Rest for the Caretaker

I’ve spent the last three days at a retreat in New York State for Latin enthusiasts. Let me make a disclaimer: I am not a Latin enthusiast. I am a Latin teacher. I can even say that I enjoy teaching and studying Latin, but it would not be my life-long dream to attend a conference for Latin enthusiasts!

So why did I go? One word: Rest. 

As a caregiver, I need regular bouts of rest. Teaching Latin is restful for me. I teach in a supportive, Christian environment surrounded by competent co-workers who inspire me both academically and spiritually. Most days I leave my job refreshed and energized to do my real job which is to take care of my family.

But there is a deeper reason why teaching and attending a Latin retreat is restful to me. By engaging with language, I am immersed in truth, goodness, and beauty. Latin is a beautiful language. It is the beauty of language which causes me to marvel at both Shakespeare and the Broadway musical, Hamilton. It is my love of language which compels me to read classics like A Tale of Two Cities and also appreciate a good story like Harry Potter. Interacting with language through writing inspires me to observe the world more closely – to look for evidence of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty in my everyday world and through my daily, tenuous circumstances. And ultimately, it is my love of truth that compels me to study and write about God’s word. Seeing the themes of God’s redemption woven through the pages of Scripture is good and beautiful!

Truth, goodness, and beauty.

It is easy to notice goodness when surrounded by Latin enthusiasts chattering about their love for Latin grammar.


It is easy to enjoy beauty when surrounded by lush, green gardens on a clear summer day.

It is easy to appreciate truth when given uninterrupted time to study God’s word. But how easy is it to find truth, goodness, and beauty within the confines of the relentless monotony of caregiving – or any other difficult circumstance? (Hint: It’s not very easy.)

Allowing space to recharge and re-notice God’s truth, goodness, and beauty heightens my awareness of God’s constant presence when thrown back into the fast-paced noise of everyday life… For example, when I’m exhausted from caregiving, there is nothing beautiful about playing Candyland with Anne. But if I’m patient and have the energy to stop complaining, God reveals the deeper beauty of a child’s unhindered joy. On the surface, there is not much good in having to regularly help Anne to the bathroom. But undergirding this mundane task is the goodness that Anne trusts me implicitly. And if I’m rested, it’s easier to believe the truth that there is a hope beyond this world.

I’m so grateful for rest.

Matthew 11:29 (ESV)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 

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Valentine’s Rant

Valentine’s Day is not at the top of my list of favorite holidays. Its saccharine commercialism turns my cynical stomach. Besides, I’m a middle school teacher, and we middle school teachers KNOW that it is best to avoid all references to romantic love of any kind!

So. I forgot all about Valentine’s Day. Which is not good when you have kids in elementary school. In case you didn’t know, there is an unwritten rule that says that all elementary school-aged children must bring every classmate a special valentine – preferably with candy attached.

This day started as usual – with me waking Anne up early to get ready to catch the bus. Anne’s first words to me were, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mommy!” This is from the girl who struggles with memory and knowing the days of the week. She confuses “yesterday” and “tomorrow” on a regular basis. But she knew it was Valentine’s Day. She then asked to wear her “love” shirt to school. “You know the one, Mommy – the blue shirt with L-O-V-E spelled out with arrows!!” Really? Who knew Anne loved Valentine’s Day so much?!

I felt like a total mom-failure when I realized that I would be sending my Valentine-loving-Anne to school with NO VALENTINES. How does this happen? How do I forget a MAJOR HOLIDAY?! Anne’s sister, Kate, was not happy with me when she realized that she would be hand-writing each Valentine on note cards on the way to school. No fancy-schmancy store-bought cards for the Jackson girls. It’s hand-written or nothing!

Oh… In case I forget,  Happy Valentine’s Day ;)

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Silly Jackson Girls

The End of Summer

It’s hard to believe Anne goes back to school tomorrow. Part of me is sad that I won’t have as much time with her. But Anne thrives in the school setting. She’s excited, and I’m happy for her :)

Anne had a fantastic week at Camp TBI… For one week, she gets to be a regular kid going to camp. What a gift!!

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Just before Anne climbed the rockwall!!

Just before Anne climbed the rockwall!!

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Anne with her counselor, Haley

Anne with her counselor, Haley

Anne telling jokes at the talent show!

Anne telling jokes at the talent show!

Reformation Day & A Note from the Teacher

Today is Halloween, but it is also Reformation Day. Reformation Day is the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The debate which followed prompted the start of the Protestant Reformation. I love Reformation Day as it reminds me of God’s sovereign care to preserve the truth of His Word throughout history.

On a much smaller scale, I have been reminded of God’s sovereign care as He continues to work in Anne’s recovery. Recently, Anne started therapy for her left hand . After 4.5 years of NEVER being able to move her left hand, she used her thumb and index finger to pinch a goldfish and bring it to her mouth. If I hadn’t seen it personally, I would never have believed it possible. This is AMAZING.

Also, Anne’s special education teacher recently posted in the comments section, and it was such a glowing report, I wanted to highlight it :)

If I may add to your post. As some of your friends and church members may not realize how far Anne has really come. We had another annual meeting at school for Anne. It’s been almost 4 years since Anne returned to school since the accident. I will NEVER forget when she came into my classroom( along with Mrs. Jackson, Canon and Kate) and Anne asked, “Are you my mother( from the Dr. Seuss book)?” She’s come so far from not throwing things in the classroom to being able to function fairly well as a 3rd grader. She can do quite a bit of academic work, she’s starting to read, can type sentences and paragraphs with assistance and is even learning addition with regrouping, and multiplication as been introduced. She even started using the regular computer with a track ball. We are even discussing more assistive technology as she approaches middle school. Unthinkable 2 years ago when she would just turn the off and on switch on the computer. Also, she uses her walker throughout the school day. Quite an accomplishment from where she was…I firmly believe that Anne would not have come as far as she has without the support of her family and friends.

We are so proud of Anne. Her life is a testimony to God’s goodness and sovereignty!!

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Anne and her big brother, Canon

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Anne standing with her little sister, Kate

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Kate and I dressed up for our school’s celebration of Reformation Day

Happy Reformation Day :)

My end-of-the-school-year Rant

Instead of joining everyone in ranting about how crazy the end of school is, I’ve decided to just go MIA. I watch the emails pile up in my inbox about this end-of-the-year party and that end-of-the-year party and I can’t keep track of them. I didn’t show for my oldest’s party, and I didn’t help with my youngest’s party. I didn’t even contribute food to Anne’s end-of-the-year breakfast. I am the worst end-of-the-year mom ever.

But what I have been doing is trying to prepare myself for the even harder months of June and July – those months when Anne (+ the other two kiddos) are home all day. Anne requires tons of attention and time to keep her from regressing over the summer. I have to keep her mind engaged and provide new challenges. It’s work,  joyful work, but work none-the-less.

The one end-of-the-year event I did purpose to attend was Anne’s award’s ceremony. In fact, the whole family came! This year, her special education teacher chose Anne as the “Academic Student of the Year.” Anne was given a medal in front of 400 students. Afterward she said, “I was so embarrassed!” That statement, alone, is proof of her progress as it reveals a new level of self-awareness that we haven’t seen before!

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This is what Anne’s teacher said as she presented her award:

The year’s Academic Student of the Year in Ms. Adrienne’s Class is someone who has not only improved academically in all areas, but has improved in being able to work independently and in having appropriate social interactions with her classmates and teachers. In addition, this student has mastered many of her gross and fine motor skills and is starting to walk around the school building regularly with hand held adult assistance or her walker. This student’s success is attributed to not only the student working hard, but also the support she has received from a variety of teachers and therapists. Most of all, the support this student receives from her family and her church is what has helped her to achieve her goals. We are pleased to announce Anne Jackson as Academic Student of the Year. Way to Go!! We are very proud of you!!

We are so proud of Anne. Thank you for your prayers and support of Anne and our family. Your support, prayers and encouragement have been multiplied through Anne so that an entire school has taken notice. May God receive all the glory!

Special Visitors

According to Anne’s teacher, a few of the fire fighters who helped with Anne’s rescue (4 years ago) came to visit her this morning at school!!! How incredible is that??!!!!

The emergency personnel that surrounded our vehicle in the minutes after our accident were real-life heroes that day. God used those men and women to save Anne’s life. Many of them came to visit Anne in the hospital – days, weeks and months afterwards. And many of them still follow Anne’s story on this blog.

So here is a shout-out to the heroes that helped save Anne’s life…Thank you!! Thank you for risking your life for the welfare of others. Thank you for your commitment to Anne’s recovery and thank you for taking the time to visit her today at school! You made her day and you made her family very grateful.

God’s Amazing Answer to Prayer!!!

Well friends… those of you who have prayed so faithfully and those of you who have prayed once or those of you who just think of Anne occasionally… today is the today to rejoice and thank God for his amazing and wonderful gifts!!

I’m so excited. Can you tell I’m excited??!!!

Anne is now walking with a walker, independently. She can propel and steer the walker independently. She has never been able to propel any assistive walking device by herself before last week. I can’t emphasize how amazing this is… Just watch :)

(Note: Anne’s Physical Therapist is holding Anne’s gait belt which is around her waist for safety only. She is not assisting Anne. Anne is walking, balancing, propelling and steering all on her own!)

In this 2nd video, Anne’s walking improves as she walks past a group of her peers… just watch how proud she looks :)

Here’s a cool twist to this amazing answer to prayer. Three years ago, when Anne was discharged from CHOA’s Day Rehab program, I asked the PT if Anne was ready to try walking with a walker. Her truthful answer of “No,” was very discouraging at the time. Wouldn’t you know that this very same PT accepted a position within the school system last year. And on her first day of work, she walked into Anne’s class and Anne recognized her. Anne, her former patient from Day Rehab, was her first patient in the school system. And it was this same PT (who told me, “No,” to a walker three years ago) who worked to find the perfect walker for Anne. This is Lavonda, Anne’s PT, walking with her today. I am so grateful for her expertise!!

Anne’s first day of 2nd grade

After waiting 20 minutes just to turn into the school’s parking area, we were forced by the flow of traffic to park a long distance away from the front door. So, as I was quickly trying to wheel Anne through the parking lot, across the side walks and into the school doors, I think we were stopped 4 times by teachers and/or staff yelling, “Hey Anne!!” to which Anne would reach out her arms and receive a warm hug. The hugs didn’t stop when we entered the building… oh no. Everyone seems to know Anne and Anne welcomes everyone with a hug.

This is the joy of having a special needs child. Anne isn’t fluent in the norms of society. She shows love unashamedly, and amazingly, she receives the same sort of un-filtered affection in return.

I had to pick up Anne early from her first day of school for a Doctor’s appointment. This was a follow-up visit after a Botox treatment. (Anne receives Botox treatments in her spastic muscles to help increase her range of motion.)

This particular doctor and nursing staff have followed Anne since her days in the hospital. So… as you can imagine, Anne is just as well-loved at this doctor’s office as she is at school. Always making jokes, Anne keeps everyone laughing. Today she said…

“Why are you talking about Botox? You wanna know about Botox??? Well, I’m a girl and I always wear Botox in my hair.”

And that is why everyone loves Anne so much! She brings us so much joy!

Quick Prayer Request:
Anne’s favorite para-pro, Mrs. Bush, is not able to work with Anne because of under-staffing. Anne’s teacher is requesting an additional para-pro which hopefully will free up Mrs. Bush to work with her. That decision is under review at a meeting on August 14th. We’re praying for the best scenario to work out for Anne (and everyone else in Anne’s special needs class – including the other students and her teacher and para-pro’s).

Preparing for school

Our summer is winding down. Anne goes back to school next Wednesday (8/7)!

Anne responded so well to serial casting that she only had to have three weeks of casts instead of six, so she will be able to go to school cast-free (serial casting is a technique that increases the range of motion in Anne’s ankle).

This is the first summer that Anne seems brighter and sharper at the end compared to the beginning. Her amazing use of language keeps us in stitches. She uses her words in such a clever and witty way.

The other day, Kate was working through a book of riddles, and Anne was able to figure out riddles which stumped Kate. Anne has excellent reasoning ability. She’s still so smart.

Her challenges are her short attention span, impulsivity and cortical visual impairment (CVI). (CVI is a broad term for visual impairment caused by a problem with the brain, rather than with the eyes.) These are all huge obstacles which Anne must overcome in order to read.

Fluent Reading and Fluid Walking. These are our two dream goals for Anne. These goals are so long-term, I feel like there are a hundred short-term goals to be met to get there. But we’ll keep plugging along… little step by little step.

God continues to supply exactly what we need precisely when we need it. Never less, and never more. We pray for the faith to trust him in the moment and leave the future in his hands. In the meantime, God uses Anne to give us so much joy! We are so grateful for the gift of her life!!

Yeah for Summer!

i-TXWc6Dc-XLAhhh… Summer. It’s been a wonderfully relaxing week – especially compared to the craziness that surrounds the last month of school.

Part of that craziness involved me dealing with medical providers and insurance to work out Anne’s therapy schedule for the summer. As is typical, God worked it all out perfectly – but just the opposite of how I had planned! God always knows best.

So Anne will do another round of TheraSuit therapy in June. And then she will have serial casting done in July & August.

Anne is doing GREAT! I don’t know how to describe her improvements… I just know she’s better. She’s less impulsive, more relaxed, less agitated, more focused. Eric and I are both extremely grateful for our Anne’s progress.

Anne’s Orthopedically Impaired Special Ed. class had an awards ceremony at the end of the year. Anne won several awards! I think she won four… “Most Improved in Writing,” “Outstanding Work in Phonics & Reading,” “Outstanding Work in Sight Word Recognition,” and the one I’m most proud of was “Most Improved Student in Primary Grades.” Woo Hoo!!! Anne had a fantastic year, and we are so proud of her!

So Proud!

So Sweet!

So Sweet!

So Proud!

We love our Anne!

We love our Anne!

And the best news we received at the end of the year was that Anne’s AMAZING Para-pro will be returning next year! I’m so thankful for Mrs. Bush :)

Anne loves Mrs. Bush!

Anne loves Mrs. Bush!

Happy Summer! I’ll post updates during TheraSuit Therapy. Thank you so much for your prayers for Anne!