Anne won the race!

Each year, ACCA (the private school that all of our kids have attended at least once!) holds a Jog-A-Thon to raise funds and awareness for the school. The idea is simple… the kids solicit pledges/per lap and then try to run as many laps as possible in the 1.5 hour time frame. Each lap is 1/4 mile.

Last year, I pushed Anne in her jogger stroller. Everyone loves Anne, so she enjoyed all the people cheering for her as we ran. But I thought it was time to ramp it up a notch…

My goal for Anne was for me to help her walk 1 lap (which is 1/4 mile). It’s hard to put into words just how far this is for Anne. It’s significantly longer than she has ever walked before. So because the goal was so lofty, we started slow. We took lots of “sweet tea” breaks along the way. The kids cheered for her as they passed – Kate passed us 15 times!!! Three-quarters of the way through, Anne was so, so tired. I was tired too! (It’s tedious bending over to help Anne keep her balance…) But! Canon was there to encourage Anne to persevere :)  Anne never cried. Not. Once. Even though some steps seemed almost impossible, she had the best “can-do” attitude. The girl toughed it out, and after 45-long-minutes, she did it!!!!

Thanks to my friend Elizabeth Smith of Libbie Wicket for the great photos!

Anne at the finish line!!!

It felt like the whole school was cheering for Anne as she finished.

It was a family effort!

So, so proud of our sweet Anne!!!

Anne was so proud of her accomplishment. The whole family went out to celebrate, and Anne kept saying, “I won the race! But next year, I’m going to walk the whole lap by myself!!!” Now THAT is something I want to see!!!!

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Staying in the story

A book I’ve been reading, A Praying Life, uses the concept of story to paint how God chooses to answer or not answer our prayers.

Many times we get discouraged by unanswered prayer – but if we take a wide angle view, we begin to understand that God is weaving His story into our lives… if we let Him. Each day we have the choice to join the BIG story of God saving the world and us along with it – or to put blinders on and just survive the day. If you’re anything like me (and let’s hope you’re not) I jump in and out of the story throughout the day.

I typically start the day in a stupor – feebly asking for help to get through the day – and then carpool begins, and then my real challenge begins… Kate. I’m homeschooling Kate this year because she’s been neglected since Anne’s accident – and it shows. Every day is different – except for the tears. I think one of us has cried every day since school started… except for last Thursday – and that’s just because she was gone on a field trip all day.

Kate’s stubborn and angry heart is like hitting a wall – which leads me to pray. There is no way I can change her heart – that can only be done by God. And then other times, the same wall that causes me to pray – makes me frustrated and angry, and I feel like screaming (which I have done a few times). So, I’m jumping in and out of the story – I jump in – and admit my helplessness and beg God to give me wisdom.. and patience. I need lots of patience… and then I jump out and fail miserably – which leads me to jump back in and ask God for forgiveness and help.

The good news is that God is gracious – and during this time of wrestling with both Kate’s and my own heart, He is patient and waiting for me to turn to Him. I find when I start the day admitting my desperate need to shepherd Kate and begging Him to give her a soft, teachable heart – well sometimes, Kate is her old, sweet self again, delightful, joyful and fun. And other times, she is hard, but we are able to work through the stubbornness and find submission. God is there, waiting to help me.

A little consistency would be nice. I need help staying in the story.

Lighthearted Luxuries

A few days ago, I was waiting in the front lobby of Nickajack Elementary to pick up Anne from school. Anne’s para-pro wheeled Anne out to meet me, and she was beaming. Anne’s para-pro has a hard job. She is with Anne all day to help her with all of her school tasks… everything from writing to bath-rooming.

“You look so happy today,” I said to her.

“I am! Anne had a great day. She did such good work today. It was a potato chip day!”

Now let me pause to explain… Potato chips are Anne’s absolute favorite food. She will do almost anything for a potato chip. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a video from earlier this summer to prove it :-)

But back to my conversation with Anne’s para-pro…

She continued, “I am so proud of Anne. And I am so excited!

Wow. There are several wonderful points I could make from this interchange… The first is that Anne’s para-pro is an answer to prayer. She feels called to work with special needs kids. She’s going back to school late in her life to get a degree in special education. She even works with special needs kids at her church. She’s older and wiser. She observes and is patient. She is a God-send.

But the second thought I walked away with was how foreign her lighthearted spirit was to me. I don’t experience lightheartedness very often since the accident. Our life is characterized by such hard physical care for Anne… most of the time, our lives seem heavy.

So I consider lightheartedness a luxury. And God gave me this luxury today :)

Canon got braces today, and I decided he didn’t need to go to school after such an ordeal. So, I brought Canon and Kate along with me to ride their bikes while I ran with some friends at the River. We veered off the wide, worn path to explore the narrow, rooty trails. Kate and Canon looked like Mountain Bike experts as they navigated the roots and rocks. And I was in heaven. I love trails. Love. them!

After our run, we decided (spontaneously) to pick up Anne early from school and then we all went out for milk-shakes. (A Milk shake for lunch makes tons of sense when your teeth are hurting from new braces.) We were all in the car, drinking our milkshakes and singing along to the radio when it hit me. I feel lighthearted.

I think God-given luxuries are the best. Don’t you?

3 Kids = 3 Schools

That’s right. All three kids are going to different schools.

I felt like a pro this morning, getting all three kids up and ready and out the door. Not so last year. Last year I was a mess!

God has been so faithful to provide the perfect school situation for each of my kids.

  • Canon enters the 4th grade at ACCA, an excellent private christian school. We discovered last spring that only one boy was returning to his class. I began praying for a new family with a 4th grade boy to come to ACCA. God answered! Joshua is the newest member of the 4th grade at ACCA. He is the oldest of three children. Up until now, he was home schooled, but because of a tragedy in his family – concerning his little sister – his mother decided to put him in private school. Does that sound familiar? Aside from the type of tragedy, Joshua and Canon have much in common. God has provided for Canon (and for Joshua).
  • Anne enters the 1st grade at Nickajack, an excellent public school in our area. I found out last spring that all of Anne’s therapists and para-pro’s would not be returning this year. So we prayed, specifically for Anne’s physical therapist and her new para-pro. I found out this morning that Anne’s new school PT worked with her in the Children’s Day Rehab Program 2 years ago. How amazing is that?? God takes care of Anne.
  • And Kate. Well, I’m homeschooling Kate. My little girl suffered from not having enough time with mommy last year. So now we have hours of uninterrupted time together. Our first morning has already been profoundly good. I pray that this year lays a foundation of godly character in her life.

So that’s our school year for 12-13. It promises to be a good, good year.

A lot of good, a bit of bad, and no ugly

I learned something from my meeting at Anne’s school today. Anne still saves her worst behavior for home. Everyone thinks Anne is sweet and loving. She just has a need for attention and lacks self-control. We came up with a positive reinforcement system that will hopefully give her more attention and rewards for good behavior.

Which leaves me to deal with the ugly stuff at home. Stuff like being mean to Kate and yelling at me. Whining and crying and calling me “stupid” when she doesn’t get her way. You know… all the deeper “character” stuff.

So, I’m pleased. I’m thankful for the individuals that surround and support Anne at school. They can work on behavior. And I’m thankful that Eric and I are the ones that get to pour God’s truth and love into her. We get to work on her heart. Thank you for your prayers!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

A day in the life

Canon and Kate started back to school yesterday, but Anne’s school doesn’t start until next week – which leaves just me and Anne together all week. I thought it might be fun to document what a day with Anne is like :-) So here goes…

6:05am – alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button (twice).

6:25am – get up, get ready – pack Canon and Kate’s lunches and make their breakfast. I’m spoiling them this week with fresh pancakes hot off the griddle. They better not get used to it.

7:00am – pry Kate out of bed – argue about tights vs. socks – force her to brush her hair and help Canon change the turtle’s water (we are turtle-sitting for a friend …that’s another story for another day).

7:15am – get Anne up, change her pull-up and carry her downstairs to the van while herding Canon and Kate in that direction…

7:45am – drop Canon and Kate off. Anne tries to talk to the guy helping with carpool… “How are you? You sure are doing a great job…” But he doesn’t notice. sigh.

8:05am – arrive home and make breakfast for Anne. She wants sausage and waffles – with syrup. It’s bath day so I let her have the syrup – but I can’t sit with her while she eats – she makes too big of a mess – so I sit at the computer and eat my oatmeal while checking my email.

8:30am – wipe the syrup off of Anne’s face, hands, clothes & table – And I let her watch Curious George while I decompress for 30 minutes.

9:00am – It’s poopy time. I give Anne one glycerin suppository and carry her to the potty. We sing songs and play pretend games while she works to pass her bowel movement. We sing the “Days of the Week Song” and I’m shocked that she remembers that it’s Wednesday. Every day we go over “yesterday, today and tomorrow” and talk about the unique aspects of each day. She has a hard time with time concepts – that’s typical for frontal lobe brain damage – but today… she remembered! Yeah!

She thinks she needs another suppository to pass more – so I give her one more suppository and sure enough – she had to go more. After 30 minutes… she’s done. That’s actually pretty quick. (Note… glycerin suppositories have zero medication – they simply act as a physical stimulant… Anne still needs a little bit of help to get things started)

9:30am – clean up kitchen from breakfast and put a roast in the crock pot while Anne plays on her ipad.  I had to borrow  ingredients from my mom – who has her own apartment in our basement. She’s still asleep, so I have to be super quiet – I’ll tell her I stole vinegar worchestershire sauce later – when I give her a birthday card. She’s 73 today… she can sleep as long as she likes! By this time, Anne’s already had two seizures. The last one was a bad one – which means she comes out of this trance-like state extremely agitated. Much crying and slapping and biting. Ugh. It’s bath time…

10:00am – Let Anne play in the bathtub while I clean the bathroom and straighten the kids’ rooms. I check on the turtle – who has gone poopy in her fresh water. Typical. Next up… I have to wash Anne’s hair – which is my least favorite thing to do – except for maybe brushing her hair. Her head was hyper-sensitive before the accident – and unbelievably – it’s even more sensitive now. She screams and thrashes the whole time – I try to restrain her so at least something stays dry in the bathroom – but by the end… I’m soaking wet and we’re both upset. And then I have to brush her hair – it’s easier to do when it’s wet – but she still hates it. hates. it. Again, I have to hold her right hand as she tries to pull the brush from me. But she’s left with beautiful, tangle free hair – and I’m left needing a glass of wine – too bad I don’t like wine ;-)

11:00am – This is our special time. I read to her, and then we review her sight words. Then, I make sentences with her sight words and she practices tracking the words left to right. It’s hard for her to see the words on the far left… so we practice as she points to each word as she says it. This is hard for Anne. So I reward her by letting her lie down on her tummy and I rub and stretch out her legs and feet. She gets sleepy, so I lie down with her and we’re both asleep – and bam – we wake up and it’s after 12pm. Anne has an OT appointment at 1pm, so we start scrambling :-)

12:15pm – I change Anne’s pull-up and put on her braces. I don’t have time to fix her lunch, so we head to Wendy’s. She eats better in the car anyway. I don’t know why.

1pm – OT – and 45 minutes of freedom for me. I run to publix to grab a card for my mom + extras of all the ingredients I had to borrow from her this morning. I get back to the OT office to find that Anne has worked a puzzle she has struggled with in the past – but this time she did it easily. Progress. We like it!

2pm – I have 45 minutes until I have to pick up Canon and Kate – so Anne and I run a few errands. Anne talks to everyone she sees. She’s always so sweet to strangers. She forces me out of my introverted shell… and then we head to school. In the carpool line, Canon’s teacher asks to speak to me. Great – this is either really good or really bad – thankfully, it’s really good. In bible, his class is discussing Jesus’ parables, so after talking through the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Canon’s teacher asks the class –  how would you classify the soil of your own heart? rocky, thorny, good? Canon’s answer: I hope my heart is good soil… but I’m not sure. His innocent humility touched his teacher, and she took the time to share with me. You gotta love that.

3:25pm – We all get home and give Me-Ma her birthday card (along with more Worcestershire sauce and Apple Cider Vinegar) and promise to take her out for a good meal this weekend. Anne always spends an hour with Me-Ma in the afternoons, so I can spend time with Canon and Kate and get dinner started. But today.. I have a meal in the crock-pot, so I’m writing this blog post – which has turned out to be really long!

It’s time for me to play with Kate. I’ll finish out the day with an evening post…

A picture update

We’ve been on a whirlwind tour of Christmas parties, concerts and other holiday activities. As of today, all of my children are home for Christmas break – just in time to celebrate Christmas with Eric’s family tomorrow – and then the 24th :-) I love Christmas Eve! I’m in a much better place this Christmas than last year…. when the grief pulled me under. The light eventually came, but last December was hard. Thinking back on it… I miss how dependent I felt on God. There’s something about being low that makes us look up.

Here are some highlights of the last few weeks…

Anne received an award in front of all the lower grades for mastering her 50 sight words. This pic was taken after the ceremony. Kate and Canon were so proud of her!

One of Anne’s many “holiday” parties…. She got to make a gingerbread house – but all she really wanted to do was eat the candy :-)

Merry Christmas from our crazy family to yours!!!!!

School update

I think I’ve shared before how grateful I am for Anne’s school… but it bears repeating :-)

We had Anne’s annual IEP meeting last week – which is basically a time when all of Anne’s teachers and therapists gather in one room to review Anne’s progress and set new goals for the year. I always cry at these meetings… and I always feel silly when I do – but I can’t help it. I cry when I’m grateful, and I’m just so grateful for all the people that seem to be “for” Anne. They are truly rooting for Anne to do well, and I feel they give their absolute best to help her reach her potential.

Anne receives Physical, Occupational and Speech therapy at school. She is in a regular kindergarten class, and she has her own para-professional to assist her in all of her school tasks – from writing to walking. Her para-pro is an answer to prayer. He (yes, I said “he”) is a recent college grad who has a degree in phys. ed. …He wants to coach – but he had to settle for being a para-pro… to a difficult seven-year old girl (who LOVES him – oh yes. Anne loves him.) He is so steady. He has endured much abuse from Anne – biting, hitting – but he never loses his temper – he just hands out the appropriate consequence. He notices subtle behaviors in Anne that others would easily miss – both good and bad. He takes the initiative to do more than what is expected to help her reach her potential. He really is impressive!

Anne’s primary special ed. teacher is so dedicated. I feel like it’s her number one goal to provide the best services for Anne. Her therapists are all great, but Anne especially loves her Physical Therapist, Ms. Lynn. Somehow Lynn is able to push her without Anne getting too upset. Today she walked farther than she ever had… and she is starting to propel the walker a few steps by herself!

How much farther Ms. Lynn?

Finally, the counselor at Anne’s school recently reached out to me. She is going to include Anne in her Rainbows program (which helps kids cope with grief, feelings of being different, etc.) She told me that when Anne came to Nickajack, she took the initiative to read all of Anne’s CaringBridge site – just to familiarize herself with Anne’s history. She’s been following Anne, and determined that Anne’s self awareness has improved so that she would benefit from her Rainbows group. She’s right… It is the perfect time. Anne’s counselor was just named the NATIONAL SCHOOL COUNSELOR OF THE YEAR. Now that’s amazing!!!! The AJC  ran an article about her. You can read about her here.

Anne is doing so well in school… but one of the reasons is because she goes to a great school and she is surrounded by great professionals! Go Nickajack!!!!

ANNE DID IT!!!!

I’m so excited I could just burst!!!!

At the beginning of the school year, Anne’s Kindergarten teacher sent home information about the “sight-word” challenge. On November 15th, each kid (that wanted to participate) would be tested on 50 sight words, and if the student could read 45/50 words, he/she could participate in a special after-school celebration.

Anne and I have been working diligently since August. It’s taken Anne months of hard work to master the list… And SHE DID IT!!!! She got 48/50 words and gets to participate in the after school celebration today! Isn’t that AMAZING and WONDERFUL! I’m so proud of her! WOO-HOO!!!!!

Thinking of how far she has come… Well it’s miraculous. May all the glory go to God “…who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20).

Crazy-fast life

Who knew Kindergarten could be so demanding… on the parents! Being a home school mom for the last five years, I just wasn’t prepared to manage all the paperwork and volunteer “opportunities” that “real” school would throw at me. Thinking that I would have so much more time, I naively agreed to help in lots of small ways… but all the small things are multiplying, and I find myself pulling back and rethinking everything… I’ve already told a few people that “I just can’t do this anymore.”

I had three personal goals going into this school year… 1. Exercise. I’ve done that. God has blessed me with a group of moms from ACCA that I can run with on a regular basis. This has been WONDERFUL! 2. Maintain my home. Hmmmm… I barely do this :-)  And 3. Have time to write. Well, the writing thing hasn’t happened. I have so many writing projects in my head and scratched down on scrap paper – but they have yet to be written.

It’s amazing how our crazy-fast culture can feel like a tsunami and all of  a sudden you get swallowed up in the crazy-fast, swirling waters. It seems impossible sometimes… to just have a simple, slow, margin-filled life. I’ve decided I’m going to guard my time like Fort Knox and “strive” to slow down! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Now off to be the “Mystery Reader” for Anne’s Kindergarten class. It will probably be a while before I volunteer for this again ;-)