Friday, September 28, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal 9/28/12

Welcome Friday! I've missed you!
In My life this week...I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary to the most wonderful husband!  We went to Dairy Queen for the first time when I was just 14 and he was 15!
In Our Homeschool this week...We are continuing with notebooking and it is going super!  The kids look forward to picking out what's most important in their reading and figuring out a way to display it.  Today my daughter is making a venn diagram of the similarities and differences between Jamestown and the Plymouth colonies!
Places we're going and people we're seeing...Tonight is date night for me and the guy in the pic above!  Our anniversary was Wednesday but he had to work late and we had youth group at church that night.
You have got to love all the "owl" glasses!  My flower girls and Ring Bearer are now 26!
We also had a visit this past week from some of our "Florida Family."  Here's a pic of my daughter and I with our Florida auntie and cousin!
What's Working for delays! :O)  We have had such unusual late events lately we rarely start school by our projected time of 8:30 a.m.! One day we even had a house cleaning delay!  I can handle a lot of things but THAT much clutter was more than I could bear! 
My Favorite thing this week was...listening to one of my sons pray.  He was bold and confident and was even praying i front of a crowd! 
Thoughts I have...I wrote a post last night after considering some deep thoughts about my son with Asperger's.  It's called The Paradox.  Check it out!
I'm We're Reading...My kids and I are planning to spend the better part of this least...on Philippians 2.  We are working hard to make our character more like Christ's.
I'm Grateful for...the flexibility homeschooling offers our schedule!  My husband is off the next 2 weeks and we will have to be creative to keep the kids engaged in their studies!  I'm looking forward to having "The Principal" home though!
I'm Praying for...a friend of ours who is having surgery this morning...right now!
Time as a family next week and the following when we are going on vacation!
A Pic and link to leave you with...
We are currently studying the colonial period of american history and 2 of my kiddos read about the pilgrims this past week.  If you have not seen the movie "Monumental" you NEED to, especially if it fits your history lessons! (I tried to put the actual video here, but can't figure out how!! Help!)  Click the pic if you want to be taken to the trailer!
Blessings to you and your families this week!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Paradox

Anyone who knows me would easily agree that my life has been anything but smooth sailing.  So, why should the child rearing years of my life be any different?  From the very beginning of our parenting journey, we have veered off the easy path. 

To begin with, some people have the exact same number of pregnancies on record for the number of children they have. 3 kids = 3 pregnancies and so on.  My sister-in-law even has 3 kids with only 2 pregnancies!  How cool is that?! So cool, that I got to have identical flower girls at my wedding! Then there's us...We have 3 kiddos but it took 5 pregnancies. The easy path didn't unfold in the labor and delivery room either!

My labors and deliveries were anything but a cake walk!  With the first 2 kiddos I had no pain meds and that wasn't by choice!  The first kiddo was a preemie and the second one "came out sideways!"  Well almost!  I had over 100 stitches! Seriously, I did!  (My last labor and delivery was downright fun because I finally got to have an epidural!  But, I won't tell you about that in a paragraph where I am whining about pain! :O)

The first 3 weeks of parenting were the only 3 consectutive weeks of uneventful normalcy in parenting that we can remember.  Because our oldest was 6 weeks early, the doctor told us he would sleep more than even a typical newborn.  He did.  But, only for 3 weeks.  When he was still 3 weeks old and 3 weeks before his actual due date, HE WOKE UP!  Caleb started screaming one afternoon and virtually never stopped for months, years actually!  From that afternoon on, our parenting looked different than that all the new parents around us. 

From that afternoon on we asked ourselves over and over, "What are we doing wrong?" "Why can't we calm him?" "Why doesn't he sleep!!!!" and basically, "What's wrong with us?" 

It was very difficult during those early months and years to recall any memories that aren't marred from being sleep deprived, and loud from all of his screaming.  It was very difficult then to even believe we would survive parenting.  In all honesty, I never believed I would live to see this day!

As I look back, however, (now that I get a decent night's sleep) I can see many paradoxes in the peculiar behaviors that sometimes threatened to undo us. There are many times that I recall wondering why we even became parents in the first place coupled with the times when his behavior is so unique, so remarkable, that I am reduced to tears with the enormity of his gifts. 

Wikipedia defines a paradox as:
A paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which (if true) defies logic or reason, similar to circular reasoning.

This definition is my son.

Caleb has continued to challenge our most logical expectations as well as rise above them all.  He defies reason in so many ways.  Some of his behaviors make me want to pull my hair out while others make me stop in wonder!

It's my goal as Caleb's mom to learn to recognize the positive side of the paradoxes in his life. Looking back over the years I can clearly see three...

1.  One of the halmarks that define a person with Aspergers or Autism is their lack of social skills.  Sometimes they just don't intuitively know how to handle themselves in social situations.  It's not that Caleb does not like relationships with people;  he craves them.  What sets him apart from his peers is that these relationships are rarely natural or second nature to him.  He has quirky mannerisms, says things no one cares about and doesn't even recognize these idiosyncracies.  He often expects people (especially his family) to understand and feel life through his lenses because if he felt life happen in a certain way then certainly everyone else felt it the same. We should know what he's thinking and how he's feeling it simply because if his brain thinks and feels that way then everyone else's brain does. (If you want to read more about this concept, Google "theory of mind.") 

With this sort of "egotistic" mindset, unintentional as it is for him, selfishness is commonplace in his relationships.  He just really does not "get it" that other people have thoughts and ideas different than he does.  Some days are better than others, of course, but being wired in this way makes for many strained relationships for sure!  Parenting such a child can be frustrating to say the least!

The paradox of this naturally selfish personality is Caleb's remarkable intuitiveness into relationships and a remarkable relationship with his God!  Caleb has had an almost intuitive spiritual sense from a very young age.  He senses things others overlook.  He feels emotions and reacts to them in ways he can't even express or understand.  He talks to God like God is literally sitting right next to him. And, what Christian parent wouldn't want their child naturally in tune with God? God is not abstract to Caleb, He is very personal.

2.  As much as Caleb struggles to understand social nuances and body language, he he has an innate sense in the injustices of social conformity.  It's strange because he can have a complete meltdown if he wants to go to Wendy's and the rest of us want to go to McDonald's, but yet, when we go to the nursing home he is completely comfortable in the alzheimer's ward!  He will often say things to me like, "Mom, why do all the boys have to wear the same kind of shoes?" or "Why is it important that all the kids look and act alike?"  What mom wouldn't want her son to look beyond physical appearance, straight into people's hearts?  It frustrates me to no end when he screams at me because I make him put on a shirt with no holes to go somewhere and there are also days when he couldn't match an outfit to save his life.  But then again, it saves us tons of money on the latest fashions!

3.  Another common paradox with special needs kiddos and people with learning disabilities is that a great number of them are actually gifted. It's called "Twice Exceptional."  He's exceptional at both ends of the learning bell curve.  One of the main reasons we pulled him out of public school is because he struggled so badly academically.  But, because he has a normal IQ he was expected to produce and perform at the same level as his peers with little intervention.  On the flip side of thisis his intuitive science abilities!  The kid's a natural meteorologost.  He understands things in nature and they understand him!  I seriously think he could tame a lion just by looking into its eyes and talking to it!  He is a verified pied piper!  He holds mice in the back yard in the palm of his hand and talks to them and they just sit there looking at him and don't run or bite!  His reading fluency and his making of character voices while he reads are fantastic for someone who supposedly has "a social disibility!"  He loves to read to me while I put laundry away!  What mother wouldn't love that in a teenage son?!

In recent days, I have been praying earnestly for some of the teenage boys at our church.  Some have labels and some don't.  When one of the moms was sharing her heart about her own teenage son's troubles a phrase she spoke really softened my heart and made me think. Our boys are a year apart and both of them have behaviors that drive the rest of our families crazy! She mentioned that her son's counselor's advice to them was to pray less for the specific situations at hand and more for "his heart."  In his case, his heart is hardened to the things and voice of God.  He knows the truth of the Bible and is "simply" chosing to rebel.  He has a rebelious heart.

I got to thinking of this young man and my own.  Caleb has such a sensitive heart and spirit.  Like many Aspies, he is SUPER sensitive to ALL things...clothes, noises, food testures etc... So, why would he not be sensitive to the things of God as well.  His heart is remarkable soft, compassionate and bent toward service.  (Just last week he was home alone, got bored, and decided to prepare the garden for winter by pulling out all of the tomato cages and irrigation jugs!  What teenage boy gets bored and does that!?)

This boy at church and mine are so alike and yet underneath it all, so different.  That boy has a hard heart and mine has a "hard" brain!  Hard hearts can be softened.  Can brains?  The boy can choose one day to soften his heart. (And we are praying he does!) But can mine choose to "soften" his brain?  There is hope for a hard heart.  Is there hope for a brain that changes on him like Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde?  We have the ability to control our hearts.  Does he or will he ever have the ability to get controll over the chemicals or "misfirings" or whatever it is in his brain that seizes him and causes him to act to "hard hearted?" 

There is no "cure" for autism, but my heart wants to believe that one day he will gain some measure of control and be able to stop a meltdown before one starts.  His father, counselor and I sure are trying to give him the skills to accomplish this!  In the meantime, we will continue to look at the positive side of the paradoxes that make his behavior so challenging and yet to special.  We will continue to praise God that he has been "fearfully and wonderfully made" "in the image of christ."  We will choose to cling to HOPE.

The next time Caleb has a fit over a food, a subject or a routine change (or whatever! )  My prayer is that God would remind me of his plan for this child..."A plan to prosper him and not to harm him, a plan to give him a hope and a future!" 

Here's to Caleb's future! 

And here are two of the many animals that have found their way into his hands and listened to his soothing voice!

 Yes, some of his critters have even become pets and been part of the family and lived in our living room!

Here's to Caleb!

p.s.  Soon, I plan to write about what it's like to be a "sibling to Caleb!"  Then I'll end with "Here's to Josh and Carolyn!"  :O)