Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Little Girl That Could...My Own Little Engine Story

I've struggled to know what to say or not to say in case I say too much and offend. I never want my girls to feel this blog is something they dread because I share about our family. But then, God keeps telling me to share this story so someone who needs help can hear it, have hope and see what we've seen. One of our girls has struggled to learn from books. Reading was hard. Comprehension is tough. Math was easy for most of her school until she hit grade 6. She has always loved hands on activities. She learns best by doing and she learns best by organizing her thoughts with color. She has to see it to know it and to see it, it has to be colorful. Once she gets it, it's there. But getting her to that point has been nothing short of a miracle.

As a homeschool mom, the journey of teaching this child had brought me to my knees many a night. I felt like a failure often. Why can't I help her learn? What am I missing? As a trained teacher, I felt this was the learn how she learns best and teach that way. Everything that worked with the "typical" student, did not work with her. So I kept digging. I kept praying. I kept trying new things. I kept hearing God tell me to keep doing what we were doing on those days I worried I was ruining her.

God cares for His kids. He places them where they need to be for what He needs them to learn. I know this is true, because we lived it. My girl could not read and I was struggling to find a way to teach her. God lead me to a co-op where there was a mom who would tutor kids with reading struggles using Orton-Gillingham approach, which is what they use for dyslexic kids. Her son was dyslexic and she tutored through the local dyslexic group. So she was a wealth of information, still is. I was able to see where my girl was growing quickly. After three years of her tutoring my sweet gal, she released her from tutoring. My girl could read. She was able to read at grade level. And the world was good....until middle school hit.

Once in middle school, we noticed a drastic change in her ability to comprehend what she was reading. Grades started to suffer because she couldn't remember what she was reading. So I sought help. Through some testing and such, we learned a lot about our girl, most of which we already knew but it was good to see that we do know her and we weren't messing her up. Regardless, daily work was painful for her. And to see a child struggle is one thing. To hear them suffer and feel stupid, well that breaks the teacher momma's heart. So I started researching options for a little assistance as we figured out that the reason school got so hard at the middle school level was because they now are required to use higher level thinking skills which could not be highlighted in the book with pretty colors, or color coded note cards. This meant, she had to recall the story, make inferences and write what she concurred. For a kid with dyslexic tendencies...that is so difficult.

In my research and my hunt to find answers, I found that in my girls mind, she does not make a movie picture of the books as she reads, like her sister would. For example, when we read a story, we "see" that story running through our minds like a movie. For her, there is no movie. So no movie equals not able to pull information for recall which means not able to make those higher level thinking questions work. So I came across a program that I wanted for her to be taught which would teach this skill. We found a couple companies that would work. One wanted her to attend for 6 weeks this summer for 4-5 hours each day at a price tag of 12,000!!! Holy cow! Then the one we used chose to have us come 6 hours a week, two days a week through summer. Then we went for four hours two days a week this fall. Right now she is taking  a break until end of January and then we go back for one hour sessions twice weekly. During these sessions, they are training her how to take what she reads, create that movie in her mind to allow her to pull from that to connect the higher level thinking skills. This option was much cheaper, but still very pricey. But wait til you hear the payoff....

My sweet girl has NEVER picked up a book to read for enjoyment. EVER! I just assumed, at the time, it was a personality thing. She also NEVER unpacked her day driving around or arriving home as her sister had. Again, I assumed it was a personality thing. But I've found that is not true!! It's a brain wiring thing! As the tutors worked with my girl, she started getting in the van and unloading her day with me, as her sister has always done. She talked the entire 45 minute ride home often. Other times, she worked so hard she sat in silence. We called that brain tired! I get that! But to see those moments connect for her and make sense in a way she could retell was nothing short of amazing. There were times I felt overwhelmed at listening to all she shared because it was music to my ears, answer to prayers and I didn't want it to end.

About a month ago, a sweet friend watched her while my  husband and I went to Chicago. She shared a movie with her which sparked an interest in reading the book. I had not read the books, seen the movie nor did I want to honestly.  So I talked it over with my man and we decided at her age, if she is asking for a book, we buy it and talk through any issues that pop up. So we did. My girl was found sitting on her bed of all things....READING!!! My child was reading a book for pleasure!!! She finished that first book in two weeks. Begged to buy the second book and finished it in three days! We are now on the third book and believe she will finish it this weekend. I can't tell you what it does to this momma to see what you've always known to be child is more than capable. She is achieving things at a pace I'm amazed.

Some would have written her off. They would have said I needed to be realistic at what she can do. They would have said she just "can't " do what I want her to do. They would have said put her in school because they have "trained" professionals to do what you can't. They would have said she just can't learn.I know that because it has been said to me by professionals, family and friends.  But God had placed on my heart early on to teach these girls the way they learn...the way He created them. So as I stepped out of the box, I learned that ALL God's children can learn. We just have to find the way He wired them to do so and then pour everything we have into that way until the light comes on and they soar on their own. I'm not saying school is easy. I'm not saying she doesn't get frustrated. But you know what, my girl is reading for pleasure, tackling school work independently and downloading her day to me more and more and I could not be more grateful! Bottom line to that mom who is ready to quit...pray, keep going until you find the answer, ask lots of questions and never give up on your child. The pay off is priceless!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Momma's Journey

This is becoming my journal to good health physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have been on a wild journey the past year and a half and I have to say that I have learned so much about myself, my family, my friends,  faith and my sweet Jesus. I will start at what I consider the beginning: Alaska cruise 2013. Here we are at the Musher Camp overlook. It was a great day, but I was so tired it was very difficult to enjoy a lot of what we did. 
We had moved from our home of 13 years the month prior to leaving, two weeks to be exact. I was finishing schooling the girls, driving them to activities and managing the home as usual as well as painting the rooms and emptying boxes so we could be moved in prior to this cruise we had planned. But I was also finding myself to be more and more exhausted over simple tasks, forgetful and as always, wacky female issues. This woman in this picture was tired...physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I look at this picture, I feel sad. That is such a fake smile. I know what this woman is feeling, thinking, hiding behind those glasses so as not to alarm anyone how exhausted she truly is. Why? because I have to keep up. It's my job...or so I put that pressure on myself. I had to be actively involved in whatever the girls were to a point that I was in  leadership roles on top of homeschooling, managing a home, moving and helping my man at his office. Life had gotten out hand for this lady...and there were days she felt so overwhelmed, but refused to admit how much she needed rest, peace, help. 

At this time, I did not like what I looked like at all. I felt gross and had determined I would always be large due to my female issues. But deep down, I prayed God would heal my body. Not to give birth, as once was the case. But to be able to enjoy my family and not grow weary in small tasks.

My family was my everything. I poured into them all I had and I felt that was what a good mom did. I felt a "good" Christian woman needed to serve on multiple boards to be sure she was serving God in the most effective way. Making sure she was in the mix and not just "sitting" on the sidelines letting others make decisions. I actually felt it had to be me. But what the picture above does not show is that this lady was spent and had very little left over to give to her family. I was on empty. 

Upon arriving home from Alaska, we all learned just how much that was true. I experienced my first severe panic attack during church that Sunday, sitting in a pew with fellow believers. I sat there feeling like if I didn't get out I was going to die. I got up, went to the bathroom where I was sure I was having a heart attack. I couldn't calm down. I didn't take my phone so I could not call my man of all times! So I waited for someone to walk in that knew me. I sat and sat as lady after lady walked in, looked at me, said nothing, walked back out after using the restroom. I was stunned at how little interaction there was in the restroom at a church we had attended for 7 years. But then, that is the negative side of going to a large church. I waited for 20 minutes before my help arrived in the form of a dance mom of Rachel's student. She got my family, we left, called my parents and we all sat in my living room checking my blood pressure and trying to get my mind to calm down. But I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stand being alone. I couldn't stand having people too close though. It was odd. I was super sensitive to quiet as well as too loud. It appeared my nervous system was on overload and I had to sit back and wait it out. 

After a doctors visit, which my parents took me to, I started hormone replacement for perimenopause and some low dose blood pressure medicine to take the edge off the anxiety as I was told my blood pressure was anxiety related not due to hypertension. I was ruled out that I had diabetes, heart disease, all things I was sure I was dying from in the midst of these irrational moments. I can't explain what goes on in your mind when irrational thoughts take place. But I do know I have a new appreciation for people who struggle with mental illness. Anxiety, depression, etc, are no laughing matter. You can't stop your mind from thinking no matter what you do. And those thoughts are relentless. I spent two weeks unable to leave my home without someone else driving me. My parents came to pick me up daily and make me walk with them to  burn off adrenaline and get fresh air. Those talks and walks were the best medicine ever! My husband picked up helping with the girls activities and around the house with no complaints. The girls did whatever they needed to in order to keep the house running. The torch was passed to them at this time for a brief season and I have to say it was good to see they could do it. But I spent many days in tears over nothing. It was a dark place I never want to return. The only hope I had was my faith in Christ. What calmed me was when Matt would read scripture with me, pray with me or if I was listening to praise music. And for those who don't know me well, watching Pooh with my girls and coloring also helped my brain to relax and allow me to sleep. But if I was up, I was pacing, fearful and down right scary. My parents would drive over to take me out for a walk and then take me back to their house while Matt worked. This lasted longer than I hoped but soon I felt the meds were kicking in and I could tackle some things on my own. 

We opted for me to not take an antidepressant at that time and see if hormones helped as we felt everything was brought on by the hormone imbalance. I had never experienced anything like this prior to perimenopause. So instead, I found a new way of eating that works for me and allowed me to lose 40 pounds fairly quickly. I felt better than I had in years and I actually was in pictures again. Something I usually tried to hide from. 

This journey has weighed heavily on my body, mind and spirit. However, I feel it has weighed equally heavily on my sweet man and girls. It is tough to not know what to expect when you wake up each morning and look at your wife. It has to be scary to see your mom crying nonstop over nothing and curl up on the bed in a fetal position asking you to sit with her until she falls asleep or Daddy gets home. That is tough stuff. But I'm grateful for a family that loves me enough to walk this path with me and help me realize just how blessed and loved I truly am. That is something I think as women we sometimes loose sight of in the midst of our daily tasks. We start to feel invisible. 

This family has grown stronger as a result of my struggles. We have had to look at the things in our life and decide what matters most and what can we let go...activity wise, relationships, etc. That is hard to do. But if there are things in life that are so draining and you don't have it to give, you have to do what is best for your immediate family. So I've lost some friendships in the process. I've had to let go of what I want and learn to follow only what God brings to me. I have laid down my need to be in charge of what the girls are doing all the time and trust God to guide them as we have trained them to go to Him for guidance. I've stepped back and have seen them soar. I think God needed to break me to allow me to see that my family doesn't "need" me or the little things I do. My family "wants" me to be there and to be a part of their world when I am able. But they also want to be able to do things and share later. That is huge for me! I know it is splitting hair in a sense, but truly a need mentality puts me in the driver's seat. It means they can't function without me which brings a ton of weight (hence my weight gain) along with pressure galore! But to be wanted there is  so precious. There are not adequate words to express how blessed I was at this revelation by God during this time. I don't need to do all that other moms do to be the good mom, wife, Christian woman. I just need to act on what God lays before me and allow my heart to lead me in the choices I make daily instead of a check list of obligations. 

And you know what? I'm having more fun with my girls than I have in a long time because I'm happier. I'm peaceful because I'm setting healthy boundaries around what God has placed on my heart each day/week. When I step out of His plan, I relapse with panic, fears, health issue. 

But when I sit at the throne of Grace daily and ask for His plans to be revealed and I obey that plan that day...well, there is perfect peace and I have enough energy to get through the activities and enjoy my family in the evening to boot. Those days I don't listen are harsh still. I am learning as I go. This is definitely a journey...not a race. I see where God is leading and I am listening. I'm beginning to feel that menopause is a time of slowing down to take a long look at what you focus on and readjust as needed. And if you don't do it, you will be given another chance to learn the same lessons until you do slow down, seek God, obey His plan in your life, tell others no to things that you no longer can do and let others help you. 

So if you don't see me at meetings, church events, girls activities, you can be assured I spent some time doing what I needed to that day and am preparing to give my all to God first, family second. And the fruit of that is beautiful, no matter how bumpy the road getting there has been. 

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