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Redefining Unconditional: How Our Son Completely Changed Our Lives

I was so honored to have the opportunity to write a very personal piece at Rosevine Cottage Girls a few weeks ago. Cheyenne asked me to join their series on the “unconditional love of a special needs parent.” Oh, yes, please! You see, I believe this article is for any parent. Our children transform us and chip away at selfishness and pride, if we’re willing to let our parenting experiences shape us into better people. Parenting of any kind is saying “yes” to the changes that happen within us when we welcome the possibility of unconditional love into our lives.

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For two years, I would sit at his basketball games and silently sob.

Not because Little Man (our youngest son) wasn’t as good as the other kids were. (He wasn’t at the time.)

Not because I was embarrassed to be the only parent with a kid on that team not keeping up.

Redefining Unconditional_ How Our Son Completely Changed Our LivesI would weep because he was cognitively stuck. Like a computer sluggishly trying to process a hard drive full of information, he would stare. The game went on around him, and he lagged 30 seconds behind. He would run down the court just as the team was turning around to head the other way down the court. Then he would remember, briefly, to “guard his man” before getting lost in the loudness of the gymnasium, the overstimulation of the ball bouncing around him, the fast pace of the kids racing past, and the pure anxiety of being in slow-motion when everyone around you is on pace. He would peel his hangnails and wear a perpetually worried look on his face.

My heart would ache and shatter not because he was different but because it was an indication that once again, he was suspended in that time and place called dysregulation, for whatever the reason, and we would need months to partly climb back out again.

Join me over at Rosevine Cottage Girls to read how Little Man changed our lives for the better.

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Top 10 Ways to Keep Kids Regulated and Engaged During the Holidays

Top 10 Ways to Keep Kids Regulated and Engaged During the HolidaysWhether or not you have a child with special needs during the holidays, everyone in the house—adults and teens included—can get ramped up and a little “off” during the lack of routine, irregular eating and sleeping patterns, and increased social interactions of the holidays.

As facilitator of a FOCUS Group for Special Needs Parents at my church, I brought in a 20-year public school occupational therapist within our congregation to do a parent workshop on “De-Stressing the Holidays.” With Linda’s permission, I share some helpful tips for all families at a particularly stressful-yet-fun time of year. Perhaps there are some last-minute stocking stuffer ideas you can find here as well.

10. Social Stories (to help with emotions, disappointments, fear, anxiety, etc.)

The holidays often come to us as a mixed bag of expectations and emotions. Children are excited, perhaps nervous about a family get-together, have pent-up energy and frustrations, and have trouble staying regulated among the extra sugar intake, late nights, and unpredictable schedule. “Social stories” can have pictures and words; they walk through holiday-time scenarios so kids know what to expect and that feelings can be unpredictable and very normal. Here is a great web site I found for social stories on everything from anticipating blood draws to the dentist.

9. Calendaring

Children need a sense of what to expect when the normal routine is disrupted by holiday events and time off school. A simple printed-out calendar with pictures or words (depending on the child’s developmental age) can be a great way to take away the “What are we doing today?” question that visits us twenty times a day and give kids a sense of knowledge and control; they could even express “wants” on it (like “see a movie” or “play a game”). They feel a part of the family calendar when they can see it. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dear Parent of a Child With Special Needs

Dear Parent of a Child with Special Needs:Dear Parent of a Child With Special Needs

I have something to say to you.

I want you to take a deep breath.

I want you to stop blaming yourself (if you do).

I want you to know that on a day that demands much emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual energy to advocate or meet the needs of your child, if that’s all you do, you’re a rock star!

I used to tell myself my child’s disabilities were because I was depressed for a short period of time when he was young.

That I didn’t stimulate his brain enough.

That we didn’t color and do puzzles as much as I did with my other kids.

That I was to blame. I had a lack. I brought this on.

That I should have fed everyone more organic food and cleaned with natural cleaners—and lived on a farm.

That my few piles of disorganized mess were to blame for all executive functioning problems in all family members through several generations.

My if onlys?

If only I read up on all this during the early intervention years. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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What’s Growing in Your Soil?

What Is He Planting in Your Soil?-2There is truly nothing about me that has a green thumb. I’m really proud of myself if I can keep a few hanging baskets alive two-thirds of the way through the summer. I’m not outdoorsy garden girl by any stretch of the imagination. I take my Vitamin D in a pill and sit outside only when I have to watch my kids in the pool. Summer sunlight does horrible things to my fair skin (trust me, I used to live in the South Pacific!), and pollen makes a beeline for the inside of my nose as soon as I exit my house to walk the dogs.

This is why it made absolutely no sense to me when a few weeks ago I felt a strong prompting to buy some pots, potting soil, and various seeds. I had no idea why I drove to Walmart one day with those items on my list, but I felt compelled to have them, as if someday in the near future, God would fill in the blanks for this assignment.

I went about my usual business for weeks, not doing anything about those pots—wishing I suddenly became Grow-It Jane but knowing I really was Read-and-Drink-Lattes Bonnie. Even my husband and children were puzzled when they saw the potting soil, but they know me well enough by now to just nod and move on with their day.

You would think that I would have learned how much I do not actually know after last year’s sunflower seed episode.

(After I finished rolling my eyes up in my head that my son came home with a sunflower seed to plant on the last day of first grade, we watched that 6-footer grow all summer—trusting it was more than a weed but not really sure for about 9 weeks. Know when it bloomed? First day of second grade. Yeah, it took a lot of trust not to toss that thing from its pot into the woods and assume it was another loss before it actually gave us beauty.)

God’s promises are just that: Ones we can’t see fully until they bloom. They are there, climbing toward heaven as if to give a holy nod to the Big Guy in the Sky until they reveal themselves to us.

Sometimes it feels like we go on blind trust, doesn’t it?

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What I Learned at the IEP Roundtable

IEPRoundtableI’ll admit it. Part of me was terrified.

Sitting around the table with everyone who had assessed my child over the past few months, or in some cases—years—was intimidating.

What were they going to say? Were they going to kick him off the boat—not because they don’t want to help him—but because he ranked in need behind other kids when it came time to dividing up the special education pieces of the School Budget Pie?

I had come to find each of these specialists and staff members endearing in different ways. For better or worse, we had been contractually married for several years in the common cause of my son. We were linked, convenanted by legal documents and a mutual desire to help him.

But what if, once we got around that table, the budget dropped between the two sides of the table, dividing us abruptly in half like Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea? What if a former Ally in the Care of My Son now became a Defender of Policy, Keeper of the Budget?

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Boxing Kangaroos and Other Signs of Hypervigilance

Boxing Kangaroos and Other Signs of Hypervigilance

Lately, I have had my hands and schedule way too full. Our daily schedule involves speaking with at least two doctors/specialists a day, multiple evaluations, massive amounts of paperwork, class observations (volunteering is a great way to keep an eye on your own kid), interacting with teaching staff, and constantly considering how to adjust sleep, vitamin intake, dietary choices, and schedule to maximize the best functioning for just one of my three children. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a tricky thing in the middle of growth spurts, metabolic changes, classroom setting, sleep patterns, and any stress in the house. I can’t say I have anything figured out yet, but I am learning to be proactive, attentive, and flexible.

In the middle of the crazy merry-go-round we are riding, my son was doing a school research project. For his poster, he had to choose a continent and an animal that lives there to blend the concepts of habitat and geography, with some zoology thrown in for good measure. Since we had visited Australia a few years ago when we lived in the Marshall Islands, he chose a kangaroo so he could happily declare how he had pet one!

Well, actually, he went to feed it and accidentally stepped on its toes (yes, they have toes!).

Know the feeling? When you go to help someone, but you unintentionally end up making it worse or, at the very least, have your intentions misunderstood?

Well, I happened to be in the school library during one of the days the students were working on their continent/animal posters, and I caught Little Man, 9 years old, fascinated with several pictures in the book. He was so captivated, in fact, that I had to keep redirecting him to stay on task. But if I hadn’t stopped telling him to “stay focused,” “answer the right question,” and “finish up,” I would have missed what had him so enthralled: two kangaroos boxing each other. That’s right— boxing. They actually support their entire bodies on their tails while they aim two feet at their opponents at one time. (It’s true. I saw footage here.) That was Little Man’s fun fact of the day.

But it stuck with me beyond that. I couldn’t shake the image of those intense marsupials getting a swing in here and a swift, two-legged kick in there. (Apparently, their legs go together and can’t kick independently. Who knew?)

And it’s what I felt our family had been doing for so long.

We were boxing kangaroos!

Sometimes, we would sit on our tails trying to hold everything else up while we kick-boxed and punched at everything around us.

Often, we would stop in the middle of something else we were doing and drop everything to go a couple rounds with the current battle or struggle that threatened to rob us of peace.

Know what I meanEver been there?

But, as it turns out, I don’t have to take a swing at all strife everywhere all of the time. I don’t have to do amazing balancing acts on my tail and whack at everything offering me the slightest look of menace or provocation, no matter what the challenge is before me.

Why?

Because the Lord my God goes with me. He fights for me. I can rest in that. I can ask Him to take it and then show my trust by being still and waiting for Him to act on my behalf, as He promises to those who believe in Him. I might not be fighting Moses’s Egyptians, but the mountains ahead of me need moving. I cannot do it only in my own strength.

And really, once we grasp that concept, it’s such a huge relief, isn’t it?

Deuteronomy 31:6, English Standard Version (ESV), Moses narrating
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Exodus 14:13-14, ESV, Moses narrating
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Isaiah 45:2, ESV, God speaking through Isaiah the Prophet
“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron…”

He goes before me and levels the exalted places.

What now? He’s going to “break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron.”

Well, it sounds a lot to me like I don’t have to put up my dukes after all and break out in a sweat over everything that comes across my path. I can be diligent, and I certainly don’t want to be complacent, but it sounds like I can put my trust in God, a mighty and very capable warrior. When I believe and trust Him, He promises to remain close, go before me and with me, and remove obstacles from my path.

He says: “Fear not.”

If I really place my trust in Him, it also sounds like I can stop boxing kangaroos.

How about you?

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More on hypervigilance can be found here.

*This blog is also featured at Your Tewksbury Today.

**It can also be found at Grace & Truth Link-Up, Mom 2 Mom Link-Up #23, Pick Your Pin Tuesdays, and Simplified Life.

 

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Be Still and Walk with Him Awhile 

BeStill

“’Be Still’ isn’t just for crisis mode.
That’s simply where we found it.
It is a new way of life, ensuring the health of our family.”

Today, I am so excited to be featured as a guest blogger at “The Urbane Flower.” My piece, “Be Still and Walk with Him Awhile,” can be found here.

Check out this uplifting blog site that my new friend Heather Gee put together!

I look forward to Heather guest-blogging here at “Espressos of Faith” very soon!

 

 

 

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