Sunday, November 30, 2014

A letter to my boys at Advent - Hope

Dear C & G,

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. My heart is full of all of the things I want to tell you about this time of year.  Your father and I have been a part of many different styles and denominations in our lifetimes, and one of the things I miss most about some of the churches I have attended is their recognition of Advent.  There were no candles this morning at our church. No poetic reading on an Advent word. This is not wrong, it is only different. However, I want more for you. Or maybe it is that I want more for me, too.

Tonight we will light a candle in a make-shift way of doing Advent at home. We will read from a new book given just for this season, and I hope that we will sing and pray. I hope that our hearts will make room for faith this season.

Advent means "the arrival of a notable person, thing or event." It is also defined as "the coming of Christ at Incarnation" or even "the second coming of Christ." We wait with anticipation of Christmas Day as a reminder of the waiting that happened thousands of years ago and of the waiting we have as we wait for heaven.

Today is the Sunday for the word "hope." To be filled with hope is to be waiting for something that hasn't happened yet. Bubby, you "hope" to get some new Legos this Christmas, Bugaboo you "hope" to watch a movie in your free time. You are waiting, believing and anticipating something good will be given or will happen.

As a family we pray with hope for answers to our requests. We hope for healing. We hope for provision. We hope to be blessed in beautiful and tangible ways. Some of these things may come to be. Some may never be accomplished in this lifetime.  When you don't get what you are praying for boys, and this will happen many times over the years, I pray you do not lose your hope. I pray that the spark of faith we already see in your young lives will carry you through all of your days.

I pray that when you feel like giving up, that you will persevere, that you will ask for help, that you will acknowledge your needs, and that you will be held by the Savior.  I pray that you will always have boldness and confidence in praying with hope and faith, but that you will also in humility understand that everything we have been given is a gift.  I pray that you see hope on display in our home, even in the hard times, especially in the hard times. I pray that when the world seems unfair, you will remember Jesus, Who came and endured the ultimate unfairness in order to bring us eternal hope. Remember that beautiful hope, boys.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

This Week In (smartphone) Pictures - Week 4

Posting a day early because I hope to use the next four Sundays to write something for Advent. (We shall see.)  Here the highlights from my smartphone pictures this week:

Bubby decided to read his little brother's favorite book to him. If you have young kids and have not read Oh No, George by Chris Haughton you are missing out. It is actually a silly children's book (not a lovely classic like our Five In A Row books) that I don't mind reading over and over again. Simple text and pictures with some repetition (great for early readers like Bubby and speech therapy concepts for Bugaboo), and the story is humorous if you like dogs.

Bug fell asleep before bedtime one night, on the couch next to... what else... a book.

Both boys made turkey hats with me for Thanksgiving. Only of the boys enjoyed wearing the hat. (Though the other one enjoyed saying, "Gobble, gobble, gobble... turkey!" quite a bit.)

Full Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Even had a friend who could have taken a family picture for us. But this is the only picture I managed to take - and that was at the end of the day. It was a very nice Thanksgiving, and the food was delicious, even if I didn't document the festivities.

We decorate the tree on Friday. I took most of the pictures on my real camera. But here is our tree topper - the paper roll angel craft Bubby made last year. It's big googly eyes make me smile. Who needs fancy, right?

Bug wasn't very interested in helping during the decorating. He did appreciate the final product. Lots of time was spent looking at the tree. His favorite ornaments - Papa's Santa carvings and his own Puggles picture ornament from last year.

A beautiful day here to get outside - so we did. Bikes and the park with no jackets required!

A couple of times a year, I try to be crafty.  This Christmas card idea seemed simple enough, and I thought the boys could help with the assembling. Bubby helped for awhile, but found more important things to do. My kitchen table looks like organized chaos here, but it was actually a quick and easy clean up. Much better than the painting projects the boys' and I have done the last couple of years. Paper and glue for the win!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

This Week In (smartphone) Pictures - Week 3

Some highlights from the pictures I took with my phone this week. Not high quality photos but always high quality memories.

Early in the week Bugaboo figured out how to completely open the refrigerator door without any assistance. He was quite pleased with himself. And as much as I don't want my almost-four-year old in the fridge, I am pretty please he finally has the hand grip and the muscle strength to open it. ("Take that, cerebral palsy!" is what I imagine Bug is saying here.)

Thanksgiving week at the "school" Bubby goes to once a week.  He informed me on the ca ride home, "I painted camel hair on my vest. I wanted to be like John the Baptist." Such a funny kid.

Here's Bubby when he took off his Spider-Man hat, which he insisted on wearing even after the weather warmed up a bit. Holy static-electricity-hat-hair, Batman!

Speaking of hair, Bubby insisted on brushing my hair one afternoon. It wasn't quite as relaxing as going to the my stylist, but as long as he doesn't get the scissors out while he is brushing, it's not so bad.

It was Stone Soup week here. and Bubby enjoyed both versions of the story that we read. I did realize making stone soup isn't really a homeschool friendly activity since we would be bringing all of the ingredients.  Instead we had a neat stone soup playset from the library and Bubby "designed" and cut out most of his own paper vegetables and used just a little bit of glue.

These boys had to sit in front of a few hours of PBS kids one afternoon this week while I was so incredibly sick for about 24 hours and The Hubs had to go to his counseling job.  Bug insisted on giving his big brother a hug and climbing all over him. Luckily Bubby is pretty patient when it comes to this.  The best part is in this picture Bug is saying, "Squeeeeeeze!"

Bubby is almost done with his reading curriculum for the year, so I ordered him the next level plus the pre-reading program for Bugaboo.  You can request box art from this company, which is a fun bonus.  Bug has already looked through my new teaching manual countless times, reading off the letters and their sounds. I hope he enjoys his pages as much as he has enjoyed mine! He also enjoyed climbing on the box.

Legos are a favorite around here.  Today Bubby decided to make Lego Robin a car "because he didn't have a vehicle."  Bubby also pointed out that there wasn't room for Robin to park his car in the BatCave though.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

realness in November

"In this great day when most women wave banners of authenticity about our pasts, we crouch back from honesty about our presents. We'll tell you about our broken places of yesterday but don't dare to admit the limitations of our today. ... I'm tired. I'm distracted. I'm disappointed in myself. I feel slightly used and more than slightly used up. I'm a little overwhelmed and a lot worn down." -Lysa Terkeurst

November has been a rough month here. Right at the beginning we had a door that was open - that we did not even know would even close -  pretty much slam in our faces. And neither another door nor a window has opened yet. Dry socket, illness, a medical procedure, a difficult IEP meeting, and what I presume to be food poisoning yesterday in addition to the closed door have left me weary and worn. If we hadn't had the summer we had, perhaps I would be stronger. But this summer about killed me emotionally. And November has just been extra hard.

There is always something to be thankful for, and I try to focus on that here. But sometimes I just need to say I am sad. I have followed "the rules," I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I keep clinging to my faith, but the why questions inevitably overwhelm me. Some days I find myself closer to Job's wife than to Job, and quite honestly, that scares me.

I'm sorting out my faith, my theology these days. What is truth and what is first world entitlement and prosperity gospel? What is a loving God and what is a sovereign God and are these terms synonymous or opposing view points? A+B has rarely equaled C in my life, so am I doing something wrong or is that just how it is? And I live in a cozy house with my sweet little family with food on the table, which is more than so many other people in the world have - so why am I disappointed and frustrated? Why do I look across the fence and wonder why I can't have what the Joneses own?

Advent is coming, and I am longing for it more than ever this year. I am needing the reminders of Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. I am needing the message of redemption and a kingdom not of this world. I am needing new quiet in this bustling, loud world, and I am needing new light to shine on the dark path my feet seem to be walking.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Five Minute Friday - notice

Five Minute Friday is a community of  bloggers free writing on a one word prompt each week for five minutes - don't overthink it or edit it are the rules. Then link up and encourage another writer. This week's prompt is "notice."


I spent two or so hours Thursday morning volunteering in toddler class. I had semi-whined to The Hubs the night before, "Toddlers? Preschoolers? Why don't I ever get to help with something with older kids or adults?" I have a preschooler and a kindergartner at home, and while I love, love, love being a mom to my own kids at this age, I always tell people early childhood is not my thing. And then I end up having, er, getting to serve younger children.

Even though I said it wasn't my thing, I actually had a lovely time that morning.  This class is extremely well-run, the whole organization is, and I enjoyed helping with the kids, reading stories, and rocking little ones who were missing their mommies.

At the end of the time, one of the people who I presume to be in charge of something said to me, "I enjoyed watching you work with the kids today. You have a gift." She noticed me.

And that affirmation from someone I don't even know spoke such life into me.  Working (volunteering) with kids is often a thankless, unnoticed job. Being a mom feels unnoticed most days, too. But being told I have a gift freed me from the thinking I'd been doing lately that what I do isn't good enough, isn't as good as being something or someone else.

This morning I was doing laundry. Again. It does not feel like a gift or a calling to do laundry or dishes or vacuuming every day. It feels like what it is - a chore. But as I was matching socks, I realized my doing laundry to keep our household running is no less valuable than being a speaker or a writer or CEO. 
(A picture from the baby/toddler phase of life - almost four years ago!)

Playing with Play-doh. Zipping up jackets. Reading the same book for the five hundredth time. Sweeping up the cracker crumbs. Wiping the drool off his chin. Listening to Silly Songs with Larry... again. It matters. And it can be a calling, my gift, if I will do it with all my heart.

What I am doing matters because it matters to the three people I love the most.

(Apologies - I went over by about a minute which pains me because I am such a stickler normally for the rules.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

This week in (smartphone) pictures - week 2

This week brought sickness for most of our household - Bugaboo being hit the hardest, me running a close second.

Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer look for both of us.

Friday night and ready for bed early

Bubby drew this picture. He told us, "I drew a BassPro ad. There are three boots and three guns for 31 cents. And there's a fish under the sign because it's BassPro." I find this amusing because we are not an outdoorsy family, but Bubby seems to love BassPro. The Hubs asked about the three boots, asking how that would work since people have two feet. Bubby's response: "Oh, there can be six boots." Apparently the MathUSee curriculum is already paying off.

On Saturday we had a dusting of snow. It lasted less than five minutes, and I don't even think what fell from the sky were even flakes. But my boys wanted out in the first snow, so we dashed out in our pajamas (and then I had the wisdom to put coats on them) for a few minutes.
See? You can't even tell it's snowing!

Today we did get a little bit more snow - not much - but enough to delight these two. Bug actually enjoyed the snow more than he has in previous years. I stayed out with him for fifteen minutes before he wanted to come inside.

Bubby is completely opposite of his heat-loving-snow-hating-parents. He went out twice today for a pretty long time, happy to have the dog to chase around when The Hubs and I wimped out and watched from the sliding glass door. (To my credit, I did "play" out there for a little bit. I'll do better when there is actually enough snow to justify being in the cold.)

Back inside with his favorite pastime, here's Bugaboo getting all of the books he can find and sitting down to look through them. Usually it is all of the picture books in his room, but today he picked library books, a cookbook, and a hymnal in addition to his favorites to bring to the couch.  A warm and cozy Sunday at our house!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

various thoughts on a Saturday night

My kids are big fans of pajamas, especially Bubby, just like his mama.  Even though we homeschool, we actually do get dressed right before or after breakfast most of the time. But on Saturdays, if there's nothing going on, some of us tend to stay in our jammies as long as possible.  That is why today, when it snowed for less than three minutes, my boys went outside in their jammies (and then I threw coats on them) to enjoy the tiny bits of white falling from the sky. That is also why when two weeks ago when we were in the backyard playing and I decided to take pictures of the boys in the leaves, Bubby is wearing bright red pajamas. I could have stopped and made him change into the cute flannel shirt and jeans he owns for a better photo op. But life is not supposed to be lived as a photo op. (Contrary to what we see on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram - all of which I enjoy and frequent.) Hopefully I will get some pictures of the boys in the leaves in their flannel shirts at some point. However, I caught a typical Saturday afternoon on my camera, which is even better than the pretty pictures that I still do enjoy.

My house, my (lack of) style, my life will never gain a lot of attention, and that is okay. I am learning to be content with what we have, which has always been enough. Somehow we have always had enough food and clothing and shelter and love to get us through.  I remind myself of this often because I do forget, especially with recent bumps in the road that we have encountered. Questions constantly pummel me, wanting my attention, trying to get me to doubt and fear. But I look back and see "all I have need of His hand will provide." It's not an easy thing to say or believe, but I stand on it because the alternative for me is harder to say or believe.

Today Bug was having a mini-crying spell as I finished up lunch.  I had allowed the boys a few minutes of iPad time to share, and Bug was upset each time it wasn't his turn.  So I told Bubby he could just have it for awhile.  I look over a minute later, and Bug is calm, and Bubby is sharing his turn with his younger brother, gently moving his hand the way the occupational therapist and I do. They played together happily for a few minutes, tears gone from the youngest and the oldest not at all bothered to sacrifice what he would want to do for what they could do together. I almost grabbed the camera to snap away, but it felt the wrong thing to do - to disturb such a moment.

At bedtime tonight we thought Bug was already asleep, so I put him in his bed. We did our Bible reading/prayer routine with Bubby. When The Hubs tucked Bubby in, he saw that Bugaboo was still awake. "Mommy pray, " he said when I came into his room again. Of course I felt awful that we had accidentally left him out. We let him pray, and we all prayed again.  Bubby prayed, "Dear Jesus. Thank You for Bugaboo. Thank You for creating him and for making him my brother. Thank You that he is kind. I love him. Amen." All of this made me cry.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

This Week In (Smartphone) Pictures -and one real picture

Sometimes I feel really bad that many of my children's pictures are taken with my phone. I have a great camera that I try to utilize often. But my phone is (almost) always handy. And thus I end up with cellphone pictures that may not always be high quality, but capture the moment pretty well. When I feel bad about the phone pictures, I remember how many pictures of my early childhood were taken with a Polaroid, and then I don't feel so bad any more. (No guilt trip here, Mom!)

So I may be starting a Sunday night thing called This Week In (Smartphone) Pictures in an attempt to recap some of the highlights of our week and as a reminder to be thankful for all of the good things in my life.

The weather is about to get colder, so I have tried to be more intentional about getting the boys outside to enjoy beautiful days. One of things both boys love to do is play with the rake. Not really raking, but it's a start.

Bubby has started to enjoy drawing - this a fairly recent development. (He enjoys cutting more. Until this week he had only cut paper. Monday morning he cut up his shirt. And then had to pay for that shirt from his piggy bank. Lesson learned. I was proud of me - I remained so calm about it. Probably because I was a fan of the scissors around his age.) Anyhoo - this is a picture of "Mommy being pecked by a turkey, and me in a turkey cage." Someone is ready for Thanksgiving.

 This was on election day. We always take our boys with us to vote. The workers at our polling place have seen our kids grow up every few months. Bubby was dressed very hipster-like, which seems odd since I don't know if you can be a hipster in a family that votes mostly libertarian with a dash of conservatism.  Plus, Bubby informed me, "I'm not a hipster! I'm a hamster!"

Here's Bugaboo, sorting by shape.  He refused to do this for his screening early in the week. I knew he could, so I started two piles. Instead he added three piles of the remaining shapes, and then sorted five shapes into their respective piles as quickly as his hands that have a hard time with fine motor skills would let him. Then he got bored and returned to his books. Take that, Standardized Testing!

Seriously, this dog is the best thing for Bugaboo, She did something very naughty in our room this week, but at the end of the day, she is friend and protector of our boys - especially the youngest. Her name should be Nana instead of Scout.

I signed up Bubby  for basketball.  I don't think he had ever touched a basketball until practice this week. Oops! But he's got my Papa's DNA, so maybe this will be his thing.  We worked on dribbling and passing. He got bonked on the nose with one of my passes, but kept going until the rake and the snake (yes!) in the yard looked more entertaining.

And this last picture was one of our fall family photos from a real photographer (Sarah Bottarel Photography) with a real camera and real talent. It wasn't from last week - but close enough!

Friday, November 7, 2014

fish in a tree, how can that be?

 "...if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

Too often my fish is told to climb a tree. It is heartbreaking, and it is frustrating, and it is going to stop.  

photo by Sarah Bottarel Photography

My child does not fit in to the box, figuratively speaking of course. He refused to "perform" for the assessment the Parents as Teachers lady gave him this week, but he can do most of the activities he wouldn't do for her. (The ones he can't do I am very well aware of, and even said to her, "Move on. He can't jump/cut with scissors/draw that line. He has cerebral palsy.") If a child doesn't fit into a box, the system will do everything they can to make you want to get your child to fit in the box. And honestly, I do not care if my child - my children - fit into someone's box of preconceived box of what they should be able to do. Obviously I care about learning and growth and skills. We have sought out numerous therapies and work on things all of the time. I want Bugaboo to walk safely, be able to do stairs, be able to do fun things like jump and run and throw a ball. I want him to communicate effectively and be able to hold a spoon easily and write his name someday. I want him to have friends to play with. But if I hear the word socialization one more time I will probably scream.

One of the most eye-opening things in my life has been attending IEP meetings as a parent instead of a teacher. Oh my word. When we had IFSP meetings (birth-three) with FirstSteps those always went pretty smoothly. But at three we had to transition to the public school system, and it has not been a fun or pretty process. I'm an educated and opinionated parent, which means they can't push me around. Plus, I took school law and special education law for my administration program. In addition to knowing the system pretty well, I choose to only minimally use the system for a variety of reasons because at this time I educate my children at home. All of this to say that the process coordinator doesn't really like me much.

This was the process coordinator, who before knowing my background - tried telling me last year that an IEP was not a smorgasbord. To this I began throwing around educational jargon to inform her that yes, actually an IEP IS a smorgasbord since the "I" stands for "Individualized."  They made sure she was at our meeting today, even though her name was not on the notice of meeting form we received. But we were ready for her and her protests when we told them we wanted Bugaboo to go back to itinerant services instead of preschool.

It was not fun. They tried to have an answer for everything. The Hubs and I had an answer for each of their answers. I could write a book about today's meeting. They pushed for us to have four days of preschool instead of two. We pushed for zero, just services. They pushed for all sorts of alternatives that I knew would only confuse Bugaboo. I said we would do it how we did it last year, but he really doesn't need academic time. They told he would have sixty minutes of academics. I told them no, he will have thirty minutes of that. They brought in his teacher from last year to tell me sixty minutes. I told them to stop bullying me. (Apparently the No Bullying policy in schools only applies to students - not process coordinators) 

We reminded them that I am more than qualified to teach my child. They said my experience was regular education.  I let them know I had special education teaching experience (I spent my two last years in an at-risk/class-within-a-class concept co-teaching with a special education teacher to service five kids on IEPS, five or six kids who were at risk but did not qualify for services, and a dozen or so "typical kids.") That helped to shut them up a little bit.

The Hubs did an excellent job in the meeting, as he is less emotional than I am, and made our points clearly and kindly. Bugaboo hasn't made any significant progress with the things he works on at that school. The things he has made progress on are the things that we work on with private therapy or that The Hubs and I work on with him at home.  Mistake after mistake was made by the teacher this year, but I did not throw her under the bus at the meeting - though I think I should have. At parent-teacher conferences we learned that Bugaboo spends his center time every day at the truck center on the carpet.  I know what that activity is, and he does not need to be spending a significant amount of his preschool time doing that.  We have received three or four papers of Bug's this year (all year), and magically today his teacher appeared with two crafts they did last week. 

The team kept bringing up socialization. It doesn't matter to them that Bug has three other scheduled and structured other "socialization" activities each week with other preschoolers in a classroom-type setting. Impromptu play dates and library story times don't count for socialization either. Public school preschool is apparently the best (and really only way) a child can be socialized. How did humanity survive thousands of years without preschool to teach us how to socialize?

Would I like for Bug to be able to attend a stellar preschool program that would actually be an asset to him? Sure! But that does not exist in our current district, and I'm not going to waste his time or risk his safety. (Because when a teacher makes little mistake after little mistake that you can see via a folder or a pull-up that isn't your child's or a picture day mix-up you start to wonder what other bigger mistakes is she making that you don't see and that your three year old is unable to tell you about.)

So Bug is returning to just itinerant services. This means I lose the Tuesday/Thursday mornings where it was just Bubby with me. Essentially I lose my free (tax-payer funded) baby-sitting, which I think the only reason I hung on as I long as I did this school year. If I had the resources I would start a school tomorrow for both of my boys, and other children, too. I have dreams and ideas and a degree that says I can run a school building, just lacking on the time and money and manpower to start my own school. 

Monday we press on with the goals I have for both of my boys for the remainder of the school year. It was the right choice at this time. It wasn't the easy choice, but it was the right choice.

photo by Sarah Bottarel Photography

Time to teach my fish to swim. And if he happens to also learn to climb a tree along the way, then that's fine, too.