Monday, February 27, 2012

life lesson #347


“There is a time for everything…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

It easier—much, much, MUCH easier—to parent a child from birth to high school graduation than it is to help them navigate the years from graduation to complete independence.

With 6 children, we have every learning style and love language here.  We have strong will kids and compliant ones. Bold, in-your-face kids and quiet, reserved ones too.  Artists and architects, engineers and athletes.  Some are firmly rooted with much common sense, others are a bit more:::spacey, shall we say.  :)   There are kids who are too smart for their own good and those with significant learning and behavior issues.  But they all have one thing in common:  during childhood, all have had clear boundaries, high expectations, and appropriate consequences for misbehavior.  We’ve never had public temper tantrums or food thrown on the floor (not more than once per child anyway!).  They learn early how to behave appropriately, and there’s virtually nowhere we wouldn’t be able to take them.  It’s fun to have them able to share life with us in this way, and worth the effort it takes.  They learn early on here that ‘no’ means ‘no’ from Mom and Dad.  They understand that we expect age-appropriate behavior, and we will correct inappropriate actions.  They understand that while there are lots of ‘no’ in their world, Mom and Dad do their best to provide as many ‘yes’ answers as they can.  The ‘no’ are primarily for safety and protection—of themselves, others, and things around them.

When our big guys were small, someone in our life expressed concern that we were far too hard on them, that our expectations were just plain too high.  Our children would hate us when they were teens—they would be rebellious and nasty.  Over the years, though, a funny thing has happened.  That person’s children (there were none when ours were very small) are now approaching the teen years and ours are mostly grown.   And she wonders why her children are so difficult while ours were pleasant, delightful teens.  Ummm….you reap what you sow??

Anyway, although everyone here is healthy and (mostly) happy, this ‘early adult’ phase is challenging.  College decisions are hard.  Career choices can be painful, especially when it’s hard to figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be.   Catching a vision and finding the resources to pursue it isn’t easy.  Rejection hurts, whether it comes from a program you hope to study, a career you hope to pursue, or a person you hope to spend your life with.  The skinned knees and blatant outright defiance of the early years are a cakewalk compared to the heartaches and broken dreams that come in the early adult years.  Then, a kiss and a cookie (or some appropriate discipline!) took care of the issue.  Now, there’s very little I can do but listen and love.  Pray.  Be there.  Encourage.  Pray more.  Offer advice (cautiously.  And sparingly!)  Listen more.  Pray more.   Help them explore new dreams and catch new visions.  Remind them that what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger.  (Yeah sure!)  Grab their hands and help them hang on to hope…because sometimes that’s all there is. 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father

There is no shadow of turning with thee…

..Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, and ten thousand beside.

(Great is Thy Faithfulness words by Thomas O Chisholm, 1923.  Music by William N Runyan, 1923.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

a success…and a better idea of what we’re up against

It’s been an interesting week.  Some changes to our normal schedule, and several of us STILL recovering from the wicked nasty stomach virus and cold that have plagued us since February 4.  I will say—it’s nice to be feeling fully human again.

We had a huge success this week!  It is so fun to see things starting to click for our guy.  He struggles with much academically, but this week made great strides.  Working on his math worksheet, he did one of the addition problems:  7 + 4 = ______  He got out his math blocks (the 7 block and the 4 block) and set them side by side.  After looking at them for a moment, he picked up the 7 block and said “7.”  Then he proceeded to move the the 4 block and count “8…9…10…11.”  Prior to this, he’s needed to start at 1 every time and count the blocks.  To see him grasp that he can start at the end of the first math block was amazing.  It was what came next, though, that had me jumping up and down.  He worked through problem 3 and problem 4 in the same fashion.  Then we got to problem 5:  7 + 5 = ___________.  He looked at me, then said, “I know!  It’s 12.”  I must have looked at him funny, because he immediately started explaining:  “7 + 4 = 11, so 7 + 5 = 12 because 12 is 1 more than 11, and 5 is 1 more than 4.”  I think the neighbors on the next street heard the yelling.  I am SO PROUD of him!  That’s a huge concept for him to get. 

AND we’re getting a handle on some things that are helping with the phonics instruction.  He doesn’t decode (put sounds together to make words) well yet, but he encodes (breaks a word down into its phonetic parts—basically spelling) well.  So we’ve changed some things around in his phonics lessons and we’re seeing more and more success there.  He LOVES getting things right, and the more we learn about how he learns, the more he learns.  It’s a good pattern,  :)

The better idea of what we’re up against?  Well, try this one:  2 days ago we had a conversation.  He asked me to write something on the whiteboard for him.  He wanted to remember later in the day for Daddy.  Hearing loss and language processing difficulties definitely came into play.  He asked me to write “Pass the Sold House” on the board.  After several minutes, lots of clarifying questions (and some tearing my hair out, if I’m honest) I discovered that he had been watching This Old House on PBS and they were running a special that night, with updates on “past this old house” homes.  Yep.  “Past This Old House” had become “Pass the Sold House”.  The problem?  He just doesn’t hear the difference between the 2 sentences.  No matter how I enunciate, he cannot distinguish the 2.   It will keep our lives interesting, to say the least.

Hopefully soon I’ll get some concentrated time to pull together a more formal plan to get my guy moving ahead.  In the meantime, we’re praising God for success and insight this week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

~Ps 31:24


(The basketball hoop, from the snow and ice storm January 19.  We ended up with 5” of snow covered with 1” of ice, then topped with another 1” of snow.  Gorgeous but dangerous.)

It’s been a long week.  I think I’m glad we’re finally to the end, quite frankly.  If it were up to me, we’d cancel the rest of today and tomorrow and move straight into Saturday.

Last weekend was crazy busy.  Sick people (read that an adult male) at home.  Last home basketball game of the season, with the concomitant responsibilities (concession stand food, senior night activities, post game clean up).  Winter storm clean up.  Baby shower.  Wedding.  Anticipation of a meeting with the neuropsychology team at Children’s on Monday.  Sunday night, it all blew up.  I came home from the wedding with a killer migraine and promptly fell asleep on the sofa.  I’m sure the migraine and resulting nausea were stress induced.  Monday wasn’t much better—speech therapy and school for the little guys while battling a migraine isn’t fun.  We survived.  After lunch, I dropped the dynamic duo off with their big sister, met up with Jim, and headed to the hospital to discuss the results of the testing.

I am SO glad we did this!!  I was incredibly nervous going into Monday afternoon’s meeting.  Although I knew for sure that we would learn some things, I had this irrational fear that we would be told either a) he’s totally normal and everything is all in your heads; or b) this is as good as it’s ever going to get and you’d better figure out how you’re going to handle having him live with you for the rest of your lives because he’s never going to be able to learn.  Neither, of course, is true. 

Instead, the afternoon meeting was filled with laughter, good news, and great news.  The good news is that  neither of the extremes I feared is remotely close to true.  He has some fairly significant learning issues, but they can be overcome.  We also learned something totally fascinating!  Kids with craniofacial issues like cleft lip and cleft palate often have brain differences too.  Those systems all form at the same time.  The issue?  Some of the brain development is delayed, and it can be as much as 2 years delayed.  (That explains our concern about a 4 or 5 year old in a 7 year old’s body!)  Craniofacial kids will be neurologically delayed by about 2 years for much of their formative life, catching up somewhere around age 23-25 because of the brain’s neuroplasticity (ability to adapt).  Amazing!  The great news?  Although the doctor is not a proponent of home education, she’s all for it in his case.  When we did the pre-assessment interview, I outlined my concerns for her and shared my observations.  On testing day, I filled out 4 questionnaires and had a long conversation with the doctor.  He performed nearly 100% to what I had reported, seen, and observed!  That’s almost unheard of.  She was so surprised to have a parent that ‘in tune’ with their child!!  Umm….hello???  We are TOGETHER roughly 16 hours/day every single day.  I see how he learns…or doesn’t.  She was impressed with our curriculum selections for him…almost all exactly what he needs:  hands-on, mastery based math.  Reading based science/history/language arts.  Multi-sensory phonics instruction.  We’ve got it covered, even before knowing what the issues are.

I wish I could say everything is now just peachy.  It’s not.  And, quite frankly, I expect a bumpy road for many years.  But we have a much better handle on what to expect and on how to help him learn.  The doctor wants him reevaluated next January, so we’ve got some things to accomplish!  It is my fervent hope we can go in next winter and show her just what a homeschooled student can do.  I don’t anticipate that he’ll be able to read fluently, but that’s okay.  Keeping his ‘brain age’ in mind, I’m going to hide away some weekend soon and set some goals for him.  I know he’s capable of more than we’re doing now…it’s more a matter of adjusting things here so that we have the right mix of lessons and reinforcement to see success.  Knowing that we’re doing the right thing for him helps on the tough days.  Keeping the big picture in mind, we move forward!

With renewed hope…

“For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  ~Jeremiah 29:11