Monday, September 30, 2013

My Child Can Help Your Child Shine

Our friend, Ryan, loving Jillie in a way only he can.
One of my favorite things to do is read stories of teenagers who appear to have stepped out of their typical, self absorbed, roles, to do something that amazes and inspires the world around them. I especially love to hear about those who bless a peer who happens to have extra 21st chromosomes. The anecdotes of the team who allows a special needs player the chance to run the ball and the those opposing who help him to succeed with points to show for it; the student voted to be homecoming queen or king even though their social and academic abilities may not be as strong as others in the student body; the boy with Trisomy 21 who is accompanied to prom by the prettiest girl at the dance; the wrestler, chosen to compete with a young man with Down syndrome, that doesn't just lay down and let him win but makes the athlete work for his triumph, all bring tears to my eyes.

My daughter, Emily and Ryan off to her school dance.

Yes, my youngest has Down syndrome, and yes, I do have some uneasiness about her adolescence and that of those teenagers she will be exposed to.  My hope is that our society will have matured a lot since the years I spent in middle / high school.  My hope is these stories would inspire so many, at such a young age, and that bullying would be so rejected the children would resist such activity. My hope is, these stories would become the norm instead of the anomalies they currently are.

Our sweet friend Jack with our sweet girl Jillie

As inspirational as these videos can be, the stories are actually contained in the years prior to the event.  The character development either inspired in, taught to, or experienced by these young people could be the content of a novel.  A youth rarely just happens to do something edifying to others without first having some life experience to guide them in that direction.  The source of such growth could consist of an amazing grandparent with an amazing life story, or a teacher who pays close attention not only to the academics their student is involved in, but also the world the student lives in.  Character strength can be derived from experiences that we as adults don't even want to speak of, or the vesting of time into the service of others.  A parent who sees periods of strife as opportunities rather than restraints lays the groundwork for hope in their childrens' lives as well as the ability to inspire others.

What happens next could be the lead-in to a cover story.  What happens next is my child giving your child a moment to stand out from the crowd.  Unknowingly, Jillie will constantly provide those around her with opportunity to enhance their own attributes. She will learn, succeed, fail, love, laugh and live her life right beside them.  My hope is that her life will inspire others to look at their lives.  I not only look at my daughter as someone who is bursting with potential, but as someone who has the chance to share her radiance to help those around her shine.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What a day and it's only 9:30AM!

Gotta Love Brooke Photography!
It all began with waking up, as every morning does, this morning was no different.  The everyday thoughts were already brewing as I set my foot on the floor and lifted my hiney out of bed.  What to wear and hairstyle choice were already decided upon as I would be joining Eric's girlfriend for a "hike" after the kids were all dropped off.  I say "hike" because she was needing to tone it down for this late 40 something mom of six (I use the kids for an excuse a lot, it's hard to argue with.)  So, yoga pants, tank top and a baggy T, because no one wants to see this body in just yoga pants and a tank top.  Hair up into a pony tail, thankfully because it's time to touch up the silver strands again.  With my designated walking tennis shoes and socks in hand, I left my sanctuary.

Next stop was my Keurig and the K-cup drawer.  I dug around and found the coffee I like, (why I keep the rest of them is beyond me) pulled out my Tigger mug and internally mourned the fact that the handle has a hairline fracture that was more than likely caused by a disgruntled child with dishwasher duty.  Thinking I would finish off the creamer I chose, I began to pour.  I then realized the bottle would need to be returned to the fridge because draining it would wreak havoc on my much anticipated mug of satisfaction.

Now to the couch and my tablet and Bible app, ready to read a portion of today's One Year Through the Bible plan ( I think I started it in January 2012)  Anyways, I believe we finished up Job today.  Yay, I got tired of his know-it-all friends and what about that wife of his????  God is good!

All throughout my morning routine, my mind is circling around the tasks of the day. What would dinner consist of?  We have Jillie's IEP at school at 3:15 this afternoon.  I need to get Mrs. ....., the babysitter directions to the house when we drop the younger four with her at the other campus because we won't have time to meet her at home.  Pizza it is then, I won't have time to make anything decent before those who can, head off to church.  Oh yeah, I have to meet the Hubster at the high school at twoish to drop my van off so Eric and Emily have a way home after rowing practice. That reminds me, tomorrow is "Talk Like a Pirate Day", I need to make that pasta dish I promised for the crew's fundraiser at lunch time.  Thank the Lord for crock pots!  Today is church!  That means it's Wednesday and the middles have school picture day, thankfully with our favorite photographer, Brooke!  Good thing the littles have until Friday.  I have no idea what I want them to wear.  Oh well, the checking account is depleted until tomorrow.  We may not be able to buy the pics this year anyways.

The Hubster is finished making his lunch and heads down the hall to wake the troops.  I hear each door opened as well as his "Good morning (insert name here)!  It's time to get up."  I keep an eye on the baby monitor to make sure Jillie actually gets out of bed.  She does, whew, maybe we have a cheerful girl?  OK, maybe not.  We all piled on the BIG couch ready for prayer, announcements, to give and receive our morning hugs (most of us, Jillie is still moody) and it's off to get ready for our days.  Wait, Angel, wear something nice, it's picture day!  Allie you need to hurry because the dishwasher needs unloading! Joe, you get dressed quickly, no hanging out on your floor nakey.  OK, Jillie, time to go potty.  Yep, still cranky.

Thankfully, Emily loves getting Allie ready on days like this, one less thing on my plate.  Eric is wandering the house looking for something?  Keys, you can't find your keys to the car.  Great, he may need me to drop mine off.  One more thing to remember. Hug and kiss the Hubster good bye.  Band aids for Allie's shoes, sure, go get some.  Angel, help Allie with the dishes, she may take a while this morning.  Did everyone take care of the dog?  Ask Eric and Emily where your shorts are.  They are the ones responsible to wash, dry, fold and get clothes back to their prospective owners.

OK, my breakfast, into the blender goes a banana, spinach, strawberries, sweetener and a couple drops of wild orange essential oil, now wait for the berries to thaw a bit.  Sit to check emails.  Joe has figured out how to tie shoes this morning and offers to help me with mine.  Yay?!  OK, I let him.  He needs to feel big at times.  Did you remember the trash Angel?  Allie are you almost ready?  Ok, thanks for braiding her hair Emily.  My living room is looking like an laundry mat again.  Humph!!!  Because you all like apples, that's why I have a big 'ol box of them, and I hope to make applesauce soon.  Where is my coffee?  Time to add soy milk and make a smoothie.  Yum, so refreshing and vibrant during the morning drive.  Ten minutes until backpacks and van!!! Travel mug in the Keurig, open up the new creamer, I will finish the other later.

 Found your keys yet?  Nope, okay?  Who will help get shoes on Jillie?  Thanks Angel.  I know, sister, but I have to brush your hair every morning.  You will be OK.  Turn out the lights and close windows and blinds. BACKPACKS EVERYONE AND INTO THE VAN!!!

Grab my liquid breakfast, smoothie and coffee with a water chaser.  Don't forget the purse, phone, keys, sunglasses and headset (I get too distracted if I have to hold a phone)  Out the door I go.

Backing the van out, so thankful nothing got spilled, this morning.  Man!  188,000 miles, really? Oh well, God has the perfect one lined up.  It's Wednesday, Angel's day to pray. Amen.  Yes we can turn on the radio. Did someone grab Jillie's backpack???  Whew!  Remember, Mrs. .... will be picking you up today.  Quietish for a few miles.  As we pull into the biggles school, "Mom, my stomach hurts."  I think nothing of it, breakfast, thankfully, is provided at school, he must be hungry.  Pull into the high school, oh yeah, you need my keys for the back of the van.  That automatic door stopped working a long time ago, followed by the electric latch.  Everyone say bye to Eric and Emily!  Ok bye.  Off we go to school number two.

"Mom, I feel like I am going to throw up!"  Think quickly.  Hand him a Target bag with tissues to absorb stuff.  Think again, the bag may have holes, oh well.  Pull over, get out of the van, pour out my big smoothie cup with only a few sips missing from it.  Rinse it with the water chaser and hand it back to brother.  Call the Hubster to inform him of this new event and get moral support. No answer, bummer. Jillie, will you share toast with Joe?  Please, it will make his tummy feel better.  Thanks sweet girl for sharing.  How are you feeling mister?  Good.

Ok, Joe pray for Alize, Alize pray for Angel, Angel pray for Jillie, Jillie pray for Joe.  What?  Ok Angel will you pray for Joe?  Thanks. Whew 7:30, we are on time for breakfast!  Off to the third school.  Are you still felling good Joe?  Good.  Make sure you eat a cheese stick tomorrow morning before we leave.  Oh my, I can't go on a hike.  I need to be near my car, just in case.  Out of the van you two.  Darn, I accidentally dialed her, oops.

In the school, OK let's go hug Joe. Oooomph, group hug!!!  Have a good day Joe!  Oh yeah, this is what happened on the car ride in.  Call me if you need me.  I think he is just hungry.

Ok, Jillie's class.  Oh, bagel day.  Here she goes, digging into the cream cheese with her spork.  Some battles I choose not to fight.    What?  Her teacher isn't here today?  A family emergency?  No IEP today?  Ok.  Yes, I can drive this other student home today.  I will call the Hubster and therapists and tell them.    Potty?  Ok, let's go!  Hello, sorry I didn't mean to call you.  I am at the school with Jillie in the bathroom.  I will call you back in a few.  Ok, bye.  Hello, Joe thought he was going to throw up in the car.  I thought I would share it with you.  Ok, thanks, bye.  Wash your hands and out we go.  Back to breakfast, here goes the cream cheese again.  No, she's not playing "See food" she is trying to swallow.

Do you need extra help today?  Ok, if you need me, just call.

Back to the van, man just over a quarter of a tank left.  I hope it lasts.  Hi, I have to cancel our hike today. I have to be able to get back to school quickly.  I want to pay all of my attention to you but can't today.  Can we reschedule?  Let's plan on next Wednesday.  Ok, bye.

Hi Hunny!  No IEP today.  Yep you can stay at work.  Text the biggles and tell them you will pick them up.  The next available date is in October.  Jillie is getting what she needs for now.  We have to do what we have to do. I will text the various therapists to inform of the change. Wow, it's 8:15.

Back to the Angel and Allie's school.  Can you get a message to them that I will be picking them up.  Thanks.  Tell Mrs. ..... too.  Thanks again.

I need to rethink dinner!  Left overs it is!!!

I am hungry, time to go home.  Make breakfast number two.  What a day, and it's only 9:30AM!
I need to write this down.

---- typing ----

11:00 I need to head out to get Jillie. Get in the van, phone rings.
Hello, I have to call the Hubster.  Yes I'll text you back.
Hi Hunny, can you get that time off again?  We have an IEP to go to.

Yes, it has been a day and hasn't stopped since.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unexpected Changes (not necessarily my favorite)

Wow, how things have changed in such a short period of time.  A couple of weeks ago I was leading a "nose to the grindstone", "buckle down", "get the job done", "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me," kind of life.  Five weeks into school and we had hit our groove.  I had literally, just broken down the curriculum our school had given us for Angel, and realized the goal we had set in our hearts and minds was achievable; when I received an email.  School was implementing something for Angel that we had not discussed.  Needless to say, the hubster and I were concerned.

Earlier that week, my son had turned a corner and was finally on the same path as I was.  The system I had developed seemed to be sailing smoothly.  I finally felt, I had mastered the oversight of his education.  That is where we were derailed.  That is where, I came to the conclusion, that my God feels the need to keep me on an uneven keel.  I am guessing it is because I may have previous history with some control issues.  Or maybe it could be some issues I may have with trusting others to do what is essential. Needless to say, after a few minutes (OK hours) of emotional duress, I accepted, once again, that I do not belong in the driver's seat of this life.

So, where does that leave me?  I am a mom, a mom with a son who desperately needs me to direct his life.  I am a mom with a 17 year old who is madly in love and is approaching a whole new chapter in his life.  I am a mom of a teenage, young woman who still looks to me for guidance in finding out just who she is.  I am a mom of a naive, strong willed, beautiful daughter whose ten year old life is still magical.  I am a mom of a six year old, powerhouse of a firecracker who thinks I am the most amazing person he knows.  I am a mom, of a child with special needs who will need me, in some manner or another, her entire life. How do I handle all of these lives and not know what tomorrow holds?

Knowing his IEP was a couple of days away, we began to stratagize and figure out options in regards to the email.  We walked into the room ready to fight for what we believed was best for Angel.  We left that room knowing the outcome of the two hour meeting was perfect for him and that all eight people in that room were on the very same page.  Our complication was, what had previously been approved by the state, had been removed by the state. A choice needed to be made, full time homeschool or full time back to school. Beginning Monday, Angel would be back in school with a very, busy schedule.  He would have very little opportunity to make poor social decisions while having all of the support and encouragement he needs to succeed.  One thing our principal put into play is Friday's off.  Soon to be the envy of the entire school, our son would still be afforded the time he needs to be strengthened emotionally and to continue bonding with his forever family.

Now here we are, a week back into school and a few days after Angel's 13th birthday.  He is loving his classes, the teachers are loving him, and I am loving the unexpected three hours, four days a week of "me time", something I haven't had in over eight years. I love that everyone involved became committed, no matter what, to lift Angel above his issues.  I love that everyone sees my son's true potential.  I love, that, even when I think the control is all mine, my Lord still has His hands on my life and, if I listen, He will guide me.

So, where does that leave me?  It leaves me in the best place possible.  You see, there is a saying popular in the circles I hang in...

"I may not know what tomorrow holds, but, I do know Who holds tomorrow."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Today, I wrote a letter.

Today, I wrote a letter...
A letter that had been waiting a couple of years to be sent.
A letter to someone who, I am sure, has been waiting to hear from me.
A letter that in no way can express the events nor the emotions that have occurred since the last we spoke.

Today, I wrote a letter to a young lady who entered my life in a very unexpected way.  I never would have thought she would have become so important to me personally. I am sure, she never thought she would ever be appreciative of me.

This young lady has taught me more about God's love, mercy and grace than anyone else.  She helped to teach me that He views each of us as the same as well as individuals.  Her life has shown me His hand directs us all even when our priorities are farthest from Him.

I have seen God guide the hearts of others into prayer, because of her.  I have seen God strengthen people because of her.  I have seen God encourage the lives of others because of her.

Today, I wrote a letter to the mother of three of my children. Accepted by us as family a few years ago but confined due to her choices less than two years since.

My letter reminded me of how much I love her.  It reminded me of the hope God has given me for her.  It reminded me of just how strong I am when I am in His will, as well as how weak I am when out of it.  It reminded me to continue to pray for her, for her family as well as for myself and for my family.

My hope is that the woman I prayed with to accept Jesus as her Lord and Saviour would be so strong in her walk when she is free.  My hope is that right now, even though bound, she knows just how free she truly is. My hope is that my children will be given the chance, once again, to reunite with her as a part of our family, as well as to be proud of what they are made of.

I ask all who read and believe to hold this young woman up in prayer.  I see such potential in her and her future. I hope, one day to introduce you all to her as the success that I know she can be.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Force to be Reckoned With

You know when you are in a situation, mundane or not, and it causes you to reflect on a portion of life that has passed you by?  That happened to me this past Sunday.  I was serving in our church's nursery when an adorable, chubby little boy was dropped off.  I am not sure how old he was as his parents skipped that part of the sign-in page.  He seemed to be a big boy and appeared a bit older than those crawling and toddling around him.   As we spent time with him, though, we could tell he was in the right place. This boy stood out for sure and in more ways than one.  He was all over the place.  I don't think there was a toy in that room that he didn't touch five times throughout his stay with us.  His constant motion made the other children look as if they were standing still.  That is when it hit me, he reminded me of my first born, Eric.

Eric was much the same way.  Busy could have been his middle name. His curiosity kept me on my toes, sharpening those proactive mom skills.  I felt like I was continuously saying, "Eric, don't do this", "Eric don't do that", "Eric stop it"," Eric no", "Eric get off of the...".  You get the idea.  As a mom it was my job to make sure my little man lived to become an adult, so, as frustrating as it was, I took on the repetitive task of guidance.  It wasn't until others jumped on the "No Eric!" bandwagon that I really felt the pain though.  I just wanted those around me to see the good things about my son.  I really didn't need help outside of my husband to remind Eric of the correct things to do.  Sure, while they were babysitting, that was OK, but in my presence? People were missing out big time on someone special.
Eric is a thinker, always wondering why things are the way they are, how things work and, who is involved in what.  He was and still is continuously curious.  As an infant, 45 minute naps were the norm.  He did not want to miss out on anything.  As a toddler, who, what, why, where, when, and how questions flowed from his lips.  When combined with constant motion, that can make a mom tired.  By the age of five, we had a lawyer in the house.  Our boy could make his case rather convincingly. I would find myself beginning to cave to his logic when I would shake myself out of it and stand my ground.  I remember going out to dinner for his fifth birthday when we told our waitress it was his special day.  His little sister, stretching out five fingers, then quipped, "He is a WHOLE handful!"  At that, the hubster and I nodded in full agreement with our three year old daughter.

By the time he hit school, things shifted from home to the classroom.  We were constantly in communication with teachers thinking of creative ways to keep him on the right path.  Fortunately, the staff partnered with us to assist him in his success.  Throughout his elementary career we had to come up with creative solutions. Solutions from "Ask a teacher for a hug if you need to touch someone." to moving him into the 5th grade class as a 4th grader to be a "small fish in a big pond", were implemented.  Eric definitely helped me get my innovative parenting juices flowing.

This boy had a well defined sense of right and wrong.  In the first grade he learned about the depletion of the rain forest and was heart broken.  Animals were extremely important to him.  Upset to the point of tears, he needed a way to make a difference, so, he wrote a letter to President George W. Bush.  I mailed it to the White House (along with a translation) and a few weeks later he received an autographed photo of the first couple as well as a "Why school is important" letter.  I have to say, he was a little disappointed in the lack of topical response.  He did understand, after some explanation, that our president was a very busy man who understands the effects of deforestation.

Confidence is one if his strong points. There is not much that causes to him pause.  Eric would even tote his Bible to school making the newer teachers cringe at the thought of some lawsuit.  (we always informed them that if it is student led, it is OK)  Because of his tenacity, he shared the gospel with a friend at lunch recess and led him to the Lord.  He is rarely afraid to do what he knows is right.  Many "underdogs" have been defended as well as rights, opinions and morals. He stands his ground (sometimes to a fault) until the opposition proves it's case.  He may sound headstrong or arrogant to you but, it is his charisma that really gets to you.  From his first smile we could see an impishness about him.  The cheekiness combined with his Machiavellian nature are a force to be reckoned with. 

As we began to reach middle school years, my fears heightened.  This is when things are REALLY supposed to become difficult.  I fretted time away wondering if my son would have a positive impact, not only upon his class but on the world around him.  I wasn't afraid of what affect his friends would have on him but for what affect he would have on his friends.  Fortunately, God gave me a few cues that things would be OK. One was on a piece of paper I found folded up in our hallway.

What Happened to Life?

Foolish teens everywhere,

what do they give the most care?

the hottest styles, fads and fashions

so they can get desirable reactions.

All they want is to grow up.

so they can date and then breakup.

What happened to life?  You young, silly fools,

go do teenage stuff, like break all the rules!

If you’re tryin ‘ to be an adult, and your

brain ain’t ready, then somethin’s

wrong, ‘cause your brain ain’t steady.

What happened to life?  You just hug

and make out, and the next day

can be heard in a shout, you now hate

each other for some small imperfection.

Which is why you… we, all need plenty

of strong redirection.

So tell me now, riddle me this, my oh my,

What Has Happened To Life?

by Eric Schulze, 13

I am typing and reflecting on the life God has given us through our firstborn, now 17 years of age. Beginning his senior year of high school, this young man has lead our family through his fair share of "firsts".  He is a natural leader with a strong sense of self.  His heart loves deeply.  He looks for the fun in situations.  Making difficult decisions, though daunting at times, is not problematic.  Although the thought of growing up may intimidate him, I know he will be fine.  Eric will not allow life to hold him down. He has the capability of getting things done.

All of the really good photos are by Brooke Photography (accept this one, I took it)

Which brings me back to the nursery.  When parents come to pick up their little ones, I try to have something to say to them as I did with this mother.  I could probably tell you what Mom had heard, many times.  Instead of repeating those all-to-familiar words from my past, I acknowledged the job she has in her son and then proceeded to tell her,  "He has a goal and finds a way to achieve it."  "I could tell what a creative thinker and problem solver he is when he put the baby wipe container on the floor in order to stand on it to investigate what was on the counter."  "He is a mover and a shaker, the kind of person that gets things done in this world."  "I have a son just like him!"

Photo by the amazing Brooke Photography