time as Caleb developing into the young men I thought Caleb would be like and yes, I still grieve some.  These boys have good grades, are good at sports, have lots of friends and can handle age appropriate social situations.  They can even sit through a church service.  It would be lying to say I never grieve anymore.

As far as guilt is concerned, I gave that up about 4 years ago!  Seriously there was actually a day, a specific hour when God set me free from believing we were doing something wrong as parents.  So many well intentioned friends and family (who obviously never raised a child on the autism spectrum) had offered us advice that was “guaranteed” to make Caleb do or not do such and such, that it was easy to believe that the problem was us.  Besides, all of the people offering the advice had children who did or did not do what we could only dream about for Caleb.  After first being told by a pediatrician that “We needed to get counseling to learn how to be better parents” because “There is nothing wrong or different about Caleb” we were devastated!  We began to pray that God would lead us to just the right doctor!  Basically, we begged God for answers!  Caleb was 8 years old at the time and still having temper tantrums, meltdowns among other peculiar behaviors that just never went away.
That day, when we gave up our guilt, was a Tuesday in August of 2008.  A dear friend from church recommended a neuropsychologist that she had heard of but didn’t know.  The first time we met him he asked us if we could stay longer than our scheduled hour session.  He told us “I’m just seeing so many patterns here.  Could I hang out longer with Caleb!”  He said it so calmly, like nothing was out of the ordinary.  Pattens!  You mean there might be a name for these patterns?  You mean there might be a medication or therapy to make them go away!  You mean this isn’t our fault!  My head spun!  4 years and lots of counseling sessions later, we do have a name for those patterns.  We do know that he was born that way and it’s not our fault.  We have freedom from the guilt! 

Then again, we had a new guilt for a while also!  We had been punishing Caleb for years for things he honestly couldn’t control!  What good parent doesn’t punish their kid for having temper tantrums, not eating his dinner and not making it to the bathroom when in elementary school.  When we learned it wasn’t our fault that he did these things we did have to re-learn to parent him, but not because we were inept parents in the first place but because his way of processing required “extreme parenting!”  It blessed me beyond words the day the doctor told us that not only were we not bad parents but we were exceptional parents for bringing Caleb as far as we had! 

Lost Dreams~ 
So how have our dreams for Caleb changed?  In a way they have changed hugely and in a way they have not changed at all.  For all of his behavioral and social shortcomings, Caleb is a remarkable young man.  He is sensitive to God and his faith in ways way beyond his years.  He has science instincts that are amazing!  He has instincts with animals that are profound!  He has an amazing heart for service!  He loves serving others.  He is presently at a “Rent A Kid” day to raise money for a mission trip he is going on this summer.  He has to stain fence posts out in the hot sun for many hours today and he is genuinely happy to be there!  His heart is so tender and caring that I just know God has big plans for that heart.  He LOVES meteorology that I know God can use that love as well. 

Other grief and Dreams~
God has surprisingly (for me, not Him) changed my whole attitude about dreams for me kids.  He has had something unique to teach me through each one of what the world would call shortcomings in my kids.  Does Dyslexia change the dreams I have for my middle kiddo?  No.  Does ADD and ADHD change God’s plans for any of my kiddos? No.  Does the fact that we left public education change any of my dreams? No.  

 When the kids were eating breakfast about a week ago, Carolyn asked the boys what their favorite subjects are not that they are done with their first year of homeschooling.  Josh (my dyslexic reader) answered "READING!" He is so proud of how many bookds he finished this past year.  The ones he is holding are not even half of them!  THAT is a dream come true!

The kids are all just so proud of their learning and accomplishments in our homeschool that are reflective of who they are not reflective of scores on a standardized test. 

What God has allowed me to see is that Hid dreams are so much bigger than mine.  His dreams are so much more eternal than mine.  His dreams will be carried out no matter what labels have been imposed upon our family.  His dreams are really the only ones that matter.  His dreams are the ones I will cling to.  His dreams will set us free.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal 6/08/12

Friday, June 8, 2012

In My Life This Week...
This week has been very full, but amazingly there was nothing on our calendar Monday through Friday!  I love weeks like this!  They are so few and far between!  We filled up our time in the garden and in the kitchen!  This morning we made 2 Pinterest recipes! 

In Our Homeschool this week...
Our official 180th day has come and gone for the 2011 - 12 school year, but we are still finishing up loose ends.  The kids all have from 3 to 20 days of math to finish.  We allow our Aspie (child with Asperger's syndrome, who HATES math and genuinely struggles with it) do half a lesson a day of needed.  That way we can help him control his anxiety.  It also allows him to do math year round which helps him not forget so much over the summer.

My daughter is doing "Summer School on the Singer!"  Her Great Grandma wants her to make a patch quilt on her great-great grandmas 1926ish Singer just like she did as a girl.  But first things first, she has to learn to sew straight lines!

Helpful Homeschool Advice or Tips To Share...
As I mentioned above, some kids need longer to "do" certain subjects than others.  We were privileged to hear a wonderful speaker at the Cincinnati Homeschool convention speak about educating kiddos who don't fit the "sit still and read all day" mold.  All of my kids are there!  My oldest especially has to take longer to process math or he doesn't get it.  While he was in public school, they just had to go on without him and there are many gaps in his learning.  The speaker affirmed what we do with him when she said, "It really doesn't matter how long it takes to do school as long as it is getting done." So don't grieve if your son or daughter takes longer to complete something...just think of it as year round schooling in that subject.

I am Inspired By... 
I chose a difficult, longer than normal book to read this summer.  I am currently about 200 pages into "Bonhoeffer."  It is truly inspiring how he stood up to the Nazi, State created, church in Germany during the 1930's for the true Gospel.  I pray that I would be strong enough to do the same if I am ever living in such a threatening time. It's a GREAT read!

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy 

Places We're Going and People We're Seeing... 
As I said before, there was nothing very exciting on our calendar this past week.  Next week, however, we are super excited because dad is taking a day off to go to Indianapolis with us for the Colts Openhouse! My cousin was drafted to the Indianapolis Colts this spring and we have not yet been to Lucas Oil Field, so we are all looking forward to getting a tour and seeing him practice.  More pics and news on that later, I'm sure!  GO COLTS!

We also have a family field trip planned for next week.  My oldest son wants to be a meteorologist, so we are going to Fort Wayne to Channel 21 to talk to Curtis Smith, a meteorologist. He also invited us to stay and watch the taping of the evening news!  We are all very excited!  I think we will make this field trip the first official school day of the 2012 - 13 school year!
This is a pic of Caleb with meteorologist, Mike Bettes, from The Weather Channel. We met him at a weather symposium in Indy in March.  Next week we should be able to add Curtis Smith to his collection!

My Favorite Thing This Week Was...
Our impromptu Science lesson!  On Sunday night Grandpa came over to teach the kids how to fly a home made lantern.  We had a store bought one that has been sitting around for months so we decided to fly that one too.  The evening was a huge success in "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!  The store bought lantern flew perfectly!  The home made one needed various revisions.  But when you have boys, even if the attempt fails, all is well with the world when grandpa comes over to "do science with a blow torch!"
The store bought lantern.  We live in eastern Indiana and I think we saw it float all the way over Ohio!

Grandpa's home made lantern!  It looked like a jelly fish!

I'm Cooking...
Cooking together has become a huge part of our homeschooling, especially since my daughter wants to open a bakery when she graduates!  Today we made 2 recipes from Pinterest!
Cinnamon French toast bake. Using canned cinnamon rolls!
This one is French Toast Bake!  You make it with Pillsbury Refrigerated Cinnamon Rolls!  I can't decide whether to save it for breakfast tomorrow or bake it for supper tonight!
Taste just like reese's peanut butter cups.
I am eating one of these Peanut Butter Bars Right NOW!  Mmmmmmm!
I'm Praying For...
We live in Indiana and all of our neighbors are farmers, so we are praying for more rain!  My garden could use a day of showers too!  

A Quote From Dietrich Bonhoeffer...   

"My calling is quite clear to me.  What God will make of it I do not know...I must follow the path.  Perhaps it will not be such a long one.  (Phil 1:2-3) But it is a fine thing to have realized my calling...I believe its nobility will become plain to us only in coming times and events.  If only we can hold out" 

This quote is especially dear to me this week.  A few days ago, a dear friend and homeschooling mentor told me that she thinks my new blog is my new calling to reach out to families with unique kiddos like mine.  (Aspergers, ADHD & Dyslexia) I pray that If God wants this to be a ministry for me then He will guide me in that direction and bring the parents who need encouraged across my "cyber" path.

Bless you this week as you minister in whatever calling God has given you for this day!  




Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Singer Summer School

Carolyn's Grandma Carolyn wants her to learn to quilt.  But first things first, she needs to learn to sew.  And she needs to learn to sew straight lines.  And curves. And she has a lead foot, so she needs to learn some sewing speed limits! 

Grandma Carolyn's mom, Great-Great Grandma Grace gave me her 1926ish Singer before she died.  So, Carolyn is learning to sew on the machine that her great - great grandma sewed her great grandma Carolyn's clothes on!

My great Grandpa bought this machine for my Great Grandma in the late 1920's! 

 Carolyn started sewing straight lines first.  We drew them on card stock because it is easier for her to manouver. 

She mastered straight lines quite easily.

After working with card stock we switched to thinner paper so it moved more like cloth.  She "drove off the road" a few times!

 Finally, she practiced a few curves and zig zags.  We laughed as she went around the curves so fast that she would have flipped over if driving!

By the end of summer her "driving lessons" should pay off!  In the meantime, we'll keep cutting quilt squares from all the wonderfully colorful fabrics that grandma gave us!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday #1

I'm sure some Tuesday's life will get in the way and I won't have time to blog, but each Tuesday that I get around to blogging, my goal is to create a "Top 10 List."  I got the idea from Mama Jenn, a fellow homeschool blogger.

Mama Jenn 
Click her Button to see her site!

There are also a number of homeschool bloggers, including Mama Jenn, who do a top 10 list every Tuesday together as part the ihomeschool network.  They have a list of suggested top 10 list ideas for each of 10 weeks this summer; for now I'm going to borrow their ideas.

  • Week 1 - Tuesday, May 22 – Top 10 favorite websites to use for homeschooling
  • Week 2 - Tuesday, May 29 – Your top 10 must have Items
  • Week 3 – Tuesday, June 5 – 10 reasons my kids like being homeschooled
  • Week 4 – Tuesday, June 12 – Top 10 favorite read alouds
  • Week 5 – Tuesday, June 19 – 10 reasons why you chose your homeschooling method
  • Week 6 - Tuesday, June 26 – The top 10 questions people ask you
  • Week 7 – Tuesday, July 3 – 10 pieces of advice you would give to a new homeschooler
  • Week 8 – Tuesday, July 10 – 10 reasons I am excited about this new school year
  • Week 9 - Tuesday, July 17 – 10 totally random things on your mind
  • Week 10 – Tuesday, July 24 – 10 things about me that you should know

10 in 10Click their button
to see what it is all about!

If I can ever figure out
how to link up with them, I may actually join them!

Soooo, the first "Homeschooling Without Labels" Top 10 List!

10 Reasons Why My Kids LOVE Homeschooling

10.  We Hate Waking Up Early In The Morning!

The school district where we live, where my kids used to go to school, went from two bus routes each day to only one.  Now all the kids, K - 12, ride at the same time, and all the schools start nearly the same time.  Sooo, now the bus comes at 6:40 instead of 8:oo!  We rarely get up that early anymore!

9.  We LOVE Spending More Time With Dad!

Because we don't have to go to bed as early as we used to, because we don't have to get up as early as we used to, we get to stay up later with dad!

8.  No More Homework!

Then again, all of our work is HOMEwork!  We just love getting it done during the day so we can spend more time with dad!

7.  We Love to do School in our Jammies!

There are some days when one or more of us does not even get dressed at all!  That's a mom benefit as well!

6.  We Love our local Homeschool Co-Op!

We look forward to Tuesdays each week when we get to spend the afternoon with our Co-Op friends!

Gingerbread Day!

5.  We Love Fieldtrips!

We love Co-Op field trips as well as family trips!  The best part is going somewhere educational as a family or on a vacation and being able to count it as a school day!  Even in July!

This was an impromptu trip to watch maple syrup being made!  My bother called and we went!  Instant Field Trip!

4.  We Love Reading Time With Mom!

A favorite part of the kids' day (and mine too) is reading together!  My bed is our reading classroom!  Needless to say, my bed is rarely made!

3.  We Get to Read What We Like and What We Can!

One of our struggles with Public School was being made to read certain books just because "they are at your grade level!"  We have learned that grade levels and reading levels don't necessarily go hand in hand.  The following is a pic of my middle kiddo.  When I saw him wearing this shirt last night it reminded me that he is not the same reader he was before leaving school.  

One of Josh's Favorite book series is the "Once Upon America" series of historical fiction books.

      2.  We love Doing Science and Cooking in the Kitchen!

Both of these activities often involves making messes which is one of our favorite past times! 

1.  We LOVE Having Curriculum Materials That Love The Bible as much as We Do!

 It has been a huge blessing to watch our kids' faith and knowledge of the Bible grow simply because of the amount of exposure to GREAT resources!